Thursday, December 29, 2011

Easier to Give or to Receive?

As a cross-cultural servant, I feel comfortable being a giver.  I came to the Middle East to share, to give, and to serve, but often God turns things around and puts me in the position of receiving.  I don’t quite know how to handle receiving from those we came to serve. It doesn’t feel as natural to me, but I’m learning.

Last weekend I received a gift that brought tears to my eyes.  Our small fellowship had a party to share the Christmas message with friends.  We planned games, food, and a program.  Before the party started, I was tired from all the preparation and feeling a bit anxious inside. Would any of our mslm friends come?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

When You Feel Far from Home

  
Here is a taste from my home that touched my heart.


Do you feel far from home this holiday season?  For many cross-cultural servants, Christmas can be a bittersweet time. You may feel twinges of loneliness as you long for friends and family from home, wherever that is.  Many of us are not even sure anymore where home is!  You might feel special joy over celebrating together with the “family” God has given you where you are.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holding up under Holiday Crunch?

I have a confession to make. I can’t wait for December to be over!  Whew! I said it. Is that a terrible thing to say or what?

I’m carrying around a mile long Christmas to-do list in my mind. I haven’t organized myself enough to sit and write it down, but it looks like getting ready for Christmas could be a full time job.

Together with two other families, we will host a Christmas celebration on December 25th in our home for Chrstn and Mslm friends. We plan to have food, games, and a short Christmas program of carols, a dramatic reading of the Christmas story, and a brief message. This week my husband and I will deliver invitations to friends, a team mate and I will meet to finish planning the celebration, my son and I will rehearse music, and our family will prepare an enactment of the Christmas story! Of course I can’t forget shopping and food preparation.  Sound familiar to any of you out there?

I’m excited and joyful over this opportunity to serve, but I’m also hoping I won’t be stressed out over having 30-40 people in my living room. And I don't want to be so busy taking advantage of Christmas as an opportunity to share Christ that I neglect to celebrate it with my own family and make it special for them.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

What's That Tree in Your Living Room?


“I like your New Year’s tree,” says my neighbor as we sit drinking coffee in my living room.  “You have it up so early, too.”

“Um, thanks,” I say, “We actually put up the tree to celebrate Christmas.”

“Christmas!” she responds, “We celebrate it too on December 31st.”

I go on to tell my neighbor that we celebrate the birth of our Savior on December 25th, and that it’s a different celebration than New Year’s Eve. I try to explain in a few words what it means to me. I also feel pretty foolish because there’s not a tangible connection between Christ’s birth and the green tree with the lights and decorations I have in my living room.  It really does look more like a New Year’s Tree. My neighbor is right!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Life Every Day!

My advent wreath, Swedish candelabra, and a quilt made by my mom, grandma and aunt.


Traditions from Home

My Texas mama, who spent all her life in the West Texas desert city of El Paso, is far away from Izmir-on- the-Aegean.  Mom calls her house Casa Rosa. It’s a beautiful place filled with Southwest art treasures and has a glorious view of the stark, cactus-dotted Franklin Mountain.  Casa Rosa is a far cry from Özgür 2 Sitesi, our 9 story apartment dwelling across the street from a strip of kebap restaurants, but nevertheless, I carry Mom’s presence with me here.

I hold many things I learned from her inside me, and one is celebration.  Mom decorated the house for every holiday. I remember valentines and gifts at the breakfast table on February 14th, and clover on St. Patrick’s Day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Better Late than Never Thanksgiving!



Our Salvadoran American family will have its traditional, one-day-late, Friday night Thanksgiving celebration here in Turkey with British, Mexican, Belgian, Brazilian, and Turkish friends. Being far away from home and family makes it important to create our own traditions. Every year my daughter and I make homemade decorations. Our guests write what they’re thankful for on red, yellow and orange paper leaves to hang on our Thanksgiving tree. I have happy memories of our past Thanksgivings in Turkey, and some disasters behind me as well, such as the year I burned holes in all my tablecloths with candle place settings! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Most Urgent Thing We Can Do: Rest!


The moment I’d been looking forward to all day was finally here.  I was just sitting back to put my feet up and listen to some soft music when the doorbell rang.  It was a repairman, who arrived to install our new hot water heater at JUST the moment I was planning on spending a 10 minute mini-retreat to focus on God’s presence.

