Abundance. Blessings. Fullness. Joy.

I feel God is teaching me today about trust, specifically related to abundance. My year verse is Matthew 6:33 “seek FIRST…and all this will be added to you as well”. Talking about the flowers in the field, and the birds of the air … Jesus longs to fill our needs with His goodness, out of His grace and fullness. “His eye is on the sparrow” (a beautiful old hymn, and also a thought extracted from this idea in Matthew) is cool when we think about how much MORE God loves and cares about us! Will God not clothe me and feed me even better than the sparrow worth a penny? He knows our needs, so don’t worry, “ye of little faith”. SEEK FIRST.

Reading this morning from Psalm 34 (then finding a note with the same verse in another part of my bible..so cool how God speaks!)…Psalm 34:10 “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing”.

Then two more verses came to mind about the fullness of God, the abundance of grace in Him, and the peace we can have when we fully trust:
Malachi 3:10 says, “bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple ((do our part. Seek first…)) if you do, says the Lord of Heavens armies, I will open the windows of heaven for you! I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

I love how He is challenging us to live in a radical way, counter culturally, so that He can BE GOD and do His thing /take care of the details in our lives. Blessing us beyond measure because that’s just who He is. A God incapable of giving us less than His best for us! Whether it’s what we expect or wanted, it’s His plan for our lives.
Hebrews 13:5-6, “don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” so we can say with confidence, ‘the Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people (or circumstances or situations) do to me?”

It is because He loves us that we even stand a chance at a Full and grace-filled, beautiful, (though messy) life. It’s easy to get down on ourselves or to be discouraged, days we feel stuck or anxious or unable to do anything right…but I realize, that’s where Jesus is so ready and willing to receive the pain, to help us in the process, to give and comfort and love…THERE. In the midst of a chaotic situation and unsure heart. When my eyes look down to myself instead of to the Healer where my help comes from. When I sit on my floor and and feel hopeless or distant or anxious or stuck or crazy…he loves. Still. He brings JOY because of the hope we have in Him – his grace. His promise of real, full LIFE! He lends His strong arms to fall into where we can sink and release…the tension, emotion, anxiety, stress, anger, hurt, fear … He is the KING of the universe who holds the world in His hands…so he can handle me. He wants to listen to me. To make me feel seen and safe, to protect me, to empower me, to carry my load (isn’t that crazy?!). He doesn’t want life to be a burden..we are to “seek first…and THEN…” Then: that word that encompasses waiting, patience, action, obedience, listening…all in a moment. Entrust our lives to the One who formed us in our mothers womb. Entrust out futures to the One who knows it and is already there. Entrust our hearts to the One who guards it. Entrust our souls to the Savior and King of eternity.

Habakkuk 2:3 “this vision ((of Christ’s return!)) is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed”.

Psalm 17:15, says ” because I have done what is right, I will see you. When I wake, I will be fully satisfied for I will see you face to face.”

The more you trust Jesus, and keep your eyes focused on Him, the more life you’ll have. Trusting God brings life. Believing brings rest. So stop trying to figure everything out, and let God be God in your life.

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TED talks: 5 Tips from a Hub of Innovation

Have you met TED? (I’m not talking about Ted Mosby, character in the hit TV series, How I Met Your Mother…) I’m talking about TED talks; the inspirational and creative conferences that take place all over the world, that share ideas and stories and inspire thousands of people every year.  The first TED talk I ever saw changed my life.  It was on the “Power of Vulnerability” and made me want to be different.  I think that’s the point of most TED talks, they hope to inspire change and instigate excitement for whatever it is they’re speaking about.  

TED talks are a brilliant way of combining the human desire to connect, to know, to learn, and to be a community – with human experience.  Hundreds, if not thousands of people have spoken on their subject of expertise and shared a little part of what they’re passionate about, hoping to instill that same passion in others.  

