Settled yet Unsettled

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There are so many feelings but none of them surface to become a coherent thought. So many realizations to process, the old to grieve and the new to adjust to. In my worst moments I tell myself, “It’s only a year”, and in my best moments I bemoan the fact that it’s only a year.

We’ve shifted “home” to the US but its never felt less like home than now. There is the strangely familiar—I somehow remember how to drive a car and push the right button at the right moment, and every time I’ve been addressed, I’ve somehow known to use English and what appropriate thing to say.

But it’s also unfamiliar, because culture and people have changed in my Midwestern town, and the even bigger challenge is that I’ve changed too.

I could go into all of the shocking differences but it would take all day, and it really doesn’t matter. The point is, I’ve left a place and community I grew to belong in, and now I’m starting all over again in a place I’m supposed to belong.

And there’s just barely anything fun about that.

We didn’t have much “space” for the past few years, and now I am starting to see that we need some for a little while. We need a little bit of grass and a fence for the kids to explore and us to just sit without a care in the world.

Last night we got a nine dollar slip-n-slide for the kids to run and slide down wildly under, like we did when we were kids. And they tiptoed down the length of it right up on each other (for safety in the unfamiliar) and tiptoed right back with a big grin like, “Isn’t this scary and exciting?!” For the first two weeks in our house they followed us around like puppy dogs because they’re used to all being in close quarters and the rooms feel so big and far apart.

For several years I have been lucky to find 45 minutes of solitude in any given day—and that was if I fought for it. I was used to at least 3 unexpected visitors every day, our helper in our apartment all day, and our community constantly with us. 6am to 8pm nonstop on any given day. Not like the day’s scheduled plan was nonstop. But everyone just hangs around between the scheduled things, and it turns out you’re just never alone except maybe when you go to the bathroom.

Since arriving, I have had someone unexpectedly ring our doorbell one time in three weeks. That’s right. One. No one stops by. No one comes over. That means I have experienced TWENTY days in which zero people have stopped by… and besides the kids’ chatter, there have been hours and hours of… quiet. With a beautiful empty yard. And a lovely driveway and street outside with no one walking down it, or sitting outside, or riding a scooter by.

None of this is bad, I remind myself. But it sure is different. I feel like a brand new foreigner in a new land. The only difference is that everyone looks at me and assumes that I know this culture. And they don’t stop to ask me how I feel.

When we arrived in the states we were wound pretty tight, like one of those rubber band balls that take hours and hours to unravel. We had two weeks of meetings and a conference, while the kids did Kids Camp, and by the end of it all I was just fried from pushing through. I didn’t have any more push-through in me. We decided to put off some of our work a few weeks, and to take July off.

That’s right. We’re taking an entire month sabbatical. I have personally never experienced this, and its surprising that four days into July I still feel free tense, tired, and fried.

Slowly, the little life-giving things and the gift of space are giving us life and energy. The house has a gardening plot and a window box, so this morning we went to work digging out weeds and planting flowers. Now I look out the window and the pink blooms are rustling in the breeze, and it sure makes me happy.

So here’s to a month to unwind and just “be”. To sit with the messiness that “is”. The joys, the goodbyes, the space that brings us deeper with God and to peace with ourselves.


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