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A lot of my daily life and work as a mother revolves around the physical care of my family. With five kids, this means a lot of laundry, cooking, and cleaning. I love seeing my children grow older. They pitch in a lot more. But with their growth, we are often vulnerable to outside demands dictating our schedules. Getting to school on time dictates a pretty specific routine. The after-school routine is equally specific. In order to get everything done in time for bedtime (so the kids can function the next day), things have to happen in a certain way. While I do appreciate the outside structure, sometimes I find that I forget to take those moments to reconnect with my kids in meaningful ways.

This was brought home to me tonight when I arrived home after an evening with my friends. My toddler man was still up and immediately ran over to me. I was overwhelmed by his need to reconnect with me. He hugged me tight. When I went to check on some things, he followed me, insisting on sitting on my lap. Eventually, I realized that his need to reconnect had to be met and so I stopped what I was doing. What followed just melted my heart. He pressed his forehead to mine, quietly looking at me. I stroked his baby-sweet soft cheek. It was just a quiet moment of mother/baby nuzzling. No words were said, just a moment to physically reconnect. As soon as he had enough, he gave me a cute kiss and then was ready for bed. And that was that.

With babies and toddlers, it is pretty easy and natural to reconnect, but I have a tendency to rush that need with my older kids. I need to remember that they need moments with more hugging and less talking on my part!

Have you ever made a plan that you were sure was brilliant? And then have you watched that plan just crumble into dust?

Life lesson: Plans don’t always work out.

Have you ever watched your plan fall apart and then discover, perhaps years later, that things worked out better than your plan could have ever worked?

Life lesson: God knows more than you do.

When we moved back to the U.S. from Sweden, my husband was offered the job that we least wanted. It was so far from grandparents, cost of living was high, and we just didn’t feel certain about settling in New York. Watching the U.S. economy fall at an alarming rate has made me profoundly grateful for my husband’s job. We didn’t know it at the time but it WAS the right job for us.

Life lesson: Hold onto your faith.

Two years ago as we faced a stupid legal battle with a landlord who refused to work with us and ended up breaking our lease, I wondered if we could ever recover from the chaos and enormous stress. Now I know that moving was the best thing for our family, particularly one of my children who needed the specialized and individualized help that the new school offered.

Life lesson: It’s not just my own needs God considers, but the needs of every individual in my family.

Last year I constructed a tidy plan that I was excited about. A couple of months later, one dream burst in a lot of pain. Over the months, most of the details of my plan have blown up in my face. For the most part, it’s not dire. I still have my sense of humor. But I struggle with frustration. I can’t see the whole pattern. I know it is there, but my eyes can’t see beyond the small details. Ironically, there isn’t much I can do. I must wait and the waiting is more painful than doing work.

Life lesson: Wait patiently.

I’m still trying to allow the lessons I know and understand with my mind to sink deep into my heart and become a part of my soul. Until then, I’m inching my way forward.

What are some of life’s lessons that you are struggling to learn? How have you coped with your plans going awry?

I’ve done this twice before, packing for an international move. It is always intense, painful, and usually by the end, brings me to tears. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we’ve accumlated despite my best intentions to keep clutter to a minimum. As I sift through clutter, I am tempted to throw the whole lot of it away and join a cloister. If I didn’t believe so ardently in my own religion and love my husband and children so much, packing would surely turn me into a nun. Yes, I can do without all my worldly goods. Yes, I can take a vow of silence. Yes, I can live a simple life devoted to God. But my life is much messier.

And tangled with the physical collection of stuff, inevitably comes all the emotional bonds that pull at me as we pull up roots and move on. When we moved from Utah to Sweden, while worried about all I would miss in the U.S.A., I still felt exhilerated and excited for the grand adventure ahead. When moving from Sweden to New York, I wept bitter tears hating to torn apart from all I had learned to love.

