In that year we moved from Moldova to Russia, and I finished my master's degree, completing three classes and the thesis in ten months. This isn’t an extraordinary feat. Many people finish master’s degrees. I knew I needed complete the degree this year so I doubled my efforts, and studying consumed much of my time.
Moving to Russia proved fantastic for our family. We adapted to apartment and city living. We felt awe over the dramatically short winter days and are equally amazed by the current long days of the coming summer. We enjoy walking the dog twice daily: rain, snow, cold, or sunshine. I have figured out where to shop for groceries and how to cook locally. We love the school the girls attend and that they have loads of friends.
Yet, in February I was feeling like a plant that had been uprooted and transplanted one too many times. In less than three years we had lived in the USA, Moldova, again a few months stateside and then Russia. My roots weren't sure they wanted to do the work of really sinking once again. Transition marked my life and replanting myself felt difficult and tiring.
Plants need good soil, water, and sunshine to grow and adapt to a new pot. People need people to transition. I didn't have that. I hadn't had much of it for a few years. There had been too much movement to see relationships grow. To have friendships again meant work. Relational work.
We were attending a wonderful Russian church, yet only a few young men spoke English. I couldn't connect with the ladies. My Romanian was useless. Weekdays I spent in my apartment working on research and writing. I once attended a women’s gathering for international women. I met ladies I’d met at the previous meeting. They remembered me. I remembered no one. I knew my life was out of whack. Something had to change.
I'd like to take a trip back in time to my first year of marriage. Andy served as a youth pastor in a church in Northern Minnesota. As Easter approached I felt dismal realizing that spending the holiday with family wasn't an option. We lived too far away to show up for Easter dinner after church. I waited for someone to invite this young newly married couple to their celebration. Making an Easter dinner for the two of us never dawned on me. Easter morning at church a family heard we had no plans and invited us to join them. I was shocked that they didn't eat ham and scalloped potatoes for Easter. They ate spaghetti!
I realized that day that my misery was my own making. How silly of me to wait for someone else to invite Andy and me! I could make holiday dinners and be the one to invite others along. I came to love holidays in our own home with a host of different guests each year.
Adapting this logic to my present situation in Russia, I knew my melancholy was of my own making. While dropping the blog for a year was a good idea, dropping people was simply stupid.
I started volunteering at the girls' school when they called for help. I started praying with other moms for the school's building search. We found a small international church that fit our family and where I could connect. I invited people to our home for dinner. I got out. I found places I fit. And amazing even myself, I still finished my thesis with these “distractions.”
We were meant for community not isolation. No matter what we have to get done, we need people. John Donne wrote, "No man is an island.”
The New Testament shouts relationship. Jesus lived in community with his disciples. Paul, Peter, John and the writer of Hebrews urge Christians to do life with one another. We are to love, encourage, fellowship, teach, forgive, and pray for one another. People need people.
I’m grateful I finally figured this one out.
Oh, and after meeting new friends, I didn’t make Easter dinner for the first time in many years. I brought a salad, corn casserole and dessert to someone else’s home.