Day 7: Without a Voice {31 Days of #WOKE}

Frustrated by my freedom
and their feigned rights.
Their lynched,
stores burned,
legs weary with marching to an anthem of peace
while rumors of war abound.
Where is Thurgood
and Martin now that
the rhythm of feet fades
to a phantom whisper?
The star rising in the north still illuminates
a page cut from a coloring book,
each line pressed hard with color,
each space filled with the same.
Never a minority,
minorities live in a colorless world
with a colorful culture.
Streets plowed on the northside
never see that sister south
remains buried,
buried.
Like a graveyard without a voice.

 

–Leslie Verner, February 12, 2002 (written while teaching in North Lawndale, Chicago)

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

Image: Senor Codo

 

Day 2: The Year I Went All ‘Dangerous Minds’ {31 Days of #WOKE}

My first year teaching in inner city Chicago was a spectacular failure.

 

My first year teaching in inner city Chicago was a spectacular failure.

The middle schoolers at a school in North Lawndale ran off two teachers in the four months before I arrived. A mid-year graduate from a nearly all white Wheaton College in the Chicago suburbs, I believed I was different. I would love my students. I would ignite their young minds with a passion for learning. When others ran, I would stay.

In my arrogance, I actually watched the movie Dangerous Minds the week after I accepted the job. In it, beautiful, blond Michelle Pfeiffer transforms her black and Latino students through the magic of learning. I, too, was determined to be an inspirational badass.

Sixth grade students in Lawndale.

I couldn’t wait to be the hero.

I didn’t realize I was stepping into a complex web of poverty, segregation, unemployment, emotional wounds, lack of education and a deadly compulsion to belong even if it meant to a gang. In my desire to be a do-gooder, I added clutter to an already chaotic and confusing system.

I worked 16 hour days, planned elaborate lessons, called parents daily and quickly memorized student’s names. But after having done nothing for the entire year, the students were not about to begin working. On the third day of school, my students egged my car. By the end of the semester, I wept every morning on the drive to school. I was sick a total of seven weeks between the months of January and June.

In 2002, North Lawndale was (and still is) one of the most segregated, drug-riddled, and poverty-stricken areas of Chicago. When asked to draw their neighborhood, my sixth graders drew corners where drugs were sold and houses where gang-bangers lived. To buy anything from a gas station, you had to order it from the cashier from behind a barred window. Boarded up houses, abandoned lots and glass-littered parks spread out like a ghost town. Twelve year olds were checked regularly for weapons.

The school was 100 percent black. Most of my students did not live at home with two parents and the majority were being raised by a grandmother. I had to be careful which students I called home about missing homework or behavior, because they would be beaten. I was convinced that if tested, every single one of my students would have been diagnosed as having some sort of behavioral disorder. Some of them would throw desks if I didn’t call on them to read out of the social studies book.

At first, I couldn’t understand my students when they spoke. They twisted and played with words, volleying back and forth. I struggled to decode their cryptic language and enter into their conversations. Their invisible walls seemed impenetrable.

I quickly realized the dilemma of being the lone adult in the classroom when a fight broke out (which happened at least weekly). As soon as you secured one student, the other would come swinging at both of you. A student accidentally struck me once and from then on I decided to let them fight it out until I could seek help. The office got used to me buzzing down, though I was more likely to send a student next door to enlist the help of the eccentric 60 year-old gay hippie teacher.

The staff was about half black, though our middle school group of four teachers was all white. The other three had been teaching in the neighborhood for many years. The math teacher, who had taught in Lawndale about 30 years, told how the white staff were hidden in the trunks of the African American’s cars on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. I remember she would wrap Snickers bars for all her students for their birthdays. Her students adored her.

When my students cursed at me, I said I loved them. I arrived at work early and stayed up late grading papers and planning lessons. I promised I wouldn’t abandon them. I thought if they knew I was in it for the long haul that they’d start to trust me.

But it wasn’t enough. My words and even some of my actions betrayed me.

