You know that feeling you get when things are really, really surreal? It’s that feeling that you’re a bit outside of your body. You might even wake up not really sure where you are. Before we arrived in Germany, I experienced that feeling a lot when we would travel to different places, and I loved that feeling. Being on the mission field provides this feeling a LOT in the beginning (and sometimes much later as well), but it isn’t always a feeling you love having. As we celebrated being here in Hannover for a year and a half this week, I thought I’d share with you some of the surreal feelings we had upon arriving and how they have taken shape over time.
1. Holy moly, Batman. How will I ever speak this language?
Anyone who has ever tried to learn German will tell you that it isn’t easy. A lot of Germans will even tell you that it isn’t an easy language. Compound the difficulty with the fact that German has several very distinct dialects, and you might realize that you have surmounted a seemingly insurmountable task. But then, something changes. Nick has written before that fluency isn’t a finish line, and it really isn’t. Both of us hit points where, after tons of hard work, we climb over another obstacle and suddenly can just… understand. It’s really weird how this happens, but man, it is so encouraging. Words, sentence structure, and idioms just start sticking, and suddenly you can say to other people, “As a matter of fact, I do speak German!”
Being unable to communicate well was one of our biggest discouragements in the beginning, so I thought I’d share some of our tricks to learning a language quicker:
- Eat, sleep, and breathe that language. Don’t make excuses for it either. Watch TV, read the news, and listen to music in your new language.
- Ask people to correct you. Accept the correction humbly and don’t be afraid to just keep speaking.
- Work harder than you ever have to learn something, and then do something to step it up another notch. For me, that meant doing everything in German and writing down words I didn’t know. I literally had a list on my phone that I would add to as women in my daughter’s play group said things I didn’t know. And I told them what I was doing, which meant I got even more help.
- Don’t try to translate everyday sayings directly from English. Instead, ask someone to help you express the same idea using the structure your new language uses.
We can’t express the relief that comes with finally speaking your newlanguage, but it is a BIG, BIG relief!
2. Will my kids have friends here, or will they be outsiders? Will we have friends here, or will we be outsiders?!
In 2012, we moved to Muncie, Indiana where Nick pastored a great congregation for a year. Any of you who know me personally know that I am extremely extroverted, so when we moved from the city to a smaller town, it was a very hard adjustment for me. I was fiercely lonely. Eventually we made some fantastic friends, but that time was really difficult for me.
That’s why one of our biggest prayers was that we would make friends fast. Cade and Clara are also super social, so we really hoped that for all of our sakes, meaningful friendships would be easy to come across. Wow, wow, wow… God has really shown off in this area. Not only do our kids have a great little tribe of friends around them, but Nick and I have also found wonderful, caring, funny friends that have become our little tribe here — both Christian and non-Christian. These people have helped Hannover feel like home very quickly, and we are most certainly not lonely.
3. What in the world will our days look like? This life is so unstructured for my structured brain!
To be honest, this one can be kind of stressful sometimes, but overall, we have found a groove in creating our own schedule. Missionary work doesn’t exactly conform to the traditional 9-5 schedule, and you really need to be disciplined in order to make things happen. At first, we committed our work time to learning German well. Learning the language and culture was our job. Our days are quite a bit different now.
We spend a lot of our time with people, which is fantastic for this family of social butterflies! Nick and I have been very intentional about setting a schedule, which means scheduling time to be with people, time for prayer, time for sermon prep, and time for meetings. We try to protect a couple of nights a week, but a lot of our nights are just not free anymore. Last week we hosted people four nights during the week. Sometimes that can be stressful, but it is worth it to have so many conversations that point toward Jesus.
If you want to know more about our daily life, click here.
4. Will we ever feel at home here?
Two weeks ago we went to a festival called “Brunnenfest” in a part of town close to ours. This festival takes place every year, but last year we had no idea it even existed, despite the fact that it is literally right outside the door of Cade’s old kindergarten. When you first move somewhere, it is hard to discover the traditions that make it feel like home, but if we compare last year to this year, the difference is amazing. Not only do we know what’s going on in our community, but we are actually there when things are happening. The best part is that when we go to these events (or even just to the store or the train station), we see people we know. People know us. While there are a lot of things we miss about Louisville — which is a seriously cool city, by the way — Hannover is also really cool and has a lot to offer. And it is feeling quite homey these days!
Thank you for your support and encouragement over the last year and a half! We are so grateful for the opportunity to represent the body of Christ here. Here’s to many more!