This transition has been severely stressful. Last weekend, Kim and I were in a septic tank. Not symbolically. That may tell you all you need to know about the challenges.
It struck me–or God nudged me–that many things have also gone well and I’ve been blessed and encouraged a lot. It’s easy to focus on how bloody difficult it all has been, how, in many ways, it hasn’t gone as we’d hoped, and how transitioning to the US after seven years in Nicaragua is just plain hard, no matter what.
But in that ever-elusive balance between being honest and choosing to focus on positives, it’s time to remember, and recount, the good stuff.
We’ve been back since late June.
Friends gave us a car. It’s hard to express how much that helped. Financially, of course, and practically–the only thing of more practical help than a vehicle right now is a place to live–but also morale-wise. It showed me that God is in this part of our journey, which hasn’t always been abundantly clear to me. They felt God led them to give us the car. Assuming they were right, that’s some pretty cool watching out for us…and some pretty powerful listening to God by them, too.
My friend Tim gave me and Corin tickets to a baseball game. Slightly less pragmatic gift than a car. But it also made me feel tremendously loved. I’d screwed up with Corin and this redeemed what was otherwise going to be one of those low moments of parenting. Going to a baseball game, or not, doesn’t seem such a crucial thing in the big picture. But in the midst of our chaotic transition it gave us a chance to spend a day together, just be together, shout our fool heads off, and stop worrying about whether the house will sell or middle school will ever get better. We were about twelve rows from the field. We received lavish generosity. One of my favorite memories with my father is a trip we took to see a baseball game together. I hope my son says the same.
We are living with family, with my in-laws, Ben and Celeste, and their two-year-old son. The most practical need God is meeting for us right now is this place we live. I don’t get the sense from them that they are doing us a big favor or putting themselves out–which they are and they are–and, in fact, they seem to like it. Either they have fooled me mightily or this has gone very well. On my end, I’ve enjoyed this extended family time so much I will miss it when we have our own home. I consider that rave reviews. We passed three days, and then three months, that a guest should stay,* and I’ve started to wonder whether we have missed the boat in our culture. Nicaraguan culture practices versions of this model of family everywhere.
A funny thought: practical needs are food and a home. Worldwide, a car is a luxury item that feels like a practical need in US culture. You know what another actual need is?
I’m sleeping here. Last night I slept 7 1/2 hours straight, without waking up once. I dreamt deeply. I woke up feeling rested.
After years of insomnia, I wake up feeling like I’ve experienced a mini-miracle. I tried not to be too whiny about my insomnia–Yeah, who am I kidding? I complained incessantly about it. I’ll offer only this defense: it sucked.
People need sleep. Sleeping, it turns out, helps. A lot. I would be tempted to complain about the cold–who am I kidding, I’m complaining a lot about the cold because I’m already freezing my patootie off–but I’m pretty certain colder temps get much of the credit for better sleep. I can’t say I feel less stressed here, but I definitely traded one type of stress for another; perhaps this version doesn’t keep me awake at night. I’ll take it. I’ll take it and rejoice.
I’ve thought a lot about relationships since I’ve gotten back. I find it impossible to weigh what I’ve lost against what I’ve gained (back). I’m homesick for Nicaragua, certainly, and that mostly means for my friendships there (and fresh tortillas across the street). There are people here I missed horribly; mostly, I tried not to think about how much I missed them. Yet I’m very lonely, thus far. Weird. In the midst of that, a few people have bent over backwards to help us with preparing to sell our property and with our move. I’m profoundly grateful for their love, shown through lifting boxes and fixing broken stuff.
Lastly, and as a parallel, I miss our daughter, Annalise, though I feel tremendously proud of her for choosing to return to Nicaragua and invest her heart in kids there. I also love having time with our eldest, Rowan, which I had not been able to enjoy these past three years. I can’t weigh the gain and the loss on a scale, but I’m glad for both of our children and grateful to be their dad.
We have more things going well than this; I opted to describe these in more detail, rather than make one of my Thirty lists.
I still don’t know what it all means, but I can see glimpses of God’s faithfulness in the midst of it.
*”Fish and guests smell after three days.”