Leaning In

Moving to a different country was never in my plan let alone on my radar. It wasn’t something I ever dreamed about or even wanted to do. But when I met my husband and discovered how much he loved his country, that began to change. I knew a big move would eventually come.

Many have asked why we made the decision to move from America to the Netherlands when we did and how that decision came about. Others have wanted to understand the details of the move and what it has been like since we arrived. Since writing is a passion of mine and something I’m beginning to do again, I thought I’d share a bit about our journey and how you can be praying for us.

We actually began talking about marriage and moving to the Netherlands before we even officially started dating (I know, what?). When we began to have feelings for one another…we realized pursuing a relationship with someone from a different country wasn’t something we wanted to take lightly. It was something I spent months (literally) praying about and it was something we spent hours discussing because we knew that our union would impact our futures so deeply.

I didn’t know any of the Dutch language or much about the culture at all. Every time we went on a date we each learned something new about the others language and culture. And though learning together was an adventure, it sure wasn’t easy. Even before we were married cultural differences caused tension and sometimes heartbreak. There were moments we looked at one another and said, “This is too hard.”

But the Lord knows the desires of our hearts even when we struggle to understand them and with His guidance, we found ourselves still pursuing Him…together.

This year has not been anything any of us expected and we certainly didn’t see ourselves moving. But near the end of January we both felt a nudging to begin preparing. For me, that was terrifying. After all, I had told my husband I would be ready to begin the process for the big move once we had hit our two year mark of marriage. We hadn’t even reached one year yet! But at the time, I thought maybe the preparation process would take two years so it made sense to me.

We had planned to visit family in April but due to Covid, our plans were changed. The feeling of being told “You can’t see your family”, really hit us differently. We realized how far away we really were and we had no idea when the pandemic would settle. Corstiaan’s Omas were both getting older (which was one of the reasons for our April visit) and we had already made the decision that we wouldn’t begin our own family until after we moved. All of these elements (and many more) played into our final decision to move.

So, my mother and father – in – law (bless their hearts) began to look at houses for us. Looking for a house proved to be a bit more complicated when you can only do it virtually, but we found one that checked off everything on our list (something only the Lord could have provided). And in May we both gave notice to our bosses telling them we would be leaving in two months.

Neither of us had physically seen the house we were moving into.

Neither of us had a job set up once we moved.

We didn’t know what this looked like for us financially.

We didn’t know the full moving process.

We didn’t know a lot.

We just knew we needed to be obedient, prepare and go.

So we sold all our furniture, most of our belongings (jeep included) and gave the rest of our things away. This provided enough for us to ship our non negotiables, book our plane tickets, import our pups, pay for a vehicle once we arrived and our first two months of rent.

I read that above paragraph now and I can’t help but cry because we didn’t think it would be possible. We literally were like, “Jesus, you are the only one who can do this.”

And He did.

Taken two weeks before we moved to the Netherlands

We flew out July 21st (which oddly enough was the date Cors and I met 4 years ago) and arrived safely on the 22nd. Our flying experience during Covid was safe, masks were worn and proper protocols were followed. As much as the current pandemic sickens me, there were no lines at the airport and that eased my nerves.

Once we were on the plane though, I wept. The big move was actually happening and I couldn’t change my mind. It hit me much harder than I anticipated and my sweet husband just held my hand and said, “Thank you for coming with me. God’s got this.” There were so many things we were mourning when we got on that plane that once it took off, everything just poured out.

But since arriving we have been taken care of in ways I couldn’t begin to explain and we are so grateful. It has taken time adjusting to a new norm and I’m not sure we’ll have that for a while. But our home is beginning to feel like our home and I now know which aisle to find most of our essential groceries.

There is so much new for my brain to process; visiting and living here are two very different things. I’m constantly translating and converting words, numbers, temperatures and recipes…which some days is rather defeating.

Everything seems a bit harder for me here and so I have to ask for help. I’ve always been an independent person and so to be entirely dependent on other people is very stretching.

My word for this year was depend, ironically.

Thanks, God for your impeccable timing and humor.

The dike outside of our front window.

The language is the number one change for me in the Netherlands and I knew it would make certain moments more difficult than others. Like talking to the delivery guy who misunderstands what I’m saying and instead of placing a package on the ground, throws the package on the ground (true story and it was hilarious) or like mistaking rum for vanilla which ultimately makes for a very happy evening (also true and also hilarious).

But there are other times when my heart doesn’t know how to comprehend the change. My husband’s Oma passed away two weeks ago and I found it hard to grieve along with them during the funeral due to the language barrier. I tried to connect – hearing familiar words every other paragraph – but we all know some moments just can’t be translated. And I that’s when I think, “This is too hard.” and “I’m not smart enough or strong enough for this.” But the Lord is so faithful to meet us; to remind us of His power and His comfort. Sometimes a hug can translate much more love than any words every could. So I hug.

