This is a story I am not quite sure how to tell.
I could tell you about the winter day in 2014 when there was no sleep with our baby, few people in our lives, and darkness wrapped around us, and I unraveled day by day and night after night, and you think crazy things in the unraveling, you feel crazy things, you want crazy things. You can’t recognize your thoughts or emotions because you cannot recognize yourself. I gave Husband an ultimatum, Move me to a warm, English speaking place or else…. Or else I don’t know what, neither of us did, but we kept moving.
He looked for jobs in Australia, I found a counselor and took vitamin D pills. Then February became March, and spring came softly as it always does in Sweden, and I met a friend.
I could tell you about this friend, and the way she walked into the yellow house after the worst day of my first year in Sweden. She was pure sunshine and fresh air and beauty and light and everything good. I could tell you how I cried five minutes after I started talking to her, I was so raw, so heavy with disappointment and pain, and the way she just listened and knew, because she had been there, too. Something shifted in my soul that morning, it was the moment that four years of breaking stopped and healing began.
I could tell you about our first summer in Sweden, Husband took a month off work, we played a lot, went to the beach nearly every day, ate pork ribs with our fingers, slept through the night day after day after day. Our baby slept through the night, too. Our fingers turned blue while we picked blueberries in the forest, and I fell madly, deeply, completely in love with Sweden. We spent time with our Swedish friends, shared meals and stories. I knew they were listening, and they shared willingly. The conversation was always substantive, frivolous words were never uttered, people were never put down. There was never a need to be funny or the centre of attention. Swedes are fair, empathetic, kind and generous, and I love them for it.
I could tell you about my second winter, how I joined a gym and worked out several times a week. Darkness came with November, and I had no idea. I thought it was beautiful. Most people thought I had lost my mind and perhaps I had. I took my vitamin D pills, walked life out with my friend and her daughters, she hung a tree branch in my living room, while our four kids danced around us to Angels We Have Heard on High, and here it was: The life with kids I longed for. There was more time, and my life started looking recognizable again. It felt like mine.
What else could I tell you? There was the moment in February when we knew we were facing another big decision, the kind that alters the direction of our lives. Should we stay? Should we go? And if we go, where? And then this moment is given to us, the moment we need to find each other’s hands, to see our hearts again, to believe that something new is coming, that it doesn’t have to be the way it has always been, that perhaps God is saying Go a different way, I am there, too. I am. And we are Moses taking instructions from God, Throw down your staff, He says, and we do. Because this is the shocking truth of a kingdom that is not of our world: Whoever finds his life with lose it, whoever loses their lives for God, will truly find it.
Losing a life is not painless, there wasn’t an easy way in this, instead mornings and nights and days of doubt and confusion. But the promise of Jesus is always life. In every pocket of darkness, the hope of resurrection. The seed of wheat falls to the ground and dies, that there may be a new plant to live again and bear fruit. We lose our lives to find it newer, better, sweeter, as it should be. I knew this when I was 18-years-old and gave him my yes, I knew it when I traveled around the world, alone and afraid, I knew it in the dark of mothering. Jesus will bring me back to life, he will restore to me what I have lost.
I could tell you about the way we chose not to rush, to sit in the messy middle, to take one step at time, when we didn’t know what would come next. I could tell you about the months we spent dreaming and hoping it would be Sweden, how I planned our summers by the water, my autumns mushroom picking, my winters making reindeer stew, and my fluent Swedish. We thought and prayed about the United States and Switzerland and Germany.
I could tell you about our trip to Melbourne, Australia for my sister’s wedding, and the way the timing of it seemed terrible. I could tell you about the way no one makes me laugh like my sisters, the joy it brought me to see my boys with my sisters and their husbands, who love them so well and are models for them of faith and faithfulness. I could tell you what it felt like to see my boys bond with my niece, to hold her and to parent together with my sister. There were the conversations with friends who are like sisters, the energy I had from the regular hours of sunlight, the brunches and soy mocchas. I could tell you how what it felt like to be surrounded by men and women who love us, care for us and support us.
Then there is the moment in the car, both boys asleep in the back, and we are winding our way down the Great Ocean Road, water pounding on our left, sky darkening above us, and Husband says, What about Melbourne?
We didn’t decide then, but I think in our hearts, both of us knew in that moment that we would be putting our things into boxes again to get ready for the move of our lives to the place on the far side of the sea, to the place where His hand is leading us, the place where his right hand will hold us fast.