Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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On Dressing Up {A Culture Metaphor}

My mom wasn’t sleeping last night, so my lunchtime corresponded with her late night and BOOM—Facebook chat to the rescue.

I was telling her all about my week, about how I made her spaghetti and how the smell of bell peppers and onions cooking always took me back to her kitchen.

Blasted nostalgia. There were tears all over my ham sandwich.

I think part of me finds so much joy in bringing memories of my mom and my childhood to Asia with me. I love it every time I can bust out the cookbook she wrote for me, trace my fingers over her perfect handwriting, and find ingredients to semi-construct a taste from home.

There’s another part of me that finds my life abroad exciting. My kitchen here is nothing like my mom’s back home. I have no hot water, I cook with gas from a huge propane tank, and there is no English on my microwave.

I love the thrill of learning, of tackling new experiences and finding a successful way to navigate them. My time overseas has already enriched my life so much.

But it’s changing me.
And my fear is that those I’ve left behind will never understand this woman I’m becoming.

My wardrobe is currently organized into two sides: my Western clothes and my Eastern clothes.

When I’m staying at home all day, or when I just want to be comfortable, I throw on my jeans and a tank or piko tee. My hair goes into a messy bun with a hair wrap of sorts, and I’m happy.

Take me into public, though, and I stick out in more ways than my skin color and my *curvy person* {as I’m so kindly and regularly reminded by the neighbor ladies}. So, I often feel less out of place with a locally made wrap skirt, a nice collared shirt, and the sandals I bought in Thailand.

These conflicting fashion styles are ever so descriptive of the tension in my heart.

I carry an American passport, and have such a high value of productivity, individuality, and efficiency.

But the longer I live in Asia, the more I value community, rest, and simplicity.

The absolutes I once saw so clearly have blurred into a massive sea of gray, and I find myself considering any given situation through the lens of two vastly different viewpoints.

I love how my mind has been opened, but I also fear isolation.

Because when you open your eyes to someone else’s perspective, suddenly your path isn’t so straight and obvious.

a culture metaphor

via Amanda Sandlin

There’s more than one way to raise a child, to get rid of a headache, to throw a party.

And when you’re not 100% iced sweet tea or 100% hot green tea, who will you have to stand in the middle with you?

As I attach more to my host culture, I notice little mannerisms popping up all the time that I never had before. I’m sweating less in this crazy heat {praise Jesus} and I’m actually becoming more quiet and graceful.

Daddy, that last part is actually true. Love, Grace. 

But when you take on the qualities of a particular society, you must shed others. And this is where I recognize the tension.

How will my friends perceive me when they visit me in this place? Who will be unwelcoming of the changes inside me? Will my family and friends still feel as connected with me as they did before?

I long to be understood by people. Shoot, I long to simply understand myself.

So for now, I think the clothes in my wardrobe stand as a good metaphor.

I’m knitting a new garment, with some fibers from my American life and some fibers from this Asian culture.

I have the freedom to pick and choose what I like from each place and fold those textiles into a unique fabric that will clothe my spirit.

But for every thread of this culture that I weave into my soul, there’s another thread of my homeland that must be unraveled.

I’m not always understood in this place, that’s a given. What I’m beginning to recognize is that I’ll likely not be understood when I return home, either.

And that’s ok.

Because there are people in both places who love me through our differences. And love is more powerful than any language or fashion or personality.

However I choose to dress myself up, no matter how strange and mismatched it may appear, it’s only as good as the one Who’s clothed me in righteousness.

It’s that garment of which I’ll boast.

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the
clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness…”

Isaiah 61:10


I’m linking up with The Grove at Velvet Ashes today. There’s always a community of
expat women ready to support and know you there! If you’re currently or
have ever worked overseas, I think you’ll appreciate the conversation…come join us!



Danielle WheelerOctober 3, 2014 - 7:48 am

This is beautiful, Lauren. And so good to be evaluating the weaving and unraveling process. The hardest part is when the changes happen subconsciously, where your values shift and unintentionally end up hurting those that haven’t gone through that shift with you. (I may be speaking from experience here…) But in the end, it’s exactly what you say, that love is more powerful.

So glad to be able to journey with you.