2017 – Making All Things New

abandoned house

A couple of years ago, there was a show on television called Rehab Addict. It’s not what you may think from the title. It’s about a woman who takes old, dilapidated houses and rehabilitates them, makes them fresh and beautiful, ready to be lived in again. In her words, she is “addicted to rehab,” the kind of rehab that houses need.

The show is inspiring. She rarely uses anything new. She finds old cabinets and strips them, creating charm and style. She finds an antique door knob that isn’t working, takes it apart and fixes it. After she is through with it, it’s not only workable but catches the light from the shine of its polish. She makes all things new.

And that’s what I think about today as I get ready to face 2017. I am desperate for rehab, desperate for the old and dilapidated to emerge as bright, fresh, and new.

In the book of Revelation, we are given a glimpse of a new Heaven and a new Earth. We are given a glimpse of a place with no more pain, no more suffering, no more fractured relationships and tired broken promises. We are given a picture that is better than we can possibly imagine. 

“.…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Our world is weary. So many of us are desperate for rescue, desperate to see justice roll down, desperate for light to shine in the dark places. We are desperate for healing, waiting for our tears to be wiped away.

Into this mix come the promises in Revelation. Irrational? Perhaps. Improbable? Maybe. Do I believe them? With all my heart. A virgin birth, a baby saviour, a life lived without sin, death on a cross, and a resurrection. Those things are the foundation for the promises that come years later in Revelation through John, the Beloved Disciple.

None of that makes sense to the rational mind, but it sure makes sense to those of us desperate for rehabilitation. It makes sense to those of us who know that we are not capable of living life without a Savior. 

He will make all things new. It is God who will take those of us tired in body and soul and rehabilitate us for his purpose, for his glory. It may not be rational, but this is the beauty of an irrational season.

“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.'”

May we face 2017 with the joy of a people who hope; a people who long for God’s kingdom to come on earth, just as it is in Heaven. And may we look with anticipation for all things to be made new. 

[Source: Revelation 21: 4-6 NIV]

A Look Back and a Look Ahead

volkswagen-569315_1920.jpg

May the wind be always at your back, and the sun shine warm upon your face, may the rains fall soft upon your fields, until the day we meet again. 

*****

After four years of blogging, this was the year that a couple of pieces here at Communicating Across Boundaries went viral. As of the beginning of this week, CAB had over 1,172,000 views and counting. And the great thing about this is that nothing changed. Absolutely nothing. I still love, but have to work hard at, writing. The same people who have read, encouraged, and emailed me during the last four years still read, encourage, and email.  I’m still the same person with the things I care about deeply  – like refugees, third culture kids, and cross-cultural communication. I’ve long known that in God’s dealings with me, he tends to wait on any sort of success. I’ve come to cherish that, because if success comes it is so clear that it has precious little to do with me, and a great deal to do with him.

So as we close out 2015 and move into 2016 I want to thank you so much! I never take it for granted that you will read. I am always touched, surprised, and delighted when you share what I write, when you like what I write, when you contact me or comment on a post.

You have helped me in more ways than you will ever know. And yet I’ve never met most of you. So to you who I’ve never met – thankyou! 

Top Posts of 2015

Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis – With 328 thousand shares, this piece, written quickly but passionately, resonated deeply with people. It made me so sad that so many of us have experienced a crisis compounded by the pain of words poorly chosen. But then there is also grace – and those pieces were shared a great deal as well.

There is something about suffering that longs for someone to sit with us through the pain. It’s the fellowship of suffering. It’s the words ‘you are not alone’ put into action. The sitting bears witness to our pain. More than a card or a casserole, the familiar, patient presence of another says to us ‘it’s too much for you to bear, but I will be with you, I will sit with you.’

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first piece and then the two inspired by it, here are the links:

Giving Grace to People in Crisis 

A Final Note for Those in Crisis

Dear Mr. Graham – Let me Introduce you to Some Friends... – You don’t have to spend much time on Communicating Across Boundaries to find out that I am passionate about correcting some of the misperceptions of Muslims and of Muslim Majority Countries. This article was written passionately in response to what I feel were some misguided and dangerous words spoken by Franklin Graham, a Christian leader and son of the beloved evangelist – Billy Graham. The piece was picked up by the Zwemer Center and I was honored that they used it. It was widely read and some people agreed with it while others vehemently disagreed.

