to the mama overseas


There are times when I hop on the tram and I see you. I can tell you're not "from here" and by the looks of the way you just pulled your stoller on the tram, I can guess you just moved in. I try to catch your eye and give you a smile because they don't come often in a town of introverts. Sometimes you  need to know someone sees you and not just your foreigner status.

So, sweet mom. I just want to tell you a few things.

1. Making it through the day should be celebrated.

This is really hard. What you're doing? You got up this morning, got those kids ready, and out the door. Not too bad right? Every mom has to do it.

 The difference is that when you got up, you got up in a home lacking so many conveniences you were used to. You made breakfast differently than you're used to, you probably put shoes on your kids that were different than what you're familiar with and if it was winter, you put on a million (and that is no exaggeration) extra layers since they'd be out in the cold for hours on the tram and at the park and in the store.

And now you just pushed your pram through the snow to get on a tram to make it some place to walk some more in the snow. And if you're shopping, you even remembered your grocery bags! High five, girlfriend.

And so, when you see that other mom who seems to be content and relaxed and her kids are quiet and put together, let me tell you truly. She's taking her breath and is just as perplexed as you are. Kids are kids all over the world. Don't let your newness make you think that your kids are some how less (or more) behaved. What you're doing is hard, enough without the comparisons. Moms that have lived here all their lives need grace too. Chances are, you'll see her again. Next time she might be screaming things you don't understand at kids who are having a not too glorious moment. We all need grace in our parenting.

But back to the point. Do you see what you're doing? Despite what you feel are tons of stares and despite all the bumps you had to proverbially and literally push through. You're doing it!

You're doing it.

You're doing it.

And if at the end of the day the only thing to cross off the list is that you managed to make it through?

You're doing it.

2. The next few years will hold A LOT of emotions. None of those are wrong, but be mindful of which emotions you're feeding.

Once the newness wears off, there's the inevitable acclimation period. The reality will come. One day, you'll wake up and realize you're not on vacation. You actually live here. For some this realization comes pleasantly, for others it comes and brings a sense of strangulation. Sometimes two people in the same family will have different ways of acclimating. Rest assured though, with time, you will both reach it. "Home" will start being your host country and not your passport country. You'll actually start saying "passport country" (weird.) and it will slowly work its way that this place you're living in is the place you rest best.

There's a lot of joy and grief when living abroad. I just want you to know, its okay to have days where you really, really hate that you live in this place. And it's okay if you sometimes genuinely hate that you're from a different place. Especially when you start to realize the reasons why there are stereotypes of your passport country.

What I will say is this: you MUST make a practice of setting your sights on what you like about your host country, and keep adding to that list.

There are one thousand reasons to dislike a new place. At the start, it might be hard to find even three things you do like about a place. Keep repeating those to yourself. For the longest time the only thing I could pull out was "I like how blue the sky is here." But to do more than just survive, you have to start owning the place you live. Start saying "our grocery store, our park, etc." We have our favorite restaurants, our post office, etc. Find it. Claim it. and invest your meager emotional coins into it.

As time passes, the work you put in will pay off. I've actually mentioned to people matter-of-factly that this is the best place on earth.

Even more surprising is how easy it is to believe that. I most certainly now have more than one reason why I love this place.

3. Pay attention to your most important earthly relationship.

 Your marriage stretches to accommodate the changes of moving abroad. Chances are it'll hurt. I've heard of countless couples mention how they both experienced different feelings when moving abroad and how it was actually quite a bit of work figuring out what to do with all of it together. It's easy to always feel like you're missing one another. Especially if one of you is at home while the other is working in the field, it can be easy to live different lives. The first year was hard for many reasons, but one of the biggest for me was how hard it was to get on the same page as my spouse. Keep working at it. Because if you aren't working at it, you certainly wont land there on accident.

Moving abroad, and all that came with it has been one of the most painful experiences our marriage has gone through. Honest.

But it's also been the most fruitful. And it's definitely where God has us. Keep paying attention and fight those days where you just want to give up. I'd say 'don't get discouraged' but you will. You WILL get discouraged. It will feel hopeless.

But it's not.  God's fighting for you and he is pruning and growing things that will have their season. Sometimes, the bloom season won't come for a long time.

It's still worth fighting for.

4. Your kids aren't disadvantaged because of what you're being called to, even if that means some of your dreams for them aren't coming true.

I've struggled a lot with daydreaming about how easy life was before moving. I had my mom network. I knew where I'd send my kid to preschool. My local library knew my name. My mom was a drive away. Here things are different. Here it all takes work and the systems are unfamiliar.

I've worried about my kids not getting what they need. I've wondered if this will be hard for them in the long run. I get nervous when thinking of coming back to the states eventually to discover they aren't up to speed socially, academically, emotionally.

But our kids are getting experiences that kids from our passport country don't get to have. Raising Third Culture Kids has its merit. Whatever God's calling them to? This is part of it. This is all part of the plan-even if that means makeshift preschool and learning how to play with friends that don't speak each others languages.

This is a blessing to them, even if it feels like a struggle to us. They're gonna be alright.

I have to repeat this often to myself, but I hold it dear. God cares for them even more than we do. He's not going to forget them. They aren't going to fall through any cracks. This is all part of a breathtakingly beautiful plan.

5. Jesus truly is a friend to the lonely

I deeply wish moving to another country wasn't so hard. But I especially wish that it wasn't so lonely. Especially for the stay-at-home mom. the more I read and talk the more I realize that this living-abroad business is a whole beast to be tamed for the women who stay back at home to raise their kidlets. You feel desperately lonely? You're thoughts are getting the best of you and you're starting to wonder what the hell you got yourself into?

You're wondering if God even sees you? If he knows how every emotional muscle in your body aches?


Sweet friend.

He sees. But more than sees, he comforts. And more than comforts he helps. and more than helps he calms the heart and brings the peace and reminds you that all striving can cease.

He's a good, good friend to the lonely

Lean into that and find out yourself. Then celebrate how he often will bring physical friends to your space to comfort you. He's a big believer in not letting us go at it alone.

In general?

 I want you to know I'm glad your here. I'm glad you're not so culturally acclimated that you forget that you don't have to smile. I'm glad you are brave. Because you are SO brave. I know it doesn't feel like it. But, you are. I'm sure tons of people 'back home' have said it to you, but sometimes its nice to hear it anyways-especially now that it feels like you have to be. I know what it's like to fight fear all day long. I'd say you're pretty brave.

I'm glad that you bring your kids out despite the work. I'm happy that my kids can see that they're not alone in this either. I'm happy when I hear you speak and  I can ask you where you're from, even if the first time you speak to me, we don't understand each other. I love that our kids get to smile and make faces at each other on the tram.

I'm glad you exist on this same slice of earth as I do and I hope with all my heart that you have more days where you feel like you're making it.

And as I watch you pull your stroller off the tram and give one last smile, I want you to know I'm praying for your mama heart.  Not a quick "bless her" either. I've got 7 more minutes until my stop, so I'm making it a good long chat with the big guy.

I hope you buy a korvapuusti (or whatever treat suits you) and celebrate. Because, you're doing it, mama. You're doing it.

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