We are sick around here. I guess I knew it was bad when breathing in and out I could hear a whistling noise but it took my boss telling me I wasn't allowed in to meetings Tuesday to finally send me home to bed! When E had ear pain I decided to go in to the doctor here in town. Last week when we first had colds and one kid had a fever, I went to our nice neighbor next door to ask about a dr recommendation. It was a nice excuse to have a chat and this week I was extra thankful to know where to go. Coming from the US I'm used to massive operations for doctor visits. There are many physicians and PA's and nurse practitioners all in one practice. It's hard to find a family practice so you all go to different doctors. You go and check in and fill out a bunch of paperwork, then are called back after waiting usually a good hour. A nurse's assistant takes vital signs and does a preliminary triage note usually in a computer. Then you wait again in one of a hallway full of exam rooms. The dr (or whichever provider you actually get to see that day) comes in finally and goes through the exact same questions and again inputs it in the computer. Then they check ears, nose, lungs, etc before often giving antibiotics or saying it's a virus and to let it run its course. In the States you don't have to have a dr note for school absences unless it's quite long. I rarely took my kids in as I usually let things run their course and could usually tell when they really needed to be seen.
Here however, we have to have dr notes for any absence it seems. They take them for work (our work is a bit different but most people have to have it), the school requires it. We get a few days a year we can just keep them home but I try to use those for what we call "mental health" days-not necessarily actual sick days. Anyway, we've now been twice in 3 days to the dr and I'm pretty amazed at the small-scale personal nature of it. First, you set up your own appointment online. Genius! Then you go in to a small office (usually the first floor of someone's home) and wait in a small room with some chairs and a few magazines. If there are people ahead of you, when the previous patient walks out they go in to the doctor in the order they arrived. When it's our turn to go back the doctor him/her self meets us at the door and greets us. Then the doctor sits at her computer which is on a desk with files and a few medical books on top. She inputs name, birthdate and address and scans our ID card then asks the symptoms (briefly). She then has us step into the next room adjoining which is the exam room. In there is the table, lights, medical supplies, medicines, etc-everything you could need all in the one room. She checks symptoms then prescribes meds. No fuss, no hassle, no extra steps. Just a doctor and the patient. They even make house calls!
Then there's the pharmacy. My pharmacist friend would love the efficiency of it! We had to go to the one on call at night so Ty drove me as I couldn't breathe still. We rang the bell and I told him which prescriptions we had and he said he'd come right down. Then I passed the scripts through the dropbox (think bank deposit type box). He filled 6/7 of them and said to come back in the morning when he'd have the final one. Then he took payment and passed the medicines through the box to me. This all took 10 minutes from when we pushed the buzzer till we drove away. And the price for the doctor and all the meds? Less than what I'd pay for just one dr visit in the US. That's before insurance as here with our private insurance we pay everything up front and submit claims ourselves.
It's really amazing to me that in a place where often we are caught up in so much paperwork and procedure that we make a DMV visit look appealing in the US, that the medical system is so streamlined. It's quick, efficient and good care. We know doctors here who work and they are very well educated. I think perhaps part of the problem with our system back in the US is it has become victim to the consumer society we thrive on there. In order to support a fancy, new, large, entertaining experience in the office they have to see so many patients a day. To fit everyone in so crazily they have to have many staff to keep the assembly line going. Then there's all the insurance ins and outs. That's a whole department needed just for accounting and billing and legal. I know there are drawbacks to social medicine but the thing I think it has going here is it cuts out all the excess unnecessary packaging of the actual medical care. So my kids weren't entertained for our hour wait. We chatted and they played with a cute little friendly girl of 1.5 who was interested in zipping and unzipping and buttoning J's jacket repeatedly. We looked at magazines (not even kid ones) together finding interesting pictures and picking out words in Nederlands that we recognized. I even got to practice a bit of my new vocab as we just studied dr appointments in class last week. Of course, like almost everywhere here, the doctors speak English just fine so communication was easy. But still, I was excited to try anyway. Oh, and the doctors (there are 2 in this practice which is large!) are general practitioners so we will all be going to them for our family's medical needs. I love this! Sometimes I shake my head and talk about how this place is closer to Africa than Western Europe, or how some things are 50-60 years in the past. I'll take medical care that is closer to the old fashioned family doctor who makes house calls with all the benefits of technology and information of the present! It is one area I'm thankful for very much this week!
