Thursday, July 17, 2014

Learning to live cross culturally is like...lipstick?

I love a good analogy. Remember when I wrote about the muddy red road, pencils, assassinsteething pains, and lessons from my puppy? Analogies help me better understand truth and emotion, and when it comes to adjusting to living cross culturally my love for analogies increased a gazillion percent.

So when I read the invitation over at Velvet Ashes to link up and share thoughts, wisdom, stories and fears about how God prepared me/prepares us for serving overseas I had one thought, "Ooo! A perfect time for analogies!"

Almost there! Preparing to head to Papua.
With the phrase in mind, "Learning to live cross culturally is like _________." I opened up an online random word generator and with one quick click had five completely random words to fill in the blank. Lipstick, band, spaghetti, gate, and screwdriver.

I smiled and silently nodded my head. Yes, of course living cross culturally is like that...

Learning to live cross culturally is like wearing lipstick.

While I love the idea of wearing lipstick I hate actually wearing it. I hate how it's sticky, dries my lips, stains cups, and most of all I hate my husband's complete refusal to kiss me because he'd end up wearing it too.

Learning to live cross culturally is like lipstick because while I love the idea of being a well adjusted culturally able missionary, the process of becoming well adjusted kinda sucks. Sure, the result is pretty, but it's also uncomfortable. It's sticky, dries up emotional energy, leaves it's mark on everything around you, and even stifles relationships.  

Learning to live cross culturally is like being in a rock band.

Like a really good rock band, the kind where the musicians meld together and magic happens. The kind of band that produces music that decades later still stirs powerful emotions. It's beautiful.


It's like a really great band's breakup. The kind where the members' individual struggles, personalities, and opinions crush relationships and abruptly end an otherwise promising future. But we don't have to end this way. See screwdriver analogy. 

Learning to live cross culturally is like eating spaghetti.     

As a 19 year old I spent 8 months as a laborer on a construction site in Benin, West Africa, building a medical clinic. Three ladies cooked the work crew lunches each day.

One day, we brought spaghetti for them to prepare. I'll never forget the look on the rest of the work crew's faces as the stared at their plates of wiggly pasta. "It looks like worms!" one shouted and no amount of, "It's only pasta." would change their minds.

When you live cross culturally even something as 'normal' as spaghetti isn't normal any more. 

Learning to live cross culturally is like opening a gate.

Like opening hundreds of gates. Little by little, with every new word learned, relationship made, meal shared, story heard, prayers spoken, gates open and we connect. The 'locals' stop being locals and become neighbours, friends, and family. 

Learning to live cross culturally is like a owning screwdriver. 

Four months into learning how to live here in Papua, even though I don't feel prepared or even equipped for this task, I see clearly that God has given me the tools I need to not only survive, but to live well.

Those quirky parts of me, like the analogy loving part that I would have never thought had any connection to living a well adjusted life overseas, have absolutely everything to do with it. Seeing life through stories helps me to process, make sense of, and adjust to the world around me. Analogies are my screwdriver for life.

But what if I need a wrench or a hammer and all I have is a screwdriver? That's the most brilliant part of all. Those times when I don't have the proper tool for the job, someone else does.

As you prepare for living in a new culture, or to step into whatever challenge lies ahead of you, know this: You'll never really be prepared. And that's perfectly ok. You don't have to be.

"I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."
Isaiah 41:9-10 The Message


  1. Yes, He is with us. So thankful.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading, Deb! :)

  2. I LOVE the idea of using a random word generator and see how they make the perfect analogy. Thanks so much for Linking up with the Grove!

  3. Such great uses of these analogies! Love it. Keep on keepin' on!

    1. Hey thanks! And thanks for reading them :)

  4. All these analogies are brilliant! I especially like the lipstick one. And the passage from Isaiah 41... that's one to cling to!

    1. Thanks! Yes I cracked up when the word lipstick appeared. Spot on really!

  5. I think my computer fritz'ed out when trying to comment earlier, so feel free to delete one if I submitted duplicates :) But can I just say I love these analogies! Made me laugh. Especially the worm/spaghetti story!

    And with the lipstick analogy -- for me it's not just that I don't like how I feel wearing it, it's that I don't like what I look like. I tend to think lipstick is going to look better on me than it actually does. Of course, that could just be me and my inability to pick out good colors, but it's also sort of like when we think we're going to look better being m's than we actually do when we try it! LOL.

    And that verse in the Message -- love. Sometimes the Message just puts it in such good words. And these were great.

    1. Love your addition to the lipstick analogy! Yes, it's certainly not 'the look' I expected. Lol

  6. love the analogies- we're in the thick of this crazy thing called transition- and you're analogies made me laugh and shake my head. Because I know. Blessings to you!

    1. Thanks Kelly and all the best for your transition!

  7. brilliant
    thank you for your open heart
    your honesty
    and your humor
    helping me to breathe today!

    1. Thanks for stopping by to read and for leaving kind words!