I realize that these seem like two incredibly different topics. One has to do with a large, off-centered woman panting and pounding heavily down the road. The other has to do with someone trying to figure out their way in a new country, adapting to change and newness like a chameleon.
But can I tell you something today, these two things are not as different as they might seem, at least for me.
If I could sum up their similarities in one word it would be this- awkward.
I am 24 weeks pregnant and still running, and Lord willing you will find me doing so until the very end. I basically bounce my babies out of the womb. Before you gasp and wonder what kind of crazy I am, I want to say that I’ve always loved running so my body is familiar with the jiggly motions, the sweat and stink, the aches and pains, the adrenaline rush, and the heavy breathing.
Doctors agree that if you were running before you got pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy, then there is no reason why you can’t keep it up. If you’re curious here’s two articles on the subject.
But more than the scientific studies behind running pregnant, I want to tell you how awkward it gets, especially after 20 weeks…
–People start to stare. I can feel their gaze drift from my eyes to my stomach. Then they usually make a comment or ask a question.
-I get slower and slower. It happens without even trying. My body naturally knows to keep the pace down and by the end I am more waddling side to side than running in a straight line and craving naps all the time.
-It looks funny. I know it does. Who wouldn’t look funny with spandex on and a basketball under their shirt?
Running while pregnant is awkward on many more levels too, like the fact I have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes. I won’t go into detail on that one, but let’s just say that when you are not near a bathroom you have to get creative.
Now about living in a new country.
We’ve been here in the Netherlands for a little over a year. I know many of my friends and family still wonder what it’s like here and what we do every day.
And the word that comes to mind for describing my life here is awkward. Think about a woman running pregnant. It looks and feels uncomfortable, strange, and even dangerous to some.
People stare. And make comments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had elderly women share with me their opinions, in Dutch, about how I’m parenting my children. It’s usually just a few sentences, but I can tell by the look on their face they think I’m doing something wrong.
The stares continue whenever I open my mouth with my go-to phrase, “Is English okay?” I get varying reactions from the disgusted, annoyed look to surprise and excitement, “Yes of course English is okay!”
Life in another country also takes on a slower pace, much like my running does at 24 weeks pregnant. Daily life can feel sluggish and laborious. Normal activities like buying food at the grocery store can take forever- reading labels and hunting for familiar ingredient is strenuous, especially with two kids in tow! Frustration and disappointment accompany me nearly every day. Whether it’s not knowing where to go to buy a pair of shoes or the amount of time and energy it takes to simply have an engaging conversation with our neighbors.
European culture is not as rushed and hurried as America. Most stores close at 6pm on weekdays, with the exception of one or two in the city that are open until 9pm. On the weekends, they close much earlier if they are open at all. Businesses also aren’t afraid to close up shop for a few weeks of holiday during the summer or winter. I’ve also heard it said that Maastricht is known as the sleepy city. And I’m finding it to be true. You won’t find too many cars on the road before 8am.
After a year of feeling like we are running pregnant, life is starting to have a healthy rhythm and flow. We are finding friends and building community, learning to love our city, and all that while knowing we look funny to people. Although we are trying our best to fit in, it’s obvious we do life differently than a typical Dutch family, sometimes we still stand out like a pregnant lady running down the road.
Running while pregnant and life overseas is all about embracing awkward. And that’s something I believe we can all relate too and benefit from.
Life is awkward, especially when we choose to go on an adventure with God. People will stare, make comments, you will look funny and you will feel out of place, and life in general will take on a different pace.
But all this is good and healthy!
Because outward awkwardness is a sign to me that you and I we are actively engaging and wrestling with life- we are saying YES to adventure. We are stepping into the unfamiliar, we are getting out of our ruts and routines, we are choosing to grow and walk with God versus resisting the new life He wants to bring into our hearts.
Seasons of awkwardness always means more abundant life is on its way!
Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if you can’t see your feet, or your sense of balance is off, or you feel like everyone is watching you waddle…
this pregnant lady is cheering for you and so is God!