On my first Sunday in the States, during prayer I was stunned when I realized my brain was automatically translating the English prayers into Creole. That’s not ‘normal’ in the States, yet my brain was so used to working hard every Sunday to help me understand the Sunday services that there was no hesitation that translating into Creole was the expectation while I was hearing English.
Last week when I was sitting in traffic, my default reaction was park the car and walk to the front to see if the roadblock was getting cleared or if it would be a long time before it was removed. When I realized that was CULTURALLY INAPPROPRIATE FOR COLORADO, my next default was, ‘Ok, wave someone down going the opposite direction to find out what is causing the problem.’ Which was ALSO wildly culturally inappropriate for the States. Though who wouldn’t want to see the crazy redhead waving her arms to get someone to stop, then get arrested and tossed in the psych unit. Again…not ‘normal’ in the States.
As I’ve been driving around Colorado Springs looking for an apartment I had expertly spotted an ‘apartment complex’ in the distance around an area I liked, then threaded my way through the streets to get to it. Only to find…it was a big house. Not an apartment complex. Being startled by moderately sized, yet large, single family homes is not a ‘normal’ thing in the States. Certainly mistaking them for apartment complexes is way outside normal thinking.
I had spent two and a half years training my brain to understand enough Creole to communicate with my friends, instead of using a translator. Imagine the relationship difficulties in having to use a translator every time you want to communicate…not really effective to make real friends for the long-term. That’s a lot of intentional speaking that doesn’t get turned off with the simple flip of a switch, so when I am told, ‘We don’t speak that here,’ it hurts. True confession, of course sometimes I do it to be ornery, so sure, be sarcastically mean back, however there are dozens of times a day I think in Creole first, and sometimes the filter is not excellent, leading to speaking Creole out loud. I do find it ironic that the youngest of my friends finds this the most normal, and actually responds to me in English as he guesses what I am saying in Creole, with no comment like ‘what did you say?’ I am controlling it the best I can, there is no reason to be hateful about it, especially since I am not actually trying to offend by not speaking the ‘normal’ language of the States. My new coworkers could have all the reasons in the world to be annoyed by my Haiti life, yet I am the blessed recipient of laughter, joking and grace.
While I muddle my way through retraining my brain to what is ‘normal’ in the States, there is a lot of freedom I have gained. I love that I don’t have to put toilet paper in the trash instead of the trash can. I love that I can brush my teeth with water from the sink. I love the smell and feel of clothes fresh out of the dryer with fabric softener…instead of hand washed hanging from the line on the roof. I love the plethora of choices in the stores…yet I am also paralyzed by them. I love that I can drive myself…at ANY time of the day and I’m not restricted by a compound wall. Freedom is a word that keeps running through my head constantly quickly followed by thanking God it exists here in the forms it does.
I knew there would be things that caught me off guard as I sunk myself back into the ‘normalcy’ of Stateside culture. I knew there would be things I liked and things I didn’t like. I knew there would be people who would be full of grace and support, and those that wouldn’t understand. I knew that there would be challenges I hadn’t even thought about, and really, only three weeks fresh off the plane, I know there will be many still to come.
Within all of that…I’ve come to hate the word ‘transition,’ and maybe it has to do more with the overuse of the word. I know people genuinely care, and are asking to check in, but to me this isn’t a transition. It is simply a different placement within the same calling and Kingdom lived life. It’s not a different adventure…just a different city. I am in Colorado, because I choose to live as a believer surrendering to the life-giving call of being an advocate for kids around the world that are told they are not worthy, they have no value and lack the steady financial support of family due to a myriad of reasons associated with majority world traumas. They are faces and specific names. They are NOT strangers. They are my friends. Some of those kids love Jesus with all they have in them, and others aren’t freely given that opportunity. I choose to live as a believer that accepts God will send me where he needs to use my voice and stories.
Which makes the most real challenge of all how to maintain the abnormality that God has renewed and created in me while figuring out how to not become captive of the ‘normal,’ but to find the balance, because the most real answer of all is…I am not the same.
The acceptance into another culture. The lack of struggle to navigate unknowns. The things I have seen. The stories I’ve heard. The places God has immersed me. The people I know. The sacrifices made. The pain that has been experienced and observed. The friends I have gained. The respect gained as a woman in patriarchal societies. The arms that have been wrapped around others. The love received and given. The every day reliance on the Holy Spirit. The constant knowledge that Kingdom is real, and it is our responsibility to answer our calling as believers to fight for that restoration.
The ache of leaving and answering ‘why’ a thousand times, while being fractured emotionally over and over, because as much as it would have made leaving much easier, I just can’t stop myself from intentionally pouring into relationships I’ve been given. It is how God has wired me to live.
Each of those has made their mark on my life, and I don’t want that mark to get blurred or erased. God never intends to blur or erase those markings, he intends them to shape our story, and my story is definitely not normal.