Thursday, December 9, 2010

In-Between Cultures

Has it really been two months?!?! Where has the time gone? I will take time later on to update you on the happenings of our lives, but for now I want to talk about something that has been on my heart and mind.

I am a "third culture kid." Wikipedia defines a third culture kid as "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture." The entry in Wikipedia also goes on to say, "TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their own country."

I've always known I was different. I have always felt like I didn't fit in. I lived the first five years of my life in Bombay, India, and then moved to Henderson, Tennessee, a town where most people have never even crossed the state line. I never watched Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. We didn't even have a TV in India. I started school when I was two, and by the time I was five, I could speak at least 4 languages. I was the only "white" girl (I'm counting my mom as a woman) in a city of 14 million. I ate with my hands, used a "squatty potty," and wore salvars. I carried a "tiffin" to school, wore bhindis, and drank coffee - all before age five. This was life. This was home. This was all I knew.

When we moved to the States, I would ask when we were going home. America was not home for me. I might have looked like everyone else, but in my five year old mind, this did not even register. I was not like these people.

But over the years, I became really good at being a chameleon. I started dressing, talking, eating and acting like the other children around me. I stopped talking about India because it caused the other kids to think I was weird. I just wanted to blend in - to feel like I belonged. I have done such a good job of this since I was five years old that, often, people forget that I really am different.

Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to someone and I said that I "grew up" in India. They sarcastically commented that five years is not "growing up" somewhere. I beg to differ. Not only are the first five years of your life extremely formative, but also, if spending two weeks in a foreign country can change your life, imagine what five years would do. It has an exponentially greater impact. I have lived in America for about 20 years, but a part of me will always be Indian - even though I can no longer speak the language; even though I don't have any Indian blood running in my veins; and even though I look and talk and act American. I am not American. I am not Indian. I am just Kris. I used to be ashamed of the fact that I never felt like I fit in. Now I am beginning to realize that I am a beautiful mixture of cultures, that I have understanding of the world beyond my years, and that I am blessed beyond measure. I am a Third Culture Kid.

Having said that, I want all of you to understand something. It seems silly, but I realize, after a year and a half, that people judge me because I have a nose ring. They think I am "rebellious." I think some unconsciously believe that I am not as good of a Christian because I have a piercing in my nose. It sounds so ridiculous, but that is how I am often treated by American "Christians." Nose rings are not American, nor are they a contemporary act of rebellion. Nose rings have been around for a long time and have a much deeper meaning than appearances or "just trying to be different." First of all, if you read in Genesis 22, the story of Isaac and Rebekah, you will see that a nose ring was given to Rebekah as an engagement gift from her future husband. In India (my first culture), a nose ring was originally used as a symbol of marriage - kind of like an engagement ring or wedding band in the US. It would only make sense for a girl from the Indian culture to desire a nose ring when she gets married. And just as a side note, for those who still think that I just want to get attention and rebel, I was 24 years old when I got my nose ring - and I still asked my parents permission!!

This is one of the many examples that I could bring up to describe how I am different, and how that often leads to being misunderstood or judged unfairly. Not only as a Third Culture Kid, but as a human and a Christian, I want to encourage you to see past the visible. A person is a knit-together quilt made up of culture, beliefs, trials, joys, and so much more. We each have a soul. We are each loved by our Creator. Take the time to understand who people are and where they come from before you make judgements about their character.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


We have been back in the States for just over 3 months now. I almost said we have been "home," but in truth, I'm not sure where "home" is anymore...actually, I do - but it's nowhere on this earth. Re-entry has been very difficult. I have only made it through one worship service (yes, one in 3 months) without crying. I don't know where it comes from or what starts it, but it's usually uncontrollable. The hundreds of people who don't know me at the congregation we have been attending are probably wondering what in the world is wrong with that poor girl that cries every Sunday. Besides that, we still don't feel settled. We are still living with my parents and all of our things are still in storage in Tennessee. The biggest adjustment for us has definitely been work. In China, we worked about 20 hours a week, and Michael and I were together about 20 out of the 24 hours in a day. Now, if you include my 1.5 hour one-way commute, I work an average of 50-60 hours per week. Michael works part-time at The Home Depot, so he usually is scheduled to work evenings and weekends. We are lucky to get to see each other for a couple of hours a day.

