27 February, 2017

To Flush or not to Flush – The Surprises of Reverse Culture Shock

“I’m in California.” I thought, mentally reminding myself of the fact that I had arrived in the States. “I can safely flush the toilet paper.” Just to be sure, I took a quick intake of my surroundings- the airport bathroom.  No sign telling me that all paper should go in the trash and the trash was a bit farther than comfortable reaching distance. I was safe and I successfully threw the toilet paper in the proper place
.
I remembered sitting on “the pot” the last time I had returned to my passport country and seriously thinking of where I needed to place the paper waste. I probably spent a serious 30 seconds in one such instance, looking at the paper waste and the trash can to my side, and wondering if I could truly send it down the toilet. It seemed so foreign. This time in returning, I was prepared to be faced with these odd moments in the bathroom where two ways of dealing with a simple necessity left me confused.

However, I have been surprised.

I haven’t been as confused as I thought I would be.

If you’ve kept with me this far, you can breathe a sigh of relief as the toilet story is done (for now at least). Things, simple things that I thought would be a huge adjustment for me (because of differences or because of transitions I experienced last time) have been a lot easier than I thought. I have readjusted and am readjusting to life here in the United States much easier than I thought.

And that is shocking.

A few examples:

Rice and beans- I no longer eat them every day, but I (sadly) haven’t craved them like I thought I would (Note: beans and rice are my favorite.)

Food in general- Let’s take food in general. I am eating like an American (“What’s an American eat like?”  you ask… um…). Cereal for breakfast, lighter lunch, early dinner, more pizza than I’d care to admit…

Language mishaps- I haven’t woken up speaking Portuguese randomly (yet.) The switch to using English daily and ALL DAY and being surrounded by English everything (with the occasional Spanish sign or advertisement) has been an easier transition than I was expecting. While there are times when I can’t find the correct English word or when I almost ask someone their name in Portuguese and then proceed to try to pronounce their name the way it would be said in Brazil, I am still surprised by this transition and my lack of involvement with the Portuguese language (to which a part of me freaks out about).

I am shocked.

I honestly thought I would have a harder time than I am having. Yes, there are still (many) moments of reverse culture shock, language confusion, relearning and readjusting (driving a car is like riding a bike- you never forget, right? Right, but it’s not the same driving again after not having driven for over a year…) but… I am shocked that this transition has been more natural than what I was expecting.
It makes me happy in some ways- I realize that I am more “at home” now in my parent’s new city and home (“new” as in new for me), and I know that I am more sure of myself and who I am (and I don’t have to hold onto another culture so strongly whether it be my native culture or the culture I am currently living and 
working in). And while culture makes up a part of who I am, I am not defined by culture alone.

I am scared, though.

I’m scared to lose the language of Portuguese, to lose the culture, to lose… the ease of slipping into the Brazilian culture and loving it; being a sort of second nature thing.

In processing this I am seeing that rather than “force” either culture on myself (into fitting back into American culture or in holding onto Brazilian culture) I need to simply live and live in the moment. I can’t worry about when I go back to Brazil and how it will be readjusting to life there.

And for while I’m here in the U.S., I can’t worry about things I might say weird or things I might do that are different; I will take each day at a time and if I find myself on the toilet debating with myself on where I should throw the toilet paper… I’ll just laugh and move on. (After having flushed).





22 February, 2017

While sitting in an airport

This blog post is more like a journal entry, written on my laptop while sitting in an airport waiting for my last flight that would finally bring me home to Northern California. It is raw in the sense of, I did not edit it. What I wrote in the moment is what is being posted. What I thought is what you will read. Enjoy reading and catching a glimpse of what goes on in my head and my heart. 

~*~

Jesus.

Culture shock.

It’s for real.

But I’m trying to process some things and I am thinking… I am partly in denial.

Not the denial of culture shock.

But the denial of the importance and necessity of embracing both cultures.

I think in coming back to California, I want to deny that I am – that I still think in English (though it is a mixture at times), that I speak English, that I am from the United States.

