This Is Who We Are {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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Who are we over here at A Life Overseas?

As editor-in-chief of this blog collective, I’d like to give you my answer to that question. A Life Overseas is an online space where writers and readers show up to tell their stories. We share stories of wounds and stories of healing. We share stories of loss and stories of hope. And sometimes, we share stories that don’t yet have a label.

Our writers meet here from all across the denominational spectrum. Each of us is a different permutation of cultural and intercultural and cross-cultural experience. Yet we all show up here once a month, or once every few months, to connect across feeble lines of prose and shaky lines of code — and sometimes even shakier lines of internet cable. But we keep showing up anyway.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, we do it because we love you, and we don’t ever want you to feel alone in the life you’re living and the joys and challenges you’re facing. More than that, though, we do it because we love Jesus. We show up because there is something so compelling about this Christ-Man that we cannot help but speak about Him.

Finish reading here.

Facebook Live at A Life Overseas

Hey all, just a quick note to let you know Jonathan and I were on Facebook Live for about an hour last week, talking with friends and readers all over the world. If you want to watch a replay of our conversation, Jonathan posted it here. We talked about many topics during that hour, so Jonathan included a cheat sheet of sorts in the replay. ~Elizabeth

Laughter as an Act of Rebellion {A Life Overseas}

Jonathan is at A Life Overseas today . . . 

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“There are times when the most effective way to teach a certain truth is by laughing very hard.”

G.K. Chesterton, as described in The Bookman (1912)

There are times when laughing very hard is brave defiance; a dare to the darkness impinging.

Satan, the lying burglar, loves to steal joy.

But Jesus, the rough-hewn Carpenter, loves to give it back.

There’s a difference between joy and happiness, between joy and laughter, I get that. But sometimes, we try to be so spiritual that we end up being too grown up for God.

Joy is richer and fuller than happiness. But joy does not exclude happiness. That’s like saying, “I love her, I just can’t stand her!” Really?

“I’m joyful, I just look bitter and angry and like I want to kill a bunny!” Really? Is that all we’ve got to offer a world that’s drowning in its own pessimism and rage?

Is some sort of hunkered down holiness God’s idea for the Church? Yeah, I don’t think so.

In such a world (which, it should be noted, is not too dissimilar from times past), laughter is a bright act of rebellion.

Seriousness is not holier than joviality. For many, though, it’s much easier.

Finish reading here.

Living Well Abroad: 4 Areas to Consider {A Life Overseas}

Jonathan’s at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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My day job here in Cambodia is serving as a pastoral counselor. In a typical week, I meet with clients from Asia, the Americas, Australia, Europe, and occasionally Africa. And whether these clients are missionaries, NGO workers, or international business people, they’re all trying to figure out how to live well here. In Cambodia.

I was recently asked to share at an international church on the topic of Living Well abroad. I gave it all I had and presented my compiled thoughts and hopes. This article is an extension of that presentation.

It’s not short and it’s not fancy. But it is pretty much all I’ve got. 

My hope is that this article might serve as a resource, a touch point, for you and your team/org/ministry/family/whatever. If you’d rather listen to the podcast of this material, you’ll find some links at the very end. All right, here goes!

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How long were you in your host country before you cried really hard? You know, one of those famous UGLY cries that no one sees but certainly exists? Was it sometime in your first year? Month? Week?

For me, it took about 27 hours.

Our theme verse for those early days was 2 Corinthians 1:8, “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.”

But we did.

For as Paul Hiebert writes in his seminal work, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, “Culture shock is rarely terminal.”

Theory can only get you so far. At some point, you have to get your feet wet and Nike the thing. That’s what this article’s about. It’s an attempt to give some practical, hands-on, nitty-gritty, [insert random epic language here], rubber-meets-the-road, advice.

Much of this comes from my own experience of transitioning a family of six from the suburbs of mid-west America to the concrete vistas of Phnom Penh. The rest comes from observing lives and stories in that enigmatic place we call “the counseling room.”

