Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .
“What are people there saying about Syria?”
This question was posed to me during a Skype conversation with a friend back in the States. My answer? “I’m not talking to anyone about Syria. I’ve got things to deal with in my own personal ministry, and I’ve got things to deal with in my team ministry. I’ve got the daily work of homeschooling – a career unto itself – and your basic ‘how do I get food on the table?’ questions. I’m also living in a culture that has its own political and safety issues. So finding out what other people in my life think about Syria is pretty much not going to happen.”
I ended my rather lengthy explanation by saying, “I just can’t care about everything.”
While my statement might sound a bit cruel, I think it also sums up the struggle of overseas missionaries and expatriate Christians in general. How can we stay connected to our world back home while also embedding ourselves in our lives here? How can we tend to relationships in our host culture and relationships in our sending culture? How can we care about global politics and local politics and politics in our passport country? (And just to be clear here, that actually makes three worlds we’re expected to live in, not two.)
Here’s how I deal with these challenges, but I also hope to hear how you balance the many relational and cultural needs you face.
Finish reading here.
Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today . . . .
Czechoslovakia felt like home to me. Well, not Czechoslovakia exactly, but my mom’s large Czech family. Their love was a constant throughout all my TCK moves. I never fit in at school, but I never, ever doubted my belonging in the Musel family. And wherever I go in the world now, the memory of my mom’s relatives is a comfort that I return to again and again.
Nobody loved or accepted unconditionally like they did. Friends and significant others were always welcomed, no questions asked. It was mind-boggling, really, the inclusiveness they demonstrated, especially as I view it now through adult eyes. They are the ones who taught me my belovedness. That knowledge is a gift that sustains me anywhere I go (and one that the Church would do well to imitate).
Each Christmas we cemented our family relationships with a tradition that harked all the way back to the “old country”: The Apple. Every Christmas Eve after a special meal of noodle soup and hoska (traditional Czech pastry), we gathered around Grandpa (or the oldest living male relative) and listened to him tell the story. It was the same story year after year after: a story about getting lost and finding our way back again.
Finish reading the story here.
Greater is He
Greater is he who is in me,
Than the one who’s in the world
There is no power in Heav’n or hell or earth
That can ever separate me
From the love of God our Father
From the love of God above
Like a Good Shepherd he leads me
Besides waters still and calm
In the presence of all of my enemies
Still the presence of God above
I will not fear the terror
Of the day or the night
For I know my Father is with me
In the dark he is my Light.
All the hosts of Heaven are shouting
At the victory he’s won
All of Hell continues to tremble
At the love of God above
It’s a simple question, carrying with it the power to clarify purpose and extend longevity. It’s a question that buttresses against the nasty cousins of burnout and bitterness. It’s a question we need to ask more often.
It’s simply this: “What is it that I really need?”
We’ve got to start asking our cross-culturally-working-selves, “In an ideal world, what is it that I really need to make it? To thrive? To be ok? To survive where God’s called me? What is it that I really need?”
Before you crucify me for turning the Gospel inside out and hamstringing it with a message about me and my needs, hear me out.
I’m not at all advocating a life without obedient sacrifice; I am expressly advocating a life of eyes-open sacrifice. You might not get what you need. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t. There are a lot of things you need that a life of cross-cultural service just won’t be able to provide. I’m talking about the full spectrum here, from a Starbucks latte all the way to the absence of gunfire.
And that’s where this gets real.
When you realize that some legitimate needs won’t get met, when you realize that safety and functioning utilities and access to public libraries and date night just aren’t as much a thing where you live, you can do two things. You can seek to mitigate, or you can choose to sacrifice. In reality, I actually recommend both.
Mitigate it: Consider whether there are any creative workarounds that might meet the need, in whole or in part.
Sacrifice it: Obediently, with a full heart and open eyes, sacrifice the thing as a holy act of worship.
Continue reading over at A Life Overseas…
This month we finished our school year! We also had some health issues (bummer). In fact it was so crazy that I don’t even have any book reviews for you. (I miss reading books.) But I did find two new semi-healthy recipes that we are loving: Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes (which are mommy’s treat) and your basic Energy Bites, which the whole family loves (but I don’t add the chocolate chips).
Ask a Counselor: roll away the stone of perfectionism by Kay Bruner. This came at the absolute right time for me. I had been doing hefty battle with the foe of perfectionism and needed a friend and guide and, most especially, a “me too.” Still working on some of these issues of perfectionism.
7 Ways We Secretly Rank Each Other by Amy Young. So good, and so uncomfortably true. Somehow Amy managed to touch on all the ways we rank ourselves and others . . . . even the ones we’d rather not admit.