Hear this Mr. Graham – You do not need to give up your truth claims to have dialogue. You do not have to give up the things that you hold dear, that you believe with all your heart, to be willing to form friendships and talk within relationship. In fact, your truth claims should guide you into those relationships without fear, without fear-mongering, but with humility and a desire to love and to understand. I am not asking you to not be angry about terrorism. I am not asking you not to express outrage at attacks against others that are carried out in evil malice. I am asking that you not stoop to the low-level of stereotyping all Muslims as terrorists.

Honor the Grief, Honor the Goodbye – I wrote this post over a year and a half ago, but it resurfaced this year and was widely read by a community that knows goodbyes. We know the joy of hello and the pain of goodbye, and I wrote this because I think it is so important to honor these feelings.

So if you are one of those people, one of those families that is saying goodbye…. I offer this: Sit with your grief, let it flow, don’t try too hard to analyze, don’t push yourself or others to some ‘right’ response. Just sit with it. Because as the grief comes, so will the comfort.

Saudade – A Word for the Third Culture Kid – This is the third year where Saudade has been one of the top viewed posts. It’s just something about that word. This essay is also featured in my book Between Worlds – Essays on Culture and Belonging.

I have often been looked at with impatience. “Third culture kids are not that different!” says the skeptic. “We all have times of longing,” but I would argue, gently, that our experience is different. We are neither of one world nor the other, but between. Our earliest memories are shaped by sights, sounds, and smells that we now experience only in brief travels or through movies and television. All of those physical elements that shaped our early forays into this world are of another world. And so we experience saudade. And the simple discovery of a word gives meaning to those feelings, and can validate and heal. 

A Poem of Hope – Two Rows By the Sea – Of all the pieces posted on Communicating Across Boundaries, it thrilled me that this was so widely read. It’s because it was written by a group of Egyptian Christians at the Bible Society in Egypt after Daesh killed 21 Coptic Christians on the banks of the sea. It is beautiful and it was a privilege to be able to post it on CAB.

One row stood steady, pall-bearers of death,
The other knelt ready, welcoming heaven’s breath,
One row spewed wretched, contemptible threats,
The other spread God-given peace and rest.

Paris is White, Lebanon is Brown, Mizzou is Black – As we collectively grieved the Paris attacks, I had some strong thoughts about internet outrage. Whether right or wrong, they were my thoughts at the time.

And I wake up troubled. The world feels so broken, so beyond repair.And I too weep for Paris, for the grief and loss that cannot be quantified. But I can’t help thinking about how little the other events matter to our world. I can’t help thinking that somehow we have been deceived into believing that the white, Western world is more worthy of empathy and concern, not only in our sight, but in the sight of God.

The last widely read post was Toward a Fellowship of Suffering. While it was written over two years ago, it surged in reading because of the topic.

Perhaps we feel helpless in the presence of the pain of others. We are not in control. We would do anything we could to make it all okay. But we can’t. We can’t make the pain okay. We can’t explain away suffering, and when we try, we tend to make up reasons for suffering. We end up forcing bad theology on people. A theology of suffering that has to have answers, instead of a fellowship of suffering that simply needs the presence of another. We speak too soon and our words are the salt in an already terrible wound.

_____________________________________________________

So what’s new for 2016?

  • I go to Lebanon and Jordan on January 7th, the same day as Orthodox Nativity. It will be a gift to go to be present with refugees in both of those countries and support those who work with refugees daily.
  • Robynn and Lowell Bliss will be starting a regular blog, so Fridays we will be linking up with that blog. I’m so excited for many of you to begin to hear from both of these gifted writers.
  • I hope to continue to write three times a week, more when something sparks my interest.
  • I have a new book coming! Passages Through Pakistan will be available sometime in 2016. I am excited and terrified about this book. It is a lot more vulnerable than my blog posts and tells more of the Pakistan story. But overall, it is a story of faith.

So thank you – for the myriad of ways you speak into my life. My hope is that I will be worthy of speaking into yours and above all, that I will not waste your time. Love to all of you!

