Getting Grateful

photo  Oh friends… it’s been too long.  Friends and family who rely on this blog to keep tabs on us, I am sorry for the delay.  No news is good news in this case.  Anonymous readers who connect with my heart and writing, I promise I will be back soon. Who was that girl who thought moving to the other side of the world would give her the time and focus she needed to write?

Here’s the quick update for friends and family (anonymous readers you can skip down a few paragraphs; it won’t hurt my feeling a bit):

We finally moved into our “permanent” house and simply adore it.  Boxes are still scattered here and there (my office just got unpacked this weekend and mornings find me sitting at my new desk typing away!), but we’re making good settling-in progress each week. We feel really fortunate to be in this house.  It’s not fancy, but it’s centrally located in an area of mostly high-rise condo buildings.  We can walk to the American Club, the main shopping district and tons of restaurants on Orchard Road, and to the most expensive grocery store I’ve even seen.

Emma’s soccer team traveled to Bangkok and Taipei and eventually won the gold medal in the league. They broke a record for not letting in a single goal all season or something very bigtimish like that.  Her soccer team fully embraced her and I adore the girls outside of sports who have welcomed her into their circles.  I never see her on the weekends as she bounces from one event to another.

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Louis played American football this season and his team will play in the championship game this coming Saturday.  It feels very “Texas,” this football thing, and it’s been one big ball of fun.  I love cheering him on and can see how much he’s learned over the last few weeks.  His fitness and stamina are amazing and he’s gotten even taller!  I can’t keep him in shoes that fit!  He has a big boisterous group of friends from church and enjoys the novelty of being the only American.

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Brad is exhausted.  He travels somewhere each week, works really long hours when he is in town, and there is always something for him to figure out or fix for me at home.  We hugged last weekend and he whispered into my ear “there is so much not getting done.  I haven’t called my Mom in ages, I need to look at our US mail, we need another bank account, we need to set up US tax payments…”  The list of things we need to do right now seems endless.

So that leaves… me.  People, I am good.  But, I still have ups and downs.  Daily life continues to confuse me, but the days are getting easier and my routine is beginning to come together.  I’ve been on a slew of first-dates-for-friends and am beginning to make round two with the women I liked.  It takes time to develop deep relationships– even with women I really click with and admire!

A few weeks ago, I realized that my family seemed to be missing a deep sense of gratitude.  Back in our old city by the Bay we loved our home, each other, our friends, our city, our church…. I could go on and on. It just wasn’t very difficult to wake up each day and feel a sense of blessing hovering over our lives.  When we moved here it felt like the rug had been pulled out.  We were struggling just to find anything to like a little bit!  Everything smelled and tasted unusual, the heat and new rhythm sapped us of energy and we missed home viscerally.  Before meals we’d join hands to offer grace and honestly, some nights I could barely say, thank you for the food we are about to eat and I’d have to leave it at that.  During my round of dates, I met a few women who’ve been here a lot longer than me and they hate it here.  They are deeply unhappy and spent the time we had together expressing their disgust at local customs, the heat, the food choices, the prices and everything else that takes getting used to.  Over an American steak house date night with Brad, (highlight of the month!), I recounted some of their words and said, “I don’t want to end up like that.”  It scared me to see that raw face of bitterness up close.  All of their complaints resonated with me, but I think the way through this hard time is to embrace the difficulties with a sense of curiosity instead of judgment.  So, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to get grateful in a hurry.  I’ve never been good at faking much of anything.  Faking one’s feelings only hurts the faker and usually doesn’t fool any onlookers. The gratitude I am hunting down needs to be the genuine kind.  Some days it’s easier than others.  Here are some of the things I’ve come up with so far.

After God’s grace, our health, my marriage, the particular kids I was given, our jobs and the love of extended family and friends, here are more just-moved-to-Singapore specific things.

