[Waiting for Him] Didn’t you see me?

This month I am doing a series on Advent and preparing ourselves for Christmas. You can find more info on the series here. Come and join us for a month of getting ready and waiting!
In diesem Monat gibt es eine Serie über Advent und wie wir uns auf Weihnachten vorbereiten können. Hier gibt es mehr Infos über die Serie. Komm und sei dabei bei den Vorbereitungen und beim Warten!

We talked quite a bit about our expectations this Advent already. We learn to wait, but also to dream big. And most of all, that the Lord we’re waiting for knows how to exceed our expectations again and again. 
But what does that mean? He doesn’t only give us more of what we want and expect, he starts by changing and moulding our expectations. He might redirect our gaze towards someone or something we wouldn’t see otherwise. He shows his strength in our weakness. His love and compassion in our coldness. His time in our stress. 

When all Christmas cookies are baked and the candles are lit – then it’s time to listen to a Christmas story in our house. It’s the same every year, everywhere. We took that story to warm Uganda, where Christmas was rather about sweating than snuggling with a cup of tea. We turned it into a musical. Even though we’re no longer at home for the first Advent we take that story with us. Just yesterday I got to listen to it with friends. The message is the same: Christ is coming this Christmas, but it might be different than you expected. 
So get yourself a cup of tea and a warm blanket (or a cool drink if you live in the Southern hemisphere) and challenge yourself and your view of Christmas with this story: Leo Tolstoy’s “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas”.

It was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over. Excited children scurried indoors and now only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters.

Old Papa Panov, the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmas times when his wife had still been alive and his own children little. Now they had gone. His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, looked sad now. But he went back indoors with a firm step, put up the shutters and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then, with a sigh, he settled in his big armchair.

Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and, slowly tracing the lines with one forefinger, he read again the Christmas story. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary’s little baby was born in the cowshed.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” exclaimed Papa Panov, “if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm.”
He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts. Papa Panov’s face fell. “I have no gift that I could give him,” he thought sadly.

Then his face brightened. He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his long arms t the shelf high up in his little room. He took down a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes. Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were as good as he had remembered- the best shoes he had ever made. “I should give him those,” he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again.

He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleeper he became. The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them, just for a minute. In no time at all Papa Panov was fast asleep.
And as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he know at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was. It was Jesus.

“You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov.” he said kindly, “then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am.”

When at last Papa Panov awoke, the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters. “Bless my soul!” said Papa Panov. “It’s Christmas Day!”
He stood up and stretched himself for he was rather stiff. Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. 

This would be a very special Christmas after all, for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby, as at that first Christmas? Would he be a grown man, a carpenter- or the great King that he is, God’s Son? He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognized him however he came.

Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, took down the shutters and looked out of the window. The street was deserted, no one was stirring yet. No one except the road sweeper. He looked as miserable and dirty as ever, and well he might! Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day – and in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning?

Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air. “Come in!” he shouted across the street cheerily. “Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!”
The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank.
Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and them his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor.
“Expecting someone?” the sweeper asked at last. So Papa Panov told him about his dream.
“Well, I hope he comes,” the sweeper said, “you’ve given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have. I’d say you deserve to have your dream come true.” And he actually smiled.

When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street. He saw no one. But he was mistaken. Someone was coming.
The girl walked so slowly and quietly, hugging the walls of shops and houses, that it was a while before he noticed her. She looked very tired and she was carrying something. As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face and in the pinched little face of the baby, that Papa Panov’s heart went out to them.
“Won’t you come in,” he called, stepping outside to meet them. “You both need a warm by the fire and a rest.”

The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief.
“I’ll warm some milk for the baby,” Papa Panov said, “I’ve had children of my own- I can feed her for you.” He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time.
“She needs shoes,” the cobbler said.
But the girl replied, “I can’t afford shoes, I’ve got no husband to bring home money. I’m on my way to the next village to get work.”

A sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov’s mind. He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind.

“Try these on her,” he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother. The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit. The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure.

“You have been so kind to us,” the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go. “May all your Christmas wishes come true!” 