In spite of working through the summer to prepare curriculum for the fall, the week before school began I received a message from the principal: “Come and pick up your things. We’re really sorry, but another teacher has been hired to replace you.” Was it because I couldn’t control my classroom? Because the parents complained about me? Because of politics within the school that I wasn’t privy to? Because I was white … ?

Or did my students and the administration sense my lack of authenticity? When I thought I was communicating love, did they feel patronized? Was I trying to fit my students into the culture of my whiteness instead of first learning about their culture, bending and assimilating to them instead of expecting them to orient to me?

I’ll never know.

I fought for my job, but lost the fight. When school began, I was sent to different schools each day as a substitute teacher until a new job opened up.

Perhaps my students and the administration saw through my idealism and lust to be the hero who rushed into the inner city to save the day.

Perhaps they saw what I could not.

***

The woman who originally recruited me, Karen Trout, was also white, but her experience was vastly different from mine. With a pixie-cut and a quick smile, she had showed me around, telling me her dreams for the school and for the students. At 31, she and her husband had already lived in Lawndale for almost ten years and had informally adopted three African American boys. Her husband was in full-time ministry, training men to love God, work hard and be educated. I admired her patience and understanding. Without her as a mentor I wouldn’t have made it six days, much less six months.

Her family is still in Lawndale today. They turned the abandoned lot next to their three-flat into a park for their street. Their adopted children are grown and their two biological children are two of just a few white children in an otherwise all-black school. They have started businesses around the city that provide young men and women with jobs that take them off the streets. As much as possible, they have assimilated into the culture and allowed themselves to not only be known, but to know their neighbors.

I think my mistake was telling myself I was all-in without physically moving in. I believed I could make a difference from a distance. And my students, the principal and the other teachers saw what I could not yet see.

I was in it for me.

 

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Chicago’s Uptown {You Are Here Stories}

I’m sharing today at You Are Here Stories for the theme “sound.” You Are Here is a collection of stories about roots, identity and place, which are some of the topics I love to write about the most.  Here is a teaser, but I hope you can click over and check out the rest of the article on their site!

A fire engine shrieked through the stoplight, casting a light show in my room and spraying the bare white walls with color. Even through closed windows, the sound was deafening. Within minutes, an ambulance from the hospital in the other direction bayed and bounded through the intersection. I rubbed my eyes. The city had assaulted me through the night, pushing away any hope of restful sleep. The thought of coffee propelled me out of bed.  

As new college graduates, my two roommates and I were fresh from the sweetly singing suburbs. Having recently secured jobs in Chicago, we moved into a two bedroom apartment above a tuxedo shop doubling as a dry cleaner in Uptown, at the corner of Clark and Wilson. Our landlords owned the block. The father, an Arab from Palestine who worked tirelessly at the dry cleaner, was a large silver-haired man with bushy eyebrows and kind black eyes. He gave us a 10 percent discount for being his tenants. His burly son lived across the hall from us and owned the cell phone shop next door, which sold a variety of wares during our four years living there. The uncles worked across the street at the liquor store where we dropped off our rent.

