Juggling Lives

Night Juggler

The difficulty with juggling is keeping the balls in the air.

But keeping inanimate objects airborne is not nearly as intractable as when it feels as if one is playing with other people’s lives.

Our family’s life is spread over three continents. There is almost always a ball dropping. From inconsequential mistakes (like forgetting to book a return flight) to deeper hurts and misunderstandings; moments where negative emotions and a loss of identity cut deep; where unavoidable choices are inadvertently wounding; the pain of feeling excluded by both the ‘home’ culture and by the ‘adopted’ culture; endless losses and family gatherings missed… each of these quietly taken to heart in different ways by our different personalities.

The hardest part of this Third Culture family’s story is being unable to safeguard and protect our children from the harsh reality of complicated lives. Living in the tension is not easy. For years I felt like the stabiliser ribbon holding the family’s kite steady, but these days I understand that I can never offer enough security, protection, love or encouragement to bind the wounds.

And so I watch our beloved offspring strive, unravel and overcompensate.

I am constantly undone.

But God…

2014 Kite - At Last 2008

Night Juggler Image Source:
Flickr – Creative Commons Some rights reserved by garryknight

50 Years Loved

3. 2014 50 Years Loved - March 6th - 50th Napkin Ring 1

I believe that deep down most peoples’ worst fear is that we will live ordinary lives that have no significance.

Or perhaps it is just mine…

Nonetheless, I have come to realise that continually asking myself the question “what am I to with the rest of my life”? is a problem.

By relentlessly asking this of myself I essentially I become more self-focused – as I try harder to do things that make me ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of myself, God, my family and friends. I am sure there is more I need to do in order to have value and be considered significant in the world, in my community and in my family. I have fallen prey to the lie that God is expecting something more from me or with-holding something from me until I live up to a standard, give of myself enough, behave or perform in a certain way. Perhaps that is why this prayer of Robert Farrar Capon’s resounds with me and makes me smile:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.”

Intellectually I believe in God’s unwavering acceptance but I have realised that this ever present question, as well as my daily actions, thought patterns and concerns mean that in my heart I don’t believe I am accepted and lovable unless I am doing something.

As I approach my 50th birthday I am asking that “as I received Christ, so may I now walk in Him” (My paraphrase – Colossians 2:6). I am asking to walk one step at a time in faith – not needing to figure out for myself what my future holds but trusting that His all-sufficient grace will lead me forward at the appropriate time. This is the Gospel I need to preach to myself daily as I embrace this time of space and rest is a gift.

Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted
Brennan Manning

3. 50 Years Loved  1 Leopard Creek Deck

A Life Lost

2. 2014 Hope February 1st - Sunset 1

Mangled metal, shattered shards
A life destroyed, innocence lost
Hope set adrift
Where is the answer to such horrendous and unfair suffering?
What does one say to hemorrhaging human pain?
How does Love reach those who are desolate deep in their hearts?
How is balance restored to a faith wobbling?

There are no answers…

Only small transformations in our hearts
Pain alters our perspective
Devastating loss reminds us we have needs beyond what we can manage
Our only hope Lord
Is in You

“Deep sorrow often has the effect of stripping life of pretense, vanity, and waste… It forces us to ask basic questions about what is most important in life…
That is why many people who suffer sudden and severe loss often become different people.”

Gerald Sittser

2. 2014 A Life Lost - February 1st - 2 Spirit of Barbados

 

 

Anticipating Christmas….

26. Anticipating Christmas - Stockings

There is always plenty to do in preparation for Christmas. Our family, however, does life this way – not just in December, but through-out the year. Living on different continents to our children and siblings mean that weeks of being apart culminate in times of coming together for intense, fun and food filled days that fly past too quickly.

Not finishing with a sense of disappointment seems a critical component to planning time together. Sadly, I have learnt that being fully prepared with lengthy “to do lists”, pre-cooked meals, planned activities doesn’t always hold off the feeling of regret or dissatisfaction at the end of happy days spent in each other’s company.

26. Anticipating Christmas - Jum

Consequently, as I have gone about preparing for Christmas I have been wondering what might contribute to a sense of discontent at the end of holidays and my thoughts have had me asking the question:

“Maybe holidays lead to disappointment when prefaced by unrealistic expectations; and so perhaps it’s better to anticipate them without a required outcome?”

The Webster definition of the adjective expect is: to think that something will probably or certainly happen or to consider (something) to be reasonable, required, or necessary.
i.e. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

And the definition of anticipate: to think of something that will or might happen in the future; to expect or look ahead to (something) with pleasure.
i.e. a feeling of eagerness.

Whether these two words are enough to convey what I think might be one of the secrets of enjoying holidays and family time I am not certain, but I cannot find better ones that indicate the subtle but critical difference.

I have got to a point in my life where I am happy to be fully prepared for times together, but no longer feel the need to try and control the outcome of every day and activity (ok, not as much). I have precooked meals and plans on offer but I am more open than ever before in waiting to see how things unfold. I now consider time with my loved ones more important than anything else and I am not concerned about what form that takes. I want to spend my energy on being present: watching, listening, as well as participating and not on worrying about where we are or what we are doing. Said another way: I am as happy with the PROCESS of being together (with some of its mess) and less worried about ticking anything off my list or what the actual activity is.

 The joy of ‘being together’ is the reward.

Disappointments will still happen and none of this takes away the chance of pain and mess but it does allow me to receive rather than dictate outcomes; which involves my heart being far less fraught both during and when thinking back over the holiday.

Lisa Jo Baker said it this way in her Tired Mother’s Holiday Creed … “I shall not be intimidated by how the holidays, the turkey, the tree or the memories “should” be celebrated but love the people I’m celebrating with instead”. See: http://lisajobaker.com/2013/11/the-tired-mothers-holiday-creed/

2010 Family on Beach 2

Imagining a Different Life

Late again, I’m belatedly linking up with the other writers at Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday (a flashmob of writers who, for five minutes, write on a prompt without over editing, backtracking or worrying too much about getting it “right” AND then go on to encourage others who have participated)
This week’s word: Imagine….

Five Minute Friday

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Wet wheels crossing …and we’re back….

With both familiar and foreign eyes I take in the warm and welcoming surroundings of our South African home. Moving across yellow floorboards I stand to look out on a garden rich in quince hedges, roses and wild olives and I wonder what it would be like to live only in this reality…..
To know no other homes, no confusion of goodbyes, splintered friendships or different time zones, to never know the complexity of my multicultural life…

I try to imagine the simplicity and slower pace such existence would allow…
…and for a brief moment the idea appeals….

Before the reality and the loss such a choice would impose, sinks in….

And so, standing quietly hand to glass pane, I give thanks – for the opportunity this life has afforded me – rich in different cultures, landscapes and friendships…
Full of tension, complexity and loss…
But always pointing me towards the need for dependency on Him as my Identity
and real place of rest.

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