But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street. There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized. There were neighbors going to call on their families. They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas! Or beggars- and Papa Panov hurried indoors to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread, hurrying out again in case he missed the Important Stranger.

All too soon the winter dusk fell. When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by. most were home and indoors by now anyway. He walked slowly back into his room at last, put up the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair. 

So it had been just a dream after all. Jesus had not come. 

Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room. 
This was not adream for he was wide awake. 

At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day. 
He saw again the old road sweeper, the young mother and her baby and the beggars he had fed. As they passed, each whispered, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?” 

“Who are you?” he called out, bewildered. 

Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream- the voice of Jesus. 

“I was hungry and you fed me,” he said. “I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.” 

Then all was quiet and still. Only the sound of the big clock ticking. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov’s heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy. 

“So he did come after all!” was all that he said. 

[31 Days] Day 26 Read

 It’s Day 26 of the 31 Days in the Life of a TCK series! Welcome! You can find more info on the series here. Don’t forget to subscribe!

We are almost at the end of the October series, I can’t believe how fast time flew by! 
I am glad we got to share so many features of the TCK life, the blessings and the challenges. You might have read along as a TCK, an ATCK, a TCK parent or caregiver, or just someone who’s interested in this subject. And now your head is spinning with lots of new information and you want to know more on a specific subject or give help.

So I thought I would give you a list of resources that I have come to enjoy and use. Of course there is so much more out there and I would love to hear any additions you have!
I had heard so much about this book, many people called it the TCK bible, so I didn’t want to read what everybody read. J It took me eight years after my return to Germany and going to South Africa until I picked up that book and was overwhelmed! It was like someone finally explained myself, I didn’t feel strange and alone anymore. Finally there was a explanation for everything. I have come to appreciate the book so much because it’s a good basis to start more detailed research, it also gives first ideas on how to help. Plus, Ruth is amazing! Met her at a conference last year and she was the sweetest person – so knowledgeable and wise, yet also really funny and with a big heart for people and some good jokes.

Marilyn is the author of the “Communicating Across Boundaries” blog and has a fantastic way to put feelings and concepts into words. You can read some of this on the blog tomorrow! She now has published a collection of her essays in a book; unfortunately, I was so buried in schoolwork that I didn’t have the time to read it yet. But I have only heard the best things about it! So if you’re looking for essays on different TCK issues you might be interested in this book.

Magazine: Among Worlds
This magazine normally features articles on all kinds of TCK issues, from education to family dynamics to furlough to re-entry. It’s a great way to hear different voices on issues and see what’s going on in the TCK world!
This blog, hosted by Marilyn Gardner, is a fantastic piece of the internet! There are posts on Mariyln’s own TCK journey, issues that TCKs might struggle with, as well as other topics on faith and culture. It is a great place to get in touch with other TCK writers or TCKs who share their experiences, almost every post entails a long discussion. J Come join us!

A collaborative blog with contributors from different countries and backgrounds. Not only for TCKs, but also families, mothers, singles…living abroad.

Website: Euro TCK
Euro TCK is the European umbrella for various TCK organizations in European countries. The website provides resources and general information. It also is the host for the Euro TCK conferences every three years. The next conference is planned for 2017! So if you’re an ATCK or a TCK caregiver wanting to learn more, come and join us!
Website: MK Planet
A website and forum to connect American TCKs. Many topics are US specific, but most of the information can be applied all around the world. I find it always very interesting to meet TCKs and researchers from other countries and see what they’re dealing with at the moment.
Germany Specific: CCK-Net
On our TCK re-entry camps we realized that help has to go so much further than a weekend twice a year. What about all those TCKs that feel they have settled in Germany  (so don’t need the camps anymore), but still want to keep in touch with other TCKs?
This is why we founded CCK-Net. It is a database, which tries to connect TCKs all around Germany (some also in Austria and Switzerland). You can sign up for the database if you’re new in Germany (or move to another city) and want to meet other TCKs. You can also sign up if you need help with specific re-entry issues (like riding the train, understanding German youth culture…). We have all ages and want to provide a bit of community. Would love to see YOU there!

