When TCKs Reunite

Like I mentioned last week, I’m getting settled in at college right now so for the next week or so I’m posting links to other great blog posts from around the web. So today, enjoy this post from Djibouti Jones.

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“Upon arrival in Athens, tears sprung to my eyes at the sight of my friends. The last time I had seen many of them was at our high school graduation in Pakistan. I rushed to hug them, words tumbling out in a jumble. We laughed at the initial awkwardness we all felt, and then it was as if we had never been apart. We talked about our lives in our “home” countries, about our families and jobs. Someone brought up some of the ridiculous situations we got into in high school: the time baby cobras hatched out of the potted plants, the school lunches seasoned with the occasional cockroach, the teachers who made our lives miserable or inspired us to achieve our dreams. Memories bubbled to the surface.

TCK reunions overflow with emotion. We have said so many goodbyes in our lives to friends we never knew whether we would see again. We returned to our passport cultures without knowing who we were or where we belonged. We lost contact in our childhoods with more people than most people ever even meet in a lifetime. Our journey beyond the high school years has been complicated, often lonely, and full of awkward moments. For many TCKs, the trip “home” has meant having to learn the language of their passport culture. For all TCKs, it means learning the culture everyone assumes they should already know. For the most part, we maneuver and learn our “home” culture on our own.”

Read the rest here!

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Memories.

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This is an old post from my personal blog. Whenever I make Earl Gray, these memories still flutter through my head….

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This afternoon, I lit a candle and made myself a cup of tea. {Studying always seems less taxing when candles and tea are involved.}

As I poured the hot water onto the tea bag, the smell of Earl Gray tea overwhelmed my senses. And, instantly, I was transported to another place, a past time.

It’s funny how our minds work like that, how just the smell of something can conjure so many memories.

When I breathed in the steam of my tea, I was reminded of my one of my good Italian friends, Claudia. On the first day of school in the seventh grade, my teacher “assigned” me to several girls in the room. It was their job to make sure I could do my homework and understand the lessons. And they were so sweet, inviting me to their homes to study. Always encouraging me. Claudia was one of those girls.

The first time I went to her house, she tried her best to teach me how to play the recorder for our music class. It was a lost cause. {I eventually got there, though}

We also drank tea, strong Earl Gray tea. She drank hers quickly, so I followed suit, gulping down the scalding liquid resulting in a painful headache. Little did I know how many more afternoons I would spend at her house, sitting in her cozy kitchen, drinking tea and nibbling on cookies.

Those were such sweet times. Because it was just like being with a friend. It was there that I realized that she actually was my friend, not just a tutor. I enjoyed talking with her. We had things to talk about. We could laugh together. Because we were friends.

This afternoon, as I drank my tea and looked at my window at the gray sky, I wished I was in her kitchen again. Drinking Earl Gray, eating cookies, and watching storms gather in the sky.

Diving into the Local Culture

This summer, I’m writing a series on being a teen TCK for Denizen, an awesome online magazine for TCKs! Here’s part of my second article on getting involved in your new culture…

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{my wonderful Italian friends!}

The bright Italian sunshine bounced off a jagged piece of metal, catching my eye. My feet pounded on the warm concrete as I ran to investigate. I squatted down and shielded my eyes to get a better look. Victory. Another beer bottle cap, bringing my total to twenty-two and also putting me in the lead against my brother.

Call me crazy, but somehow, when I pictured living in Florence, Italy, scrounging for beer bottle caps on a large slab of concrete before the Pitti Palace did not come to mind. But here I was, in my first week living in the great Renaissance city, doing exactly that. My mom sat close by, reading a book, probably trying to cram a few more Italian words into her head.

“Courtney, look! Birra Moretti!” My brother shoved a yellow cap in my face, featuring a green-suited man looking suspicious and strange. Maybe he too was sentenced to finding beer bottle caps in the heat of the day.

We laughed about his funny name and kept looking. When the sun began to sink and the air was laced with an autumnal chill, our mom finally got up and called us. We followed her like ducklings through the narrow cobble-stone streets of the ancient city.

When my parents first told us we might move to Italy, I wanted to go. Even though I had lived in Austin, Texas my whole ten years of life, adventure pulsed in my veins. I was ready to board that plane to a completely different life.

Our first year in Florence was certainly a change from life in Austin, but most of it was spent in our sunny, yellow house homeschooling. Every day was the same. My brother and I worked on school, then language tutoring, then we would trudge to the local library, or biblioteca, in the chill of evening so my mom could check her email, our one link to our old life.

Our slow integration into the Italian culture was perfect for the fall, but after Christmas, life seemed to drag a little. I began to wonder, what next? What’s going to happen for the next four years while we’re here? I missed the interaction that school and sports had provided me back home.

