31 December 2013

Three Expat Resolutions

Tis the season for resolutions, but our cross-cultural lives need more tweaking than physical and mental exercise. As I evaluate where I am—both geographically and personally—my conscience pinpoints three areas that need attention, so these are three expat-directed commitments I suggest we all grip this new year.

1. Connect with our host cultures.
Living in a foreign country doesn’t automatically mean you acclimate; in fact, you can follow all the rules and still lack the heart that connects you to the people and places there. I’ve lived in Seoul for 4.5 years and love the life we’ve built for our family, but I’ll readily admit that 75% or more of my time is with the expat community. I know I can better appreciate and assimilate into Korean culture.

Maybe you also find yourself adhering to former habits and preferences, side-glancing the newness of your host culture. Would you consider immersing yourself more this year? learning and living and and loving differently?

How can we do this?

  • Learn the language—even as little as a phrase a week
  • Visit museums—and other exhibits and festivals throughout the year
  • Befriend neighbors—make the relationship more than a hello in the elevator

2. Make our homes in Jesus.
When my children started asking about “home,” I was forced to think deeper about the word and define it for them. Now, more than a year later, I’m still amazed at the power of familiarity, security, and—ultimately—love.

Where do I make my home? 

Living abroad can mess with our definition of home. Is it where we feel the most ourselves? Is it where we are best accepted? Is it in our host culture or in our home country? Is it in the house where we grew up or in the house we clean now? Is it a place or a feeling or even a posture?

Or is it a Person?

If we make our homes in Jesus, we cannot feel insecure, lost, or displaced.
If we make our homes in Jesus, we know love and can thereby better express it.
If we make our homes in Jesus, then home is with us wherever we are on earth.

Instead of basing our attitudes on a place or a circumstance, we can put our confidence in Christ…and serve Him (and our families) with joy in any situation.

How can we do this?

  • Pray throughout the day.
  • Make a comfortable place to study the Bible.
  • Stop saying you’d be happier if something changed.

3. Create a haven of rest.
With our language-switching and our culture-juggling, there is a heightened need for our houses to be a place of peace. For my family in the city, our apartment is a reprieve from traffic and pollution as well. I want to build on this and ensure that our house is a haven—a place to rest and bond and pray.

How can we do this?

  • Keep it clean
  • Make it familiar
  • Be gentle

While a clean house doesn’t mean a happier home, an uncluttered space does ease the mind. When I have the housework under control, my whole attitude lifts…which in turn raises the morale of my husband and children. It does set the scene for rest.

Likewise, familiarity brings peace. Last year, I pushed aside the excuses and finally printed updated family photos to hang on our walls and display on our shelves. It makes such a difference! Also, we’ve chosen some items and artwork from storage in the states to bring to Korea—these accents warm our home and create a unique sense of personality. Amidst the bustle of Seoul, we can retreat to our own space and find peace.

And the final application is a poignant one. If I want our house to represent a haven, then I must be gentle. As a child, I would laugh at the verse that talked of a contentious woman chasing family members out of her home in favor of the desert (Proverbs 21:19). Now, I realize I could easily transform into that nag—if I don’t discipline myself to speak with grace, forgiveness, and compassion. I want the echo of my voice against our house walls to ring of sweetness and singing. I want to enrich the peace and encourage rest.

Three resolves
{connect with our host culture, make our homes in Jesus, and create a haven of rest}
Three commitments aiming at acclimation, security, and peace

Do these resonate with you? Would you share other ways to act on such resolutions every day? Do you have other resolutions relevant to women overseas?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Comments awaiting moderation may not appear for several hours or--if the kids and I fall asleep at the same time--at least a day. Thank you for your patience and please do not feel deterred; your feedback and insight are most welcomed!