Because, congruent with my personality, I want it to be an “all or nothing” sort of deal. Brazil or the US.

Balancing, embracing, and living with the two cultures that are different, is not an easy task. It seems much “easier” or a way of “protecting myself” if I just decide on embracing 100% one culture, language, country, and people.

Because it’s hard to live in this paradigm of never completely feeling like you’re with your people, culture, language, and nation. Cause now that you have become an expatriate, it’s impossible.

Granted, I have only spent 2 years in Brazil. Mas, agora, faz parte de mim, e da minha historia. It makes up a part of me and my story. To reject it would be unfair and I would be doing myself and those who have invested in me (Brazilian and non-Brazilian alike) an injustice.

However, at the same time I must remember that I cannot do the opposite and reject the nation, language, culture, and people I was born into. I was born in the U.S. for a reason.

~*~

In the blog posts to follow I will be documenting some of this journey- of transition, reverse culture-shock, the idea of home, identity and other such heart ponderings. I invite you to come with me on this journey and if you have a question, or even something you're curious about, I hope you feel free to ask. :) 


28 January, 2017

"I've got this."


"I've got this."

This is what God's been saying to me lately regarding my financial situation - no money in my bank account to buy a ticket to get back to California, tickets costing just under $1,000, and no idea of where the money is going to come from.

A lot of things and ideas have gone through my mind in the last few weeks. Will the money come in time? Will I be able to buy a plane ticket? Do I need to do something more? Contact the people who read my newsletters and who already support me again? Will it come down to going to the airport and hoping and praying that there will be a ticket for me? Where is the money going to come from?

I had no idea.

God, he's been talking to me about trust. Like really trusting in Him. Not in my supporters or in people's generosity but in HIM.

A lot of people have been asking when I'm going home. The conversations have gone kinda like this:

"Are you planning on going home soon?"
"Yeah, I am. Actually, I'm hoping to leave by the end of January."
"So you have a ticket?"
"No."
"Why haven't you bought one yet?"
"Well, cause tickets have been really expensive, around $1,000 and I don't have the money to buy one."
"How much more do you need?"
"The full amount."
"So what are you going to do?"
"I'm waiting on a miracle."

And I have been waiting and praying about what I should do.

A couple weeks ago, a couple I know, came to my mind. They had told me in the past that if I needed anything, I could contact them. I remembered this but still wasn’t sure whether or not I should contact them. Was this God bringing them to my memory or did I need to wait and not share my need (once again) with anyone and trust God in this way? Two weeks later, I felt at peace to contact this couple and I sent a message.

The next day I received a reply. They wanted to help! But there was more, they themselves were planning on going on a missions trip in the next two weeks with their family and still were in need of finances themselves. It was “interesting” that while at the same time that they were in need of finances, I asked them if they could help me financially. There have been countless stories of how God has provided for His people while they give, helping someone else out, while in the midst of their generous giving they are in need themselves. The day after they received my message, they received a “random” check from the husband’s company.
It amazes me at what God does. He told me that He had it covered. And He did. This whole situation… there’s a bigger picture going on and most times I don’t realize it. Jesus is at work in our hearts, in our lives, in our families, in our day to day.


To God  be all the glory. :) 

30 December, 2016

A (Messy) Christmas Story

During our children’s discipleship group a couple weeks ago, we read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 and then acted out the story.

While reading the story, André, Ben, and Julia each read a section - 7 verses- while Marcos wrote down all the characters that appeared in the story. During the middle of the reading, Marcos looked at me, with that grin of his and twinkle in his eyes and said, “Now I know what story this is…”

We divided the roles amongst us and grabbed some costumes and began improvising.

I was Joseph as no one else wanted that role, Julia was Mary.