Here, I’m somewhere in the middle. Most of my stress stems from the uncertainty that surrounds the details of this move. We STILL don’t have a move date (though we are leaving this house by the end of the month). A great deal of administrative paperwork needs to be completed by the company that is sending it–yet the work is being completed at a snails pace. I worry about finding temporary housing, dealing with school, money, etc. I haven’t had time to think about missing friends because I am knee-deep in the mess of uncertainty, garbage, clutter, and boxes. When all is packed, stored, and cleaned, I’m sure I’ll feel plenty of homesickness. 

Well, getting that all out does feel better. I’ll stop being whiny and get back to work!

So I’ve been thinking I ought to create a new blog for my stay in Saudi Arabia. My reasoning?  Well, as you all know from looking at my archives, I have many entries about our fantastic trip to Israel. Normally, if it were any other country, I would continue to use this blog. BUT, Saudi Arabia isn’t a normal country. I had to get a new passport because my old one has stamps from Israel and that would prevent me from entering the country. Furthermore, as I looked at other blogs from expats and locals from Saudi Arabia, many have mentioned censorship. It is entirely possible that my blog may be read by unfriendly eyes. And I don’t want a big section on Israel to be associated with a Saudi blog. So, in theory, I’m trying to prevent problems with  my blog and for my family.

So do you think I’m being overly cautious?

Planning an international move is mind-boggling. Any move is stressful, but imagine doing everything you normally do for a move and then add to it: moving all your stuff overseas, dealing with passports, visas, immigration, foreign beauracracy, school enrollment, etc. Did I mention finding a house? It’s not like Househunters International, I can promise you that.

In some ways, moving to Sweden was much easier. I had the assurance that while I couldn’t speak Swedish, I’d still be able to communicate. Sweden is a part of Europe–thus subscribing to Western ways and culture.

But Saudi Arabia is really an unknown quantity. I’ve been reading what little information I can find about the country and I hope I can remember all the rules.

In the meanwhile, I should get back to cleaning my house. . .

When my son was baptised in Sweden, the chapel was full of friends.

So if you’re Mormon and have ever surfed on the net, you’ve no doubt come across Mormon sites with lively discussions about Mormonism and lots of whining about Mormon culture. Usually those discussions annoy me because of lot of the complaining is petty and mean-spirited.

Sure, the LDS church isn’t perfect (that 3-hour meeting block on Sunday is killing me), but when I think where I would be without the church, I shudder.

I believe in the doctrines of the LDS faith with my whole heart. But this isn’t the post where I discuss that. I want to talk about community and belonging.

We moved to Sweden 9 years ago. We were poor students with two small children. My husband had been a missionary there, but I was a bit lost. I couldn’t speak more than three words of Swedish. My travels were limited to the Intermountain West and one jaunt to Cancun, Mexico. But I have an adventurous mindset and was prepared to jump in with enthusiasm.

When we arrived in Sweden we were greeted by people from our ward. Groceries filled our refrigerator and the offers to help were geniune and frequent. In time, our lovely Swedish friends-fellow ward members-became like family. Leaving Sweden 5 1/2 years later was like leaving my own family. I still feel intense homesickness even though we’ve lived in the U.S. for 3 1/2 years.

We experienced a similar outpouring of friendship when we lived in Israel for a short time. We made friends and enjoyed outings together. The kindness of the branch members in Tel Aviv eased the foreigness of Israel. It took the sting of isolation away and allowed us to truly enjoy our stay.

I’ve since learned that my experience was unique. Ex-pat women talk of loneliness and isolation, especially if they can’t find a community where they are accepted and welcomed. I had my community from the beginning.

Moving to New York felt like moving to another country. But once again, the unfailing generosity and kindness of ward members made us feel welcome and part of a community. Leaving our friends, even for a short period, is going to be hard.

But I have the promise of new friendships and the community of new ward members to look forward to. Already I’ve been contacted by members in Saudi Arabia, offering advice and extending friendship. There are a number of things I wonder and worry about moving to Saudi Arabia, but making friends is not even on the list.

Say what you like about the LDS church, but the community that can be found within the church is wonderful. It has made the difference for us in our moves and travels.

So we have some big news: We are moving to Saudi Arabia for a year. We will most likely leave in August, though the details aren’t firm on that point.

So new fodder for the blog, eh?

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