How to Find Joy in 2015 – Especially for the Third Culture Individual

Hunting joy

How to Find Joy in 2015An Amateur Joy Hunter’s Guide for the Restless, for Those Longing for Adventure or for the Third Culture Individual by Robynn. Follow Robynn on Twitter here.

I have to admit that for the first time in my middle-aged life I stood on the threshold of this new year with trepidation and anxiety. I felt nervous. We entered 2014 so naively. That naivety was unfounded and ridiculous. It taunts me now. What might happen in 2015? What plot twists? What challenges? Who might move? Who might die suddenly? What betrayals and emotional terrorists might cross my path? On New Year’s eve I could feel the anxiety well up like bile in the back of my throat.

January and I have never really gotten along. I’m usually tired and a little worn thin by the time the month begins. The grey skies and cold temperatures do little to warm me to her. It’s hard for me to see past the gloomies and the glumsters. It’s hard for me to find joy.

This afternoon I sketched out a plan. I’m going on a hunt for joy. I’m determined to try. Here’s what I’m working with:

  1. Cook “foreign” food. Perhaps it’s a dish you recognize from another place you used to live. Maybe it’s entrée completely strange to you too…but you know someone somewhere calls this comfort food. Try it out! Of course this involves tracking down interesting ingredients from tiny little aisles in odd little shops. You’ll likely meet interesting people who can help you properly pronounce the words on the bottles in front of you! The smells will spark memories (or if all else fails, make memories for the others in your house!). The tastes will stimulate conversation. And along the way you’ll happen upon some joy.
  2. Watch a foreign film—preferably one with subtitles! Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate. Snuggle up in a blanket. Enter into these foreign spaces and let your imagination run wild! Different countries produce different values and those different values are reflected in different styles of cinema. Without the hassle of packing and stress of updating your passport you can suddenly find yourself in a new and wonderful place with friends who speak with a different rhythm and tone. It’s not as dynamic as true travel but it does leave you feeling, for a little bit, that you’ve been somewhere else. (Here’s a place to start: http://www.indiewire.com/article/the-best-foreign-language-films-of-2014-according-to-criticwire-20141022)
  3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles Your Way—Remember a crazy trip you made in a strange place. Phone someone that was with you then: a sibling or a parent or a friend. Recall all the unbelievable details, the missed connections, the armed guards, the cow on the railroad tracks, how you got to the airport five hours before your flight. Remember out loud together. And laugh. Laugh long and laugh hard.
  4. Live now. Are there cultures close at hand that you might cross? Are there sub-cultures you suspect that you might bravely enter? My youngest daughter is learning sign language. In a couple of Sundays she and her teacher are going to a church that has a deaf population. A while ago I walked into a gaming store. There were grown men standing around tall tables. It seemed like they were playing with toy guns and little soldiers that were spread out on the tables. My son Connor tried explaining some of what he knew. We asked the proprietor a few questions. I wish I had approached the table and been more curious. I wish I had made more of an effort to enter a world that is completely foreign to me. I might have made some new friends. I certainly would have learned some things. As Third Culture Individuals we have culture-crossing prowess…we need to use it to actively live now as human bridges between communities. We know instinctively how to do that.
  5. Live later. Why not plan a trip? If resources and responsibilities don’t allow for international air travel, plan a road trip. Drive across the state. Venture into the biggest city near you. Drive to a new neighbourhood. Explore it. Eat food in a local eatery. Avoid chain restaurants or stores. Come to Kansas—for many of you that’s crossing cultures! (It certainly was for me!) Trip advisor has kindly created lists for nearly everywhere…including, as it turns out, Kansas! (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g28937-Activities-Kansas.html).
  6. Celebrate your unique story. Pour yourself a glass of warmed spiced Pimms, or a fragrant mug of hot chai. Make a strong espresso or a cup of pink tea. Whatever beverage you choose, fill your cup to the brim and raise it high. Drink to life…your life! It’s true that very few people in your community share your exact same story. It’s also true that on occasion that feels lonely and isolating. But it’s also true that you are unique. You bring something to the table that very few people do. Enjoy that. Celebrate it!
  7. Write a Psalm to God. Document His faithfulness. The poets and song writers who penned the psalms were honest with their fears and their doubts. They openly admitted their weaknesses. They also knew God’s presence and strength. They were mobile people, always in transition. They wrote about the permanence they found in God, the home they discovered in Him. Try it out: write a psalm. Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! (Ps 90:1). Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow or the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety (Ps 91:1-2). Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise him enough? (Ps 106:1-2)
  8. Take a deep breath! Be present to your current Now. Resist the temptations to dull the restlessness and the accompanying loneliness. Remember who you are and where you live. You’ve been placed here for a purpose. Look around. Notice the beauties and the blessings. Begin to write them down. Turn around and say thank you. Joy and Gratitude are cousins. They often hang out together. Invite Gratitude for coffee and Joy often shows up!
  9. Look around. Take your eyes off of you. See someone else in gloomiville. January is notorious for the effect she has on people. It won’t take you long to find another who is hurting. Take the initiative. Make eye contact. Strike up a conversation. Point out something amusing. Laugh together. Whatever little joy you brought for lunch, pull it out and share it. Jesus will make it stretch. There will be enough joy to go round….and there may even be some leftover for you both to take home and nibble on later.

