Thursday, April 25, 2013

When Language Learning Has Fried Your Brain

Is there anything more frustrating than language learning for cross-cultural workers? My brain has been permanently addled by the languages I’ve studied. I’m a French teach who no longer speaks French. I used to be a totally fluent Spanish speaker, but now I stumble a bit. I’m more comfortable speaking Turkish.

My experience with Turkish goes back 13 years. I remember my first teacher, a 65 year old lady who peered at me through glasses that magnified her eyes. She would make me repeat the same words and phrases 20 times, even when I had no idea how I was saying it wrong. I had to repeat everything until she was satisfied I’d gotten it.  After 13 years I still find myself stumbling through Turkish word order and prefixes. I have to think back to how I started a sentence in order to finish it, and often everything comes out garbled, but people understand me anyway. 

Why Is Language Learning So Hard?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chocolate Cake in Olive Country

My main service as a cross-cultural worker in Turkey is probably cooking.  I cook for my family. I cook for other workers. I cook for our church meetings. I cook for Turkish visitors. Fortunately for me, I enjoy cooking.

Hospitality is important here. This is a chocolate cake recipe that has saved my life countless times in twelve years here. When Turkish women friends come over for tea, it’s customary to serve at least one tatlı (sweet) and one tuzlu (salty). Turks often serve more, but this homeschooling mom sticks to the bare minimum. I know this recipe by heart and can whip it up and throw it in the oven after school for afternoon guests.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When You're in a Spiritual Funk

Do you ever get in a spiritual funk? You feel dry spiritually, your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and God seems far away? You might be going through the motions of attending church and reading your Bible, but it seems like you get nothing out of it.

Still enjoying spring in Izmir

I’ve been there. In 2007 I began the year with a special prayer asking God to teach me more about joy, but I ended up struggling with depression instead!  For the first time in my adult life I felt depressed without understanding why. My husband and I went through a difficult time struggling with whether or not to stay in Turkey, but my discouragement went deeper than that.

I was too distracted by negative thoughts to get much out of Bible reading. Long passages overwhelmed me, but I could focus on a simple Psalm, so I went back to the book of Psalms. I memorized Psalm 23 and repeated it over and over to myself: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul…”  Even though I didn’t feel any different, I kept asking God to renew my joy and I kept quoting Psalm 23. After about 6 months my depression lifted as mysteriously as it had come. Psalm 23 stayed with me though; to this day it is my “go-to” passage when I need an extra dose of God’s tender loving care.

Daily Time with God

What has kept me spiritually thriving for 12 years in a Mslm country is spending daily time with God. Nothing else encourages me, renews my perspective, or gives me strength and peace like sitting quietly with God to read His word and pray. Even so, sometimes I get into a spiritual funk, and trying new things in my quiet time helps get me out of it.

Ideas to Revive Your Quiet Time

Go back to simple truths: God loves you, and you can trust Him.

Meditate and read scriptures on God’s love.

Read Psalms for a few days.

Sit quietly in God’s presence without doing anything.  Just enjoy being with Him.

Sing a few simple worship songs.

Focus on listening. What might God want to say to you?

If you need guidance, ask God a question and write down whatever impressions come to mind.

Keep a gratitude journal.

Jot down prayer requests and keep track of answers.

Read a Bible story and imagine you’re one of the people in it.

Get outside to connect with God.

Try a new Bible study method. (I’ve enjoyed Good Morning Girls' SOAP method)

Memorize a passage you like.

Write out a one or two line prayer to take with you into your day.

Try a devotional guide (I like Word for Today)

These are just a few ideas for adding variety to our quiet times.  Do you have any suggestions? I need all the help I can get!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One Thing You Need to Survive Overseas

My hair was standing on end, I had no makeup on, and I was dressed in ragged jeans, an old sweater and a bare face with no makeup when the doorbell rang. I was feverishly trying to finish cooking for our house church, so I could go get dressed.

“It must be one of my daughter’s friends,” I thought.  “I’ll let her answer it. “ But when the doorbell kept ringing, I went to the door.  It was Nesrin, a woman I’d invited to visit our fellowship for the first time.  One and a half hours early.

I breathed in deep before I opened the door.  The last thing I needed was a guest one and a half hours early. I was already a bit nervous because we’d accidentally scheduled a skype interview with someone back home for the same hour as our meeting.