These talks, like any other public speaking engagements, can be transforming or totally boring, depending on the presenter skills of the expert.  I have watched many hours of inspiring, funny, sad, compelling, challenging speeches and picked up several tips from the ones I liked best.  Here are just a few things I’ve learned. 

1. Tell stories! Be real – yourself, and don’t shy away from emotion.  As a person, we love connecting and hearing that we’re not alone in our circumstances.  Plus, stories are much more memorable than straight facts.  By telling a story (or two or four) the information you are sharing becomes more real and more relatable.  As a public speaker, that should motivate you! A good example of a talk that uses stories as the medium is “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. Check it out and you’ll be inspired to see how your own stories can be used to share truth! 

2. Use visual aids! If you want your audience to remember what you’re saying, use pictures! It may sound elementary, but research says that most of us retain more information when it is presented via pictures and text! Watch this talk, The Astonishing Hidden World of the Deep Ocean by Robert Ballard (not only is it such a mysterious, cool topic, its also beautiful!) How much more interested are you in learning about something you can actually SEE?! Visual aids break down the barriers between the unknown and the desire to know – you want me to listen to you? Show me. 

3. Practice practice practice! My mom has said it a million times, “practice makes perfect” – which used to drive me crazy, but eventually I’ve learned, as usual, mother knows best.  It is also said in my family, “proper planning prevents poor performance” – and that’s exactly what Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, who gives the TED presentation called “My Stroke of Insight”  did; she planned her speech, and then did it. 200 times!! When giving a good speech you want to know what you’re saying and what you’re going to say…it will help stay on track, and gives you the authority that your audience needs to hear in order to trust you.  What are you waiting for? Start (practicing) now! 

4. Be creative! When people come to listen to you, they want to hear something new, something they haven’t heard before.  We like to be entertained and informed, and that’s precisely why so many people attend the TEDx events, even though each ticket is well over $300 dollars!  It’s worth it to sit and stay if the individuals sharing are cutting edge, teaching you something you’ve never thought of before.  Ignite people’s imaginations and be innovative in not only the way you’re presenting, but in what you’re talking about too! 

5.  Confidence is key! There was not one TED talk I watched in these past several months that started with nervous laughter, or had awkward pauses or silence…the experts presenting weren’t afraid to say what they had to say, or too shy to share their thoughts and ideas.  One of my favorite speakers and TED talks in general is Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet who is anything but shy.  Watch her talk “If I Should Have a Daughter…” and you’ll see what I mean).  People want to know that YOU know what you’re talking about.  So go ahead, be bold and courageous.  Give a strong call to action at the end and let people remember what it was they came for.  

What are some tips YOU have for public-speaker wannabes? What do you notice when you’re a part of the audience that you wish every speaker did? 

Helping or Hurting? The Role of Facebook in Building Community

Globalization is real.  Anyone from anywhere in the world could be interacting with you at any given time.  Individuals and families are moving, changing, and transitioning into different places that are not their own, stretching the bounds of normal communication, and creating friction in friendships because of the distances between them.  Because of the overwhelming number of people who move and transition in and out of our lives, our use of social media has boomed!  Facebook used to be simply a site to play games on, or chat with friends, but now it’s one of the largest and most utilized tools for networking, and communicating with anyone across the globe.  

Community can be defined as a group of people where there is growth, friendship, commonality, and a shared purpose or passion.  Our 21st century idea of this term is very different from that of people living in the 20th century.  The technology that we rely on so much everyday is ultra modern in comparison to “old fashioned” ways of keeping in touch: letter writing, telegraph, phone calls via operator, or carrier pigeon (the classic).  Online communities weren’t even a thought in the realm of possibilities.  Today, there are several types of online communities.  One that I find fascinating is Humans of New York or HONY as it is well known.  HONY is one of the best examples of a social media based community that began solely through social media.  

Online community, as community in general, is extremely important because all people have a basic need to tell stories, because not only is that the way in which life is organized, but sharing experiences creates belonging and connection.  Stories should not be looked at as separate from real life, but as forming meaningful connections WITH that life.  Just as HONY isn’t a separate life experience, but its real life and real people interacting in a new way.  Facebook (and all social media) plays a crucial role in this relationship between individuals and the world they create – it was started to connect; the whole purpose was community!