I have no idea if this stuff will work. I’ve been feeling pretty bleak. But I dare me to step out and give it a shot! I really wrote this one mostly for me. I made vegetable curry and dhal and rice last night for supper. There was Punjabi Pachranga Pickle and plain curd on the table. I found naan at the Asian Food Store. We ate with our fingers and it made us warm and happy. And I think tonight we’ll watch a movie…..

Here’s to success in the hunt! Joy will be found!

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/carlsbad-california-beach-seaside-351318/ word art by Marilyn R. Gardner

State of the Blog

old-books with quote

Every year I look back on blogging and write about it. I look to see what your favorite pieces were, I remember what my favorite pieces were, and I think about whether Communicating Across Boundaries should continue. Is it just white noise in an ever growing amount of word clutter across this thing we call the ‘internet’? Does it have a place, a purpose? Is it worth continuing? I think these are important questions. I don’t want this space to be a waste of time. If Communicating Across Boundaries continues with myself, Robynn, guest writers, and you as readers, I want it to be something good and life-giving.

So it’s not only a time to look back and review favorites, it’s also a time to look forward and think about what may be ahead. I’ll continue the contemplative tone later, but first — a look at the favorites!

first off, a word about you:

You came from 168 countries with the top three being the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. You came from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Brazil, China…..and so many more. This makes me beyond happy! I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the map and saw the span of where readers came from. You found the blog primarily through Facebook, Twitter, A Life Overseas, Bloglovin’, and Freshly Pressed.

most read & shared pieces:

Saudade – A Word for the Third Culture Kid. You’d think people would be tired of this one, it’s been on for over 3 years. But people still come back to it. It reminds me that words are important, and finding words that we can use to describe difficult identities can be part of a healing process.

“I’m From…” by Adelaide Bliss. This amazing post by Robynn’s daughter spurred many to write their own “I’m from” pieces. I love that and I love that this piece was so widely read.

Behind the Persian Curtain: An American in Iran (3-part series on Iran) by Cliff Gardner. This post was Freshly Pressed and is a window into my husband’s trip last January to Iran.

The Third Culture Kid Dictionary. This was a fun piece that resonated with readers. Again – it’s partly a mystery and partly how much we rely on language to describe who we are and how we feel.

You Know You Married a TCK When…. Spouses and TCKs alike read this avidly. It was fun post to do and I think helps to describe those oddities and idiosyncrasies that make us who we are.

Mourning for Pakistan. This was a recent post and I am so grateful it was read, passed on, and read more. Pakistan has my heart in so many ways and to know people cared enough to read it and pass it on was a gift.

my favorites:

Moving is Hard or This Too is India – by Robynn. I loved this piece, reminding me that wherever we live, wherever we unpack our suitcases, there are challenges.

Experiencing the Gray: A Daughter’s Grief by Lauren Robertson Gardner. My daughter-in-law wrote this poignant piece on the anniversary of her dad’s death. It is lovely and I would also encourage you to read A Daughter’s Gift to her Dying Father.

