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.


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:


 “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.”


“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.