An Excerpt on Friendship & Loss


Friends, there is a giveaway of Passages Through Pakistan on Goodreads! It ends on June 7th, and two books will be given away. In honor of the giveaway, I’ve included an excerpt from the book on friendship and loss. I hope you enjoy! Also – the electronic version of Passages will be released on June 15!


Friendships formed in our small community were and are unique. We forged relationships with likely and unlikely people, and they occupied our hearts and souls. Together we faced birth, death, tragedy, sickness, political instability, separation from blood relatives, car accidents, boarding school, tension in relationships, food rations, and so much more. 
These memories and events were woven together into an immense tapestry. But unless cared for, a tapestry gets loose threads, and those threads can unravel into holes – holes of too many goodbyes, unraveling of loss. We push the losses aside, dismiss the goodbyes as just part of life, part of being third culture kids. 

But buried losses don’t stay buried. Like a submarine, they eventually surface, and we realize that they were never gone. So our griefs, our goodbyes, would surface later in life, like angry monsters demanding a redo of the goodbyes, demanding time to grieve the losses, demanding another chance. But we get only one chance at childhood. When that childhood is lived thousands of miles and oceans away from the place you live as an adult, you can’t go back. When our childhood is good and lived with a sense of wonder, it outweighs the pain and grief that came along the way. We may long to recreate it, perhaps because in it we see something of what the world should be, what the world could be. But recreating it is an impossibility, and in our case, even revisiting the places and people was impossible. 

…Like so many things in childhood, I didn’t know what I had until I lost it. 

I didn’t realize the extraordinary community I had around me until I was no longer in Pakistan, until I had to forge my way in the rocky and seemingly hostile territory of my passport country. 

From Passages Through Pakistan: An American Girl’s Journey of Faith, pp 104 a 105, Tonga Rides

Enter the giveaway here

Purchase Passages Through Pakistan here

“Passages Through Pakistan” on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/211505298?ref=em-v-share

A Life Overseas – A Third Culture Kid’s Story of Faith

pakistan-71671_1280

Readers, I’m over at A Life Overseas today and I would love it if you joined me!

There is no single story when it comes to the third culture kid; the missionary kid. While we can learn and grow from research and the common themes that have emerged to form a perspective, each child has their own story. Like fingerprints, these stories are unique, formed by family of origin, personality, and life experience. There is no single story around faith either. Instead, the mystery of faith weaves through a life – sometimes accepted, sometimes rejected, but always present. 

When I set out to write my memoir, Passages Through Pakistan, I thought it would be about belonging. After all, wasn’t that what I had worked through for a number of years? Wasn’t that part of my identity? But the more I wrote, the more I realized that the common thread woven through the narrative was not belonging. It was faith. So today I have included two excerpts from the book. My prayer is that if you are a parent or a third culture kid,  you will know beyond doubt that your (and your child’s) faith journey is infinitely important to God; that he can turn ashes into beauty and mourning into oil of joy.*

*****

…the mystery of faith weaves through a life – sometimes accepted, sometimes rejected, but always present.

All adults can point to a time when they go from the naïveté and simplicity of childhood and cross over into the complicated world of the adult. Some of these coming of-age moments are dramatic, some are profound. All are life-changing.

It is easy to dismiss these moments. They may seem undramatic, insignificant. But to the individual, the drama they represent is a one-way passage out of childhood. Once we pass through we can never go back.

For many years, I would only tell happy stories about my childhood, stories of midnight feasts and camp outs, of traveling to beautiful places and life-long friends. Years went by before I could admit that some of my childhood memories were deeply painful. If I acknowledged just how difficult they were, I would be betraying my parents and my childhood. More than that, if I mentioned the painful parts, I would have to deal with the pain, and some of it went deep.

The real reason I didn’t want to tell these stories was more complicated than I wanted to admit. My parents’ faith had led them to Pakistan and sustained them through the years they were there. If I was a healthy child, then teenager, then adult, no one could criticize their life choice. Here was their best defense against those critical of the missionary life. If I admitted the pain, if I was truthful about the hard stories, their defense was stripped.