Often, we hear that computer-mediated communication (virtual friends and lives) are detrimental to communication, but many users are finding the opposite to be true.  It’s not the same as real-life communication, but it’s a new way of connecting.  On Human of New York’s Facebook page, there are 3.5 MILLION followers!  It would be impossible to be so connected to so many people if we rely solely on in-person contact and personal introductions, but because its the Internet, our ability to adapt and relate increases exponentially.  And its a good thing, too!  Last year there was story of how networking and having a large community can be a beautiful thing.  Read about what Brandon & the HONY community did for a little boy named Rumi here.  Seriously cool. 

The biggest reason for the success of online communities like HONY and others, is the strong desire for belonging, the act of sharing a story, of building a story together.  Stories help us transform the present and shape the future, what a task to take on together! When you can step out of your comfort zone, and see outside the box of your personal reality, into the lives of others, true community is formed.  It is key to be yourself, but also let others be themselves.  Through examining our differences, but using them for the benefit of the group, true, long-lasting community can be formed.  

In a globalized world, where the world is getting smaller, but people are moving farther apart, communities have been able to grow because of their newly found connectivity; you are being plugged in (literally) to relationships that are growing and easier than ever.  

What are some ways you have seen the positive impact of an online community? Are there any experiences with that that have been negative?  

Why being Bilingual rocks

If statistics are correct, over half of you speak more than one language.  It is estimated that about 60% of the world speaks at least two languages.  I think this is one of the coolest parts about growing up bicultural, or internationally.  All over the internet there are facts and stats about the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual.  I agree with this 100%.  I grew up in Uruguay, South America speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else.  I (formally) learned French in school, and can count to ten in seven languages thanks to my international, multilingual friends.  I admit I am a language fanatic and get giddy when I overhear people speaking a different language, wanting to know what they’re saying and to be able to talk to them.  

Language is ultimately all about connection.  When someone speaks your heart language (the language you grew up hearing, the language you are loved the most in, the language that your mom speaks, often…) they are connecting with you in a more intimate way than if they communicated in a language you are learning.  You may be able to identify with this if you have ever been overseas, away from home and surrounded by natives who are going on and on all around you in words you don’t understand.  It’s a swirling mess and you feel confused and overwhelmed.  In the midst of all that, if you hear even a word in English (or whatever your heart language is), you feel at peace and an instant connection to that (however random) individual.  

I don’t think people realize what a gift it is to be bilingual.  For more than just appearances and the “cool factor” it may bring, knowing more than one language can be extremely beneficial.  

First of all, bilingualism can increase cognitive and developmental abilities. (Read: bilingualism makes you smarter). Not that monolinguals don’t have a fair chance, but think about it! If you speak two languages, or more, your brains capacity to retain information, to process the world, to understand other people is drastically increased.  I don’t understand why school systems in the United States don’t make this more of a priority.  Language learning is more than just social status, it can better your life. 

Bilingualism opens doors all over the world.  One thing I mentioned before was connecting.  Connections and networking are quickly becoming the most important factor in finding jobs, and in building our lives.  In a room of 100 people only five would be native english speakers.  This means that if you only speak one language, your learning pool is limited to 5% of it’s maximum capacity.  I believe we were put on earth for connection! We are relational beings, and so being able to interact and connect with people in their heart language only makes that relationality more genuine and more beautiful.  

Bilingualism contributes heavily to our cross-cultural understanding and compassion.  In a world where we are all necessary parts in creating community and bettering our environment, it is essential to be aware of other people different from ourselves, and to be able to understand their hearts and where they are coming from.  

I hope to continue growing and learning in this aspect of life, and am excited to go places and be able to connect with different people, speaking different languages, and to see what they can teach me about love, life, and relationships.  

