Sunday, February 17, 2019

Helping Those in Transition

When I was trying to come up with a word to describe 2019 (which I never did), all I could think of was "transition".  We are transitioning people on and off our team in the next month.  Our family is transitioning into a new season as our daughter weds in May. Our son started college in the fall.  Not to forget, I transitioned two new students into my school in January with another one starting tomorrow.  

Transitions freak me out.  I don't like change.  In Central Asia, the transitions often brought out fear and tears.  Somehow this time is different.  The transitions are a good and natural changing of the guard.  I am also in a better place emotionally and spiritually.  Most of all, my role is different.  I am in a position to help those who are also transitioning to transition well.  

So how do I do that?  Here are a few ideas that I came up with but I would also love ideas of how you helped transition someone or something that helped you transition well.

1. Be a Tree Planted By the Water

Jeremiah writes
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.
I don't want to be just any tree.  I want to be a tree that is grounded in who God is and who He made me to be.  I want to be a tree that trusts in the Lord and not my own strength.  I want to provide a place of love and grace but also truth.   If I am not doing well, I will not have the capacity to help others do well.

A tree is available to provide shade and rest.  The tree in Jeremiah could even handle the drought- a time when things were hard.  Transition is hard and comes with lots of emotions.  I need to be willing to be there in the good, bad, and hopefully not ugly.  It is also great to remember to not take it personal if someone doesn't like something.  The deep roots provide stability.  Trusting in the Lord means we are not in this alone.

2. Food!

Whether it is baked goods or a meal, food is always good.  It also gives you an excuse to check in and see how they are doing as you deliver the goodies.  Remember it doesn't have to be fancy.  When I had kids in the house, I always invited people over on Taco Tuesday since it was so easy to just make extra.  Now I often invite people over on a soup night or when my husband is available to help with the cooking.  It is easy to make a double batch of muffins or bread and my husband always enjoys eating my baking now and then.

3.  Choices and Balance

This one is hard to explain and is not black and white.  Sometimes it is good to help, but sometimes it is good for a person in transition to figure out a few things for themselves.  It gives them confidence and helps them make their own way.  The challenge is knowing when to help and when to step back.  Another challenge is knowing when to be proactive with advice and when to wait until the subject comes up.  My rule of thumb is what would I have wanted to know before hand and what did I like figuring out on my own.  It is also a matter of figuring out the personality of those you are helping.

As to choices, it is good to give options.  As we have been in discussion with a new family coming, our conversations often include "we do it this way but another family does it another way".  This way the new family can figure out what works for them and even maybe find another new way to do something.  For an example, what do people do for church?  Some have home church alone or with others.  Others go to a church in town that is more contemporary.  Still others go to a local church closer to where we live.  The key is figuring out what fits your family and what will help you serve the best long term.

What would you add to the list?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, February 01, 2019

What's Keeping Me Sane (2019 Edition)

It is so easy to look at life and see what is driving us crazy or what needs to be fixed.  Today I am taking a step back and looking at what is keeping me sane right now.  This is my third year in joining Anne at Modern Ms. Darcy as she encourages others to share what is keeping them sane as the cold weather lingers on.  In some ways, I am an anomaly because I live in a country where the temperature is pretty much the same every day.  But no matter where you live or the temperature on your thermometer, it is a good practice to look for ways to make life better or to make life more doable and enjoyable.

January flew by for me as I spent extra hours in the classroom trying to stay ahead of my students.  My evenings were full of conversations about future transitions for my daughter and also on our team.  In the midst of everything, I found that my routine was saving me.   It was grounding me when other parts of life seemed crazy.

So what is keeping me sane?

1.  Time in God's Word

With school starting earlier, I have to wake up earlier to fit this time in.  I am finding that it has been so worth it.  My mornings are either spent listening to an online lecture for a bible class I am taking or sitting in my chair digging into Jeremiah or the Psalms.  Jeremiah is for those days when I am up for serious study.  Psalms is for the days I need to be reminded of how to pray and voice my needs to God.   When I am in right relationship with God, I am anchored and more secure in who I am and who God has called me to be.  It helps me not take it personally when my students misbehave.  It also makes me less needy and better equipped to give to those around me.

2. Prep, Prep and More Prep

Remember the extra hours in the school room?  They are worth it.  When I have everything planned out for the next day including centers set up and papers laid out ready to go, our school day goes much better.  When I had just two little ones, I was able to just go with the flow.  With four little ones, go with the flow is not an option.  I am enjoying my afternoons in the classroom after the students have left as I listen to music, gather supplies for crafts, and set up the activities for the next day.

3. Evening Walks with My Honey

Our evening walks bring good closure to my day.  We live right next to the beach.  As we walk, we see the waves crash against the shore.  Most days as the breeze flows off the water, I feel like the stress of the day rolls off of me.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  We walk.  We talk.  We enjoy God's creation.  (Plus I have been getting in my 10,000 steps more often.)

