Posted in Member Care, Spirituality

Oh The Places We Have Been

 

Oh the places we have been –

from “So there’s some strange new virus in China” we wandered on to “OK, let’s all try and be a little bit cautious and wise”, before crashing into “My life has just been completely upended and I have no idea what is happening”

Oh the places we have been –

From feeling confident in planning our days, our weeks, the next few months – to living in the moment, because thinking ahead is scary and the world beyond today feels completely unpredictable.

Oh the places we have been –

From heads and hearts spinning, to camaraderie, to learning a new way of doing life, doing work, doing church. To wondering when this will ever end and what our world will look like by then.

Oh the places we have been –

Hope and despair. Courage and fear. Apathy and resilience, laughter and tears. Loneliness and connection, distant yet close. Going round and round, up and down, day after day after day.

Oh the places we have been –

in just a few short weeks. No wonder we’re feeling a bit battered and bruised. Longing for normal yet thankful for the special gifts of this season. Feeling fragile yet knowing more deeply that you are God. And we’re not.

Oh the places we’ll go –

we have no idea what they’ll be. Never did but we managed to fool ourselves. No longer.

Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.

 

 

Inspired by the video above which at first made me laugh, and then brought home what collectively we have all been through these past couple of months. What would my January self make of it all?!?!

Very loosely based on Dr Seuss, who had an amazing way with words.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

daily life… on the move

It seems somewhat ironic to be finishing this post in the midst of the Corona crisis. It’s been three weeks now since I’ve been on public transport. Talk about being cocooned…

 

Going from a small box on wheels to a much bigger box that I share with lots of people. That was one of the biggest changes when I moved cities and countries.

You see, where I lived before, I had a car. I would go about daily life somewhat sheltered from what was going on around me. I’d get in the car, turn on the radio and that was it. I would pay attention to anything relevant to traffic (obviously 😉 ) but be pretty oblivious to everything else.

Quite how oblivious I didn’t realise until I moved. Public transport in Berlin is amazing – no need for a car. So suddenly, I would spend a good chunk of my day not cocooned in my car but out there with everyone else. All of what makes Berlin amazing and infuriating was (and is) right there in my face.

You hear every language under the sun.

There are the “musicians” who sing the same verse of the same song every time you encounter them. Every. Single. Time.

And occasionally, there is someone who really can sing.

You see the homeless and the drug addicts. Up close, as they make their way through the train asking for money.

You see artists sketching, as they observe their fellow travellers.

And lots of ordinary people.

Beauty and brokenness.

Day after day after day.

 

On good days, I enjoy it. Or get so lost in my book that I don’t even notice what’s around me 😉 Other times, it all feels too much, too overwhelming. So much need and hopelessness. So much suffering that invades my space. My heart and soul get tired.

Compassion. Again and again, as I read through the Gospels, that’s what drives Jesus’ response to people. To crowds. To individuals. Compassion. That is not generally how I respond.

 

I have no easy answers, no quick fix. I suspect this is a struggle that will be with me as long as I live in this city. I also know this reality is forcing me to wrestle with God through some tough questions. And to recognise that my own compassion runs out pretty quickly, that I need to rely on Him. Which are good things. And so I cry out, for myself and for this city

 

Kyrie Eleison. Lord, have mercy.

 

Leaving you with some of Berlin’s amazing creativity, making even the everyday sounds of public transport appear beautiful!

 

Posted in Literature, Spirituality

Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus

I wanted “in” with all the meanings this tiny word holds. The house was a place where I could think more about the tasks of being human, for it was where a very human Bonhoeffer lived – not only the Bonhoeffer of theologians, at times abstracted into ideas, and not only the heroic Bonhoeffer, gauzy, romantic, and two-dimensional. Here, I could imagine the man who rose early to read and meditate on the Bible, who ate oysters and played piano, who was captivated and instructed by art in so many forms, who sang boisterously and conversed brilliantly, who enjoyed all kinds of sports, who wrestled internally with himself, and who wrote fervent, fearful, and sometimes funny letters to friends and loved ones that still pierce hearts with their insight, vulnerability, and strength.

What a beautiful and timely book! “Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus” is not a biography as such (though you do get an overview of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life) but offers a unique blend of story and reflection. During her time in Berlin, the author was a volunteer guide at the house where Bonhoeffer’s parents lived and where he was arrested, causing her to reflect deeply on his life and legacy. She takes us along on her own journey of not just learning, but also of relating some of the principles and tensions she discovers to living in today’s world. The book was written prior to the current pandemic but reading it, as I did, in the midst of it, it seemed even more relatable and relevant!

