Posted in cross-cultural, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Spelling Out Re-Entry

I’ve done re-entry a few times. Sometimes better, other times not so well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

R  First off, Re-entry is such a misnomer! There is nothing “re-“ in it! OK, geographically you might be going back to the place you hail from. Fair enough. That’s the extent of “re-“, though! You are not going backwards! You are moving forwards, into the next phase of your journey. You are also definitely not going back to a familiar place! Depending on how long you were away for, it might still look familiar. But it has changed. And you have changed. That’s a whole lot of change! So…

 

E Entry“ – that’s more like it! You are entering a new place. Treat it as such! Remember when you first went overseas? How things were exciting and stressful and fun and there was so much to learn? It’s so much harder having that learner’s attitude when you’re supposedly going “home” but do your best! And have fun exploring!

 

E  So much Emotion. And yes, I do realise I shouldn’t be spelling it with a capital letter. But in reality, it desperately needs that capital letter! Chances are, as with any transition, your emotions will be all over the place. That’s ok. Allow yourself to feel them. Also know not to take them too seriously. This phase will pass and things will look different. These emotions are part of the ride. Feeling them is not wrong at all but they are not the whole story either.

 

N Did you stick out like a sore thumb in your host country? Did you often wish you could just blend in? Well, now you do blend in and instead of helping, it makes things harder. You are a hiddeN immigrant. You look like a local, sound like a local, maybe even act like a local. But on the inside, you’re different. Sure, that local part of you is real. But so much more has been added to the mix. So much that people around you can’t see and don’t know about. In many ways, sticking out was a gift. No one expected you to know and understand everything. Not so here. Most people will not understand that you are not able to just slot back in. You’re a hidden immigrant.

 

T Time does not make everything better. We all know that. But when it comes to re-entry (or any transition) it does help. You don’t stop missing places, people, your life in that other place. You do, though, add new memories, new relationships, new skills, new experiences. Your life again becomes what it is – a part of the larger whole that is your life. Always there but no longer dominating everything and blinding you to the beauty of the here and now.

 

R How do you think about re-entry? What is your gut reaction to the word? Reframing my thinking changed so much for me! Instead of feeling like I was going backwards, I decided I would think of this stage as a new season of a TV show. There are familiar characters, familiar story lines, that carry over. There are also surprises, new characters, unexpected developments. Whatever happens, things always move forward. There are developments we love but we might not be totally happy with everything that transpires.. Either way, it’s all part of the same story, always moving forward, with surprises just around the corner. For more on this, check out Small Planet Studio https://smallplanetstudio.com/

 

Y Find Your tribe! Connect with people who get it! On the ground, online. There are communities you can join, and wherever you are in the world, I would bet there are people around who understand. They might not be people you knew before but now you connect. I’m not saying avoid the hard work of (re-)connecting with people who don’t get it but it is so good for the soul to connect with people who do. Find those who are also walking this re-entry road, and those who have gone before.

 

And a bonus one, just because I can! A big fat G for GRACE! So much grace for yourself and for those around you who don’t get why it’s hard!

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

Photo by Killian Pham on Unsplash

 

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Posted in cross-cultural, Spirituality

Hello! You are so very welcome!

Are you about to get on a plane and head “over there”? Have you just landed in your new place?

As someone who has been around a while, let me tell you that you are so very welcome! We are very excited to have you! We have been praying for you, rooting for you, preparing for your arrival and we are so glad you’re finally here!

Are you young, maybe fresh out of college? Do we all seem so wise and experienced to you? And old, probably, but let’s not talk about that 😉 Do you worry you might not have anything to contribute? True, we have learned a few things along the way. We have also developed blind spots. We need you and your fresh way of looking at things! We’ve seen disappointment and lost hope in places. Your enthusiasm and “naivete” help revive our souls.

Dear new graduate – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you arriving with young kids, uncertain how to support them through the transition? Wondering how you could possibly be involved in ministry, learn the language? Are you worried you might be a burden rather than an asset to the team? For sure, those are not easy challenges to navigate. There is not one right answer, not the perfect way to live this. But one thing I do know. You are so valuable! What a treasure it is to have young families on the team. The fun, the mess, the questions – the whole lot of it! And you as a person, the unique “you” the Lord created – we are so blessed to have you!

Dear young mum, young dad – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you single and worry you’ll be isolated? There are people and things back home (or in your previous location) that are on your heart, and that no one around you really understands. It’s hard being the only link between your different worlds! It’s hard not having at least some community that arrives with you. Hard – but also an opportunity! Doubly hard if you happen to an introvert (speaking from experience here!). You have to build community to survive. Don’t wait for others to include you (though if they do, that’s just the best!), take the initiative. And no, just because you’re single does not mean you have to work all hours of the day and night! Build a life! Play! Rest!

