Ten Years of Everything and Nothing (a reflection)

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I was raised on a musical diet of Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles and Credence Clearwater Revival. My dad spent many hours shuffling around the living room with us, crooning as he danced. I learned about hand-holding, imagining, and bad moons rising. I also learned how to dress, should one ever visit San Francisco:

And so it was, ten years ago today, that I boarded a plane with a flower in my hair and flew west with my new husband. We were literally flying into the sunset. I was surprised to find myself crying as the wheels touched down in San Francisco: this was it. The beginning of a new chapter. I adjusted my slightly wilted flower and greeted California with all the courage my jet lagged soul could muster.

We planned to stay for three years: get the PhD, in-n-out (<— see what I did there, Californian friends?)

“We can make our plans,” says Proverbs 16:9, “but the Lord determines our steps.”

We planned for 3 years, but as it turned out, PhDs take longer than you think, and I had much to learn about being married to a grad student.

We planned to find a small, evangelical, liturgical church like the one we had known and loved back home. Instead, we landed up being welcomed into a large, Baptist church.

We planned to stay connected to our community back home, and find our space back there after a “quick jaunt” overseas. Now, we have a box with invitations to more than 60 weddings Stateside in the past decade. We have witnessed births, deaths, marriages, and our threads are now woven into many places in this community’s tapestry.

We planned to return home and start our family in South Africa. Instead, we now have three American-born children, whom we send to public school, and whom we awkwardly instruct about American holidays.

I planned to return to vocational ministry. Instead, I’m stunned and simultaneously grateful to find myself as a stay-at-home Mom: a completely unexpected career path. And then there’s this writing thing, which I did NOT see coming but which, in hindsight, makes such sense.

He planned to pursue a career in academia. Instead, he’s happy in research… and darn good at it, too.

We planned to stay Proudly South African forever. And we still are proudly South African, but we have also accepted that we are now immigrants, and though we didn’t come with this intention, we are now applying for permanent residency.

We planned, but He Has Plans.

Today marks 10 years of our being here, and even though NOTHING has gone the way I planned it, I am filled with gratitude. I look around, and my life is unrecognizable from the way I pictured it would be when I was dreaming 20, 15 and even 10 years ago. This life I now live in suburban America is not at all what i imagined, and yet – if I dig a little deeper, while the form may be unrecognizable, the content has been the same all along:

for we love and are loved,

we have work to do wherever we are, 

and no matter what – we are kept by a good and gracious God.

These things remain the same. And I am so very, very grateful.


photo credit: Bart “America” (flickr creative commons)

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12 thoughts on “Ten Years of Everything and Nothing (a reflection)”

  1. Hi Bronwyn,
    This post really got me!!! Thank you.
    Here’s why: Almost 7 years ago, when my two girls were four and five, we left Johannesburg for Seattle. There were several reasons, but the biggest one for us was an opportunity to escape the growing crime. My husband works for Microsoft and so, Seattle, was calling our name. You could have written this post for me, or I could have written it for you. Everything Is Different but Everything Is The Same. That is called Grace and Faith. Well done on your 10 years. I know what those ten amazing, terrifying, wondrous, beautiful and brutal years look like. I too am an immigrant, a South African AND an American, and so PROUD to be one!! Congratulations and God Bless! Sharice.

  2. Has it been only ten years? Wow, it seems like your family has been part of our community forever, Bron. Here’s to ten more and many to come after that.

  3. So so so SO very thankful that God would have our paths cross on this journey, dear friend!

  4. Beautiful, Bronwyn! Everything is different, and yet the content is the same.
    When Todd and I — California (In-and-Out loving!) natives — sailed into the sunset, through islands, and on to New Zealand, we had no plans to return to the States. Heck, we had no long term plans! But what we intended as a sight seeing sail, God turned into a spiritual journey. We lived for three years in New Zealand and had out first born there. Two passports for her!
    After three years, God steered us back to the States. It’s a story I should probably write up! This past March, it’s been 10 years since our return.
    For us, too, our lives are not what we expected, and we are grateful for God making Himself known to us, leading us through it all. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It’s as CS Lewis wrote, “What, you too?”

  5. I love this part: “while the form may be unrecognizable, the content has been the same all along: for we love and are loved, we have work to do wherever we are, and no matter what – we are kept by a good and gracious God.” Beautiful.

  6. Happy 10th anniversary, Bronwyn. (My own 30th anniversary is coming up in January, and I can’t believe it has been this long already…)

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  9. This is good to remember, especially if things aren’t going well and you don’t see an end in sight. As an intelligent adult with a physical disability which makes it hard to even find work, there are long patches of despair. Why did you create me God? If I weren’t on Social Security, I would be depending on relatives to not be homeless. Everything I try to do, feels like I am hitting a wall. But….a few months ago, I was saved. I can drive. Though awkwardly, I can walk. I have a roof over my head. I have a computer. The lights are on. My family likes me and they are geographically close. I have Church friends. There are good things in my life, but I still feel that met of my life is unproductive.

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