Our hearts live all over the world. We know and love people on almost every continent. Having your heart in so many places can be painful at times. It’s also lends itself to an incredibly rich and complex life. I will never be described as simple again. Once you’ve spent several years abroad being described as “simple” just doesn’t happen. And that’s okay. Complex works for me. It may just take others a little more time to figure me out.
Our world got a bit more complex this year by investing in more relationships, particularly in our neighborhood. We’ve lived in this house, in the middle of this same street, for seven years. We’ve prayed for this little neighborhood of about 70 units for seven years. And in this the seventh year, we saw answers.
This is the year that I became “Auntie” and Toffer has even gotten an “Uncle” a couple times. We may not look like we fit, but the kids in this neighborhood have accepted us as theirs. They play in our home and use our toys. They dig in our little gravel side yard and ask for water when they’re thirsty. They ate cookies and drank milkshakes to celebrate Samuel’s birthday. Our boys know everyone’s school schedules to know which doors to knock on when. They know who can play during the week and who can play just on the weekends. Their local English, especially Benjamin’s, is something to which we can only aspire.
The most beautiful part of it all is that they’re just being kids. They don’t usually go out with an agenda. They just want to play and be part of a group. We’ve had interesting conversations about differences in how families raise their kids or in their values. We’ve had conversations about our own values and how we’re going to treat other people. We’ve learned about local culture as most of the families are locals as well as cultures from abroad from the couple other ex-pat families. It’s all a learning experience and we’re praying through it all trusting God to shine His light.
We had to say good-bye to friends this year. A couple families moved this summer and I took it harder than I thought I would. It’s part of life abroad and in particular here. Grief and loss follow us around like shadows. Sometimes it makes me want to quit trying to have friends, but I know it’s not what God wants nor is it a healthy way to live. So I say my good good-byes and turn around to say hellos.
Our homeschool group looks drastically different than it did just two years ago. Some families have moved and some put their kids in school. This year we’re getting to know lots of new families. We have a new space to use at the international Christian school we’re connected through, so that’s helped. I’m thankful to not being doing this whole homeschool thing alone.
I still feel isolated and lonely at times. It comes with the territory of homeschooling and living abroad. I always feel like I’m awkward and weird or will say the wrong thing. Most of the time I probably do better than I think. No matter the awkwardness or three steps forward, one step back we’ve done with relationships, this year has just sort of felt like a flower opening wide to the sun, embracing the warmth of people like the flower embraces the sun.