Posted in cross-cultural

Ebb and Flow

I love being down by the river. It’s exhilirating and calming in equal measure. The constant movement of boats – small ones shuttling people around the port, and huge ones taking containers and goods to the far corners of the earth. The lapping of the waves against the shore. Those predictable patterns of the tide coming in and going out, coming in and going out.

The piers in the picture above float.  So when the tide is high, the bridges only have a gentle incline and it’s an easy stroll back to the shore. When the tide is really low, however, they can be pretty steep. Ever changing yet familiar at the same time.

Life so often is like that river. There is crazy rushing around, and there are bigger changes. Just like the tide, there are some familiar patterns anchoring it all. The seasons. The different festivals and holidays we celebrate. The school year.

The beauty of having been around in a place, in a ministry, for a while, is being able to see some of those patterns of ebb and flow. No, the craziness of September and October will not last forever. There will be a different season, when things are slower, maybe even too slow. When the novelty and the excitement wear off, and it can feel like there is not enough water for our (metaphorical) boats to keep moving. Then the tide will come in again. Relationships have grown, we are able to understand more. There is a familiarity that helps us look beyond ourselves.  Summer comes around and with it a feeling that the tide is going out. It’s a season of good-byes, as friends, team mates, students, leave. By the end of it, we’re exhausted and ready for a time of quiet and of restoration. Before the tide comes in again and brings with it new team mates, new students, new ideas and ways of doing things.

And so the cycle begins again. Ever changing and yet strangely familiar.

At times, the unusual, the unexpected hits. Sometimes the tide is way too high, nearly flooding the bridge. Business as usual can not continue, our focus needs to be on the crisis, the stressful situation or relationship.

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But there is also the beauty of patterns among the many shifts and changes of life.

 

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

Layers of a City

So often I walk the streets of this city without really seeing. Everything is familiar, always the same. Until suddenly it is not.

I had enjoyed a wander around one of my favourite craft stores. It’s a cool place, so many fun things to get those creative juices flowing.

As I was leaving, I turned around to take a look back at the façade (which incidentally is pretty funky). That’s when I spotted it. A memorial plaque telling me that on this very spot, there used to stand a synagogue. The building was destroyed during the Reichskristallnacht of November 1938. At my feet, an indication of what likely happened to the people who would have attended the synagogue. Stolpersteine commemorating (what appear to be) three members of the same family, all deported and killed.

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A sudden glimpse of the many layers that make up this city. There’s the obvious – the many tourists, the expensive department store, the fun craft shop. Then there is what has gone before. The things we normally don’t see, made visible and brought into the present.

So much else I’m not seeing as I walk through my days. Stories happening in the lives of individuals I encounter. Hidden people, hidden groups, hidden dynamics. Layers upon layers.

I wonder what those layers look like in my apartment, on my street, in my neighbourhood? What’s gone before – what joy, what sadness, what tragedy, what ordinariness? All of it has shaped the place, has shaped who and what we are now.

Posted in cross-cultural, Spirituality, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Echoes of Belonging

You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. (Miriam Adeney)

The beauty of a mosaic is in lots of broken pieces making an amazing whole. The beauty of calling different places home is that a part of my heart fits in each one of them. Yet it’s never the whole. Always there is that longing for somewhere else.

Scattered throughout my home, my routines, my life are echoes of elsewhere. I see them, I know they’re there. Others might not. It might seem like I belong here completely and yet I don’t.

It’s a beautiful longing, but also a painful one. Knowing that this side of heaven, all the pieces of my heart will never again be in just one place.

The painting above (by Sir John Everett Millais) so beautifully depicts Christ living that same reality. He belongs in this home, in this family. Yet there are echoes of the home he left – triangle shapes representing the trinity, a dove for the Holy Spirit. Every day of his life, Christ lived in that tension. Belonging in two places. For most of that time, others didn’t see that. His parents knew – maybe not fully – and treasured the words they had heard. His friends, the workers in the shop, the village? Not so much.

People who understand my reality are an incredible gift. Knowing that Christ walked this reality as well is my great comfort and a foundation that’s strong and sure.

 

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

Picture credit: Tate Britain

Posted in Spirituality

Living Life One Verse At A Time

The display tells me the next train will come in 3 minutes. And it does. Only it doesn’t stop, and so there’s no way for me to get on. There are signs up – due to engineering work, trains won’t be stopping here for another week or so. There’s the promise that things will change soon. I see the progress the workers are making but the barriers are still up. “Next train in 3 minutes” almost feels like a taunt.

Life can be like that, can’t it? We have hopes and dreams, maybe promises even. Yet things never quite seem to work out, to come together. We hope, we trust, we hang on. We wait. Sometimes we see a glimpse of what we’re waiting for but it’s never quite in our grasp. Doubt starts to creep in. Is God really faithful? Is he really for me? What am I doing wrong?

I imagine Elijah must have had similar thoughts.

“So [Elijah] did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.  Then the word of the Lord came to him.” (1 Kings 17:5-8)

Can you imagine? We’d been promised provision, water and food. At the same time, the drought he had predicted was going on. And the brook was drying up. It’s so easy for us to read on, to skip to the next miracle of provision. But Elijah was living his story one verse at a time. Just like us. There was less and less water in the brook. Elijah must have been waiting for God to do something, to intervene. Waiting, but not seeing anything. And then the water dried up completely.  We know the next chapter, he didn’t. Not until the brook had dried up. He was living his life one verse at a time.

That’s what makes waiting so hard. We don’t get to look ahead, to see how things will play out. Just like Elijah didn’t.

One step at a time, one verse at a time.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12)

Faith and patience. Not my strong suit but I’m trying. While living my life one verse at a time.

 

This is part of the synchroblog on waiting, to celebrate the release of Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay by Tanya Marlow – out now. See more here and link up to the synchroblog here.

I had the privilege of receiving an advance copy of the book and loved it!

It can be so easy at times to forget that those familiar characters in the Bible were real people. People like us, who become frustrated, fearful, even angry, as God seemingly delays intervening in their situation. Tanya Marlow helps us overcome the distance of centuries, culture and familiarity, by taking us right into their story. As we walk through their story with them, we become more aware of our own – the waiting, the longing, but also the disappointment, sadness and resentment. And like He did with Sarah, Isaiah, John and Mary, God meets us in all of it. Very powerful! I have not had a chance yet to use the group study guide but it looks great, and I look forward to going through it soon.