Category: Family Journal

Affirmation: Building a Raft When We Move

Affirming our Growth, Lake Cunningham, Nassau

 

Building a RAFT

Affirmation of Relationships. . . I wrote the first of this Building a Raft When We Move series in early May, and thought I’d have a post up each week. Haha! Reality is, we’ve been living out rather than writing about the “logs” of Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Transition/Think Destination. “Building a RAFT” is a tool developed by TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack to help people making big transitions. I first came across this idea about two decades ago in the book Raising Resilient MKs (p. 77, aff). You can get a free e-version here!

Jean Larson describes Affirmation as “telling people what they mean to you and thanking them.” I’ve found this to be so important in my relationships and leaving process. Yet as I’ve implemented Affirmation in my transitions, it has grown to include not just the affirmation of relationships, but also an affirmation of the internal growth I’ve experienced in a place.

 

Hard Goodbyes are Good

No matter how complex the logistics of moving may be, the hardest part of moving is the changes in relationships. My first major move was from New Orleans to San Diego. It was the late ‘70s and I was only five. The hardest part of that move was saying good-bye to my grandparents, Maw Maw and Grampie. The loss was acute, and the tears flowed — and no goodbye has been as poignantly hard as that first one.

Hard goodbyes are good — they show us how dear are the people God has put in our lives.

 

Risky Relationships

It’s risky to make friends, when you know you’ll be saying goodbye. At one point in my life, I saw myself become a bit callous to new relationships, and I have seen it at times in my teens — why bother getting close, when we’re only going to leave soon? I don’t need friends. I have friends (long distance) and that is good enough for now.

I’ve even had friends tell me, “We usually don’t bother making friends with embassy families — we know they are going to be leaving soon and it is too hard.”

Even though I didn’t ever fully embraced that attitude of “not bothering” with friendships, at one point it did become my default setting. Friendships are hard. Goodbyes are hard. Let me keep the good friendships I have going through email and online groups — and just be satisfied with local acquaintances. I don’t need more friends.

Then Hubby was hired by the Department of State. While our lives had been transient before with our own adventures, the military, and as missionaries, we were entering a new phase of life that required international moves every two to three years. During our initial training in DC, one of the people God brought into my life was another FS homeschool mom, Anne. She quickly became a dear friend during that short time of six months. Something about her friendship broke through, and I realized that IRL friendships were worth the vulnerability, even when we know they will be short term.

Good relationships are never guaranteed. I totally didn’t expect the significantly close friendships I’ve had in Nassau — and they have been a gift from God.

 

Practicing Affirmation

Affirmation of the important people in your life makes the hard goodbyes more doable. For some people, I’ve written an email or a card — especially people who I don’t see frequently or have been important to my kids. But for most of my friends, it is important to me to spend one-on-one time before we go and verbally tell them what they have meant to me. The easiest way for me to do this is to invite someone to lunch or coffee, or set up time to walk together and talk. Sometimes these are “goodbye” dates as well, but primarily I focus on the affirmation of what this friend has meant to me and how God has used them in my life.

While the affirmation of key relationships is a priority, during the last few months I also purpose to affirm the people who are regular parts of my life rhythm. . . I express thanks to the cashier I see multiple times a week at my local grocery store. I tell my doctor and his staff how much I appreciate them at my final appointments. My hair stylist. The gate guards. The mail room staff. People at church. Teachers. The bank cashier. I express my thanks, convey the good things of having lived in the host country, and share what I will miss.

 

Affirmation, Not Just Relationships

When we move, I have the opportunity to reflect and affirm the growth God has brought in this place. Our tour in The Bahamas has been a crazy mix of stress, with the opportunities to let go and rest in the Lord.

Seriously, I’m thankful for the liquid xanax of seeing the clear blue water every day. I’m thankful for the slower pace of life. I’m thankful that Hubby isn’t getting middle of the night urgent phone calls from DC that need to be addressed right away.

At the same time, we’ve had significant health issues and stresses this past few years. I’ve had more external stresses and internal struggles with anxiety than just about any time in my life. It’s been an ongoing practice in releasing my anxiety to the Lord, and trusting Him. The Bahamas has been a weird dichotomy of peaceful and stressful. I’m still pondering the areas of growth from this time in life.

 

Good Goodbyes

While goodbyes don’t really get easier with time, I’m more prepared to say goodbye now than I used to be. Just as importantly, I feel more prepared to welcome friendships that I know will be for a limited time.

 

If you are facing a big transition. . .

Have you considered what friends God has brought into your life during this time?

What ways can you affirm your friendships? How can you plan to have meaningful times before you leave?

What ways can you facilitate good good-byes for your children? Have you encouraged them to talk to or write notes to people important to them?

Have you thought about how your friendships may change when you leave, and how you can continue them?

