Book Review: GETTING STARTED by Amy Young

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GETTING STARTED helps cross-cultural workers manage their first year better. It is written with missionaries in mind, but I believe that anyone that is moving abroad would benefit. Amy doesn’t just use her experience from living in China, but the experiences of countless others from around the world. GETTING STARTED touches on so many preconceived ideas a person can have about culture or language, to even daily living and working with teammates. Amy doesn’t gloss over the difficult, nor does she spotlight the magnificent. She keeps it real. GETTING STARTED isn’t a self-help book in that if you follow each step perfectly your first year will be a breeze. Amy is passionate about helping people be successful their first year – but from reading this book you will realize that her idea of success is not a year where everything is smooth, easy, and problem free. That’s just not how life works. I think Amy summarizes the idea of this book best in her introduction, “This book is designed to help you begin to release the ‘shoulds’ and allow yourself to be wherever you are in the process of adjusting to the field.”

My Take: I believe that this is an important topic for missionaries or Christian workers going on the field – or even those who have been on the field for that matter. It would be a great resource for sending organizations to have as they prepare their people to go out.

Amy also has a new website, Global Trellis, that offers help for cross-cultural workers. Check it out here.

Letting Go…

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PC geralt via Pixabay

The time of year has come for the expat communities of the world – that time of ebb and flow of suitcases, boxes and RAFT building. At times it may feel more like emotional waves crashing, letting go of a child who graduates can be specially daunting.

As a mom of a son who will soon begin his year of “lasts”, this has been on my heart: how will I let him go with grace and peace?

This week I am guest writing for Multicultural Kid Blogs about how to let our kids go as they prepare to leave “home”. Click here to read more.

Sisters

I grew up with my extended family. Every Sunday after church all my aunts, uncles, and cousins would meet at my grandparent’s farm. My grandmother prepared what most people would consider a Thanksgiving dinner every week – mashed potatoes, homemade noodles, roast or turkey… My mom has continued this tradition with my siblings and their growing families. It is amazing to go back to. After my sisters and I clean up the table we sit with our steaming hot coffee and catch up. I love those moments.

I live too far to do that every week. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t happen in a calendar year. That’s just how home assignments go.

But, God has been good to me. He has provided “family” in every location we’ve moved. 20190306_092308He has provided “sister’s in Christ”. I just returned from a ladies retreat where I got to see some of those sisters and to be honest I adopted a few more. It was a retreat for English speaking Christians here on the island. It wasn’t affiliated with a specific sending organization, nor was it focused on a specific nationality. It was beautiful.

  • God’s girls hiking in the mountains together.
  • God’s girls playing “Catch Phrase” together.
  • God’s girls singing His praises together.
  • God’s girls crying together over some tough circumstances.
  • God’s girls giggling in bed like two schoolgirls trying to be quiet so they don’t get in trouble from their mother.

God’s girls are sisters. He has no boundaries in his family. There is no nationality boundary. No racial boundary. No age boundary. No ability/disability boundary. My sisters in Christ are a beautiful bunch of gals.

How about you? Have you been able to find “sisters” among the women you meet where you are located?

 

“Where is Home?”: the battle to be content

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I have struggled on and off with being content. I don’t mean where I am in life, or how my life is going (though, there are days), but the struggle of “Where is home?”. I’m not really talking about the same struggle that Third Culture Kids talk about. My struggle is not owning a home. Maybe this comes from all the painting I’ve been doing in home #….. too many to count or remember. After a year here, I think I might actually be seeing the bottom of the paint can for now. With every stroke of the brush I wonder how long I will actually get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Will we just have one more year before forced to pack again? That is the struggle of many who live overseas. No home to call our own.

It doesn’t help when I see photos or hear about friends buying a home.

It doesn’t help that my kids are getting older and I’m not sure where they will “come back home” to (though that is their TCK issues they will have to work out).

It doesn’t help that if we could buy a home, I have NO idea where it would even be or should be? Taiwan? Germany? US? The options are endless and overwhelming.

Sometimes these pesky questions makes me feel homeless. Not in the sense that I don’t have a place to live, because I do. We’ve been able to rent places for the past 20 years. And while I’m thankful for that, we have nothing to call our own. I know I’ve talked to other luggage carrying expats toting kids around the globe who have had this same feeling. Then I’ve talked with other expat friends who have bought a house, but don’t live in it. They have the stress of keeping it up while away. They are also feeling discontent.

Which make me wonder if my real problem is just being content. Period.

