Before I left for Bangkok my parents told me that when I returned to Canada I had one month to find somewhere else to live.
Well, I one-upped them. When I return to Canada it will be a mere 12 days before I unpack, repack, and move out of my parents’ house. Not only that, but one-third of those 12 days will be spent in my hometown attending a wedding and catching up with friends.
They’ll be begging to have me back in no time.
In all seriousness, my parents put up with a lot from me during those 6 months at home. I was reflecting on this last week and on how thankful I am to have a family that provided nothing but encouragement despite my endless pity parties, mental breakdowns, and that one time I threw an object across the room in a fit of exasperation (true story).
“I started a blog, ‘Living With My Parents,’” I said to my mom via Skype on Saturday. “But you and dad could have easily started a blog called, ‘Living With Our Erratic Daughter.’”
She misheard me. Bad connection.
“’Living With Our Erotic Daughter?!?’”
I remember the first time my mom heard Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” on the radio. I was lamenting about yet another job rejection.
“You know this song is about you, right Natalie?”
I looked at her and rolled my eyes, but when she turned up the volume and sang along with the chorus, I had to laugh. That became a habit of hers every time Bruno came on the radio.
With my dad now retired he and I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together, cutting down trees in the backyard, making trips to Home Depot, or going out on regular lunch dates. He always used his favourite phrase on me – the one I see him live out in his own life: Don’t worry!
“You’re doing everything you can, Natalie. You’ll find a job soon. It won’t do you any good to worry about it!” And then he would end his pep talk with “I’m proud of you,” and “I love you.”
Then there’s my brother and sister-in-law, who would scour the newspapers and internet for job advertisements, review my resume, and offer to practice interview techniques with me. I can’t even count the amount of times they had me over for dinner or just invited me to be a part of their lives, whether that was joining them on their outings or making a fool of myself on their slo-pitch team. My brother often reminds me that I’m going to owe them a lot of home-cooked meals when I’m married.
Just last month I received an unexpected gift when I was visiting my friend Kathleen in Singapore. I met Kathleen’s friend Prudence one evening during a dinner outing to Little India. The next day Prudence presented me with a card that she made. It was a picture of a tree with the words, “a new creation.”
“When I met you, I just kept thinking ‘new creation’ and I saw an image of a tree,” Prudence told me.
I shared with Prudence a little bit about my struggles prior to coming to Thailand and how her card was a huge encouragement to me.
Mid-way through my 6 months at home I came to a point when I realized I had a choice. Eventually this season would pass. I would find a job, and I would move out of my parents’ house. When I looked back, did I want to say that I wasted it on a bad attitude, or did I want to say that I used this time to consider these trials joy and develop character in my life? I whined and complained, but finally I chose the latter.
I’ve always loved trees. I’d often go walking along the river in my hometown, climb to the top of my favourite tree, and think. When we moved into our new house last July I was delighted to discover that the backyard was filled with trees.
Last October I decided that I wanted to be like the tree planted by streams of water, that yields fruit in its season, and that doesn’t fear in the drought or in the storm (Psalm 1; Jeremiah 17). I claimed those pieces of scripture over my life and prayed that even in my season of not knowing and feeling purposeless, that I would trust God, choose joy, and bear fruit.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
– Jeremiah 17:7-8
I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life to choose joy, but I seldom have. I know that God intentionally set apart those 6 months to teach me joy. And as I look to the future, I hope that I’ll maintain that trust and joy and continue to bear fruit in my life. I’m so thankful for a family that sustained me and a God that is patient with me.
And whenever I hear the song “Just The Way You Are” I can’t help my smile from ear-to-ear!