Reverse culture shock: daily schedules

One of the huge differences we’ve experienced in our overseas move has been in daily schedules.

If you had told me last year I would be rising every day before the sun shines, I might have laughed, yet as I drive to work in the mornings, I often enjoy spectacular sunrises and arrive at work with the sun fully risen. Breakfast is eaten and coffee is drunk before I would have been crawling out of bed back in Spain. I’m also dressed in office attire—something I never would have done working from home.

Lest you judge me as lazy in Spain, let me remind you that the schedules are different because of cultural differences. In Spain, I would rarely be in bed before midnight, and I worked all day long.

As for lunches at 12:00 noon and dinners at 6:00, we’re fairly well acclimated at this time. In Spain, we seldom ate lunch before 1:30 p.m. and that was our heaviest meal. Supper would be after 8:00 p.m. We were in the habit of enjoying a fruit snack in the late afternoon around 5:00 p.m. Needless to say, our meal schedule has drastically changed. I am still trying to get portions correct and trying not to “die of starvation” because my main meal isn’t in the middle of the day. (By the way, the secret is to drink more water. It works very well.)

Normal work hours are 8:00-5:00 with a one-hour lunch break. In Spain, work hours vary, but many companies allow a three- or four-hour break for lunch. After all, it’s the main meal, followed by a siesta. Blessed custom!

One of the men in our church in Spain didn’t even think about supper until 11:00 p.m. Swanky restaurants open around 10:00 p.m. and more everyday restaurants at 8:00. Here, supper is served as early as 4:00 p.m., and many restaurants close by 10:00. It’s another world.

Another popular Spanish custom is the eating of many mini meals. A typical Spanish eating schedule looks like this:

  • Breakfast, 9:00 a.m.: coffee or hot chocolate with cookies that resemble Graham crackers
  • Almuerzo (morning snack), 11:00 a.m.: sandwich
  • Dinner 1:30 or 2:00 p.m.: main meal of the day, usually two courses, always accompanied by a hunk or two of fresh bread
  • Merienda (afternoon snack), 5:00 p.m.: Most children eat chocolate or chorizo sausage sandwiches or a yogurt. Many adults eat fruit.
  • Supper, 8:00 for early birds, later for most: Some Spaniards eat full meals, but many eat lighter in the evening than at midday. Exceptions are when eating in a restaurant. That meal would be several courses and very filling.
  • Tapas, served almost any time of day, especially in the evenings. People can go to cafeteria-like restaurants and pay for small-portion tapas. Usually, they include some kind of bread, meat or fish, and are beautifully decorated. They can also be mushrooms with garlic sauce or a tiny casserole of chicken livers. Many people socialize over several kinds of tapas in one night, grazing from restaurant to restaurant over the course of the evening. 

We used to marvel that we almost never saw obese Spaniards, because many eat five times a day. The key to success is in a lot of physical activity, especially walking, and in portion control. Also, few Spanish people eat sweet desserts. When they do indulge, it is a tiny scoop of ice cream or a barely sweet pastry. Many eat fruit, cheese, or a yogurt after dinner.

Wherever you live in the world, and whatever the cultural time schedule for work and meals, you can depend on one thing: God wants you to use your time wisely.

The wisest man that ever lived wrote, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might (Ecclesiastes 9:10a).

These principles are in the New Testament: What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This next verse is about our testimony to others, those who watch our lifestyle: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time (Colossians 4:5). It doesn’t matter if we eat at 5:00 or at 8:00. What matters is that we live to the glory of God and that we’re careful of our testimony before others.

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).

May the Lord give us discernment, knowing that everything we have is a gift from God.

My challenge: not decorating prematurely

As many of you know, we recently relocated from Spain to the United States. We’re living with relatives while trying to buy a house. This has been an adventure, and we are hoping to soon have our own home.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking online at different used places, visited several re-sale stores in town, and people have given us pieces of furniture. I also peruse Pinterest and YouTube videos to view decorating ideas.

One of the phenomena I’ve noticed is the standard decorating style: farmhouse. I actually love “farmhouse style,” Fixer Upper, and watching Joanna Gaines’ genius. She gets a vision, works with clients, and does marvelous work. Her own farmhouse is a decorator’s dream—a comfy blend of old and new, with refreshing pops of greenery. But, as I’ve looked at properties, it has been hilarious to find sliding barn doors and reclaimed pallet walls in brick ranch homes. I crack up at shiplap installed in a formal dining room within a posh house.

I visited a spacious décor store with my husband—not buying, just looking. One style prevailed: farmhouse. There was some evidence of industrial, as well. I kept wondering about the rest of us, those who don’t own a literal farmhouse and are not in a home that lends itself to cement, pipes, and fittings.

I am trying not to buy prematurely—before we’re positive the house is ours. Both taste and wisdom are important to me. I think we can make the house that we’re buying seem cohesive with the pieces of furniture people have gifted us.

We surely don’t want to be like the man in the biblical parable who tore down his barns and built bigger ones—not knowing he would die that night. (To read the parable, go to Luke 12:16-21.) The concluding verse shows us where a Christian’s values don’t need to be. So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:21). I’d rather be rich toward God.

We are trying to be wise stewards. With our overseas move, we decided not to bring any furniture—except one end table that was an anniversary gift and easily disassembled for shipping. We also didn’t bring any household appliances that used European 220 Volt current, knowing they don’t work over here. Instead, we brought pots and pans, dishes, and those decorations we love, our clothing, and a few tools.

Let me share some of my thought processes as I try not to buy prematurely.

  • Someone gifted us a nice mattress. We found a second-hand bed frame this past week for it. As we know we will need a bed, wherever we live, we felt this was a good idea—plus, the frame is pretty.
  • We were given a dining room set. It isn’t in the best of shape, but a family member volunteered to help me recover the chairs, and I plan to paint them. (I couldn’t see the condition of the table.) The house has a dining room that lends itself to an oblong, oval table. This table is oval, and I am thrilled. A couple of chairs are missing, so I am on the lookout in the used market, but I won’t buy any until we are sure buying this house is going through.
  • My family wants me to have an old table that has been passed down for generations. It will go beautifully in one room, should we get this house. I’m keeping my eyes peeled on the used market for a few chairs, looking for something quirky and comfortable. Again, I won’t buy until we know the house is ours. A different home might not work with this table.
  • We will need a washer. Someone gave us a used dryer, free. I haven’t looked at washers at all.
  • We’ve been given a desk, dresser, little chair, and bookshelf. These we can use anywhere we live.
  • I’m waiting to buy other things because I want to be sure about spaces and needs. If we should end up not getting this house, I don’t want to have spent money on things with this specific house in mind—that might not fit a different house’s colors, spaces, etc.

Why am I sharing this? It’s because many people overspend. They buy things they really don’t need at the moment and may never use. A lot of people don’t shop around, either.

As a side note, when we lived in Spain, there was almost no second-hand market. Back when we moved to Spain in the 1980s, people would junk a whole room of furniture, just to buy new. After the financial problems of the early 2000s, we noticed this was less prevalent, but there still was almost no market for used home furnishings. I admit I’m enjoying the various consignment, re-sale stores, and used online forums in the United States.

Christians are supposed to be good stewards. After all, everything we have comes from the Lord.

Jesus said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Matthew 6:19-21, 25)

Then, Jesus described how he takes care of sparrows and lilies. He continued: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? I might add, “What shall we wash our clothes in or sit on?” For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:26, 32b-33).

I want have right priorities. It’s easy to get excited about moving into a new home. The temptation is to seek stuff. But, God promises to meet our needs when we put Him first. When I need better judgment? That’s something to pray for. Good ole practical James, Holy Spirit inspired, wrote: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).

I’m asking the Lord for a liberal dose of wisdom as we move forward.

What verses and principles guide you as you make buying decisions? Please feel free to share.

Are you immortal until it’s your time?

We’ve heard the sayings. “The safest place is in the will of God.” “You are immortal until it’s your appointed time.”

Are they true?

My husband and I served many years in a part of the world known for terrorism. Were we in the safest place? We knew we were in God’s will. Is the fact that our family was unharmed proof that this is true?

Are you immortal—until you die? I chuckle to myself about this saying. After all, the definition of immortal is “never dying” or “a being like a god or goddess.” Obviously, we don’t die until we die, but we all will die—or be raptured. No human being is a god, so that’s out, as well. Mortal speaks of the human condition, so we’re all mortals, not immortals.

As to “our time,” there seems to be a legitimate debate about it. The Bible does speak of our days being counted by an omniscient God. He sees the future as clearly as present and past, therefore, I’m not sure we can understand that some random date is the day we will pass away—and it can’t be changed.

How about accidents? Work accidents, traffic accidents, etc. happen all the time. A storm might cause a tree to fall on someone, or a wall may crumble.

What about sickness, causing a young person to die? Was it their appointed time?

I recently saw a post about a man who had been shot in multiple places. He will survive, Lord permitting. But, is that because it’s not yet “his time”? Was he in the “safest place” because he is a Christian? It seems not.

Many missionaries have been killed by the people they wanted to reach. Were they outside the will of God?

Of course not.

The truth is:

  • God knows our days. The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever (Psalm 37:18).
  • The Lord has a purpose for every life. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  • We are safe in Him. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).
  • He is our Refuge. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
  • Bad things happen to good people—even death. Hebrews 11 is full of examples.
  • A Christian’s death is a new beginning: absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (from 2 Corinthians 5:8).

The truth is:

  • If someone steps out in front of a truck, he might be killed.
  • When a teen eats a Tide pod or planks on a balcony, he might die.
  • Reckless driving kills.
  • If a person is “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he might be the victim of a fatal accident.
  • Natural disasters and diseases kill.

Christians are not immune to diseases or accidents. They are not immortal. Christians do not have a “get out of jail free” ticket for their lives. Christians suffer, just as other people do.