Germany Specific: MK-Care
MK-Care is the umbrella organization for different TCK ministries in Germany. They host the different camps for TCKs, such as re-entry, Kid’s Camp, or retreats for adults. It also provides  TCK literature, or advice on education. MK-Care wants to help TCKs, parents, mission agencies, or churches.
What other resources do you want to add or recommend? Would love to hear from you!

TCKs and the Mirror of Erised

When I was a teenager I read the Harry Potter series and I am currently listening to the audio books as a nice distraction from studying for my finals. 🙂

In the first book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” the young boy Harry is given the news that he’s a wizard. 

His life changes within seconds: he is not just the forgotten orphan who never met his parents; he is now part of a new family at the Hogwarts school, with real friends and an adventurous lifestyle.

And then there’s this one scene in which Harry wanders the dark corridors of the castle one night and discovers the Mirror of Erised. 

Harry looks in the mirror and he’s suddenly surrounded by his mother and father – the people he never really met and misses the most. 
It’s such a sweet description of this eleven year old boy relishing a moment with his family and finally a sense of belonging. 
But when he shows his best friend Ron and he looks in the mirror he doesn’t see any of this. Instead, he sees himself as head of Griffindor house and Quidditch captain. He finally feels special since he normally has to fight for attention as one of five boys in a big family.

The Mirror of Erised is not an ordinary mirror. 

It doesn’t show you what is. 
It reveals your deepest desires, no matter how deep they might be hidden in your heart.
Yet, as soon as you take a step back the illusion is gone and you’re face to face with reality again.

Harry just can’t stop looking in that mirror. Night after night he goes back to see himself and relive the idea of a perfect family. But in the third night Dumbledore, the headmaster, finds Harry and tells him that “this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth.” Eventually, Harry will have to take that step back into reality.

I feel like Harry sometimes. 

I am still surprised how much this relates to what many TCKs feel like. 
There’s this deep desire within us to belong. 
To be understood. 
To be ourselves without explanation or excuse. 
Sometimes the ache for people and places we had to leave behind is physically painful. 
All we want to do is to jump on a plane, fly to one of the places we call home, meet familiar faces, and feel that everything’s going to be fine. 
We can spend hours looking at pictures of what used to be. 
We harbor that warm feeling spending time in the past gives us. 
Skype calls with friends half across the globe better never end. 
Night after night we could go back and look into our Mirror of Erised.

But we can’t stay there forever. 

We, too, need a Dumbledore calling us back and guiding us through the reality of the present. We sometimes need this gentle reminder that our past façades don’t offer us anything. 
There’s no knowledge of truth in them. And unfortunately not much comfort either. 
They only increase the desire because whenever we put down our photographs, shut off our computer, or leave our houses we are still here. 
In the present, in reality.
What a disillusionment to let go. All enchantment’s gone within seconds.

But the reality we’re left with is not just bleak and empty. 

It is full of opportunities we’re supposed to seize. The gifts of the past we had the privilege to enjoy were not given to us in vain; they made us fit to take up the challenges of the present and turn them into an even better future. 
The things we endure and accomplish, the people we invest in today are the very memories we will dwell on tomorrow.

So let’s do it together. 

Let’s take a step back from the mirror. 
Let’s choose to face reality and the challenges it puts before us today. 
Let’s be grateful for our past, give into desires from time to time, and be even more excited for the future.

Als Teenager habe ich die Harry Potter Reihe gelesen und gerade höre ich die Hörbucher, das ist eine schöne Abwechslung nach einem langen Lerntag…:)

Im ersten Buch “Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen” erhält der junge Harry die Nachricht, dass er ein Zauberer ist. Sein Leben ändert sich in Sekundenschnelle: er ist nicht mehr nur der vergessene Waisenjunge, der seine Eltern nie kennengelernt hat; er ist jetzt Teil einer neuen Familie in Hogwarts mit echten Freunden und einem abenteuerlichen Leben.
Und dann gibt es diese eine Szene, in der Harry eines Nachts die langen dunklen Korridore entlangläuft und den Spiegel von Erised entdeckt. Harry schaut in den Spiegel und ist plötzlich von seinen Eltern umgeben – den Leuten, die er nie kennengelernt hat und am meisten vermisst. Eine wirklich schöne Beschreibung, wie dieser elfjährige Junge einen Moment mit seiner Familie genießt, endlich fühlt er sich zuhause.
Aber wenn er den Spiegel seinem Freund Ron zeigt und der hineinsieht, sieht er nichts davon. Stattdessen sieht er sich selbst als Anführer von Griffindor und Quidditch Kapitän. Endlich fühlt er sich besonders, da er sonst immer um Aufmerksamkeit kämpfen muss als einer von fünf Jungs in einer Großfamilie.

