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The New Normal

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Prior to my daughter’s birth, I read that after a baby’s arrival, parents often wait for the chaos to calm and life to return to normal. The problem is that life never returns to normal. Rather, a new normal is created.

My little family of three is on the brink of major upheaval. We are about to embark on an intercontinental move in which I return to my country and my husband says goodbye to his.

Where we are going in the United States is uncertain. When, however, is very clear. By the end of this month, it is goodbye Cape Town, South Africa, and hello Anytown, USA.

The thought of starting over excites me. However, the truth is that as much as my heart longs for home, moving petrifies me on those deep, introspective days (which seem to be happening with increasing regularity).

I think I’ve finally learned to accept what’s become my new normal in Cape Town and now it’s time to say goodbye. Time to say goodbye knowing that when the chaos settles, life will be nothing like it was before. In our new city, we will have to build a new life around a new normal.

Over the last decade, I have lived in 10 different cities which has included a couple different countries. These moves have all brought different degrees of excitement, fear, sadness, joy, and change. Every move has transformed what normal was for me and created something new.

The abundance of moves brings with it courage to face this upcoming one, even though I think the goodbyes I will have to say here may be the hardest yet. During my homesick beginnings, I could not have imagined the depth of friendships that God would grant me in Cape Town. I would not have guessed I would come to love my life here.

Settling into a new normal hasn’t always been so profound for me. As I’ve analyzed my past, I can see lessons learned and mistakes made.

Christ

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

I imagine that it’s easy to laugh at the days to come if you know the future is bright and absent of hardships. Usually that isn’t reality, though, and this short verse reminds me that I can laugh at the days to come even in the midst of the unknown.

How can that be?

A sermon on Proverbs 31 suggests the Proverbs 31 woman was able to laugh at the days to come because her hope was firmly grounded in the Lord. That small revelation has had a huge impact on how I look at transitions and the future. Being firmly grounded in the Lord gives me the courage to laugh at what is ahead because I know that Christ is in control.

The journey to a new life will certainly have challenges. However, by being rooted in Christ, I can desire to do more than trust my Savior. I can strive to laugh at the days to come.

Cry

Maybe my tears are shed over the goodbyes that are still fresh on the heart. Or perhaps they come because of the waves of loneliness that are now a reality. Or maybe they will be my emotional response to all the newness. Whatever the reason, I believe that it is OK to allow my heart to grieve what is gone and admit the stress of what is here or is to come.

When I first moved to Cape Town, I don’t think I realized it was OK to grieve my loss of home, place, and community. It seemed wrong to admit that I was struggling to settle despite being married to the man of my dreams. Even though I cried nearly every day in those early months, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t pull it together.

Looking back two years later, I can see that the loss was great, the newness was hard, the sadness was real, and the tears were perfectly acceptable.

Maybe the tears will never come, maybe they will last for a night, or maybe they will carry on for a season. As long as the emotion isn’t crippling, I will accept my tears and not run from them.

Church

Eight years ago when I moved to Rochester, New York, I knew finding a church was of paramount importance. I visited over half a dozen churches before I settled on one primarily because of the warm welcome I received from a couple that attended it.

For the next two years, I tried to figure how to integrate myself into the lives of others, rather than just be a face that showed up on Sundays or for special events. For me, helpful steps included joining a ministry and becoming part of a small group.

Truthfully, however, I could have done more to deepen relationships with others. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to break into already existing friendship circles. I waited for people to invite and include me, but I could have taken risks and invited others to activities I organized.

With this move, I will strive to not expect the responsibility to be on existing members to reach out to me. I also can take a risk, extend an invitation, and let God use me to care for someone else.

Community

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that Christ builds community. He is the one who brings people into my life and across my path.

When I came to Cape Town, I had preconceived ideas of the types of people I wanted to be my friends. I imagined other newly married couples or people who shared commonalities with my life experiences.

The amazing thing was that when I started to look at who was around me, many of these people were nothing like I thought my friends might be. The diversity of age and experiences were profound. Yet God used these people to care for my family and me. Ultimately, I was reminded that God cares about loneliness and friendship formation.

Now, as we prepare to leave, I am humbled to think of the various people who have become of great importance just because we were open to the people that God brought along.

Choice

My daughter and I begin every morning with a walk through our neighborhood. Along our path, we pass a beautiful bed of roses. Upon closer inspection, I’ve realized that some of the bushes are yielding beautiful blooms while others yield nothing.

This is a powerful reminder to me that it’s my choice whether to bloom or not. God will plant me where He chooses, but it is my responsibility to decide if I want to thrive.

Christ prunes me through the circumstances of life in order to bear fruit that will last. As the Master, He creates the right environment, but I have a choice about whether to use my situation to glorify God or as an excuse to pursue bitterness.

As my new beginning draws closer, I take courage in knowing that Christ, who sees me through the tears, will build a new community for us. In the end, it will be my choice to let my Savior work in my life and the life of my family. My prayer is that my choices will be honoring to God.

Patrice Gopo lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and her daughter. She enjoys glimpsing God’s divine hand in the everyday moments of life. She is passionate about writing, community, justice, and poverty alleviation. Each year that passes she is amazed to see how God connects these passions in ways she could never ask for or imagine.

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The New Normal

by Patrice Gopo time to read: 5 min