When we came back from China, I was so "on fire." I felt so changed. I felt so focused. Now I feel almost nothing but shame. In three months of living in America, I have almost completely (at least on the outside) gone back to the person I was before China. That person worries about money. That person wants a nice, comfortable home to live in, with a nice, new couch in the living room. That person has to have a nice car to drive. That person thinks she can't live without an iphone. That person thinks that 5 or 6 outfits is just not enough.

I thought she was gone - a thing of the past - but now she is back. She is consumed in her job and has forgotten her focus. Too be honest, I didn't like living in China. It was cold and wet, the food was not awesome, etc. etc. etc. But I would gladly trade the nice house, well-paying job, clothes that fit, and the Mexican food to be back in a place in my life where I am consumed with God's presence in my life, rather than work and money.

2 Timothy 2:3-4 says this,

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him."

One of my posts during our time in China was of how I was a soldier fighting in a war. Now that soldier is living back among civilians. I have allowed myself to get lost and entangled in civilian pursuits. This week, I WILL pray for God to help me renew my focus and I WILL renew my commitment to please the One who enlisted me.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Adjusting to life back in the States continues to prove difficult.

I still have not been able to get on a regular sleep schedule - in fact, I slept until 11 o'clock today.

We have not yet been able to settle into our own place, so we are currently living with my parents. They are so kind to let us do this and we love getting to spend so much time with them (especially after a year away), but it is certainly not the ideal situation for any of us.

Since we haven't been able to get a place of our own, most of our belongings are in Tennessee, while we're in Texas. It gets frustrating having to dig around for things (such as social security cards) when you're not even sure if they're in the same state as you.

But by far, the hardest adjustment has been church culture.

In China, there were 7 to 9 of us who met every Sunday. We had no set time to meet. We wore whatever we had on - shorts, jeans, didn't matter. Our meetings usually lasted 3 or 4 hours. But the greatest thing about church for us was that we shared a deep spiritual intimacy. That was something I had never experienced before. Every week, we shared the joys that we had encountered. Every week, we shared the struggles that we were trying to overcome. I knew what was going on in all of their lives - every day of every week. And they knew what was going on in mine. We prayed for each other very specifically every day. We studied God's Word and then we held each other accountable in obeying what we had learned throughout the week.

I miss that.

I don't think that American church culture is wrong. I just think it's different. And it's hard to adjust back to, after coming from the Chinese church culture that we created. It's difficult sitting in a room with hundreds upon hundreds of people, most of whom I don't know - and if I do know, I don't know that well. They don't know me - not really. They don't know what made me laugh or cry the week before. They don't know what I'm worried about in the upcoming week. They don't know what sin I am struggling with. My first Sunday back at worship in America, I cried most of the way through. I was upset that it felt like a fashion show, when so many in the world didn't even know the name of Jesus. Of course, the people of that congregation are wonderful, and most of them probably didn't wear what they wore to get attention or to look the best. That was just how it appeared to me from what and where I was coming from.

It is hard for me to explain (and I'm sure hard for you to understand if you haven't experienced it). I just have to keep reminding myself that it's not wrong, it's just different. But mostly I just miss my brothers and sisters in China that knew me better than any others, and still loved me, and with whom I grew so much.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Start to Finish

Coming home was a bit of a nightmare. But it's been a week and a half, so I think I can talk about it now.

The school that Michael and I taught for only allotted us a specific amount of money for our airline tickets home, so we had to find the cheapest flight possible. That happened to be China Eastern Airlines. This was a bit of a risky move considering that we were going to be on that plane for 12 hours, but we didn't have much of a choice, so we tried to be optimistic.

We got to the airport several hours before our flight. After some drama, including going to the wrong terminal (I guess we were wrong to assume that a flight to LA would be in the international terminal), having to change gates 3 times, and waiting in line to board for about an hour, we finally boarded the plane. We got settled in and waited for take-off, and waited, and waited... After another half hour or so sitting on the tarmac, we find out that our flight is being delayed due to "bad weather." We looked out the window - it wasn't even raining; in fact, it wasn't even cloudy. I had already taken my Dramamine, so I fell asleep and completely missed take-off.

