Airing Dirty Laundry


People often ask about how we are adjusting here.  That’s a really valid question, but very hard to answer as it changes often and it depends on who you ask.  Adding to the basic move is the fact that Mark has been gone for good chunks of time twice in three months and it gets interesting.  We’re always a little off when he’s in and out, regardless of where our home is.  Overall I think we are all doing well, just working hard to get our new normal established and figure out how we want to be doing life. 

That said, last week I had one of those really off days.  I was snippy with Mark, the boys and everyone.  Mark had been home for a day or two and had to spend the day running errands.  I was tired, having been by myself with the boys for over two weeks, and having Theo sick was also wearing me out.  I spent the day cleaning the house and unpacking, looking forward to Mark coming back from all his errand running.  

When he got back he told me he bought a large box of lightbulbs, and I was pretty excited about it.  I had been using three or four bulbs, and unscrewing the lights from the socket downstairs and putting them upstairs when we went to bed.  It wasn’t really bothering me, but I admit it was kind of ghetto and I knew it was time to get lights.  Mark chose to buy a warm type bulb, in contrast to the cooler color of light (I’m sure the men are rolling their eyes at the descriptions of light, but maybe some ladies know what I am talking about) anyway, for whatever reason, that just really irritated me.  I snapped at him about lights…so ridiculous, right?  They are lights, so not a big deal!  What is my issue?!

When I took a few minutes to myself I realized how stressed I had become.  And as much as Mark sometimes does  [legitimately] frustrate me, this had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.  I was dealing with culture shock, and taking it out him.

Sometimes it seems like culture shock is a negative term, and I have mistakenly associated it being ill prepared for life here (or there…or wherever).  But it’s not negative, I think it’s just honest.  The lifestyles are different here than they are in the states and coming to terms with it is difficult sometimes.  One of the biggest changes for me?  Laundry.  Yesterday I took the same three loads of laundry off the line three times when it started to rain. It took all day long for those clothes to dry, and several of them were still damp this morning.  Usually not a big deal, but if it’s been a long day and I’m tired or emotional, a simple difference gets blown into a huge issue.  

I think that culture shock doesn’t always manifest itself in frustration with a specific thing about the culture, but at times all the things that are different just push you to act out about something that really isn’t a big deal.  In my case, I think the stress of having uneven steps in the house that concern me, the laundry situation and the house being a complete disaster just pushed me over the edge.  It wasn’t anything about Nicaragua in particular, just the different-ness of everything is sometimes terribly overwhelming.  And at times I do really well with the big things and freak out over a light bulb.  

We’re working through these things. I wish I could say that I’ve been a perfect model of the grace of Jesus Christ through the move.  The truth is that at I’ve been short, rude, or downright impossible with those I love the most.  And it sucks.  I feel awful about it.  The only reason I’m blogging about it is to try and be honest about what life is like.  Even though we’d been here several times, even though we love it here and are so excited to be here, sometimes the differences are overwhelming.  When I say, “we’re adjusting well” I don’t mean that we’re doing perfectly.  We still need prayer.  We still need [tons of] grace.  But we aren’t sweeping this all under the rug.  We are dealing with it.  We are stretching and growing.  

And occasionally still freaking out about insignificant things…but we’re working on that!

Thanks for your grace as we adjust. 



About mjstearns

We are Mark, Jenni, Tate and Theo Stearns. We currently live in Beaverton, Oregon, but are planning to move to Nicaragua within the next six months. We'll be serving as missionaries to Verbo Church, a non denominational church with several Nicaraguan locations. Specifically we'll be working at Casa Bernabe, an orphanage run by the church, assisting in vocational training and transition programs for the older boys.
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4 Responses to Airing Dirty Laundry

  1. Tom says:

    I can’t begin to imagine adjusting to something so different. Will keep you guys in our prayers with the Wells… I think they are going through the same type of “culture shock”

  2. Anneke says:

    Oh my goodness – it IS a lot of new “differences” to take in and all of those little things add up quick. You will adjust in time and we are all praying that happens sooner than later. I’m glad that God seems to have given you great discernment about things that are culture and things that just are. Love ya girl!

  3. Wow, Tom and Stearns… you hit the nail on the head! We are dealing with the EXACT same things, at least from Kirsten’s perspective. From my (Corey) perspective there are other so-called little things that just rake at your subconscious after a while and then “SNAP!” (like lightbulbs!). We can totally relate. We’ll be lifting you guys up in prayer through this as we transition together!

  4. Los Queretanos says:

    I randomly found your blog by way of friends of friends of a friend, or something like that! We’ve lived in Mexico for 7 years. Keep pushing through and leaning on God during times like these when culture shock sets in, it TOTALLY gets better! 🙂 And one little tip that saved me litterally hours per day of clothes drying time – buy clothes pins/clips so your clothes aren’t doubled over the line, if you can hang stuff so it’s the least amount of layers of fabric, it will dry TONS faster!
    Blessings to you!

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