what I like about living away from family

Monday, February 23, 2015

So, one of the things I tend to be pretty consistently discontent about is living 3 time zones away from most of my family and my husband's family. For all Southern California has to offer, when we first moved here about 2.5 years ago, there was a sizable chunk of my heart that was determined not to grow too attached. These were not "my people", this was not "my land", "everybody" cared too much about body image and fashion and the latest diet and manicured lawns and the fact that California was God's gift to America because you could experience *all* of the beauty from mountain to shore in one day. And I came from the land of icky, icky snow, and ohmahgerd aren't you so glad you live in California now? You're gonna *love* it! And almost nobody knew where to find Michigan on a map ("you said you were from Minnesota? No? Missouri? No? Oh, Michigan. And your husband is from Ohio? Are those, you know, near each other?"). All the yards were fenced in, there was too much traffic, no space to breathe. And I couldn't just jump in a car or call my parents to watch my kids for a weekend. [I'm such a lovely person to be around sometimes, right? You can call me Negative Nancy.]

In short, it wasn't home.

But I have been learning, slowly, so very very slowly, but surely, to appreciate what blessings come from being far from "home".

1. Sunny days. I admit, when those first snowstorms start hitting the east coast and MidWest in November/December, I am practically glued to my Facebook newsfeed, trying to virtually join in with the buzz and excitement of the first beautiful snowfall. I can't accurately put into words all of the childhood feelings and memories that well up inside me again and I want, sometimes so badly, to be back for that. But I'll be honest - when this last wave of cold came through and my Michigan friends and family started to post snapshots of the weather app listing my hometown being at -22F, I was more than a little glad that getting outside for some fresh air with my kiddos didn't involve snowsuits (especially for the potty training toddler). Or even long sleeve shirts.

2. Time. Being far from extended family means I actually have a lot of "free" time to give to other people: friends, neighbors, people in my community. I mean - I love my family, and I would give my left foot (ok, not really) to be back during some special celebrations more often (birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, autumn cider mill runs). But, when I don't have family nearby, I also don't feel the "pull" of having to choose between being with friends or family for a weekend. We can invite friends to our place more often (which I should do more), or spend time with friends, or serve in my community. Since we usually know well ahead of time when we will be visiting family, or when they will visit us, any time outside of that can be dedicated to our community!

3. Independence/Dependence. I grew up, attended college, got married, and began working in the same town (with a short academic year spent in Spain mixed in there). I attended the same church I had grown up in even after I got married. In some ways, wonderful: I knew lots of people, and they knew me. I could count on seeing my parents at church every week if there was something we needed to connect on. I would say I had a healthy amount of independence from them, but we ran in the same circles sometimes, and I wonder if perhaps it was occasionally difficult for others to see me as an adult, separate from my parents. It also meant that when I occasionally needed community support (emotional needs, practical needs like moving furniture or a meal), my parents could still fill those roles (if I let them). But moving across the country to a place where you know almost no one (a handful of distant family members and friends you've only kinda kept in touch with over Facebook) meant I had to find a new community to be the web I could fall back on. It was a new level of independence from family, and leaning into dependence and trust of people to whom I was not blood-related. It takes a while to develop and find this new community, but slowly and surely you find the ones who you can go deep enough with to be your "surrogate" family, and you learn dependence on God to provide the people you need.

4. Appreciation. So, I think perhaps partially because we live so far away from our family members, I have a new appreciation for the time I *do* get to spend with them (usually a couple times per year). This past Christmas, when we were back in the MidWest, I took a break from Facebook for a while because time with my family is so rare - I wanted to be fully present during the time I *did* get to have with them. It wasn't supernaturally awesome or anything, but I'm not sure I would have had the same kind of intention of being present if I had still been living in the same town as my parents for the past couple years. It's a lot easier to not take time together for granted when it's not an everyday (or every week) occurrence.

I hope to occasionally be able to add to this list as a way of refocusing on what living here *is*, instead of what it *is not*.

love your enemies

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute [are hostile to/harrass/annoy] you!"

(It sounds impossible, right? Love the very one who has hurt you, or would seek to hurt you? It should. Because we were never meant to love enemies on our own strength. Love like that, forgiveness like requires a supernatural, unearthly, I-have-come-to-the-end-of-myself strength. If we think Jesus commanded that thinking we could/would do it on our own, and it was just a revolutionary teaching, we are sorely mistaken. He meant for us to hear it and realize our need of him.)
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