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 Uncategorized

Flying Alone

heathrow goodbye

Heathrow Terminal 5.  One last look around WH Smith.  Anything I’ve forgotten to buy?  What can I not get back in Berlin?  Cadbury’s Dairy Milk are on special.  Definitely need to get some of those!

And then on to the gate, waiting to return to my other life. A week of wonderful times with friends, of visiting old haunts, of reliving my old life, comes to an end.  Another world awaits me.

Flying alone can be hard.  And boring, but that’s not the point.  It’s more the sense of completely leaving behind a very special week, because no one can share those memories with me.  This is how someone else expressed this dynamic:

  One friend wrote that the hardest part for her is flying alone. Not because I don’t have the ability or because I’m afraid, but because it highlights the fact that no matter where I go, there is no person that is consistent in my life. Sitting at an airport gate by yourself can be lonely for anyone. However, I agree with my friend. When you’re a single missionary, it’s a deeper loneliness than simply not having someone to chat with while you wait for your flight. It’s the knowledge that you are leaving one “home” for your other “home,” and no one is making this transition with you. Your two “lives” are consistent, but you are the only one who lives them both.

(http://continualtransition.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/our-perspective-returning-to-north-america/)

Today, I am feeling this a lot.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Yellow Dress

Let me introduce you to another one of my favourite blogs: The Yellow Dress  Check it out!

It was Just Another Night in the Middle East

For a few months, I lived alone in the Middle East. I mostly loved it. [If Roommate is reading—you know I missed ya, girl.] But all the bills and maintenance were left to me. So, my guard, Mohammad [it’s his real name, but there’s no point in changing it] is this younger—my age-ish—man who I think is pretty handsome. Whenever I need something I just text him the number “6.” Within minutes he’ll be sheepishly ringing the doorbell. Usually I fling the door open and greet him like a circus clown, so excited that he’s here to fix my problem! [Side story: For maybe 4 times straight, I requested his presence because the light in my kitchen was out. And probably all 4 of those times, once I coaxed him into my door, after he propped the door open, and I stood in the kitchen flipping the light switch on and off , saying in Arabic, “I need help, ya Mohammad. There is a problem. See? There is a problem. I need help.” He would stand on a chair, tap the light bulb and… it magically went on. (Whoopsies.)]

Lucky for him, I was always baking cookies.

Anyways, on this particular night, my kitchen light was in good working order [I know, right?!] and I didn’t even text him—he came to me! I was making cookies [shocker] and as I put on a long-sleeved cardigan, scarf and sweatpants to cover my shorts and tank top, I opened the door to find that he had a bunch of bills in his hand. I could usually decipher what I was paying. I just looked for the drops of rain and knew that one was water, and electricity, well, that was the other one. But tonight he wanted me to understand something.

Let’s be honest here for one little minute: I didn’t really care. It was always about the same, relatively small amount. I just gave him the money and he went to the offices and paid the bills for me. He’d bring back whatever change there was. Easy. Finally! One thing in my life here is easy!!!

But ooohhhh, nooooo. Handsome Muhammad [can I call him that?] wants to mess everything up. We both start off with perfect attention and smiles of hope. He props open the door and keeps hitting the light in the hallway to stay on. I get my wallet and give him the amount on the bill, but he signals me to wait and listen to him. I ask him, in Arabic, “You know I don’t know what you’re saying, right?” He laughs, nods his head, motions for my silence and continues. [Oh. This is serious.] I try giving him double the amount, thinking that I didn’t pay last month, or that they’re changing it or something. [Whatever. Fix it. Want a cookie, Muhammad?]

So we proceed to stand there, talking over each other in our own languages, me trying to shove money on him, telling him he is a good man, that I trust him, and him wanting me to get it. [Since when?!]

Finally I stop him and say, “Mohammad. Come, eat a cookie. [I’m so Arab. The answer is always to eat!] I’ll call my friend.” He succumbs to three warm, chocolate chip cookies for all his trouble and I call my go-to Middle Eastern/American “father.” He’s fluent.

No answer.

Ok, I call his best American friend. No answer.

I call the only Western man I know within 3 miles of my house. No answer.

Great. [Ya know how I’ve been talking about the no husband thing? And how I have to swallow my pride and ask for help? Well, three men are unreachable. What if I was being kidnapped?!]

Then I proceed to call another American guy who just so happened to score an “advanced low” on his Arabic language skills. Congratulations to him, he’s getting a phone call from me.

“Hi Daniel,” [we’ll call him Daniel], “This is Sarah. Can you translate for me? I’ve got my guard here and he’s eating all my cookies and won’t take my money.”

Laughing, “Uh, sure, Sarah. Put him on,” came Daniel’s response.

“Ok! Thanks! His name is Mohammad,” I say.

Mohammad happily takes my telephone and I stand there. They talk and talk and talk and finally Mohammad hands me the phone with an expectant look on his face. Daniel explains that I need to pay the money and some other small circumstance that I can’t even remember now, and I yell, teasingly, at Mohammad, in English: “Ya Mohammad!! Why didn’t you just say so!!?!” Daniel’s on the phone laughing and Mohammad just laughs, shakes his head at me and helps himself to two more cookies.

Moral of the Story:
If you semi-epic-fail at speaking the language,
and asking for help doesn’t necessarily work,
just bribe and reward those around you
with possibly the best part of being American:
Chocolate Chip Cookies.

It worked for me.

And it was just another night in the Middle East.