But was I really worried about them? Or was I more worried about what would happen to my own faith?

Read the rest at A Life Overseas – A Third Culture Kid’s Story of Faith

Passages Through Pakistan – An Excerpt

passages-cover

The train rounds a bend.
The rest of the cars appear
one by one,
all tied to one another
far into the distance
It comes as a surprise
to be tied to things so far back
Nazım Hikmet,
Human Landscapes from My Country

We moved from town to town during my childhood, but I was unfazed. My constants were my boarding school, based in a solid stone building in Murree, and my parents, who, though flesh and blood, seemed equally solid and immoveable. Pakistan was home. She adopted me, a foreigner, and took me in. I belonged. I belonged in the family and in the community into which I was born. I belonged in the country where I took my first steps. Legal documents might say otherwise, but they were unimportant to the reality of my experience.

I learned early on of the beauty and hospitality of Pakistan. My eyes captured landscapes that the best photographers in the world could not capture, and the music and colors are etched on my mind. I was welcomed into homes and churches, played in courtyards and on canal banks.

In my childhood, the Pakistan I knew was a place of color and life: bright oranges, reds, yellows, and greens of spices and fabrics. I knew the ready invitations to come for tea that brought smiles to my face and delight to my heart. I knew the best food in the world – mouthwatering and piping hot pakoras; kebabs purchased in the middle of the bazaar in the afternoon; spicy, red-orange, charred chicken tikka with naan and fresh lemon; the cold tang of lemon squash; and chicken masala’s thick, onion-filled sauce that made my nose run through an entire meal. The tastes and spices lingered long after the meal was over. I knew Pakistan as a place of food, music, colors, and laughter.

This was my home, the setting of my earliest memories, my first steps, my first kiss, my first love. I literally cut my first teeth in this land. Pakistan was a place of life and faith. I was surrounded by Pakistanis who loved me and put up with the immaturity of my childhood. This was where my physical  and faith journey began. Would I ever love another place so much? I didn’t think so.

Later, I would come to know the complexity and contradiction that defined this homeland that had adopted me, but in early years I knew only the good. I would later discover more of her history. I would learn of a Pakistan birthed in violence and tragedy, a land that continues to face crisis after crisis – some at the hands of other governments, and some of its own making. I would learn of the difficulty of a country that struggled to find her identity apart from the larger Indian subcontinent. I would see the struggles in my friends around marriage and family and learn of the massive disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Later, I would learn that in addition to the beauty of friendship and hospitality there was also the horror of violent fundamentalism. I would be introduced to and angered by the one-dimensional Pakistan of Western perception and media. I would understand that alongside stunning landscapes of high mountains and clear lakes was the dirt and raw sewage of cities. I would later face disease, high infant morbidity and mortality, inescapable poverty, and the light hair and big bellies of malnutrition. I would grow to see many dimensions of this beautiful, complex land.

But the Pakistan of early childhood was a beautiful home, and I loved that home.

Excerpt copyright from Passages Through Pakistan, Doorlight Publications, March 2017, Pages 29-30

Available for pre-order and on sale TODAY! Click HERE to order. 

“I wouldn’t give it up for a moment!”

Airport Happy Place

….and other things we wouldn’t give up! [With thanks to Michele Phoenix.]

I love playing the game “Two truths and a lie.”  It’s a get-to-know-you game, designed so that strangers can begin feeling comfortable with each other. The premise is that you tell a group three things about yourself. Two of them have to be true, but one of them is false. The group has to then decide which one is false. With a group of people who have never left their home towns, you get quite a few “I love my pets” “I love my kids” “I went on vacation to Vermont” (of course, the lie is that they didn’t go on vacation to Vermont, they haven’t left the state.) But if you play this game with others, the results are extraordinary. From a CIA operative taking out someone’s appendix to being in a Bollywood movie, you find out extraordinary things about people.

Third culture kids, whether they be from the military, business, diplomatic, or mission sector, are by far the best at this game. They can take their life experiences, experiences that haven’t all been easy, and tell their stories without being accused of boasting. They can pick the best parts of their lives and share them.