Continue reading…

Photo of the Wilson L station by Graham Garfield

~~~

Subscribe to Scraping Raisins by email and/or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.  I’d love to get to know you better!

Previous Post: Loving Like They’re Lost 

Next Post: My Friends are Books: Finding More Time to Read 

Things To Be Happy About Chicago

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I’m feeling nostalgic.  I’ve lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:



Running along Lake Michigan
The courtyard at Fourth Presbyterian Church across the street from the Hancock building
Chai milkshakes at Kopi Cafe in Andersonville
How excited adults get about the Holiday Train
Artopolis Bakery and Cafe in Greektown
Chinatown:  Lao Sichuan, hot soy milk, Pui Tak, Pho 
The best view in the city being from the women’s bathroom on the second-to-last-floor of the Hancock building
Museums of all kinds
Myopic used book store in Wicker Park
Being able to walk anywhere 
Taking the water taxi
Eavesdropping on actors practicing their lines in coffee shops
The way residents develop solidarity through misery in winter
Neighborhoods:  Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Wicker Park
Being able to check out museum passes for a week from the public libraries
Indie Thai on Broadway 
Parks throughout the city
“Vintage” Chicago apartments with creaky wood floors
A 5 minute wait for an Uber
Margie’s ice cream=best chocolate sauce in the city
Argyle Street
Devon Street 
Aldi
Chicago Park District=super cheap classes for kids
Turning the river green on St. Patrick’s Day
The Chicago Art Institute miniature rooms
Free city water
The way Chicagoans enjoy their summers
Maggianos, Riggatoni D
Lickety Split Custard, the Grasshopper
Lincoln Park Zoo=FREE
Races:  the Hot Chocolate, the Shamrock Shuffle, the Chicago Half Marathon and Full Marathon
High tea at the Drake

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

The theater scene
The Water Tower=one of just a few buildings left standing after the Chicago fire in 1871
M. Henry
How residents avoid Navy Pier
First Free Church in Andersonville
Diversity
Grub Hub
Taking the architectural cruise
Little Free Libraries
Summer sports leagues
Maggie Daley Park downtown 
Cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather
End of the road at Montrose Harbor=best view of the lake and city
Cheap produce stores like Edgewater Produce 
Street musicians at the Jackson stop on the redline
Cafe Babareeba: Bacon-wrapped dates and Sangria
Local coffee shops that do pour-overs and have amazing lattes:  Metropolis, Bow Truss, Intelligentsia, Asado, La Colombe, Ipsento
The “Ipsento Latte” at Ipsento Coffee:  coconut milk, honey, espresso and cayenne pepper
Furnishing your entire apartment through Craigslist
Buying spicy mangos or pork rinds at Montrose beach
Backroom Shakespeare 
Bundling up like a ninja to run in the winter
“A city of small towns”
Good drinking water straight from the tap
Downtown stores:  H & M and Crate & Barrel
Lakeshore Drive=”The Drive” or “LSD”
Authentic ethnic food of all kinds
Getting into Blue Man Group free by volunteering to usher
Christmas time downtown:  lights, Christkindlmarket, Macy’s window display, Frango mints from Macy’s
Garret’s popcorn shop, the “Chicago mix”=chesse + caramel popcorn
Taking the blue line to O’hare or the orange line to Midway
Murals under bridges by the lake 
Finally throwing your Christmas tree out your third floor window apartment in January
Summers:  Summer Dance, free outdoor concerts, movies in the park, neighborhood festivals
Street musicians

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

How everyone has their “tamale man” who sells them out of a cooler on the corner of the street
North side beaches–Foster, Hollywood and Osterman–cleaner and less crowded
The puppet bike 
Hot Tix=half prince tickets 
Ice skating downtown
Free covered parking garages attached to grocery stores
Brilliant summer gardens
Liberals
People-watching on Belmont after midnight
Waving at other runners in the winter
Public transportation to anywhere you need to go 
The color of Lake Michigan on a sunny day as you drive the S-curve on Lakeshore Drive
Gluhwein (hot spiced, mulled wine) in Andersonville in winter
Heaters at bus stop shelters
The way spring’s daffodils and tulips take your breath away
Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs
Wrigley Field & the Cubs (even if you hate baseball)
Cheap parking app:  Spot Hero
The Waterfront Cafe in Edgewater
Running into people you know

 
What do you love about Chicago? 

Previous Post: Thursday Thoughts for Writers~Bread & Fish
Next Post:  When I Forget to Notice People
  

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

Thankful for this Day

Right now, in this moment, I am thankful.


I sway with my 16-month-old daughter, singing her the same two songs I always sing before putting her in her crib, “Jesus Loves me” and “I Love you Lord.”  She reaches up, her face two inches from mine and touches the tips of my eyelashes, then my ears and nose, with her chubby little fingers.  She smiles her gap-toothed smile, her wispy blond hair bits escaping from her tiny ponytail on top of her head and falling across her eyes.  I lay her down and quietly tip-toe out of the room.  My three-year-old son has already quieted down next door and I no longer hear him singing and making noises.