The Forgotten Ones – this piece was so important to me. On my trip to Turkey and visit to a refugee camp I fell in love with the Yezidi people. This piece gives a glimpse into their plight.

We Speak the Language of Elsewhere – a post on being other and reaching out to those who are displaced.

On Sun-Drenched Elsewheres – a fun post when you’re cold and longing for places far away.

The Reluctant Orthodox #22 – On the Baptism of a Son – My love and respect for my youngest son grows by the day. This was written on his Baptism and Chrismation into the Orthodox Church.

what’s ahead:

It’s hard to know, right? I’m thrilled about being able to publish Between Worlds – Essays on Culture and Belonging and look forward to the Kindle version being ready any day now so it is more available to the many who are overseas and don’t have easy access to purchasing books made of paper and ink. If you do have access, I would love it if you picked up a copy! I’ll include some links to reviews at the end of this piece.

One of the things I have heard from people who have read Between Worlds is “Tell us more about Pakistan.” So a set of essays on growing up in Pakistan is in the works. I am embarking on a wonderful project with my friend and partner in all things related to cultural competency, Cathy Romeo, on culture and healthcare as that is what I spend so much time doing in my day job. And I hope to have something else to announce a bit later in January so stay tuned.

As long as you keep reading, Communicating Across Boundaries will continue. If blogging dies, I will say goodbye with drama and flair and book giveaways and more, with a hope to continue connecting in other ways!

quotes to consider in 2015:

“A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to Hell than a prostitute.” C.S. Lewis

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis

“…now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

As we tell our stories we realize that these transitions and moves are all part of a bigger narrative, a narrative that is strong and solid and gives meaning to our lives. As we learn to tell our stories we understand not only the complexity of our experience, but the complexity of the human experience, the human heart. So we learn to tell our stories – because your story, my story, and our stories matter.” from page 162 Between Worlds.*

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” T.S Eliot

 “Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”Isaiah 43:18-19

For now, I want to wish you a Happy New Year! Thank you so much for being a part of this space!

*[my brother says that now that I have published a book I’m allowed to quote myself]

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/old-books-book-old-library-436498/ Word art by Marilyn R. Gardner

Home is Where I Feed My Cat and other 2013 Favorites

This past year, in response to a post on Home, a reader who has become an online friend said this:

Home is where I feed my cat.

Home is Where I Feed my Cat

Soon after, she sent the photograph above. Donna is a TCK living in Chicago. She is a thoughtful writer and thinker. This photo and my interactions with Donna illustrate why I love blogging and connecting to those of you who read Communicating Across Boundaries.

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I began blogging three years ago. I remember the day I decided I wanted to write. I was sitting in our living room with my daughter Annie. Annie is an excellent writer and editor. She also knows social media like no one else I know. The conversation went like this:

“I want to blog”

“Okay”

I listed the reasons:

“I want to have a voice. I need a way to process my time in Pakistan. I need to become a better writer. If Sarah Palin has a voice, I need a voice.” 

Annie didn’t dispute any of this. She just gave me good advice. If I wanted to blog I needed to use WordPress not Blogger because it was more user-friendly and professional. I needed to link to social media sites. The blog posts shouldn’t be too long. There was more but the general tenor of the advice was practical and affirming. She didn’t mock or question my motives. She just gave great advice.

And that’s how it all began. 

So today I celebrate my 3rd year and highlight some of what this year held writing wise.