It’s this game I thought about when I saw the video below.  Michele Phoenix asked adult third culture kids (in this case, adult kids of missionary parents) what they liked best about growing up between worlds. She then had younger kids recite their answers. The result is a fun two-minute video. It’s like someone took all the answers to two truths and a lie and put them together in video form.

The wealth of experiences mentioned in this short video is something to celebrate.While Communicating Across Boundaries has a broader audience than missionary kids, any TCK, adult TCK or cross cultural kid could love this. After you watch it, feel free to tell us some of your experiences in the comment section.

________________

For a look at the survey that Michele Phoenix did on adult missionary kids, take a look here. 

Who I Am by Bronwynn Bliss

It is a joy to feature Bronwynn Bliss on Communicating Across Boundaries….and yes, that would be Robynn’s youngest daughter! 

**********

 

Bronwynn Bliss
Adelaide, Bronwynn, & Robynn Bliss Photo Credit: Janet Wachter

I’ve always known that our children would have a different story than I did. I joined the ranks of the children displaced and transplanted when I was eight years old, becoming an MK, as we were called in the ‘old days’. Our family stayed in Pakistan for all of my remaining childhood years, with the exception of grade seven, where we relocated temporarily to Canada for the mandatory and maddening furlough year. I returned to Canada for college and the chaos of reentrying a culture I was supposed to be at home in but in which I felt decidedly foreign.

Two of our three children were born in India, however when they were a mere 10, 8 and 5 we returned to the United States and jump started their transplanting process. The older two had a more difficult time of it but eventually settled into their new rhythms and routines. Our youngest, Bronwynn, didn’t appear to miss a beat. She wiggled her way into life in America with curiosity and joy. Certainly she observed her world out loud and often made hilarious commentary on what she saw. She misunderstood the tornado drill at her Kansas kindergarten and was so excited for the huge tomato to strike—she loves tomatoes! Thanksgiving meant a pageant of sorts and an opportunity for her to once again be who she loved, an Indian! She would wear her navy blue and gold lehenga (a long full bejeweled skirt with a short embroidered blouse to match and a complimenting duputta scarf)! Imagine her disappointment when we explained No…not those Indians!

Earlier this week I came home and found a very excited Bronwynn. She had written a blog post for Communicating Across Boundaries. Did I think Marilyn would publish it? I cautiously suggested I read it and see what I thought before we talked about sending it on to Marilyn. I was intrigued and delighted to see Bronwynn communicate some of her own heart on what it means to be raised by a TCK mom and know that she is one too but doesn’t necessarily connect with what that means.

I’m ever so grateful for this child. She is discerning and kind, eager to fit, and yet anxious to be her own person.  She has a great sense of humour and an uncanny ability to relate to all different kinds of people. She sees strengths in others, she’s able to look past weaknesses. Here she is, in her own 12-year-old words, trying to come to grips with who she is, who she might become:

************

Ever since we moved to the States my mom has read books and blogs, magazines and newspapers about being a TCK.  I fit the descriptions and characteristics of being everything my mom was; I lived in India for 5 whole years, from infantry to a bratty toddler and from there to a crazy 5-year-old. I was a TCK. I imagined myself reading blogs and having life issues, going to counseling and so on.   But as I started Kindergarten, I realized that my siblings had it way worse, they were behind on many levels. Though they caught up I know it was tough for them to adjust.  Kansas started becoming my home, more and more as I grew up.  But I was still a TCK, I still got confused when we had Thanksgiving parties at school (those Indians were just plain wrong in my mind and real Indians would have had a way better feast).  But I remember that terrible feeling I had when my tenth birthday came, I was even. I had lived five years in India and five in the States.  I felt like I had to choose a side, I knew that I was more American at that point but I didn’t want to let India go. 