I push the button on the electric tea kettle, rummage through the cupboard for a tea bag, plop it in the largest mug I can find, pour the steaming water into the cup and sit down here to write. 

Right now, in this moment, I am thankful.  I am thankful for the sun streaming in through the too-many windows and creating bright geometric shapes on the couch.  I am thankful for the tiny hand prints on the windows because it means that there are tiny people that live in my house.  I am thankful that both children are sleeping at the same time.

I am thankful for the Colorado sunshine that has proven to be as dependable as promised thus far.  After living in Chicago for nine years total, I am thankful for the change.  Though Chicago had its own appeal–the diversity, culture, movement, rhythm, promise and pace, right now I am thankful to not be there.  

Growing up in Florida, my soul seems to have been conditioned to need sunshine more than most.  I am a sun worshipper.  And so Chicago winters would drill holes in my soul through which joy seemed to seep out during the months of January through May.  Though I know that joy is not dependent on circumstance, I have also found God to be someone who graciously gives us even creature comforts at times when we most need them.  And He knew that I needed a little sunshine for my soul.      

After living in a third floor apartment with two tiny children, with laundry in the basement, no garage, dishwasher or yard and no ability to control our own heat, I am grateful for these new luxuries.  Instead of making 12 trips to the basement in one week, I can now wash clothes at my leisure, watching as my children arrange stuffed animals for tea parties, collect miscellaneous toys in any receptacle possible and scatter cheerios and raisins on the carpet. 

A garage means I won’t have to shovel snow off my car in the mornings.  I can put my children in the car shoe-less, and I don’t have to haul them back inside if I forgot something (or leave them briefly and fear that someone will call child services on me).  And I can open the back door after naps in the afternoon for them to run outside in our backyard that is exactly the right size for our family right now.

Our neighborhood is so dark in the evenings that we missed the turnoff the first few times we came home at night.  We can actually see stars.  Chicago’s skies were always pink and I may have seen three stars on a good night.  And there was constant noise.  Now, we can hear birds, crickets and the distant whinny of horses from the back porch.  A smile creeps across my face on days sitting outside when the scent of horse manure drifts into our yard because it means that we are not in the city. 

The mountains stand serenely in the background of most of daily life.  It caught me off guard the first time I came out of Target to have such a stately background for a common store.  I’m surprised I haven’t gotten into a car wreck yet from gawking at them stretched across the horizon as I drive toward home.  They are a constant reminder of my smallness.  I am thankful for the awe that comes in feeling overtaken by beauty, overcome by God’s creation.

As my parents did not want to live in Chicago and we did not want to live in Florida, Colorado was our compromise place.  My parents are volunteer rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer.  They now live in the mountains and to get to grandmother’s house we not only have to go over the river and through the woods, but over the highest highway in the country.  Instead of rush hour being our reason for running late to their place, it is more likely elk or moose or the tourists stopping traffic to take pictures of them that causes our delay. 

I am thankful to be living in the same state as my parents for the first time in 18 years.  Now that I am a mom myself, I seem to need them even more.

After writing about The Narrowing in my previous post, this time of giving thanks is a load lifter.  Jesus, thank you for blessing me over and above all that I could have ever asked or imagined.  Thank you for your peace that passes all understanding.  Thank you for your forgiveness of me before I’m even willing to forgive myself.  I know that one day I can expect suffering, sorrows, trials, sickness and death, but today is not that day. 
Thank you for this day.  

Lately, I have been trying to start the day with a better attitude and have been singing aloud,

This is the day, this is the day that Lord has made, that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it.


This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Thank you, Lord, for your small and large gifts to us in this day.


What is the largest thing you can give thanks for today?  The smallest? 


Linking up with Thankful Thursday
 
 

Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile {31 Days of Re-Entry}

For the purposes of this post, “exile” is wherever you find yourself that does not feel like home.  This could be college in a new state, a move from the city to the suburbs (or the reverse), living in a foreign country or like me, living back in America (which “should” feel like home, but doesn’t) after living abroad.

