A few weeks ago we had a family debriefing session with a couple who specializes in helping families successfully reorient themselves after a major change. I think that is a long way of saying “families in transition” but I’m tired of that word. Transition. They drew a picture of a bridge; on one side we were settled and on the other side we were settled again. In the middle was a chaotic muddle. I thought we would be considered settled, we’ve been here over two months, after all. But they seemed to know that we are still in the middle–in the chaos. I think they were right.
I like to be in control of my world. To unpack as quickly as possible and make the first scary trip to the grocery store. The empty totes are stacked, the cupboards scrubbed, and a place found for all the shoes. So…we’re settled, right? I’m learning that is not the case. It is like being 40 years old with five children starting from scratch. We hunker down in a small rental waiting till house prices drop. But they don’t drop. The bank account creaks as we buy vehicles and school books and everything in between.
I have not yet found my writing equilibrium in the chaos. I wonder if I lost it altogether somewhere over the Atlantic ocean. I am still dizzy, trying to reclaim a sense of belonging and purpose. Before moving those ten-thousand miles, I read, “You should never compare the beginning of a new thing to the end of the last thing. It took time in the first place. You had to figure it out, you had to meet the people…you had to set things in motion and find the rhythm. None of that is in motion when you move into a new thing.” -Jerry Jones
Yes, he is right.
“Transition changes personality. It attacks normalcy. It assaults identity.”
I complain about the too-small house and about the musty basement and the sagging clothesline. The weather is blistering hot. This transition feels every bit as hard as the initial one into a village in Tanzania. It’s not really about the actual circumstances, because we all know life in East Africa can be tough, too, but it’s all about CHANGE. My whole person doesn’t like change. I can live in a mud hut just fine…as long as I’ve been there for a few months. I think I can also live in PA. (after the first few months are past)
I miss the busy Isyesye compound with its people and personality. The roads teeming with people and voices. There I stayed at home and homeschooled my children, but there were endless people to greet, to talk with, to reach out to. Here I stay at home and homeschool my children, but I see no one. I think America’s people must be hiding. There’s lots of people at the grocery store, but everyone silently passes each other, each in their own world. I don’t know what is rude and what isn’t rude in this culture, so I’m quiet too. I peer into cars as they pass mine, hoping to see people. (Am I complaining?)
Instead of finding a practical solution, I grieve the loss of compound life and the daily interactions. I cry a lot and feel altogether dysfunctional. I can tomatoes, and peaches, and green beans. ( because there’s an unbelievable amount of food around). I get a ridiculous amount of joy out of my five children and their school books and I pray a lot that God would help me find one needy soul here in this Garden of Eden. Statistics tell me they are around, but I can’t seem to find them. I just see perfection…perfectly manicured gardens and well-oiled communities of smiling people. I know this is just the bubble that I see, but I don’t know how to break out of or into the bubble.
Maybe my friend is right. She just looked at me and said, “Sheryl, you’re way too intense! Just relax for awhile.” I haven’t figured out if that was helpful advice or not.
Then I hear stories about women in danger, terrified of the control of evil men. They are leaving their homes, their jobs, giving away their babies, facing brutal abuse and atrocities. Some are dying or watching their loved ones die. This is not just a far away story that we can safely tuck away and forget about. This is actually happening to real women who are every bit as human as I. They love their husbands and children as much as I. They are screaming in terror, enduring things I cannot imagine.
According to statistics there are 12,000-15,000 children in foster care in the state of Pennsylvania. That’s a lot of grieving parents and an unfathomable amount of disoriented children. There’s a constant need for people willing to invest in these children.
These are only two places is a groaning world. And my heart kinda breaks.
But I am like the widow with her two mites or the young lad with his small basket of food. My energy and resources are limited.
Perhaps I need to wait till this chaos season is past and we’ve stepped gratefully off the bridge into settledness. More likely, I have lessons to learn about worship in the quiet, people-less places. Where the being is more than the doing and awe is more than work. Where contentment in the ‘here’ is more than enough.
“Yes, we must not fret about not doing God those supposed services which He in fact does not allow us to do. Very often I expect the service He really demands is that of not being used, or not in the way we expected, or not in a way we can perceive.” C. S. Lewis
How have your exercised awe in your quiet chaotic places?