When I was a little girl, my family would visit my grandparents in Texas for Christmas. Greeted by family hugs and kisses at the door, we’d stuff ourselves with treats and soak up the chance to be the center of everyone’s attention. As the night wore on, mom would start dropping hints that it was nearly time for bed. She’d make us brush our teeth, change into our pajamas, and implore us to kiss everyone good night.
“But Mom!” we’d cry.
With a tilt of her head, she’d deliver the line that always made quick work of the battle. “If you don’t go to bed, Santa won’t come. So, say goodnight, kids, and hurry to bed.”
Soon we’d be piled into bed, listening with oppressive resentment as the adults continued to laugh together in the other room. I was sure I was missing out on fun, but that thought warred inside of me with the fear that mom was right and Santa would arrive to find me still awake. And so would begin a Christmas ritual that played out every year until I was too old for such things. It went like this:
My brain begins to churn with conflicting thoughts and soon my stomach is churning, too. The war rages inside me as I toss and turn.
My brain: I can’t wait, but I feel like I might throw up, and I just know it’s going to be awesome, but I have a headache and I need a glass of water, and I can’t sleep, but is it morning yet?
*Check the clock.*
Seriously?! It’s only 10:15?!
This vicious cycle was repeated every five minutes until I either threw up, got spanked and sent back to bed, or woke up bleary eyed with my little sister screaming, “It’s here! It’s here! Today’s the day!” (And one year, I was lucky enough to get all three. Yay, me!)
As I lie here in bed, the night before we move to France, I am filled with such a strange feeling. A wave of nostalgia washes over me and suddenly I’m eight years old lying in a twin bed in my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve all over again. My stomach lurches as I hear the familiar thoughts war inside my head. I’m excited, and I’m scared, and I’m exhausted, but I can’t sleep. I want to go, but I also feel a little like I’m going to be missing out on the fun I leave behind, too. My head begins to pound and I roll over in bed, wishing I could make all the icky feelings go away and just be happy like a “normal” person.
Ha. That’s funny for so many reasons.
- I’m not, nor have I ever been normal. Moving to France doesn’t really change that.
- I’m pretty sure I don’t really want to be “normal”, whatever that is.
- I’m almost certain it’s completely “normal” to feel so deeply conflicted the night before moving to another country. Or the night before you give up one life to pursue another. Or the night before you take your three children overseas for the first time. Or the night before you leave your family and friends behind. Or…all of the above.
I can’t quite shake the conflict, but I can embrace it, and that’s what I choose to do. Closing my eyes, I whisper a prayer that has become my mantra through all of this:
“Dear Lord, most high God, you are my king and I trust you. Teach me to trust you more, to love you more, and to rest in your arms. I am safe with you and I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. This will be okay, I will be okay, because you are here and you go before us, and you follow behind. Complete in us the good work you began and may your name be praised, Lord, even in our brokenness, because you are good and we are made perfect in your love. I ask all of this in the name of your holy one, Jesus, who holds all things together…even me. Amen.”