Christians love Jeremiah 29:11 about God knowing His plans for us–to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.  Sounds amazing.  But have you ever noticed that this verse is nestled in an entire letter written to Judah, who was in exile?  

Judah was sent away into exile, leaving their homes and their land to spend 70 years in Babylon.

Who sent them away?  God did. 

And I would venture to say that God has sent you as well.  It may not feel like home and you may not even WANT it to feel like home.  At least that’s how I felt when I found myself living back in the states after five very fulfilling years of living in China.  Chicago felt like exile to me.

But God had a message for his precious exiles on how to live in a place they didn’t want to be.  Here’s what God told them:

Build houses and live in them (v. 5).  Don’t just rent, but take the time to build, and then actually LIVE there.  When I first moved to Chicago after college, I had no idea I would live in the same apartment for four years, otherwise I would have painted those walls!  When have you said, “If I had known I’d have been this place this long, I would have done X?”  Build a house and actually live there. Paint the walls, buy house plants, decorate, make it your home, because you really never know if you are going to be somewhere one year or seven. 

Plant gardens and eat their produce (v. 5).  We are currently renting our house and I have found myself resisting putting down roots–literally and figuratively–until I know where we are “settled.”  But God wants me to live wherever I am living as if I were going to live there forever.  I should plant that garden.  Become a joiner in your community.  Sign up for a weekly class or book club, join a volunteer organization, get involved at church.  Commit to something that will force you to be a part of your community on a regular basis–no matter how long you plan to be there. 

Take wives and become fathers of sons and daughters…multiply there and do not decrease (v. 6).  Ask out the girl, my intrepid friend.  Just do it.  Ladies, be open to someone different than what you expect.  Couples, don’t wait until you are “ready to have kids”–that day will never come.  Families, befriend your neighbors.  And to myself–be open to friendships even if they seem temporary because perennials and annuals alike can be breathtaking.  I think God is telling Judah (and us) that they do not need to be isolated, but to live in an ever-expanding community.

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile (v. 7).  I’m sure Judah could have cared less about beautifying Babylon or contributing to the economy, but God commanded them to care. Daniel was exiled to Babylon at this time and wasn’t plotting and scheming how he could get away, but was determined to prosper in that place and be a blessing to King Nebuchadnezzar.  It is so easy to build walls around ourselves and live for ourselves or our family without a second thought about our city.  What can you do right now to “seek the welfare” of your city?  Join a committee? Attend a neighborhood meeting?  Volunteer to do community service?  Donate to a cause?  Sometimes we need to first make a physical investment before we become emotionally invested in a place.

Pray to the Lord on its behalf (v. 7).  We are to pray for our city.  I confess that I seldom pray for mine. It can just seem like too large of an order to give to God.  But I forget that prayer has so many side benefits and that in praying for a person or a place, I am the one who often changes.  I grow in compassion and powers of observation.  I start to care.  I feel more rooted because I am invested in where I am on more than just a surface level.

It is after all of these commands, that we finally find our favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you [for you to learn from this new experience]
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you [this is for your good]
Plans to give you a hope and a future. [this is not the end of your story]

God sent you where you are and wants to see you prosper in THAT place.  You do not always control the where, but you can control your attitude toward that place.

Finally, this is not in Jeremiah, but has been a mantra of mine since moving back to the states that applies to these principles.  Isaiah 37: 31 says that we are to “take root downward and bear fruit upward.”  How long we are allowed to grow those roots downward should have no bearing on our trying to put them down.  That is God’s concern.  Our job is to be faithful to glorify Him wherever He has sent us and bear the fruit of the Spirit in that place for as long as God has us there.

May today there be peace within
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God…
Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

~St. Theresa

What is your “place of exile”?  How can you put down roots in that place? Will you commit to praying for your city?

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

This post is day 26 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)
Photo: I, Danel solabarrieta [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Linking up with The Grove at Velvet Ashes and Count My Blessings.
