Once upon a time a family of 5 sold their house that they’d renovated and lived and loved in for 10 years, the only home their youngest daughter ever knew, and watched all of their necessities get loaded up in a sea container, their most precious possessions hauled off to climate control storage for an unknown period of time and called it a day.
As the sea container began it’s 2 month journey across the ocean, the family said some awfully hard “so long’s” and broke some deep deep bonds to the American life they’ve known. Imagine their exhaustion after over a year of planning, preparing, shots, medical checks, house selling, legal paperwork, passports, shopping (most importantly Bath & Body Works), packing for the sea container, packing for an air shipment, packing for storage, packing our suitcases to live out of for a couple of months until our container came, lunches and dinners and parties and all the hugs they could cram in before they left. It was a never ending “to do” list. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. The consolation prize was a business class flight with menus and wine and comfortable reclining bed seats where we could finally sit down. (Did I mention wine???) I don’t think the parents sat down for a whole long year. Ever.
They arrived in this foreign land and felt sort of left on the curb. At 2am. After being in airplanes and airports for about 30 hours.
They were excited, yes, but also fearful and anxious. This was a massive change which sent them barreling ahead into the abyss of the unknown..
The oldest daughter in the family would only be visiting with her family in their new SE Asian home and would fly back to the US to start her first year of university without their help or comfort. This left a family of four which included a 10 year old and a 16 year old. A family separated by a big ocean. Getting to each other did not and could not happen quickly.
Over the next 4 years they would take trips as often as possible, figure out what milk was best, enjoy the local fare, find a church, changed churches mid way through, and make some new friends. When people asked how they liked Singapore, the standard answer was “mostly good”.
For the husband, his life didn’t change too much. His address and the church scene was about all that really changed for him. He did have a few cultural changes to deal with but on a typical day, he drove to work at the same time and drove home at about the same time. He worked with the same type of people, although they were of various cultures now, but the same engineering/work mindset. He cut his own hair. He checked in with his wife and kids during the day and they ate dinner together at night and watched tv and planned trips. Of course he felt responsible for providing and making sure everyone was doing well but he did that in the US also.
For the wife… well… EVERYTHING about how she did life changed. How she bought groceries. What groceries she bought. How she got to the store. How she got the groceries home. How she was a mom to two kids at two different schools who were also trying to find their way in this new and foreign land. Riding busses, taxi’s and rail systems – while carrying heavy groceries. Why were the eggs brown? Why were they not refrigerated? Where can she find fritos?? Where can I find shoes that fit my American sized feet. Don’t even try to find clothes… Where to get haircuts without spending $400 (no joke!) How she navigated about her day. How she learned where to buy what her family needed. How she found community. How she cared for herself. Of course there was some adventure in it all and she discovered some new things that her family really liked. The 10 year old loved seaweed snacks. Yeah, and the mom did too.
They had big disappointments and struggles and shed many tears together but they also found new joys and adventures.
During the four years they were there countless milestones came and went. High school graduation, college graduation, family deaths, family illnesses, marriage hardships, illnesses, 13th birthday, 21st birthday, wedding proposals, wedding planning, second born leaving the nest making that two children living across the ocean, the list goes on and on…. Some wonderful and some challenging, but all emotional milestones for families who live in their country of origin but factor in complications of living in a foreign land and it brought new issues to the table. Unchartered territory and now they have unchartered territory in an unfamiliar land with oceans that separate.
There was a lot of good, yes, but there was a lot of hard. Thus, “mostly good”, because saying “well some days suck” or “some days really suck” is just nothing anyone wants to hear.
You still reading??? I’m impressed. There is a point to this… Promise.
You’ve probably guessed by now that “they” are us. These last few years have been a whirlwind, really more like a tsunami, of adventure, hardship, hurt, grief, fun, exhaustion, loss, gain, leaving, arriving, learning, loneliness… encompassing all the feelings – sometimes all of them within the same hour.
I know others have stories. Harder stories. I know that.
God doesn’t give us more than we can handle and clearly some people can handle more than we can. I do think He sometimes takes us or allows us to get right up close and personal to the edge of what we can handle. Then he says, “Now will you quit trying to do it on your own? Now will you trust me? Now will you let me help you? I’m here for you. I’m here with you. I will never leave you. I never did. You left me.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
When we get our stuff straight and decide to let go and let God, it’s pretty darn amazing what He has for us. What He had for us all along but we were too inward focused to see it. (Jeremiah 29:11) Still not without struggle because we don’t grow without struggle. Nothing on earth does. Thanks, Eve… But we’re stronger because of the struggle. Or at least we can be.
That’s our choice. That’s my choice. That’s your choice.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Right? Well, that’s how it’s gone for us anyway cause we’re still kickin’.
May we continue in the struggle and come out fighting. Stronger than ever.
Onward… together. We need each other!
To be continued…
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (The Message)