The 12-hour flight was as to be expected. After sleeping as long as I could, then reading as long as I could, then watching movies as long as I could, I looked at the clock and we still had 2 hours to go.

We were so excited to be back on US soil. We were completely beside ourselves to see signs that we could actually read, to see other Americans, and even to hear people speaking Spanish. We made it through immigration without a hitch. Then we had to pick up our luggage to go through customs. Again, China Eastern made us wait, and wait, and wait. When we started waiting for the bags, we had 1 hour to make it to our connecting flight (we were supposed to have a 3-hour layover). We got our suitcases, loaded our carts and took off at a run for customs. They let us through quickly and we sprinted out of the international terminal and to the domestic terminal. We found an American Airlines agent to help us - we had 30 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave. She informed us that we were 15 minutes late. Your suitcases have to be checked 45 minutes before scheduled departure. That's when the crying started.

Missing the flight might not have been so bad - after all, it's LA and they have lots of flights going to Dallas everyday - but another American Airlines flight to Dallas had been canceled. So a full flight of passengers had to be put on standby for the remaining flights to DFW. We waited in a ticketing line for 2 hours to find out that all the flights were overbooked and the best she could do was put us on stand-by. By this time I was crying so hard that the poor airline agent gave us "stand-by priority." But that doesn't mean much when there are 65 people on the stand-by list.

So we went to the gate for the next flight out, sat on the floor and prayed for them to call our names. They didn't. We used a pay phone to call my mom. She said to keep praying, then she made some phone calls and had a whole bunch of other people praying for us as well. We made a trek to the gate for the next flight out. As the line of boarding passengers dwindled to nothing, they started calling names for standby's. We were numbers 3 and 4. Numbers 1 and 2 didn't show up. More tears - this time they were tears of joy.

After all that, we finally made it home. I was so happy, I hardly even noticed that we were 4 hours later than we were supposed to be.

While we were sitting in the airport, praying desperately to get home, I asked Michael why I could ask for something so desperately of my Father and He wouldn't give it to me. Wasn't there a verse about that? 1 John 3:22 says, "and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him." Hadn't we been spending the past year keeping His commandments and doing what pleased Him?

I doubted Him. After all that He had done, after all that He had gotten me through, I doubted Him.

I am so thankful that I have people in my life who keep faith even in difficult times. And looking back, I'm so thankful for those few hours of testing that I received in the Los Angeles airport.

My focus had been lacking over those last few days in China. I was so consumed with going "home," that I had forgotten that my life is God's and that there is no shifting of the wind that He does not have a hand in. I relied on myself to get me "home." I needed a reminder that I NEED Him, even when I'm going home.

He took me to China. He protected, supported, and held me up while we were there, and He brought me safely home. He was there from Start to Finish. And He is still here. And He will always be here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


All my bags are packed; I'm ready to go.

The van comes to pick us up in less than 2 hours, and we will say goodbye to Hangzhou, our home for the past year. And what a year it has been.

It was not at all what I expected.

I expected to teach, but instead I learned. I expected to reach out, but instead I reached up. I expected to grow, but instead I grew up.

Above all, I feel this has been a year of learning and growing. Maybe God wanted me in China, not so that I could teach others, but so that He and they could teach me. I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned a lot of my faults and short-comings. But more than that, I have begun to learn how to turn them over to the Father, and allow Him to change me for His glory.

I expected to reach people with the Good News. But instead I have learned to let Him Work through me, and to let go and allow Him to bring the increase in His own time and for His own glory. He has taught me over and over to rely on Him. And He has taught me the meaning of His words in 1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Although I still have a long way to go, I have grown more than I can even recount. But more than that, I have grown closer to Michael. I have grown closer to my family and true friends. And I have grown closer to my Father.

He has been so good to us. He has been with us every step of the way. He has picked us up when we have fallen. He has blessed us beyond measure. He has led us and protected us and held us in a way that I have never felt before. Thank you, Father, for your steadfast love. I cannot express it in words, but you know what I am saying in my heart.