Dear single person – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you the quiet type, maybe an introvert? Do you feel you’ve landed in a world of extroverted, loud, visionary people? Are you not sure what you might have to contribute, if your quiet voice will be heard? Let me assure you, your quiet voice is so needed! You will be able to see things, hear things, connect with people in a way that others can’t. I know being an introvert in a communal culture can be so hard. There are ways of doing that well – seek the wisdom of others who have gone before! And if nothing else – thank you for keeping me company in the introvert corner 😊

Dear introvert – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you the odd one out? Maybe you’re from a different country than everyone else on your team. A different age, life-stage. Maybe everyone else has been together a while and you’re the only new one. Truth be told – most of us probably feel like the odd one out much of the time. Feeling like everyone else belongs but we don’t. And yet. And yet there truly are added challenges for those who are a minority on the team. Oh but how much we do need your voice! The perspective only you can bring. Will you both challenge us and give us grace when we go into “majority mode”? I wish that didn’t happen but most likely it will. I am so sorry.

Dear “odd one out” – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

 

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor 12:24b-26)

 

Here we go then!

 

How have you experienced the “hellos”, as a newbie or as someone who has been around a while? What has been helpful in overcoming some of the challenges?

 

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

 

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

Posted in Spirituality

All the Earth

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens.

In the beautiful sunsets, the starlit skies.

In the millions of galaxies beyond comprehension, beyond our wildest imagination.

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

In the rolling hills of England, the wide expanse of the Russian forests.

In the abundance of colour in the tropics, the sun-scorched lands of the Mediterranean countries.

In the vast oceans, the rolling seas, water lapping on the shore.

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.

From the streets of Wilmersdorf to the slum-like Roma villages of Slovakia.

From the majesty, the awe-inspiring beauty of the great cathedrals, to the dingy streets of Sparkbrook.

From the fun of the playground to the fear of the hospital bed.

From the warmth of a home to the loneliness of the streets.

Beauty and brokenness.

Fierce love, rampant selfishness.

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.

 

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(a meditation on Psalm 8)

 

Photo by Louis Maniquet on Unsplash

 

 

Posted in cross-cultural, Spirituality

When Those Roots Break All Over Again

It was a year on from that roller coaster season of good-byes and packing and planning and crying and dreaming… Most of you know the craziness that is a major transition. After 15 years in the same city, my roots were deep. And pulling them up was hard.

Still – I had survived and even made it through the first year back in my passport country. My team needed (and offered!) a lot of grace and patience to put up with me. We had bonded over cultural mistakes and frustrations – and lots of coffee and pastries!

 

I was doing well. Or so I thought. Then June hit and those dreaded good-byes started again. Only this time, I was not the one leaving. I was staying when most of my team, most of the people I had done life with for the past year, came to the end of their time in this city. I was so not prepared for this. I was still recovering from the previous season of good-byes. I had started putting down small, fragile roots over this past year. They had become intertwined with those of the people around me. With them leaving, I found myself almost ripped loose again. Roots were broken. I was all alone in my little patch of ground.

 

Well, not quite, I wasn’t. Some people were still there. People who had been here a little longer, who were able to give me a bit of stability. And so I continued on. At first reluctant to allow the newbies to get close but with time, having enough of a network around me that the constant goodbyes became (a bit) more bearable. Even if they do still suck.

 

Here is what I’ve learned over the years. Not all goodbyes are created equal.

 

Leaving is hard. Saying goodbye to people and places that will forever be part of your heart and life is tough. Yet somehow, you build up to it, you have people cheering for you, and so you get through. My big transitions have all been by choice. A season came to an end. I have never had to leave (be it for medical, financial, security or other reasons). Oh my heart goes out to everyone who has experienced that. So many more layers to thpse goodbyes. I am keenly aware that’s a story for someone else to tell.

 

Few of us are prepared for the ongoing goodbyes that come with living in any kind of international context. Yet for many of us, they are so much part and parcel of life. The amazing gift of new people coming into our lives, and the sadness of friends leaving. So with time, we become good at doing goodbyes well. We help with the packing, cleaning, painting. We babysit. We express gratitude and appreciation. We have some of the “hard but necessary” conversations. And we stay.

 

In case you’re wondering – no, it doesn’t work that perfectly in my world either. But we learn, we grow. And we do get better at this, those of us who are stayers.

 

Ok, let’s get back to those “first time stayers”. Hearts still a little bit fragile from the big transition they’re starting to emerge from, they’re in a unique place. So many firsts in these x number of months! This “end of school year and lots of goodbyes” season is another one of those firsts.

 

If you’re in that place, can I give you a (virtual) hug? It’s hard! Please don’t give up! Please don’t let your heart be hardened, even if it does feel safer! Look around you and see who is still there. Have the courage to keep engaging in these remaining relationships. Allow yourself to feel the pain that comes with this season but equally allow yourself to look ahead, to find things to look forward to. Learn to hold the two in tension.

 

For those of us who have done this staying thing a little bit longer, let us extend extra amounts of grace to those whose fragile roots are getting damaged and broken all over again. Let us encourage their hearts and let us be grateful for the blessing that their newness to this is to us. Let us cry with them, keeping our own hearts soft.

 

And for all of us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Let us receive God’s compassion and comfort, with the readiness to share it with others.

 

 

How have you experienced the different kinds of good-byes? Do you have any tips on supporting “first time stayers” well?

 

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

 

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash