Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dressing an Overseas Worker

Do you have a clothing style?  I think my criteria for buying clothes has always been something like 'If it's cheap enough, and isn't too long for my short body, or too short for my comfort, and doesn't need to be matched carefully with other clothing items, then it will do'.

That worked fine when I lived in the UK and had clothes shops within walking distance of my house.  If I was buying clothes that had been designed in the last decade, and if they met the criteria above, then I couldn't go too far wrong.  I was never a fashion queen, but I had clothes that I felt comfortable in.

Skip forward to now.  With very few exceptions, everything in my wardrobe was either

a) Given to me (thanks Mum and Mom!)

b) Bought for a couple of pounds second hand (either from colleagues or at a second hand store)

c) Purchased more than 10 years ago

The result ends up looking something like this:
Photo by T Bunnow
This photo was taken while I was playing the part of someone who sang very badly, so it probably was fitting that my clothes didn't look too great either. 

The truth is though that it had been one of those evenings when I was rushing to feed everyone, to get the children ready for bed, and to go and pick up the babysitter, so I had just grabbed something typical from my wardrobe.
I also don't usually carry soft toys around with me.
The skirt in the photo was passed on to me about ten years ago by a colleague who found it in a second hand store here.  It was a great skirt...ten years ago.
So, what are the challenges I face, as an overseas workers trying to clothe myself?
1) There are no clothes stores that I can easily get myself to.  The only clothes stores within easy travelling distance are second hand stores.  But unless someone offers to take me to one, I'm just too unmotivated to try to find a ride there or to travel with someone else on local public transport, especially with the added pressure of having to be back by lunchtime for the children.
2) The cost.  Yes, our budget is set up so that we can afford to buy clothes.  However, I just can't seem to bring myself (even when I do have the rare opportunity to do so) to spend money on full price clothes, knowing that there are others ways to get clothes for a small fraction of the cost.  I'm not saying this is a sensible or rational thing, but I do find it really hard!
3) The local culture.  If I look at the local women, there's a whole range of dress styles.   Not so long ago it was much rarer for women here to wear trousers: the tops of the legs are the area where most modesty is required.  Many women, especially those who are older than me, wear long, loose skirts and blouses.
However things are changing fast, and I've noticed that many women working on the centre here now wear closer fitting outfits, including trousers. 
So if I wear longer, looser clothes I'm fitting in with some people here, but will look very baggy compared to others.
4) Losing awareness of what's normal back home.  I remember, years ago, meeting a young person who had grown up overseas.  She was wearing something that looked totally out of place to me, and was fine with that.  At the time I couldn't understand it.  But now I totally get it. 
I don't often see people dressed in the most recent fashions, and I'm seeing other overseas workers dressed more modestly than they would back home, so I wouldn't recognise a 'normal' look if I saw it.
When I'm on home leave, I'm sure I must look like I've stepped out of a time machine.  Especially because the winter clothes I bought last century still keep appearing; I don't wear them often enough to wear them out.
It's true that I don't generally care too much how I look.  Overall I see this as a good thing; it's not as if I need anything extra to obsess about. 
Most of my life I go around not really noticing what I see.  I might have a long conversation with someone; but if you asked me later what they were wearing I wouldn't have a clue. 
In theory I think it's good to contribute beauty to the world.  But in reality, I choose to concentrate on other things.  So I'm not usually too motivated to do anything about the clothing situation.
Recently I have been starting to think a little more about how I dress.  After 10 years of wearing skirts, I find myself wanting to abandon them for the jeans that I wore constantly, outside of work, in my previous life  (What's not to love about jeans: they go with anything. No thinking required!).  And I realise that with the changing times, this is probably fine here (at least depending on the jeans, and depending on what top I wear with it).

I get to spend a couple of days in Australia soon, so I'm challenging myself to look for a new pair of trousers to buy!
It's been bothering me more lately when I wear baggy clothes that I know I don't look good in at all.
Last week I went through my wardrobe and gave away all the clothes that I don't like to wear.  The item that was hardest to let go of?  The skirt from the photo above. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Seeking God

'Seek God' is a phrase that has been in my reading and my thoughts a lot lately.

I want to follow King David's instructions:

"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God." (1 Chronicles 22:19)

I'm still figuring out what it means to truly Seek God. 

One thing I quickly worked out is that if I'm Seeking God, I can't hold on tight to my own agenda.  If I'm seeking His Kingdom then I want God, not me, to be King of my life.

Most of the time I find myself seeking to fulfil my own desires.  My desires might involve helping others; but they are usually more about wanting to feel good about myself than they are about bringing glory to God.   Many of the things I want in life aren't wrong.  But when I seek these things more than I seek God, then there's a problem.

*I know it's important to pay attention to my feelings (for instance, it's usually my feelings that let me know when I've been overdoing things).  But my feelings are not my king; God is.  Obeying him matters more than doing what I think will make me feel good.
     When I'm Seeking God, I'll stop and consider what I really need to be doing, rather than automatically doing what my feelings suggest is most important.

*When I see someone who is struggling I want to help them, perhaps even try to fix them. 
     When I'm Seeking God I'll first bring my concerns to him.  I'll be happy, not uncomfortable, if God brings healing in a way that doesn't involve my own practical involvement.

*I have dreams for the future of how I might serve God.
     When I'm Seeking God, I'll trust and wait on his timing, rather than forging ahead immediately with my own ideas.

*There are people I'd like to know better.

        When I'm Seeking God, I'll let him bring people into my life in the way he chooses.  I'll offer my friendship, but without forcing my own agenda.

*I like interesting challenges; I like solving problems; I like talking about different situations and scenarios.  But my life also involves non-exciting challenges, and less stimulating conversations.  Life involves wiping the table, and cleaning children's teeth and listening to stories of what has been achieved on computer games. 
     When I'm Seeking God, rather than my own desires, I'll willingly wipe, clean and listen at the times I need to, rather than let myself get distracted by more stimulating communication.  (And even as I was typing that, I initially ignored my preschooler who had come to me in tears wanting attention after being hurt!)

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  (Matthew 6:33)

The food, drink and clothes mentioned above are essential to life on earth.  Most of the things I get worked up about are not things that I need, but rather things that I want.  I think the solution is probably the same though: Seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and let God bless me in the way He chooses.

Obviously Seeking God isn't a formula for getting what I want.  However, in my own life I've been delighted to see that many times when I've surrendered a desire to him, he's fulfilled it in wonderful ways that I never even hoped for.  Sometimes what I seek does turn out to be what God wants; but how much better it is to let him do it his way and in his timing than to rely completely on my own solution.

When frustration sinks in during daily life and I'm tempted to dwell on my own desires, I've been gently telling myself, "Seek Him".