I felt exasperated as I answered the door and showed him to the bathroom. Should I wait until the installation was over to take my mini-retreat? Or should I sit down and listen to my soft music anyway, despite hammering, drilling noises in the background?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pet Peeves and Blessings

My daughter points out the electrical wiring hanging off our
living room wall. Should I  hang flowers on it?

Recently my car broke down on a busy street while I was driving. The transmission suddenly stopped working, and the car wouldn’t move, no matter how much gas I gave it. A kind Turkish amca (uncle) offered to push it, but I was scared to death he’d get hit by another car. Two weeks and $350 later, the very same thing happened again to my husband.  Only I was away at a five day retreat, and it was the first day of the Sacrifice Festival, which meant all repair shops would be closed for four days.  I couldn’t believe it when he called me.  All these years I’ve been the one at home alone with the kids and things breaking down while HE travels...
Yesterday was my first day back home after an amazing retreat time and the first business day after the holiday. A tow truck finally came to transport our car to the shop, but it broke down, so my husband had to wait for a second truck. Then our hot water heater broke, so repairmen hauled it away to fix it. The whisk I used while cooking dinner broke in my hand, and when I laid down next to my daughter to kiss her goodnight, her bed partially collapsed.  (I’m really not THAT overweight!)

Friday, November 4, 2011

People over Projects

Our Visit to Zehra

Effective Cross-Cultural Servant

I still smile as I remember 60 year old Roy, a gray haired gringo in jeans, cowboy boots and plaid shirts in Monterrey, Mexico.  He spoke Spanish with a strong American accent, and he looked more like a Texas rancher than like the Mexican professionals he worked with. I was back in America after two years in the Middle East, and Roy invited me to speak on Middle Eastern culture and Islm to his young professionals group. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but with youthful zeal and ignorance, I judged Roy at first glance.  He looked and sounded just like an American. Surely he hadn’t had much cross-cultural training. 

I was wrong.  It didn’t take long to see how much the Mexican young people in his group loved him. A young woman told me “Oh, I just love Roy. He’s like a second father.  He’s one of us.  Anytime I stop by his office, he’s ready to set aside his word and talk to me.  He never says, ‘I’m busy.’  He just puts aside his work and smiles.” To her his accent and cowboy clothes didn’t matter.  What mattered was that he had time for her.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Inner or Outer Beauty?

The last time I wore the infamous 10 year dress


Turkish women know how to take care of themselves. They have their legs waxed, facial hair removed, eyebrows shaped and their hair styled at the salon. There is a kuaför on every corner. They do their nails and have perfect pedicures. They pay careful attention to their makeup and wear nice clothes, shoes, and accessories. 

This can leave a casual American woman feeling frumpy. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Don't Leave Your Kids Behind

photo courtesy of 9sn.net


When my husband and I got on a plane to move to the Middle East ten years ago, we wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving our kids behind.

I remember my 5 year old son’s reaction to Friday noon prayers as we passed by a mosque during our first month here. Hearing Arabic prayers belting out over loudspeakers and seeing rows of men bowed over prayer rugs galvanized him.  He grabbed my arm and yelled, “Mom, what are they doing? What’s that sound?”


I did a guest post this week for a new blogging friend, and here it is.  Missional Mama is a great resource for homeschooling mothers who are overseas.

Have a great week!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Favorite Turkish Soup


What is October like in your part of the globe? Is it fall or spring where you live? In our Aegean city, it’s pure joy to be able to spend time outdoors without dripping sweat now that summer is finally over. We're enjoying cool sunny weather and occasional rain.  Another thing I enjoy about fall is making soup again. 
Turks are masters in the art of slow food, and soup is an important part of their repertoire. I remember my Turkish “mother” 20 years ago in Istanbul. She spent 4 to 5 hours daily preparing food for her family.  It was literally her life occupation, one she enjoyed. As much as I loved her food, I don’t want to be in the kitchen for 5 hours! Labor intensive cooking every day does not fit my lifestyle, but I do share with Turks a love for soup.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Holding on to God-Sized Dreams

What are you dreaming about or hoping for?  

I love the challenge of God-sized dreams, dreams God puts in our hearts that we cannot possibly bring about in our own strength.  They require God’s miraculous intervention.  God seems to specialize in calling us to do things that are beyond our own capabilities.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What Was Your name? Mine is Mud!


