Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Adjusting from explicit "missionary" life in New Zealand to the mission of ordinary life in Illinois has been made easier by the fact that there are some parts of life that have remained utterly consistent. For example:

Top 10 Ways Illinois is Exactly Like New Zealand:

1.  I have seen no fewer Kiwi birds here in Illinois than I ever saw in New Zealand.
2.  There was, however,  a (dead) possum in our backyard this week.
3.  People are consistently polite and pleasant as I go about my daily business.
     (That is so NOT the America I have always known......)
4.  We are surrounded by farmland.
5. A lot of the people with whom we'd really like to keep in touch live half the globe away and are requesting blog updates, Skype sessions & emails.
6. We're in a different time zone from all extended family.
7. Everyone around us has a funny accent again.
8. Rich has an iPhone glued to his person.
9. I am pregnant.
10. We're not really sure what we'll do with our other children during the upcoming birth and are praying again for specific dates and times for his birth.

Despite all these striking similarities, Richard still pines for his "true homeland" - and the photos that expatriot Karen Whyte is posting to Facebook of her new farm in Tauranga are not helping at all. She is living proof to him that an American can successfully transplant to the Kiwi dream, and he is more determined than ever to do so one day. Naturally, even I must admit that there are some teensy differences between Illinois and New Zealand......

Top 10 Ways Illinois is Nothing Like New Zealand:

1. The nearest ocean is about sixteen hours away by car. It appears the nearest hill might be almost as far. (Despite all the acres of dried-out, brown, autumnal farmland, "Natural Beauty" is A LOT harder to come by....)
2. Gun rights are very important to many locals. Some even post catchy little jingles on their property, such as the following:
                  Another would-be thief is sadder but wiser; 
                  Gran always kept her shotgun beside 'er
3. Fish and Chip shops are nonexistent. There are no morning tea breaks at schools or offices. Rich can't utilize any of his cool Maori vocabulary. He's the only person in town that owns/wears any All Blacks gear. There are no switches on electrical outlets. There aren't any roundabouts on the roads. People look at you weird if you say something is "sweet as". 
4. I understand people when they talk to me. I understand their funny accents, their idioms, their terminology and all of the units of measurements they use. (I do not necessarily understand the gun thing).
5. Fr. Michael does not pop in every day. Neither does James, nor Glen, nor any youth, nor persons seeking lunch, petrol money, Confession times or keys to Rooms A & B. In fact nobody pops in. Ever.
6. Weather forecasts are accurate (and in Fahrenheit, praise the Lord). Furthermore, things die in the autumn. They fall. Thus, you can freely call autumn "Fall" here. And October is fall, not spring.
7. The kids have to wear shoes every single place we go. I have to remember to check that they are all wearing shoes before we arrive at our destination (or preferably before we leave the house).
8. I put all my washing in the glorious clothes dryer.
9. The farms here produce corn. Only. No cows, no sheep, no kiwifruit in sight.
10. Rich has far fewer people to text on his iPhone. Consequently, he is texting me all day long. (But I am no more active a texter in IL than I was in NZ.)

fresh backyard roses (AND beautiful foliage) on the Feast of the Little Flower

Overall, the Sealy family is really happy in Illinois. My perfect, beautiful, beloved Sacred House back in Pennsylvania has not exactly attracted the attention and desire that is its proper due. Since we can't buy a house in Bloomington until the Sacred House sells, we find ourselves in a most unexpected bind. The original plan was to rent this house for only a month or two - because naturally the Sacred House would be scooped up immediately (and probably we'd even be offered double the asking price!). But buyers are obviously intimidated by the perfection and glory of the Sacred House and so there have been absolutely no offers yet. So we decided that rather than face lease-expiration and eviction four days before my due date, we would sign a year-long lease and hunker down just where we are. And actually, as usual, the Lord has done all things well. It's a lovely house with a mostly above-ground finished basement - in other words, there is a sunny, bright, warm, cheerful place for me to exile all three children so that I can collapse in peace as an exhausted heap of humanity. And when the kids tire of the books and toys and art supplies downstairs, there is a gorgeous fenced-in backyard filled with still-blooming roses and impeccable grass and small trees for climbing and squirrels and bunnies (and the occasional dead possum with rotted-out eyeballs and squirming with maggots). The children spend much of their day happily exiled to one of these two locations. Perhaps I don't achieve my finest mothering in the last few weeks of pregnancy, but the kids are happy so I'm not putting too much guilt on myself over it.

