Friday, October 4, 2013


A habit is defined as
A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition

When you live in a place long enough, you form habits.  They are comforting.  Your body goes through the motions even when you are sleepy; your car goes into autopilot; you don't have to use so much mental energy when going through your day.  Habits can be a really good thing.

In Tanzania, I used to spend a lot of time helping new folks get oriented.  I would tell them, "It feels so strange...but don't worry, give yourself six months to get used to things."

It's funny, now, being on the other side of that.  I am American, yet my habits are still Tanzanian.

I constantly forget what side of the car to get into.  A couple times, I actually have gotten into the right side of the car, ready to drive, and sit there confused for a few moments before I start feeling stupid.  I keep turning on the windshield wipers instead of the indicator...oops, we're in America, that would be the turn signal.  Driving takes total concentration as I keep reminding myself, Stay on the right side of the road.  I drove to Ikea by myself the other day and was extremely proud of myself.

I was incredibly excited to go to Costco to stock my kitchen.  In the last eight years, every time we've been home, I've gone to Costco with my Mom and purchased the following:  cold medicine, Parmesan cheese, deodorant, and taco seasoning.  Sometimes chocolate chips, depending on how we were doing with space.  I always checked out the weight of everything I bought.  It's how world travelers think.

So anyway, the thought of going to Costco to buy whatever I wanted was pretty exciting.  But once I was there, I didn't really know what to do.  The first things I put into my cart were a large bag of rice and a large bag of beans.  You mean, those are not the first things you buy at Costco?  Old habits die hard.

The first few times I went shopping, I kept forgetting to buy dishwasher detergent.  I sort of forgot I had a dishwasher.  When I finally remembered and started my first load, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

When I'm in store, I mentally walk through the steps.  Get out your wallet.  Slide your card.  Sign the little thingy.  

I feel clumsy and awkward.  I feel like if I looked international, people would understand my awkwardness, but I look like I belong here, so I should know what I am doing.  If I happen to mention to strangers that we just moved here from Tanzania, I might as well said Mars.

I praise God that I am living in a place I remember, that hasn't changed all that much in 8 years.  That helps a lot.  It's all coming back to me, as if waking up from a long sleep.

And I am thankful for the chance to remember what it feels like to be new.  Pray for your missionary friends today, who are adjusting to a new place somewhere out in the world.  And go out and hug that immigrant woman who just moved in down the street.  Show her how to work her dishwasher.

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