Thursday, February 17, 2011

Becoming an American Citizen

On January 31st, 2011, I woke up unsure of what the day held for me. I had played out a couple of scenarios in my mind the night before, and had concluded that the day could be somewhat uneventful... or it could go really, really bad. I quickly found out there was a third option I hadn't considered. As is often the case, I'd forgotten that God is greater than my perceived problems. Oh me of little faith.

Several months prior, I had had to face the fact that I had become very much an American in my heart. My green card was expiring and it was time to either renew it for another 10 years or apply for a US citizenship.

Earlier in my life, before we had kids, there probably wouldn't have been much of a toss up. I probably would not have considered seriously the option of becoming American. The oath would have been too difficult to stomach for me. I was Canadian and there wasn't much I wanted to change about that. Fastfoward several years into the future (or should I say the present?) and I find myself having a whole new perspective. Most of the people who are dearest to me are Americans (i.e. Andrew, our kids, his family, our close friends). But it's not only that. After living here for over a dozen years, I have come to love this land and its history...and would like to officially make it my own, for better or for worse. There are also the practical reasons...for instance, if we were to travel as a family, it would be nice to all carry American passports in the event of a disaster or some type of political uprising (which seem to happen more frequently these days). I also thought it would be nice to finally do my civil duty and vote! Lastly, knowing the Canadian government would still consider me a citizen whether or not I Americanized helped tip the scale for me. I was ready to take the plunge.

So I took the plunge. I started working on my naturalization papers and had about 4 months to make it happen before my green card expired. Apparently, 4 months wasn't enough. Or should I say, almost wasn't enough. I started getting nervous by mid-December when my interview with a migration officer had yet to be scheduled. My green card would expire on January 30th. What could take them so long to schedule an interview? I'd turned in all my paper work...completed my end of the bargain..why couldn't they just schedule the interview already? Yes, I was impatient...and no, I didn't think to pray about it.

I finally did receive the official letter letting me know my interview was scheduled for the thirty-first of January. That was cutting it close...too close. Actually that wasn't going to 'cut it' because my green card would expire the day before. Technically, I would be going in for my interview as an illegal immigrant. I tried calling the number they gave me on the form...but couldn't reach a real live person. My file number, which I had to enter in order to navigate the automated menu, kept leading me to this recording stating the status of my naturalization file... and that I was requested for an interview on the 31st. I decided to trust that they knew what they were doing. Until the night before the interview...when I started imagining the worst case scenarios.

All that worrying for nothing.
The officer who met with me on the 31st didn't even address the matter of my expired card at all. As we walked from the waiting room to her office, she sized me up and realized what I had realized myself several months before: that I was already an American at heart. So she rushed through the interview in order to add me to the list of naturalizing applicants scheduled to receive their certificates at a ceremony a few hours later that same day. Although I knew it would disappoint some of my family members not to be able to attend because of such a short notice, I also knew it would be a really good thing to be DONE. As of midnight, I no longer had official papers to show that it was legal for me to be here in the States. It wasn't a good feeling to know that technically speaking, I was basically an illegal immigrant. Sure, I had a case file that, if looked into, would prove to the authorities that I was in the process of becoming an American. But I had no way to access that file or prove it existed....

So, I didn't object to the officer's plans. I saw her move as God's providence in my hour of need. After passing the interview with no problem whatsoever, I quickly left her office, got in my car, and started texting several people to let them know about the ceremony. I was hoping that some of them might be able to attend... even if it was on such a short notice.

Two and a half hour later, my two children, several of their buddies, my two friends and my mom-in-law bunched together in a waiting room. Becky, one of my dear friends, had come with camera in hand, ready to document the whole thing. My other dear friend, Kara, was ready to videotape the event so that the rest of my family can watch it at a later date. I felt sheepish as I looked around the room and noticed that among all the naturalizing applicants gathered there, I had the largest group of supporters. It dawned on me that it would have been downright embarassing if all interested parties had actually been able to come to the ceremony. Even in that small matter, I could see that God was watching out for me. He had attended even to the smallest of details. I should have trusted Him...I should have known it would all work out because God cares for His children. I should not have worried.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
Matthew 6:26-37
And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.
Luke 12:29-30
But seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Last thing: a couple of days after the ceremony, I received two congratulatory cards in the mail from some dear church ladies (the exact same card, I might add, but two different ladies). One of the ladies put everything into perspective when she reminded me that I now had THREE citizenships. I thought she'd made a mistake at first...but then a smile formed on my lips as I realized that, although God cared whether or not I became American on that day (He certainly paved the way for me), He didn't want me to lose sight of my one true citizenship.
The truth of the matter is...I still remain... an alien.


  1. I'll remember that day for a long time. It was such a special experience. And as a fellow alien with you, I look forward to going home too! Cool analogy.

  2. Me too! Love you both so much and so thankful to share our lives together.
    But you need to add the "bearing arms photo" for Jason :)

  3. I'm so glad I was able to share that special day with you both!

    As for the picture, my answer is N-O. Too incendiary for this blog. =0)

    Good night, my dear fellow aliens...

  4. It was so weird to be teaching and knowing that you were at the moment becoming an "American". We've come so far since Trinity!!