This has been brewing for awhile. I was beginning to think I was going crazy, maybe entering mild depression? I pulled out my MTI notebook and leafed through it, to be reminded of truth.
Let's preface this story by including that language school is fun but so draining. Talking like a toddler is difficult and humiliating. Being the minority and having constant attention brings an additional stress in every situation. It all started with what was supposed to be an amazing day, hanging with friends at a pool. And then everything went differently than I had envisioned. Tiny little things that shouldn't have spiraled me into anger. The purple words are from the reel playing in my mind throughout the morning. I tried to go with the flow, really, I did.
It's nothing that anyone did wrong. Ethiopia is amazing. The people are amazing. It's just me processing cultural stress.
The water was so cold the girls only could stay in for a few minutes at a time. No problem, isn't it fun there's a pool! The girls have been looking so forward to swimming. There were no chairs to sit on, Great, so glad we brought beach towels to sit on, isn't it great there's grass? Who cares if it is wet!
The food wasn't good where we ate lunch, Hey, it's cheap, what did I expect? The landscaping is really pretty too. The waiter tried to scam us significantly Does he think I am an idiot to not catch this? and then when I caught him, he didn't own up to it and acted like he deserved a 100% tip and didn't apologize What?!? You could at least apologize! It's okay, it's only one man...
After 3 of the kids got their ice cream, the machine stopped working and we never got the five other cones we paid for and couldn't get a refund. You have got to be kidding me. I have twins. Do you understand that only one twin got ice-cream and the other is waiting patiently?! At least Little J is sharing voluntarily, whoa. That's amazing.
The girls played together, joyfully on a broken carousel horse, Madison shook it so the other three felt like they were getting a ride. Can nothing be the same? Why does everything have to be so hard? Wow. They handle the disappointment like champs. Oh no, have they gotten so used to disappointments it no longer bothers them!?
By the time we got to the parking lot, the parking attendant had run out of spaces and so another vehicle had parked us in. What kind of person parks a car directly behind the van?!? Seriously. I just want to close the door on our apartment and never answer it again or butcher through another Amharic sentence.
I have entered a new stage, and depending on what book you read, it can be called different names, "Cultural Stress", "Shock Stage", "Rootless Stage" or "Chaos".
On this visual, I am the center picture, the wilting flower. It's hard to see, but the stages are Rooted Stage, Uprooting Stage, Rootless Stage, Starting to Root Again Stage and Newly Rooted Stage. This whole resettling process can take from 18 months to 2 years. We were told that even when we re-root, it's good and feels settled, but it will never be the same.
I don't actually feel like the middle flower, it feels like I have been planted in incredibly rich soil (Ethiopia) but my roots are fresh enough and the soil is different enough that I am struggling to thrive.
And it's okay, they told me it was going to happen and I will (prayerfully) come through. I just can't stay in the wilting stage forever. On every field, you meet the missionaries who talk in broad negative stereotypes about "them", referring to the very people who they came to serve. The missionaries who have nothing but negative to say about things around them, and start many sentences with "Where I come from…". When talking to these missionaries, I think in my head, "Why are you here?! I am pretty sure 'they' would be better off without you and your criticism." This is what happens when someone never roots again. Even though settling again will never be like it once was, by God's grace, my roots can go deep once again.
Another visual-The Transition Bridge
I am so thankful for our training and the grace of God because when my mouth wants to say, "Well, in the USA we would never have blah, blah, blah…" or "In the USA we always blah, blah my-country-is-so-much-righter-than-your-country blah blah"…My mind is stopped by a fact that was drilled into us through training, "Different isn't wrong! Different is different, Wrong is wrong".
I pep talk myself, "Come on, find the adventure of the moment! You can make this fun or miserable for your family." But you know what, it takes energy to take an unmet expectation and turn it into something fun and lately my energy has been low. I just want to shut my door, draw the curtains, eat all the chocolate I can find (which happens to be a whole lot of chocolate chips right now) and read a book.
So today, I am going through my book, being reminded of truths about an entering posture of a servant, truths about God's grace, reminders of the eventual blessing of bending into uncomfortable position, truth that He is strong in my weaknesses. And I am refreshed. My own words come back to me and slap me in the face. "If someone goes because of love for people or passion for the nations or compassion for a cause, that well will run dry but God, He gives me love for Him and His Glory that is the only thing that ought to be my fuel.
"Make sadness your ally instead of your enemy. God's solution for resolving your loss of relationships, dreams, ideals and opportunities is sadness. Rather than something to be avoided, this sadness, or grief, allows you to let go of what you cannot have in order to make room in your heart for what you can have." -John Townsend, Hiding From Love pg 100
God, make me a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in season, that my leaf does not wither. (Pulled from Psalm 1:3)