In what areas can you affirm growth in your life?

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Building A RAFT When We Move Series

The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move

Reconciliation: Building a RAFT when we Move

Building a RAFT

Wheels’ up is six weeks from today. While we’re flying out of The Bahamas, I’m more focused on building a RAFT with the kids, in preparation for the move.

“Building a RAFT” is a tool developed by TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack. I first came across this idea about two decades ago in the book Raising Resilient MKs (<– free e- version!), and have been implementing this technique in the seven moves since! The “logs” of this raft are Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Transition/Think Destination.

Sidenote: When I started writing this, I thought I’d give a brief overview of each of the of these aspects in one blog post. Haha! Of course, writing brings to the surface much of what I’ve been pondering and so today I’m going to just focus on Reconciliation.

 

Reconciliation:

In the Eighties, my family moved from the tropical, Mayberry-like base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the busy (and cold!) suburbs of Chicago. In the midst of my junior high emotions and junior high struggles, I remember my mom admonishing me that there are no “location cures.” Ouch.

My mom knew me, and knew that in typical military kid fashion I had begun to view moves as a solution to problems. She shared her wisdom that when we move, we bring our struggles with us.

The R in RAFT stands for Reconciliation. I apply this in two ways — making sure I seek to make right any disrupted relationships, and looking inward to see what within myself is upset and and needs reconciling.

As I type this, I feel a tightening in my chest and a local friend comes to mind. This is someone I care about, and I wish I could deny the relationship was disrupted. But when I am honest with myself, I know that I have not been the friend to her I want to be, and that I’ve prematurely retreated from the relationship. We have no big conflict which needs to be addressed, but I do need to reconcile before we leave. I know that if I don’t attend to this now, it will be something that will continue to burden me when we move. And I do care about her! I don’t want to leave her with any unresolved stress either. Moving brings an opportunity to consider how, so far as it depends on me, be at peace with all. (Rom 12:18)

Similarly, I’ve talked with my teenagers — what can they do to leave on the best of terms with their friends? Are there any people to whom they need to apologize–or forgive? What problems do they expect to change when we move? My teens are pretty self-aware and know there are no “location cures” — but it’s easy to have that idea infiltrate our subconscious.

 

A Clean Slate

One of the perks of moving is being able to implement in a grand way what Gretchen Rubin calls the Clean Slate strategy. Yes, I do get a fresh start when we move. I can design a new routine, new habits, a new me! — the possibilities feel endless!

But as my Mom tried to counsel me in junior high, a clean slate is not a “location cure.” I bring my own self wherever I go. My internal struggles come along me.

Moving often brings to the surface unresolved internal conflicts. I see my own weaknesses writ large, under the logistical pressures of the move. Unexpected emotions surface.

My hopes for a fresh start when we arrived, feel unfulfilled by the reality of how my days have unfolded in this place.

I’ve found it is important to give time and space during the moving prep, to allow reflection. I take this as time of reflection to see what God has done in my life, as we’ve lived in this place. My struggles, my growth; the stresses, God’s faithfulness. When I actually do this and bring these internal conflicts to the Lord, He brings reconciliation to my soul.

 

A Reminder

My friend Karen Campbell used to start each of her podcasts with the reminder of the promise that is true not just for when we move, but for every day:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Amen.

 
 
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Building A RAFT When We Move Series

The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move

Memory, Spring 2012


Being questioned by immigration after an insanely long pregovac flight, from Kenya to the U.S., traveling with a passel of kids…

“What do you do?” the agent asked.

I was so tired.

Looked at him blankly. Thought it must be a trick question.

Glanced at my huge belly and replied, “Make babies?”

The Beginning of Goodbyes

Another Good-bye

We have another big transition looming — we’re leaving Nassau, the Bahamas, after making it our home for three years.

I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m ready for the change, and at the same time not longing for it. I’m preparing, but not rushing to be gone. Each day I’m content, happy to be here — but the days are going by too quickly.

I’ve started my goodbyes.

We’ve moved frequently enough for me to know that I start withdrawing from people and my regular routine about six months before we move. This time I very consciously chose to not think about move logistics or disengage from life here that early. I compartmentalized — even scheduled it on my calendar! — I won’t start planning the move until April.

Yet, life intervened and a series of mild illnesses and guests started in January and disrupted our normal routines. In spite of my planning, we did start withdrawing from our regular routine about six months before the move.

 

Building a RAFT

One of the strategies I’ve leaned on for helping my kids (and myself!) through transitions is TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack’s strategy of  “Building a RAFT” (pp. 77-78)I first read about this nearly two decades ago by Jean Larson in the book Raising Resilient MKs <– you can get a free copy is this great resource! (In fact, I first blogged about Building a Raft in 2005 when we getting ready to leave Kyiv the first time.)