This is when I can sense the Spirit moving…reminding me that it is too hard. That I’m not smart enough nor anywhere near strong enough. But with the Father all things are possible. So I pour a cup of coffee, wipe my face and lean into Him.

Rose bush outside of kitchen window

For those of you who are curious, here are some of the biggest differences I’ve been processing since moving to the Netherlands:

  • Language: Though most are able to speak at least a little bit of English here, Dutch is their native language. This makes shopping and a few other things a bit more interesting: labels on food items, commercials on the radio/tv/YouTube, road signs, menus etc. have proven to be a learning curve as each of those need to be translated. As well, most of my electronic devises are set to a new country which means I have to ‘accept the cookies’ every time I open an American browser and check the box that says, ‘would you like to translate to English?’. However, music on the radio and shows on Netflix (excluding the menu bar) are 99% English.
  • Food: Though you are able to find most of your typical staples (or at least a variation of them), there are many food items that are very different and yet are considered typical Dutch food. For example: bitterballen, frikandel, oliebol, poffertjes, eierkoek etc. I have yet to find creamy peanut butter, provolone cheese, miracle whip and lemonade in the stores (the items I’ve been craving the most). Baking has been an adventure as many items have a slightly different texture or taste which has caused me to tweak my recipes. For example, sugar is more crystalized here so my cookie recipes now call for less sugar.
  • Transportation: The two biggest differences when it comes to the transportation are 1) the cars are MUCH smaller (think Mr. Incredible small) as are the roads and 2) there are more bikes than cars (and most vehicles are manual rather than automatic). Children ride their bikes to school and many adults ride their bikes to work or the grocery store. Often, bikes have the right of way here and most roads have bike paths and bike crossings.
Our little blue Yaris
  • Conversions: Here they measure temperature by Celsius instead of Fahrenheit and distance by kilometers instead of miles, centimeters rather than inches and meters rather than yards. These changes will get easier in time.
  • Currency: There are two major differences when it comes to the currency 1) money is in euros rather than dollars and 2) employees are paid monthly rather than weekly/bi-weekly. As well, buying a car here is MUCH easier than in America as the license plate the vehicle original comes with is the plate it carries until it stops running. This means, no needing to go the Secretary of State or spend the extra money for a new plate.
  • Housing: First and foremost, wooden houses are a rarity here. And though I LOVE a cozy wooden cabin, brick houses leave me feeling like Belle in the beginning of the Beauty and the Beast. The houses here carry so much history that I melt every time I go for a drive with my husband or family. Our house is old and needed lots of interior work, but it is quaint (the best word I can use to describe the Netherlands) and FULL of character. Because it’s an older house, all of the plugs are almost at eye level on the walls. Speaking of the plugs…they have two circle prongs rather than the two lined prongs or three that I’m used to in America. As well, voltage here is different which meant we had to sell all of our appliances and hair irons etc. Another fun fact, our bedroom has a sink in it.
  • Time: We are six hours ahead of where I grew up and where I worked before we moved. This has proven to be difficult in finding the right time for video chatting with friends or having business meetings. But it is doable if you work at it. Social media is such a great tool to keep in touch but even with the six hour difference there are so many things I feel I miss. As most of my friends are settling in to relax for the evening, we have long since gone to bed. And while they are sleeping, we have long since started our day.
  • Miscellaneous: There are a few miscellaneous differences that don’t impact me greatly but are worth noting: cashiers are usually sitting down at the register, stores do not bag your groceries, you usually need to have a coin on hand in order to use a grocery cart. Iced water isn’t a common thing here (carbonated water is) and dikes are everywhere (these are for protection as the Netherlands is below sea level). Certain websites/apps/shows are not available, the highways have lines for lanes but all other roads do not have a middle line and most people have hedges in front of or around their homes (for both privacy and wind protection). Sheep graze on the edges of the dikes/roads, stores are not nearly as big here, bread doesn’t last as long (meaning, preservatives are not used as much as in America) and instead of having a president, there is a King.

Starbucks, peanut butter cups and coca cola all taste the same though, and the sushi is DELICIOUS…so I’m surviving. 😉

My husband currently has a job but it is temporary and in order to obtain a visa for me he needs a year long contract. We would so appreciate your prayers as we wait to hear back from some potential employers. He is gifted in many ways and I know the right thing for him is just around the corner.

I am unable to work in the Netherlands without a visa but the Lord provided an opportunity for me to work part time in script writing and editing for a company that works for Pastors in America. This is a dream but requires front end training. I’d appreciate your prayers navigating this new job as well as navigating all the newness here. My biggest prayer is that my mind expands in its ability to learn language.

Thank you for following our journey and for all your prayers up to this point. I hope to continue to blog throughout our time here as we build our family and grow in our relationship with Jesus.

Much love,

Patricia

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