Given

“What is one thing that you have given up that has been hard to let go of? What have you sacrificed to live here?” she asked, leaning on my kitchen table with a cup of coffee in her hand.

I am not quick with answers to questions like that.
Maybe I just plod along, rarely thinking deep. Maybe it’s hard to come up with just one answer. Maybe I was just distracted with the Christmas cookie making. What IS the ONE THING that I’ve felt my fingers pried away from?

“I don’t know,” I answered. And then I stewed about it for a week.

Finally it came to me. It has been hard for me to give up ANONYMITY. Another way of saying it is independence, or people not caring what I do, or me time. It is hard when it feels like my life is the play that everyone is watching. Well actually, now that I say that, I like it when I’m the center of attention. So what is it exactly that gets under my skin?

I realize that it is difficult for me to give up anonymity, because I want to fritter away my “me time”. I wish no one cared if I played endless rounds of candy crush (as long as Ezra is napping and they boys are done with school).

I want to spend too much money without the crowd noticing.

I want to be able to take vacations without someone caring. In my “home” culture, people brag about their vacations on facebook. But, for us, living in a place where no one takes a vacation, it is noteworthy. Our coworkers are overstressed and overworked in a job that they feel cannot be given to anyone else (even for a few months of sabbatical). So when we took a sabbatical, or when we want to fly to another city to vacation for a week it is not taken lightly.

So that’s my THING. What is yours? What are the things that you have had to give up in order to be a better servant? Do you feel the chafe? Does the sacrifice wear on you? How do you let it go?

__________________

I’ve had seven posts in various stages of “done-ness” sitting in my drafts folder for over a month. I don’t know why I’ve had a hard time pushing send. I’ve decided it’s time to stop letting them simmer. They are done enough, even if they aren’t quite right yet. So here is me…pushing…send.

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Minimalist Baby gear

We bring everything to our mountain home by motorbike. Because of that it has caused me to rethink what baby things are necessary, which things are nice to help keep our sanity, and what things are really only clutter.

  1. Somewhere for baby to sleep. We have a borrowed pack n play. All my babies have slept in them. I don’t love them because…ugly. But, I always end up giving in to the practicality. We also have a few sheets, blankets, a wool waterproof pad, and a mosquito net.
  2. Somewhere to bathe the baby. We have a plastic tub inside the shower.
  3. Baby food gear. For us it’s a small metal bowl, a camping spoon, a blender, and a pot. We don’t even need a bib since it’s warm enough to just strip him down. We just bought a sippy cup that he’s learning to use.
  4. A baby carrier. I LOVE my Ergo.
  5. Diapers. We use cloth diapers (Flips) in the village, disposable when we are traveling. We also have a plastic lidded bucket for the dirties, cloth wipes and bottom spray, and we already had a “diaper” sprayer.
  6. Clothes. We get away with a few rompers, a few long sleeve pajamas and pants, and a few pairs of socks. It’s nice not to need much.
  7. Toiletries. We have baby soap, saline spray, baby Motrin, a snot sucker, chest rub, eucalyptus oil, a thermometer, and Medicine Mama’s sweet bee magic.

Non necessities that we have because we were given them, or because it helps our sanity.

  1. Toys. Ez likes the plastic clip rings, his bear, and Duplos. Period. Well he also loves anything that isn’t a toy like potatoes, pot lids, string, or trash. But we have Sophie, other squishy toys, board books, and cars if he ever decides to play with them.
  2. High chair. Sure we could feed him on the floor like we did for the first while.  But it’s nice to have somewhere that he stays put.
  3. Baby hammock. This isn’t so much for me, as it is for the ladies who help around the house. They don’t like to hear a baby crying on his own in a crib, and they love bouncing Ez to sleep…the hammock is a win for them.
  4. Baby book. I TRY to keep track of the milestones that so quickly go wizzing by.

I realize that everyone’s definition of minimal is different, and that actually our baby gear is quite extensive compared to our neighbors. Baby prep in the village mostly involves buying a bunch of sarongs, some baby soap and eucalyptus oil, and maybe buying or making a baby hammock. The sarongs serve as clothes, blankets, diapers, and carriers for the first months.