4. Soup on Mondays

When we first moved here, I didn't make soup often because the weather is warmer.  Then all of a sudden, I started adding soup to the menu every now and then.  Then I figured out if I made soup on Monday night that I would have great left overs to share with my house lady on Tuesday when she cleans for me.  Since rice is a staple here, I often will add some rice to the soup if I don't have as much left overs.  Since I only have an hour for lunch, soup is pretty simple to heat up and always has more then enough to share.  

Here are a few links to some of my favorite soups I have tried.

What is keeping you sane whether you are battling cold weather, a crazy schedule, or just life? I would love for you to share in the comments. If you are interested in similar posts to this one.  Here are the links for 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Blessings, TJ

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Lessons About Connection: My Word for 2018

Some journeys take you exactly where you expect to go, but the best ones take you where you need to go.  Last year, I picked  "connection" as my word for 2018.  I knew I wanted to be more connected to God, my family, and my friends.  What I didn't know if how much being connected to God was the key to the rest. 
I thank Linda Stoll for a push in the right direction last winter and spring with her book club selections of Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton and later The Listening Life by Adam S. McHugh.  The books, her posts, and the discussion in the comments helped spur me to making some better choices.  Silence and listening well are two things I struggle with so I appreciated the challenge to take baby steps in improving.   Maybe I couldn't sit for 30 minutes in silence, but I could take a walk on the beach without my headphones.  I could be more comfortable with silence in my house and not feel the need to fill it with noise.  Maybe I won't ever be labeled a great listener, but I do understand better that prayer is not just talking but listening.  I am also more consciously aware when I start making conversations more about me.  Most importantly, both books pointed towards God and our need to listen to him, to spend time with him, and know him.

So what I have learned about connection.  

1. Connection with God is the Key to All Connection

This past year has been a good year in terms of growing in my knowledge and understanding of scripture.   This has helped me to know and understand God better.  When God is my anchor,  I come to the table less needy.  When I am rooted in the truths of scripture, I am able to see others' needs more clearly, and that life isn't all about me.   

It is not that all triggers will go away.  I still have relationships where old ways of doing things will want to creep in.  My emotions still try to hijack me.  The difference is that I am preventing hijacking more and I can take those thoughts captive to the Creator and put them side by side with the truth.   I then am able to let Him speak truth in life.  What a difference this makes!

2. Connection Takes Time

My husband and I hit our two year mark in West Africa last May.  It was like a switch flipped, and I suddenly felt more comfortable in this culture and even on our team.  A similar thing happened when we lived in Central Asia.  There are some relationships or situations where you feel instantly at home, and all is good.  Other times, it just takes time and persistence.  It requires inviting people over, being a part of daily life, and sometimes getting out of my comfort zone.

It is not only the length of time, but the frequency of trying to connect.  I am much more connected with my mom when I call her more often.  She would probably tell you I should call more often, but hopefully she would also tell you that, overall, I am doing better.  The same goes with my kids.  It has been wonderful having a scheduled weekly phone conversation, but I also love that we can message each other a quick "I am thinking of you" message or question about our weeks.  

If you ask me what my favorite year of marriage was, I would say this last year.  Why? Partly it is due to spending a lot of time together, but it also has to do with the quality of time.  Each evening we walk up and down the beach road after supper.  As we walk, we talk about our day, what we are reading, and whatever is on our minds.  It has been a great point of connection that has helped us continue those conversations at other times.  I love having a spouse with whom I can share not only my joys but also my struggles.

3.  True Connection Takes Vulnerability

Vulnerability could be just picking up the phone and making the invite.  It might be voicing my expectations for my time together with someone, or sharing how I feel about situation or issue.  

Vulnerability says I am not perfect, but I want you to be my friend still.  It says to the other person, we can grow together.  I can help you, and you can help me.  Sometimes it means saying a hard thing.  Other times it means saying a word of encouragement or getting out of my comfort zone.

4. You Have to Make Connection a Priority

This summer I was only going to be in Texas for a short time. I am so thankful for two good friends who carved out quality time to spend with me and even threw me an early 50th birthday party.  On another leg of my trip, I was able to spend a week and a half with my sis and see her new home.  I loved how I was able to spend time with her and the rest of her family. It had been over two years since we had been together so it was a gift to have time to reconnect.  On the fourth of July, many of my extended family in Iowa made it a priority to come to my mom's house for lunch.  It was so good to reconnect and catch up on their lives.

But most of all, I found making a connection a priority with my children.  Our sweet daughter gets up early on her Saturday mornings to talk to us our Saturday afternoon.  Our son stays up til midnight to talk to us during our morning.  Don't you love how it looks different for each child?  I am finding when we are physically together, it takes intentionality to have those deeper conversations.  It takes carving out time and seeing where each person is at.  This also takes different forms.  It might be taking a road trip or even chatting as we look for a wedding dress.

What are some lessons you have learned about connection? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

2018 was a good year.  This next year looks to be full of transitions which I will talk about in my next post.