Today we've been living in Blaine for one year. We moved into our place exactly 365 days ago, even though we left Lincoln on February 18th, 2013. Outside of a 3 week stint in Europe, 3 weeks and 1 day was the longest I'd ever been away from family, and from my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. The first month was a really odd feeling. We were on vacation and living our life!
We're still living our life, but we feel a little less vacation-y and a little more real world-y lately (car fix, school field trips! grocery shopping...) and it's winter, grey, and raining, and consistent sunshine is still months away. The snow here is a one-day thing. The clear days are breathtaking.
We went into this cross-country move with very realistic expectations. We knew we'd miss our family and friends most of all, we questioned the work atmosphere Stefan was leaving (meaning, if he'd find another great job that suited him as well as his in Lincoln did), and we knew babysitting was going to be an issue that we'd have to grin and bear.
In living life, we all deal with unexpected (they really all should be expected, by now) thrown in for good measure like illness, financial ups and downs, loneliness and 'funks'. These are not to be outed as worse than the actual exploration and wonder, gratitude, friendship, and purpose we have here, but this month it would certainly seem like the former is looming larger than the latter. Months, even seasons, can seem that way. I'm happy to call a spade a spade and note my gratitude to the Big Guy when I see it--this winter has been unseasonably sunny and clear, and for that I am grateful. I don't dislike the rain (not by a long-shot), but getting out in fresh, sunshiny air improves my mood. Always. I've relied heavily on that.
I've gotten a sense of the culture here (I'm workin' on things being more laid back) and Stefan is back to enjoying it, we've seen so much beauty in our little 50 mile radius area, and we've pressed into the task of getting to know others in our small community even though we'll finish up our Blaine residency in just a few short months. By summertime, we'll most likely be gone, across the northern border.
I'm incredibly grateful for our small community church, the women's bible study, the homeschool wonder that is Home Connections, and the generosity of the people we've gotten to know. I've enjoyed seeing my hometown friends, both back in NE, and down in WA, with so much depth, satisfaction, and genuine love it's hard to even articulate.
I've learned quite a bit about myself in this year, and I wonder if I've always learned things about myself, but I haven't articulated it within the boundary of A Big Change because I didn't feel there were any.
However, there is always big changes in our lives. Our lives are constantly in motion. We see hindsight. We are ever going forward, leaving places, ideals, thoughts, goals, or even relationships behind. This is a good practice, reflecting. Our culture doesn't even create margin, let alone time for reflection on family life and individual changes, and growth, but we need it.
One of these learned points, is that I now know I can't live more than 30 minutes away from a big(ger) city, and I love living an hour away (or two hours, in the opposite direction) of a Really Big City. Vancouver to the north, Seattle to the south, Blaine is a quiet little town that sees a lot of Canadians for cheap, stopover gas, and perhaps the 10-gallon milk shopping trips. Here in town I can walk just about anywhere, and I often see at least one person I know while out. It's a relaxed pace, and I can get anything I need in Blaine. If it isn't in Blaine, I can get it within 25 minutes by hopping on the freeway and exiting to Bellingham. Any longer of a drive than that, I'd rarely go to the 'city', any shorter than that, the pace would make me itch and get road rage. I still have a dream of living on property. Space, I like, being away from convenience, not so much.
I've also learned (already knew, really, but this year reiterated it loudly) is that being outdoors invigorates me like nothing else. I need time outside, and when I don't get it, even for a week, I suffer. My relationships suffer. This is scientifically true, the vitamin D thing and all, but it is emotionally true. Getting outdoors is actually part of a holistic healing pie for depression, ADHD, and more. I'm not afraid of rain, and we go out in it, but I notice that I'm more likely to be the initiator of outdoor adventures if it's sunny outside. I know now that I need to initiate it no matter what.
Another thing I've also learned, through this past year, that living in one country and working in another is quite possibly one of the most financially obtuse things to do and I do not do well with financial risk. Exchange rates, higher taxes without benefit, insurance on both sides of the line, all very aggravating things. The most discouraging part of the whole situation is just watching your family's hard earned money literally disappear once it crosses from a Canadian to an American bank. Even though we're righthere in terms of our life's trajectory and what we've been working towards, I can say this part of it is morally discouraging. We haven't had a year like this in...well...years. I don't get a thrill from risk, in fact, I get a stomachache that won't go away.
I've also learned that even though my personality is firmly planted in Definitive Introvert, I have found the months lonely, missed my close friends acutely, and met with God more in those quiet spaces than I probably ever have in the any stretch of time. He meets the wallflower, the shouldered- pride keeper, the confused oversharer, the directionless parent, and the overstimulated tantrum thrower when they need Him. (For clarification, yes, those are all me. Flattering, I know.) He freely gives companionship, humility, relationship, perseverance, and peacefulness along with grace, and a new sunrise. We all need community. I have missed greatly what I took for granted for years back in the Midwest, but I will be given communion with One every step, every change, every stress of the way. For that lesson, I am truly grateful.