Check out this TED Talk and see why it’s never too late to learn something new! 

Do you have a language that you want to learn? Do you have any stories from how knowing a different language has helped you connect with someone else? 

Introvert and Extravert: What’s your type?

I remember so clearly the first time I ever took a personality test.  I was 14 and my parents were just getting into self-discovery and how personality and personal strengths impact our daily lives and relationships.  They had an extra Myers-Briggs packet and told me to take it because it would be interesting to see what I got… (If you haven’t taken this test, I would highly recommend it.  Know that there is extensive research that has been done on personality types and this is not the only way of evaluating yourself.  Also, your type can change, and by no means is it a complete guide for everything about you.  People are infinitely complex and no test can do you justice! I do find it extremely helpful to know these things about yourself in the process of personal growth and in relating to my surroundings).  But, before I believed any of that, 14 year old me took the test.  When I got the results, I was so excited because it was ME.  Everything made sense, and I felt like I was finally able to express some parts of me because they were right there on paper.  There were four very important aspects about me that clicked, and explained why I am the way I am.  

Myers-Briggs talks about your personality type in preferences.  (You can read more about it here). These preferences help you understand exactly how you perceive the world and how you prefer to relate to people, to ideas, to facts…Basically, how you take in your world.  My personality test revealed I am an ISTJ: An introverted, sensing, thinking, judging person.  This has all sorts of implications that you can read about (and discover your own type while you’re at it!) Today, I just want to unpack the first one a little bit.  

I am an introvert.  

This preference has to do with how you gain your energy, whether through time alone, or with other people or activities.  I most definitely identify with the first part of that statement. I need time alone to process events, to feel like I can relate to people in the best way possible, and to be honest, to be happier.  The reason I stress knowing yourself, these key components of who you are, is because it is hard enough to navigate through life and friendships and parties and schools and countries and cultures as it is.  By discovering these facts about yourself, you are simply preparing yourself better for whatever situations you find yourself in down the road (or across an ocean).  

As a citizen of the world (TCK, expat, these words fit too) there are certain expectations of what you will be like, of how you will act, and of how you will respond to different situations.  Being an introvert sometimes goes against those ideals and so awareness is key; to know how to combat the feelings of “not good enough”, and to know that its OKAY to be who you are, even if its the opposite of what you should be.  Who knows the “right” thing to do anyway?  

Two sources I’ve enjoyed are: 1. Another blogger, Rachel Pieh Jones (of Djibouti Jones) talks about The Introverted Expat and has some awesome insight into the subject as an introvert herself.  And, 2. A classic TED Talk by Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts – because, who doesn’t love TED Talks? Check those out and let me know what you think!  If you take the Myers-Briggs, tell me about yourself! If you are an introvert too, do you have any tips on navigating through this extraverted, globalized world? 

Living & loving from a distance: 4 tips for keeping in touch

I love friends! Who doesn’t?! I love meeting people and getting to know them, hearing their stories and creating new memories together.  This is a fantastic part of living internationally, and moving often: you have to get to meet so many NEW people! 😉 Naturally, there is a downside to this lifestyle.  Living in multiple places throughout life can leave you feeling divided.  Sometimes, into more than just two pieces.  Being fully present in the current place is nearly impossible when family or friends are so far away and just as real as your next-door-neighbor.  Thankfully, we live in the 21st century now and keeping in touch is so much easier than an expensive monthly phone call, or the occasional letter.  However, keeping in touch can be a challenge.  When our lives get busy and we begin to settle in our home, and meet new people get involved at our kids’ school, its hard to remember our weekly calls to our best friend back home.  We can find ourselves neglecting the statement “everything will be the same!”.  Be prepared: nothing will ever be the same again.  But that’s part of the fun of reinventing yourself, and exploring new people, places, and things – at least it gives you something to write home about! 

