Go to your kitchen, grab a cheese grater and rub it on your face. That’s how China and my expat existence felt during my last year in-country. Before 2016, the cheese-grater-on-the-face moments were few and far between, and I could deal with them by carefully planning my routine so that I had recovered from one aggravating cross-cultural scenario by the time another rolled around. By the end of 2016, I had reached the end of my ability for “making lemons when life gives you lemonade” because I felt like there were so many lemons that the sugar ran out.
We left China mid-December, jumped head-first into Stateside Christmas road trips and celebrations and breathed a sigh of relief when January rolled around. We could finally start our sabbatical. However, we didn’t know that in a few short weeks a great opportunity for my husband would fall into our laps, and he’d end up starting a new job as I continued to sort out how to live in our home country where we hadn’t done the task of day-to-day adulting for almost a decade. It’s good to be starting something new and we’re extremely thankful for the way God is unfolding His plan for our next steps, but it’s not exactly the restful season we had in mind–unless we look at it another way.
Even though my husband is going to work every day, life away from China is restful. My dishwasher makes clean-up after dinner a snap. My huge fridge can hold a huge haul, and produce doesn’t go bad in a matter of hours, making grocery shopping a weekly thing instead of a daily battle. Overflowing laundry baskets are no longer giving me panic attacks as I can throw all the wet stuff in the dryer and be caught up in a few hours! Leaving town with kids and stuff in tow a cinch thanks to the car. We’re not concerned about our next visa debacle or passport renewal. Air purifiers and protective face masks and “Air Quality Index” apps on our phones are a thing of our past. After perhaps too many consecutive years abroad, these small things in ordinary state-side life feel extraordinarily refreshing.
We plowed through January surrounded by restful-but-not-resting newness. February arrived in all its unexpected glory with a brand new surprise: we awoke shortly after midnight confused and a little scared by the most invasive odor imaginable. Once awake with my senses about me (except for the sense of smell…it shall never recover) the disgusting aroma identified itself as SKUNK.
My new project began at daybreak. I called everyone and read every article I could find on the Internet about what to do when a skunk family takes up residence under your house. Yes, it turns out the professionals agreed there were more than one under there—an entire family perhaps. But don’t take that the wrong way. There were no professionals here to come to my rescue. Lack of proper animal control is a glaring similarity between my present life in small town America and past life in China. Stray dogs? Carry a big stick and hope they don’t have rabies. Stray skunks? Good luck with that.
A skunk family is living under my bedroom. *Grab the cheese grater*
“What in the world, God? I’m supposed to be resting. Instead I’m waging war on skunks???” I do admit my prayers weren’t graceful in the beginning. Seriously.
However, I began to slowly recoup my sense of humor and saw God at work in my stinky situation.
“How are you working in this situation for my good and your glory? How??” I asked.
Friends and relatives and friends of relatives came to my rescue with traps and guns (welcome to Texas). I suddenly had a hilarious, relatable story to share with people around me which built bridges between my seemingly exotic expat life experience and their hometown lives. I heard endearing tales of their skunk excavation adventures, and oh, the laughs have been many. My country-girl side came out of hiding with whoops and hollers over skunk number two which I took care of myself. I’m coming alive in new ways as I rediscover my love for Texas and her people.
Perhaps my family needed this distraction to pull us out of the temptation to insulate ourselves from the world with the quickly embraced conveniences of American life. We’ve been reminded that there’s no such thing as a trouble-free existence, and God has been good to provide solutions amidst THE SMELL. He’s worked in our lives these past weeks and I can say I’m thankful (nose blind, but still thankful).
“Because of the LORD’s great love for us, his compassions never fail, his mercies are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
I woke up this morning, made the rounds and found the temporary plugs to all three skunk den entrances still intact, which means after a week that gave us FOUR SKUNKS we’ve been varmint-free for 48 hours.
How’s your 2017 going so far? How has God showed you his goodness despite an unexpected problem?