One Last Look
Where Our Experiences Find Life
My nephew, Tim, and his wife and baby are moving. They have been living in Mexico for the past two years, and their time has come to an end.
When they joined the Foreign Service, they knew that theirs would be a life of hellos and goodbyes; that boxes and moving trucks would periodically turn homes back into houses; and that they would ever after categorize their life as a life lived Between Worlds.
But even though they knew that, living out that reality is different then anticipating it. In a beautiful blog post, my nephew describes the experience of watching their home become a house. You can read it by clicking here.
I’ll end with these words taken from the blog post:
Watching the physical symbols of home go into boxes is a melancholy experience. It means we are leaving soon. But we also know that home is not our stuff.
Home, for our family, is finding love and belonging in all of the new places that we are blessed to experience.*
*You can follow Tim and Kim’s journey at Far and Away, With T, K, & J
“Unless the world finds compassion for this new communality, learns to make sense of one another’s voices, its humanity will perish.”*
I have been a stranger in many places around the world. In those places, I slowly found a place and a home. It hasn’t always been easy, but there are many times and many ways that I have been welcomed as a stranger and given food and comfort.
It is a gift to be welcomed into places where you are different from those who surround you. It is a gift that you never forget; a gift that you want to pass on.
Wherever they go, the refugee arrives as a stranger with a story. These stories encompass all that it means to be human. They speak of fear and courage; of despair and hope. They help us to see beyond our comfortable lives, and give us a heart to help. If we are willing to listen.
Today I am asking you to listen to the voices of refugees and for refugees. As you read through these quotes, remember this: We cannot sit back, comfortable in our security, because someday it will be us.
“No one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land.” excerpt from “Home” by Warsan Shire
This is a century of dislocation not merely of body and home, but also of empathy, dignity, compassion.”-From Refugees Don’t Need Your Pity
“They have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again, have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries.”
— Rupi Kaur, Milk & Honey
To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory.” Tennessee Office for Refugees
“If we lived in a just world, all nations would protect their citizens’ human rights. But that’s not our world. Refugees are just one result of injustice. Crucially, they didn’t cause their plight; rather, they are victims of profound injustice. Because their home nation cannot or will not protect even their basic human rights, they must migrate in search of protection. They are entitled to this protection, as all of us are, simply by virtue of being human.” Patti Tamara Lenard, “Who should pay for the refugees? Here are five possible answers.” Washington Post, February 8, 2016
…If the world measures a refugee according to the worst story, we will always excuse human suffering, saying it is not yet as bad as someone else’s.” Victoria Armour-Hileman
The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it.- Tony Behn “Living Like a Refugee: New York Must Do More to Help Its Homeless”, The Observer, September 9, 2015
So often the world sits idly by, watching ethnic conflicts flare up, as if these were mere entertainment rather than human beings whose lives are being destroyed. Shouldn’t the existence of even one single refugee be a cause for alarm throughout the world?” Urkhan Alakbarov
“While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
*From Refugees Don’t Need Your Pity
Remember! Purchase Passages Through Pakistan and royalties will go to refugees in the Middle East.
Quotes on “Third Culture Kids”
The study of the third culture kid perspective is not static. Every year, new information and quotes can be found. I’ve compiled this short list of TCK quotes for you today. There are many, many more – but these are some that I have gathered or written the past few years. Please add to this list in the comment section!
“A British child taking toddling steps on foreign soil or speaking his or her firstwords in Chinese with an amah (nanny) has no idea of what it means to be human yet, let alone ‘British.’ He or she simply responds to what is happening in the moment” (Pollock and Van Reken, 2001)
One of the quickest ways to damage the heart of a TCK is to outlaw negative emotions (grief, anger, disappointment, etc.). Tell them they shouldn’t feel something, or that they just need to suck it up, or that their feelings show a lack of gratefulness. Yup, that’ll do it. But, and this is the great part, allowing a TCK to experience the full range of emotions is one of the most caring things you can do. It’s also one of the healthiest things you can do. – Jonathan Trotter in 3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your TCK
“A global soul is a person who had grown up in many cultures all at once – and so lived in the cracks between them.”– Pico Iyer
The journeying reality of the adult third culture kid is connecting our multicultural past with something that feels meaningful; connecting our invisible skills to a visible occupation.- Marilyn Gardner
Sometimes it’s very confusing, not knowing where you belong, or not belonging anywhere but feeling that you should. Other times I feel history’s breath on my back and I wonder about the ways that everything got woven together for me to be where I am now.” – Olga Mecking
“The answer to the question of how long it takes them to adjust to American life is: they never adjust. They adapt, they find niches, they take risks, they fail and pick themselves up again. They succeed in jobs they have created to fit their particular talents, they locate friends with whom they can share some of their interests, but they resist being encapsulated. Their camouflaged exteriors and understated ways of presenting themselves hide the rich inner lives, remarkable talents, and often strongly held contradictory opinions on the world at large and the world at hand.” – Dr. Ruth Useem