  • I connected with Djibouti Jones and gained a friend, a writing mentor, and a voice that challenges me every time I read something she writes. Rachel did a series on Third Culture Kids this year that I contributed to (probably my most honest piece of writing ever) and one of my all time favorite stories of hers is called God, Giver of Harmonicas. Take a look at it over at She Loves Magazine. I read it aloud to my family last Christmas; I read it aloud again to my family this Christmas.
  • I began writing for A Life Overseas. It has been a joy to connect to this community and to have a regular place to write with a group of people, all with the same goal. Those of us who have a global background struggle with many faith blogs because the point of view is so narrowly western. The purpose of this blog is to connect people who live overseas. I’ll continue writing for them this next year and hope to get involved more on that site. To see posts that I’ve written for them click here.
  • Robynn Bliss began writing regularly for Communicating Across Boundaries. It has been a gift to have her a part of this blog this past year and a writing project is in the works for us.
  • A couple of organizations approached me to use my posts in orientation materials for people who are heading overseas. This was a gift as the requests came at a time when I wondered what business I had in writing at all.
  • I began writing about my faith journey toward Eastern Orthodoxy in a series called The Reluctant Orthodox. This has been a hard thing to do but I think it’s important in my journey of faith, writing, and connecting the two.
  • Lastly – I compiled the most read and shared posts on third culture kids and cross-cultural journeys and sent them to Doorlight Publications with hopes of a late Spring release date. I’m excited to move forward with this project. Next will be a memoir on growing up in Pakistan but this is a first step forward in actually getting these into book form.

Beyond that were Blogging favorites. The most popular posts written in 2013 were these:

My personal favorites were:

Most important because of content:

Finally – here are some things that caught my eye from around the web:

Favorite New Blog: The Link Between – Jody explores many topics from privilege to culture to cross-cultural relationships. Always thoughtful and engaging.

Most challenging post of the year: Silver and Gold on DL Mayfield’s blog Living in the Upside-Down Kingdom. This blog is amazing – this post by Ben Bishop shook me in a way that I haven’t been shaken in a long time.

Funnest Game: What Would I Say developed by some Princeton grad students takes all your Facebook Statuses and generates a status for you. I’t nonsensical and hilarious. Play it with your family – preferably on Facebook.

The one that brought tears to my eyes: The persecuted Christian minority in Pakistan suffered some tragic events. Two bombs going off in a church in Peshawar and a colony burnt down in Lahore were two of the biggest tragedies, but other smaller ones are continually escaping news coverage. This article Human chain formed to protect Christians during Lahore mass showed Muslims and Christians coming together to protect a community.

Favorite recipe blog of all time: Food Lust, People Love by Stacy, a TCK and expat who has lived all over the world. I love that she weaves expat stories into her recipes. Check out her muffin recipes every Monday on Communicating Across Boundaries!

Favorite Book: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I can’t even tell you how much I love this book! Review coming but for now, trust me.

The story that made me cringe: When a Fox news reporter claimed that Jesus was white. On what planet is this true?

All time number one most read piece on Communicating Across Boundaries: Saudade – A Word for the Third Culture Kid. No matter what the day or time, this post that I spent only a few minutes writing continues to be shared. Third Culture Kids need tools, and one of their tools is using words to articulate feelings. I don’t know this, but I’ve a strong suspicion that this is why this post continues to resonate.

And with that long year-end report I’ll say thank you – to really express my gratitude is difficult. I’ve learned and grown much through this process. Thank you for reading and sharing some of our complicated lives alongside Communicating Across Boundaries.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 180,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Who Do You Want to Like You When You’re Eighty?

New YorkWith fireworks and champagne or sparkling grape juice (depending on your preference) my guess is you ushered in 2013 with a celebration. The obligatory kiss caught on camera  in New York City, the ball dropping, the “Happy New Year'” heard around the world – they all come in with pops and bangs, with excited anticipation.

And now, it’s New Years Day – the beginning of 2013. Undoubtedly social media sites, newspapers, and the blogosphere have already begun to inundate you with messages on what you want this year to mean, what goals you may have, what movies you should watch for.

Some of these messages may be meaningful: some may urge you to pick a word for the year – let’s say it’s gratitude, and live out that word; others might encourage you to set spiritual, vocational, physical goals.

But I’m not going to do that.

I’m going to give you one question by which to make decisions. If I was really holy, I would give you something about God and I hope you all know how much I love Him….but no, I’m giving you a different question, one that has served me well for years.

Who do you want to like you when you’re eighty?

In bold italics I write it.

It’s a serious question this one. Who, really, do you want to like you when you’re eighty? 

Your boss? Your work? Your book club? Your colleagues? Your hairdresser?

Make the list. Make it twice. And before you make a decision, particularly about work, ask yourself who you want to like you when you’re eighty. There are several times where I’ve come to a crossroad in my life, a point where work and home seem to conflict with each other, where work wants to crowd out that which is important to me. And though I pray and seek guidance sometimes it’s the practical question that gives the greatest clarity.

