Friday, December 11, 2015

Idiom Living and the Ultimate Metaphor

For any Trekkies out there. 
Idioms are an intriguing facet of language. Discovering unique ones is fun for me. There are lots in the Thai language which I have shared before (see my post Feb. 11, 2014), but every language has them. I like this one in French:  J’ai besoin de vos lumières. The literal translation is, "I need your lights" but the English equivalent would be more like, "I need to pick your brain" which, ironically, is also an idiom.

I could not think of a creative way to segue from the topic of idioms into this month's topic of Christmas and thoughts of the past year so bear with me as I connect the dots.

In the middle of November two things happened that gave me focus this Christmas: 1. My pastor asked me to write an advent poem through the four Sundays of Advent. 2. I started a personal study of the book of John. The theme of light was so startling to me in John 1 that that became my focus for my advent poem and for the Christmas season.

I think I was drawn to the theme of light because it is the antithesis of the difficult, sometimes dark year our family has been through. I began researching the word "light'" for my poem, and that's where the idioms come in. I came across a list of "light" idioms. They sounded so familiar as I read them. Then I realized I had used these or heard these idioms all year: make light of (a situation); bring to light; to be light years away from (something); see the light of day; light at the end of the tunnel; light a fire under; shed light on; see in a new light; the light dawned. Finally, the light dawned.

Was my year really just a year of idiom living? Of relying on idioms that can soon become cliche? I wanted to believe that that was not the case. Because, while these idioms are fine on their own, they are not solid enough to live by.

That's when I started reading John, who does not focus on idioms but on metaphors. And there it was--the ultimate "light" metaphor. John 1:4-8 says, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the Light, that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness about the Light." And then in John 8:12, Jesus Himself says, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” That's the kind of focus I wanted and the perspective I needed. And that is His desire for our lives.

Idiom living might sound deceptively fine. But Jesus doesn't want us living that way. He wants us to live by the metaphors of who He is: He is Light. He is Love. He is Life. Small "l" idioms are but a dim reflection of capital "L" metaphors. This Christmas I am focusing more on those capital "L" metaphors as I think about how Jesus "emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2:7) He is Love. He is Light. He is Life. Jesus says, "Come and SEE!"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Feeling Raw Part 2--A Shift in the Dance

When I wrote "Feeling Raw Part 1" back in June, my intention was to write Part 2 soon after and I was going to write what I was really feeling "raw" about at the time.

Doug and I had just spent two weeks travelling, visiting family, friends, and supporters of our work with Wycliffe. We had spoken in two churches, made some new contacts and enjoyed our travels. However, when we returned to Edmonton I felt a strange and unexpected disconnect--the process of having to say good-bye to our lives these last six years had suddenly become very real. I knew we were supposed to return to Thailand but the inner conflict was there nonetheless. It was a time of transition, a shift in life, and my emotions were raw. That is what I was going to write about--but those emotions are now lost in a memory.

That was then--mid-June. This is now--August 26th. This is the day we were scheduled to drive out to B.C., spend some time with family, and then fly out of Vancouver on Sept. 3rd--back to Thailand and our lives and work there. But sometimes life doesn't happen the way we planned, just like Proverbs 16:9 says. Sometimes the changes aren't even in the script, at least not our script.

In mid-July all our plans changed due to a crisis with one of our children--serious enough that we realized we couldn't return to Thailand as scheduled. The last five weeks have been intense, not just family-wise but also internally. One day I'm dealing with emotions of saying good-bye, the next day I'm dealing with the emotions of not being able to leave. And to my surprise, those second emotions were more intense. I felt even more torn. Questions flooded my mind: When would we get back? Will we get back? What am I, what are we, going to do in this time of uncertainty? How do we move forward? The expectation was that we would return as soon as Doug was done his PhD program and I was overwhelmed with sadness. It reminded me that I truly am a TCA--a third-culture adult. While I love my homeland of Canada, I love Southeast Asia as well, with our work, calling and fulfillment.

For a few weeks I did not do so well at balancing on the fulcrum of my emotional teeter-totter.
Deep exhaustion hung heavy around my neck. I knew hope was there but I was struggling to find it. My prayers were simple cries out to God and I relied heavily on others' prayers when I didn't know how to pray. And, as always, God, the Faithful One, broke through with His Word and with a beautiful word picture.

