The new house

We bought a house.

We had told ourselves “not another fixer upper. Move-in ready this time. We don’t need the grief.”

But, as with many good intentions, ours went down the tubes when a house came on the market that needs work but had great bones. So, we begin again, tearing out before we can make it ours.

Thankfully, it’s not as needy as the last home we bought, which required everything from beams and floors to walls and everything in the kitchen. Twenty years later, thanks to an incredibly resourceful husband, it was really cute.

This time around, we have good walls and a decent kitchen and bathrooms. There are some interesting hues on the walls, though. For example, the laundry room features deep purple walls and a bright yellow sink. Until my daughter-in-law helped me peel it off, it also sported wall stickers: branches of bright pink flowers—on purple—with that bright yellow sink.

Previous owners also had a penchant for teal. Now, I’m not opposed to teal, but . . . those walls will get painted. Very dark teal in a small bathroom is not for me. I’m not wild about a similar hue in a bedroom, either. Bird’s egg blue and dead creams abound. A refresh is in order.

In thinking about the tasks ahead of us in our new home, our heavenly home seems even more inviting. When we go there, we won’t have to remodel at all. Jesus said, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2). Can you imagine what a place specially designed for us by God will look like?

No? Me neither.

To think that the God of the universe wants to be near us—lousy, weak, and sinful people—for eternity, is one of the great mysteries. The Creator loves His creation in a way that is beyond fathoming. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know (John 14:3-4).

Ever the sceptic, Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? (John 14:5)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

I am thankful that my destiny is through this Way, Jesus Christ. I am thankful that He gave Himself for my redemption. The fact that Jesus loves the whole world in this same manner is evidenced all through Scripture. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9).

Where will your new home be?

Have you been saved? Jesus came into the world to pay the price for your sins so that you could join Him in heaven forever.

Heaven needs no remodeling or paint.

And you’ll totally love the colors.

More reverse culture shock and lessons we’re learning

As time goes on—we are almost three months into our repatriation adventure—we are noticing more “weird” things about our home country.

For example:

  • Trees and branches overhang road spaces, even highways. We have never seen this in Europe.
  • Eggs are pristine white. European chicken eggs are always brown.
  • Road conditions are much worse than in Europe. Of course, there are many more roads.
  • We tend to want to answer people we don’t know in Spanish … and have actually replied first in Spanish. One day, a waitress in a Mexican restaurant could hardly believe we were fluent in Spanish. I guess we don’t look the part.
  • People we knew forty years ago don’t recognize us. Imagine that.
  • It has to be a cultural thing, but attendees at church seem non-responsive. Not many head nods or amens or anything. The preaching is awesome, and I wonder if the pastor sees visible responses or not.
  • Huge washing machines. I cannot even reach the bottom of a relative’s washer.
  • Prices. Some are much cheaper than in Spain, and others are much more expensive. We are never sure what to expect.
  • Professionals look very young. Youthful doctors, professors, and others cause us to realize we’re older than we thought.
  • Used market. This is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the United States. There are consignment and second-hand shops, re-sale stores and yard sales. Some are better than others, but they’re all fascinating. We even got a free dryer through an online used forum.

My husband and I are slowly settling in. Another couple who did the same told us it takes about two years to feel at home. I wouldn’t doubt it.

As for lessons learned, I think I could categorize them in two ways:

Practical:

  • Stay flexible. The world doesn’t revolve around us; we need to adapt to our surroundings. It’s part of being selfless instead of selfish.
  • Listen to expert advice. We usually ask our children and their spouses. It’s a strange role reversal, but it works. They’ve already adapted after living in Spain and Puerto Rico. We’ve also been thankful for great professionals (doctors, realtor, etc.).
  • Ask about lowest prices. When we ask friends and family about where to find the best deals, we end up making better choices.
  • Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no one settles into a new country immediately. We have needed to think, pray, and decide—and wait on some things.
  • Pursue good leads. It helps to jump on good deals. We got the aforementioned free dryer that way. It needed a cord, but my husband can fix it. Also, it never hurts to ask questions.
  • Learn from your mistakes. When we goof up—which we have already done a couple of times—we get up, dust ourselves off, and learn from experience.