I was so impressed with Laura Fabrycky’s humility in looking at Bonhoeffer’s life and decisions in the context of the time, and her intentionality in taking off her own cultural glasses. And all of that in a profound, but also very down-to-earth style.  Highly recommended!

 

True confession: Laura is a friend of mine and I had the privilege of having her as a guide at the Bonhoeffer Haus. Now reading her book, it is wonderful to see her writing match her enthusiasm in sharing in person, and the integrity with which she lives her life!

 

Posted in Spirituality

His Love Endures Forever

A psalm of thanksgiving and praise in the midst of struggle (very loosely based on Psalm 118). Written when my birthday and social distancing coincided.

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures for ever.

 

When I’m forced to stay at home on a beautiful spring day

I am thankful that green has just started to appear on the bushes and trees

outside my window.

What a wonderful reminder of seasons changing, and of new life appearing out of what looked dead.

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures for ever.

 

When I’m away from family and friends, and not able to celebrate with them in person

I am thankful for technology that allows us to connect from a distance. And beyond thankful for the many lives I’ve had the privilege of connecting with. What a joy, a blessing, and an encouragement every person is. What a gift to have so many people I miss being around!

Fun places around Berlin – we will be back!

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures for ever.

 

When fear and sadness and loss seem to take over, I am thankful I can be real with You. Your throne is a throne of grace and you invite me to come as I am. I am thankful you promise to be with me. I am thankful you are still God, and all this is not a surprise to you.

 

You are my God, and I will praise you;

    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures for ever.”

 

(Photo by Alexandru Dinca from Pexels)

Posted in Uncategorized

Books of 2019

The image above seemed appropriate since most of my reading happens on public transport 😉

 

Without further ado and in no particular order, here are some of my favourites from this past year.

 

BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue

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Find of the year! Happened to come across it on the bookshelf at our holiday cottage and loved it! Such an insightful depiction of life as an immigrant. Very moving and relatable for anyone who has lived cross-culturally.

 

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

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What a fascinating exploration of the different paths each of our lives might take if circumstances were just slightly different or we took different decisions in seemingly insignificant situations. For example: the doctor makes it before the snowstorm hits and the baby lives. Or he gets stuck and the story ends on page one. And so it continues. Entertaining and thought-provoking!

 

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr

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Beautiful and enthralling. In the midst of the horrors of WW2, two lives inexorably drift towards each other (and not in a love story kind of way).  A captivating story beautifully told.

 

BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE by Fredrik Backman

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Another year, another book by Fredrik Backman. And again, he did not disappoint. A wonderful story of hope, restoration and the difference each one of us can make. In true Backman style, all of the characters are multi-faceted and as the story unfolds, we understand more of what has shaped them and why they react in certain ways.

 

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWS by Thomas Hardy

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When you read the book after watching the movie and still love both, that has got to be a good sign! Somehow this classic had eluded me until now but I’m glad I finally discovered it! Lots of unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes you want to yell at the characters (which I reckon is a good thing) – highly recommend it!

 

GLOBAL HUMILITY by Andy McCullough

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You might have noticed that I read A LOT more fiction than non-fiction. However, each year there seems to be one non-fiction book that leaves a lasting impression. This is the one for 2019. It makes for challenging and at times uncomfortable reading but each topic is so worth wrestling with. Would be great to discuss as a team as well.

 

So there you have it – some of my 2019 highlights! And let me tell you, my reading for 2020 is off to a good start already 🙂

Any recommendations of things to read this year?

Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

Posted in Uncategorized

Free To Celebrate {The Grove: Party}

Today, I’m over at Velvet Ashes, reflecting on celebrating the good!

“Picture this. It is a cold December night in Berlin. Suddenly, as if on cue, people stream out from every building onto the streets. Most of them are armed with champagne and lots of fireworks. For a good half hour, it’s as if the whole city explodes. It’s midnight but the sky is brightly lit and it’s hard to know where to look first.

