The Place Where I Belong
Growing up, I never felt like I belonged.
Anywhere. Not because I was weird, or shy, or couldn’t make friends.
Nope. I had numerous friends as a kid and teen and young adult, because I was funny and loud and listened and adapted to any group I found myself in. People thought I belonged with them, they enjoyed my company and found my story fascinating.
But the truth is, I never did belong. I knew it – they didn’t.
I was born in Denmark to a Belgian mum and a half-French half-Danish dad. My parents were required to actually ask permission to the Danish government to name me Keren. It’s kinda cool and all, but really I was already an outsider in the country of my birth.
We moved to Niger, Africa for a year, then settled in France when I was five; I was bullied in my first year of school because I arrived mid-year, and came from weird countries.
My whole family was unusual to my French peers: we ate Danish & Belgian foods and never had big, sit-down dinners with 4 courses on weeknights like my school friends did. Our house was all modern and super clean lines, white walls and pine wood floors. We listened to American Folk, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Santana, Paul Simon and Dire Straights and the Blues.
All pretty cool, but unusual.
Fast forward a few decades and today I’m married to a 100% born-and-bred Australian, living in the USA.
I think I got so accustomed to being an outsider that I chose it for myself when the opportunity presented itself. It became my identity.
When I tell others a little bit of my story, I receive wide-eyed – a bit envious, maybe – stares. My peculiar journey is cause for questions and exclamation points and too often reveals ignorance – someone once told me it must be nice to live in America after being raised under a communist regime. I wish I was lying.
I’ve learned that people are… people; everywhere the same. You have elderly folk who have never left their corner of the world, sports fanatics who swear by ‘their’ team, and well-meaning people who utter hurtful comments out of ignorance. Most people, though, feel like they belong where they are residing, happy to visit other cultures but forever landing on “there’s no place like home!”
Brett is different.
I’ve never known anyone like him. Maybe because he never felt like he belonged where he grew up, either, for other reasons. Maybe because he is just the most gentle, humble and wise person there is.
He has never commented on my accent; he completely embraces my cultures and background, without any need to make fun of any part of it. He’s had exactly zero semblance of superiority, not even a hint of ‘well, that’s unusual’ when I’ve shared my story. Oh, how I belong with this man.
My life has been – and continues to be – an adventure.
I don’t have a “home sweet home” on this earth, except the one where my five people are currently residing. Where my husband and children are; there is my home, my all, my everything.
So even if others don’t get me, even if I never will fit properly anywhere, even if I have to pretend it’s funny when I hear “you gotta say y’all, and not say biscuit for a cookie!” or “you HAVE to pick a sports team or you will struggle!” Just like I used to hear: “you’re such a wuss if you can’t stand the summer heat!”
…I know now where I belong.
Brett and I have created our own traditions, like so many couples do no matter what. Our Christmases, growing up, were wildly different –one in winter, dress all fancy for a big December 24th dinner with a gazillion courses and as many wines, open presents at midnight, stay up till 3am. Another celebration in the hot heat of summer, opening presents at the crack of dawn on December 25th, then attend church service followed by a big Christmas lunch.
We had to make up our own everything, coming neither from his story nor mine, something new and fresh and beautiful, that would be just ours. It has been so fun, and frustrating, and crazy and beautiful.
Our unusual journey has been messy at times, and imperfect always, but full of love and embrace and this unalterable fact:
We belong to each other, our four precious souls belong with us, and we all ultimately belong to the One who created us; our true home not on this earth.
So as you prepare for the end of year insanity, shopping lists and errands and a million things to do in half a day; remember what –who- matters. Those who make you feel like home, like you can always be you, unashamed, bare-boned, no mask, you.
Abandon all else and give them your time, attention and love. Pause long enough to delight in those who matter, who make you feel seen, known, and loved in every season.
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Keren is a world traveler, wife and mother of 4 children -who keep her on her toes! In a past life she has worked as a Registered Nurse in pediatrics, Montessori assistant teacher, blog writer and French teacher. Her days are now filled with caring for her kids, managing two health and wellness communities -one in French and one for English speakers- as well as educating others in natural remedies and how to make everyday products using essential oils. Her favorite day is Sunday, when she gets to enjoy church community with her husband while kids are having a good time!