Spiritual:

  • We are stewards of God’s blessings. Everything we have came from the Lord, and we are responsible to Him for how it is used. At a time when we are setting up housekeeping in a new country, we’re constantly praying about wise use of money, whether or not something is needed now, and trying to stay in tune with each other in all our decisions. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).
  • My husband and I are responsible for our own decisions. Sometimes, we get conflicting advice. Ultimately, we need to do what we feel is right before the Lord. Our decisions might not be right for someone else even though they are for us. The Bible says we can ask for help in making wise decisions. (See James 1:5.) For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalm 48:14). My husband and I are striving to follow the Lord’s leadership.
  • It is important to thank the Lord for all the blessings along the way. People have given us several pieces of furniture, curtains, and a lamp. My sister offered to help me recover some dining room chairs. We still have furniture needs, and we’re constantly seeing the Lord’s hand. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11) God always wants to bless us. It’s another evidence of His amazing love. Because of this, every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever (Psalm 145:2).

Whatever your circumstance, feel free to share what you are learning from the Lord as you begin this year.

You might enjoy reading my first post about our reverse culture shock experience, here.

Looking back over 2020, looking forward

For many people, 2020 means nightmare scenario. Our memories include sickness, the corona virus scare that began in March, shutdowns and isolation, not being able to see our loved ones, and going through disease and deaths.

For us, living in Spain during much of the year, we experienced all of the above. It was the most difficult year of my lifetime on several fronts, and the only thing that got me through was continually choosing to worship instead of worry.

We faced sickness, death, strict corona virus restrictions, trials, and, on top of that, an international move that began with selling our house and legal issues.

But, God directed our paths.

Even though this was a hard year, we watched as miracles unfolded. I don’t use the word miracles lightly, either. Even our lawyer told us, “You can thank God.” It was obvious that Someone much bigger than us was making things happen.

We arrived in the United States at the beginning of November. Our shipment arrived in good condition in mid-December. We are thankful.

My husband and I are living with a relative while searching for a house. When we found one we both loved and made an offer, we felt like this might be it. We prayed that God would either open or close doors and make it obvious to us if this was the house He wanted for us. Before the inspection, it became clear that this wasn’t the house He wants for us.

I love that we can trust God to guide us well. It is exciting to live like this and watch as He smooths the way or closes the door. All we need to do is follow Him—like silly sheep following the Shepherd. He always leads us well, provides, and protects.

I chose a theme word for 2020. It was worship.

With all that was going on in our lives, much of it unpleasant, I made it a point to turn off my worries and cares and consciously worship. I didn’t do it perfectly. There were days of tears and asking God why. I actually walked out into the yard and poured my heart out to the Lord, telling Him I couldn’t manage without His supernatural help. The great thing is, His help is always freely available.

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).

This is my testimony for this past year. God showed me great and mighty things. That’s what He does.

I am looking forward to seeing His mighty hand in 2021.

How has the Lord blessed you this past year? Want to share? Please feel free to comment.

Reverse culture shock: the expats come home

As many of you know, we recently made a second-in-a-lifetime move from Spain to the United States. Many of our Stateside friends say, “Welcome home,” as we try to figure out what our new-old home is like again, after more than 36 years away.

I thought I would share some of our culture shocks with you. You might laugh or think them insignificant, but these stand out to us after living in Europe for a whole generation.

  • big cars, parking lots, highways, and lots of pickup trucks—Very few European roads are wider than three lanes each way, and only in major cities will you find three lanes. Although there are SUVs and even pickup trucks in Europe, they are majorly scaled-down versions. Eighteen-wheelers are also much smaller. How else could they wind up and down narrow mountain roads? Most cars are much smaller. You’ll be hard pressed to find large parking lots in Europe.
  • language—Since arriving, we have actually answered people we don’t know in Spanish, even if they ask a question in English. Oh, well … even this shall pass.
  • soft, fluffy toilet paper—No comparison.
  • overwhelming variety in stores—My husband was looking for a brand of deoderant he likes. There were many fragrance options for his brand. In Europe, there would be one or two options max. The cereal food aisle is a whole, long aisle. The same goes for everything. The sheer abundance in the USA is amazing.
  • waste—I am awed by the amount of non-careful buying and trashing that goes on. I’m not talking about our family members, but this is our general observation.
  • food additives—I knew a while back to anticipate this change. In Europe, we make most things from scratch, and there are no GMO foods. Here, it’s very different. Have you ever read the ingredient list on a bottle of salad dressing, for example? It’s a whole paragraph including colorings, preservatives, and sugar syrups.
  • customer service—Gotta give it to the USA for nice, patient people whose job it is to serve you.
  • dressing down—In the Detroit airport, we saw one young woman wearing colorful, fuzzy winter pajamas and slippers, at midday. In Europe, you might spy someone emptying the trash in a housecoat, but you would never see anyone out in public in pajamas. Never. Sloppy, filthy clothing—even work clothes—would not be worn out on the street. Here, it’s another story entirely. Also, men wearing shorts and coats will take some getting used to.
  • being able to run more than one appliance at a time—In Europe, you pay for a certain amount of electricity. If you go over that, the lights dim or the electricity cuts off altogether. Here, one can run the washer, dishwasher, microwave, oven, and fans at the same time. Luxury!
  • non-gluten—European people (with few exceptions) never worry about gluten. They bake the best breads and pastries in the world. Here, potato chip bags are marked “non-gluten.” I guess that means potato chips are thereby healthy?
  • style—This year in the USA, fall fashion is easy. All you need is something animal print, preferably leopard, something buffalo check, and ankle boots. In Europe, though once in a while one might spy leopard print on a scarf or shoes, I cannot even imagine that anyone would wear big, red buffalo checks.
  • clothes dryers—Will I ever grow accustomed to these?
  • huge gallon jugs of milk—In Europe, we have little cartons that hold one liter (quart), and they don’t require refrigeration. Love them! I’m building muscles while pouring milk in my coffee. Win-win.
  • self check-out—A genius thought of this.
  • watery coffee—Americans think coffee should resemble Earl Grey tea. Europeans think black means black.

