27 September, 2017

Making and keeping connections with others

Making connections and maintaining them is really hard when you live as we do—away from many who love us as well as in a very mobile, very busy expat community. It's a topic that often comes up on two of the Christian expat communities that I keep an eye on: Velvet Ashes and Thrive Connection.

Velvet Ashes has published two articles recently that resounded with me, so I'm passing them on, in the hope that they may either help you, or help you understand the challenges we face:
Here's a friend who's taken a piece of my heart to
Singapore this year.

8 ways to make real connections with others

This article gives some good suggestions. I don't think they are all helpful for everyone, but you never know which might be helpful for you. 

I especially am challenged by number two: be courageous. I know that in general it tends to get harder to make new friends as you get older, but the rate at which we have to do it is high. Not to mention that we don't know how long we will have these friends that we've invested in, so it takes courage to put yourself out there again and again.

Number four is hard: teach others how you communicate. I think people have figured out that I'm a prolific communicator, but that doesn't mean that they have learnt to connect to me. I feel quite disconnected from many in Australia. When I see them, I'll probably connect to them quite quickly, but in the vacuum of communication, I sometimes wonder if they still consider me a friend. I wonder what's going on in their lives. 
Just the other day one of my boys reminisced about this outing
 in Australia 2½ yrs ago. The memory is full of friends we miss.

Please, friends, don't feel too guilty here. I don't expect communication to the level that I've pushed it with my blog and Facebook and our newsletters, and I know that you are busy. I'm busy too . . . too busy to maintain dozens of close relationships that require the sort of upkeep required for a long-distance friendship. I think that is one reason I'm attracted so much to social media. I can maintain connections with people I don't see in my regular life without too much additional work. I also know that a lot of people struggle to maintain friendships that aren't face-to-face. But I did want to put it out there that I struggle sometimes.

Keeping track of sorrows

This article talks about the grief of never being fully known. There is much underlying grief in the missionary lifestyle and one is this, that no matter where we live in the future, no one (barring perhaps a spouse) will ever have been a part of most of our daily or weekly lives for much of our lives. I know that's true more and more as people all over the world become more mobile. But I think that as missionaries (and those in the armed forces too), as we interact within very mobile communities, we end up with bits of our hearts spread all over the globe. That is hard.

Another website A Life Overseas published this article last week: The five people who shape you the most that touches on the expat's frustration that the people who we would spend the most time with are never all in the same place at the same time.

And one more recent article that touches on this topic: A love letter to my expat friends, also published by A Life Overseas.

However, despite all this, I'm encouraged by this paragraph in the Keeping track of sorrows article: 
Psalm 56:8 (NLT) says, “You [God] keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Every step we take is not only observed but also thought worthy of counting and recording. He remembers every detail and recognizes our grief as a real thing. David, the Psalmist, fully trusted God with his future, and still let his tears flow. He knew God was compassionate and was not embarrassed by his own tears. 

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