Our House.  I know I covered it already, but I feel like it was sent from heaven as a gift, wrapped just for us. In a confessional moment, our realtor shared her belief that this house represents God’s favor on our lives.  I know that my happiness is not the intended end result of God’s blessings.  This makes me curious to see how this house fits into His plan of work for me to do. We must be the only Americans in Singapore paying less in rent and living in a larger space than we had in the States.  I have a guest room for the first time in seventeen years!  We all have room to spread out and heaps of teenaged boys can play video games in the family room and we hardly know they are there. We’ve hosted our first dinner party and had seating for nineteen people.  Emma’s entire soccer team slept over a few weekends ago.  We are close to living the social hosting life we were accustomed to in the States.

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Our non-car.  Emma and Louis are very independent and can get themselves anywhere without my help.  I don’t drive them to practices, games, youth group or sleepovers.  Only a Mom who has eaten lunch in her car and picked up burritos for dinner three nights in a week can appreciate how liberating this is.  I am very grateful for the opportunity this offers me and what it has done for my kids.  In the same breath, I have to offer gratitude for the plethora of taxi-cabs.  The drivers very often have no idea where my destination is, and they drive in a way that makes me very carsick, but they are usually very easy to find and cheap to pay.

The safety of Singapore.  Dude, you don’t want to do anything wrong in this country.  You’ll get caned and thrown in prison so fast you won’t be able to say can-can-lah. This means my teenagers can walk the streets at midnight with little fear and their mamma can fall asleep watching Law and Order without the frantic texting and cajoling them to get to wherever they will sleep now. We still have rules and curfews, but these kids have tons of freedom because it’s safe here.

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Travel Opportunities:  I’m a little ashamed, but I’ve never really had a travel bug. My parents took me to loads of places when I was a kid (Africa, Europe, all over the Caribbean) and I know it opened me up and changed me for the better.  But as an adult, I just felt complete. Take me to Hawaii or Mexico and let me read by the pool. I certainly never had a desire to travel to Asia.  But here I am and all of the sudden I am ablaze with desire.  I research all the local airlines and places I can get to from Singapore in one flight. (There are many, many options!) I ask my potential new friends about their travel experiences and everyone has something to share. When Emma and I were in Taipei, we had one afternoon to see some sights and we were one hundred stories over the city looking down at the busy streets, mountains and mist, just pinching ourselves.  Can you believe we are in Taiwan?  In the near future, my kids we will go to the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cambodia on vacations or service trips.  That’s just the beginning. I have plans for this family!

Our helper:  Nan-Nan came to live with us when her British employers had to leave the country suddenly.  Some day, I will tell you more of her story, but suffice it to say we love having her in our home and she takes great care of us.  We’re having tacos tonight with the corn tortillas I brought back from my last trip to San Francisco and I can hear (and smell) them frying right now.  When the kids get home on the late bus I will turn my computer off and we’ll go downstairs to dinner.  Yes, I am very grateful to have Nan-Nan with us.

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Church:  We are still spread out over a couple of churches, but everyone likes where he or she attends each week.  We miss City Church down to our core, but we are all getting the reminder of God’s love and grace every single Sunday.  We go for the reminder, Fred says.  Gotta be grateful for that.

Tuesday Bible Study: This group is full of really loving women. It’s not anything like the Pause group, but it’s life-giving in its own way.  Here’s proof that I am making friends and settling in.  They met at my house this past week.

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The American Club:  Killer salad bar and a teen scene.  Need I say more?  I’m doing the final proofread by the pool today.

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Real grateful living involves being thankful for everything, not just the fun stuff. I read One Thousand Gifts with everyone else and I believe it.  But I’ve got to start somewhere and these were the easiest places.

I’m sure there is more… I will keep thinking…

Singapore Joy

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6 Comments on “Getting Grateful”

  1. Maureen says:

    Of course I enlarged the photo of the non Pause group to study their faces – who are these women sitting in the chairs?
    Love the post – great “just like being there” comments & moments…

  2. Joy,

    Am so happy to hear your “joyful” spirit loud and clear in your blog. As difficult as this new life can be at times, I can tell that you are SHINING brightly. Love, Elizabeth

  3. Jan says:

    Keep on truckin’, Joy! Jan

  4. Marilyn Charm says:

    Joy, your words continue to inspire!
    Thank you.


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