Losing the Familiar


Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. I like the crispness of the air and I look forward to autumn activities like apple picking and yes, I always enjoyed back to school. For so many of us, fall is the beginning of new activities and programs in churches, schools and the community.

For the first 50 years of my life I lived in climates with definite seasonal change. I knew when it was winter, spring and summer because there were clear markers. And those markers were often weather related. Each season also brings holidays and events that are only in those seasons. Winter brings Christmas and hopefully snow. Spring brings Easter and hopefully beautiful flowers. Summer is July 1st or 4th, depending on your country, and family BBQs and hot weather.

Living in Haiti has taught me something about the passing of time. I am one of those people who mark time by the changing of the seasons. Recently I was asked about an event that happened several months back and I was trying to remember when that was. I clearly remember the event but I couldn’t even begin to place the month it occurred in. I had no seasonal context around the event. The weather in Haiti is pretty consistent. It is sunny and warm; pretty much every day. Sometimes it rains at night. Rarely does it rain during the day. But I can always count on sun and heat.

Without the changing of the seasons and the snow, falling leaves, spring showers, or summer flowers, I apparently can’t keep track of time. Plants and trees do go through cycles here. However, it is not always the same cycle. Right now in our yard, the Almond tree is dropping brown leaves. But the Calabas tree is not. The Granadia vine has fruit but the Sitwon Tree does not. So, there is no rhyme or reason for the seasons and I have no seasonal context for events like I used to have.

Why do I mention this? Who cares if I can’t remember when something happened?

Our family is now 2 ½ years into living in Haiti. And almost every day little things that make a huge difference catch me off guard. There are things I used to count on to help me live… and I just can’t count on those anymore. There were so many supports in place for our family in Canada; spiritual nourishment within a loving church family, extended family members who engaged us all in fun and fellowship, date nights for Robin and myself, extra-curricula activities for Peterson and Gaëlle to help them develop and grow, and I could go on and on. But there is a danger when I focus on the past and those supports that I used to count on.

In 2017 one of the most meaningful passages to Robin and myself was Isaiah 43:14-21. After reminding the Jewish people in Babylonian captivity that He is the Holy One, God reminds them of how he freed them from their previous Egyptian captivity.

 But then He tells them to forget all of that.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

This doesn’t mean we forget what God did for us in the past. But it’s a caution that we can miss how God is working today and we can undervalue what He is doing for us now, when we just focus on the past and the way God worked in the past.

God used this message last year as we continued to adjust to cross cultural living. As we looked to the past and the great things God did for us and wondered how we would manage here without those supports.

But our prayer as a family is that no matter what, we will continue to trust God. We will continue to put one foot in front of the other as God leads us. And as we continue to acclimate to life in Haiti, we will continue to shed those practices that helped us in Canada but have no place here in Haiti. And as we grieve, we will also celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Do you use the seasons to help you mark time?

What practices helped you in the past but have no place in your current life?


One thought on “Losing the Familiar

  1. Hi, I am slow (again) in getting a note off to you. I won’t try to make any excuses — we all have 24 hours each day. It was so refreshing to read this letter from you. God just knows when to send us reminders of His awesomeness !! The little things in life make a difference, don’t they ? Congratulations to Peterson on obtaining his US citizenship !! We are glad that you and Peterson & Gaelle were all able to come to US and that you had a bit of time with some family. Also saw some snow !!! That may have been a treat for the children but we are ready to say, “Good-bye” to it all. Here at Beulah we probably have 5-6 inches on the ground which isn’t a lot and it is much safer than all of the ice that we had in Feb. This month has started out with one snowy day after another but we haven’t had the accumulation that other places in the maritimes have received. Oh, well, spring is just around the corner. David and I went for a walk yesterday afternoon and strolled down by your cottage. It looks lonely. No one is living on that road during the winter so it is really quiet down that way. Ken & Gail McGeorge sold their place. Joanne LeRoy bought it. She is keeping her little place also or that’s what we have been told. She said that she has three sons and their families so she can use both places. Dick and Glenda’s son & family (four small children ) are here for this coming week. It is spring break in Ontario. They were all in service this AM. We continue to enjoy Pastor Steve’s messages. There is a wonderful spirit in the services. Next Sun. AM the Tattons will be in the service seeking support for their term in Haiti. Mary Bridgeo is staying with Phyllis and it appears to be a good thing for them both. They need one another and are good company for each other. You mentioned some of the little things that seemed like markers in your life. I remember that before we retired and right from an early age Christmas and Beulah were the two special times during the year and everything was gauged as either before or after them. When we were young my two sisters and I were allowed to run to the barn and back once on May 24th in our bare feet. We increased the number of times each day for several days before we were allowed to go in our bare feet all day. Mom thought that we would catch a cold if we started out going too long without our shoes on. We never owned sneakers. Every year after Hallowe’en we got a dose of worm medicine !! It was believed that after eating Hallowe’en treats we would end up with pin worms !!!! Before Christmas Dad would take us to Moncton for a day so we could shop. We each had $2.00 and bought for each of the family – Dad, Mom & two sisters. Usually it was safety pins, a pencil and things like that. I remember going out to the pasture and milking a pitcher of milk so Mom could make pancakes for supper. Dad worked away quite a lot in the summer so we did some things that we didn’t normally do. These are just a few of the funny little things that stick out in my memory. You have to be so pleased to have the teacher coming back next year. That is a big prayer request that the Lord has answered. It will mean a great deal to the children in so many ways and it will free you of the home schooling time. I guess that this is enough for today. Every day we pray for you and thank the Lord for helping you in the every day busyness. It won’t be long until Beulah time now. Take care and may the Lord continue to bless and use you. With our Love, David & Genevieve

    On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 4:33 PM, Beyond the Fence wrote:

    > Beth and Robin posted: ” Fall has always been my favorite season of the > year. I like the crispness of the air and I look forward to autumn > activities like apple picking and yes, I always enjoyed back to school. For > so many of us, fall is the beginning of new activities and prog” >


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