happy place of exile

Some of the things we like best in Bloomington: We've found a great parish bursting with life and community. It has a beautiful Perpetual Adoration chapel filled with the finest Catholic spiritual reading that has ever been published. There are heaps of young people, pregnant women everywhere and plenty of families with a lot of kids.

he got a haircut and aged overnight!

Rich is enjoying his new teaching career and is really impressed with the school. There's a priest on the faculty, so Mass is offered optionally twice a week and is well attended by students who choose to come early to school or who give up their lunch break to attend. Confession is offered once a week; Adoration is held all day every Friday and every religion class attends for ten minutes of class. There is a good rapport among the faculty and great spirit at the school. So far Richard's only complaint is that he is expected to appear at school dressed as a Disney character next week (homecoming week, all faculty and students participate in this ritual). I'd think that after all the things he freely chose to dress as for youth group, this would not be such a big deal.... After impersonating Barney, a dead mouse and the devil himself, why not be Jafar for a few hours?

In teaching theology, Richard very much has a public ministry once again. I do not. When we registered as official members of the parish, the parish secretary handed me a very impressive list of all the groups and ministries that bustle about the church. I wanted to pick something and sign up. I felt that I was "supposed to" do so right then and there. But I just couldn't. Not yet. I'll know that I'm ready to hop back into some sort of ministry when I'm back in the saddle with just my basic duties of housekeeping and child rearing. Like when the kids are permitted to leave the basement (sometime after the new baby is born and I feel more like a human being again). But for now, in keeping with the concept of the mission of everyday life, I think the Lord is asking me just to do well the basic things that are part of my inescapable vocation of wife and mother.....This is a season for a subtle but essential growth - growth in the virtue of not just "ticking the boxes" (to get the kids fed & bathed & entertained & disciplined and to keep up with the house), but to do each needed task with excellence.  

To do each thing punctually. To do it carefully, taking my time, being attentive and present to the task. To do it cheerfully and humbly, offering the work to the Lord.  

Lord, I will bathe this child as patiently and gently as if I were bathing You as a young child.
 I will mop this floor as carefully and thoroughly as if You personally had requested that I mop it.   
I will speak to Richard with an exasperated voice no more than I would to You.  

I'm really much more of a very efficient box-ticker. This "mission of everyday life" thing is requiring a complete overhaul of habit and nature. It's a very slow process. In that very slowness however, the Lord is teaching me by His own example. I am learning to slow down and take time with my work by observing how slowly and painstakingly He is accomplishing His work in me. I am being taught to be gentle with the hearts, souls and bodies of those in my care under the instruction of the One who is nothing but gentle with mine. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect....  I'll never be omnipotent, free of concupiscence, omniscient, or imitate many of His other divine perfections, but certainly there is realistic hope that in grace I can learn to slow down, accept all the day's tasks without complaint and do everything with great care.

Except dead possum removal. THAT I will continue to shirk all day, leave to the man of the house after he gets home from work, and not worry at all about how hurriedly or carelessly he does it. In fact, I was glad to see Rich yank that thing up by the tail, shove it in a bag and rush it across the lawn, ignoring the children's pleading questions about "Will it rise?"  "Is it in heaven?"  "Do possums love Jesus?"   The Lord also says that for everything there is a time and a season - so clearly that must include being in the occasional big hurry.