While Mary and I were acting out the first scene of hearing the decree made by Cesar (André), the angel Gabriel (Ben) and baby Jesus (Marcos) were talking rather loudly on the side. I tried quieting them, even saying “quiet on the set” in English and trying to translate my “theater talk” in Portuguese (I don’t think it directly translates) and em fim it just wasn’t “working” to keep everyone quiet while we acted out the scene. Baby Jesus kept trying to enter the scene, even when it wasn’t his turn yet.

The drama continued- both the actual drama of the story and the drama of the ones acting- in the sense of noise, wanting to enter in the scene prematurely, and the pure and integral improvisation made by children who know each other well and love to be silly with each other.

It wasn’t the “exact” story and dramatization of Luke 2, but it was authentic. It wasn’t at all the picture that we have in our minds of the first Christmas (at least the one I have in my brain) of being quiet, calm, peaceful, tranquil, perfect (and after a little thought, I realize that what I mean by “perfect” is “orderly”) but maybe our improvised “version” of the Christmas story was a bit more similar to that of the first.

After our final scene of the shepherds visiting baby Jesus (that included me telling one of the shepherds that he couldn’t drag his “lamb” around and soon after  this, pulling that same lamb off of baby Jesus), we took off our costumes, sweaty (it’s nearly summer here!) and tired, and gathered in a circle. “Do you know what I thought while we were acting?” I asked the kids. I told them that at first, with all the noise and things that didn’t seem to go right, it didn’t seem to be the Christmas story that we see portrayed in movies, books, or nativity sets where everything seems perfect.  “Foi uma bagunça.” Piped in Ben. “It was a mess.”

It was a mess.

Ben’s raw and honest observation of our reenactment of the birth of Jesus helped pull the ideas together. It seemed to “click” for me.

Jesus entered into a world that was a mess.

Jesus entered into my mess.

He came to be peace, He came to be God with us.

And He wants to enter in to your life- whether it be that of a Hallmark card or a train wreck, or perhaps a not so happy medium. Wherever you are at, Jesus wants to enter in and do life with you. 

Simply put- He loves you.

29 November, 2016

Secure

Yesterday I went with a staff member to visit a neighbor of ours. Upon arriving we exchanged the normal greeting of “Tudo Bem?” “How are you?” – and our neighbor, an elderly lady replied with, “Good… no, actually I’m not. Lately I have not been well.” 

She began telling us of how her heart was beating at an accelerated rate and that she had scheduled an appointment in January (the soonest she was able to).

Honestly, I was worried, and still am. How is she really? Is she going to be okay? Is she resting? (She's a "go-getter" and I find it difficult to believe that she would sit still for very long.)

With assurance and peace evident in her composure and voice, she said, “My heart is in the hands of Jesus, the most secure place to be.”

I almost cried thinking about and seeing how much faith she has. She truly trusts in Jesus. 

God is continually nudging my heart, showing me that my faith and trust aren't truly in Him. Rather, I've put my trust in people, my own strength and my own self, plans, my thoughts, what's happened before and makes sense. I don't truly trust Him like I say I do. And I want to. 

I want to be able to say, just like my dear lovely neighbor, that my heart is in the hands of Jesus, the safest place to be. I want to say it with conviction. My head knows this fact, but my heart hasn't caught up yet. 

So along with chopping down banana trees, I'm learning hard things. Deep heart things. This journey is far from over, but it will continue. Until Completion. 

15 October, 2016

Dormant.

Lately I have felt to be on the verge of tears, emotional yet at the same time emotionless or really, not been able to feel completely. Partly due to the fact that I haven’t wanted to. Feeling exerts energy and emotions… it takes a toll on you and who you are and if you are not ready - firmly planted and rooted in Christ and who He calls you, and more importantly, in who He is – the wave knocks you down and you decide that it’s just better, safer, if you lie low.

Something I have discovered in my journey of learning a second language and learning (or relearning) my own is that often times I know how to use a word in context, but I don’t know what the actual word means. Or maybe it’s that I haven’t taken the time to stop and think about what the word actually means. For example, as I thought about this blog and what I wanted to write, the word “dormant” came to mind, but I wanted to look it up to ensure that it was the right word.

