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, 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

Posted in Spirituality, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Let Us Go

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  (Luke 2:15 + 16)

Sometimes I wonder what became of the shepherds after this event. What were they thinking during those 30ish years that Jesus was not in the public eye? Did they talk to each other about the experience, wondering if it was even real?

And later, did they go to hear him teach? Did they come to him with their needs, with sick family members?

Were they there at his crucifixion? Did they see him after his resurrection?

Did any of them join his first band of followers?

We don’t know. Maybe some of them did. I hope so!

“Let us go!” would have looked so different in those seasons. No angels telling them where to go. Maybe no community to share the experience with, giving each other courage.

Instead the distractions of everyday life. The worries, the fears, the busyness. But also the memory of what happened. The longing to see him again. Wondering what it meant that he was the Saviour, the Messiah, as the angel had said.

What about you? What about me? What season are we in? What does “Let us go!” look like right now?

Sometimes it’s so full of excitement, of wonder. Other times it’s sheer discipline. Sometimes it feels like I’m clinging on for dear life (only to discover it’s Him holding me, not the other way around).

In some seasons, it takes a lot of courage. Going into a new place, a new culture, a new language. Being away from those I’m used to journeying with. Or realising He is calling me to new ways of coming to Him.

I wonder what happened to those shepherds. I wonder if any of them followed him. I hope so!

In the midst of challenges, of busyness, of questions, of great joy – let us go! Alone and in community – let us go! Today. This Christmas. Whatever that might look like for each of us right now.

 

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, 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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