I feel like a farce. I am attempting to write an article on stewarding ourselves well. But as I write, my life is nothing close to an acrobat gracefully juggling balls. I don’t want you to hit the proverbial wall, and yet here I am, perched up on that wall, typing this for you.
I am finding experiencing culture shock is very similar to experiencing grief. One minute I am riding high the waves of cultural adjustment – celebrating productive interaction in another language, running successful errands, building friendships with local friends – and the next minute, I am no longer riding the waves… they are riding me. They wash over me, threatening to knock me off my feet.
When this happens, all I want to do is retreat. But the constant demands of language learning and of having young children to care for makes it difficult to stop, to journal, to process what is going on. On top of that, for the past several months we have had three different diets going on in our home for health reasons. I have been spending anywhere from 4 to 6 hours in the kitchen every day. It has been brutal.
In the lows of culture shock, I feel self-pity, overwhelmed, paralyzed, extremely tired, or confused. My capacity for stress is very small. Some nights, without clear triggers, I experience brief surges of panic as I am falling asleep. The adrenaline that has kept me going all day doesn’t know what to do when my body wants to relax. It is like change and transition are too much for my body to mediate.
Here are some ways I am learning to steward my human limitations, my giftings, my fallenness, and my brokenness in this season. These are not my way of caring for myself because God isn’t – and believe me, I have been tempted to doubt His care.
Rather these are my way of entrusting myself to my Father. He has entrusted this family, this body and this life to me. So I honor Him by accepting them as His assignment to me. I trust Him to care for me.
So here they are, in no particular order:
- Work out to enable your body to endure in the middle of all the change. We are embodied souls. Our soul’s capacity to endure suffering and difficulty is often linked to our physical capacity.
- Be aware of self-pity. Don’t compare yourself to others who are not in transition, who have been in the same home or had the same life for a while or who are not limited in the ways you are. They are suffering in different ways.
- Acknowledge all the change, grief, homesickness and isolation you ARE experiencing. Name the things that are difficult and talk to Christ about them.
- Accept it if you feel like transitioning with a family is really hard, it’s because it really is. If you feel like transitioning as a single woman is really hard, it’s because it really is.
- Ask the Lord for eyes to see how moving with kids or moving without them is a grace to you.
- Embrace that transition and feeling settled is going to take a while. There’s no rule that it should happen by 3 months, 9 months, a year, or longer. I think we lose heart when we expect to get over culture shock quickly, and we feel downcast about how exhausted we are.
- Simplify your lives. We have a very simple meal rotation going on. I chose 6-7 dinners, and we have been eating that every week. We have had to limit social activities A LOT. We have not been able to practice hospitality as frequently as I’d like (which has been its own source of suffering because, hello, isolation!). But it has made life simple, and we have needed simple.
- Be proactive in giving space to each family member to process and recharge in the ways you all need. As with grief, each family member will experience culture shock and transition differently. Are you aware of what each one in your family needs?
- Mama, take the space you need to transition. Receive grace from your Savior to do that. We are so busy taking care of everyone else that we often ignore our own limitations and brokenness…until we can’t do it anymore.
- Use the gifts God has given you to build others up and to feed your joy. For me, it is writing. I can’t do a lot of writing but I am doing what I can when I can. It keeps me sane, and leads me to worship. It’s also one small way I can comfort others with the comfort He is giving me.
Change and transition can be more than our bodies and minds can handle. But friend, the best news is that even when we do hit a wall, this is true:
“He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” (Col. 1: 17).
Christ is holding our whole lives because we live in Him. He will effectively reconcile all things to serve His purposes, including all the hard in our lives. He won’t let us crumble, and the wall will not destroy us, because He holds us fast.
What are some of the limitations God is giving you to steward in this season? What are some ways that you practice self-stewardship?