Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.Psalm 84:5
Outside of my window there is frost. The green of summer and the gold of fall are long gone, replaced by winter with its early sunsets and frosty mornings.
For years I lived in places where there were no seasons. Winter was when it got below 15° Celsius and we could bundle up in light sweaters and drink cocoa. Palm trees were our Christmas trees, and we could never convince those who lived in colder climates just how cold the inside of a concrete block building could get. When I moved to a place where there were seasons, I had to adjust to changing wardrobes and activities.
Initially it felt impossible. How could I possibly survive winter? When would the shivering stop? Why was everyone else so excited about the first snow and blizzards?
One of the things you learn when you live in seasons is that if you don’t relax and accept them, you will constantly be fighting with them and everything that surrounds them. It will be you against the seasons, and the seasons will always win.
And so it is with life seasons. If you don’t relax and accept them, you are in a lifelong fight, and you have already been declared the loser. Life seasons always win.
From my comfortable chair looking out on the current changing season, I’m thinking a lot about life seasons, because it’s time to make a change. I will no longer be writing for A Life Overseas.
From maternal child health nurse to boarding school parent to stay-at-home mom to working as a nurse in a large multinational oil company to helping my husband run a study abroad program to teaching nursing students at a public university, my overseas careers and seasons have been many and varied. I birthed five babies on three different continents and created homes in 36 different houses along the way. I lived in four countries, studied three languages, and still only know English well. Through the years I’ve not only had to learn how to create a home in other countries, but hardest of all – I’ve had to learn how to create a home and place in the United States. And it was here at A Life Overseas that my stories and experiences found a home.
I began writing for A Life Overseas soon after I began writing publicly. It was Rachel Pieh Jones who connected me to the site and asked me initially to post as a guest. The invitation was welcome. I had recently returned from working in flood relief in Pakistan, and my heart was restless to make sense of living between. Writing publicly, initially for my own blog followed by A Life Overseas, was an incredible gift. It was through writing that I processed my life experiences from Third Culture Kid to Adult Third Culture Kid and three-time expatriate. Through this medium I connected with so many of you and we “got” each other. The loneliness, the disconnect, the joy, the humor, the homesickness, the reverse homesickness, the jetlag, the lost luggage, the cultural humility, the mistakes, the raising kids, the figuring out life, the missed flights, the language learning, the misplaced pride, the sense that we could never make it back in our passport countries, the “too foreign for here and too foreign for home”* – all of it was here to be wrestled with and figured out. Through writing I processed, connected, cried, argued, and laughed.
Along the way I have grown and learned. I have felt God’s pleasure and direction, His love for the world and for those of us who love the world.
But I have always known that at some point it would be time to pass on this privilege to others. And so it is – now is the time. There are others whose voices need to be heard, others who are living this life who can communicate what it is to walk faithfully and confidently between worlds. I have also known that when it is time to move on, it’s best not to fight it but to go with grace, to go with God. Seasons come and seasons go; only God Himself remains the same.
A couple of years ago while sitting at an airport on a lonely Sunday night, I wrote the following. I offer it here to you as a word-gift, a tribute to all of you. Whether you are weary and lonely or energetic and people-filled, whether you have left your overseas life behind or whether you are still in the thick of it, I salute you and your courage and pray that God may keep you in the palm of his strong, everlasting, ever-loving hands.
Here’s to the lonely ones, sitting at airports waiting on delayed and cancelled flights.
Here’s to the tired ones, weary of travel and goodbyes, idly eating granola bars and sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups.
Here’s to the mom, traveling with kids, weary of meeting the needs of little ones who are out of their habitat.
Here’s to the students, in that weird space between childhood and adulthood, carrying Apple computers purchased with graduation money.
Here’s to the immigrant family, a long way from home, juggling as much hand luggage as possible as they wearily look at an airport monitor flickering out their flight delay in blue digital letters.
Here’s to the grandparents heading home after visiting with a future generation of sweet and soft baby smell. A new generation who doesn’t yet know they exist but will miss them long after they are gone.
Here’s to the third culture kid who has said far too many goodbyes. Here’s to the refugee who carries their pain in their body. Here’s to the expat who is moving on to their next post with the fresh memories of their last home like an open grave receiving a coffin.
Here’s to Arabic and Hindi; Swahili and French; German and English; Chinese and Spanish; Portuguese and Farsi – and every other language of the heart that at times must be hidden in new places and spaces, but in the airport is completely at home.
Here’s to the singles and the couples; the black and the white; the discouraged and the lonely; the arguing one and the laughing one — with more in common in life’s journey than any of us can possibly know.
Here’s to my fellow travelers, sitting under the glare of fluorescent lights in the chaos of modern day travel. May you have safe journeys and traveling mercies. May God keep you in the palm of his hand and may you know his grace.
Thank you for reading my words – In Grace, Marilyn
*From Questions for Ada Diaspora Blues: “So, here you are too foreign for here too foreign for home. Never enough for both.”