I was a TCK. The feeling got worse and worse.  My eleventh birthday came.  I wasn’t sure what I was at that point.  I hated all the titles.  I wasn’t super close to my grandparents or cousins because I missed the vital years, but I barely remembered India.  I just wanted to be Bronzi, period, no Kansan or American after it, but also no TCK or MK either.  Even though I have a weird story, and I’m not sure what I am exactly,  I am still Bronwynn  Bliss, I am me ( even though I’m still figuring out what that means).

An Aging Adult TCK

chair - TCK quote

An Aging Adult TCK by Robynn. You can follow Robynn on Twitter @RobynnBliss

I used to think of myself as a Missionary Kid…an MK. My parents were missionaries. I was their kid. The title made sense.

Much later I was told we were actually Third Culture Kids. It was a little more convoluted but it also seemed appropriate. I had a passport from one country– travel documents tethering me to Canada and yet I had grown up in a completely different country. Childhood and an entangled emotional root system tied me to Pakistan. I was neither truly Canadian nor really Pakistani. I was from this third culture, this nebulous nomadic space. I was a Third Culture Kid.

As an ornery adolescent I resisted these labels. We were no such thing. We weren’t sick. We didn’t need a diagnosis. We were kids: normal, noisy, hormonal, opinionated. How dare ‘they’ try to box us into this container as if we could somehow be explained. I was Robynn. Pure and simple.

Landing in a foreign country, Canada, and trying to remember why I was attached at all to that strange place left me reeling. I felt the country carpet pulled out from under my feet. I longed for any explanation for why I felt the way I did. I wanted a label to explain it. I longed for a box to crawl into and hide in. Suddenly displaced and alone it all made sense. There was comfort in recognizing there were others out there, perhaps, a little like me.

I remember the day I realized, much to my shock, that being a TCK wasn’t something I was going to grow out of.

I had graduated from a Little College on the Prairie and I was living in Langley, BC with my brother and another TCK friend, Dave. Each of us were working jobs that paid the bills. We had found a church we weren’t hating and we began to settle into adulthood, together. During that time I met an old friend of my Auntie Carol’s. Sue, as I remember, was also a TCK. She was probably a couple of decades older than I was but she kindly invited me to meet a group of TCKs that met regularly to encourage each other. I was pleasantly surprised to meet and to be invited into this eclectic circle of other displaced persons from all over the world. All of them were significantly older than I was. Most were in their thirties and forties. There were some older grey heads in the room.

I sat quietly through that afternoon and listened. These were adults. They were struggling to commit to buying a house. They wanted to travel. In those days before cell phones their long distance phone bills were points of contention. They had spouses who didn’t understand their restlessness. Most of them longed for some sort of global impact. They felt bored by typical 9-5 jobs. They wanted to matter. They still felt out of kilter culturally. They still had parts of their hearts abandoned in other countries of the world. Many of them were beginning to work through the after-effects of boarding school, the unintended consequences of those early separations were affecting their own parenting, their abilities to make decisions, their faith.

I remember hearing what they were saying and feeling horrified that this was a thing I would have to contend with my whole life. In those months immediately after college I was so certain I was on the edge of finally “getting it”…I was about to settle, I just knew it… I was about to become fully Canadian again. Sitting there listening in on the struggles of those on the same journey as I was was overwhelming, and it weighed me down. I had no idea.

Now I am one of those same grey haired older adult TCKs (or I used to be until my hairdresser dyed me a fiery feisty red!). How I would love to go back to that group and learn from them. How I wish I had a similar circle to sit around and air my own struggles and strains. I long for that type of community that might understand me deeply in those darker, quieter, confused places of my soul. I battle restlessness. I want my life to matter. I also want to have a global impact, a broader purpose. My heart breaks with mercy for justice in Nigeria, in Ukraine, in the Central Africa Republic, Syria, Malaysia. I perpetually feel my square self struggling to fit into my round surroundings. The left-over separation anxieties from boarding school still tighten my chest at the thought of leaving my own children for any length of time.

This label still fits, all these years later. I am still an adult Third Culture Kid.

These are the days when people want to know themselves. They want to be known. Personality tests are rampant on the internet. Which Harry Potter character are you? Which musical would you be most likely to star in? Which Biblical Character are you? Which Disney Princess? As an Adult Third Culture Kid I also want to be known. I want to be understood….