As a mom in a family that frequently moves, I really prioritize helping to nurture each family member through transitions. Each of us, in our own way, will go through the ups and downs of moving internally. I can’t weather the storm for them. But I can be with them, and help them build that raft that will help them navigate the rapids of this river of change.

Frequent travelers know, “put on your own oxygen mask first” — I am well aware that I’m not exempt from the challenges of moving. Yet I’ve found that helping my kids process their transitions in the move helps me process my own.

 

What is this RAFT?

Reconciliation
Affirmation
Farewells
Think Ahead

 

 

In the coming days, I’ll be writing more about what RAFTing looks like in our family, especially for our teens.  And I’m interested in what you’ve found helpful for your family when saying goodbyes. . . But it is time for me to get off the laptop where I’m pondering the emotional side of moving, and start sorting through stuff and prep for the material side of moving.

 

Useful acronymns:
MKs – Missionary Kids
TCKs – Third Culture Kids (Growing up outside of their passport country, like many military, diplomat, and multinational corporation families)
PCS – Permanent Change of Station, i.e., moving

 

Useful Resources:
Raising Resilient MKs – Physical Book (aff)
Raising Resilient MKs – Free, Ebook
Building a RAFT, Marilyn Gardner

 
 
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Building A RAFT When We Move Series

The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move

Stages of PCS’ing

Adrienne Hedger captures the zeitgeist of  spring cleaning, but for me it sums up PCS’ing season.  PCS is one of the myriad military acronyms which bleed over into my life — Permanent Change of Station.

Spring Cleaning! Adrienne Hedger

It’s April. We pack out and the kids and I leave in June. Hubby follows in July.

I actually scheduled on my calendar that I would only prep for the move starting in July.  I didn’t want to focus on leaving too soon. I wanted to be present, in the moment, in this place. . .   Yes, goodbyes and move logistics take time, but like many big tasks, they expand to fit the space I give them.

Now it is the end of April, and move prep is in full swing. We did a pre-move inspection and are repairing the odds and ends around the house that are normal wear and tear for a family of eight (but not normal wear and tear for a typical renter!)  We’re sorting through clothes, books, misc. . .  I’m at the point at which part of me wouldn’t mind if our container slipped to the bottom of the ocean and we had no more things.  And then I see our family photos, special artwork, and other sentimental items and I know that isn’t really what I want.

In addition to the physical preparations, we are in the midst of the emotional and relational preparations.  Those are a bit more complicated.  I’ll write more on that and Building a Raft later.

But for now, it’s time for another cup of coffee, harnessing my motivation, and culling more of possessions to get under 7200lbs before we pack out.

Listening

“Mom? Can you go get Alexa?  I don’t want to miss this stuff.” – A5

We’re listening to an audio Bible.  We’re in Leviticus.

Noisy Kids in the Back Seat

Once upon a time, I had a noisy little Honda Accord hatchback and four noisy boys.  The noise of the tires on the road was loud, and the normal noise from the kids was loud.  It was a bit overstimulating, and I tuned it out.

 

And then I was diagnosed with hearing loss.  It’s bilateral, moderate, mid-range sensioneural hearing loss — nicknamed a cookie bite because that is what it looks like on an audiogram.  That means while I can still hear the sounds around me,  I’m not picking up a lot of the sounds in the speech range.  I hear the rhythm of your speech, I hear some of the sounds, and my brain puts together what it thinks you are saying.

 

It was a relief to get a hearing loss diagnosis (it’s not all in my head!) and hearing aids seemed like a gift rather than a stigma.  In reality? My hearing aids were life changing.

 

But the most profound moment after being diagnosed?

 

Driving down the road I realized, “Wow, my kids in the back seat are actually talking to me! Not just being noisy!”

 

A Wooden Spade They Gave to Me

 

At the tidepools, A5 & H2

 

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.

My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up
Till it could come no more.

  • Robert Lewis Stevenson

Early Mornings. . .

Productivity experts and uber-awesome moms extol the virtues of waking up early. The quiet, peaceful mornings. The crisp, cool air. The relaxed cup of coffee over Bible reading.

I’ve been experimenting with waking up early again. It’s been, oh, twenty years since I’ve had consistent early mornings.

I remember why. Anytime I wake up early, the little kids do to. And cranky.

I’m going back to bed.

Nature Study: Tadpoles

We caught some tadpoles a couple of weeks ago from a much-neglected swimming pool. I thought they wouldn’t last more than a day or so.

But it has been two weeks and the four little tadpoles are still here and growing! We watched a couple of videos and have been feeding them. They are getting so big we had to put them in to two jars.

I caught H2 feeding them this afternoon. A5 and I have been watching them, but I didn’t realize she was observing them, too.