My Life in Words
A weekly blog about parenting, the prophetic and God's presence here, now
The last month has been full of the mundane and yet overwhelming process of resettling. I have no way to compare my story to the story of people who have left everything, fled their country and are seeking to be resettled in a different country and culture. I'm resettling back in my own country after being away for a couple years, in another Western, English speaking country. My resettling is full of choices...good choices. However it is amazing how many differences in daily life and culture there are between Scotland and here which makes this whole process more emotional and exhausting.
Part of it was that we were in a small village where everyone knew we were new. The school was small-think 38 kids with almost half of the students coming from 6 families. It didn't take long to know the other parents and all the other kids in the school. School pick up was one big kid swap meet with kids and parents negotiating who was going home with who and for how long. I'm sure that exists on some level here but we are new and it is big and so no one knows we are new.
Being the new kid in the middle of the year has brought about interesting reactions for my kids. One of them hates it--hates all things that lead to standing out and being different. Another loves it--taking advantage of the grace in expectation, the extra help and the extra attention. And while they are navigating the halls of a school the size of our entire village I'm at home with our youngest.
One of my goals has been to figure out how to feed a family of 6 healthy meals on a budget. It was easier/cheaper in Scotland. Meat that is free-range in the states comes at a premium, so is produce. I know someone who feeds her family of 5 completely organic, free range for $500 a month. I don't think I'll ever be there but my goal right now is to keep it under $900 a month. If you have any tips I'd love them.
Another goal is to cut down on garbage. There is so much plastic wrapped around everything! This has required a shift in shopping for me. I had this crazy experience at Trader Joes after we got back, walking around nothing had changed. In our moves from Washington State to California I had continued to shop at Trader Joes. I love that it is small, the same and I can get in and out of there in under 20 minutes. Most of my grocery shopping has been there since I got married 17 years ago. So when I walked in a Trader Joes in California I felt "home". While I do pick up a few things still from there, I have found in order to cut out garbage and cut cost I've had to shift to other stores where I can buy in bulk, and buy produce that isn't wrapped in plastic. As in most things in order to cut cost and garbage it takes more time, which I realize isn't something everyone has. And because I am starting "over" in terms of shopping habits and buying everything from olive oil to spices, it is worth the time right now.
Then there is the health care system. It was a crazy experience to be able to go to the doctor whenever I thought someone in the family needed to, or when I wasn't sure and not pay for it. This month we have been so sick. Ear infections, throwing up, high fevers for days at a time, stomach pains. Finally one kid I took in for her ear and another I took in for stomach pain. One was given antibiotics and the other hooked up to an IV for dehydration. There was so much more mental stress for me not knowing what would be covered by insurance and how much it would cost. This compared to a system that took care of it all...and not only that but in some cases went above and beyond to test all of us to see if we had the same heart condition that our youngest has.
So while balancing health, food, money and all the other little and big things required in an international move, we've also been going through the emotions of new. Helping kids grieve the change and missing friends. Moving through the anxiety of the unknown and the new. Navigating systems that are different takes energy. And all of this is in my own language in a country where I am a passport holding member. I can't even imagine the energy it would take to resettle in a country where I know no one, don't speak the language and it is an entirely different system and culture.
When I was 10 I read a letter from some friends of my parents who lived in Haiti working with orphans. It is one of the most moments where I remember all the details-I was sitting on a radiator in our house outside Paris, France looking out at the garden. My parents were working with French African pastors at a school in France. And here I was reading about kids my age whose family had all been killed, had no home--had nothing. I was horrified. No kid should be homeless.
It might have struck me all the more because moving to France as a 10 year old was hard. The school was hard. As a fifth grader I was doing 2-3 hours of homework a night. Now, having my own fifth grader I can't even imagine. My parents were working hard to translate their work into French, to furnish a house and get little things done in a different language and culture. And yet here I was in a house, with a garden, with food reading about kids who had none of it.