Is there anything that I’ve forgotten? Any gear that you think we should add?

 Life. Daily.

What our daily life looks like in our village home.

Ezra and Jude wake up before the chickens. Literally. We sit Ezra in his high chair in front of the open door. He watches the dawn, and the chickens flying down out of their tree.

Jude reads cartoons in his bed until six. OCCASIONALLY he will fall asleep again.

Then it is time for Breakfast. On this morning we eat a sailors’ breakfast of “hardtack”, salted meat, and cheese. We are studying explorers in History. Ezra enjoys papaya, sweet potato, oatmeal, or rice.

Next it’s time to get ready for school. Which mostly just means brushing teeth, clearing off their desks, and folding their blankets. Then school. Dad teaches Bible and then Science. 

Then it is mom’s turn. If Ezra is napping, it is relatively easy to read through history, help Jude with his daily five, and oversee Grey. If he is not, it gets more complicated. 

Michael begins language study around eight. He might walk to the village, or he might have a friend come by to study with him. His schedule is another post for another day.


We usually finish school by eleven. I will either quickly prepare something, or if I have help, the ladies will. They will wash dishes, wash clothes (and the cloth diapers), mop, and cook. It is SO much nicer when they are around. 
After lunch the boys will often go swimming.


I might be able to get some language study in. Sometimes I rest while Ezra is napping. When it’s dry season we would probably go visiting. But, since its slippery, slick rainy season, we hang around the house. 

Our house becomes the play zone for all of the kids coming home from school.

It gets dark at six, we turn on the generator, eat dinner, and watch a movie. At eight we turn off the generator, and go to bed. Bed comes early in the dark jungle after a full day.

Stuck.

Have you ever felt stuck? Stuck in a time, a place, a habit?

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or the waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting. NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr.Seuss


When we came back to Asia, we were ready to get things done baby. Let’s adjust. Get back into language study. Finish language study. Do the “real” work. Get IT done. Bam. 

But as soon as we got within striking range of our goals, they all seemed to take a step backwards just out of reach. We had to stay in the city for security concerns, then we had to stay in the city until after the major holiday, then we had to stay in the city while Michael went to a teachers conference, then last minute Michael had to buy a ticket and fly to the capital city to have a visa problem fixed, then we had to go through the PROCESS of getting our driver’s licenses renewed…and then we had already been stuck in the city for a month.

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. God made everything with a place and purpose…Guilt is banished through love and truth….We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it….bits of Proverbs 16

All of the sudden most of the things holding us back cleared (I still don’t have a drivers license in hand), and we rushed to our mountain home. I can’t say that all of the frustration magically disappeared as soon as we left the city. In the mountains we have people around every day so we can easily hear their language and see their culture being played out in each tiny way. But, that doesn’t mean that the words and the customs magically seep into my brain and heart making me talk and act like one of my friends. It still takes intentional work. LOTS OF IT. I can feel stuck here in my babbling, stumbling version of their language. 


Now we are back in the city with more visa work, and two trips.

Will I CHOOSE to trust even though it looks like we are wasting time getting stuck here and there along the path. Will I trust that God is directing? I’m learning in the waiting places  that God has a place and a purpose for this too.

Adjustments

I felt the crush of people surrounding us, taking our picture.


I remember when we first landed in North America I looked over a sea of people expecting to immediately be able to see Michael, but he blended in with all of the other tall, light skinned people. It felt strange to blend in. 

We got used to it, though.

Now we are back to the crowds of darker and shorter Asians, and we stick out again. While we waited for a flight, the snack stand lady grabbed Ezra’s foot and then rubbed her belly (hoping his whiteness would “rub off” on her unborn baby). When our flight was called we stood up with the crush of people also wanting to get on the flight (no “zones” here). We felt so conspicuous with our overstuffed luggage, and our glowingly white skin. It seemed like everyone around us was talking about us (I could understand, but pretended I couldn’t). Several had their phones out taking our picture. After finally crowding our way onto the airplane, and sitting down, the kids in the row in front of us and behind us immediately stood up on their seats and watched us until take-off. Before long I noticed a cell phone pushed between the seats. When we landed and waited for our luggage we had ten teenagers surrounding the boys, teasing them into letting them take the boys’ picture. It feels so uncomfortable to stand out. 

