'I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.' Philippians 4:12
'In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you' 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Currently in the northern hemisphere, autumn is in full splendour. Trees of orange and gold, fresh crisp mornings, warm jumpers, the first open fires of the year, the turning of another year. When I first worked with missionaries as a teenager, one thing that several commented to me was that they missed the seasons most of all, and at that time, I didn't really understand what they meant.
Today in science, the boys had some experiments to do. The book we were using as a guide clearly referred to autumn, and the boys expressed disappointment that we weren't having autumn here. But we went off to the garden anyway, to look at the leaves on the trees and to consider all the different forms of wildlife that were contained within each tree (insects, birds, other animals and so forth). And this was where we had the most wonderful surprise. In our favourite jackfruit tree, there was a lizard shedding its skin. The boys watched, transfixed. At one point the lizard ran onto the grass and then looked lost, so the boys rescued it and put it back into it's 'home'. And we all marvelled at how amazingly created these reptiles are, and rejoiced at the opportunities to see things which we had only read about before. Suddenly, the thought of a chilly autumn day back in the UK melted away and we were able to embrace our surroundings.
I think this is an important principle when it comes to transitions (indeed to all of us as described in an older post, but I am writing from that perspective). There is almost a choice to be made. Do you spend time lamenting those things which you miss, or do you take the time to embrace and explore the things which are new? I miss cheese. I really do (you can get some forms here, but they are very expensive and not all that nice. Previously my husband bought me two pregnant goats one Christmas so that we could try to make our own cheese, but our set-up here doesn't really include space for goats!). I digress... I do miss cheese, and nice wholewheat bread, and a few other things. But here I can easily buy abundant fruit - pineapples, bananas, papaya, passion fruit. It is not yet mango season. The vegetables in the market are fresh, flavoursome and there are some things which we don't seem to have in the UK - several types of dark green leafy vegetable, peanut (or g-nut as they call it here) flour, jackfruit of course. Whenever I feel tempted to bemoan the lack of cheese, I have to laugh because there are so many other delicious things to enjoy here. The bread is not great. But nsima/ posho/ ugali/ whatever you choose to call it is quite nice, and the boys love it.
Similarly, I do miss those fresh blue skied autumn days. And in time, I will miss the long summer nights. We are virtually on the equator here, so the day length does not vary. But there are good things there too. The weather tends to be predictable. It gets hot. In the rainy season, it really rains and you are likely to get soaked. And then it gets hot and you dry off. You don't have to carry a jumper and a waterproof and some sun cream all at once just in case of unexpected changes (and when you are nipping out with young children in tow, this really is an advantage!).
We miss friends. Of course we do. But slowly, slowly we are meeting new people and with the improvement in internet connectivity it is possible to stay in touch better than it would have been five or ten years ago. There is always a balance in a new place - how much to spend time keeping in touch with 'home', and how much to realise that your 'home' has now moved and there are people right in front of you to spend time with, love and care for, share the gospel with, challenge and encourage and so forth. And again, at some level, there is a choice in how we approach things.
Today, I feel like God gave us an amazing blessing and encouragement by showing us that the opportunities here are simply different. Yes, no autumn colours, but awesome, watching the lizard shed its skin.
Maybe you are in transition. Maybe you've moved within the city, within the country or between countries. Let me encourage you to open your eyes and embrace the good things about where you now are.