Thursday, October 01, 2015

10 Things I Learned In September (2015 Edition)

Last month I was writing about my monthly lessons from Germany.  This month I am writing it from my new home in a different city in Central Asia.  Don't you love the view from my roof?  We even have snow on some of the mountains, but thankfully our days are still sunny and warm but not too warm.   Once again, I am linking up with other bloggers and Emily at Chatting at the Sky in what we have learned this month.

So here are some of the things I am learning in this new season in this new place.

1. You have to take time to process change otherwise your emotions will catch up with you. 

This month the tears have flowed as I process all this change.  Most of the time, I have been able to process it on my own terms and in my own way.  Other times it has crept up on me as I learn about living in this new place with out the kids.  Thankfully, I have a very understanding team.

2. Cultural Shock can happen even if you are still in the same country but a different city.

Cultural shock hit me fast and hard last week as I was just trying to get a few simple things done.  I was missing my friends in the capital city, and the local workers who have always helped me get things done in this land.  I was also feeling restricted as I didn't feel free to go exploring on my own, and my husband was gone.   I speak the local language, but the accent and a few words are different here which makes it a bit more challenging to communicate.   Now that my husband is home, I am hoping to explore a bit more and feel more comfortable in moving around this new city.  

I also have to remember that you can have cultural shock even in your own country.  When I first moved to Tennessee after marrying my husband,  this Iowa girl had a really hard time.  Looking back, I realize I was going through cultural shock since so many things were different.  I was in a different stage of life, and I was starting graduate school.   And of course, the southern culture is slightly different than the midwestern one. 

3. Sometimes the best place to put your refrigerator is in the hallway.

We moved into a smaller place.  I thought I had purged before we moved, but I find myself still purging.  The space is just right for my husband and I, but figuring out where to put things was a bit challenging.   A few other interesting things about my house are that my shower is right off of my kitchen and my pantry is a book shelf in our living area right next to the kitchen. 

But I LOVE IT!!!  It feels cozy.  The views from our windows are gorgeous, and we get lots of sunlight. 

4. My favorite area at our new home is the sitting area on the roof. 

This is a perfect place to read and have a cup of tea.   It is also a good place to get some vitamin D after being inside most of the day teaching.   The challenge is figuring out the best times to sit out here because it can get lots of sun, and there is no shade.

5. I can wear color on the street.

In the capital city, I always wore a long, brown coat with my headscarf when I was out and about.  Here I still have to wear my headscarf, but color in my clothes is okay.   I am finding that I need to make a few adjustments to my wardrobe but not too many.  It has been fun to bring out some of the outfits that I wore when we lived in the country north of here.  

6. Sometimes you need to call in prayer support.

Last weekend, I was not dealing well with life and being away from all my family.  I couldn't get see past the cloud of emotion.   Thankfully, I have friends who are willing to pray for me.  All I had to do was ask.  Knowing they were praying for me also gave me a good shove in the direction of taking steps to process what I was going through.  It also gave me accountability.  

7.  Sometimes being alone when you feel alone is just what you need.

I know that sounds counterproductive, but for me and my personality, it was just what I needed.  Last Friday,  I spent the day alone praying, reading, exercising, cooking, and cleaning.   Life felt more normal doing these ordinary tasks.  And you know what, I didn't feel alone.  God was there with me that day.   Sometimes you just need to regroup and being alone did that for me.

8.  Parenting from afar takes flexibility and planning.

My weekend here is Thursday/Friday.  My kids' weekend is Saturday/Sunday.   This means we talk on their weekend which can take some creativity.  Skype and Facebook messenger have been a blessing in helping us stay connected.  It is also good to have a plan of when to talk.  My son is super busy at his new school so I am trying to be available when he has time.  He was super sweet on my birthday of making an extra effort of talking to me on even though it was not a convenient time for him.   

I am still figuring out how to best get them to open up and how much to mother from afar and how much to let them figure life out on their own.   It is a work in progress just as it would be if they were here in my presence.   I am learning to treasure our talks and look forward to these talks each week.  I am also finding that sending random notes and pictures though out the week can help them not feel so alone in their new place.  

9.  You Can Have a great birthday even without your Family physically present.

My team here showered me with love on my birthday.  My downstairs neighbors made me breakfast. My 5th grade student brought me cookies.  We celebrated with more cookies at lunch.  I talked to all of my family on Skype.   Another family had me over for supper and apple pie to celebrate.  Their daughters made me cards and a cute pencil holder.  I felt loved.  

10.  My husband being gone on business is much different when it is just me.

My husband has to be gone off and on for work.  In the past though, I had the kids.  We missed him but were able to do some fun things together to make the time go by faster.  We would work on a project, have people over, and usually watched too much TV.  

This time, I really missed him.  It was like something was not complete with him gone.  It didn't help that we had just went through a bunch of changes.   It did help that I am enjoying my job at the school, and my team made an extra effort to reach out to me.  My husband returned on Monday, and I was never so glad to see him again that I burst out in tears as I hugged him.   It was also nice that he bought me back some chocolate chips and new speaker for our new place.  :)  

Being an empty nester is much better with my honey around, wouldn't you agree? 

