I realise that it’s been some time since I’ve blogged…which is a whole ‘nother blog in itself, but in short, I’m still clawing my way slowly back to health after being unwell for the better part of two years. Thankfully, things are looking up thanks to a big diet adjustment, and hormone and migraine preventative medications.
I also realise that I’m still due to do Part III in my Journey to Freedom series, and fret not, it’s still coming, I just felt like I had something else pressing on my mind.
It’s been two and half years since we gathered our five suitcases, one guitar, and 19-month-old J-Dog, and headed off to the Big Smoke. In some ways it feels like forever, and in others, just yesterday. In many ways, Oregon has become home to me. There was always a part of my heart and personality that felt a bit ‘too much’ for New Zealand, and as soon as I arrived here, I no longer felt that way. Additionally, almost as soon as we touched down, I felt settled in my heart in a way that I hadn’t for the longest time. We have met lovely people, enjoyed the beauty of our mountain town, and just so appreciate our centrally-heated miracle home. And I can’t forget the bargains, it does a Dutch-Kiwi’s heart so glad to get real, honest to goodness coupons for the groceries each week. Heck, I got to double two coupons a few weeks ago and got $27 off my weekly shop! (Cue Caleb rolling his eyes, and my sister peeing her pants in disbelief).
But despite all this, I’m facing something for which I had not been prepared. I feel different. A bit off-centre. A little misunderstood. Weird-ish. The way I think of it is this – if you think about sonar, (my knowledge of which comes from Octonauts and the two submarine movies I’ve watched), a boat sends out sound waves to ping off surrounding objects to get an idea of their location. In life, we are constantly sending out pings to get our bearings and locate ourselves socially, culturally, spiritually. When I left New Zealand, I felt very sure of where I was at. The pings I was sending out were returning from where I thought they would and I felt very centred, accepted, confident and understood.
In some ways, it would be easier to move to a country that was so obviously different in its culture to my own (and in other ways, hideously harder). But, at least, you’d expect things to be really different. Moving here feels like I’ve moved to a parallel universe, that is almost the same, but just a little bit different. It’s enough to lull me into a sense of sameness, until I miss a social cue, or get a response that I’m not quite expecting, or get a blank look when I tell a joke (there’s nothing quite so soul-destroying as having to explain a joke). Then I feel just a touch off-balance. The pings are coming back in a way that is just different enough to make me feel unsure socially and culturally. (This is probably a good place to mention that this has nothing to do with people I’ve met – not at all, like I said, they are some of the loveliest people I’ve encountered).
A good example would be Kiwi humour – the type of humour that uses sarcasm and mockery as a form of affection. I remember at youth group there was a period of about a year where we gave each other the fingers just because. I have encountered scenarios here where I use my Kiwi mockery to let people know how much I like them, only to have them look at me like I’m the biggest meanie there ever was. Neat. (The good news is that there is a fellow kiwi on the worship team, we call him Kiwi-Colin, and when we’re on the team together we basically spend the whole time mocking each other.)
It’s kind of a lonely feeling. I don’t really like it. But I feel God all over it. He’s giving me the tiniest insight into what it’s like to be an outsider – how life must feel to the foreigner, the unpopular, the social misfit. I think this is really important. Because what I’m also learning, is that I am no less loved because of it. I feel like my world has shrunk in many ways, but somehow in this place I’m learning all that really matters is the gaze of my Father, and walking hand-in-hand with Jesus to live out his Kingdom in really small ways. In feeding my kiddos and rocking them back to sleep, in praying for people every day, in dropping a meal to friends in need, in taking the time to ask about a cashier’s day, in giving some cash to a person without a roof over their head.
Much love, from your slightly-off-centre friend,