“Big changes happen in small rooms” -Jenn Wilkin
If you live by praise you will die by criticism.
Be faithful to the end.
Can you fall asleep at night without listening to a podcast or having a TV playing in the background?
Do you get anxious if you can't find your phone?
When is the last time you forgot to check your phone
About 3 weeks before I left South Africa I had a final coffee with my Pastor’s wife, a woman whom I have immense respect for. She had, herself, done what I was about to do. That is, leave an adopted homeland to move back to her country of birth. For them it was to Pastor and lead our church in Cape Town. For us, it was for Chris to become a Pastor at our church here in Lancaster, PA.
I remember her asking me, “What do you plan to do in America? Have you thought about that?” I replied, “Well, I really feel strongly to not make any immediate commitments and just take the first 6 months to settle.” She smiled kindly. I thought that taking 6 months was very self-aware and wise of me.
She looked me in the eyes and smiled. She then said in her classic, direct but caring way, “Oh, six months is just the beginning… it will take you 2-3 years. There is no way around that.”
I smiled back and thought, “Well, we’ll see.” Famous last words.
In this process I have been off social media a lot. Facebook has almost gone the way of the dinosaurs for me. I quickly realized that my “processing” posts on Facebook would elicit some very defensive Americans who felt I was being too negative about America (and felt to tell me this). So, I stepped back. I wasn’t in the place to receive criticism from people I barely talked to.
So, I have been quiet on social media but I do want to give an update for many who care and wonder how this move has been. For the many friends who have e-mailed or messaged and just never got a reply from me (forgive me!).
So, this is an update from American-land, (almost) 18 months in.
We have felt a lot of care and love from people asking about how the boys have adjusted. I would not be exaggerating to say, they have flourished. It has not been easy. They still face challenges. But they are well.
Absolutely everything was new to them. To be dropped off one day in a new school in a foreign country (remember, America was a foreign country to them)… and have Mom and Dad say, “You can do this!”. That ain’t easy.
They have figured out new schools, new friends, new church, new food, new homes, new languages (Farewell Afrikaans and Xhosa! Hola, Espanol!). In the midst of it we’ve had lots of funny moments that have made us all laugh. They have gained a full vocabulary of Mexican foods. They now know enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas and more! They also now know that Tacos are an actual ethnic food from Mexico and not a food their mother invented in South Africa. They still drink Rooibos tea. They have never accepted the mayonnaise and bread here (“Absolutely disgusting, Mom. Why don’t they have regular mayo?”).
Church has been a highlight for them (after they got over the shock of how big and loud it was). After the first Sunday, I asked Thabo how he found church. He replied, “Well that whole experience was super American!” We both intuitively understood what he meant by that. But after the initial cross-cultural adjustments, they found their place. Both volunteer with the young kids on a weekly basis. They also attend the Youth Group, are in Small Groups and really feel a sense of belonging. We are thankful.
Garett continues to play Rugby and Soccer. Thabo continues to play Soccer and has joined a basketball team.
When hard days come, they have the dog who has been a therapy pet for us all. Well, maybe not Chris but he likes him most days.
They are doing well.
I think most people knew that I would have never chosen to leave South Africa. There was not a day in 15 years where I said, “I wish I was in America”. Not a day.
Since we have left, there has not been a day where I said, “This was the wrong move”. Not a day. That has been a grace. Every step of the way I knew, in God’s wisdom not mine, this was the right move.
In the conversation with my Pastor’s wife she said another thing that struck me in between the eyes and heart. It was this, “Lindsey, you may be moving for a job for your husband. But, He doesn’t call one person and have a plan for one to flourish. God calls you all and has a plan for all to flourish.”
Those words have not just been a hope, they have been a reality.
There are many thing that are still very unknown to me in America-land. The repeated question we got from friends and co-workers in South Africa was, “But…. But, what will YOU do Lindsey?!”
They knew I was not one to sit on the sidelines and observe life go by. I always was on the move. I took on a lot of responsibilities through the years. Always tackling challenges. I did not hide in my husbands shadow (which he loves). But the thought of moving for an opportunity for Chris and not me was strange to everyone around us.
This season has been different. I have not purposely hidden but I have been still. I needed the stillness more than I could ever comprehend 18 months ago.
I could go on forever but I’ll highlight a couple of things.
I initially settled, furnished, painted and renovated my whole house (it’s small tiny addiction I have). I got the kids on their way with school and sports. I got a counselor.
I’ve always valued having a counselor in my life but this one has been different. She had a skill set that I needed. I go very regularly and haven’t slowed down for a year. I’ve cried a lot (well, for me). I knew I had a lot of pain that needed attending to. It has not been comfortable or pleasant.
The internal and emotional shift that has happened has been significant far beyond my expectations. I won’t go into detail here since it’s not really your business:) But, if we moved to America only for this… it would have been worth it for me. Healing and health feels good. I’ve still got a ways to go. The distance I’ve travelled so far has been significant.
For the last 10+ years I have struggled with chronic pain. This involved regular and increasingly frequent migraines. Constant and overwhelming muscle tension in my neck and scalp. The pain had become so frequent and constant that I was in significant pain about 90% of the time. My life had sadly come to that.
Moving countries is not helpful for chronic pain sufferers. Even with my prescription medication, which I took daily, I had to go to the ER a few times. The last few years I had grieved my new reality and accepted that this would be the rest of my life. I could write a book on how chronic pain had altered my life and relationships. I had made use of every medical doctor and intervention possible.