Der Spiegel von Erised ist kein gewöhnlicher Spiegel. Er zeigt dir nicht, was ist. Er enthüllt deine tiefsten Sehnsüchte, egal wie tief sie in deinem Herzen vergraben sind. Aber sobald du einen Schritt zurückgehst, ist die Illusion weg und du stehst wieder der Realität gegenüber.

Harry kann aber nicht aufhören, in den Spiegel zu blicken. Nacht für Nacht kehrt er zurück, um sich selbst zu sehen und die Idee einer perfekten Familie wiederzuerleben. In der dritten Nacht kommt Dumbledore, der Schulleiter, vorbei und sagt Harry, dass “dieser Spiegel uns weder Wissen noch Wahrheit gibt.” Harry muss also irgendwann den Schritt zurück in die Realität machen. 

Ich fühle mich manchmal wie Harry. Und ich wunder mich immer noch, wie sehr das mit dem zu tun hat, wie es vielen TCKs oft geht. 

In uns ist diese Sehnsucht, dazu zu gehören.
Verstanden zu werden.
Wir selbst zu sein ohne Erklärung oder Ausrede.
Manchmal können wir den Schmerz förmlich spüren, da wir Leute so sehr vermissen, die wir zurücklassen mussten. Wir wollen einfach nur in ein Flugzeug steigen und an einen der Orte fliegen, die wir Zuhause nennen, bekannte Gesichter sehen und das Gefühl haben, dass alles gut werden wird.
Wir könnten Stunden damit verbringen, Bilder anzuschauen von Dingen, wie sie einmal waren. Wir bewahren dieses warme Gefühl in uns, das die Vergangenheit uns gibt. Und Skype Anrufe mit Freunden am andern Ende der Welt sollten am Besten nie aufhören. Nacht für Nacht kehren wir zurück und schauen in unseren Spiegel von Erised.

Aber wir können nicht für immer dort bleiben.

Wir brauchen auch einen Dumbledore, der uns zurückruft und in die Realität der Gegenwart führt. Wir brauchen manchmal diese sanfte Erinnerung, dass die Fassaden der Vergangenheit nichts für uns zu bieten haben, es ist kein Wissen oder Wahrheit in ihnen. Und leider auch nicht wirklich viel Trost. Sie verstärken eigentlich nur die Sehnsucht, denn wenn immer wir unsere Fotos weglegen, unseren Computer ausmachen oder unser Haus verlassen, sind wir immer noch hier.
In der Gegenwart, in der Realität. Es ist schwer, loszulassen. Aller Zauber ist innerhalb von Sekunden einfach verschwunden.

Aber die Gegenwart, die uns bleibt, ist nicht einfach nur leer. Sie ist voller Möglichkeiten, die wir ergreifen sollen. Die Geschenke der Vergangenheit, die wie erleben durften, wurden uns nicht umsonst gegeben; sie haben uns bereit gemacht, um die Herausforderungen der Gegenwart anzugehen und sie in eine bessere Zukunft zu verwandeln. 

Die Dinge, die wir aushalten und meistern, die Leute, in die wir heute investieren – das sind die Erinnerungen, die wir morgen in Ehren halten. 
Also lass es uns zusammen tun. Lass uns einen Schritt zurück treten, weg vom Spiegel. 
Lass uns bewusst die Realität sehen und die Herausforderungen, die sie uns heute stellt. Lass uns dankbar sein für unsere Vergangenheit, manchmal der Sehnsucht nachgeben, und noch gespannter auf die Zukunft sein.