Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Lose Your Voice, Part 2

In part one of this discussion on losing my voice, I talked of being too exhausted to continue to communicate.  The second part of losing my voice whilst I was in Germany had to do with perception and permission.  There were two (greatly generalised) types of ex-pats in my community in German.  There were the ex-pats who complained constantly about the German-way of doing things.  These folks had followed husbands to jobs, but were not necessarily happy about it.  And they complained. About everything. At every opportunity. To anyone who would listen.  Then there was the other type.  The ones who were embarrassed by type one and so who tried to only point out the positives.  In general, unless in the privacy of your own home with your own family, this group did not complain.  They were the eternal "Pollyana's" of the ex-pat world.

Since one of my least favourite groups of people are who we dub "The Ugly American" in our home, you can be assured that I landed in group two.  [The Ugly American is that person, American or not but most likely American, who spends all there time saying "in my home country we did it this way" and refusing to embrace anything about the culture they are visiting.]  I did truly enjoy much of our life in Germany, so it was not a stretch to focus on the positives.  Also, I tend to think if we focus on positives, the negatives are much less looming.

But to never feel able to express the negativity was draining.  Recently another blogger wrote about an entirely different subject, "I did not have the freedom to tell the truth and I no longer had the energy to pretend."  That sums up much of my time in Germany.  I did not have the freedom to express how hard it was.  DH was not having a great time at work and already felt guilty of having moved us yet again in the 3 years and I did not want to add pressure to him.  I knew in my head the first year in a new place is the most difficult and wanted to give it it's best chance.  And, we were convinced then, and I am still convinced, that God had a purpose for us in that place.  Therefore I didn't want to speak against where God had place me.  But it was hard.  Very hard.  And to not have an outlet made it even harder.

Another group-two friend, after she moved away from Germany, commented that she had not realised that she had basically held her breath and held her neck tense for two years until she was back home and could communicate without being afraid of saying it wrong.  Two years of holding your breath and biting back your true feelings is a long time.

But we do this all the time.  We spend years in church fellowships where we are afraid to show that we are hurting or doubting or in need.  We hold our breath and draw in the pain, paint that religious smile on our face and off we go to speak platitudes that are empty.  Why?  Because we don't have the freedom to be ourselves.  Because we are afraid that if we express doubts we will look like "The Ugly Christian" who needs it to be our way or no way.  Or we will not look like a Christian at all.  We convince ourselves that God can't handle it if we are real (and we know our friends can't handle our "realness" because they all have it all together).

Where does this lead us?  To being worn out and "not having the energy to pretend."  Which leads us to drop out of those religious circles that could be life-bringing because they might see that we are cracked and bruised and needy.  We stop communicating with the very ones who could bring us healing.  And we stop communicating the healing others' need.  We need to be able to lay down these masks of "having it together" and be real enough to give voice to our needs and to our ability to help those in need.

I am convinced, maybe even convicted, that we need to build I to our bible studies and our religious circles of friends the ability to be real. I am not advocating for a group one-everything-is-horrible reality, but a reality that is free to say I am having a tough time. I want a freedom to share the hard stuff that God leads me through as well as the easy things. I want to be someone that can handle hearing a friend say "life is tough" and not judge or try to solve it for them. I want to be a Christian community that enhances communication, not stifles it.  In some ways that is easier to build online than in face-to-face life. But I want it in both places.  So this may be a recurring theme that you see here.  As I try to regain my voice, I will advocate for you to have your voice as well. Let us speak in honesty, in reality and of course in love as we share our lives.

Thanks for listening to this rambling heart.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

How to Lose Your Voice, Part 1

I have been reflecting upon how it was I came to lose my words, the very thing that had always brought me clarity and contentment in the changes of my life.  I think it all came to fruition during our time in Germany (although to a large extent it started earlier than that--but that is part 3).

Being in a culture where I did not speak the language was exhausting.  It was mentally draining,  physically tense, and emotionally depleting.  Try as I could, it did not and would not come easy to me.  I would tell my tutor that I was sure Tree (less than 2 at the time) was going to answer her questions before I did.  I was only half-joking.  The truth was, he was learning two languages at once and took delight when he said a German word and all the German-speakers around us would react with total joy.  They did not react that way when I spoke the language.  I tired of being laughed at or given blank stares--both common reactions.  It has long been my belief that if you live in another lingual setting it is your duty to make and effort to communicate in the common language.  But after a year of struggle, I now have an entirely new empathy for those who do not speak a country's native language.

It is hard. Very hard.

Simple things, like going to the grocery store, became things that I dreaded.  My little neighbourhood store had no English speakers.  To make it more challenging, you had to ask for anything that was fresh--vegetables, meat, cheese.  No just picking your own.  My first attempt at getting leaf lettuce (Kr√§utersalat) was met with giggles from the girl getting the vegetables.  She repeated how to say it correctly.  I tried. More giggles.  That rolling/hard r sound is impossible for me.  We repeated this scene for weeks before the day she threw her hands up and said "you got it right" (in English because she practiced with me after a while). Those first attempts were demoralising. To be laughed at week in and week out just to get lettuce.

