Tribute to Mom

With Mother’s Day on the weekend for the majority of countries around the world, I pay tribute to my mother, who modeled for me living resilience with joy as an expat and ministry partner. She passed 7 years ago May 5th. There are times I sense she’ll just show up. Occasionally still, my chest constricts and tears come with her loss, especially when life’s hard. There’s nothing like mom when the going gets tough.

Mom’s Early Years

The 6th of 13 kids, mom was raised in a Mennonite farming family in Saskatchewan, Canada. She really did walk 5 km. to and from school! As a young girl she was feisty. When she started school, she only knew ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in English. She chose ‘no’ to answer all questions and wasn’t at all popular with the teacher. She loved learning and had a mischievous twinkle in her eye that always said she was up to something.

Mom lived as an expat missionary in 3 different countries over a span of more than 20 years. In 1949 she began her expat life in China, after a long boat trip across the Pacific. Not the cruise ships we enjoy today. Fleeing after only 6 months because of the communist insurgence, she moved to Hong Kong, continued with language study and served a city of people living on boats.

As if that wasn’t quite enough change in 5 years, she chose to work for another mission agency, which meant candidate school (so it was called then). There she met my father, an eligible bachelor. Both were assigned to Malaysia. The mission’s policy for outgoing staff was once engaged, wait 2 years for marriage. Determination and commitment followed and they were married in a little village church, far from their family. Four of her five babies were born in Malaysia.

Mom raised us through many relocations and 2 repatriations, between the countries of Malaysia, Hong Kong and Canada.  [Read more…]

Spring Awakening ~ Highlights From the FIGT 2014 Conference

My anticipation grew as the plane took off from Denver, headed to Washington Dulles airport. An early morning flight had brought me from Calgary, one on which I dozed off, trying desperately to keep my head from falling onto the unknown shoulder next to me.

Families in Global Transition Conference 2014 was about to begin. My 5th time attending and 4th time having the honour of presenting – excitement brewed within. Memories of FIGT’s past flashed across the billboard of my mind: unknown feelings at the 1st conference, quickly replaced with a sense of “at home” – an unusual feeling for an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid). As a professional, I have gained new learning and tools to add to my tool kit. Networking is always a favourite part of FIGT. Their move from Houston to Washington – an “I-fit-here” sense with each conferences I attended. A place where understanding, respect and open-mindedness were mutually shared through presentations and amongst relationships. A bond created from both the excitement as well as the pain of international living.

What would make FIGT 2014 unique? It didn’t take long to find out. I hadn’t stepped both feet into the lobby, when I heard my name, and there was a friend. Someone I had met at a previous FIGT. Others that were on-line acquaintances. Many this year were new to the FIGT community, which added vibrancy. It felt like a family reunion – the kind where you’re enveloped in hugs, accepted for who you are, and challenged through questions and thought provoking conversations. [Read more…]

Family – Connected In Crisis

I gaze outward, around the table
Six of us leaning in
Faces furrowed in concern
The most precious people in the world to me,
Minus one.

We’ve dropped all, ceased living ‘our’ lives
Come together
Shoulders sagged, hearts bleeding
In crisis with one missing from the circle
Knowing the sum of us will be stronger than any one of us.

Family In PrayerPanic presses in, dark
Fear’s tentacles attempt to squeeze hope dry
Eye contact made – volumes said… understood
For we have lived life deep together
Then words – prayers and plans

I look upward, light surrounds us
Protecting and providing
Hope anticipated, peace settled
Perfect Love mingled with family connection
Bonded and fast, sure as the air we breathe

A precious hour, in the depths of this crisis
Strength from above
Ignites and fuels strength from within
Embracing, we stand shoulder to shoulder
Choosing Grace to see this battle won!