Are you with me? Are you picturing the scene? Ok, try again. Whatever you saw in your imagination likely wasn’t loud enough, crazy enough, scary enough, or breath-taking enough. Oh the fun it is to experience this with someone who has never spent New Year’s Eve in Germany! We try to prepare people, to tell them what to expect. But invariably, when midnight strikes, it goes far beyond anything they imagined! It seems all the cultural norms they had learned (like being quiet in public, not striking up conversations with strangers, not littering) no longer apply. The whole city, the whole country, is partying!

I always find it a bit jarring to go from a quiet, contemplative few days (in German, there is even an expression for it – “zwischen den Jahren,” meaning “between the years”) to that. And then, within a day or two, back to normal life.

Truth be told, I am more naturally drawn to the quiet, reflective times. Exuberant parties aren’t so much my thing. Yet as I’ve been reflecting on the contrasts this season brings, I’m beginning to wonder if they might be not so much contrasts but rather parts of a whole. ”

Read the rest of the post here!

Posted in Spirituality

The Gift of 30 Years

These past 30 years, they have been a gift. I know, life in and of itself is a gift. But these past 30 years? For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have been around to see them.

On 11 September 1989, I came so close to losing my life. It happened on a country road in Nigeria. We were travelling in a minibus very similar to the one in the photo. One of its tires burst, we came off the road and the car overturned.

From that point on, it was miracle after miracle. I was able to get to a hospital in the city, then back to Germany. I was able to get the treatment I needed to ensure I did not die of my injuries, and I even made a full recovery. None of that I take for granted. As the doctor said when I arrived at the hospital in my home town:”Someone must have been watching over you!”. Indeed.

What does one do with the gift of life, given a second time? Initially, everything was fresh and new and special, and oh so precious. It was a watershed moment, life was divided in before and after. That is good. It is good to be conscious that I don’t know how long I have, that none of us know how long we have. With time, normality took over again. Life flowed and built around the event. It will always be significant but is no longer defining. That is also good. Life is there to be lived. Not just in the dramatic moments but every bit as much in the humdrum of everyday life.

Yet as this anniversary comes around, it’s good to stop and reflect. It’s good to say

thank you for the gift of 30 years

(and hopefully many more).

There are many questions that remain unanswered. Why did the accident happen at all? I don’t know. Why did I live when Mark, who was also in the car, did not? I have no answer. I have no answer yet the words that were an immense source of strength and comfort for me in those first couple of days remain true:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38+39)

I finally left hospital on 9 November 1989. That very evening, the Berlin Wall fell. But that is a different story altogether.

 

Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Started (book review)

Sometimes you know a book will be good just because of who the author is.

Sometimes you get to have a few sneak peaks along the way and wish the whole book was already available.

Sometimes you even get to be part of the process in a tiny way, by contributing thoughts to some of the issues covered, and you can’t wait to read what others said.

And then the book arrives and it’s every bit as good as you’d hoped and expected.

This is one of those books!

Amy Young does a great job of painting a well-rounded picture of many of the dynamics people typically experience in their first year of living cross-culturally. She unpacks these enough to go beyond the headlines, without getting bogged down in too much detail. Just the right balance!

 

Added bonus: Amy includes a lot of real-life stories – shorter and longer quotes by a wide range of people, describing the highs and lows, joys and challenges of their first year living cross-culturally.

 

All in all, this book is an amazing resource for anyone who is about to move cross-culturally, who is in their first year overseas or who knows someone in that situation. Highly recommend it!

Posted in Uncategorized

An Activity To Help Returnees Bloom (at SPS)

Earlier this week, I was over at Small Planet Studio, sharing about a fun activity that helps you process major transitions:

Any gardeners among us?

I’m definitely not one! But I’ve got a fun and meaningful gardening and transition related activity that I think you’ll enjoy – whether or not you enjoy gardening!

Why don’t we go ahead and do this activity together right now? 

As I explain how to facilitate the activity, I’ll share a few snippets of my own reflections in italics.

 

Continue reading at Small Planet Studio!

Posted in cross-cultural, Member Care, re-entry

Ending Well

 

This is an amazing resource for anyone preparing to move back to their passport country! Ellen Rosenberger takes you into her and her family’s story of returning to the US, while also giving lots of really practical tips for doing transition well. Combining the two does not always work well but it very much does here!  I particularly enjoyed all the very creative ideas for saying goodbye well, and then (re-)engaging with the new place! The book also includes very useful lists of resources and action points both for those transitioning and for those welcoming them back. Highly recommend it!