The Word: "BUT GOD." Those two words reminded me of His faithfulness. Just like God did for Noah (Gen. 8:1), Joseph (Gen. 50:20), and David (1 Sam. 23:14), so He has done for me through Jesus (Acts 2:24) and continues to do (Rom. 5:8). His love never fails. I am learning that I do not need to worry or fret--that this shift in our lives did not take God by surprise and that I do not need to teeter on that fulcrum by myself--He is there with me.

The word picture: This morning God gave me a picture through the words of Madeleine L'Engle in her daily reading from the book, Glimpses of Grace. The reading is entitled, "The Shifting Dance Steps," and she speaks of how the dance steps of life shift and change. She concludes by saying, "The melody seems unfamiliar to me, but I will learn it."

I thought about life being a dance. I love dance, although I'm a pathetic dancer. I wish I could dance as an expression of God's handiwork, as a testimony to His faithfulness and love. I can't. But I do appreciate those who can. They too draw us to God. They reveal God's creative heart and His love for all things beautiful.

As I pondered these thoughts throughout the morning, I stopped at lunch to finish watching an episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" on TV. And there it was--the dance that reinforced L'Engle's words. It was a couple dancing to "Angel," one of my favourite Sarah McLachlan songs. The girl moved with such beauty and grace and emotion and her partner held her, carried her, moved with her but also freed her. And it was me dancing--moving to the shift of something new, effortlessly. But I was not alone--Jesus was there with me, leading me, carrying me, freeing me. It was a liberating moment for me. And again, it reminded me that God is faithful--that He cares about me and my emotions and struggles and that He is committed to partnering with me through this dance of life.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Feeling Raw: Part 1

The skin--the largest organ in our body systems, protecting all our other biological systems. It is resilient. We know this from experience. Think of all the times you've bumped, bruised, cut, scraped even burned your skin--to the point that we would call it "raw." Then it heals. Sometimes scars remain if the wound is deep enough, but not usually. I have one such scar.

August 1991. As a family we were travelling from B.C. to Dallas, Texas to continue our schooling as linguists/translators with Wycliffe Bible Translators. In those days we would travel in the early mornings, leaving at 4:00 or 4:30 a.m., while our kids aged 1, 3 and 4, would sleep. By the time we stopped for breakfast, we were half-way to our destination. That eventful morning we arrived in Wichita, Kansas in time for breakfast--only we had no American cash on us to buy breakfast. We drove around looking for a bank machine but found nothing on the outskirts of the city so we drove into the downtown sector.

We devised a plan. Doug would park the car and would stay with the kids while I went walking around looking for a bank, sure to find one downtown. So I hopped out of the car, turned the corner and was gone. 15 minutes later I returned, moneyless, but bleeding with large scrapes on my arm, knee and down my shin. And with a bruised ego. I had been so intent at looking at buildings, trying to find a bank, that I did not realize there was a 100-mile cycling race going on through downtown (I guess it's a famous race but I didn't know--I was a "foreigner.") Suddenly, while crossing an intersection, I heard people yelling at me from the sidewalk to get out of the way. I turned to look behind me and there was a pack of bicycles coming at me FAST! I swerved back to the sidewalk, hoping I too could be fast but alas, the cyclist on the edge hit my knee, sending me flying. He too went flying; My glasses went flying; His bike went flying. I laid there for a few seconds while people came running to me, insisting that I be taken to the finish line to be looked at. I said I was okay, and I was, for the most part. But honestly, all I remember was seeing the cyclist hunched over in the middle of the street, crying. All his dreams dashed by this moronic, clueless woman. Completely embarrassed and in shock, I convinced everyone that I would be fine and fled the scene as fast as my injured body would take me. 

When I turned the corner back into the parking lot, and opened the car door, I'm sure Doug was in shock too. Blood oozed down my lower right arm, knee and leg. What had happened?! I tried to explain but my words were few. "Let's just go," I pleaded. He obliged. We ended up stopping at a 7-11 for gas and our breakfast consisted of foods bought from their shelves. It was probably the worst breakfast we ever ate in all our travels. Honestly, I don't remember.

I do remember that by the time we arrived in Dallas, my body ached and my leg was stiff. The concrete had rubbed my skin raw. However, I did realize that it could have been much worse--nothing was broken and I hadn't hit my head. For the next month, however, I could not wear anything that chafed my wounds. Often when I went out into public people stared, some asked what happened. I did not disclose much.