The four specific areas we’ll consider include Living Well Abroad…

  1. Theologically
  2. Spiritually
  3. Relationally
  4. Psychologically

Click here to read about the 4 areas.

The Gift of Grief and the Thing I Heard in Portland {A Life Overseas}

Jonathan is over at A Life Overseas . . . 

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“If we honestly face the sadness of life in a fallen world, then only our hope in Christ can preserve us from insanity or suicide.” – Larry Crabb

That’s an intense statement, and I sort of choked when I read it for the first time. But the more I chew on it, and the more I ponder my own life with its episodes of emotional and intellectual crisis, the more I think it’s correct.

I spent three years working as an ER/Trauma nurse in an urban hospital in the States, and that bloody, chaotic trauma room forced me to “honestly face the sadness.” Those were dark days indeed; I was ill-prepared, psychologically and theologically, to deal with the darkness and the depth of the pain I witnessed. I was far outside of the Christian bubble, and reality bit hard.

For many people, moving across cultures, often to developing places, serves as their wake-up call. Missions becomes their trauma room, where they see suffering and poverty and grief up close and personal. People often move to Cambodia bright-eyed and in love, and then after a few months, or perhaps a year, the accumulation of the poverty and the corruption and the darkness forces them to “honestly face the sadness.”

Have you seen that happen?

Of course, the sadness was present in their affluent passport countries too, but money and familiarity have a way of disguising and hiding pain, like gold lacquer on cardboard.

But when the suffering is really seen, honestly, it does what Martin Luther wrote about nearly 500 years ago; it “threatens to undo us.” Of course, it doesn’t have to undo us, but it certainly threatens.

Finish reading the article here.

“Fernweh” and “Heimweh” — words for the one who’s far from home {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today . . .

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I found a new word on the Facebook profile of a missionary writer, and it’s the best new word I’ve heard in a long time. It’s called fernweh, and it’s a German word that means “a longing for faraway places.”

The feeler of fernweh carries a desire — whether met or unmet — to travel to distant countries, to visit new places, and to have new experiences. Its nearest English equivalent might be the idea of “wanderlust.” When transliterated, fernweh means “farsickness,” in much the same way that heimweh means “homesickness.”

Fernweh and heimweh: these sister words draw me in. Ever since I found them, I cannot get them out of my head, for I live in a faraway place.

At least, it’s far away from the Europe and North America in which I grew up. It was far away, but now it’s near. I find now that the faraway place has become home, and home has become the faraway place.

Finish reading this post at A Life Overseas.

If your year has been a flop {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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For the past several years I’ve chosen a “word for the year.” Each word is meant to serve as a rudder for the year, a way to focus my attention and direct my inner life. Sometimes I very specifically sense God’s leading in the word; such was the case of “Listen” in 2011 and “Encourage” in 2013. Both of those words started with quiet whispers from God that were continually confirmed throughout the year. Words — and years — like that feel very successful.

But other times I’ve chosen words that simply seemed to fit my spiritual needs at the time, as has been the case for the last two years. In 2015 I chose the word “Peace,” mainly for the warm fuzzy feeling it gave me. I just wanted a little bit of rest. Some peace and quiet. But throughout that year, God peeled back the layers of my illusory peace and revealed relationships in my life that were not actually at peace. My year felt like a failure until right at the end, when relational reconciliation emerged as an eleventh-hour gift from the Father.

Maybe that year wasn’t such a flop after all, I thought. It gave me the confidence to choose a word again. So in 2016, I chose the word “Steady.” I wanted to have steadier emotions no matter the amount of stress I was under, and regardless of which day of the month I was on. I thought this was a great goal. I wanted to be like Caroline (Ma) Ingalls – wise, calm, and gentle in all circumstances.

Basically, I wanted to be perfect.

And it was a complete flop.

You can finish reading this post here.