Faithful Christians will suffer persecution for their faith. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

But, Christians have a Savior. They have a Refuge. And, they are secure.

Do you know Jesus?

Are you secure?

You might enjoy reading this post about the gospel.

Do you think you’re beautiful? A biblical perspective on confidence and security

Some people take pictures of themselves seemingly every day. “Here I am again.” “Here I am in my new fall flannel.” “Today, I am posing with my friend.” “This is how I put on my makeup this morning. Don’t you love my new look?” And so on.

I actually enjoy the ones that are before and after pictures of losing weight. Good for them!

I even cheer for those who look cute just about every day. Yay for you!

But, behind the cheery, fashionable, facades, there’s usually a different picture—a needy picture. These people shout loud and clear, “I need affirmation. Notice me.”

Secure people forget to take pictures. They are busy serving others.

I realize that the makeup, dress, and hair people are selling products, and that’s why they are more public. For them it’s more about the need to sell than to be seen. This post is not about them.

Do you think you are pretty?

Is there a need in your life for affirmation? Do you want to be noticed?

Are you insecure?

There’s good news for everyone. Psalm 139 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, because it profoundly teaches about God’s design and purpose for every single person on this earth. Read with me. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. God owned us from conception. He actually oversees the formation of every human embryo in the womb.

The next verse is all the affirmation anyone needs. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. When’s the last time you looked into the mirror and—instead of scowling and looking for flaws—said, “Thank you, God for the wonderful way you made me”?

God tells how He forms each person in the womb according to His divine plan. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Obviously, the Psalmist David was not still in the womb when he wrote these words; he was an adult. Read what he knew because the Holy Spirit revealed it to him: How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee (Psalm 139:13-18).

Just as the Lord put thought and care into intricately forming your body, He thinks and cares for you all the time. If you are asleep, He is thinking of you. When you are awake, He thinks about you. How cool is that?

I believe most women feel insecure. A good grasp on these Bible verses will help us change the chip and accept the fact that God doesn’t make mistakes. He knows exactly why He made us the way He did, and there is divine purpose behind our bodies. We should praise Him.

A woman should also feel secure in the fact that He thinks about us all the time. We are not alone. God is there.

Have you ever thanked God for your body?

God is thinking about you and He never leaves you.

There’s more to this Psalm: O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest (surround) my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me (Psalm 139:1-5).

God knows whether we’re sitting or standing. He knows our thoughts. The Lord actually surrounds us on all sides—and lays His hand on us. He knows every word we say.

David’s conclusion? Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it (verse 6). I think this is biblical language for “Wow!”

Yes, just wow!

May God bless you today.

Alone: when you can’t visit Grandma

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a huge problem in nursing homes and retirement homes because of the corona virus measures. People cannot visit their loved ones, and when they do, sometimes they are separated by Plexiglas partitions. No hugs, no touching.

Those with Alzheimer’s and dementia are especially affected by these measures. They can’t understand what is going on. They even forget who their family members are.

And, they are dying. Alone.

Charles Caleb Colton said, “Sometimes a hug is worth a thousand words.” The meme I saw shows two Teddy bears hugging. How much more than a thousand words is a hug for someone who feels abandoned.

I read recently about a husband and wife who are only allowed to see each other something like once a week, and then, they have to be at a distance with a staff member sitting between them.

Something is terribly wrong.

People need their families. They need visits. Elderly people need caring and touching and love.

So do the rest of us, for that matter.

I understand that older people are more vulnerable to Covid19 than the young. They often have underlying health issues, and they’re physically weaker. It would be awful for them to get the virus.

But, it isn’t right for homes for the elderly to be closed off to visitors. It also isn’t right for people not to have any visitors in the hospital.

Social distancing—and I understand the logic behind it—isn’t normal, either.

Jesus physically touched lepers, blind, crippled, and the dumb. He reached out to them. He took the dead by the hand when He raised them. They felt His caring through His touch.

In the early church, people greeted each other with a holy kiss, just as we used to in our church in Spain. Hugs between brethren are normal. Pats on the back or touching an arm are good for us. They are encouraging, warm, and connecting (pardon the pun).

Please understand I am not advocating throwing out all health rules during a pandemic. But, there is a real problem—possibly even worse than the disease—when we can’t visit family, especially our elders.

I don’t know what solutions to advise either. Masks can be very confusing to a confused person. Probably a clear face shield would be better. Wash hands and surfaces. Make sure the staff is healthy. Do everything to keep our elderly people well. But, let them see their families. A huge part of geriatric health is mental health, feeling loved, and the warmth of family.

Someone suggested she would rather die and be with her spouse than to be separated and lonely.

Many people who had Covid and were in the hospital said the hardest part was the loneliness, going weeks without visitors. Several of my personal friends couldn’t visit their handicapped children for months. This is clearly not right.

I think that part of honoring our father and mother is visiting them in their old age.

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:32).

What do you think?

Any ideas on how to best handle this problem?

Have you or a loved one experienced this? Please feel free to share.