And so, we come to my topic of the day.  Keeping in touch.  I wanted to share with you some practical ways to stay connected with your friends and family back in your previous home.  Its a tricky subject because it undoubtedly causes some conflicting ideas – how much is too much communication? Is there such a thing as overdoing it?  We need to come together, as friends and fellow expats, in helping each other become better friends, whether the recipients are staring at our faces, or halfway across the globe!  Maintaining relationships is important, so read this list and see what you think & if any of them could be useful to you! 

1. Be realistic (& don’t promise too much).  You’re going to have the urge to promise you’ll keep in touch with everyone, all the time, everywhere.  But that’s not possible.  If you want to be where you are, and enjoy it, and learn to love it you can’t make promises you can’t keep.  It’s not just that you can’t, but that you shouldn’t.  Don’t live in the past, using your excuses to keep in touch as a crutch that prevents you from seeing the NEW world around you!  Know that you will want to be aware of what is going on back home, but that you have a new home, however temporary.  Don’t set yourself up to fail by promising too much of yourself to too many people.  Don’t burn yourself out by trying to be too many places at once.  Just enjoy the moment.  Breathe.  Relax.  Talk to those who matter, to the important ones that will talk to you first sometimes too!  Let things develop naturally – some friendships may fizzle or fade, and that’s okay!  Going into a new place with the intention of leaning into it, and not holding yourself back, caught in the middle of two places is a freeing experience that will allow you to be an even better friend to even more people.  

2. Be creative (& show your friends your new home). Its always fun to get mail.  Any good news is welcome in my house, be it by email, text message, video blog, or carrier pigeon, I’ll take it!  When you’ve moved to a new place its important to show your far away family as much of it as possible so they can picture you there and imagine what its really like.  Maybe try writing a blog, even with little victories, little facts about life – your family and friends back home will appreciate seeing a more daily update, and also will approve of hearing your voice (even through writing!) about anything.  Film short videos if you can (everyone has an iphone, right?!) or take pictures – being able to put faces to names and images to places makes a huge difference in keeping people interested.  It may seem mundane, but daily details are often what we communicate least, but what is most telling of our experiences to outsiders. 

3. Be intentional (& tell the ones that matter).  When it comes to keeping in touch, I think you’re either good at it or you’re not.  I’m not particularly good at it and since I’ve been at college for four years, I’ve noticed that even more than ever before.  Its very easy to forget to write all seventeen of your closest friends every week for an individual update – and while it is important that the important people get the information, it takes some planning on your part.  Make a list of people that you want to know about (their lives) and that you want to tell about (your life) and weekly or monthly (you decide!) make an intentional effort to contact them.  

4. Be detailed (& keep it simple).  You’re probably busy! Don’t make keeping in touch a chore that you dread doing – it doesn’t have to be!  Create a Facebook page, add your family and friends, and update it frequently with quotes, pictures, or thoughts of what’s going on in your life.  By jotting down stories or thoughts consistently and in detail, your sharing will get easier and may even be an enjoyable activity! Don’t simply trust your memory, or think that you’ll never forget a funny or embarrassing thing that happens.   Write it down and share right away!  This is the best way to make sure everyone is getting to experience what you are, in the most real way they can.  

Keeping in touch isn’t only good for your faithful friends and family (note: free alliterations with the reading of this blog) but its also good for you!  Its a way of affirming the fact that you are loved and appreciated.  People want to know about your life and your adventures!  The whole responsibility doesn’t fall on you, but the sooner you develop the habits, the easier it will be.  Make your friends and family list today and see how you can simplify your routine for letting your loved ones in on your life! 

 

Building a RAFT: Finding the GOOD in Goodbye

Let’s get right to the point: leaving somewhere is never easy.  Leaving a place where you’ve established roots, built a home, invested in friendships, learned to belong can be devastating to anybody.  That’s one of the hardest things about the transient lifestyle: saying goodbye.  When my family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, we were immediately immersed in an international community.  Our school was almost entirely ex-pats (people living outside of their passport country), as well as international business families, and some military.  I loved living in the midst of so many languages and cultures, getting to know kids who had traveled the world and done things I had only dreamed of! (Not many fourth graders can speak four languages already, which is something I’ve always wanted to be able to accomplish).