Overseas living gives us plenty of opportunities to laugh at ourselves. After all, it is humbling to move overseas and suddenly find that in your new country you're less competent than most children. Sometimes even grasping people’s names when you meet them is difficult, let alone trying to have a conversation afterwards. So for me, it’s therapeutic to be able to enjoy a good laugh, even at my own expense.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Avoiding Overload


After a relaxing summer, I’m back to busy days and home school, back to the six o’clock witching hour when the kids and I are edgy and tired and I’m trying to get dinner on the table, back to racing to get it all done, trying to juggle ministry and home life. Back to looking at how to avoid overloading myself.

Are women in cross-cultural ministry particularly susceptible to overload?  Household tasks are often more complicated. Language study and Hospitality take time. Stress levels are high during the first few years of adaptation. Like most women, I’m into multi tasking: I make phone calls while I cook dinner and work on school planning when my family watches TV. Soon I find myself falling into the trap of thinking I have to fill every moment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making Room for God in my Busy Life


What does your life look like right now?

In September, the learning curve is always high for me, and this year is no different.  My son is starting 9th grade, and all of a sudden home school looms large. I’m also preparing a 5 week seminar on spiritual growth that starts September 26th.  Add in time for family, friends, and outreach, and I’m left feeling a bit stressed.

Last summer I spent free time studying and preparing ten hours of material about spiritual growth. I enjoyed the preparation, but now as the date draws closer and my schedule is looking busier, I’m wondering, "Why did I say yes to this? After all this preparation, will more than 5 people come?"  I’m laughing at myself for getting stressed out over a seminar about cultivating our relationship with God.   Hmm, do I see a contradiction here??

Ten years of Middle Eastern experience tell me that either 20 or 2 people could come to the seminar I worked hard to prepare, but for me it doesn’t matter. Because the person who stands to benefit the most from this seminar is ME. The time I spent preparing encouraged and challenged me to revisit making my own relationship with God a priority. What am I doing to invest in my own spiritual growth?

Here are elements of cultivating a relationship with God in daily life that I’m rediscovering:

1.      Daily Time with God
In 25 years as a follower of Christ, I haven’t found a better way to grow spiritually.  My time reading scripture and drinking coffee is my favorite part of the day, even on those mornings when all I can manage is to stare at the page with bleary eyes!

2.      Gratitude List  
I started this last summer after I saw lists popping up everywhere on the web.  Every morning I review the previous day and jot down things I’m thankful for. This discipline helps me to notice many blessings from God I might have previously overlooked. (I’m finally reading the book myself.)

3.      “Practicing God’s Presence”
Last summer I revisited my all time favorite Christian book. I love this modern version of the classic by Brother Lawrence. I’m inspired by the thought of enjoying continual fellowship with God through the hustle and bustle of busy days. 


Favorite quote: “As Brother Lawrence continued his work, he kept up his close and easy conversation with his Maker, asking for grace along the way while making his work an offering.”


4.  Scripture Memory
After leaving this aside for many years, last summer I was challenged by Ann Voskamp's post and her thought provoking question: "Who memorizes God in the age of Google?" I worked on memorizing Ephesiasns 1:3-14.


5.     Prayer with my husband 
Sometimes it is rushed or pushed aside, but most mornings, we manage to fit in 10 minutes of prayer together before breakfast.

6.      Family time to worship and read the Bible 
It’s time for true confessions: over the summer we let this slide. Changing schedules, late nights, and the absence of routine made consistency difficult. Now that school has started we are back on the road.

What about you?  Do any of these ideas resonate with you?  What is your favorite way to make room for God in the midst of busy life?  

Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Handle Kids Who’d Rather Eat Cacık than Captain Crunch

Shh.  Can I tell you a secret? My kids hate Captain Crunch.  In fact they don’t want to eat breakfast cereal. Period.  Not even Lucky Charms.  But they love stuffed grape leaves and eggplant. (Not for breakfast, of course.)




Last week I wrote about the privileges and problems of Third Culture Kids.  Here is more about our experience and approach to helping our kids adjust.

Our Experience:

After living in Turkey 7 years, our family decided to go back “home” to America in 2009 for a whole year to get my husband’s US citizenship. I dreaded the stress it would mean for our family, but I expected our kids to be excited.  I was shocked to realize that neither of them wanted to go.  What pre-teen wants to leave his friends to move half way around the world?


Back in America my daughter cried every night the first month, saying that she wanted to go home, but slowly the kids adjusted to a new life and made friends. Thanks to a supportive family, church, and home school group, we had a positive experience.