Why do we feel discontent? I won’t go in to great depths here, because the answers vary from person to person – but I think it all boils down to what we think about and focus our thoughts on.

I will never be content with myself or where I am IF my focus, my outlook on life is on myself.

But…

When I look at who God is and marvel at all He has done – I am content. Content with life. Content with the home I’m allowed to live in. Rejoice with my friends. Excited to live in a new place. Joyful.

When I’m content with God, then my whining self turns into gratitude and joy. And folks, that is who I want to be no matter where I live.

Today’s post is linked up with Velvet Ashes: Content.

  • PC: nikosapelaths via pixabay.com

 

Language Learning and Special Needs…a conversation starter

RaisingTCKs for Mulitcultural Kid Blogs

My children are bilingual, including my daughter who has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome, a disability that affects her mentally and physically. She’s not the only bilingual person with special needs, though. In fact, I know a young adult with Down Syndrome who is trilingual. And I read about another boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder who speaks at least four languages. This goes against the belief of many educators and therapists that children with special needs should focus on one language only. Most of the research focuses on three specialty groups: Specific Language Impairment (SLI), Down Syndrome (DS), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but the researcher still believes that other disabilities can learn a second language as well. This is great news for CCKs (Cross-Cultural Kids) and TCK s(Third-Culture Kids) who have special needs and their families who are raising them.

My daughter is fairly non-verbal, but she is able to communicate in both English and Chinese. She uses American Sign Language (ASL), speaks simple words in both languages, and sometimes uses communication boards. We speak mainly English at home and she goes to a Taiwanese special education school where they speak Chinese. Honestly, like most Third Culture Kids she is comfortable living in both worlds. It’s part of who she is.

But, what about just teaching a child with special needs a new language? Are there any benefits? Join the conversation over at Multicultural Kid Blogs where I share some benefits I’ve noticed.

Home

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It’s that time of year when ‘good-byes’ are being said for expats around the world. Today’s post is by guest writer Dion Bos. I met Dion a few years back at a workshop. She is fun, insightful, and I love what she wrote about her transition she is going through. This post is copied (with her permission) from her Facebook status.
I recently received an IMessage from a friend living in the U.S. that read, “I heard a rumor that you are moving home. Is it true?” It caught me off guard as we had not publicly announced that we would be ending our expatriate experience in Taiwan and returning back to the Chicagoland area within a few months. As I stared at the message considering how I should respond, my eyes locked on the word HOME.

Was I moving home?

Or was I leaving my home?

I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach realizing I wasn’t sure where home was. I mean, at times when I’m going to visit my parents in the farm house I grew up in, I still find myself saying, “I’m going home for the weekend.”

So what exactly is home?

According to the Webster Dictionary Home is: “a place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”. This simple definition seemed so off to me, when here I was, almost 40years old, holding back tears and completely struggling with the realization that I no longer knew where my home was. So, I quickly shut down my computer and closed my eyes to take a few deep breaths and think about MY home.
I realized “Home” is not a building or structure, nor is it the name of a certain city or state where you physically live. Rather…
  • It is everything and everyone that surrounds you.
  • It is everything you drive by on a daily basis.
  • It is everywhere you shop.
  • It is the school where you drop your kids off every morning.
  • It is the teachers you trust with the minds and hearts of your children every weekday.
  • It is all the friends that you can count on to help protect your family.
  • It is the coffee shop where you always meet people to share your stories.
  • It is the restaurant you love to eat at.
  • It is the park you love to sit at or the mountain you love to hike or the route you love to jog… and so on and so on.
Webster also defines Expatriate as: “a person who lives outside of their native country”. Once again I felt so let down by Webster. That this book could downplay the craziness of packing up your family, moving to a foreign land and completely altering the way you have been living your life up until that point. To me living as an expatriate is so much more.
  • It is the people that take you under their wing immediately that you can call when you are lost.
  • It is the Facebook groups you can ask where to find whatever it is you are looking for.
  • It is the community members who take on the challenge of making homemade goods and selling them because you can’t find them easily at the local stores.
  • It is the parents and teachers who volunteer to coach every sport, substitute teach, chaperone culture trips, lead Chapel, and so much more.
  • It is the abundance of people who choose to accept everyone around them instead of looking for inadequacies because we know we need each other.
  • It is taking a challenging and scary situation and instead of calling it what it is, everyone reassures you that it is just an adventure.
  • It is the confidence you gain when you accomplish a task in a foreign language.
  • It is the thrill of exploring land or even countries that would have terrified you in the past.
  • It is the remarkable ability of placing complete trust in tour guides or local people to take you out into the middle of the ocean, or the jungle, or in sidecar rides down the busiest streets in town.
  • It is gaining a true understanding of WHY another culture acts, reacts, believes or denies WITHOUT discrediting them or immediately telling them they are wrong.
  • It is putting complete trust in God that no matter how difficult things may seem, no matter how often you have to play charades to communicate, no matter how much you think you can’t live without real bacon, Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and Dee Dish Pizza, no matter how many stores, markets and fruit stands you have to shop each week for your weekly groceries, no matter how long or short you have lived there or how many hard goodbyes you have had to say, it still becomes your HOME.

