Join Shop Talk with Brandi and James as they interview friends from around the world gaining insights at ways to celebrate Christmas cross culturally. Special thanks to guests Mary Lou Smyth, Christopher Arnold, Tim Robinson and Randi Israel!
It is hard to believe that February 28 we left our home in Kenya to live a life that feels like ragamuffins. In the last 140 days we have been in 19 different states driven over 9000 miles and easily stayed 50 different places (with many back and forth between some of the same places). The first week of July we moved into a house in Fort Worth and for the first time have a sense of stability to our transitory lives.
I often talk with my clients about transition. It is a guarantee in our line of work that there will be lots of transition and with it comes consequences and challenges. With all transition comes change, all change has loss and with loss comes grief. So our transition has been full of the beautiful grief of saying goodbye to good things and reticent joy as we entered a stage of endless motion and reacquainting with relationships. It was hard to connect with new and old friends when we have felt like unanchored ships floating in the ocean. Still, we have truly loved getting to know the people in each others lives that were mostly unknown to the spouse that hasn’t lived life with them yet. We each have met friends and family for the first time since most of our lives together has occurred in Kenya.
Transition has been challenging for several reasons.
- Everything is different (nothing is as it was). We have been transported back into the busy lives of our former communities reconnecting on the points we last experienced. Which would be fine except for 5 years of life has happened in our absence. This is true for our lives as well. Just the other day we was with some of my really dear friends and after they put their kids to bed I realized that since the last time we casually hung out they had added two kids and I added a wife. Even thought they are some of my best friends we have to reacquaint ourselves.
- No one knows what we have been through. We are missing out on the shared experiences with friends. SO MUCH has happened to Ellie and I over the last half a decade and no one in our current communities shared it with us. Often people don’t even know how to ask about this fairly significant part of our lives because there isn’t even a frame of reference for connecting to it. I have had a few people ask how my ‘trip’ to Africa was. This seems like a shallow understanding of the last 5 years of my life condensed into a ‘trip’. But also shows the difficulty for others in knowing how to even relate to it. Many times it is left unaddressed and we talk about other things.
- Grieving our losses. We had great communities, church, work and so many things that we said goodbye to in Kenya. Also right before leaving Ellie lost a dear friend, mentor and founder of BlueSky, Kim Pace. The week before her tragic death they had an afternoon just the two of them where they talked about life, relationships and transitions. A sweet memory for Ellie but she grieves Kim and all of BlueSky (especially missing out on summer camp right now).
- The Roots are deep but not broad. As we rebuild relationships and introduce each other to friendships many of them are very deep to have withstood the test of time and distance. But there is lots of connecting and rebuilding to do, to bring the spouse into the depth of a relationship with someone who is new to them. Where do you start with decade long friendships for one when the other has only met them once.
Transition has been Beautiful too.
- We are so loved. We crave connecting with figuring out where our friends are in their lives. We feel so loved and cared for by many, many people. Trinity Chapel in Fort Worth has made us feel welcomed and accepted in many ways. Ellie and I both have friends and family who leap at opportunities to connect with us. There are so many friends who are bringing us right back into their lives. If you are reading this, feel free to reach out and invite us over – we are extraverts and connecting is relaxing for us. Help us by initiating which is hard when we have to do most of it as people aren’t sure what we need.
- We have a house. Finally settling into a constant place has been amazing. Ellie is nesting which is a thing I wasn’t aware was a thing. It involves throw pillows, picture frames and things on the walls. I’m happy that she’s happy.
- Our wide net is full. We have covered so much ground and found such a great many people that we are excited about reconnecting with. All across the USA we realize how blessed we are.
We look forward to being reliable and consistent with our communities for the next 6 months. We hope you reach out to us, because its helpful if you do. Ellie has started a very part time job at the Hurley House in Fort Worth. Pay her a visit or treat yourself to some of the best baked goods and take away meals in Fort Worth. I am doing a counseling course to become a licensed supervisor and working from Trinity Chapel Bible Church if you want to distract me for a lunch or to hang out (PLEASE) get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week we will be attending a conference for our new assignment (the conference is in Germany) and can’t wait to meet all of our new co-workers. It feels strange for it to have been a months since I was on a plane so in someways its home to be traveling again.
Thanks for reading- James