On Becoming Mozambican: 3 Things That Have Changed About Me

I have been thinking about this post for a couple of months now. Part of me doesn’t want to post this because I am not sure how this will be taken. The other half of me wants to make people uncomfortable (is that rude?), myself included. I also want to remember. It’s too often I forget the deep lessons the Lord teaches me, and I don’t want this to be one of those times. 

While recently back in the states to have our baby girl Cypress I had my first true run-in with reverse culture shock. I had heard of people dealing with culture shock when returning to their home countries before, but to be honest, I thought it was a load of dirty diaper (pretty appropriate for my current life stage). I mean, I deal with issues when I return to the states like not being able to think clearly in English, being overwhelmed by a room full of people chatting (when you are used to straining to understand what one person is saying, it’s a crazy feeling to be able to understand all the conversations around you at the same time), and forgetting that I can drink the tap water. This last trip I went thirsty in the middle of the night many a time—hello, breast feeding—at my mom’s because I didn’t want to walk downstairs to get water out of the fridge. There was a bathroom sink 10 feet from my bed. Bet you didn't know I was dumb AND lazy.) This time was different. I had all the usual adjustments going on, but there was something else. I was having a lot harder time relating to the people and responding appropriately in conversations. Here's why: I was different. Two years in Mozambique had changed me.

ONE: YOU GUYS! I was totally in Hobby Lobby (think holiday crowd) with my mom and this lady in her mid 50’s kept staring at me…and it’s not because I was looking fly because I doubt I washed my hair that day. After the third eye contact as we were passing each other in a main aisle…I GENTLY GRABBED HER ARM AND TOOK HER HAND IN MINE AND ASKED IF I KNEW HER?!!!!? After her stammering, “Na-na-no” (and by the way my brain didn’t even register her look of terror until later) I continued to hold her hand in both of mine and say something like, “Oh, ok, you kept looking at me so I thought I knew you. Blah, blah, blah have a Merry Christmas!” Yep, that wasn’t weird. Nope, not at all. This is a true story! (I really hope you got a good visual; it deserves a good visual.) I let go of her hand and rounded the corner and something about seeing my mom with a clean buggy in an organized aisle full of giant paintings with things like, “Be your own kind of beautiful“ in scripted fonts made me snap back state-side and realize I had just freaked some poor women out. I went straight up Mozambican on that chick; direct, personable, un-rushed, with a dash of PDA. I knew in that moment that part of me was different. And I wasn't upset about it.  

TWO: The majority of Americans are so dis-satisfied with their lives. From conversations about hating work to commercials for medications that will put a smile on your face, I heard complaining everywhere. If I’m going to be honest, it was like nails on a chalkboard to me. Now please don't think I am saying I am above this. COMPLETELY FALSE! I have been in Mozambique for two years now and Mozambicans don’t have the art of complaining down. They are pretty much bad at it, especially believers. Let me say that again, especially believers. Ok, got that out of my system. Two years of not hearing un-warranted negativity AND having no one to complain to will purge you of your pettiness. Trust me. Every time I heard someone say anything even slightly negative, I automatically thought about the positive side of it. Being in Mozambique has taught me that every shadow is a declaration that light is near. This is not how I have always been and I am still working on it, just ask my friends and family. Right now, this positive way of thinking is a newly formed habit, but I want it to be my heart condition. I want to have satisfaction. Satisfaction—knowing Christ is ALL I need—what an amazing feeling. 

We were playing the other day when I looked over at this guy and he was practicing carrying water on his head. Looks like I'm not the only one becoming Mozambican. 

We were playing the other day when I looked over at this guy and he was practicing carrying water on his head. Looks like I'm not the only one becoming Mozambican. 

Look at that form...and the amount of drinking devices in this photo, haha. 

Look at that form...and the amount of drinking devices in this photo, haha. 