a href=”http://velvetashes.com” title=”Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas”>Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas

countingmyblessings

Day 5: I Never Expected…{31 Days of Re-Entry}

The following journal entries are of the cyclical (or “spaghetti brain,” as my husband calls it) variety that I warned you of earlier, but I think even that is a testament to the nature of re-entry.  Questions of identity, grief, doubt and confusion will circle back around daily at first, then weekly and eventually you will be so in the thick of life back “home,” that they will only occasionally tap at your heart. 

My personal struggle came from a place of slowly accepting that my “call to missions” and my call to marriage would have to be a mutually exclusive one. 

This first journal entry was written the week after I flew back to the states, and 4 days after I got engaged.

July 22, 2010
“It feels surreal to be here [in Chicago] and yet so natural at the same time.  I think I just feel like I’m on vacation, though in some ways I do feel like I’m suspended in air and homeless.  God-willing, I’ll be married on January 15, about 6 months from now.  This is amazing and wonderful, but also so much harder than I thought. 

I never expected to have to give up missions. 

I never expected that I would marry someone who wasn’t in ministry. 

I never expected to be living in Chicago again. 

I love this city–the lake, gardens, quaint neighborhoods, diversity, culture and quirks–but I just don’t feel at home here anymore. 

It’s kind of like having an old coat that you loved and wore for years, but eventually decided to give to Goodwill.  You finally allowed yourself to part with it and invest in a new coat, but one day the coat is returned to you and the giver expects you to wear it with the same level of affection you had when it was new.  It is difficult to love a place when your heart has already moved on to somewhere else. 

Jesus, you are my Rock.  People, places and life circumstances may change, but You never do.  You are the same here that you were in China. 

Lord God, thank you for your abundant blessings.  Please forgive me for being like the Israelites, who begged to be delivered out of Egypt, only to spend the next 40 years complaining about the manna and the wandering.  Forgive me Lord, for I’ve been begging for a life partner for half my life and now all I can do is see what I’m giving up.  Please transform my attitude. 

Lord Jesus,
You are my life. 
You give my life meaning and purpose. 
You are my joy, hope and peace. 
You provide for all my needs. 
You never leave, fail or forsake me. 
You cleanse me and forgive my sins. 
You fill all my empty places and give me a firm place to stand. 

Not Adam. 
Not China. 
Not being a teacher or missionary or student.
   
You are my identity and that will never change.”

Feb. 3, 2011 (I was married Jan. 15, 2011)
“My life is so different than what I thought it would be, but it feels so right and good.  I love being married and have no doubt that this is your will.  I’m just not sure how the past 15 years relate to now

Please help me to keep moving forward, keep listening, keep growing.”


Acknowledgement of expectations, acceptance of God’s will, reorienting yourself to the cross and moving forward are all healthy ways to cope with the pain and confusion you may feel in re-entry.  But don’t be surprised if you find yourself journaling about the same struggles again, and again, and again…


How has your life been different from the way you expected?  Was leaving the field confusing to you because you thought that you had been called there for life?  How did you cope with this transition?


Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

This post is day 5 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)

Soon Enough

March in Chicago is a quiet, agonizing torture.  Like waiting in line at the check-out and you are next in line, but no—the lady in front of you grabbed something without a price tag and you are still waiting, waiting, waiting.  I admit that I harbored some serious resentment towards the woman on the radio this morning who was going on about the  grey days, slushy streets and pelting sleet being officially over today—yay!, the first day of spring!  Glancing down at the temperature on the dash of my car registering 17 degrees, I smashed off the radio with more vehemence than was necessary, stomping out into the bitter, windy, winter day.  This Florida girl is running out of patience with this scene. 
The Voice and I went to see Hubbard Street Dance/Alonzo King downtown to belatedly celebrate our anniversary.  It was moving, disturbing and beautiful.  The oldest dancer on stage probably wasn’t much past 30, which was a sobering thought for us as 30-somethings.  A career in professional dance will only last about 20% of your life.  Life is long (God willing), but the seasons within that life are varied and will never repeat.  Lord, help me to live fully in every season you have me in.  Let me not wish that I were in spring when there is still so much sledding, cocoa drinking and fire cuddling to do right now.  Soon enough, Spring will dash in with her own flaws for me to complain about.