About the time we got acclimated to life in America, it was time to turn around and come back to Turkey. Going through re-entry culture shock twice in two years was tough, but it drew our family closer together.


What We’re Learning About Helping Our Kids Adapt:


1. Be proactive in communicating with your kids about their experience. 
Listen to them if they express sadness about leaving family and home behind. Validate their feelings.  Ask them what is difficult for them and what they like about their new country.


2. Help them maintain relationships with family back home.
It takes effort, but out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind.  Our kids call my mother about once a week. E-mail and Facebook help them connect with other family members.


3. Nurture a solid family environment.
Family dinners and devotional times help us to reconnect nightly. Sometimes we do weekly games nights, anything to make spending time together a priority.


4. Preserve family traditions for a sense of continuity
What are your traditions?  We celebrate Thanksgiving with the same international group of friends every year. We eat pancakes every Sunday.


5. Hang in there if your child is struggling
I used to agonize if one of my kids had a problem or difficulty adjusting.  With time, I’ve learned to hang in there and keep praying.  Easier times are usually around the corner.


6. Avoid the expatriate bubble
In our early days I made lots of effort to get together with local moms and their kids, and we sent our children to Turkish pre-school. Now my kids are home schooled, but my son goes to taekwondo three times a week, and my daughter has almost daily practice with her synchronized ice skating team.  


7. Promote appreciation for the national culture in your home.
When we find ourselves or our kids criticizing Turks, we try to stop and remind ourselves and them that different is not necessarily better. 


8. Emphasize the positive
Don’t worry that you’re messing up your kids. Undoubtedly God will use their TCK experience to shape them into the unique individuals He created them to be. One study comparing Japanese TCKs with children born and raised in Japan concluded that “the TCKs were more self-confident, had more flexible minds, were more active and curious, and had a higher bilingual ability.” Celebrate the unique opportunities your kids have!


Question: How are your kids doing? What has worked for your family in helping them adjust?


You might also enjoy: Messing Up My Kids?




Friday, September 2, 2011

Two Global Nomads Growing Up Under My Roof!



My son is an honorary member of a rare Turkish believing family.  Andres and his friend Ege are like two peas in a pod. He eats dinner at Ege’s most Sunday nights.  He learned to plain yogurt with raw garlic for Ege’s mom. He has the privilege of sitting in while she reads scripture to her boys after dinner. When Andres spends the night there in the summertime, the boys escape the heat of the apartment to sleep outside on the balcony floor, drifting off despite the blaring television on the balcony next door.


TCK’s


Andres is a Third Culture Kid, just like my daughter Camille. They are growing up “between worlds,” in a culture different from mine. 

Last summer I picked up the book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken. As I leafed through it, a light dawned for me: although my husband and I experience culture shock and must adapt, we cannot fully realize what our children go through because we are not TCK’s.  We were born and raised in our parent’s home countries. Our children were born in El Salvador, but our son has partially forgotten his original mother tongue. Since leaving El Salvador, he and his sister have lived in the US two and a half years and in Turkey 9 years.

Being a TCK has its blessings and its curses. I asked Andres (14) and Camille (12) what they think the privileges and problems are.  Here are their thoughts:

Privileges:

 “You get to go to countries you wouldn’t have been to and have more adventures; it’s more fun.”

“You get to try out lots of yummy food!”

“You get to meet people from different nationalities with different world views.”

 “You can learn different languages.”

“You celebrate a lot of holidays, Turkish and American.  That means lots of time off school!”

“You have a different perspective about the rest of the world than many people in America because you’ve spent more time outside.  If there’s a problem between the US and the Middle East, we hear the Middle East perspective because we’re here, and we hear the US perspective on the news.”

“I love my English speaking youth group of kids from different churches and nationalities.  I hear German at youth group, not just from WWII movies.”

Problems:

“You’re disconnected with your relatives and family back home because you don’t get to see them often.”

“You don’t have many friends in America.”

“When people here find out you’re a foreigner, they assume you’re culturally ignorant, and they start to explain things, and when you’ve been living in Turkey a long time, it gets old.”

“Most TCK’s go back to wherever their parents are from and they have to readjust”

“Living in Turkey, you can never be like a normal kid, but normal is over-rated anyway.”

“There’s not many of your kind, not many TCK’s around.  No one can really understand; your parents don’t understand, your Turkish friends don’t understand, and your American friends don’t understand you.  Only TCK’s can relate.”