One of the definitions I found was that in relationship to plants, it is when a plant is still alive but not growing.
My blog has been dormant.

I have felt dormant. Like a plant, I have felt like I’ve been living but not growing.

I’ve learned lots of things, God’s spoken and been faithful in many things, but the battle between that of my will and applying this knowledge and what God has spoken has been a downright ugly one. A battle that, thankfully, I have lost and that God’s love is winning.

My feelings have been dormant.

Oh, I can be very emotional, in the sense of letting myself feel happy or sad at a surface level and going along with however I feel in the moment. But the act of letting myself feel the deeper feelings - of heartbreak, disappointment, dreams that I have yet to see materialize, the wretchedness of my sin, the reality around me, the tragedies happening in far off places- these feelings have been held back and put to sleep. But they’re alive and they need to be expressed. They cannot remain dormant.

Tonight, I let myself feel.

And as I cried and told God what was on my heart and in my mind, I felt a burden lift from my shoulders. I actually felt lighter. I felt freer.



God has set my heart free. 

23 January, 2016

God's Grace

The other night, Sunday night to be exact, I was robbed at gunpoint. It’s not as bad as it sounds, God is good.

I had just gotten home from church and dinner with friends and was sitting outside my Brazilian Family’s home. Along with one of my friends, we were waiting to Skype my parents. While talking and waiting for my dad to get home, a stranger approached the locked gate of the house (most houses in Brazil are gated). My friend blocked my view and the first thing I thought was that this stranger was begging for money. When he slightly moved to the side is when I saw the gun in the stranger’s hand directly pointed at my friend, Guilherme. The stranger demanded we hand him our cell phones, my laptop, and my backpack (which held a couple cables and a book), to him through the slots in the gate. That’s when I saw two other men approach the other side of the gate, one of them using his jacket to cover his face so that only his eyes showed.

It seemed to happen in slow motion, us handing our things over to the stranger, s l o w l y. No sudden movements.

I think I was in shock… was this actually happening?

Thoughts rushed through my head, should I be saying something? Should I share The Gospel? Seriously…
 
I stood up and stood to the side of Guilherme, the gun still pointed in his direction.

It clicked- There was a gun pointed at my friend… my thoughts switched from talking about Jesus to “maybe I should just be quiet and do whatever they wanted.”

The man with the gun had already looked around us, looking to see if we had anything else he might want, it seemed. He walked the length of the gate with us, the other two men just a bit ahead of him. Again, this seemed to happen s l o w l y. Guilherme behind me, slightly nudging me to the front door. Before the stranger disappeared out of sight and we entered the house, I said, “Jesus loves you man.” my voice faltering. I felt like I needed to say something… 

Guilherme and I entered the home I’ve been staying, apparently our faces were something to behold. One of our friends questioned what had happened and upon hearing we had been robbed at gunpoint, exclaimed, “No, seriously?”  and immediately called his father who was just a few minutes away from arriving home.

God’s grace. Can you see it?

His protection  - in that no one was hurt. We are safe.

I am thankful I wasn’t alone and that the gun was never pointed in my direction. Thankful that Guilherme was there and lead us through the situation. I am thankful.

It is disappointing that our things were stolen. With my computer, I lost almost all of the photos I had taken with my phone when I was home in California. I lost things that I had written. Both of us lost nice phones. But I am thankful that a majority of the things I had on my computer are saved on an external hard drive.

I am thankful that all these things are just that – things.

I am thankful that I am with a family that cares for me and protects me here in Brazil. I am thankful for the church here full of friends who sympathize and pray and who offered to let me borrow their laptops (which is how I am able to write all this out now). I am thankful for parents who responded in prayer rather than fear when they heard what happened.

I am thankful.

How you can be praying:
  •  Peace, for me, Guilherme, and the family I’m with
  • The men that stole from us, they would come to know the love of the Father and love Him back
  •   Replacement of items that were stolen
  •  That God’s name would be glorified in this situation


I am so thankful for your prayers!