Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thriving With Beauty and Grace

Don't you just love the term Global Nomad?  Usually we hear it in reference to third culture kids, but it's also an appropriate picture of what it means to be a “woman of the harvest.”  A nomad moves around a lot rather than settling in one place.  Does this describe your life?
You do your best to bloom where you’re planted only to be uprooted AGAIN.  This is a recurring theme for many global workers.  How do we make a “place where we temporarily reside” into a home, knowing that we might have to pull up stakes at a moment’s notice?

In my first year of marriage we lived in a mobile home before moving to an apartment that we managed in exchange for free rent.  The second year we were at Jungle Camp (six weeks at base camp in Texas and six weeks in Mexico, or something like that), then in Ohio at dmil’s condo for five months, and then to Antigua where we lived with a Guatemalan family during language school until we moved to missionary housing in Guatemala City.   

Count them: five moves in one year.  I'm not sure we ever fully unpacked suitcases that whole time.

The next several years we averaged one move every nine or ten months until finally relocating to Oaxaca, where we persuaded our landlords to sell us the house they would no longer need for themselves.  What a blessing to call a place our own, to fix up the yard, put in a swing set, add a bedroom and second bathroom, and periodically throw out some seeds and hope for a garden.

I say this not to make you envious, but to hopefully demonstrate that I’ve been on both ends – of uncertainty and being settled.

Looking back I often wonder what I might have done differently to make those temporary dwellings feel more like home.  What could I suggest to help women quickly and inexpensively bloom where they are planted?  Then I decided I would open it up to the WOTH forum of readers here.  Some of you can answer with a lot more authority since you are living this out currently, not looking back twenty years through rose colored glasses.

You know how it goes.   You rent a house, fix it up, and the landlord either raises the rent where you can't afford it, or he decides to let his son and daughter-in-law live there.  You have weeks to pack up and move out.  Or you move into a flat, get curtains made, put a few pictures on the wall, and your visas are denied and you have to leave the country for an indefinite period of time.  The possible scenarios are endless and varied, but the result is always the same – you have to leave much sooner than expected or hoped.

What do you do differently the next time around?  Is it worth putting any time, effort, or money into landscaping or beautifying a place you can’t call your own?  Is it possible to make a rental property home even though you might get evicted on short notice

Again, it's always comforting to know that we are strangers and aliens and that our true home is in heaven, but in the here and now we still need some practical suggestions on surviving and thriving with beauty and grace.

IRL* I'm looking forward to hearing what advice you might offer each other. Please leave your comments below.


  1. Years ago when I was struggling with this very issue, the Lord showed me Jeremiah 29:4-7:
    4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

    A few verses later the Lord promises to return the exiles to Jerusalem, but in the meantime, they were to create homes where they were.

    Since then, I've planted a garden everywhere I've lived. Right now, my garden consists of a few potted plants, but it helps me to feel a bit more settled and attached to the place I'm living.

    1. Create homes where you are. What a great passage. I guess I did okay in the eating and multiplying, but not so hot on the gardening.

    2. I have a friend who says, "We grow children better than we grow plants."

  2. I have some momentos from home: a painting from El Salvador days, two paintings by my grandmother and some boxes from her collection, some old china painted plates, and even a little milky white depression glass chicken that I drag around with me wherever I go. Through the years this collection of momentos has grown, and it makes my apartment seem like home.

    That white depression glass chicken reminds me who I am: a Texas girl transplated to Turkey.

  3. amie Jo,
    Greetings from Guatemala.

    You made a comment on my blog....oh a few weeks ago...we are the
    missionaries living in Guatemala. I appreciate your comment. Yes,
    Guatemala is a beautiful place. We'll be in Panajachel the week after
    Thanksgiving. CAn't get better than that!


  4. We had these boxes made for us when we first flew to over there. They were carefully made to exact airline size, thin wood, but huge space inside. Had hinges and latches (before TSA). They worked as cupboards, suitcases, trunks, benches, tables, etc. For some odd reason, those boxes and their long, long life traveling the world with us made every place "home". Throw a cloth on it, and it was a side table. Set a folded towel on it and a pillow behind it, and a couch. One even went to Bible school with me and was my little bench at the end of my bed.

    Odd things, but consistent.

    Primarily, though, we made a home with what we put in it - people, not things. Our home was where we shared life and created family with the people around us - other missionaries, locals, visitors, even two broke French hitch hikers for a few weeks! Home meant people and food and laughter and shared work. My mom could cook anything out of nothing, and that feat alone meant our house was full of single missionaries.

    Once we worked hard to make sauerkraut, only to have it all eaten up within two days of word getting out that it existed at our house. No problem, we issued an invitation to all the young German missionaries and some non-Germans, too. They arrived so eager for more, and were promptly lined up on the floor and given knives, cutting boards, cabbages, dishpans, and glass water bottles and shown the art of sauerkraut making. A day full of boisterous laughter, deserts, pranks, and cabbage smashing!

    To us, home was a place where people gathered to laugh and eat. That didn't require a lot of decorating.

  5. When we went over to an unstable situation that we might be evacuated from, I planned. I took nothing that I would miss if I had to leave suddenly. But, I took my family photos to hang on the wall and color photocopied them. They are lighter that way, too. I happily displayed them in my house over there, but knew I could walk away and they would not be missed. Every time a visitor came, if I had something special - like my baby sweater my great aunt made me that my daughter then wore, but outgrew - I sent back and had them mail it to my mom.

    Then there was the day, I meticulously painted a floor to ceiling mural on my boy's room - all four walls. And one week later got eviction papers....

    Then you laugh. You have to. You sit on the floor and look at the mural and crack up imagining the looks on the faces of the next tenant as they walk in the house.

    Because it's bound to happen once of twice to everyone... at least when you keep moving.

    So you laugh. And cry. And laugh again.

    Because I've learned that in ten years, it is the humor we will remember more than the tears. So laugh so you will remember that, too.

    It was an amazing mural.


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