What have you learned this month?  Has this been an easy or hard month for you?  What has been a joy for you?   I would love to hear about your lessons in the comment section.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tears Musing

Do you ever have those seasons where tears seem to come more easily than you would like?   I am in one of those seasons.  It would be okay if the tears would wait to fall until after I am in my house all by myself.   Sometimes they refuse to wait as much as I try to distance myself from the emotion that is wanting to take over.  It can be a question about my kids and how I am doing with them on a different continent.  Or it could be someone blindsiding me by telling me my husband is getting home a day later than I expected.   

In heaven, there will be no tears because it is then and only then that tears will not be needed.   For this lifetime, tears help us show joy, sadness, or even frustration.  Sometimes they even help us get a piece of dust out of our eye.   A good cry can leave you drained but can also be therapeutic.  Tears show that a story touches us at a deeper level.   Tears help  grieve a loss in our lives.   When we let emotions build up too much without dealing with them, tears are a result of a dam bursting.   Tears can come silently or in gut wrenching sobs.  They are a universal language.

The poet in Psalm 56 tells of God putting our tears in a bottle.  Other psalmists cry out to God through their tears.  Tears show we are sorry.  Tears show our hurt.  Tears show we care.  Psalms reminds us that God sees us in our joy, grief, and hurts.  

Too often I keep the tears in and then they come out all wrong.  The thing is that God made us to feel.  If we didn't feel then we would not be able to love and care for those around us.  Tears show that something is happening that we care about.  We may cry with a friend who has suffered a loss.   We may cry over our sin.  We may cry because we feel lost and alone.  It is in our tears that we are the most vulnerable.  But it is often in the vulnerable where God can move and that is a place where I want to be.

So for this season, I am praying that my tears will be appropriate and will make me more sensitive to those around me.  I pray that I will seek God through my tears and not just have a pity party for myself.  I pray that my emotions will be indicators not dictators (Lysa Terkueust) and that I will be able to truly show Christ in this season. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Are Your Friends Different?

Hopefully your friends are not of the lego variety, but are they different?  When I ask if they are different, I am not necessarily asking if they are strange although they might be.  I am asking if your friends are different than you.  I was just thinking today how we so often want our friends to be like us when what we really need is someone different than us.  Yes, there needs to be a connection but that can come even if you are different ages, different races, different views on life, or you have a different marital status.  

My college roommate was different than me.  I can still remember her dad chuckling as he left his yearbook editor daughter who didn't like to exercise with a roommate who was a math major and a member of the cross country team.  She liked to stay up late.  I liked to get up early.  She helped me learn to process life and didn't care if I was one of the last runners to finish the race.  We both loved and still love Jesus.  To this day we are friends and have found much in common while still being who God made us to be. 

My first friend at my first teaching job in Texas was different than me.  She was a single mom, recently divorced,  who was older than me.  We became friends when I sat in the empty seat beside her at orientation.  Our friendship helped us survive our first few years at that school.  Long bike rides and limeades helped bond us as we discussed our lives.  I learned more about divorce and how rough it is for a single mom.  I heard her story of faith. She taught me how to quilt and fed me hot Mexican food that so hot it made me cry.   She modeled for me good parenting even when times were tough.

The list could go on and on.  Living overseas has increased that number.  I have friends from Scotland, Switzerland, Central Asia, and Argentina to name a few.  They have made me question why I think about things the way I do.  They have shown me the best and worst of their cultures as I am sure I have shown them the best and worst of mine.  Being their friends has helped me see the world different and hopefully more how God would see the world.  We brought to the table not only our different culture but our different giftings.  Some of us were teachers others leaders.  Some of us were outgoing while others of us where more introverted.  Each of us had a place and a calling as long as we didn't get distracted because we weren't doing it like someone else.   

In Romans 12, it talks about the body of Christ and how each part is important and needed by the other parts.  I have read this many times but this Friday as we listened to the Pastor's sermon I hung on these words that I jotted in my notes.
"The more alike we are -the less a body we are.  We are being less of a church.  It is harder to be around people who are different than you.  When we group with only those who are like us, we miss out.  There needs to be room in our groups for those who are different." (our pastor in Central Asia)
 The more alike we are-the less a body we are.  The body is only healthy when each part is doing its part-the part God has called us to do.  The great thing is that we each have something to offer.  Everyone has their quirks but we also each have our gifts. It is when we don't let those quirks get in that way that we are truly able to love one another.  It is when we truly love one another that we best show the world who Jesus is.

What does that mean here in this new city and new season?  New makes me want to gravitate to those that are like me-those who might understand me better.  I forget that sometimes those who are different see me more clearly.  I forget that growth comes in reaching out to those who are different from me.  God often uses me best when I am slightly outside my comfort zone. 

My prayer is that on this team and in this season, I will faithfully love and serve those God has put me with.  I pray that God will give me some local friends so I can learn about this new place, their views on life, and how I can best serve them.  I pray that I will not shy away from different.