On Home and Keeping Place, in which Marilyn Gardner interviews author Jen Pollock Michel. The interview stirred something deep inside me, and it moved me to watch the Keeping Place discussion series on my Right Now Media account. I haven’t read the book, but the discussion series delves more deeply into the theological basis for these longings, which was so helpful.
In Solidarity With the Butt Wipers by Leslie Verner. Although I’m not in the exact same “young mom” season as Leslie, I found myself nodding my head to the things she was saying. Many of her statements apply to older stages of motherhood too, including the inability to catch up, the occasional desire to run away, and the guilt that tags along with that desire.
I loved Kid Snippets so much that I started watching them WITH my kids. Fast Food and Hair Salon are still two of my favorites, and their conversations have become part of our family vernacular, much like this NFL Bad Lip Reading. Now we’ve discovered Bedtime, which is our much-quoted collective favorite (everything seems to “scamper off” now). Making Friends and Lunch are also good.
Then I came across this MAYhem video from the Holderness family, which pretty much describes the end of a home school year too! We’re glad to be on break now! I hope to return next month with a review of Helena Sorensen’s Seeker (the 2nd installment in her thought-provoking Shiloh series), which was too much for me to get to this month.
Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .
It’s not hard for me to put down roots in a new place. Roots are all I want. That may sound unconventional coming from a Third Culture Kid, but Army life was unsettling, and even small tastes of stability were tantalizing to me. I’m always searching for roots.
Specific places can be very healing to me, but I almost wonder if the place itself doesn’t matter as long as the place seems permanent. I could settle anywhere as long as it’s forever. I know this need for stability points somewhere. It points to a longing for a forever home. A hunger for the new city. A desire that can’t be completely fulfilled in this sin-tarnished world.
So whenever I move to a new place, I pretend it’s a permanent home. I decide I never want to move away. I give myself, heart and soul, to this new place and to this new people. I make plans for future years, future decades even. I tell myself that I will settle here and live here forever. I imagine everything in the future taking place in this place.
While some TCKs want to move places frequently, that hasn’t been my experience. I don’t want to leave a new place after a few years of living there. I don’t become unsettled at the thought of settling somewhere. Sometimes I tell myself that this desire I have for roots is good. I tell myself that it means I’m stable and secure. But then I have to ask, if I’m so stable and secure, why would I become so unmoored by goodbyes?
A desire to move frequently can be unhealthy, it’s true. But it is equally true that this insatiable desire I have never to move homes or see life change can be unhealthy too. For see, God is the God who is doing a new thing. And growth in Christ never happens without change — sometimes painful change. So I sometimes live in denial, for this overseas life is not, and can never be, permanent. I will have to move eventually. My friends, the dear people with whom I live my life and to whom I’ve pledged my undying love, must also move at some point.
You can finish reading here.
Some days I spend hours reading aloud with my kids. Sometimes that means science doesn’t get done. Other days we pore over science books for hours, but grammar doesn’t get done. Some days we get all the subjects done, but I run out of time to prepare dinner. On days like those we eat cereal for supper. But only if we have milk in the house.
Or we might eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper. But only if we have bread in the house. Because even with dedicated weekly meal planning and shopping trips, I can rarely keep enough bread or milk in the house. Which makes for a lot of husband-texts like “please pick up bread or we won’t have supper” and “please get milk or there will be no breakfast.” If all else fails, I pop popcorn.
Some days not every school subject gets done, but I dance with my younger kids and laugh at my older kids’ jokes. Other days I put in a good, solid school day with the kids and feel satisfied but much too tired to write. I’m almost always too tired to exercise. Mostly I force myself to work out. I know from experience what happens if I don’t. Sometimes I don’t get to my email for weeks. Or I go for weeks without having time or mental energy to write. In those times I can really become unpleasant to live with.
Sometimes I go months without spending time with my closest friends. Sometimes I have so many social, school, and ministry engagements that I don’t get sufficient time by myself to be a kind, sane person. Sometimes I’m so worn out by all this busy rushing that I lock myself away and skimp on spending time with my husband. Other times I choose to hang out with my husband regardless of what else “should” be getting done. And nothing does get done, but I sure am happy. I have discovered, in fact, that husband time is the biggest key to my happiness.
Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I can’t do everything all the time. That I can’t seem to get my life in order and pull myself together and balance all the needs. But maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe every day isn’t supposed to contain every thing. Maybe each day is only supposed to contain some of the things. Maybe something is always going to fall through the cracks.
And maybe I’m supposed to be ok with that.