I’ve spent a lot of years, now, reading and rereading The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, featuring Pooh, his pal Piglet and the rest of their cohorts from the Hundred Acre Woods.
It’s a good thing I’ve never tired of either him or his pals.
Actually, the longer I read, the more I notice the mighty amounts of wisdom coming from that bear of very little brain…
I’ve read them to kids from other cultures, impromptu-like and on-the-fly-translated to French (in a less than stellar fashion, too, I’m quite sure)! Even rural Gourmantche kids from the backside of the desert got a kick out of the pictures and my awkward, unprepared translations.
Surprisingly, Pooh Bear is quite culturally adaptable. He just rolls with whatever adventure comes his way in a surprisingly positive and yet matter-of-fact way.
I’m trying to take lessons from him.
The last six months have been a roller coaster ride of experiences and emotions.
- Tense times due to both security and infrastructure issues right before we left our West African home for home assignment in the States.
- Celebrating a graduating senior.
- Seeing long missed friends and family while leaving behind or saying goodbye to dear friends and friends who’ve become family.
- The most amazing vacation ever.
- My grandfather’s health taking a significant turn for the worse, leading to…
- Our unexpected change in plans.
- A beautiful and precious wedding.
- Time to unwind, just our family.
- Crazy, almost impossible to do road trips.
- Getting “home” to re-realize that every time it is different… people change, lives move on, people leave…
- Learning to buy groceries in America, and despising it… all over again.
- As my children would say, “That awkward moment when you re-remember that traffic laws aren’t optional in the States…” and the resulting feeling really stupid right now minutes.
- Tears and lost-ness for those best friend pets little girl had to leave behind.
- Tears and longing for a play date with her first grade best friend who lives about as far away on this globe as she could be and still be on the globe – yet so excited to be making new friends in another new class.
- Hearing friends talk about how much they are missing my children.
- All the craziness to find all the “stuff” packed and stored and then to get it unpacked and accessibly stored.
- Realizing what we’ve lost or ruined or forgotten in the process… and wishing we hadn’t.
- Dropping our first off at college (a roller coaster in and of itself).
- Discovering that even Christian schools in the States aren’t as family-focused-friendly as we’d grown accustomed to the past three years.
- Just the other day hearing that my grandfather is with Jesus, wishing I would have seen him just one more time and knowing I missed that opportunity by only several hours, and my heart overflowing knowing how blessed I’ve been that he’s been a part of my life for so long.
Driving home early one morning from delightfully encouraging weekend meetings with ministry partners followed by catch-up time with the gal who’d ministered as our nanny during language school( and her lovely family), we were trying to get our gang back to school before they missed too much class. Changing curricula once again, we are seeing how different educational scopes and sequences really don’t line up – and our kids risk becoming casualties of that out-of-sync-ness. Autumn had gloriously robed the trees in red, yellow and orange neon hues like can only seen in a north woods fall while sunlight reflected from misty ponds and the bright blue sky stretched for forever. The next weekend, we would catch up with Niger friends and colleagues; just a few weeks previous, we had visited with others from our desert home. And I’d hopefully get to see the young woman for whom I’d been a nanny so many years ago while her parents studied the Bengali language. We’d also heard that the California branch of our family would be back to Michigan for Thanksgiving. So as the kids slept and I drove, all I could do was praise God from the deepest part of my cracked and piecemealed heart while trying not to sob (really bad idea when driving), all at the same time.
Isn’t that the thing about this expat life?
So much for which to be thankful, even while heart cracks and breaks and pieces scatter to the four corners of the globe?
Each day – for every man, woman and child – has its ups and downs, its trials and its celebrations. I’d be lying to myself if I tried to say it was any different for me simply because of this life I live… or that I have it any worse or have it any better.
The ups and downs are simply different.
So in our family, we’re really trying to keep the Pooh Bear perspective:
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
…where we look for things every day to make it our favorite day.
After all, it is the one we presently have, right?
Studying through Hebrews… these words, my paraphrase of Hebrews 11:26, humble me:
Moses led his people by esteeming the reproach of Christ as mega riches and worth so much more than all of the treasures in the storehouses of Egypt. He chose each day, repeatedly, to focus his eyes and his heart-gaze forward.
How could he do that?
I know I’m always looking back, often comparing. That was what the Israelites did. But not so Moses. Heart-gazing forward? Did you know that this is the only place in the Bible this word or expression is used? In common Greek usage, this expression often referred to an astronomer observing and detailing movements of planets, stars and other heavenly bodies. It also could describe an artist who would fix his gaze and his entire attention on his model, continually checking and rechecking details so that he captured every single one. At the very same time, the astronomer or painter would be overwhelmed with amazed wonder, thankfulness and anticipation at the sight before their eyes.
Isn’t that a totally awesome word picture?
At least that gives me some ideas of how to keep at that making today my favorite, only-looking-forward process.
How about you?
Do you find that you struggle with these same sorts of extreme and conflicting feelings about your expat life?
How do you make today your favorite day, choosing to focus your eyes and heart gaze forward to what God has for your future?
– Richelle Wright, missionary on home assignment from Niger, W. Africa