Wednesday, June 19, 2024

“This is the last…”

 “Kids, this is the last _______________________.”

This has been a refrain of ours as we walk our kids (and ourselves!) through these final weeks here in California. 

  • This is the last time eating In-N-Out
  • This is the last day of school here in California for two years
  • This is the last time we’re making bread in our house for awhile
There are plenty of other examples. On one hand, this is tough and sad. On the other hand however, it is freeing as we are creating space for new adventures, a new school (onboard the ship), a new job (volunteer work), and a new rhythm to life. 

As we go through life, it is much easier to hold onto what we have and fear the new or the unknown — sometimes we can be adventurous enough to push through and try. That’s what we’re doing right now. That is, these next two years. There are no promises (“life will be better”, “you will become better”, or “everyone will be happy, healthy, and more mature”). But they are an opportunity. An opportunity for growth, newness, exploration. And risk.

Sometimes a “last” is a disguised door to a “first” or “new”. We can look at these “lasts” with utter sadness and rejection. We could view these “lasts” as opportunities for exploration and ignore the pain. Or we can hold these in tension with mourning and sadness, and also joy with a delight to explore. Health is not one or the other; it is holding both. I hope this encourages you to both step out into something new and also not choke your emotions about what you're leaving behind. It is human to do both.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

There are other people going through this, too

Have you ever noticed when your heart rate is up, you tend to forget about other people? Not their existence, but to think from their perspective. 

Two years ago, a Ukrainian girl joined my daughter's class whose family fled the war and moved around the USA. She was at our school for only one year before moving to an entirely new US city (again). I can't help but think about [name redacted] and how she and her parents had fled their war-torn homeland for a new country in search of safety, hope, and love. I think of her and wonder if she's found acceptance, love, and peace.

When life is calm, slow, and running smoothly, we have the capacity to consider what others are going through: their thoughts and even time and the ability to ask, "How are you? But really, how are you?" Contrast that to our rushing around — when we feel anxious or under a deadline. We narrow our vision and get it done. That focus is good. It creates advancements such as putting a man on the moon or developing the smartphone or planting a tree. However, it costs remembering other people. They have emotions, too — those emotions include anxiety, fear, excitement, wonder, anticipation, and dread. 

  • Will they accept me?
  • (For parents) Will my kids find great friends? Will they be ok? Will they be mad at us for taking them on this journey?
  • (For spouses) Will my spouse find a great like-minded friend?
  • What will ________ be like?
  • Will I regret _______?
We're flying to Texas in July for a month of training and, while some may jokingly consider Texas a foreign country, it is a foreign country to many of the fellow Mercy Ships volunteers who are coming from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, The Congo, Kenya, etc. Differences in culture, currency, weather, language, and time zones — and those are only the surface-level differences. What about the way we demonstrate respect, love, courtesy, and compassion? As we prepare for a three-hour flight, those down under must prepare for nineteen hours of flying. Do they know everyone has the same fears, excitements, worries, and anticipations as we do? Do they feel part of the community, or do they feel fear and loneliness as they are pulling up their long-established roots for a season of serving in Africa?

What would it look like to extend a hand like my daughter did to her Ukrainian friend?

RAFT and more preparations

     At the recommendation of some trusted friends and people from Mercy Ships, Jeff and I recently read a book about Third Culture Kids (TCK). If you aren't familiar with this term, TCK is something that is used to refer to kids who have spent a significant amount of time outside of their birth country/culture and thus don't really feel at home in either that country or the one they are long-term visiting. This could be missionary kids, military kids, or just a kid whose parent took a job for a significant amount of time in another culture. 

    While this book is full of great ideas on helping the kids transition to Mercy Ships, it has been super helpful to apply to both Jeff and my life as well. What we are applying right now is the acronym RAFT.


R- Reconciliation: Make amends before you leave. Don't leave any grudges behind. 

A-Affirmation: Say "Thank you" to everyone who has helped you

F-Farewell: Don't duck out in the night. Say a proper goodbye to everyone and every place. 

T-Think Destination: Research and plan for fun once you arrive to make the transition easier

Right now we are sitting with each of these and make sure we do them well. Who do we need to have a heart to heart with? The list of people we could say "Thank you!" to is growing by the day, how do we let them know we feel that sincerely? It is easy to avoid saying goodbye to people as it is so emotional, but we have a list going for us and kids so we don't miss anyone. We also have a list of places to say goodbye to... one last visit to Tango Frozen Yogurt, my favorite breakfast place, the kids favorite park, etc. We are going to the ship, the Canary Islands and then Sierra Leone... how do we research all of those places for ourselves and our kids so we know what to expect?

As Jeff and I think through each of these, we are then applying them to ourselves, to each other, but then each kids individually. And this is where the TCK aspect comes in. How we answer each of those questions above is vastly different for our teenager (how am I old enough to have a teenager?) than for my little bubbly 7 year old. Sure, they are only 5.5 years apart, but at these ages, they are on different planets emotionally. That park that is super important for Sadie to say goodbye to, isn't even on the radar of Lauren.  And while sure, all of parenting and giving each kid individually what they need, they are not cookie cutter children, this season is making those difference more and more obvious. 

Thank you to all of you who are helping us parent well right now. Your conversations with our kiddos do not go unnoticed. These next few weeks are going to be busy, but we want to do them well.