I’m sure there are many more shocks in store for us. Living here is like being ducks out of water, although we’re supposed to be coming home. Our home was the Basque Country. Almost as if we were immigrants, we are discovering the New World of the USA.

I am thankful that the Lord never changes and He cares about our goofy moments and promises to be near.

There’s a Bible story about crossing the Jordan River. Joshua commanded the tribes of Israel to place twelve stones where the people carrying the ark stood—on dry ground, in the middle of the river. Later, those stones were moved and piled up again, as a monument.

During our intercontinental move, I have often felt the urge to erect a pile of stones of remembrance. Each step of the way, and even as we begin to settle in here, we have witnessed God’s hand working.

When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever (Joshua 4:21b-24).

If you were ever an expat and came home, feel free to share your “reverse” culture shock moments with us.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

Worshiping in the valley

At the beginning of 2020, I chose a theme word. A message I heard at Christmastime moved me profoundly. It wasn’t about choosing a word or anything like that. Instead, the sermon was about worship.

After the message, the music minister led the church in worshiping quietly however each person wanted. We could kneel, remain seated, or whatever.

It was a beautiful time of corporate worship and met a need in my heart. As a result, I chose the word worship as my key word for this year.

So far, this has been a valley year. I don’t want to bother you with the details, but it has been one of the most difficult years in my life. Many uncertainties, awful trials, the passing of a loved one, and isolation in Spain because of Covid19 have turned me to the Lord, clamoring for help, praying with groans, not knowing even how to trust—not understanding what is happening.

I have quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to myself probably more than a hundred times, and I may make it two hundred before the year is out.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Lord, I acknowledge You. I know you’re in control, and you know exactly where You’re leading us, even when we are clueless.

How is your year going? Is it a valley?

Be encouraged.

God is still the awesome One who spoke and created the world. He is still the miracle working, history making God. He’s the One who loves you. He died for you. He rose from the grave, conquering death, and gives us hope and purpose.

Worship is praise.

Praising God for Who He is.

Just worship.

My friend, Jane, shared this poem. I asked the author, Nicole Madaus, if I could share it with you. She graciously gave me permission.

  • When you have been hurt and life is far from fair,
  • When your heart is breaking, choose to worship there.
  • When you’re overwhelmed by the burdens that you bear,
  • As you struggle neath the load, choose to worship there.
  • When the secrets that you carry hurt too much to share,
  • When you’re suffering in silence, choose to worship there.
  • When it feels like there will never be an answer to your prayer,
  • In the time of waiting, choose to worship there.
  • When you are grieving over an empty chair,
  • Even in your sorrow, you can worship there.
  • It may not change the trial, but it will change your point of view.
  • It may not change your suffering, but it can change you.
  • Worship can bring healing; it can set you free.
  • Move your focus off your problems, and put it back on Me!
  • Worship will remind you that I am in control
  • And that knowledge can bring comfort to your troubled soul.
  • Worship offers hope in the midst of deep despair,
  • So whatever you are facing, choose to worship there!

Let’s bless the Lord today. He is worthy.

*By Nicole Madaus