“Seeing a world we loved disappear out a tiny airplane window as the plane lifts off and flies away. If we’re lucky, it circles once so we can take a last full look at a place we once called home.” – Jennie Legate
“Our generation is in need of voices with storied backgrounds. TCKs who participate in a faith community are equipped to bring about a certain vitality and prophetic voice. They embody a different story to congregations with a single narrative. In this fast paced society of sound bytes and noise, we need the sharpened clarity brought by multiple cultural lenses, a valued asset TCKs possess. They live outside the box, upset the status quo, captivate larger dreams, and compel those around us to examine preconceived notions and to live with deeper integrity and passion.” – Cindy Brandt in Third Culture Kids in the World of Faith
so, here you are. Too foreign for home, too foreign for here. never enough for both. – ijeoma umebinyuo
There are a group of us who bear no identifying marks. We don’t have the same accent, we don’t pronounce or even necessarily spell words the same way. We can’t tell one another at first glance. We don’t wear the “home team” t-shirt.But when we meet, and we know we’ve met, it’s like we’re from the same place. We greet each other, we carry on, we tell stories, we laugh wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter the age difference, the nationality, the gender. We connect. – Robynn Bliss in TCK Reunions – An Invisible Bond
“No generation before now has had so many of its members simultaneously living in, between, and among countless cultural worlds as is happening today.” – Lois Bushong
“Any third culture kid who lives effectively in her passport country has a moment of truth when she realizes it’s okay to live here; it’s okay to adjust; it’s okay, even if she never feels fully at home, to feel a level of comfort in who she is in her passport country. To adapt doesn’t mean settling for second best. To adapt is to use the gifts she developed through her childhood in order to transcend cultures and to find her niche in both worlds.” – Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging
“Our homes are not defined by geography or one particular location, but by memories, events, people and places that span the globe.” – Marilyn Gardner
What quotes about TCKs do you love? Please join the conversation in the comment section!
Just be Faithful – a Repost
Readers – today is a repost. I’ll be going off the blog through the weekend. I am so grateful that you come by and read, comment, encourage, and help me grow. Thank you.
“I’m so tired” I think as I’m walking to the subway. Rain is falling and my feet hurt. I’m dragging at six thirty in the morning. I want to cry in this world of cold and rain.
Just be faithful – It’s not like I see the Heavens open and hear the voice of God reverberate across the skies and through my head. It’s just a still, quiet, persistent thought.
Just be faithful.
I’m just back from a refugee camp where 1500 people are displaced — men, women, and children. A place where you beg God to have mercy, where you weep for those who have lost everything. Where you wish you had millions of dollars and a heart that could love harder.
I want to do so much more.
I send a message to my friend miles away in Djibouti, in a place as dry and hot as my world is cold and rainy. “It feels so small” I say. She replies in words that capture a life of being faithful “Know what? It is small. And you are just one person. But a mustard seed is small. That’s the way of the Kingdom. May we always delight in being part of small things.”
Just be faithful.
Those words again. They are so persistent. I must pay attention. Faithful – having or showing constant support or loyalty. Steadfast. Dedicated. Constant. Loyal. True. What does this mean right now? What does it mean in crowds and tiredness? I know well what it means in the quiet with my candle burning and my hot drink by my side. Oh I know faithful then and it is easy. But what is faithful in a refugee camp? What is faithful now – on a rainy morning?
Just be faithful.
So I think about what being faithful to God means in this moment. In this moment it’s as simple as not taking the handicapped seat. But I want it, oh how I want it. And it’s there and it’s empty and what if some young 20-year-old takes that seat? It’s not for them! It’s for the handicapped and I feel handicapped at the moment. Just be faithful. Don’t take the seat. I sigh and move on down the squished train. Faithful – it means I won’t push my way through, it means I’ll give up self and make sure others are okay, it means I’ll notice the person that needs help. That is all I am called to, nothing more — but nothing less.
Just be faithful.
It means I’ll give a nod and a smile when I don’t feel like it, that I’ll stop and communicate with the marginalized when I see them on the street, that I won’t gossip about co-workers when they make me angry, that I won’t get outraged about what doesn’t matter, that I will communicate in spirit and in truth, that I will love hard and pray harder, that I will love God and love others, that I will read, speak, and write words that honor God, that echo truth. Just be faithful.
The words continue “Marilyn, I know you’re tired. Just be faithful. With my strength be faithful.” There is now a heavy rain falling and those of us on our way to work are leaving the subway. There is a puddle three inches deep on the platform right before the stairs, just deep enough to seep into shoes before going up to dark clouds and rain. I’m still tired but I walk with One who knows tired, with One who knows pain, with One who knows what it is to live out faithful in this beautiful, broken world.
Just be faithful. The words are lyrical now, they speak through the mist and rain, redemptive and life-giving.
Ideas for #GivingTuesday
I belong to the early morning crowd. The group that gets up at 5 and is fully functioning by 6:45. The group that is still mostly groggy while on public transit. I used to hate the silence of this group, feel alienated that everyone was in their own world in these early mornings.
Now I understand it. Now I love it. Early mornings are my best thought time. And today my thoughts are caught between the now and the eternal.