Now I'm off to hang out with one sick boy...
I have been tired lately. I expected it. We've been told time after time to expect that with transition of this magnitude. I didn't expect how deeply exhausted I would be to the very core of myself. I've been reflecting on the past few months and that led to reflect on the past few years. It was there I recognized a pattern and am starting to make sense of where I am now based on that pattern.
When in a trauma people tend to have 2 responses-to completely erase any memory from their mind of the entire event, or to freeze frame each second with almost photo-like memories of the time. As I've thought back over the past few years I realized that with almost eery accuracy I can remember down to the day where we've been. I can remember whose house we slept in, which country we were traveling to, how long it took us to travel there, and the emotion of just how big this whole thing is that God's brought us along on. I can picture the kids in various settings and feel the depth of emotion that was present in so many unknowns. I don't tend to think of the past 4 years as traumatic. However, as I was really looking at them and seeing the transition we've been in and some of the road we've walked, I think it may have been.
Trauma defined has some of the following definitions:
1. A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
2. An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
3. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
When I see where God has brought us from, and how we've journeyed here, I think they all apply. Now, I'm not looking at them from the negative side (which I know trauma really deals with). However, we have had some majorly serious shock to the body in time changes, climate changes, physical moves, different beds, different foods, etc. As to emotional wounding, I actually think there is much to this one. See, a big part of what God has been doing over the last 4 years since we joined OM, is to carve out the old junk and make new emotional patterns. This is very traumatic but instead of leading to neurosis this is leading to sanctification! Number 3 above should speak for itself.
I have held tightly to many memories and emotions from the past 4 years. It is not that God has not done big things before we joined OM, he certainly has. However, since stepping out in faith, losing our job, traveling across the US and Canada for 7 months raising support while having no salary and essentially living out of our car with 2 young kids, we have seen God do things we never dreamed. We have seen reconciliations, deep forgiveness, supernatural provision, miraculous healing, and the Body of Jesus-his Church-mobilize to his kingdom's cause in ways I honestly had about given up on. As we have lived in that place of great disruption and deconstruction of all that we had held dear, it was very much like going through trauma. Add all the traveling and transitions in and well...let's just say that the fact that we have 2 amazing kids who are all in all really well adjusted speaks volumes of God's grace to our family! The emotion to it all is so overwhelming though that I have hardly been able to get it out of my head and out of my heart onto paper. From time to time a story or thought or fear would leak out, sometimes onto this blog, sometimes in an email to my mom or sisters, or sometimes into my journal. But mostly, I felt like how Mary is described with the first couple years of life from when the angel visited until Jesus was a couple years old. I've treasured these things and stored them up in my heart.
However, it's time to start letting these treasures out. I cannot live in a place of holding it all together in my brain any longer. I want to share the deeply intimate relationship I have grown to have with God with the world. It will not be shared remaining only treasured in my heart. I want to let go of the feeling of needing to keep logistics straight for travel schedules. I want to record what God has done and then live well today, here and now. I'm seeing how in little ways I'm letting go of a constant state of change as we unpack. Putting away suitcases up in the attic and our toiletry bags empty and put away felt like a huge milestone. Ty and I refinished a piece of furniture and have it in the living room. I bought fabric to make curtains for the kids to have in their bedrooms. These are all signs to me that I am settling in to a new part of our journey. I'm settling in from the major trauma of God massively shifting my worldview to the day-to-day walking side by side with my creator and Lord. He still has much to do in deconstructing the old and reconstructing in his image-just ask my family! However, I think it explains some of the deep exhaustion and I see with hope, that a new season is upon our family. I hope I am able to share some of what this journey has been like for all of you. God has done amazing things and I fully expect him to continue to do so. I just know that he also wants for us to rest now in him. I can let go of my traveling bags for now, take off my shoes and sit at his feet. I am very much looking forward to that! And while I can tell you almost day-by-day where exactly we were the whole last 4 years. I cannot tell you many details at all of the last 4 weeks. That is another sign that we're moving out of trauma into recovery! Praise God for his work in us, even when it's painful and oh so much work! He promises to complete the work he begins in us all so if you are weary or discouraged in your own trauma, hang on tight. He is there still working away!