Home.

It is not a simple noun. Home is the most complex word that encompasses the entire life of any individual. Now, when people ask where I AM FROM-that is different. Sometimes I’m from a small farm town, sometimes from Chicago, sometimes a suburb of Chicago, sometimes I’m just from America and sometimes I’m from Taiwan. I may always give a different answer here and hopefully I even add more replies as my life continues. But one thing I have definitely learned through this process is that where you are “from” is not the same as where your “home” is. Home is not a single place.

Home is your life story. I am not moving back home and I am not moving away from my home. I am simply adding to my home. The experiences I have had, the memories that are ingrained in my mind, all of the people who have infiltrated my heart and embraced me and my family at the different stages of my life are all home. And those things will never be taken from me. Each place I have called “home” brings me comfort in many different ways. Memories resurface and familiar faces fill my mind. Life will continue to evolve and people will come and go, but I will always be home no matter where I end up. My only wish moving forward is that I never settle in one place. I pray to God each day that he just keeps adding to my home and that I never forget those that have helped make each physical place I have lived a part of MY HOME.

Dion Dillavou BosBio: Five years ago I packed up my two daughters (age 4 and 7) to move to Taiwan for my husband’s expat assignment. I was terrified at the time, but soon realized It was one of the best decisions I have made. My girls know so much more about the world,  my marriage has grown in amazing ways, I have jump started a fitness career. Our faith and walk with God has grown in so many ways. Now the tables are turned and we are facing repatriating. Once again the feelings we face with change are real and I know so many of you out there feel or have felt the same.
Your Turn: Let us know what you consider part of YOUR home? How do you process this change yourself? What are some things that you have done or will do before you get on that plane for the next destination? Please share in the comments below.

The Art of Letting Go – “Letting Go”

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Today’s guest post is from a new friend, Jodie Pine, that I’ve “met” online through Velvet Ashes, but then realized that we have MANY common friends on Facebook. Jodie has offered to re-post this article from 2013 from her blog Jodie’s Journal

Yesterday I watched my boys run off into the rain. One of them caught sight of a bus ahead and said, “That’s us. Do you want to run for it?” The other one immediately responded, “Let’s go!” And the next thing I knew they weren’t beside me anymore. As the distance between us grew, one of them turned around to yell, “Bye, Mom!” over his shoulder, while the other was so focused on the bus he never looked back. One of them was balancing an umbrella as they jumped and splashed their way through the puddles in hopes of reaching the bus in time. The other one didn’t want to bother with a silly umbrella. Because it’s manly to get wet.

My boys. The bookends of my life. Strong and sturdy. One on each side. So very different from each other. But so close. They’ve always been together, and they just seem to belong together. But one turned 18 yesterday. Soon he will go off to college in America and life is going to change. And as I watched the two of them, stride for stride, turning the corner together my heart ached. For them and for me. It’s hard. This leaving behind business. Because it involves letting go. And sometimes I just want to hold on. But time passes through my fingers like water. And I can’t stop it.

When I reached the end of the street and turned the corner, I smiled to see them huddled with the crowd at the bus stop. They told me, “It wasn’t the right bus.” And I thought about waiting with them until the right  bus came, just to get a few more minutes together. But I decided instead to encourage them to have a good time and to continue on in my wet walk (even with an umbrella) to the shopping area of our old neighborhood to get some things they needed for camp. And this time I was the one leaving them. But it was ok. Because I knew they would get on the right bus that would take them where they wanted to go. They would have a good time with their friends. And I would see them after dinner.

But this morning the boys left on a 40 hour train trip with three of their best friends to a TCK camp in southern China and it didn’t feel ok to me then. Because it wasn’t just this goodbye. It was the projected big goodbye and the reality that they will be gone for two weeks. After they get back to Lanzhou, our family will have less than two weeks together before CJ leaves for a month wilderness program in the US. And then we’ll have just about a week together in mid-August when we take him to freshman orientation at Notre Dame.