And to all of you, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your encouraging comments. Thank you most of all for your prayers. They got us through some dark and despairing days, and they helped us rejoice even more on some beautiful and joyful days. May He bless us all as we continue to find ways to Obey and Serve.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Survey Trip

We just got back a few days ago from our survey trip. So much happened - there is really too much to tell. Suffice it to say, we learned a lot about each other, ourselves, and the places where we are looking to live. You can follow how things went with these pictures:

After a very long and stressful stay at the airport, we were finally able to fly out of China and meet up with our team. Our first stop was Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Part of the Grand Palace in PP.

We were all very happy to be together again after nearly a year of seperation. Here we are riding together in a tuk tuk.
Gavin, Lauren & Jen

Kris, Michael & Aarek

As most countries in SouthEast Asia, Cambodia is predominately Buddhist.

Monks making the commute to their studies.

We stopped by Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - this is where victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide were imprisoned and tortured.

A hallway in Tuol Sleng leading to the cells where prisoners were kept & tortured.

The Khmer Rouge photographed all the prisoners that they put to death. The rooms are filled with their pictures.

After enjoying a few days in Phnom Penh and spending some time with Andrew & Natalie Hayes - Workers in that city - we took an interesting bus ride to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

A village in the countryside we passed along the way.

The boys sampled some of the local delicacy - fried crickets.

After various other adventures that evening (including Aarek singing karaoke, frog hunting, and spider sightings), we settled down in our thatched hut for a few short hours of sleep. The next morning, we awoke at 4:30 to make the 30 minute commute to Angkor Wat in time for sunrise.

We spent the rest of the morning touring Angkor Wat and the other two major ancient temples, Angkor Thom & the Bayon Temple.

After our morning of exploring the temples, we hopped on another airplane and headed for Luong Probang, Laos.

Yet another tuk tuk. We are so excited to be in Laos!

We rented bikes and rode out through the hills to see some of the more rural areas.

We had a wonderful trip. Thanks so much for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement. We are planning to make a decision on our launch city by January 2011. Please continue to Ask that He leads us where He wants us to go, that He opens doors to allow us to work in that place, and that He begins to prepare us and the people of that place for the time we will be together.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Decision

Today is June 1. Summer has arrived.

I can remember summers growing up. I usually spent at least one week at Mid-South Youth Camp - the church camp run by Freed-Hardeman. It was a great week of fun, sun, and spiritual growth. At the end of the week, I always felt that "spiritual high" that you often get at camp, revivals, youth rallies, workshops, etc. But after a week or two, sometimes even a day or two back home, that "high" was gone, and life went back to the way it was before.

My life has drastically changed since coming to China. Not outwardly so that you would notice right away, but I think if you spent a little time with me, you would be able to tell the difference. When you are living away from the life that you know and are comfortable with, and more importantly living with focus and purpose, you can't help but feel that "spiritual high" or a feeling of being on fire for Him. About a week ago, I was laying in bed thinking about going home. Our group here often talks about how nervous we are about going home. Although finding jobs and places to live is a big part of that, most of it stems from our finding a new Family to become a part of and a continued since of purpose. Will the changes that have taken place within us keep us from fitting in? If so, maybe that's a good thing? Anyway, I was lying awake thinking about all of this and about how I hope I am able to keep this fire when I go back home - that I won't just slip back into a life of habit and comfort.

Then it hit me. One of the greatest lessons my parents ever taught me is that love is a decision. When you marry, you don't always feel "in love" but you make a decision to love each other no matter what. When you have to be around someone that you have personality clashes with, you have to make the decision to love them as we are commanded to do. In the same way, being on fire is a decision. If we do not consciously decide to be on fire for our Father, we will fall into a lifestyle of being lukewarm. And from reading Revelation, we know that He considers that disgusting. But, if we wake up every morning and decide that today we will live for Him, and we decide throughout the day to speak with Him and seek Him, and we live with a purpose of turning every conversation that we have with others so that it is about Him, we can't help but be lit on fire.

So, as our time here in China nears its end and I think about going home, I'm no longer going to say that I hope that I'll keep this zeal. I won't say that I'm going to try. I am deciding right here and now that I will live each day with Him and for Him, and that all that I do will be with Him in mind.