Not being plugged in to the local culture greatly hindered my knowledge of the language and prevented “real” life from happening. Though getting involved in activities in a new country may seem daunting, it is crucial to being able to best enjoy and profit from your time overseas. To each his own level of cultural immersion, but I would encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone. There are countless ways to live with the locals instead of just in their country, but I think three of the easiest ones are through school, sports, and neighborhoods. Allow me to explain…

Read the rest on Denizen!

A Note of Cheer

I love sending and receiving mail! I send letters back and forth with one friend and it always makes my day to see an envelope from her sitting in the mailbox. Even though most people communicate online these days, take a moment and send someone a cheery spring thought in the mail. To inspire you, I found some cute stationary on Etsy…

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{found here}

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Happy Writing!

A Different Approach to Valentine’s Day by Michaela F.

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If you’re looking for a cutesy article about chocolate and flowers and teddy bears and hearts and Pinterest pictures, I encourage you to keep looking elsewhere. This Valentine’s Day, while I will most definitely be celebrating in traditional ways, will look much different for me. And I hope it will look different for you, too.
You see, love is the most beautiful thing on this Earth. Love shared and expressed between friends, family members, couples, and yes, even animals, is just plain amazing. Life would be nothing without this complex noun and verb.
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Without sounding “cliché Christian teenage girl”, I would love to encourage you to reflect upon, grow in, and act on your love for your Lord and Savior as you pass out cartoon-covered cards or whip up a heavenly chocolate dessert. I always have a hard time when people say “I love Jesus” or “Jesus is the love of my life” because in my head I’m screaming “But what on earth does that mean?!?!” I so desperately long to feel the emotion of love when I think about the One who died and rose again in order to spend eternity with me, yet sometimes devos and prayer seem like a mere drudgery. I used to think I was alone in this, but I have since learned that absolutely every follower of Christ has those days and months and even years when time with Him does not fill you with warm fuzzies and a fiery passion.
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However, right now I am in a place where I just really do love Jesus. I roll out of bed and onto my knees to spend the first minutes of my morning committing my day to Him. For the rest of the day I am consumed with thoughts of what the Lord is doing in my heart and in the hearts of those around me and I cannot wipe the smile off my face for my life (not that I would want to). My conversations with my friends and family are full of praising His glorious goodness. I guess you could say I am head-over-heels. I have no idea how long this season will last, but I am so hopeful that there are actually little steps I can take to get to this place and keep it this way. Would you like to hear them? Oh good, I hoped so. (Some of them are from my own thoughts and some are from my youth pastor.)
First off, I will play Captain Obvious and point out that God made us in His image, including the way we interact with others. When we love somebody, we invest energy, time and resources into the relationship. We listen to them while they pour out their thoughts and we rely on them to listen to us as well. God made us to do this. I think that’s how we should love Jesus too. We should think about Him and how to please Him, talk to Him, listen to Him, and tell other people how great we think He is. It really is that simple, yet I know it doesn’t always work out perfectly or even well.
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I also know for a fact that a major fire-extinguisher in our walk with Christ is focusing on our circumstances. Life-changing decisions and little annoyances alike fill our thoughts and take our eyes off our Strength and Comforter. I have been practicing fixing my eyes back on the prize in those moments and let me tell you, it’s a game-changer. As we focus more and more on Christ by repenting of selfishness and focusing on thanking Him for every little thing in our day, we will be free to receive what He has for us.
If you are still not feeling the love, get yourself around people who are. It may not be your parents or people you think should be in love with Christ, because everyone has dry spells or gets busy etc… Think about who is literally bursting with joy and peace and life, chances are they are deeply in love with their Lord and Savior. Hopefully you will be able to catch a spark and fan your own flame.
A specific way I am going to try to learn more about God’s love for me is by reading through the Bible with rose-colored glasses, if you will. Not in a literal sense, but basically reading through the Bible looking for very specific evidence of His love for me, His creation. Whether it is a tough-love punishment for the Israelites or a tender-hearted statement from Jesus, I want to see the different threads of the greatest love story ever.
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Will you join me in this revolutionary approach to Valentine’s Day? If you do, please comment and tell me your plans or results-I love fellowship sooo much.

Having a Mentor, or Not Having a Mentor. That Is the Question! by Becca M.

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{via pinterest}

Why in the world would someone need a spiritual mentor? Well, that is a very good question! To answer that question, I would venture to say it’s because we all need a human to lead the way for us and someone to turn to when we face life’s different storms. But what is a mentor exactly? For me, it is someone slightly older (preferably a woman if you are a girl) who has been there and done that! It is also a person who is deeply grounded in their faith and to whom you can turn to for advice when needed. Both parties should have peace about it after spending time in prayer. Finding mine was as clear as deciding to take a breath.

The person you choose for this role should be of deep integrity and have a desire to listen to you and help you through life. I believe that being mentored should be a lifelong commitment if possible. Before you do anything, you should build  a friendship with the person and pray about asking her to be your mentor. You should also be able to share anything – yes anything – with your mentor without being judged. If you make bad choices along the way, your mentor should try to help put you back on track with Christ’s love and forgiveness.