I’ll save you from the book for now. But, today as I sit here, I haven’t taken pain or migraine medication in 5 weeks. In the last 5 months I’ve taken it a total of about 10 times (compared to daily before). I’ve learned a lot about chronic pain through counseling, reading books and other crucial conversations.
My counselor told me one day, “If you had just described your life to me, I could have told you in detail your physical reality. None of this is a surprise.” I learned the physical impact my emotional life has had on my body. There has been a lot of sadness around the loss of healthy years.
By the pure grace of God a friend texted me one day and said, “Hey, I just read about this phone App for chronic pain sufferers. I’m going to check it out, you should to.” I did check it out and realized it was exactly what I needed.
I’m not trying to be a used car salesman (although this company has my forever undying love). It’s just the truth, this app has changed my life. Words I never dreamed I would say. It is a resource that is based on all the science behind how chronic pain actually works in our bodies. It is hard work. It has been a process. It has been a grace to me.
All this to say, between the tool of Curable and my counseling, I’m healed. I am in that stage where I wake up each day and still think, “Wait, I’m not feeling any pain. What?!”. I don’t think the shock of being pain-free will wear off any time soon.
Not only that, going off all my medication has been phenomenal as it affected my mental and physical clarity more than I realized.
Once again, if we moved to America for this, I’d do it a million times over.
My husband is amazing. I just have to add this. He has taken on a new job with courage and skill. He has walked alongside the boys and I with compassion and grace. As always, he has supported me every step of the way. In this process, not once did he say anything but, “Take your time, Babe, there’s no rush to be anywhere but where you are.” More than once he has asked, “So, when is your next counseling appointment?” Ha!
In closing. For those asking, “Ok Lindsey, wonderful news! But what are you doing with your days and what are you going to do with your life?!” (I do get asked that exact question often).
I don’t feel the need to run my schedule by you but I do want to say, I’m happy. I’m not panicked about finding the answer. No, I don’t have a job. I haven’t found my niche yet. But, I’m content. My days are pretty full doing this, that and the other.
I am feeling more ready to answer the question, “Ok, what do I want to do?” I’m glad I haven’t rushed the process.
God didn’t call one, he called all four of us. I know this.
God’s plans for flourishing are not for one, they are for all four of us. I know this, too.
Greetings from America-land. I’m glad I’m here.
I know that some people only read fiction. But, overall, I am convinced people should read more fiction. Over the years I have had many people I respect tell me that fiction is a waste of time. I get what they were saying. Why read a bunch of trashy romance novels when you could read an inspiring biographies or a captivating account of history?
There are many great reasons to read fiction. In these times, I wish more people would read fiction to gain greater empathy. Most of us live very compartmentalized lives. We often hang out with people of the same race, economic status, religious belief or political persuasion. This has not produced a more caring society. We are a society that has become a stranger to ourselves.
Let me give one example. In the NFL protests, many players were “taking a knee” during the national anthem to protest the injustices that African-Americans were experiencing. I heard many, many opinions about these acts of protest. One thing that stunned me was this… not one person that disagreed with them showed much curiosity. I never heard something along these lines: “I am really shocked by this act, it feels so wrong to me. I really need to ask an African-American why they feel this is the right thing to do.” There was such a glaring lack of curiosity to truly understand one another.
We need less of, “What is wrong with those people?!” and more of, “What don’t I understand about their perspective?” It is not so much about having to agree with someone. I wish we had more curiosity which leads to empathy. Empathy is better than outrage when it comes to our disagreements.
May I just put it forward that reading more fiction books that tell of stories, lives and worlds that are different to our own can be one small way we can bridge this divide.
If you feel mystified or shocked at the viewpoints of another, fiction could be a great way to gain empathy and understanding. Even if you don’t agree, a good story might at least help you say, “I don’t agree but I do understand how they got there and I get it”
Here’s some recommendations from my reading in 2017:
Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah:
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I loved Half of a Yellow Sun, the tale of a family experiencing the struggle for independence in Nigeria in the 1960’s. If you’ve heard of the many wars in Africa, this book will place you on the inside to taste, feel and experience what it is like with all it’s complexities. Great characters, great story. If you haven’t already, though, you could start with the author’s other book, Americanah. This is an absolute must read, I couldn’t put it down. It is the tale of a Nigerian couple immigrating to America. One makes it, the other doesn’t. Their journeys are captivating.
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
This is the tale of an escaped slave girl in pre-abolition America. I loved this book because it was creative and you become very invested in the characters. The book has won multiple and well-deserved awards. Gripping, emotional and can’t put down.
The Round House
by Louise Edrich
I found this one by looking up National Book Award Winners. The setting is a Native American Reservation in North Dakota. A crime on the Ojibwe Reservation forever changes a family. This is the story of a young boys journey for justice and understanding. You will be immersed in a culture not your own. It is well worth your time.
My 12-year-old son was assigned this book in English class. I could tell it impacted him because he brought it up day after day. I decided to join him in reading it. It is fiction but based on true accounts of the authors family life. It is not an easy read at times. You see the reality of life for African-Americans during the Great Depression. It is well written, lovely characters and can really open up some interesting conversations if you happen to read it with your child. A good book read without your child too!