Thursday, May 16, 2013

10 things that living overseas has taught me

Usually I write my best blog posts when I'm lying in bed. In my head. And then I'm too lazy to write them down on paper. And then I forget them. Sigh.
But I've been reflecting a lot on these past two years and a few things have come to mind that I didn't actually realize until recently.
So here's 10 things that living overseas has taught me:

1. I don't use as many paper products as I used to.
Paper towels and napkins are just more expensive here and it's so much easier to use a dish towel or other hand towel to mop up messes and throw it into the wash instead of using up pricier paper towels. I've also ordered about 24 cloth napkins made out of the traditional fabric here, kikoy. So I'm excited to be able to bring those back with us and use them in Canada. {But I still am using disposable diapers. *gasp* I know. I'm killing the environment. Sigh. I'm doing what I can, folks. I'm doing what I can.}

2. The value of living a slower paced life. 
It took me awhile to adjust to how slow life is and how long it takes to get things done. But I really do love it and enjoy it. It's probably not going to be replicated in Canada, but I am definitely taking this idea back to implement in a way that will work for our life in Canada. I am not for cramming schedules and packing in as many activities and extra curriculars into our lives. My kids will be better off for spending more time as a family and less time running around to every extra activity that will supposedly boost their *insert whathaveyou here*. End Rant.

3. How to drive with less road rage.
It's true. Okay so I didn't really have road rage per se, but I used to get so angry at bad drivers. Now I drive with a couple million of them. So I just laugh. Once I was driving along a straight-away and a guy parked on my side of the road but in the opposite direction pulls out right out in front of me and I slam on the breaks. Then he proceeds to shake his hand at me and give me a bad look and all I can do is laugh at him and shake my hand back. Honestly. Bad drivers. I laugh in the face of bad drivers! Ha ha ha ha! {Lion King quote anyone?}

4. How to give thanks for the hard things.
It's easy to give thanks for the beautiful sunshine and the gorgeous view and the sweet times of family cohesion, but what about sickness and power outages and screaming kids and friends and family who are hurting on the other side of the world? I definitely don't have this one down. But I've grown a lot in this area of my life and I find myself giving thanks

5. A closeness with my husband and kids that I likely would not have had otherwise.
Of course I would have been close with my family if we had stayed in Canada. But doing life through birthdays and holidays and the every days with just us has really been such a precious experience. We've been able to form traditions that are uniquely ours. We've been able to leisurely enjoy Christmas and Easter without frantically zipping around from family to family to family to make sure we see everyone and do everything. And I have loved it. I will treasure these past two years in my heart and memories.

6. Taking a Sabbath doesn't mean going to a church building.
It's no secret that we've not been the most faithful church goers during these last 2 years. But somehow we've found a way to connect with other Jesus followers and be fed from the Word whether it's through listening to sermons or reading books or just through our quiet times. I'm not going to lie, I have missed our church family back in Guelph. A lot. And I am really looking forward to getting back into a church when we go back, but I've learned that it's not the building that's important but the attitude of the heart and the gathering of believers.

7. True community and friendship often require work. Especially if you're living overseas.
For our first year here, I drove 30 minutes each way every Thursday to visit Kelly and her boys. And I would do it all over again. It was worth getting pulled over almost every time I drove to her house. {Not because I'm a bad driver. Just because...well, they like to pull people over and get bribes here.} So yeah. It was work, but it was completely worth it.

8. I don't need very much to live and live well.
I brought over 3 pots and a few pans and a couple good knives. I bought a few other things here. My fridge is a glorified bar fridge. My oven is teeny tiny. I don't have half of what I had in my kitchen in Canada. And I'm perfectly content. You better believe I'll be doing a subsequent purge of the {few} things I have stored back in Canada when we get back. It's refreshing for me and my family when we have less things. Good things, but less things. I am also feeling particularly passionate about seriously purging the amount of toys and books the boys have. The more they have, the more bored and overwhelmed they become. When we purge and organize here, they play more happily.

9. Always make more food than you think you'll need. you never know who's going to show up for dinner.
I already knew it in my heart/head, but I love hosting and feeding people. I really enjoy having people in our house and we've done a LOT of it these past two years. Whether it's visitors from Canada or Ugandan friends or other expats, we've had some good times in this house with others. It's confirmed for me that this is something that I want to continue upon returning to Canada.

10. To yearn for my heavenly home.
When we live in our home culture, it's easy to be comfortable. But when we live in a culture where we don't look like everyone else and we don't speak the language, when we stand out as foreigners, it's uncomfortable. And sometimes just "going back home" isn't what we truly want either. We discover what we should have been cultivating inside ourselves all along; a yearning for heaven. A yearning to be home and be known fully and loved fully. And ultimately that won't be found in Canada or America or Uganda or anywhere else.
This has been a tough lesson for me, and one that I haven't particularly enjoyed, but it's been the most important of them all. And I'm glad.


  1. love this. all of it. so true. haven't actually had much time to process- but maybe that's partly because I'm going back... or it could be that I jumped right into solo-mama life and don't have a second to myself :) love you, friend.

    1. Yeah, I imagine your processing will look different with the knowledge that you are going to come back to Uganda, but still...

      Love you too. Miss you something fierce.

  2. This is so good! Thanks for sharing!

    God Bless,
    Margie Becker

  3. Amen to it all. Well said. Beautifully written. Glad these words didn't stay inside your head.

    1. Thanks, Meliss. I'm glad too. :) I'm sure I'll go back and re-read them a few months from now.

  4. this is awesome, so encouraging to read. one of my prayers for you guys during your time is that you'd learn a lot and be blessed by your time, even though you'd surely meet hardships. Seems like that has happened to a great degree!

    I can highly resonate with your second point. When we were living in Manhattan for the Redeemer internship for 6 weeks I was struck by how busy every family/mom was. It's the mindset there more than anywhere else in the world! Every kid I knew had an activity EVER DAY and though I already reject that lifestyle, I was even more so while I was there because I didn't really have friends and we couldn't afford most activities anyway. So while I'd normally do maybe 2 out of house activities with my kids per week in Montreal, I was doing 0 (unless you count the park) there! But it was just as you said - good to slow down, great to bond with family, and build into the kids in our home.

    1. Thanks, Em. Appreciate the prayers and we truly have been so blessed here and have learned so much.

      Yes. I'm a sold-out believer in the slow life. It's official!

  5. these are such wonderful points! I'm currently reading organized simplicity and it talks a lot about some of your "simplifying" and "purging" points. I like I like I like!

    1. SUCH a good book, Bean! I love your purging nature and desire to keep your life and home simple and clutter-free. :)

  6. Totally agree with the simple... and with the slower pace... tough to do the later when the kids are athletic and play rep sports.. those teams usually practice 2-3x a week for 2 hours each time and have 1-2 games a week (and often out of town so involve the drive too).. and then when you work full time.. the reality for slower gets pushed out... but love the perspective and this year can't wait for the summer when for once we may not have any rep sports for 2 months (gasp!) and I'm gonna love on that time with my boys.. they are only young once.. and my oldest will be High School in the fall so my time with him is rapidly running out... (sad face).

  7. That last one, wow you really got me with that one. So true. I have to think that even just living one state away from the one I truly feel is home. But God has put us here for now and that has to be good enough.

    You learned some really amazing things, Vanessa, What an experience, huh? :D



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