THREE: What in the world people!? I mean come on. Let’s give each other a break. I was in SHOCK at how many snide remarks, eye rolls, sarcastic comments, and hurtful things were said, but almost NEVER to the person they were intended for. This is straight up not normal for me anymore. If a Mozambican has an issue with someone or a question about something, they either keep it to themselves or address it. Period. Example: Two of our students were playing with Cypress and one of them looked over at me and said, “Is there something wrong with Cypress' feet?” Now, in the U.S. this would be a no-no, BUT five seconds after the poor mom walked away there would be hushed whispers and “bless her heart...” Here, everything is out in the open. You deal with things together. It took a bit to get used to...my jaw dropped in the middle of a leadership meeting one time when one of our student very directly called out another for being rude and speaking over someone else. Do you know how it was received? The guy said, "I'm sorry; you're right." That was the end of it. I was expecting drama, but nope, issue resolved. 

SIDE-NOTE: Nothing is wrong with Cypress' feet. But she does have freaky long toes. 

It's amazing how our surroundings shape us, how what goes in our ears really does come out of our mouths, and how what we see modeled in front of us, we often do. Sometimes, this works against us, but it doesn't have to. If I am becoming Mozambican in many ways after only two years, then I can become more like Christ, I just have to spend more time with him. I keep imagining how different I would be if I let myself be fully influenced by kingdom culture and, you know what, I am not going to imagine anymore. Who's with me? 

Have you ever experienced culture shock of any kind? I'd love to hear your stories!

Someone please go hold hands with a stranger in Hobby Lobby. Kidding, DO NOT DO THIS! Have I mention that I love Mozambique? You should come visit.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage

Ok, so really it was 6 years ago on September 5th 2015. It's not just the blog post that's late: Matt and I haven't celebrated yet. BUT, we will! Just not sure when. Anyone interested in flying to Mozambique to watch Cedar and Cypress for a few hours? 

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage:

Us as an engaged couple. This photo was taken in Africa, before we knew we would spend our lives here.

Us as an engaged couple. This photo was taken in Africa, before we knew we would spend our lives here.

One: I am crazy. This is for real. I had no idea a person could have so many raging emotions locked away just to unleash on a poor unsuspecting husband. Our first year was tough. Looking back, it was beautiful. In the moment, not so much. There were nights when childhood memories plagued me and I was just SURE Matt was going to fail me in every area. In those moments Matt would lay his hand on my head and pray that God would "...re-route the patterns of thought in her mind." I remember this prayer almost word for word because my patient husband prayed them over and over. He also told me he loved me about every five seconds. This drove numerous people crazy, but what they didn't know is that he was trying to make me believe him. 

The night we officially started dating, it was at a Chi Alpha event non the less. 

The night we officially started dating, it was at a Chi Alpha event non the less. 

Two: I can almost always convince myself and even Matt that I won a fight. THIS IS NOT GOOD! I gotta be real--I have done this many, many times. Like 10,000,000,056 times. (If you are able to say that number without thinking about it for a whole minute, you are my brain hero.)

Three: I learned that I don't need Matt. Or anyone for that matter. I don't mean this in the hand-in-your-face, "Boo trick! I don't need you" way. I mean, "no matter what, Jesus is always with me and He really is enough." Is it weird to tell you that I was sitting on the toilet when I came to that conclusion? TMI? I don't think I was actually using it, but I had just locked myself in bathroom during a fight. It was years ago when we lived in a loft apartment and that was the only room with a door. I no longer do that by the way. #progress

Four: I realized that Matt is my forever best friend, and I should treat him as such. Texts, calls, special moments, secret hand shakes...all of it. BFF! 

Five: This one is super serious. I learned how to calm down my happy/chipper/hyperness. Matt is NOT a morning person, and sometimes he's not a night person either. Although he wasn't an only child, he definitely has only-child tendencies. I like to pillow fight, tickle, prank, and I will do said things during all hours of the day. Marriage is not the place for the "do you" mentality. Instead, I try to wait for more appropriate moments to dump ice cold water on him while he is showering; it's the little things that make a marriage blissful. Half of you are thinking, "I would divorce that chick so fast." I know, I'm a mess. 

