Saturday, April 7, 2012

N is for the Net

Thanks for staying with me in this little acrostic history of my life so far! Your comments have been really interesting and encouraging, and I'm particularly enjoying seeing what catches your interest in any given post - from colleges to gardens to churches, so far! We've found that we had things in common we never knew about before - I trained as a teacher at the same college as Penny from Violet White, and Ang of Tracing Rainbows and I may well have worshipped together on one Sunday in August 1997, which is quite remarkable.
At the end of yesterday's post we were heading off to France in a somewhat unprepared manner - contract uncertain and furniture and boxes stuck in a lorry somewhere over Christmas and the New Year. To top it all, I had a really nasty bout of illness while we stayed with Ben's parents and then with friends before heading over to France. Everyone was very supportive, but I could see that Ben was wondering how he was going to cope with everything on his own, and a wife so physically and emotionally fragile that she was refusing to speak her (very limited) French.I told some of that story back in January, on the seventh anniversary of our move. I think it took me that long to develop a bit of an understanding of what had happened, and to learn a language with which to describe it, too.
We hit the ground running (even me, on the whole) and actually loved our first year in our spacious rental house in the French countryside. The boys were welcomed into a little village school and set off on the bus each morning from the track at the bottom of our hamlet, where I got chatting with other mums. I braved the roads to begin driving on the right, and it wasn't too bad. Ben came home exhausted each evening from a day speaking French, but the work was enjoyable and he was ready for the challenge. It was a good year.
Once it was clear that Ben's contract was going to become permanent and that we were happy to stay, we started looking for a house to buy. My French developed in very specific areas of vocabulary - house buying, the gym, choirs and shopping, to be precise! We couldn't afford to buy in the area we'd started in, and looked at many, many houses before I had a quick glance around the one in which we are now so happy. I discounted it because it was run-down and slightly above budget, and less rural than we'd hoped for (we are on the edge of a market town, with fields in some directions but houses, flats and a supermarket in others). Some months later, though, I found my mind was still going back to this house, and I mentioned it again to Ben. My description this time must have been more enthusiastic than the original one, because he was keen to see it and the rest is history! And how glad we are that we chose a house within walking/cycling distance of all the schools in the area, and many of the boys' friends and clubs. Children and teenagers are better served by a populated area than they are by the deep countryside, we now see.
Somewhere along the line, the good things began to be subsumed by the pressures we felt from having moved to another country. It's hard to put a finger on it but we felt continually on show, and as people who've always been brought up to care about how we affect others, we were very conscious of not being like the French, and not being like the Americans at our church, either. We felt very judged, and I suppose, occasionally, we were! But most of the time it was about how we felt, not about anything anyone else really thought. French children are quiet and (oppressively) well-behaved when adults are around. American Christians also can have very strong ideas about child-rearing. Our children are not quiet, and they do not sit still. If they are told not to do something they make a point of doing it, to see what happens - not out of evil intent, but out of a certain (inherited) stubborness. In fact, they also have (shared generously between them) dyspraxia and a leaning towards the mild ends of autism and ADHD, none of those things being much stonger than character traits, but certainly making them stand out in a bunch of quiet, well-mannered kids! We did not cope with those differences well in those years.
Oh, the relief of being able to look back on that time, rather than feeling stuck, blind, in the middle of it! One of the things that has helped me to move beyond the mire has been blogging - hence, N is for the Net! I had various connections with internet groups before I started blogging, but in many ways they did not help me because I still felt I had to show a coherent front, and to hide the imperfections that I would not allow myself or my family. Then three years ago I started blogging, to create a new way of communicating with my mum who had become too ill for phonecalls and emails. I was also keen to enter the world of blogging and hoped very much for comments from other bloggers. I had no idea that the connections I was going to make through blogging were going to become God's way of leading me through the slough. This is something I've talked a bit more about in other posts, but the blogger Josie Crafter (Homemade and Happy) put me onto the book Simple Abundance, which, along with other things, taught me how to reflect on my circumstances and feelings, rather than bundle through life as though they were irrelevant. I have found that unconsidered emotions do not become meaningless, but that instead they take over and have a power they could never have if you spend a little time recognising and dealing with them. (See Jane Austen for more on self-awareness!)
I felt somewhat selfish and unholy taking time to think about myself, but found, instead, that God used everything I learnt to make my life a blessing to others, especially to my family. Gretchen Rubin, in her really helpful Happiness Project, quotes the saying: 'If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!' and I've realised the relief but also the responsibility in that little gem of wisdom.
It is inaccurate to think that I have 'arrived' anywhere, but God has got me to a point where I feel I know how to trust him, to open up to him and to others, and to grow and learn through new situations rather than shutting down and entrenching. Life has continued to present its challenges, especially my mother's death in 2010, but I am full of hope and conscious of forgiveness. That is a good place to be and I'm really grateful to you, my blogging friends, who have been with me on my journey to get this far.
PS If you have been wondering about the vocabulary I've used to describe my faith experiences, there's a little post below for you!


Angela said...

Like you I have found Blogging to be a blessing way beyond anything I expected when I began it. And like you I want to communicate my faith through my blog- but as far as possible in 'accessible' language. I have been thinking a lot about the way you uprooted and shifted to a foreign country [as did my MIL in 1946] where your grasp of the new language was ...uncertain. Yet now you are settled and happy, and have made many friends.
I haven't got this clear in my head yet, but I am sure there are parallels with the way we, as Christians, use 'the language of Zion' - it must often seem like a foreign language to our hearers/readers.

More thinking needed on this one. I do LOVE the way your posts set my braincells going!

love and blessings x

Carol said...

I'm behind in my blog reading so I'm really looking forward to reading your 'life story'.
Carol xx

polkadotpeticoat said...

Beautiful.....again beautiful...

Dormouse85 said...

It has been good to share your journey,Floss. Thanks for your honesty and clarity. I often admire your writing, and your wise words. God bless you & your family this Easter. And now I'm off to church.Dormouse xx

Unknown said...

I am so glad you started blogging and that I found your blog - I enjoy sharing your journey.