Even though we had only crossed the 49th parallel, I connected this accident with being a "foreigner," an "alien." After all, any Wichita native would have known what was happening that morning on those streets in their city. But I was just a simple Canadian bumpkin. Sounds silly but often the truth is stranger than fiction.

I saw then how closely we connect our culture to our experiences; Where we come from is so ingrained in us that we don't realize it until we are placed in a situation that should not feel that strange, but it does. We feel unexpectedly lost and slightly off-balance. I did not anticipate my response that day, nor the emotional rawness that went with it. But it was there.

I still have a slight "bicycle tread" scar just below my knee. It is a reminder of who I am, my deep cultural roots AND my need to be sensitive to other cultures as well. After all, I don't want to run anybody over with a Canadian tire. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

News from Home

One of the things that happens when living in another culture, away from your home country, is you seek "news from home." Any kind of news--of course, any contacts from family and friends which can happen these days with a click of a button, but other kinds of news as well. Any time someone said the word "Canada," my hearing would improve. What is Canada involved in now? What's going on politically, economically, socially? If Canada was doing something positive in the world, I was proud. If Canada was mentioned in a negative light, I wanted to defend my country.

But there was nothing that kept my attention more than Canada and sports. I craved the sports of home which included not just Canada but U.S. sports as well since so many Canadians watch not just Canadian sports but generally sports of North America, including the NFL and the NBA. It was my connection with the familiar--not just geographically but also with the English language. It was a craving I did not anticipate.

And now the tables have turned. I have lived back in Canada for almost six years now. I am relishing all things Canadian. There is an appreciation in my heart and soul for this country that I would not have realized had I not lived overseas. But even though I am here, I am still seeking "news from home"--from my other home. News from Thailand, news from Southeast Asia. And now I listen for Thai when I pass by ethnic speakers from Southeast Asia. I don't hear it very often but I seek to--part of my heart is still there.

So, this morning, when I read the following post, my heart was aching for those people:

Even though they are not people I know personally, I have a heart connection. My heart was heavy with sadness. My prayers lifted up "my people" for they were under attack. And I must confess, my heart was angry at those who have no conscience--no sense that human trafficking and treating other humans like animals is wrong. But they too are lost--and I prayed for them.

My heart for the minority peoples of Thailand and surrounding countries is a part of me that I cannot cut off. It is with me. It will always be with me. It is part of what being a TCA is all about. And it is a part of me I wouldn't change for the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Going Green--Bamboo Green

My recent post on the InScribe Writer's Blog:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hang Gliding and Holding On

Today I was sitting at my computer, working on our newsletter contacts before we head back to Thailand when in walked my granddaughter Sydrah. She has the week off from school so is spending it with us. My husband and I are trying to get in as much time with her as possible--holding on to that contact that we will miss in the future.

She had spent the last half an hour in the other room working on some sort of craft. She asked for paper and tape--then for crayons. I heard her cutting with scissors and then towards the end she came into the dining room and took a few toothpicks from the toothpick holder beside the table where I was working. I was curious. What WAS she doing in there?

A few minutes later she walked into the room with her finished creative work: a paper hang glider complete with a little paper person taped to the straps under the glider. She had also taped three toothpicks to one wing as control sticks. She sailed it proudly to me and around the room.

"Ooooo, a hang glider," I say. "That's cool. What made you think of making that?"

"Hmm. I don't know. Just me," she says matter-of-factly.

"With even a little person flying under it. Is that you?" I ask.

"No, it's you," she says and then she turns the corner and is gone.

I am hit by questions: Is that how she sees me? Brave enough and young enough to be a hang gliding grandma? A grandma that loves life enough to try such an extreme sport? That would take up the challenge? Well, if it is. then that makes me warm and happy inside. She has felt my love for adventure, for not necessarily following the norm, and for being my unique, quirky, even weird self.

Yes my beautiful granddaughter. It is how I want you to see me--thinking and living outside the box and facing the challenges of what that means whether here in Canada or on the other side of the world. And even though you may not understand now why your Papa and I are moving to a country far, far away, and you won't see us as much, I pray you will understand our hearts and the calling God has put within us to go and help those who don't know Jesus, who don't have God's Words of love written in their language. I pray that in your sadness, God will give you an understanding beyond your years to realize the importance of sharing God's love to all.

I love you my granddaughter and will hold on to you in my heart. And please know that even though I am excited about the future and new adventure, I am also sad to leave you behind. It will be one of the hardest things I will ever have to do.