When I was a young TCK I was up against my own ignorances. I had no idea how Canada worked. I had to suss it out. All my senses turned on. I listened for cues. I quietly, subtly observed my surroundings. I intuited how the system worked. Still now as an older adult TCK I still rely on these strategic tools —except it’s harder now with bifocals! I can’t see life on the edges…it’s all blurry and bothered. I find myself removing my glasses when I enter a new situation as I try to find my bearings.

I suppose that’s how it’s always been though…a little blurry on the edges. Perhaps the Aging Adult Third Culture Kid sees better than she thinks she does. Finally a little clarity!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Vulnerability.Community.God

Today’s post comes by way of a friend from long ago. In fact, we first met when I was like one of the missionary kids featured in this article, and she was living in the U.S. with probably little thought that she would end up spending most of her life overseas.

For those of you who haven’t heard the term – missionary kids are a subset of third culture kids and come with their own set of experiences based on the fact that it was faith and a calling that led their parents to work overseas. Because of this, faith and faith crises are often a big part of this journey. Not a bad part – but a big part.

And that’s why I love this post. My friend, who has chosen to write anonymously, takes us into some of that journey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts through comments at the end of the essay.

*******************

There once was a Sunday school class & mostly missionary kids attended it. A group of parents had agreed to rotate as facilitators of the class, hosting maybe once a month. As weeks passed & schedules changed, the names on the parent roster dwindled, until there was only “one-man-standing.” Me. Never dreamed my crazy life could or would give space for something as regular as a weekly class with a bunch of equally busy high school kids but — with my erratic schedule & their willingness to put-up-with-it — it was a perfect match.

The years together remain one of life’s sweet spots, full of unsolicited chuckles & smiles.

Vulnerability, Community, & God
Some assume missionary kids must have a strong faith — because of their heritage, because of the way their parents live out their faith, because of the opportunities they’ve had to see God at work in the world. Although this is true for many, there are also many for whom the journey to define faith is difficult & full of questions. Questions that reveal their uncertainty about the very One their parents have banked their entire life’s work. Questions their peers may or may not accept. Questions many people ask at one time in life or another — but the missionary kid’s life is spent in an environment surrounded by those who are not-so-quick to reveal their own doubts. Guess this could be similar to kids in a church setting in any town, in any country.

Call it the plight of the missionary kid — or the plight of those who are raised in a home where faith in God is assumed true. Their exposure to the Christian faith at an early age is certainly a gift, one that could result in a deep faith; however, there are no guarantees. 

It did not take long to realize this fast-growing class needed a safe place to “work out their faith.” Even more than that, they needed a place where they could construct their own faith – discovering what they believe & why. For almost all, the beginnings of their relationship with God began with a simple child-like step of faith. Yet, for some, the size of their faith was not much larger years later. The only visible difference was the growing amount of Bible knowledge supporting it. This accumulation of knowledge can increase the size of one’s faith — or it can simply be an accumulation.Their willingness to be vulnerable, my willingness to be present & equally vulnerable, God’s ability to show Himself, mixed with tons of love for one another created a unique place – a place where faith had a chance to grow. To use the familiar Christian cliché, we built one another up in the faith. Many times I thought, “This is it!” As if learning it for the first time, this is how faith grows.Are all questions answered? No. Do they still have doubts? Yes. Did I have any clue what I was doing? Mostly not. But I’d like to think we walked away with a formula — not one we ever talked about — but one that we’ll remember & one that will serve us for years to come.

Vulnerability + Community + God = A little more faith than the day before

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip MuffinsReaders – forgive me for not posting this beautiful recipe for muffins yesterday! You’re going to want to stop and make these today, Tuesday, as soon as you see the recipe. So yummy. Here are Stacy’s words on these muffins: “Nothing too complicated this week:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins.  They have a mostly-sweet-but-a-little-salty thing going on with the addition of extra roasted peanuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips, along with the peanut butter.” Just click on the link or the picture to go to the recipe. 

Related articles