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Being new to the neighborhood (city, country), I am meeting new people all the time. Once I introduce myself, I then have to present myself to the other person. How do I get across who I am in 20 words or less? I'm not a singular thing. Is anyone?

There's a prefix: ambi-. It means both. Adjectives that describe that sense of being both, not one or the other, are words like ambidextrous or ambivert. In many ways I am ambi-. I am ambidextrous. I am also an ambivert: someone who is outgoing and friendly, but needs alone time to recharge.

Then there's ambivalence. Ambivalence is being repelled and attracted at the same time. Personally I hate the feeling of ambivalence. I want to know where I stand with something. Is it good or bad? Do I like it or not? I am a decisive person and I avoid ambivalence if I can. But ambivalence isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's just a bit more complicated. In working with youth I learned about embracing the "both and." Sometimes things are hard and still good. This move to Belize has been exciting and also sad.

My role here, for now, is ambiguous. It's hard to pinpoint and define. When people ask what I do, it gets complicated. I can talk about what I've done in the past, but for now I can't define my role. I typically say something along the lines of "We feel called by God to bless this country in whatever way we can." So cringingly ambiguous!

Being "ambi" can be off-putting and awkward when introducing yourself to others. I am American (and also Canadian). I am a wife and mother (and also a person in my own right). I am serious and I poke fun at almost everything. I am smart and passionate about the work I do, but I don't consider myself ambitious. I am hard to pinpoint and it's stressful for me to try to do that for others.

Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

As inconvenient and awkward as it sometimes is to be a complex human being, I recognize that all the seemingly contradictory things about me are what make me who I am.

I am ambivalent about making friends here. I am drawn to people and companionship, and I am discouraged by how long it takes to really connect with people. I'm going to have to slowly unveil who I am to those who want to get to know me. At the same time I will also need to resist the urge to put others in a box, and let them reveal the intricacies of who they are to me. It's hard, slow work and it's worth it.

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Parenting (and homeschooling) a 12 year old is a lot, especially when that child is a mini version of yourself. I know that, but this week I am discovering it anew.

Typically in life I'm a "live and let live" kind of person. Don't get me wrong; I prefer to help, support, and guide people, but if someone isn't interested in my help, I back off. It's their life. It's their call.

Then there's my son.

In his mind, he's got this. He knows exactly what matters in his life and what doesn't. He is super smart and lazy. I'm familiar with this combination because he got it from me. AJ has pretty high personal and professional goals and I want to help him develop the strategies and habits he'll need to reach them. He's not interested.

What I see and feel from him while trying to refine his writing (for example) is resistance, derision and disrespect. He says he's not trying to disrespect me, but he feels dumb and embarrassed that he's not good at whatever we're working on. Flashback to saxophone lessons from 1991 to 1998. I'm sitting in my living room with my orchestra teacher mother who is trying to help me get better at the sax. I am resistant, rude and disrespectful. I don't want to be better at it if it means putting work into it. Playing an instrument isn't my thing; it's hers. I am perfectly content to be mediocre.

I'm beginning to see his point. Our biggest point of contention right now is Spanish. Part of the friction is because I am prioritizing something for him that he doesn't prioritize for himself. AJ has been in dual-language schooling for 6 years. We put him into Spanish school since Kindergarten because Eddie and I both learned a second language at a young age and because we planned to one day move our family to Central America.

Now that we're here, AJ is resentful. Moving here wasn't his idea. In fact, as far as he's concerned, it has ruined his life. The first chance he gets he's headed back to North American soil to get his life plan back on track. Sigh...this is so hard for him. Digging in my heels to make him fully bilingual by the age of 15 isn't going to help him adjust to being here. Feeling secure and heard will help.

Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."

As a mother, I feel responsible to prepare my kids for life. They will need knowledge, tools and skills to thrive as adults. But if the foundation of their worth is addled with doubt and insecurity, none of the rest of it matters.

Yes, AJ needs to work on his persistence and grit. Yes, knowing a second language is valuable in countless ways. But I'm the adult; he's not. He's 12 and right now, what matters most is that he sees that his parents love him and trust God to make his path straight.

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Homeschooling has officially started here in Casa Joseph. For many years I was against homeschooling for several reasons, but in recent years I have seen several families do it successfully and I've admired them. Due to coming to Belize mid-year, Eddie and I decided to homeschool the kids for the remainder of the school year. This would afford us to be flexible in our travel and help the kids adjust to their new life here.

In my imagination, our kids would be doing a lot of self-guided learning and independent work. Maybe eventually we will get to that point, but right now, it's a lot of redirecting, cajoling, and trying (and failing) to get certain resources to work. Add our 12 year old's personal brand of derision to top it all off. Eddie and I have spent 24 hours/day with our children since Thanksgiving. Since then we've been their only friends, their entertainment, counselors and their cheerleaders. Now we've added teachers to the list. As a introvert, that's a lot of face time- like way too much.

In my self, I'm running out of patience, joy and kindness. In the words of Marlin from Finding Nemo, "Good feelings gone." So, what am I going to do about this? How am I going to continue to serve my kids? How will I replenish the internal reserves that have been depleted?

Galatians 5:22 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

I need to dig in and pursue the presence of the Spirit in my life. I've been "doing the things" to connect with God and haven't felt very successful lately. But if I am going to rise to the occasion, it is the Spirit of God that will need to rise within me. I don't know what it will take to get through this hurdle, but I know I can't do it in my own strength.

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