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Or there was the day that I was buying a whole chicken (Huhn).  I knew how to ask and low and behold it worked she immediately pulled a chicken from the case.  My tutor had told me they would ask if I wanted it cut up (that word I don't remember).  She asked a question about cutting it, I said ja and she went away and came back with it cut and wrapped.  Success, I thought.  Imagine my dismay when I got home to discover that she had indeed cut it up--in half--and I only had half a chicken.  For dinner in an hour for my family of five.  Did I say demoralising?


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These are just easy examples of language difficulty outside native country.  I got to the point that I just didn't want to try to communicate anything when I was at home.  I was exhausted.  I just wanted to allow my mind to veg.  So I stopped writing much of anything.

This may sound like it is specific to living outside our home country, but I think it can generalize.  Sometimes, we stop communicating because the day-to-day communication is in a foreign language that exhausts us.  This world, this culture, is counter to our identity as children of God (more on this in a post to come).  We can spend the day trying to navigate a world between our sacred heart language and the world we live in.  We can become exhausted trying to navigate the negative and pessimistic culture around us.  We can get to the point that we just don't want to have to speak if not absolutely necessary.

You may recognise this.  You spend your day navigating the murky waters of a work place where ambition is more highly regarded than integrity.  You say the politically correct thing to stay afloat even when it doesn't come naturally.  Nodding and smiling takes the place of speaking your heart. Then you come home and don't have the mental energy to switch gears and speak the sacred. So you think you will do it tomorrow.  Or, if you are a student, you walk the path of choosing words that are true and what the professor wants to hear, but may not be your deepest truth. Then, when it comes time to speak or write of your inmost thoughts, there is no energy left to summon it.  We can lose our words as we navigate the foreign language of the world.  

I know that I must find ways to protect my energy, so that I still have the perseverence to speak my heart's language when so many around me do not want to hear or do not understand that language.  Becoming bi-lingual is a must or I become too exhausted to speak.  But, how?

I was struck this week, again, as I read the words of Mark 1:35,

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Jesus was navigating a "foreign" world with a "foreign" language.  He was away from the perfection of his world.  How did he cope?  He got by himself and he prayed.  He found a place to speak his heart language.  He didn't lose touch with who he was whilst he did the things he was called to do.
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I wonder, if that is the key for me to not lose my voice in a foreign world?  It is true, that quiet time and concentrated prayer times are often among the first things to go when I am overwhelmed with life.  That just adds to the spiral of being more and more overwhelmed.  If I am to navigate in a world that speaks a different language than my heart, I must find places and time to speak my heart language.  I must find the time to pray and stay in the word.  I must also find time to speak with those who speak the same language.  Otherwise my speech skills become rusty and I become discouraged, at best, or apathetic at worst.  Even this die-hard introvert needs people!  I need people to come along, encourage, commiserate and hold to account.  And, I need to be that for others.

My friends, if you are losing your voice, if you find you don't have the energy to say another word of anything important, please take some time and reconnect.  Reconnect with God and with others who can speak to the things of God. Reconnect with your heart-language.   Reconnect with me.  I need you.  I need your words, and I am certain others do as well.

God Bless!

photos from www.morguefile.com

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

July Goal Post

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My last goal post was in March.  March!  I am not even sure I remember which of these I managed to succeed at, and which I failed.  But here goes:

In March I said:
1.  Complete 1/2 block on AAHRH--I think yes, because I am on track with this project
2.  Get next unfinished RR to 50% (Fish Bowl)--I actually finished this project in May!
3.  Stitch 2 bride's tree ornaments--Have stayed on track with the ornaments as well!
4.  Finish those 2 books!--I finished one, abandoned one, started/finished one, and started 3 more ;)
5.  Blog at least once a week--LOL!
6.  Plan a trip home--yes, it was awesome
7.  Write 2 letters--no

In July I plan to:
1.  Complete AAHRH (3 blocks to go, so this is a stretch)
2.  Complete one Bride's Tree ornament, this will complete one set
3.  Blog at least 2 times
4.  Enjoy chilling on the beach
5.  Read a book
6.  Plan for next year's science programme for Jewel

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finding Myself

I don't know whether to apologise for not being here, or quietly ignore the fact that it has been months since I have posted anything to note, much less of note, or to just simply start again.

I don't know why I'm surprised it happened.  I sort of lost myself and stopped writing.  Spent more time holding it in my head and less time putting it on paper.  In some ways it has been good--just enjoying and living life without the scrutiny of putting it out there.  But in other ways it has been lonely--since writing is one of my favourite companions.  Truth is, four moves in four years (3 of them international) has taken its toll.  We are all weary of making transitions and making new friends and starting anew.  Even coming "back" to a place we loved before is full of new transitions.  There is a new house, a new village, a new stage of school, a new church building, new friends, lost friends that have moved on.  Well, you get the idea.  And my family is weary.  But this introverted-mother-leader of the family is particularly weary. So I go silent.