BUT…

The transitions were always a challenge.  Every year or two to have to say goodbye and start over and get ready to not be normal – whatever that means – was really, really hard.  I didn’t know how to say goodbye in a healthy way that would allow me to grieve but also to let go.

Thankfully, there are ways to do it well.

Tina Quick, a cross-cultural trainer and international speaker, and author of the book “Leave Well to Enter Well” said this, “Leaving a place you have been rooted in for any amount of time is never easy, but making the time for proper farewells is something no one has ever regretted. Proper closure and forward thinking help pave a smooth road to transition and reduce the stumbling blocks of adjustment…”

Closure.

What a word.  What does that mean? How can life continue to be normal when nothing about it is normal?

In the book, “Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds” the authors, David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken talk about what is needed for a healthy closure when it comes to saying goodbyes.

Think of them as building a RAFT:

Reconciliation. 

Affirmation.

Farewells.

Think Destination. 

Reconciliation: As transient people, it is easy to deny or avoid confrontation with others you’ve had disagreements with because you know you’re going to leave.  Because you’re moving, it is likely you won’t have to see the person you’ve disagreed with again.  However, this is an unhealthy habit that can cause bitterness and deeply affect future relationships down the road. It is so important to resolve any problem, ask for and receive forgiveness BEFORE moving and forever ignoring that there was ever a conflict.

Affirmation: Leaving in peace is key.  There are no doubt people you have encountered and befriended over the years or months you’ve been where you are.  Before being in a place emotionally and mentally to move on, let them know you appreciate them! This helps you focus on the positive times you’ve experienced and also solidifies your own relationships with them, enabling you to have more closure before meeting all new people and forming NEW friendships.

Farewells: This is self-explanatory in name, but it isn’t always so obvious when you’re leaving.  There are so many other things going on when you’re in the middle of packing and moving that you can forget to actually say the words goodbye.  Give yourself time to pay attention to the things you’ve enjoyed or gotten close to, maybe visit your favorite restaurant or take a picture of something you’ll miss.

Think Destination: What are you going to need where you’re going? In the midst of all the goodbyes, its important to focus on the future, just to prepare yourself and your family for the approaching transition.  Be practical and let yourself look forward to the new things that are coming!

Ultimately, yes, goodbyes are hard.  But they can be a good time to re-center yourself and to realize what is important in your life and for your future.  They can be helpful in seeing some old friends and in re-living some of the fun times you and your family have had.  Be encouraged that there are so many people who are leaving somewhere and going somewhere else! You’re not alone.  Give yourself grace as you move, and allow your family to grieve and to process in whatever ways they need to.  We live an exciting life that can be full of adventure and stories and fun people and places!  Let’s see the good in goodbye, and learn to do them well.

And so it begins…

Third-culture people are quickly becoming the majority almost everywhere.

A third-culture kid is, “An individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than the parents’ culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience” (Dave Pollock and Ruth VanReken – authors of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds).

A third-culture kid is someone who is striving to belong, to be known, to be home.

I am a third-culture kid.  I grew up in Colombia, Uruguay, and the United States.  I don’t really have a home.  My passport is the classic navy blue that represents America, but my heart isn’t made of just one color.  My life doesn’t fit any “normal” mold.  It is complex, it is multi-faceted, it has so much to offer.  I want to create a community and carve out a space for people to come together, to connect, and to relax in the familiarity of other semi-internationals who just “get it”.  Through this blog I hope to encourage you to embrace your heritage (whatever that may be), and to recognize the importance of cross-cultural relationships because of what they can teach us about people, no matter where they come from.  What would life be like if we didn’t know anyone different from us?

I passionately want to promote wholeness and foster conversation that will be healthy in leading to further understanding of ourselves and of others.   I am excited for where this will lead and for other TCKs to realize the  unique role we have in our world today!

Until next time!