I personally wish I could have had a mentor even earlier than I did, and I think I had mine at 16! It’s never too early to have Godly influences in your life. I have two mentors now; one is French, since I was born and live in France, and my second one is American (being half American, it seemed logical to have one from there too!).

I have shared with these beautiful women of God more than anyone else, even my family. They have helped me through so many difficult times. I have laughed and cried with them and I can recall many deep talks around coffee or tea at my French mentor’s appartment. One of the most beautiful moments with my new American one was praying together on my pastor’s backyard swing last summer. Let me tell you, our prayers flew very high that day!

Now, I see my American mentor about once a year and that is hard, but we keep in touch the best we can! She took time for me even in the middle of her wedding preparations.

I love my mentors so much for so many reasons but the biggest one is they always point me back to our ultimate example to follow: CHRIST.

So if you do decide to look for a good and Godly mentor, I am confident it will bring many blessings your way. BUT always remember the best MENTOR ever is our loving Savior.

Fiction by Lizzy G. // Part Two

Look for part 1 here

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…I thought, well, maybe I could work with this. ‘Home’ is a relative word, right?

At least I was feeling that upbeat about it until after I had sat with a forced smile through my first two class periods on Monday and I met that Freshman. My first day of school in America was an experience that is impossible to describe, but I’ll try my best. Maybe it was the fight in the hall or the first time someone asked me if I liked fortune cookies. Or maybe the hardest part was sitting alone at a desk, unsure, and unknown, wondering how long it would be before I could stop making small talk and laugh a real laugh with a real friend.

But because I hate to dwell on things that bring one down, I’ll tell you that the best part of that morning was meeting people who genuinely cared. In each room circumstances and my hungry eyes located a few students who gave me reassuring smiles, a few who stayed with me for the second minute and said “You’re from China? I think that’s really cool.” From a few people, that was a sincere statement, beautiful in its simplicity and cherished in its reception. When the first girl said that to me, a wad of feelings loosened themselves in my gut and rose to press gently in my head. The only one I could pull from the tangled mess was gratitude—tentative, wistful, dependent gratitude.

The girl’s name was Sharon. I told her “thanks,” and as I spoke back I knew three things:

One, that I would always, always welcome future new kids with all the strength and love that I had in me;

Two, that I would push my body and my brain until every last smile and piece of shallow conversation had left me, that I would make connections and small talk also with all the strength and love I had in me;

Three, that if I stepped out onto the slippery wet floor of relationships and worked to gain new friends in this frightening new place, there I would find what “home” was.

As an overseas kid, I know what a real friend is. The relationship formed between the two of you is made by each taking a reckless step of faith to trust. We settle and move again across the world so fast that we have to have the confidence to make friends when we know our time together will be shorter than a celebrity dating relationship. So we make the friends and we leave them, but connections are wrought between us that are never broken and span oceans and cultures. They are small, taut strings that stretch across the globe and are more than just video chat calls and tweets—they hold you together when you need it most.

I knew I was in trouble if I wanted to find friends like that in a sleepy American high school in the suburbs. But by third period I was also really, really determined.

As I remembered all this and felt the emotional pressure again in the practice room, I was seized with a mad impulse and said “Wait, David.”

He came back, possibly surprised that I’d remembered his name when he told it to me.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Kathryn. You’re in ninth grade, right?”

“Yeah,” he said cheerily.

“Awesome,” I said. “Can you write? Because I’m thinking that I do need to write some songs and they are going to have words.” He sat down eagerly and I thought aloud. “Music can express what someone is feeling, and so can words. Words are probably really important, actually…and wow, do I have a lot of expressing to do.”

He wasn’t really listening, but he started in on playing something. It was upbeat. Words are first steps, I thought. First steps toward friends, and first steps toward a new home.

 

An Act of Kindness

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Last week, during Bible study, one girl mentioned that her week had just been boring. Her prayer request was a more exciting week. As soon as she said that, an idea popped into my head. I decided to make her cards and have her teachers give them to her in each of her classes.

I had so much fun making notes for her and trying to deliver them secretly to her teachers. I was only able to deliver one successfully as a surprise, but that didn’t matter. She loved it and that made me so happy.

I didn’t do it to make myself feel or look good for doing something nice. I didn’t do it because I love creative things (even though I do). I simply wanted to make her day less boring. I really wanted to do something nice for her. But in the process of trying to make her day, I made my own.

Proverbs 21:21 says, “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness, will find life, righteousness, and honor.” I think that verse is true (Not that it matters what I think. I mean, the whole Bible is true, right? 🙂 ) As silly as this might sound, I really felt alive doing something kind for someone else. In fact, I always find that to be true – that whenever I seek to encourage someone else, I end up so happy and full of life.

I encourage you to go out of your way this week to look for ways to show kindness to others. You’ll end up encouraging yourself along the way.