The choice sometimes feels unfairly weighted. On the one side is money, affirmation, yearly raises, a well-crafted resume. On the other, depending on the year, it can feel like doing needle point – taking painstaking care to get the stitches right, but knowing I won’t see the full picture, the results of the careful stitching, for a long time.

But in all of this, asking this question has never failed me.

And with that I’ll sign off and wish you a New Year filled with blessing, filled with Grace for what comes, filled with knowing more about this God who is “completely trustworthy and utterly unpredictable.”

And those of you who are older “of a more mature age” – What question would you encourage us to ask ourselves? Please share through comments! 

Year in Review

fireworksIt’s the last day of the year and as I write Boston is gearing up for its First Night Celebrations. I’ve felt too sick for reflections, preferring just to drown myself in tea and books, but I wanted to close out the year on this blog by highlighting posts that you have liked as well as introducing you to a couple of other bloggers that I’ve learned from through this year.

The following posts were this years top crowd-pleasers, meaning they received the most views and shares on Facebook, Twitter etc.

Regular Reader Pleasers – these were the posts that regular readers to Communicating Across Boundaries liked.

  •  Who ‘Kindled’ Your Parents? This post, inspired by my husband finding out that my parents had received a Kindle for Christmas was so fun in the comments it received, reminding me that the world divides on many things. Turns out people have strong opinions on print vs. electronic modes of reading.
  • What’s Mom Doing in My Mirror? Ahh – aging and the sense of connection we feel when others express what this whole aging thing feels like. If you’re over 50, this post is for you!
  • 14 year-old Courage. When Malala Yousafzai was shot in Pakistan in October I felt it acutely. It turns out so did many of you.
  • And God….. As an American citizen I am an Independent voter and felt compelled to write about God’s sovereignty no matter who holds the highest office in the land. Turns out those words landed on hearts that felt the same.
  • The Gifts of Loneliness. This post by Robynn beautifully put into words what can be learned through loneliness.

My Faves…..So, blogging is funny in that those posts that I think might be really good often don’t end up top of the list for readers. I wanted to point out a couple of my favorites from this past year.

  • They Want our Symptoms but not our Stories. I shared a personal story that happened soon after coming to the United States in this post, one that resonates with my immigrant friends and patients. This post is for anyone working with a refugee or immigrant population. 
  • Abigail’s Bread. I was struck by the story of Abigail in the Old Testament. A story of a woman who did what was needed to mend an offense.
  • Just One Click. This is one of my most important posts I believe. We have to be held accountable for attack drones.
  • It Was an Old Love. My response to seeing an elderly couple in our youth-obsessed world.

And Now….Bloggers that have inspired me. 

  • Intersections by Deanna Davis. Deanna’s writing is poignant and leads me to love Jesus even more. She has gone through a major crisis this year and leads us to the source of her strength. 
  • Making All Things New by Amy Lepine Peterson. I found this blog awhile ago but was delighted to find a personal connection. Amy is the sister-in-law of the son of one of my close friends.
  • Little Gumnut. Sophie is creativity personified. A fellow third culture kid from Pakistan, she now makes her home in Australia. She writes about everything from creative projects to belonging and what that means.
  • Cecily Mostly. Cecily Thew grew up in Pakistan and now lives in New South Wales. She is an award-winning author and her book Love, Tears, and Autism can be found here.
  • Outside-In. My friend Joanne, another TCK from Pakistan (I promise there isn’t bias here!) has a witty and insightful approach to all things cross-cultural.

It may sound odd but blogging continues to be something I do to make sense of the world around me. Truth is I’m a nurse and I’ve never even taken a college level English class. (you may have noticed some of the grammar and mixed metaphors?!) There are amazing writers one click away from your fingers but you still come here – I’m honored.

In 2013 you can look forward to more Robynn on Fridays. She has been a wonderful addition to CAB. Also I hope to bring on my daughter Stef. She is a great photographer and my hope is to weekly treat you to some of her work. And I’ll be bringing you more from the world around me.

Have a great evening celebration from Kuwait to Karachi to Kansas!