Six: When we moved to Portugal we had to become deep down real with each other. The moments after a fight went a little like this: "I'm going to go hang out with my friends!!!. Crap, all my friends here speak Portuguese. Wait, I don't have any friends here. NO ONE GETS ME!!!"  That never happened, but we were stuck with each other, and I loved every minute of it. I learned how to intentionally do life with Matt. Each moment is an opportunity for me to fall in love with Matt, just like my relationship with Christ. It was a lesson I needed to learn in two areas of my life. 

For all you unmarried people with future aspirations, don't worry, there are still sweet, romantic moments like we had as newlyweds. But when Matt is tickling a giggling Cedar over and over while I cook dinner, that's when I swoon. When I catch his ear-to-ear smile as students fill our apartment, that's when my heart skips a beat. When I hear his voice echoing off the bathroom walls in worship, that's when I feel safely loved.

Happy 6.5 Years Matthew Lee Marlin! I love you...and your pile of clothes in the corner of our room right now. 

What have been your biggest lessons in marriage? And, if you aren't married, what freaks you out the most about the possibility? Can't wait to learn from what you have to say. 

We'll Be Home for Christmas, but Not Really.

As most of you know, we are having a baby girl in January. What you may not know is that we can't have Cypress here in Mozambique. It's complicated; I won't bore you with details. We have two options. She can be born in South Africa, where Cedar was born, or we can go to the States. Either way, we have to leave Maputo at least 4 weeks before my due date of January 20 because NO BABIES BORN MID-TRAVEL PLEASE! We prayed about this decision a lot, but we still had to make a pros and cons list because sometimes we are 16. Here's a peak at our musings...

It is an interesting thing planning which country your child is to be born in, and as you can see from our super-professional list, it's not just choosing the hospital or picking a doctor. Our conversations are more like, "Hey babe, are you thinking rent a place in Joburg, SA, or fly to the States?" and "…might be pretty boring to be alone on Christmas." Of course, our ideal would be to have our bundle be born in Mozambique without crazy time/environment changes for us and Cedar, BUT we really enjoy our life and all the adventures that come along with it. These challenges are just the nature of the call.

Both our options mean a time away from our students (who are amazing people; you guys would love them) and what God is doing here (even more amazing, but we know God can hold down the fort). Those are THE hardest parts of making any decision to leave Mozambique, but some of the stress this time is alleviated a little by the fact that our weeks away line up exactly with the summer break for all the universities here. That's right: It's summer right now in the southern hemisphere, so we won't miss any of the school year! Isn't God the best planner?

Both options also equal us being away from home and away from our ministry, but only one option allows for us to be with family over the holidays and for the birth. DRUM ROLLLLLLLL! We have decided to have Cypress in Arkansas. [Side note: We are coming for you Panera….And no, this is not most important, but I am pregnant and I haven't had access to any of my cravings so my priorities are slightly skewed. Family, we are coming for you too.]

Cedar hanging out with his bestie for the last time for a while.

Cedar hanging out with his bestie for the last time for a while.

The craziest part? It feels weird to say "I'll be home for Christmas," because Mozambique is now home. This place I once couldn't picture myself living no matter how hard I tried, where they speak a language I couldn't utter a word in correctly, where I knew no one is now not just where I live, but HOME. God is so good to not just call us, but to lead us and to settle us. And this doesn't just apply to missionaries; it's for everyone in every situation. It's for you.

Are you trying to feel at home in a new job, city, stage of life? With the holidays around the corner, are feeling alone and isolated? Comment below or email us at xamarlin@me.com. We'd love to pray for you. 

P.S. Now to just decide on where exactly Cypress will be born and who will deliver her!!! Can you say a prayer with us about those details?