Now I have just moved my 10 year old from Scotland to Oregon. A different move than mine when I was 10 but a cross atlantic move none the less. We were talking about the news last night as he went to bed, and there was a story about a boy with the same name as my son who was just found dead, washed up on a beach in southern Spain trying to get from Morocco to the Spanish territories, escaping DR Congo. My husband has been to the Congo. My son has been to Spain, actually almost to the exact beach where this boy washed up and he could see Africa across the water. It was crazy to stand there knowing we have the freedom to come and to go because of where we were born but people across the water were risking everything to try to get where we were.
Refugees, orphans, widows, people trying to escape their reality for a dream of something more. Jesus was a refugee, fleeing as a child with his parents from Israel to Egypt as Herod sought to kill him. Our God, the God of the universe a refugee. Moses hung out on on Mt Sinai for 40 days and says the following after he wrote down the 10 commandments (for the second time). "He [GOD] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." Deuteronomy 10:18-19
As a kid I decided to use the resources given to me because of where I was born, in order to hep the fatherless, the widow, the foreigner residing among us. It took me to law school where for a few years I represented foster kids, and women and children seeking asylum in the US. Now as a stay at home mom of 4 I sometimes feel useless in defending the cause of the fatherless, widow and foreigner. One of the things that keeps me going is an ongoing conversation with Holy Spirit about seasons, my call, the bigger picture of what I am doing. We all have a part to play. Some on the front lines, some behind the scenes. We all are part of God's body working together to bring God's kingdom here on earth.
So ask Holy Spirit--what can I do to partner with you now to bring about your kingdom? Be open to creative ideas that pop in your head. Sometimes it is as small as a Holy Spirit pointing out another mom, or person who needs encouragement. Sometimes it is bigger like go to law school or get involved with foster care. I know this--our God is not a disengaged God, and part of how God is engaged is through us. I also know the engagement looks different for different people and different seasons. We are not alone. The God of the universe wants to speak, guide and lead us. Sometimes it is hard to take time to listen. But it is worth it, and it is easier than we think because Holy Spirit wants to talk to us. So sometime today ask-what can I do today to bring your Kingdom here on earth? Let me know if you hear anything!
I love knowing the ending before I start...it helps me relax and enjoy the process. I actually got used to getting to checking the final score on football games while we lived in the UK because the time change meant that we always watched them the next day. We were watching the Seahawks in their playoff game against Atlanta a couple of weeks ago and it was torture to not know the end! Of course I always keep the final score to myself because the other members of my family like the suspense. So for those of you who like suspense here is a spoiler alert.....love wins. In the end love wins.
Now the suspense comes, not from an unknown ending but from what happens between now and then. In my almost 40 years I've concluded that we gravitate towards people who are like us, who agree with us, who live with similar paradigms as us. It is easier to get along with people who agree with us. Cross cultural communication takes work.
So the question isn't really how we are going to treat people who agree with us but how we are going to relate to people we don't agree with, who are different. When Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself I'm not sure He meant your neighbor who looks just like you, votes the same way as you, spends money the way you do and has the same values. But love your neighbor as in someone other than you.
I don't think that loving your neighbor means we stand idly by in the face of injustice and of wrong. Nor does it mean that we all have to agree. But somehow in the midst of the divisiveness and difference we have to figure out how we are going to treat people who are different. This really is the story of history...treating "the other" like ourself has never been a strength. It helps me to remember that the fight isn't against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. That everyone is made in God's image. It helps me to remember that I don't actually know what the story is behind other people's perspectives, nor can I always access their thinking and reasoning.
The power of love comes when it is able to cross over difference. To love our "enemy". Ultimately this I think is the true test of following Jesus. What it looks like practically isn't alway easy to sort out. But that doesn't change the call. And in the love wins. So if it a choice between love and fear I'm going with love.
Ali Millikan, Author
I love Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. I love my husband and kids. I believe that God is in the room with us; that hearing God's voice is for everyone and that it will change your day to day reality.