Today I’m linking up with Velvet Ashes, an online community for women serving cross-culturally.
I love the weekly discussion and writing prompts, and am excited to share
this supportive network with you expat ladies again!
A few months ago, I was invited by one of my local friends to meet a Thai movie star. This was an exclusive, invitation-only party, and my friend was tickled to pieces that this woman was coming to our country.
She had several golden tickets, and I’ve vowed to never turn down an open invitation in my host culture if I can help it. So I got the details and psyched myself up for a night on the town with the ladies.
I figured I should fancy up, so I pulled out the very nicest dress I brought with me: a bold turquoise maxi from TJ Maxx circa 2011. I spent forever curling my hair and sprayed the fire out of it to prophylax against the humidity. A little extra mascara, my first lipstick since March, and some pretty jewelry…I was feeling like a hot mama.
I kept checking the rear view mirror all the way to my friend’s house because I honestly had forgotten what I looked like with so much make-up and decently styled hair. My confidence lasted the entire fifteen-minute drive across town, and ended abruptly when I met up with the local crew.
Out they came, all four family members dressed in fancy black outfits, showing off their figures and stylish tastes. I squeezed into the back seat with my turquoise getup, bright-colored scarf, and yellow pocketbook.
One of these things is not like the other one…the tune kept playing in my head as I started to laugh at myself and the situation.
I mustered up some of my language knowledge to state the obvious.
Ohhhh, You all wear black. I wear blue. I not know. Smile. Wink. Ha.Ha.Ha.
What my hosts forgot to tell me was that I was going to the Thai movie star’s weight loss product promotion, and duh, *black make you look so skinny*.
So, I spent the evening in a room full of beautiful Asian women and a sea of black fashion, praying the whole time my ombré hair counted for something. When I finally got home that night I died laughing spilling the details to my husband.
It was a lesson in cross-cultural adjustment:
You can easily be in a culture and not really be in a culture.
Moving abroad has a way of stripping you of everything you know about yourself, and then doing this again and again until you’re left clinging to the tiniest thread of identity to attach to yourself.
It’s humbling, to say the least.
You tell people that you eat your daughter instead of feed your daughter.
You find yourself ordering a plate of grilled best friend instead of pork.
And when the phrase I’m really tired is almost identical to I have a lot of pubic hair, I mean, COME ON. The embarrassment is not really articulate-able.
If there’s anything I can say about my first half-year abroad it’s this:
The absolute only thing I have control over in this life is bringing glory to God in all of my mess.
I’m incapable of anything on my own. I can’t manipulate my success or start a movement or ensure my safety.
I’m nobody here.
I’m less than nobody here.
But the state of being invisible, awkward, and needy in a new environment has empowered me in an ironic way.
I’m FREED from my own striving, praise the Lord!
I’m learning that my skill set is far outweighed by the cultural, relational, spiritual, and professional odds against me.
But I’m resting in His ability, and finding hope in His promises. And I’m loving watching His power shine through my weaknesses.
The beautiful thing about humility is when we finally admit that we aren’t running this show, we sit back in the audience as God directs a production far greater than our wildest dreams.
At the end of the day, when I lay my head on my pillow, I know now that any success I experience is a direct gift from the Father’s mighty hand.
I don’t want to carry the burden of status or accomplishments or self-defined identity tags.
I want to rejoice in the unbelievable works my Father does through my fumbling attempts at obedience.
Who would have thought that humility and empowerment could blend into something so beautiful?