My children haven't read any book about Third Culture Kids, but their experience is first hand.

Leave a Comment and Share your own experience:

Do you have any global nomads growing up in your home? How do you encourage and help them to adjust and adapt?  Do any of you have kids who have moved back to your home country?  Next week I'll write a second post to share what works for our family, but I want to hear your experience as well.



Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Keys to True Cross-Cultural Treasure: Friendship


Last week I wrote about my treasures: Turkish friends who grace my life with laughter, love and loyalty.  Ironically, missing out on this treasure would be all too easy. A great privilege of living overseas is life-enriching friendship with people from other backgrounds, but it’s easy to miss out due to challenges like:


Language barriers

Cultural Misunderstandings

Overwhelming responsibilities: juggling home, family, language learning, 
ministry

Fear that they might not like me

Cross-cultural frustration (Holding on to “MY” ways, looking down on theirs)

Insecurity

My first year or so in Turkey, I felt isolated. I found that after my neighbors’ initial expressions of hospitality and friendship were over, I wasn’t sure how to make friends with them. At the multi-national church we attended, I felt insecure about approaching Turks.  Would they want to be friends with me? Would they see me as just another foreigner anxious to practice my Turkish or “minister” to a national? After all, any foreigner might be here today and gone tomorrow, so why should they open up their hearts and and lives to me?

Faltering First Steps

I started with small steps I could manage. I’d gulp hard and force myself to take the first step, walking up to another mother at the park or knocking on a neighbor’s door. At church my husband and I started by inviting local believers to our house for a meal. I felt an affinity with single women in their late 20’s and early 30’s since I’d married at age 31 myself.  I’d take a deep breath and call one of them up just to ask how they were doing.

Time

Most good things in life take time to grow, and my friendships with Turks were no different. As the years have gone by, God has given us a rich harvest of friendships with people we trust and appreciate, people we can laugh and cry with.

Here are some keys to cross-cultural friendship that I’m still learning myself:
  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out and take the first step.  If you haven’t seen them in a while, don’t wait for “them to call you.”
  2. Be humble and willing to learn and serve. 
  3. Keep any complaints about their country to yourself 
  4. Be flexible to do things their way sometimes.  Where I live, this means being open to spontaneity, as in “Can I come over right now?”
  5. Give your relationships time.  Building trust can be slow business.
  6. Be honest about your own struggles (I believe this is one of the greatest keys to impacting the lives of national believers.)
  7. Approach them as equals, people who can encourage you.
  8. Visit them in their homes. In our corner of the world, it is normal to call up and ask if you can come over.  This was hard to get used to, but we suspect new friends are initially more comfortable receiving us in their home than visiting us.
  9. Don’t let uncertainty about how to receive visitors or what to cook hold you back from inviting people into your home. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll learn. 
  10. Don’t take it personally if they refuse your invitation the first time. They may truly be busy or they may feel unsure about you. Give it time and invite them again!


Warm, positive relationships with Turks open the door to greater understanding of differences and give me more tolerance for the frustrations of living here. 

Question: What has been your experience with cross-cultural friendships? 





Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Turkish Treasures


I’m always looking for a reason to celebrate or have a party. This week my family experienced a joyful homecoming. We welcomed our fifth member, a young Turkish woman, back from HER six week trip to America.  Two days later we had a great time hosting a birthday party for her. 

Bahar surprised me by arriving two hours early the day of the party. Still under the effects of jet lag, she’d left work early to rest before our guests came. When the doorbell rang I was in shorts and a tank top, sweaty from working in a hot kitchen, and I hadn’t put on makeup or combed my hair all day. 

In my earlier days, when I was more preoccupied with being Mrs. Perfect and having everything go smoothly as planned, I would have been jolted by a visitor arriving two hours early while I was preparing for a party. But this time I was glad Bahar felt enough like family to come.  I set her up in a bedroom to rest while I made dinner, and ironed my clothes. Then Bahar made the salad and set the table while I got dressed. We had a quiet dinner with my husband and the kids at 6:30, followed by the hurry to get ready. 

It was a memorable party. The doorbell began ringing at 8:00, and we had about 15 guests who continued arriving until 9:30. My son left three or four times to collect first time visitors from the bus stop. Two guests broke their Ramadan fasts in my kitchen with left-overs from our dinner, the Mslm at 8:10 and the Chrstn at 8:30, while the others had cheesecake and snacks in the living room. One friend arrived with her huge dog, which stayed on our balcony 10 minutes before beginning to howl. I spent the evening between the kitchen and the living room, sitting down to talk with friends when I had a free moment. What I enjoyed most was hearing Bahar’s animated laugh as she talked with friends she hadn’t seen for six weeks.