There is a song by MercyMe that goes like this...
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

The period of a loss for words has been beneficial.  God has been faithful and we have felt ourselves held in his hands and guided in this last move.  I have enjoyed this time, even whilst understanding the bittersweet of it.  We are settling well.  We have our feet under us.  The house is unpacked and very comfortable.  I have finally framed so many of those cross-stitch pieces done through the years, and the house is decorated uniquely us.  The kids are happy and thriving.  The girls are becoming young women before my very eyes, and it is scary and lovely at the same time.  At least the little one still loves to cuddle in my arms and here "nother tory" and does not mind if I nuzzle that toddler smell in the nape of his neck.  There is a new house group at church that we have the privilege to initiate and lead.  I have so needed a ministry outlet, and at last we again have one as a couple.  I still yearn for a Ladies Bible Study, but am believing that it will come.  We have returned to home educating and 2/3 of us love it (one child misses the classroom but loves that we are on our own schedule again).  We will be breaking our school year in two weeks and going to visit friends and chill on the beach.  A much anticipated time of rejuvenating.  We all need it.  There is something about sea spray.

As beneficial as it has been, it has also been limiting.  I lost that voice, and my soul-well-being has suffered.  I've stuffed feelings and I've hoarded thoughts and I've missed opportunities.  And so, now I come back here.  I come back to find myself, and re-capture the joy of writing and sharing.  I am ready to find my words, to try to communicate a little of what God speaks into my life.  I am not going to promise that I'll be here frequently, at least not at first.  But I've missed you and want to share in your lives again.  Part of sharing is being willing and able to put mine out there as well.  Maybe together we will move a little further on this journey.  Welcome back.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

March Goal Post

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Review of February Goals:

February Goals:

1. Complete 1 block on AAHRH--YES! plus 1/2 of the next block
2. Complete border on Tea Sampler--YES! plus the rest of the project!
3. Write 8 blog posts--only 4 ;-(
4. Finish 2 books--still plodding through the two I started in January, but I did start a 3rd (lol)
5. Write 2 letters--no
6. Help Jewel plan large research project--90% planned now to start

March Goals:

1.  Complete 1/2 block on AAHRH
2.  Get next unfinished RR to 50% (Fish Bowl)
3.  Stitch 2 bride's tree ornaments
4.  Finish those 2 books!
5.  Blog at least once a week
6.  Plan a trip home
7.  Write 2 letters

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Things that Keep Me Humble

As a homeschooling Mom of two pre-teens and a SAHM of a toddler, there are multiple means utilized to keep me humble.  Here are but a couple of examples to preserve for posterity sake.

The toddler is developing quite a vocabulary.  Which is good.  He speaks in typical baby speak, which is not always so good.  The scene is the church foyer where I am visiting with a friend and he is watching out the window.  The room is fairly packed with parents waiting for children.
Tree:  a taxi. Mom a taxi. Look!
Tree: dere a bus! itsa bus!
Tree:  Blue car, geen car, are there lellow cars Mum?
Tree:  (jumping up and down)  (insert R-rated word near the name of another mode of transportation)
(witness one of the dad's almost fall over laughing)

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After church we always spend time discussing what the girls learned in Sunday Club and what we heard in the sermon.  Jewel has just finished telling us about Timothy and some of the characteristics young people can learn from him.  Flower has talked about the Israelites disobeying God (agaaaain!) and what we should learn.  German tells the girls that we heard a sermon on the Fruit of the Spirit.
German:  So, what is the first fruit of the Spirit?
Jewel:  Is it grapes?
(witness me attempt to pick my jaw up off the table)
(yes I told her that this would get blogged!)
Guess what we will be studying this week in Bible time?



Keep smiling!  Have a great day! 

photos downloaded www.morguefile.com

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Five Minute Friday--Garden

Five Minute Friday

A reminder of the Five Minute Friday "rules"
1.  Write for 5 minutes (set the timer!) on the topic at hand
2.  Link your post at www.lisajobaker.com
3.  Go back and encourage the person who linked up just before you did

Simple. Get's the creative juices flowing and allows for encouraging others.

This week's topic is:  GARDEN

I grew up on a farm.  I spent more hours than I like to think of helping to tend the garden.  I.hated.it.  I am not an outdoorsy kind of gal.  I don't like getting my hands dirty. And (then) I didn't really like the taste of vegetables.  The melons, yes. The squash, never.

Besides that I have definitively non-green thumbs.  My mother used to say that my brother needed to tend the houseplants, because I would kill them.  Experience taught this lesson well.

So, why then, do I sometimes wistfully dream of growing my own?  As I eat another tasteless cucumber from the market and remember how good home-grown was. Or I remember the winter taste of my grandmother's preserved black-eyed peas.  There is a part of me that dreams of growing my own.

But then I look at the pitiful houseplant attempting to survive its mistress' benign neglect and remember that I am no gardener.

I guess I'll have to settle for not-so-perfect veg from the shop. And be thankful that God has made others into gardeners.

(time's up)

Thanks for dropping by today.  Please visit LisaJo and read about her amazing gardening project!  Have a blessed weekend!