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Relationships

Making Fast Friends Fast

Definition of Expat: shortened form of expatriate, referring to anyone who has chosen to live away from their native home country, either permanently or with the intention of returning to their own country. Often a person is offered temporary change of employment. It first meant “one who is banished,” and later “one who chooses to live abroad.”

Life in a new country offers both opportunities and challenges. Stepping into the unknown can be a huge leap of faith, especially in a country where no one speaks your language. Making friends with expats in similar circumstances eases the transition and loneliness. With no close family or friends, the need for relationships to fill that gap is vital.

The Vienna, Austria United Nations Women’s Guild (UNWG) weekly activities provided the perfect avenue to meet other women. In a group of people, for various reasons, we are often drawn to certain ones.

My first time at the UNWG quilting group I immediately gravitated toward Barbara from Maryland and Christine from Canada.

It wasn’t long before we pulled our spouses into the mix for an evening out. Our scientist husbands quickly found common ground in each of their fields of expertise. Conversation flowed easily as the women, eager to begin taking in all the “Vienna experience” we could work into our days, proceeded to made plans to visit coffee shops/cafes, museums, and markets.

As couples, we traveled together, mostly by train, to places in Vienna, as well as neighboring countries. We biked through the countryside and along the Danube River, stopping to visit old castles and places of interest. And, of course, coffee breaks took top priority. As a result of the excellent Viennese coffee, I unfortunately became a major “coffee snob.”

This past weekend we gathered at our house for our first reunion since we left Vienna eight years ago. We reminisced of our Vienna days, recalling places we frequented, such as ancient castles,  re-telling stories of the history of families who occupied them so long ago. We marveled at our stamina to complete long bike treks and walk everywhere in the frigid cold, pulling carts loaded with groceries on and off the ubahn (city transportation.)

Then the women shared pictures of both our finished and unfinished quilt projects, told funny stories of our grandkid’s shenanigans and of course, made time for lots of coffee breaks.

Relaxing at Singing Waters Winery on our way home from Fredericksburg.
Coffee at Local

The men joined us to a quilt hand stitch art exhibit at UTSA.  I think they may have enjoyed it as much as we did.

Three scientists and a quilt

The men reveled in the fact that they had someone to converse with who understand “their language” as they discussed the different roles they each held in keeping the world safe.

None of us may have been close friends in our own countries, but thrown into a strange place, focusing on things we had in common, it became easy to look past our differences. The encouragement we offered one another kept us focused on the positive. Even though we each possessed very different personalities, we instantly became close friends.

As Christians, we also exhibit distinctive natures and hold personal preferences, but our one thing in common, Jesus, allows us to overlook differences as we focus on Him.

 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25 MSG

This present world, wherever we live, should never feel like home. Our gracious God has blessed us with a community of brothers and sisters to offer encouragement while we travel in a foreign land. As we make our way through this momentary world, let’s never ever forget the final destination.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 ESV

The Blessing of Relationships

Love is why we are here pictureLearning to build lasting relationships originates with God. How would we even know how to truly love without knowing Christ?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13, 15 (NIV)

The more we cultivate relationships, the better they become. It takes work to create enduring bonds. Friendship, as defined in Scripture, encompasses the companionship and closeness we are to experience with others.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.”                         Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

A professor of psychiatry at Stanford University recently lectured on the mind-body connection–relationship between stress and disease. He believes that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman. For a woman, however, her most significant nurturing tends to stem from relationships with girlfriends. Women connect with each other when dealing with stress and difficult life experiences. We share from our souls with our sisters, mothers, and friends. Physically and emotionally, this quality “girlfriend time” has been shown to result in positive health benefits, including combating depression.

We often become immersed in our careers, home projects and hobbies, and as a result of this preoccupation with “stuff,” little time or energy remains for building relationships.

Recognizing the importance of teaching our own adopted children Christian principles, we created a wall plaque that included as one of the values, “People are more important than things.” For years, this simple statement was a great reminder for our family of the significance of making people feel special.

“In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.” Philippians 2:3, 4 (ERV)  

Relationship with Christ, family and others gives purpose to our lives. Existence void of these vital connections would be a dismal life, indeed.image

I am extremely thankful to a kind and merciful God for the blessing of relationships.

 

Happy Birthday, dear Forever Friend!  I thank God for bumping us in to each other all those years ago. It has truly been a Lasting Relationship!