True Value

If I left Turkey tomorrow, the most valuable thing I would take with me would be the friendships my husband and I have cultivated with Turks. It’s easy for cross-cultural workers like us to stay in our own cultural ghettos when it comes to genuine friendship, and in all honesty I am tempted to approach nationals as a teacher or mentor, instead of as a learner and friend. That’s a mistake I don’t want to make.

Let me introduce you to a few friends who enrich my life and consistently teach me new things:

  • Bahar, who is 15 years younger than I, continually shows me what faithfulness and loyalty look like.
  • Eda is a feisty, free-thinking literature teacher, a Mslm who freely explores all kinds of spiritual systems and beliefs. She has shown me something about how modern Turks think.
  • Handan is a pillar in her church, active in discipling others.  When I visit her, we laugh and talk plenty, but we always take time to read a scripture passage and pray together. From her I’ve learned about hospitality. Handan is always ready to welcome a guest with a glass of tea and homemade cookies from her freezer, even if her kitchen is piled with dishes and the living room is a wreck.
  • Elif is a working mother raising two children alone.  She is always excited to share the message with people God puts in her path.  From her, I’ve learned about joy in the midst of trial.

These are my Turkish treasures, friends that bring joy and value to my life. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

15 Hacks for Avoiding Burnout on the Field

Turnover of cross-cultural workers is high in our corner of the world. We’ve heard informal statistics indicating that over half the ex-pats serving in our country have been here two years or less.  In ten years we’ve seen foreigners leave for many reasons:  visa problems, difficulty learning the language and adjusting, job related stress, health issues, problems with children and their education, but I suspect the number one reason is discouragement. The soil is hard here and the fruit is slow in coming.


After an intense year working on a new outreach project while homeschooling, I had the opportunity to slow down this summer and invest extra time in my own personal life.  Now I feel refreshed and ready to face the challenges of seed sowing again.

Taking time for personal renewal helps to avoid burnout and increases our effectiveness.  Here’s my brainstorm list for spiritual renewal and avoiding burnout:

1.  Quiet Time.
Spending half an hour daily reading the Bible and listening for God’s voice gives me a fresh perspective on life every morning. It’s the backbone of my spiritual life.

2.  Invest in your Spiritual Growth.
Read Christian books, listen to podcasts, seek out a mentor or attend conferences when possible. One of my favorite on-line resources is the daily devotional, Word for Today.

3.  Make sure your goals are realistic.
My husband and I struggled over the slow progress of our new outreach effort until we realized that part of our discouragement stemmed from unrealistic expectations.  Others expect to come and master the language in just one or two years. Very difficult unless you are super human.

4.  Invest in your marriage.
My husband and I have a weekly date time, which started when we watched the Alpha Marriage Course DVD’s five years ago. We went on a marriage retreat for the first time last year while on furlough, and found it to be a great investment of time and money.

5.  Make time for fun with your family.
We have movie nights and play games while listening to vintage rock.  (Only my family has heard me belt out “Like a Rolling Stone” along with Bob Dylan!)

6.  Make sure your kids know the language and have local friends. 
This is important if you are homeschooling. We insist that our kids participate in at least one community extra-curricular activity each year. Other friends put their kids in local schools for a year or two. Bottom line: Kids struggle to be happy if they don’t know the language.

7.  Cultivate true friendships where you can be yourself and share your struggles, both with nationals and other foreigners.

8.  Continue learning new things.
Last year I joined a Turkish folk dancing class for several months.  This year I’ll be learning Latin with my kids.

9.  Enjoy a hobby. 
Check out Creative Contentment for a great example of someone who makes time for creative pursuits in Western Turkey.

10.  Follow a secondary (or primary) pursuit that gives you an outlet or additional avenue for fulfillment when spiritual fruit is slow to develop. This could be a secular job, a hobby, or academic studies. My outlet is being a “professional” homeschooling mother.

11. Reach out to others when you are lonely.

12.  Keep in contact with family and friends back home.

13.  Read for pleasure. 

14.  Get involved in your community.

15.  Make time for regular exercise.

What about you? Do you have any other suggestions or ideas for maintaining spiritual vitality and avoiding burnout?