The past 10 days has been crisis for my family. We took it an hour at a time (sometimes minutes), and were reminded that life as abundant means living the good and bad days, crisis and victory, sorrow and joy, failure and triumph. Victory isn’t known without crisis; or joy known without sorrow; triumph without failure. As a family, we limped and leaned on each other for what was needed.

Expat families, whether in transition or tragedy, possess great strength to forge forward and push past survival mode.

[Read more…]

Navigating Uncharted Territory

I started well, leaning into the uncharted territory of 2014. Spending a week at a get-away in Radium, British Columbia I pondered, prayed and penned my intentions. Two words came for this year and they brought hope and excitement: POSSIBILITY and SAVOUR!

Now, I gaze toward the window. My focus is blurred and unseeing. I feel shaky. What will today hold? I am hesitant and uncertain. Hope wavers. I stare at the blank page before me. Time to write this blog, yet my mind is empty – crazy when usually there’s many thoughts intersecting. Never stopping. Keeping me awake at night.

What happened between paragraph one and two? A call came from the high school principal “Please come in, Mrs. Matchullis. There has been an incident.” We’re in the midst of navigating unknown territory again … this time it felt like it came out of nowhere – like stepping on a landmine (figure of speech and somewhat dramatic, somewhat not)!

Helping HandUnknown territory. It’s rigorous, because it’s uncharted. Not yet investigated or mapped out. Investigation takes risk and focus. There’s rugged mountains to climb and valleys to survey. Forests are so dense, it may take months to find a way out. There are rivers to forge. Climate can be severe and relentless. Mapping takes experimentation and perseverance. It takes time and energy to rightly mark observations and learnings. Such a metaphor for expatriate life.

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COMPLETING 2013 and CREATING 2014 as a FAMILY, Guaranteeing Better Expat Family Life

New Year is a great time to build family rituals because there’s not a lot of ingrained family traditions associated with it. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Make it fun. Have your kids and teens WANT to participate by setting the mood with lighting and music, action – a dance party or banging pots and pans, and certainly add their favourite foods! When you’re done, curl up and relax with a great movie.

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Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for Every Expatriate Family (Part 1)

 PART ONE: WHY GRATITUDE?

Having seen the devastation and chaos from typhoon Haiyan in Central Philippines this past week, my heart aches for the people. Many dead and injured. Others lost. Families torn apart and in shock as they try to survive, get help for the necessities of life, and keep going. My prayers go out for them. And may we never take life for granted- but choose to live each day to the fullest, loving deeply and giving our best. Would you respond to help our Filipino brothers and sisters, so that one day they can look back, be grateful and say “People around the world were generous and kind”?

hands linkedTragedy connects us. It brings out a depth of love and understanding that compels us. Maybe because none are immune to life’s crisis’. We’ve been through hardship ourselves. Maybe not to this magnitude, yet we’ve all felt the pang of loss, security stripped and a sense of hopelessness. I’m all about resilience – facing hardship with a strength of spirit and rebounding stronger and more resourceful. You can’t have resilience without pain.

And that brings us to the topic of gratitude. It’s November… about that time in expat life when things are:

Girl SmilingRootless still, if you’ve just moved abroad and settled your family into a routine. There’s still a sense of aloneness, a disconnect between who you are and where and what you’re living.
Routine, after returning from home leave some 3 months ago, adjusting the kids back to school and now you find yourself pretty much at “same-old, same old.” Or,
Restless if you‘ve lived here for a while and sense you want a change. Likely not a move (!), but a sense of deeper contribution, fulfillment and aliveness in your expat life.

Gratitude can be your solution. It opens the heart and activates positive emotional centers in the brain. It soothes stress and broadens creative thinking to develop a more expansive view of our lives. It shifts our focus from what’s lacking to the abundance that’s present. It’s the awareness that whatever we have is exactly what we need – be it people, circumstances or challenge. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is great, but rather that we CHOOSE to count blessings. Giving thanks makes us happier, more resilient and strengthens relationships. It opens us to freedom and generosity. How? [Read more…]