Saturday, 20 February 2010

Simple Blessings

I’m sitting in a beautiful puddle of sunshine on my bed. I am alone in a quiet and relatively clean house. Baby boy is doing alien stretches inside my belly and sweetly responding to my words and pats. In a world where there is much pain and difficulty and confusion and in a year that has included many of these for me and those that I love, these simple pleasures mean the absolute world to me.

There is so much in my life to be grateful for. I live in a beautiful village as an expat in a foreign country. Sometimes this poses aggravating and even angst-inducing episodes, but mainly it provides adventure. It provides opportunity to think outside my ‘normal’ and begin to adapt to life in a truer, realer way. A way that honors my family more. Honors myself more. Honors life’s natural rhythms more. Besides, foreign though I may be, I have some of the greatest friends ever here.

Life doesn’t always afford opportunity to reach outside of our comfort zone. When it does, it can be quite lonely. Every once in a while—there are angels seen and unseen who swoop in to smooth the transition and welcome our hearts. ‘The Gang’ as they’ve come to be affectionately known in our house threw me a baby shower last night! Never mind that they don’t really do them here. Never mind that none of them had ever been to a baby shower until a South African woman at their school had one a few months ago. My friend Kelly decided that if I would have had one at home I ought to have one here! Louise and the rest of the girls pitched in and it was beautiful. We had traditional English tea foods—sandwiches and cakes and scones all served on red and white polka dot doilies with matching napkins. We drank wine (me just a little J) and of course tea. We played celebrity name matching and guess whose baby picture is whose (my mom was even contacted and brought along a baby photo of me on the sly). There were touches from my consulting sister. A card from a friend back home. And what Scott aptly dubbed ‘a haul’ of presents.

I would have never imagined any of this those first miserable months in South Croydon. But here I am, a year later feeling full and blessed and loved and included and really happy and content in my puddle of sunshine in Warlingham, Surrey, UK.

I remember a number of conversations with Scott in the early days here. They went something like, “How could God do this to us?!?! He really screwed up this time! What have we done to deserve this misery?!?! Why can’t we go home?!?!” and other uplifting and cheerful variations on that theme. I remember Scott saying, much to my complete annoyance and frustration—maybe this IS exactly where God has us. Maybe this IS a blessing and we just can’t see. To which my inner response—and even my outer one a few times—was, “I kinda want to punch you in the face right now, asshole!”

But you know what? He might have been on to something. Sometimes I wonder if we have to be brought completely outside of our comfortable, contented selves in order to be able to fully embrace the coming blessings. Sometimes the loneliness has to drain all the preconceived notions and former habits and assumptions away so the new, clean water of blessings and friendships can come in.

I’ve never loved snow so much as I did this winter. I had never been away from it long enough to know. I never enjoyed an hour or two stolen away to hang out with my mama until she wasn’t always available to get away with. I never loved shopping so much as when I discovered new little hole-in-the-wall boutiques in Portobello Road and got to take my shopping queen sister when she visited. I never enjoyed girlfriend time so much as when making girlfriends wasn’t automatic. Never gloried in the sunshine and baby-shoots of spring bulbs like I have after a winter of rain and grey skies. Never appreciated a hamburger so much as when my hubby stood in the rain and made me one because there wasn’t a hamburger joint on every corner nearby.

I’m learning that sometimes the things that are missing have to be missed long enough. Long enough to say goodbye. Even tearful, fit-throwing goodbyes. Sometimes they have to be missed long enough to allow us the creativity and openness to say ‘hello’ to new things. And somewhere in there, we find a contentment and gratefulness that doesn’t so much fill, as supersede the longings we felt before.

The sunshine is fading a bit, my boys just returned muddy and pink cheeked from their first session of ‘spring training’ at the park. I hear they’re looking like World Series contenders, but that’s another blog. I’m smiling. A content, happy smile. Not in any way ignoring the pain and difficulty of the world around and even in me, but also thoroughly enjoying the simple blessings of the right now of my life.