Shops began decorating for the Christmas season before Thanksgiving and now are in their full array of colors and products, golds, greens, and reds – the sparkles interrupted only by yellow “On Sale” tags. The stuff beckons. It’s so pretty. It’s got glitter and glam. It says “Buy me, you need me!” The faceless mannequins in the window dare me to refuse, beckon me with their androgynous sophistication decked in sweaters, tights, scarves, and jewelry.
But beyond the mannequins is a lighted star, placed high above the street by the city of Boston. It’s the promise of Christmas reminding me of a birth, of men who were searching for a Saviour, of an event that changed our calendar forever.
I’m struck once again by the constant battle of the now and the eternal. Beyond every mannequin is a star, promising so much more. But the mannequin is on eye level. And to see the star I have to look up.
Today, following the black of Friday and the cyber of Monday, is designated #givingTuesday. A nation needing to ease its conscience? Perhaps. But important none the less. It’s the star beyond the mannequin. The reminder that there is more to the season than the material, more to life then what we see now.
I know that you as readers have priorities of where you give and how you give. I still want to talk about three areas that are dear to my heart – women’s health, refugees, and moms and babies. The first is women’s health and the problem of fistula. I’ve talked before about this problem, about how a surgery costing $450 gives hope and a new life. Hope for Our Sisters is tireless in their ongoing work to bring attention to this problem. Brooke Sulahian – the president of this non-profit organization, has a vision and mission to bring hope to women with fistula. Your donation will not be lost in a pot of money or go to a CEO whose salary is more than many will make in a lifetime of working. Your money will go towards providing the surgery needed to restore health for the woman with fistula. The link below will take you to the website where you can easily make a donation online. Alternately they accept checks.
Donate to Hope for our Sisters
The second area that is dear to my heart is the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Many of you know that my husband had the opportunity to go to Gazientep, Turkey earlier this fall. It included a trip across the border into Syria and visiting a refugee camp in “No Man’s Land” between Turkey and Syria. This camp has no running water and no latrines. At last count, the population of the camp was 14,000 people, primarily women and children. There are a couple of ways you can help. The first is through making kits – hygiene, baby, education – I wrote about it here. The link to instructions for making these kits is below. There are so many ways to do this that both celebrate the season as well as move us into action. Have people over for cocoa and Christmas cookies, with a side-helping of emergency kits.
You can also purchase either Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging or Passages Through Pakistan and the royalties will go toward refugees.
Make Emergency Kits for Syrian Refugees
Another way to give toward the refugee crisis is through Heart for Lebanon. Heart for Lebanon was founded in 2006 as a natural response to the devastation left behind in Southern Lebanon after the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In 2008 the organization began serving Iraqi refugees and has been involved in refugee work since that time. Through food distribution, schools, and health education they reach those displaced by wars in both Iraq and Syria.
Donate to Heart for Lebanon
The last place I would suggest is a maternity center in Haiti. These midwives are incredible! Every day I follow their work in Haiti. Every day I witness stories of moms being met with love and care as they go through the birth experience. Think Call the Midwife – Haiti Style. Their website says it all: Heartline’s Maternity Center exists to provide expectant mothers in Haiti with excellent maternal-healthcare. When women enter our doors they find love, support, education, medical care, relationship and respect.
Heartline is bigger than just the maternity center, but my heart is with these moms and babies so I want to highlight it today.
Donate to Heartline Ministries – Maternity Center
There are thousands of other places where your heart may be led to give – I offer the suggestions above because they are the things that grab my heart, as well as being organizations that are small with little overhead and a huge volunteer base for the work they do. The main thing to remember is this:
When we see the mannequin, that faceless, bedazzled mannequin that beckons so insistently, may our Advent prayer be to look up and beyond to the star.
Scanning the Horizon
We took off from O’Hare Airport in Chicago in the early morning. On the ground the weather was cold and rainy, but as the plane ascended we flew above the thick grey into golden sunshine. It was beautiful.
It’s an old cliche — that beyond the clouds is sunshine. But it’s true. The sun may hide but it can’t be removed. The sun, stretching across an expansive horizon, always wins.
I think about this as I sit in the window seat of row 26. I look past my sleeping husband to my son and mouth the words “Isn’t it beautiful?” He nods and smiles with knowing. We quietly scan the horizon and then go back to our books.
In my faith tradition, this season is the Advent season. After the indulgence of a recent holiday, this is a time of fasting, a time of waiting. In a beautiful poem, Madeleine L’Engle calls it the “irrational season.”
We needs these times in the church. Times of longing and expectation, times of hope.
My friend Laura says it well:
Advent reminds us that we are the farthest we could find ourselves from optimism and bootstrap-tightening. We don’t need a new gym membership. We need rescue. We are plunged into the woes of Israel, their wandering, their panting for life-transforming, globe-spanning salvation. If we are wise — and I pray for renewed wisdom this Advent — we will make room in our overly taxed bandwidth to let the Holy Spirit guide us out of our numbing addictions and down into the thick of it. Let the gnawing ache ring and discover that we are scanning the horizon for the Messiah.
And so I begin this season — this irrational season of scanning the horizon for the Messiah, knowing that when we seek him, we will find.
Will you join me?
Blogger’s Note: You can purchase Laura’s beautiful Advent book of poetry here!