Today marks one year that we've been in the Netherlands. The day we left was one of the hardest days I've ever been through. I'm not gonna lie, there were tears. Lots and lots of tears. And that was even knowing we'd be back soon! I've told many people that I can really enjoy this experience knowing it's not forever -- I can do anything for a short amount of time, including pack up all our belongings and move 4500 miles away! If you want to see how the beginning of our journey started, check back here.
Since that day, there have been 365 more . . . awesome ones, terrible ones, and everything in between. Our global coordinates do not make us immune to bad days, and our joys are not multiplied just because we live in Europe. Life is what you make of it, no matter where you are. So the good days are wonderful because we see them as wonderful, not because of the view out our window (although it is a beautiful view!)
This past year has taught me a lot. First of all, it has FLOWN BY -- especially the last ten months with my baby boy. You know the saying, "The days are long but the years are fast"? I'm a believer. I can't believe we're half way through this expat experience. There's still so much I want to see and do and take advantage of while we're here! I feel like we've only scratched the surface of this incredible opportunity, and I look forward to seeing and doing more in the months to come!
Also, they say that distance does to love what wind does to fire -- it extinguishes the small and enkindles the great. I've learned that goes for relationships as well. Being 4500 miles away from all our family and friends has not been easy on anyone's end. It has been eye-opening to see the wax and wane of relationships, and at times has been disheartening. Despite some people who struggle to understand why we've done this, there are friends and family who we talk to and see more now that we've moved (thank goodness for Skype!), which is a huge blessing.
We don't regret the decision to move here because it is absolutely the best thing for our family. I won't get into all the perks and advantages of this move, but besides those, I can't imagine many people giving up the obvious opportunity to live in Europe for a few years! Ten years from now we will talk about it like, "Oh, that time we lived in the Netherlands" as if it was lifetimes ago. Two years goes by in a blink and I'm glad we're living our lives to the fullest.
In a little more than one year this experience has provided us the opportunity to travel to 6 different countries outside the US (Netherlands, Ireland, France, England, Belgium, Germany -- and next month, our seventh country -- Spain!) and a dozen more cities. We have learned a new culture (the language is coming slowly but surely). We have met wonderful friends from all different walks of life. We are growing closer as husband and wife, as a family. We are giving Liam an opportunity to grow and learn with his Mom on a daily basis. We are biking and walking to places that would be inconceivable to get to without a car a year ago. We are learning new things on a DAILY BASIS, which I absolutely love.
I am so lucky to have met a community of moms here who help me on a daily basis with all things Liam! I can already tell that some of these women will be lifelong friends and I will miss them DEARLY when one of us moves away. We've talked about how we all realize that living in an area with a lot of expats means that things are very transient here -- most of us are not here forever, and during our time here I know we will see many families move away, just as our friends will watch us leave at the end of our contract here. It can be sad to think about, but at the same time I feel so FORTUNATE to know these ladies at this point in my life. Being a stay at home mom could make some people feel isolated and alone and have little social interaction . . . but not here! Keith and I have to work out who gets the car on which days because I'm constantly meeting moms for coffee, lunch, and play dates! I see almost the entire Baby Toddler Play group a couple times a month (that's about 20 moms!) and I'm lucky enough to get together with a few close friends a couple times a week! I definitely feel as if this were meant to be and I've been put together with these women for this time in my life.
In the past year Keith and I have learned more about each other and ourselves -- it would have been very easy to stay in the States and do the same old thing day in and day out, but the challenge that this experience has brought us has truly changed us. Keith has been forced to become more extroverted as we meet people and find ourselves in situations where we may not know anyone. I, on the other hand, have learned to be ok with my introverted side, as some days the only person I interact with doesn't exactly talk back yet. I feel like I see the bigger picture in a sense. There are many things out of our control, but one thing we can take hold of is our reaction to our surroundings, how we handle ourselves in the most extreme of circumstances. Do I see something as a blessing or a curse? A problem or a challenge? Something to be feared or an opportunity to rise? This experience has forced us to talk about circumstances and feelings and the future like never before. We've had to be REALLY honest with each other and we've grown closer as a result. Besides the many obvious advantages to living in Europe for a few years (like travel and staying at home with Liam), this has been wonderful for our marriage. Living here temporarily will allow us more options and control in the long run, setting the stage for the kind of future we want for our family.
I don't mean to get all philosophical on you, because believe you me, most days I deal with poopy diapers and a very mobile ten-month old who keeps me on my toes! But on the rare opportunity like today where I really have the chance to reflect on this life I'm so privileged to be living, it really brings things into perspective. I can hardly believe my luck (even though I'm not one to believe it luck!). I've made some hard choices in this life, including the one to move here, and I am happy to report that, one year in, it's one of the best decisions I've made. I love my husband and am grateful to him to being open to the life God has planned for us, wherever that may take us. There is a definite reason we are here, and while I can pretend to guess I know why I think it would just make God laugh. So for the time being I will just enjoy my time in the Netherlands, love on my baby boy every day, and look forward to whatever the next year may bring.
Happy Anniversary to us!