I'm loving having our own home this year and not traveling during Advent. The homeschooler in me is missing having my kids home learning together so I think I went a little overboard in my reflecting on Advent in order to work it into home life with the kids as a family. I had a whole bunch of ideas and they seemed totally unrelated until we sat down Monday night to talk about it with the kids. I hadn't planned the whole thing, or even realized they all tied together. We began by talking through the beginning of Creation and God's plan for mankind. I had planned to use the Jesus Storybook Bible as I'd found others suggested. Sadly, I have no idea where ours is right now amidst book boxes. Anyway, we talked through it and then talked about how when Adam and Eve broke that perfect and special relationship with God, he promised the great rescuer. We talked about how that didn't happen in a year or even a lifetime for generations to come. We explained how each generation waited and watched for the rescuer. Then the kids wanted to open the german chocolate advent calendar we brought home last week. As they were waiting I saw opportunity to link it to advent. We wait each day and we look forward to that little treat as a way to help us wait and watch for Jesus but to remind us of how God's people did this for thousands of years. We then lit a candle that's a little table decoration the kids made (thanks Mom for your fun crafts you send every year!) E wanted to turn off all the lights so we talked a bit about candles and how they help people watch. Somehow we ended up talking about Hanukkah and explaining that to the kids and somehow tied in the waiting and watching-I can't even remember the whole conversation now. We had a really nice half hour or so as a family talking about Christmas, and Jesus and God's plan for the world and for us, about candles, and watching and waiting and Hebrew history. Just when I wondered if we were totally off base and they maybe were losing the thread with information overload, E had the funniest observation. We were talking about the miracle of Hanukkah and how they were watching the oil and waiting to see if it would last until they had more oil or not. Ellia had been deeply studying the advent calendar pictures of Santa and snow and such. Suddenly, she piped up "they were adventing, or whatever that word was right mom?" I asked her to repeat it-not sure I was following her thoughts. "They were adventing, those people. They were waiting and watching and you said that's what we do at advent so they were advent." Ty and I tried not to giggle as she was so serious. The flickering glow of candlelight on her soft and serious face was beautiful. Yes dear girl, they were adventing. They were adventing like the Hebrew people did for generations, like they still are, like we still are. Yet, our waiting and watching is not for the promised rescuer. We know him, as Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom the Bible speaks of. Our adventing now is to wait for his promised return. We have the hope of the promise of the great rescuer fulfilled! That is why we are here, living in Belgium. That is why we are learning a strange language and why we are dropping our kids off at a school where we are totally out of control of their situation. That is why this advent, like many to come, will be spent far from loved ones and dear friends in our former home. Like a single candle in the pitch black night, we strongly hold out light. Like John 1:5 says in the Bible, the light came to shine in the darkness but the darkness did not overcome the light. This adventing season may those of us who know the great Rescuer turn our eyes to the future when he returns. May we look for opportunities to love others and serve others the way he taught us. May we share true hope and joy through our friendship with him that he alone made possible. Yes dear girl, the Jewish people were adventing and I'm so glad that we can pause and remember each evening in the dark, by candlelight, what that waiting must have been like. I cannot wait to celebrate come Christmas morning for our rescuer has indeed appeared to rescue any and all who call out to him!
**disclaimer-I know that Hannukah wasn't about waiting for the promised Messiah, that wasn't what we were talking about. Those with young children know how the thread of discussion can go all over like this.
Carolyn & (sometimes) Ty