The boys and I spent our first few days in the Netherlands in quarantine. I felt safe in our new home, most things were familiar and in some ways, it felt like very little had changed. Then, last Sunday we ventured outside and the reality of living and travelling in a different country was made clear very quickly. Phil is joining us in a couple of weeks time so the boys and I are starting the exploring without him.
Before leaving the house for our first trip out we obviously needed to know where we live so we could find our way back home. However, our street name is so complicated that even Dutch people take several seconds to look at it before trying to pronounce it. Even after that, they sometimes have several attempts at pronouncing it before landing on a version they are happy with.
We made the trip by bike, one of our boys cycled a bike which appeared to have no brakes, to stop you pedal backwards. He got use to it pretty quickly, but it would have helped if I had checked the tyres weren’t flat before we left!
The next day we ventured into the Hague and rather than cycle we decided to go in using public transport. We boarded the tram, everyone was busy tapping in and out as they entered or exited. We had already tapped in on the platform and were somewhat perplexed. It turns out that the trams and the metro both leave from the same platform at the station and we had spent 8 Euros tapping in for a metro journey we never took.
I have found that simple things like crossing a road requires far more concentration than I am used to. My current approach is to cross whilst looking in as many directions as possible trying to avoid being hit by a bike, car or tram. We have had to learn that even grown-ups wait for the green man before crossing the road even if there is absolutely nothing coming for miles in either direction!
Then there was perhaps my greatest challenge yet, the rectangular mop and the circular mop bucket.
Surely after my approaching 50 years of life, I should be able to mop a floor with ease. But I found myself looking at a rectangular mop and a bucket with a circular hole and I was totally flummoxed. After 5- 10 minutes of pressing buttons and looking at mechanisms I was none the wiser. So, I turn to my trusted helper google and one ‘mops for dummies’ video later, I have clean and sparkling floors.
All this to say that whilst exploring a new place is exciting, even the simplest of tasks takes more time. Navigating the newness is tiring and at times demoralising.
In these moments I know I need to be kind to myself and lower my expectations of what I can get done in a day. A friend of ours wisely said to us that we should expect everything to take around 25% longer and it has been helpful to remember this this week.
I also know that I need to focus on the bigger picture and remind myself why we are here. Why we have left friends and family and the comfort of the known and familiar, where things were simple to navigate and where there are circular mops that fit in circular buckets.
This week I started the New Ground academy (a training course run by the New Ground family of churches). In one of the sessions Phil Moore talks about how the book of Acts demonstrates for us how we are to live as Christians. He says that at no point does the writer Luke suggest that the church life he is describing is abnormal.
‘Luke really wants us to expect to open up new nations to the Gospel through our simple obedience to God’s guiding hand (Acts 8) and to see dramatic conversions through our fearless witness (Acts 9). He really wants us to expect God to propel us to new nations (Acts 13) and to use us to plant churches very rapidly (Acts 13-14)’
This was such a helpful reminder for me. What we are doing may seem crazy to some and we would be lying if we said it wasn’t costly and that navigating a new country isn’t tiring. But we are convinced that the truth of the gospel is powerful and that people need Jesus as their wonderful friend and saviour who came to give us life, life to the full.
In case you are interested here is the solution to the mop conundrum.
John 10v10 I have come that they may have life, and life to the full.