This morning, it seemed to me that during our past two weeks in Tianjin, I have been like a trapeze artist. Able to catch the outstretched arms of whoever is out there in a choreographed kind of rhythm. What activity is next. Who needs to be where. Graduations. Meetings. Medical appointments. MUN. Times with people. Kids’ sleepovers. Parties. What can we fit in. What needs to wait. How to coordinate. But this morning I couldn’t catch the hands out there anymore. My emotions hit rock bottom.  God, this is hard. I don’t want to do this. If I can’t go back in time and can’t stop time, could I push the fast forward button to get past this pain of letting go?

As I’ve been battling both migraine pain and emotional pain today, I’ve felt like my physical body and my heart have been like a wet towel in someone’s hands, who is twisting the ends in an attempt to squeeze all the water out. And all my energy and capacity have been drained.

Jordan decided to have a final sleepover with  her friends tonight before she leaves for the same TCK  in southern China tomorrow night (she’s flying instead of training) and I will be on my own here for another week of various activities, as Charly is already back in Lanzhou.

My rock bottom emotions today have brought me to a place of deep sadness. But even as I am typing this, I have a sense of renewed hope because I know that God will meet me right where I am, in this painful ache of my heart. He already has. It is comforting to know that I have heart friends close by who are praying for me, and that I can easily arrange to spend time with someone if I need to. But I really want to turn to God and hear from Him in this time of being alone right now.

I asked Jodie how things were now after four years. Here is what she wrote:

Four years after I struggled with CJ leaving for college on the other side of the ocean from us, we attended his graduation at Notre Dame (amazed that he had the honor of giving the valedictory address). Our family of 5 had grown to 7, through God’s fulfillment of our 6 year long adoption journey by bringing our Chinese sons David and Daniel to us just after CJ left for college. We then moved from Lanzhou, China to the US two years ago and launched Joshua into college (he chose Notre Dame as well). One year later I helped Jordan move into her dorm room at Calvin College. Through all these major changes for our family these past four years, God has remained faithful. CJ shared in his graduation speech that the song “Your Love Never Fails” really helped him through the transition across borders. “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” God has continued to hold my hand through the ups and downs and it’s been a blessing to see each of my kids, both at home and on their own, develop their own personal faith in the God who never changes.

Thanks Jodie for permission to repost!

If you have a story about “Letting Go” you’d like to share, please email me at mdmaurer135(at)gmail(dot)com.

The Art of Letting Go

 

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Mothering a TCK has it’s up and downs. At times it is not for the faint at heart. The older my children get, the more I respect my mother-in-law. She raised three TCKs from birth in a country not her own, but also in a school system very different than the one she grew up studying under in Germany. Then as they graduated, she watched them board airplanes to travel around the world to begin their own life. Now her grandchildren are spread between three continents.

My kids have not started university, yet. My oldest has three more years, but it won’t be long until I say my “good-byes”. But, then again, I did just say good-bye to him a few weeks ago. He is not going to a dorm, but he does have the opportunity to play soccer with one of the international schools on the island. Unfortunately, it is too far to commute to from our home, so he is living with some friends for the next few months. As I write this post, I know he is in the middle of a game and it is killing me (and my husband, too). We wonder if he’s made a save (he’s the keeper), or if the wet ball has tricked him to dive in the wrong direction (it’s been raining the last few days). We both try to focus on other things, but then my phone lets out a BING. A friend sends me a video clip – the ball slipped between his hands. On my phone we watch the mini version of our son draw his hands up behind his head then smack his legs, a sign of frustration. This isn’t the first clip we’ve been sent. During previous games other friends have slipped us glimpses of him making some pretty good saves. This clip, though, is hard to watch – he can’t hear us cheering in our heads, “It’s okay. You’ll get the next one” and “You’ve got this, Bud.” And my heart is screaming…

This is so hard.

This isn’t what I signed up for (I don’t care if Dave Pollock told me 20 years ago that one day this would happen if I had children while living overseas).

Why isn’t teleporting invented yet?

As I lament, I’m reminded that I’m not the only one who can’t watch their son play a high school sport or long to have him sit at the supper table. I have friends who dropped their children off at boarding school. Some won’t see their children until Christmas. Others left their child, now an adult, at the university dorm room. They are not the first to do this. My mother-in-law was not the first. Parents of TCKs for over a century have had to learn the art of letting go, or maybe it’s thrust upon them.