It is taking some getting used to.

We were used to the sweat. We were used to the hunt that we call grocery shopping (four stores, a market, a roadside stand, and a bakery all to fill a simple list). We were used to the attention. We were used to the last minute plan changes and uncertainty. 

After being away for a year, though, it feels newly uncomfortable. It is hard to be uncomfortable. It is not fun to bear the weight of so many eyes. But, as we navigate life with seemingly EVERYONE watching, it reminds me to live an exlempary life in this world that isn’t my home.

Build your RAFT my son

Our family moves. A LOT. Friends come and go in our lives. A LOT. Changes happen. A LOT.

We have several strategies that help our family navigate the changes. If you move as much as we do, maybe they’ll help you. Or if you’ve never moved, but your kids are anticipating a change (maybe a school year with a new teacher or new classmates) maybe these strategies will help.

The book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Dave Pollock and Ruth Van Reken gave me words that helped us solidify our process. The authors devoted a chapter to leaving well. They recommended building a RAFT as a process of saying goodbye. RAFT stands for  

Reconciliation | Affirmation | Farewell | Think Destination.

Jude will miss his cousins, house, and jumping on the trampoline.

Reconciliation. Right before this last move one of my kids was hurt by a close friend. “Mom he was mean to me” was hard for me to hear. But, keeping reconciliation in mind, I said, “sometimes when we are getting ready to leave it makes our friends sad, and when they are sad they can be mean. Forgive him.” They are still young so it’s easy to forget and move on. Even so, reconciliation is a very important step in leaving well. Being at peace with ourselves, our friends and family, and the place we are leaving is important. I don’t want my memories to be of how grumpy I felt in the hot weather, or how annoying the traffic was, or how irritating a person was…I want to be at peace.

A sweet goodbye present for Jude

Affirmation. I am a third culture kid who has a hard time opening myself up. Sure, I can have a million friends, but rarely will I have one that goes deep. Usually when it comes close to time to say goodbye, I insulate myself. I decided years upon years ago that I wouldn’t cry, and so I don’t. It’s hard to change these long held patterns, but I try to dive in to relationships even if I know that it will only be for a short time. I try to encourage my kids to let their friends and family know how much they mean to them before they leave. Each of us attempts to acknowledge our special friends, and the wonderful experiences that happened to us while we were with them.

A sweet scrapbook created by our friends


Farewell. Last time we left I had the boys give small gifts and goodbye letters to each of their friends when we said farewell. But, this time I had a hard time getting anything together. We were blessed, though, by special friends who created photo albums, painted pictures, and helped stuff the boys backpacks with fun things.

Enjoying treats from the backpack after a long trip

Think Destination. Before we leave, we talk about the benefits (and shortcomings) of the place we are leaving. We also talk about the place we will be going. This conversation often continues for weeks, even after we have arrived.  I often find myself saying “you know you don’t have to pick one place over the other. Both have good things.” Just yesterday Grey said, “There are positives and negatives about here and about America. Here we don’t have to wear seat belts, but it is hot and there is a lot of trash. In America there are lots of toys, even in all of the stores, but we have to wear seat belts.” 

Change is a hard part of our life. The life is still worth it though. We are doing what we feel called to do. Not only that, but the boys get to experience the wide wonderful world.

Chicken Knowledge

“Chickens. They have wings, feet, necks, beaks (peck, peck, peck, peck).
When they are laying an egg they say, “ge, ge, get it out.”
–J man explaining what he knows about chickens (but, the ge, ge, get it out joke is originally from his brother)

We have an eager young hen.
Several months ago she layed about eight eggs. We re-appropriated seven, thinking that perhaps she would keep laying. Being eager, our hen did not keep laying, instead she decided to sit on her one lonely egg.

She had picked a prime nesting box for her eggs. The hot real estate was soon invaded by other hens who mixed their eggs in. Soon the eager young hen had quite a few eggs under her…but with different setting times.

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