So I am truly blessed in regards to family. I always have someone to lean on, they are my pillars and God is my foundation. Happy days and sunny smiles aren't always the case, though, and it can get a bit tricky when having to deal with feelings of contempt towards family members. Especially if they are all you have in a foreign country.
Recently I found myself in one of these sticky and oh so delicate situations with my sister in law, Ivy.
Ivy, is a colourful person, and will never ever be described as boring. She is one of my favourite people and I love her to bits but she can be a bit inconsiderate sometimes. She is a self-trained photographer and she had her own business before she came here. She was very successful, but had to start from scratch when she came here.
Now, because I used to be her assistant photographer at weddings she often asks me, no wait, tells me to join her on her new projects. I like to help her out but I would like it more if I had a heads up sometimes. It isn't that I don't want to do her a favour, in fact, I love doing her favours because she is one of my favourite people! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
It is just the way that she did it: she just assumes I am going to be there ready with my camera early on a Sunday morning. "Well, I actually planned on going to church in the morning but I will change my plans around to suit you", was my answer to her surprise at the fact that I did not just know that I must assist her on a project.
This has happened many times over the last few months and has left me in frustration. I thought to myself that this was the last time my weekend was planned for me by her and if it happens again I am simply not going to budge. Yup! I am going to give her a piece of my mind next time... until this Friday came and she surprised me with her thoughtfulness and I realised that she actually appreciates what I do for her as well.
I had to move this weekend from a spacious two bedroom apartment to a cosy granny flat not too far away from my family. To spare my poor brother the task of driving back and forth with a rented trailer packed full of personal belongings swinging behind my sister's SUV on a Saturday morning, I decided to get removalists.
I felt that the former method will inconvenience way too many people and may lead to them having to give up time on their weekends to help me (which they have done without complaint many times before). I am sure they wouldn't have minded, but since coming to Sydney I have become a very independent woman that is used to doing things alone so I occasionally forget that it is okay to ask for help.
Over all the move went smoothly. This was my generalised feeling after a few panic stricken moments of "How am I going to fit in this place with all my stuff?!" followed by the ever-so-encouraging comments of the removalists " It is not going to fit, we leave it here." 'here' meaning the lower level of my apartment, apparently I was to live only in the bottom half of the flat on a mountain of furniture! I felt like I was suffocating in the mess and I repeated Dori from the animation Finding Nemo's words to myself to keep me sane: 'Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming'.
When the removalists were ready to head off, I raced to the ATM to get their payment so that I can start re-organising before work. My heart melted upon my return when I found Ivy in my cluttered kitchen with a drip coffee maker and a carton of milk. She makes the best coffee. She surprised me so with her thoughtfulness that I felt ashamed of my little rant I had to my sister about how inconsiderate Ivy can be.
I was reminded after this that I must be more patient with her and I should always keep my palm open ready to give, because if it is open to give it is also open to receive. I kept my palms open to her in the past and I gave my time readily to her until I felt a bit taken advantage of, of course, but she returned the favour in the end. I thought she never appreciated the things I did for her as much as I would have liked but this one gesture showed me just how wrong I was.
She continued helping me with my move that day until I needed to go to work. I did most of the moving myself over the weekend and it was hard. It would have been a lot easier if I just dropped my pride and asked for help, but I chose to do everything alone. Let me tell you, I thought I was going to drag a round hard wood table top down a set of steps, but I was dragged down those five steps in my new home like a string of cans behind a car on a wedding day! The rest of my family pitched in later over the weekend when they heard I was still moving things around on Sunday.
After this weekend I am exhausted and ready for the next weekend. I learned a few life lessons during this move: communication, never expect anything in return of a favour and two are better than one. Communication is important between family members, because if I told Ivy that I wasn't available to help her she wouldn't have minded at all; my frustration was purely due to selfish longing for approval and thanks for all the favours I do for her.
The most important one to me was two are better then one (Ecclesiastes 4 verse 9), and in my opinion: that is why God made family. I think He made the ties between family members special that even when we aren't close and haven't spoken for years, we still have a connection.
Be it your 'always right' brother or self centred sister, your jaw flapping sister-in-law or ever complaining mother, they will always be a part of you no matter what your feelings towards them are. I am pretty sure that this connection is there so that we cannot get rid of each other as easily as we can get rid of a bad friend. If we could we would be utterly alone.
We as human beings need one another and family is the most important group of people that we have. We have to nurture the relationships within it. We have to try harder than usual to achieve well nurtured relationships so that we create a strong support system that can root itself in the foundations of a loving home. This is what keeps us together and gives our daily lives meaning. God knew we cannot be alone so He gave us companions (Genesis 2 verse 8), in this case family.
Leanne van Rensburg was born in 1988 and grew up on a farm in a small town in South-Africa. After school she chose a career in science and obtained degrees in biotechnology and microbiology. She moved to Australia in 2012 and is currently working as an oncology technician in Sydney. Family, friends, horses, photography and travelling are a few things that add value to her everyday life. She is a adventurous person that loves taking risks and trying new things. Writing comments for Christian Today is one of her latest undertakings.
Leanne van Rensburg previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/leanne-van-rensburg.html