I feel I’m just at the beginning. I know that there may be other sport seasons he will want to tryout for. He may even have the desire and opportunity to board someday. But, I do know that one day he will leave. He should leave. He must leave. He will become an adult. And though I know this in my head…

I miss him.

As moms we begin this letting go when our children take their first independent steps. They teeter, they wobble and most likely they fall, but eventually they get up and begin walking or possibly with some running. Or maybe it was when you dropped your child off for the first time at school. Walking away as you entrusted your child to another adult, possibly a stranger that spoke a language you barely understood. Those are the first phases of this process. So, whether you are at the beginning stage or getting closer to what seems like the final stage, I believe we could learn a few things from those who have gone before us.

I’d like to start a guest series called “The Art of Letting Go”. I know many of you have stories or tips that helped you. Letting go to allow your child to grow is an art – it is terribly painful, and even scary, but the artwork can be beautiful. So, if you have a story you’d like to share, a humble fail that you learned from, or even some tips to help those of us just starting on this journey please send a post. This can be as broad as a child going to university, into a dorm, or first time attending kindergarten.

You can email me in a Word doc. Each post should be around 500-800 words. If you feel you have something to share, but you are uncomfortable with writing, we could even set up an interview type post as well. I’m flexible. Please include a bio with any social media that you’d like people to follow. You can email me at mdmaurer135(at)gmail(dot)com.

*Photo from Creative Commons by Pexels

Raising Children with Special Needs When You Live Overseas

 

Forest, Hope, Radiant, Zen, Sunflare

“Your daughter has a rare genetic syndrome called Cri-du-Chat Syndrome, and she needs a feeding tube.”

My dreams, my desires to live overseas, seemed to shatter with that diagnosis. The past 10 months all made sense. This was the reason she was hospitalized in Beijing for bronchitis at 3 months old. This was the reason for choking almost every time she nursed. And this explained why, just a few months before, she lay limp with pneumonia on a large hospital bed in the middle of China next to six other children with some sort of lung infection. All of this led to me flying alone with her to the U.S. for medical tests. This was the reason I sat in that small clean consultation room with a doctor I barely knew.

Was this going to be the reason God would end our time overseas?

And then the haunting question, How am I going to tell my husband Uwe half way around the world on the phone?

To date, that was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make.

When Uwe and our oldest son (20 months) arrived in the U.S., we believed our time overseas was over. At that time we only knew of one other family living overseas with a child with special needs, but our daughter seemed to have more medical issues. As we consulted with surgeons, therapists, and doctors, not a single one hesitated to tell us to go back. This was incredible to us because we, like so many others, didn’t think it possible that families affected by disabilities could live and work overseas. So with a list of diagrammed exercises, extra feeding buttons and bags, and a feeding machine, we returned to China. Uwe went back to work as principal at the international school, and I began therapy with Matthea. Life changed, but God had not. He was still good. He was still providing.

Our story isn’t unique. There are others like us. Last week I was able to interview eight families ministering overseas who also have children with special needs. All of our stories seemed to share the following three themes.

You can finish reading over at A Life Overseas

Book Review: OF STILLNESS AND STORM by Michèle Phoenix

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by Michèle Phoenix

Summary:

Sam and Lauren sell everything they own in the US to move to Nepal. It has been their dream to share the gospel to the distant tribes of the world. But, it wasn’t their son’s dream. Sam trek’s the mountains for weeks at a time. He comes home tired and smelly, but doesn’t want any luxuries because many in Nepal live in worse conditions. Lauren’s sense of adventure soon flattens after their move as she daily bumps along to work at job she doesn’t like, fights a losing battle with the electricity, and watches her son slowly change from the fun and happy kid to a teen who just exists and resents her for everything. As things tense up on the home front, Lauren has an online encounter with a friend from her past. Her isolation leads to disillusionment and soon things come crashing around her.

My Thoughts:

One of the reviews I read compared this book to THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, and I would have to agree. It brought out many of the same emotions I had as I read that book. Michèle Phoenix is a MK (missionary kid) and has worked with MK’s for many years. Her expertise and I’m sure personal experience gives this story the raw emotions that many who work overseas do not want to face. It asks the hard questions indirectly through watching this family try to survive while doing what they believe the Lord has called them to do.

I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I believe that the issues/themes in this book can be related to by anyone who is trying raise their family in a different culture than their own.

*I received my copy from a giveaway on another site.