In one week, we will have been in the UK for one year. And yesterday marked our tenth completed month in Scotland. I haven’t been able to really put my thoughts into words until tonight…so bear with me as this starts bad and ends somewhat better.
Since July, we’ve had numerous difficult things happen, and I get it that life is made up of difficult things with lots of mundane and good things in the middle. Life happens no matter where you live. For most of the summer, I think I was in the worst of culture shock and difficult things felt magnified. Then after much prayer, things shifted in a positive direction in the middle of August, and I could see with a new perspective. I think my view of Scotland became very balanced and real, but at the same time, I had numerous conversations in which people told us that we have to be in this for the long haul as that’s what’s needed for effective ministry in Scotland. And reality hit harder. On top of it, Mark is heavily preparing for a new career and the unknown of how and what is coming for him and us is pressing at times. Will he have a three hour round trip commute by bus, will he need us to drive him to work which requires a new boldness in my driving, will he get a full time, good paying job right when the other job ends??? And even though we haven’t verbally worried, these times of transition are never easy. We’ve done enough transition to last us the next ten years, and so I think I’ve been off kilter a bit for a while.
Edinburgh and Scotland itself are not easy environments to live in. Yes, it’s beautiful and there are some truly kind and wonderful people here. I think we have the best set of neighbors in all the world, and so I’m very aware that there are lots of good things here. Yet for an outsider, there’s also a lot that I struggle with. The top one being that the government is very socialist, and politics matter to me. The socialist mindset and all it entails has infiltrated everything. We, Americans, take so much in the States for granted. I could write a whole book on this, but I won’t. It’s just very evident once you’re away for some time. I will say though that we, as a team, are learning how much we need Jesus in order to thrive here. We’ve left churches that we loved and that were home for us, and while there are solid, good churches here, they’re not what we left. My heart has been crying as there’s no freedom here to dance or cry or get yourself where you need to be during worship at church. And many of you will be like what?! Yes, this quiet, reserved, white girl needs worship time to express my heart; I need the freedom to worship in my unique expression of that. Therefore, I have felt like my right arm is missing at church, so last week, I did it anyway, danced for just two minutes, and avoided all eye contact!! LOL! If we cannot be free to worship God in church, then what are we doing?!? So I’m telling you that to lead to this…the spiritual atmosphere is tough. It is dry; it is filled with stuff that is not Godly. And as much as we welcome talking to anyone who will talk to us, it can get old to always stand out in your beliefs, your politics, your accent, etc. Sometimes, I have to catch myself as I feel that all I’m doing is defending myself when instead I just need to be me. It’s also hard to hear about all the ministries that have come and gone. Yet we know nothing about why they came and left. All we know is that if we’re here for the long haul, then we’d better just get on with being who God made us to be…even in all the uncomfortable, awkward moments. So I’ve been wrestling and struggling with just not wanting to commit to the long haul with this government and this atmosphere.
And then it got worse….I (driving myself and two kids) bravely ventured to the nearest town to run some errands. It’s a bit of a rough town; it’s not posh or wealthy. It’s real life. It’s not in a Jane Austen film. As we’re running errands, Ryder had an emergency bathroom urge, and British public toilets are rough. Cleanliness is lacking, so I tend to avoid them at all costs. Because I had Eden in a stroller, I sent him in and waited by the door with Eden. He then needed help, so Eden, the stroller, and I went in and I just completely freaked as someone had left an STD test + urine + packaging/instructions spread out all over the bathroom sink right next to where my son had just been sitting. I immediately thought “Lord, I cannot do this! I can’t raise my kids here!! I’m struggling with child laws I don’t agree with, mean kids in the neighborhood, dirty bathrooms, super markets where kids are fighting in line, people working in those stores who don’t care and don’t try, terrible customer service, and now STDs on the toilet that my son has been sitting on!!” and my mind just shouted all the ugliness I could think of. Not a proud moment. And Mark had to talk me down from crazy, upset mama mode. But it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
And I tend to crash, and God comes in and calmly, lovingly teaches me. Over the past year, I have fought so much fear about raising my kids here. I’ve fought massive insecurity about homeschooling and parenting in this culture. Our neighbor kids know nothing about Jesus. Absolutely nothing, and yes, that’s why we are here. But I’m also sending my kids out there to play with these kids every single day while I trust them to the Lord. I have no idea what’s talked about unless they tell me, and this is new for us. We went from having them in Christian schools and church to a very different environment here. This is real life, but my kids are young and this hurts my heart. And so honestly, I have to give my children and my parenting to Him every day. Ryder ran in yesterday to say that the neighbor kid gave him the finger, and it actually became a good moment for us as we had a great discussion about it. It’s not what I want my 7, 5, and 3 year olds seeing, but I am there to talk them through it. I thank God for that. And I realize that American kids swear, give the finger, deal with STDs, etc. This is where the cultural gap is unexplainable because I can’t visibly give you a comparison of the two countries and all that I’m seeing and explaining. Both countries are flawed; both countries have high points and low points. Both countries have lovers of Jesus and those that are lost. The things that I’m experiencing now are things that I can’t explain to you until you’ve been there and then come here. You just have to read this and hopefully hear my heart.
Scotland is a beautiful country filled with history and strong, independent people. I do think this is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I wish the Scottish as a whole took care of it. I know that God adores these people, and He is building a strong Church here. So even though I do not know how to reach or love those I encounter here, I know that I can confidently rest and go about my day being led by Him as He perfectly knows how to love those I meet. However, to learn His ways and His heart, I have to spend more time with Him. I already feel like I’m juggling too much, but my heart is saying that it’s time to make much more room for Him. If we are here to fulfill our part and are staying here, we need much more of Him. So whatever I need to do to make that happen, it has to happen. Just as I have to be super intentional in teaching my children about Jesus, I have to be super intentional in renewing my mind and in seeking His heart.
And so this is an ugly post written by a tired and very human missionary living very far from home. I pray that God sees my heart and sees my rough days and uses them to just teach me more. I want more of Him. The next time I encounter a situation that takes me totally off guard, I want to react by praying for that one who is dealing with the results of an STD test. I want to meet the neighbor kid who thinks she can just wave her middle finger at little ones and talk to her about why she’s doing it. I want to say a kind word to the mom whose sons are smacking each other in the line at the grocery store. I want to see the Scots free to dance or shout or do whatever they need to worship Jesus in their own expression. I want to just be a vessel that flows in His leading. So I’m totally okay to be the awkward American if it helps someone to realize they can get out of the norm and be who God made them. And God will provide and be all we need Him to no matter if we’re here 10 or 50 years. He is always enough, and He is more than enough for my kids and their future.