expat, family & friends, Luxembourg

be family to your friends

April 13, 2015
On being family to your friends

Our Easter Feast – friends of seven nationalities who have become family…

I’ve lived outside of my home country for the last seven and a half years. And before that there was also a gap year overseas and a study abroad year. So I’m getting used to being away from everything British. (Also the fact that I seem to have completely lost my English accent and somehow picked up a mid-Atlantic mix of American, South African and Irish makes me feel even further removed from the homeland…)

I like living overseas in many ways. I like living as an immigrant, exploring these new places, figuring out how things work, learning to embrace the local culture and lifestyle. And the food!

But there is lots that is hard about being far away from home and your family. Suddenly you can’t ask the normal people for advice because they have no idea how to submit a Luxembourgish tax return or claim back your medical costs. You can’t call your mum from the supermarket about recipe ingredients because everything is named different and why the heck is the cottage cheese not next to the fromage frais and what exactly is sour cream called in French anyway? Your Dad is not around to help hang pictures on walls and you miss all the family gatherings because an airfare is just too expensive for one oh-so-wonderful day.

You experience an element of this if you’re just far away from family in the same country. But there’s a whole second level of loss experienced when you’re dealing with a different language, different culture, different social structure.

And when you throw a new baby into the mix? It’s just hard.

A year before I even got pregnant with Kaya, I wrote a mini series on “embracing life as an expat” and I said how important it was to be family to your friends.

I am doubly sure of that now.

Your friends become family when they buy you oil for your pregnant belly and raspberry leaf tea from that one shop in town. They become family when they send you long lists of links to the best shops to buy a pushchair over the border in Germany and the facebook groups you can score the second hand bargains. They become family when they throw you a beautiful baby shower that makes you want to cry (not just because of the hormones). They become family when they bring you meals three times a week for the first TWO MONTHS after the baby is born.

They become family when they knit you baby blankets and dresses and shower her with kisses and cuddles. They become family when they write her a card for Easter even though she’s not big enough to read it yet. They become family when they let you come round spontaneously just to cry over how hard it all is. They become family when they happily translate all the commune paperwork and tell you what you need to do in plain English. They become family when they let you borrow dresses for you and your little girl for the wedding you have to go to.

We become family to each other by just being a loyal presence in each others lives. And in an immigrant context that looks like going out of your way to welcome the stranger, remembering that it was once you.

It’s why I make park dates with mamas I just met who looked a little lost. It’s why I lent out our baby swing to our pregnant neighbour and helped her find people to buy second hand baby clothes from. It’s why I always sign up to take meals to the new mamas and sick people if it’s at all possible.

It’s why I’ll always say yes if someone emails me through my blog and says “I’m new here, I don’t know anyone. Can we meet?” It often feels like a stretch, to be honest. But I know how absolutely vital it is to my well being to feel connected. And so if I have the chance to connect someone else in to this community I was in turn brought into? I don’t turn it down.

It’s a practice I hope I’ll remember to take with me even if I one day end up “home” in the UK. Because there’s nothing more lonely than being in a new place with no one to call. And there’s nothing more wonderful than feeling welcomed in to a family.

dreaming, faith, She Loves Magazine

Valleys of trouble, doors of hope

April 9, 2015
SheLovesApr2015

I write my She Loves posts well in advance of when they go up on the website. This time, nearly a month ago. And so often they take me by surprise. A tweet notification will pop upon my phone and someone will have already shared it and I had forgotten it was even today.

I go and read it with some nerves, worried whether I’ll still feel happy with what I submitted weeks ago. And then it’s like I’m reading someone else’s words and hearing the call for the first time, to stop straining for the way ahead, and to look inside me for the answer that God has already hidden there.

I wonder whether I come across too calm. I don’t feel calm. This inbetween time is stressful and confusing most days. It strains my relationships and my heart. But I still believe every word I wrote a month ago.

