Saturday, March 03, 2012

tears for pounds

Our youngest walked a week after we arrived in West Africa ... at 10 1/2 months. Some were horrified we would take a baby and a toddler to a country so far away from home. I hadn't thought a thing about it--hopping on the plane with no hesitation. But then I got there. And realized what we had done ... moving so far from family and friends and all the security of life in America.

It is a known fact that I don't do change well, and this move to West Africa was a prime example. I would have nightmares at night, I'd wake at three in the morning with a pang in my gut at what we had done. I could hardly face making porridge for breakfast (yup, I missed cheerios!) I knew we were in the right place, but it didn't seem like I could bear it. Tears came frequently and lasted long. I couldn't eat. The days passed and the pounds fell off. I soon was a skinny-minny. Colleagues became concerned and drew the Gardener aside to discuss what to do about me. My little boys would just hold their mama with great hugs as she cried.

Quite frankly I think the 10-inch lizards sunning on our baby's crib were part of the problem. The patient and understanding Gardener would chase after them, catch them, only to have the tail left in his hand while the little fellow dashed off to grow a new one.

After two months I adjusted. We moved to the upstairs flat where those big guys didn't bother us. I began to feel at home. I looked outside myself and made friends. I grew to   l.o.v.e  our life there.  I adjusted so, so well. I wanted our boys to grow up there.

I still don't do change well. You'd think by now I'd realize it's a constant in life and that I need to just roll with it.  If I look at history, I see that I get through a change just fine, and I see how the threads of life weave together so beautifully. If I could just learn that once and for all.

Photo: passport pics from the early days.


  1. Oh I don't do change well. That's why God has never called me to West Africa. He knows me. He knows that three years later, I'd be killing the whole purpose for being there. (Which is what happened while I was in AZ for three years.) It's great to know that you snapped out of it in such a short time. Enough time to allow God to work. Yes, I'd like to remember these things as well. God always sees us through.

    (Oh, yes, the entire lizard thing would have me freaked out as much or more than the tarantula, rattlers, and beetles so big that I could hear them walking down the hall when I was in the kitchen. Ackkkk...)

  2. You are very brave. I know I couldn't have done what you did. I think we are very much alike. I would have grown to love it, that me as well.

    I really enjoyed this post. It's like an opening chapter in a book.


  3. Such sweet reading about this part of your past. Hope you will share more!

  4. The novel "The Poisonwood Bible" comes to mind! I read it years ago but I can still recall the culture shock and how over time Africa became home to the family, so much so that a couple of the children never went back to America to live...

    Change is difficult and stressful; I feel it when I am only traveling to/in another country, supposedly for fun and relaxation!

    I think you have learned the lesson, but any new change still requires us to do the difficult task of adjusting...

  5. Oh my, what a challenge for someone who doesn't do well with change--especially with an infant and toddler in tow! The fact that you did adapt and came to love your life in Africa is a wonderful thing. I'm sure you were all better for having that experience!


  6. Love this post! You guys are so cool! :)

  7. What experiences you've had!
    For much of my life change was the constant. I had to adjust to the idea that this was going to be home after 25 years of moving every one or two years. It was hard, because I got 'antsy' but it passed. The one thing I miss about those peripatetic days is the opportunity/necessity for de-cluttering! We have so much clutter now!

  8. Dotsie, you have more courage than me, I hate change and doubt I could have pulled this off. I know you were in Africa for a purpose and how special that time still is to you. Perhaps youth had something to do with your fitting in so well after the crying period, most of us would have too!
    I like to hear your stories from that time and then think about how fortunate we are in this country.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Dotsie, I know exactly what you mean about not doing change well... at first. But, I can tell that you and I share an ability to adapt... and to learn to thrive in whatever our circumstance.

    Now, I will say that had I been your mom, I would have been beside myself (speaking from one who has taken a long while to adjust to an across country move, not across oceans!). Oh, my.

    And, of course... I'm wondering what change has prompted this post. I'm not sure I will ever learn to move quickly into the lessons we have learned about change over and over and over... but, I know it always works out. hugs and blessings ~ tanna

  10. Oh, I can so identify. I don't like change but it's been my lot for all of our married life. We landed in Ecuador 2 months before our first was born in a small mission hospital in the jungle. It was the snakes and the thought of them that got me.

    But it's amazing how adaptable humans are, and how powerful God's strength is - his grace is made perfect in weakness, isn't it?

  11. Oh my, that had to have been so hard. May I ask, why is it you lived there?

  12. Such a sweet, heartfelt post. And I know which son this is! :)

    Thanks for sharing your heart. I totally agree about the 'change thing'.

  13. Your story reminded me of Elizabeth Elliot after her husband died and how she raised her daughter in the jungle. I'm amazed at your courage. God's grace is amazing!

  14. What a sweet story, what was the reason that you moved to West Africa?
    I'm afraid I don't do change real well myself. I think I will do it just fine, only to realize soon after that I miss someone that I've left behind terribly. I have never moved that far away from my loved ones though.
    Hugs, Cindy

  15. Wow. I can't imagine that. I know how lonely I feel just moving across the U.S. And to think it only took you 2 months to adjust and you even grew to love it. I understand growing to love it but it would have probably taken me much longer.
    I love to read your writings!

  16. What a dramatic change. Most of us don't do well with change, but you embraced it!

  17. Maybe it is harder with age...change that is. I use to think life was all a wonderful adventure when I was younger. We moved around quite a bit and I loved it. New friends, new places...all good. Now...well I am more sentimental and less willing for too much change.

    I have recently been reminded of the Serenity Prayer and have been praying that for myself =)

    I admire your adventures into Africa. I too would love to hear more about that experience.

  18. Change can be very hard and teach us many lessons about ourselves.

    My husband's family immigrated to the USA from Italy when my husband was a young boy. His Mom never adjusted to living in America and was sad her whole life. I often wonder if she had just accepted her situation and tried to learn the language along with her children if that would have eased her lonliness?

  19. I can't imagine such a change from life in the U.S. to West Africa....I would have been in a bad way...I'm such a fraidy cat. I see how God sustained you and grew you into that place and its really impressive. I hope I keep perservering and growing 'outside myself' with God as you spoke of' health problems may loom ahead for me. I appreciate hearing about your missionary life in Africa. Very much.

    Did you ever read any of 'THe No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' by Alexander McCall Smith? I know its not along the same line as being a missionary but that author gave me a sense of the beauty of Africa ....both the land and the people.


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