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

The Annoying Question That Turns out to Be a Gift

„Why are you single?”

If I had a penny for every time I was asked that question, I’d be rich by now!

 

Right now, I live in a place that’s full of single people (almost 50% of Berlin households). Around here, I am not odd. Well, I probably am in lots of ways but not for being single. It used to be a very different story. For a number of years, I lived in a South Asian community in England. In that context, there were no single women around. Girls got married at a young age and generally started having children pretty soon after that. I was the odd one out. In many ways – but the thing that my friends had the hardest time getting their heads around was my singleness. There was no category for me. And so the questions came. Sometimes that was annoying, often hard. I’d always wanted to be married, have a family. A real, honest answer to their questions would have been painful and very vulnerable. I wasn’t always ready to go there. Not with everyone, not in every context. At the same time, I didn’t want to give a glib answer. One that was maybe correct but not always real in my life. And so I fumbled through.

It was only years later that a friend encouraged a group of us to enter into that question more deeply. We were all serving (or preparing to serve) cross-culturally. Our backgrounds were diverse – we were from Eastern and Western Europe, and the Middle East. Mostly women but also some men. My friend, who was leading us through this, was from Eastern Europe herself and for many years had served as a single lady in a neighbouring country. And it was hard. There weren’t many single women around. Certainly not in ministry. And so the questions came, as they had for me and for so many of us. Eventually she realised it wasn’t enough to find peace in her own heart with being single (important though that was). She also longed to respond to the ever-present questions in a way that satisfied her own heart and faith, that reflected God’s love and care for every person, married or single, and that caused her audience “to bless God for her” (as my friend put it).

What an amazing way to think about this! Those awkward questions are actually a gift and an opportunity! An opportunity (and an invitation) for me to wrestle more deeply with God about my own doubts, fears and insecurities. And an opportunity to speak words of hope and healing into hearts that are equally as broken and vulnerable as my own. Because isn’t that what’s really behind many of those question. Am I enough? Whether single or married, we all ask that question.

That question, that oh so annoying question, can help open the vista beyond the immediate, the culturally strange. It can be an opportunity to share about identity, about worth, about God’s care. Beyond marital status, gender, success – the value of a person created in the image of God!

I still don’t have the perfect answer, and maybe I never will. That’s ok. It’s a journey. But I do look at those questions quite differently now.

 

If you are single, how do you answer this question in your context? If you’re married, how do you respond to comments or questions about your team mate’s singleness?

 

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

 

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

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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.

 

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 cross-cultural

5 Lessons I’ve Learned From Connection Groups

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A few days ago, I was over at Velvet Ashes, talking about the beauty and blessing of connection, and particularly their Connection Groups.

When I returned to my passport country after 16 years overseas, I knew it probably wouldn’t be plain sailing. I thought I was prepared for that. After all, I’d read books about re-entry, been to seminars – even taught about it and walked through it with other people! I should have been good at this re-entry thing. Well, here I was, four years in, and things weren’t going the way I had expected. True, there was much I loved about my new place and life. Yet thinking about what I’d left behind was still oh-so-painful. It was messy, and I was tired.

Read more here

Posted in cross-cultural, The Grove Velvet Ashes

The Grove: Thank You

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As a nation, we are more known for pointing out what is wrong than for expressing gratitude.  Famous quote at the end of an international conference:”You put us Germans in a very uncomfortable position – there was nothing to complain about!” 🙂

So to see the whole country stop just to say thank you and to celebrate is quite something!  Yet it is what happened earlier this month when Germany was marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There was gratitude, there was joy, there was celebration.

As I was reflecting on the event, it struck me just how important it is even in the midst of challenges to stop and to remember all those reasons we have to be grateful.  There were and there still are a lot of challenges that came out of the events of 9 November 1989, and they do need to be talked about.  But this was not the time for that.  This was the time to remember the miracle and to be thankful.

The question is: will I remember this lesson in everyday life or will the challenges again crowd out the gratitude?

Velvet Ashes: The Grove

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