Maybe God is waiting for me to start exploring, to dig into the things already laid down upon my heart and sift through them, inspect them and sit with them, like clues hidden inside me. Maybe if I can lay my desires out in front of me, they will become a map to hold, the Spirit leaning over my shoulder to point out the path emerging faintly on the page.

Join me over at She Loves Magazine to read the rest. And if you are also in an inbetween place? Blessings on you fellow traveler. We will find our way, I’m sure of it.

things I like

right now. march 2015.

March 27, 2015
Crocuses in Luxembourg

It’s been one of those March’s when, as Dickens wrote, “the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” We’ve been escaping to the nearby parks on the sunny days, enjoying lunches on the patio with blankets over our knees, and Baby Girl is determined to practice walking all. day. long. Which means my back is about broken from helping her around.

This month started with our church’s women’s retreat weekend which was wonderful. And then I preached the following Sunday, which is always so rewarding for me. So there’s been this fun mix of grown up study and projects combined with making new friends in the park sand pit.

We head to Copenhagen this evening for a week of friends and family and my brother in law’s wedding! The perfect way to end the month.

This month I’ve been mostly…

reading.
Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz Weber. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to read right now so I’m only getting through it slowly but I’m really enjoying it. I really love the way her perspective just gently challenges my own understanding. I just finished her chapter on having inclusive churches and loved how she reframed it for me in a better way.

studying.
Our church is reading through N. T. Wright’s “Lent for Everyone” book, which walks through the daily readings from Luke’s gospel and the Psalms (year C). I signed up because I have major FOMO. But actually I’ve found it such a good study. It’s almost Ignatian in the way he invites you into the story. And old (to me) passages have been giving up new meanings.

listening.
The Liturgists podcast is my new go to listen. I listened to the Lost & Found episodes, and the Meditation one was brilliant. I enjoy how they approach the topics, with humour but also deep respect. Recommended, especially if you’re feeling your faith shift within you right now.

watching.
We watched the first season of Unbreakable, the newish Netflix series about Kimmy Schmidt, a woman who moves to New York after being set free from the bunker a cult leader had kept her in for 15 years. It’s quirky and funny and weird and I kinda loved it. Also, that theme tune? I walk around the flat humming it: “…but females are strong as hell…”

preaching.
I was asked to preach again at our church on 15th. The Lent series is on the things we need to Give Up, and the passage I had was Matthew 23. If you’re interested, you can listen to a podcast of it on the church website. (I haven’t listened back yet. Do any of you listen to your talks afterwards? I kinda dislike my voice…)

is that my voice?

cooking.
I seem to put so much more energy into Kaya’s food than ours these days! So she’s eating tuna fishcakes and cheese omelettes and lentil mushroom loaf, and then Rasmus asks, “so is there any food for us?” Um… we can go get takeaway curry again?! Oh but you should totally try that lentil mushroom loaf (vegan, gluten free!). It’s delicious.

loving.

Watching the two other women I worked on content with at the church retreat speak to a room full of women for the very first time with confidence and passion. So proud of them!

Sunny afternoons in the park. Last week we were there three times. And I swapped numbers with another mum! It’s like dating for mamas.

Delano Photo

My first time being called by a magazine for my opinion! The subject, you ask? Oh, um, ahem, traffic noise in Luxembourg. Yeah, I don’t really have strong feelings. Hence my comment being mostly sarky: “uh, we live in a city? of course there is traffic noise! Move to a village if you don’t like it!” But hey, my photo in a magazine!!

Luxembourg being small enough to bump into friends all over.

Mornings when Rasmus took Baby Girl so I could get out the house and sermon write with good coffee and no distractions.

The occasional nights when Kaya sleeps through until 6am. This was what eight hours sleep feels like. Haven’t experienced it in eight months. Absolute BLISS. (she’s still waking up early a lot but I’ll take that over the 3+ times a night a couple months ago…)

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer again, for her What I’m Into monthly post…