Multicultural Mamas: Ash

Ladies, I don’t know about you, but when I meet another mama that’s raising a family while celebrating more than one culture, I breathe a breath of fresh air. She gets me. She knows the struggles of “when do I speak English or Spanish/Arabic/Korean, etc.?”, “how will my kids be viewed by their peers?”,  and the everlasting argument in our household: “WHEN DO YOU OPEN CHRISTMAS GIFTS?” (obvs – Christmas morning 😉 

My heart’s desire is that this blog will be a platform to share other multicultural mamas’ stories – so we can learn together, pray for one another, and encourage each of us on our own unique journeys.

Today’s post is from my dear friend, Ash. We met at church a few years back and our daughters are only a few months apart. Ash’s story is such an inspiration – please be sure to check out her blog Love From Ash.

Ash + Family

I met my spouse through mutual friends. They were a Welsh couple that were of a parental age to both of us. They knew him for 10 years as he was their tenant here in the US. But they knew me in Canada where they came to enjoy their summer home.

At first they told me about him and I wasn’t interested. I loved Canada and didn’t feel like I wanted to go to another country to meet someone. But after 3 summers of their persistence, I agreed to let them introduce us. He was the first Ethiopian I met and I was the first Iraqi he’d ever got to know. We both left our countries and experienced what it was like to live in a foreign land.

We also both loved Jesus and shared a lot of the same values. I grew up in a nominal Muslim family and he grew up in a Christian Orthodox family. We both had to stand on our own two feet and leave the familiar within our family to follow Jesus (pick up our cross as it were). We both had our families reject our choices and then later accept us.

He met Jesus at age 14 on the streets of Ethiopia.  I met Jesus at age 18 in an Alpha course in England.  We both had our lives transformed by our encounters with Jesus.

We both came from cultures that did not encourage dating. We both wanted to wait for the right one to come along, but we both were not pro active in looking. We both trusted God that we will meet our future spouse if we wait on Him.

When I first met him in person for the very first time, he gave me a welcome hug, and for the first time in my life, I felt ‘home’.  That made me feel so much peace when I was with him.

Talking to him was so easy and he knew straight away I was the one. I didn’t know until after our wedding day, but that’s me, I doubt and question a lot. He on the other hand, once he makes up his mind, he just knows. I envy that about him.

I asked God to arrange an introduction for me, as my parents were not able to introduce me to eligible young men, as they were not Christians and did not have Christian friends. I had to trust God a lot, that He was leading me, and that He brought my spouse to me.

By saying I had to “trust a lot”, I mean that I doubted a lot and was always questioning whether this was God’s will or not.  I asked God for many signs. And He did give me many signs from seashells to dolphins and whales.

My friends were all for our relationship, but probably most of my doubts were a result of my spiritual parents not being around to meet him and to confirm to me that yes God is in fact bringing him into my life. I always imagined they would be there to do that very thing.

But they were not able to meet him due to their own personal problems which led to them moving away and not having the time to meet him online either. That was hard on me, as it made me have to decide for myself and trust that I’m hearing God for myself, which is always hard when it involves a matter of the heart.

So there we were both in our thirties taking a leap of faith (for me) and making a decision to love each other before our friends and our God.

Sometimes I wonder if we should have dated first, but by the time our first anniversary was here, we had said good bye to my mother who was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that took her life in a couple of months.  She was so happy at our wedding, so if for nothing else, I’m glad she was around for that.

In two weeks time, we’ll be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary and now I definitely know that I love him. I wasn’t in love with him on our wedding day, but I hoped that God would help me to grow to love him. What I did know on our wedding day, was that I loved his character.

I loved that he knew that he loved me. I loved that he knew I was the right one for him. I loved that he was always grateful to God for everything, and that he loved Jesus. I loved that he was cheerful and nothing phased him. I loved that he would be loyal to me. I did not doubt any of those things.

Most of our relationship was over Skype with a few in person visits in between. He came to Canada for the wedding, and then came back to the US and applied for me to come here as his spouse. It took 6 months before I got the spouse visa to come and join him.

So perhaps it was a blessing that I wasn’t too ‘in love’ those first 6 months as we were living apart, but I did look forward to his visits and that made my heart grow fonder each time.

In true perfect timing, I arrived in the US on a Saturday and found out the following Thursday that we were pregnant. I am so glad that we could share that experience in person together.

We have two kids, a daughter who will turn three in two more months, and a son that turned one 3 months ago. They are close in age but we are blessed to have one of each as we don’t have room for any more in our little home we were able to buy with God’s help.

I try to speak to the kids in Arabic during the day, but it is difficult as I speak to their dad in English along with all our friends. Still it is even harder for him to speak to them in Amharic. They only get to hear that once in a while. They are still young though, so we will keep trying. It is hard to find friends and resources that share our cultures but a few You Tube songs and kid videos can be found.

I cook Iraqi food at least twice a week so that is something and he cooks Ethiopian on special occasions 🙂

It definitely is a challenge to be a multi-cultural family living in place where most of your friends and work colleagues and TV are not either one of your cultures. You definitely have to make more of an effort. I am so fluent in English, that I myself, have to keep reminding myself to speak in Arabic with my kids, because without thinking about it, I would speak in English.

Our greatest joy as a family that shares multiple cultures is getting to know other families that share multiple cultures. (So we don’t feel alone and it is helpful when my daughter sees a friend speak to their parent in a language other than English). But best of all is knowing that our love for Jesus transcends all cultures.

 

Are you a multicultural mama that would be willing to share your story? Please be sure to contact me!

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Our Immigration Journey


immigration

We’re engaged!! That’s it – right? He asked and I said “¡Si!” 

The rest was meant to be “happily ever after” (or at least just overwhelming guest lists and cake flavor choices). But alas, for us, and any couple that come from different countries, engagement sets in motion the big questions of WHERE do we live and HOW do we make that possible?

Though we met in Mexico and love that country, we knew that starting our life in the United States (and tackling our immigration journey head on) would open up more doors later on in terms of giving us a choice in where we could live. The short-term sacrifices would lead to more long-term opportunities.

Most folks are taken aback when they learn that marriage ≠ automatic citizenship.

For us, the journey to citizenship lasted nearly six years – from submitting our first application to receiving his naturalization paperwork. Even just typing that one sentence makes it feel like a nice and neat process.

What we learned in those six years of mess, anguish, fear, and countless prayers made us grow up quicker – and closer. Here’s what it looked like:

  1. Fiance visa – 1 year wait (If you are engaged and plan to live in the United States, this visa allows your novio(a) to cross the border and then you have 90 days to get married #reallife90dayfiance)
  2. Temporary permanent residency – approx. 6 month wait (SUPER fast in immigration standards – BUT during that waiting period Karlos wasn’t allowed to drive, work, or leave the country. It was the most stressful step of the process!)
  3. Permanent residency – 2 year wait (If you become a a resident based on marriage, your first step is “temporary permanent residency”. You have to reapply after 2 years to have that temporary status removed and prove that you’re happily, legitimately married.)
  4. Citizenship – 1 year wait (If you became a resident based on marriage, you can apply for citizenship after 3 years of being a permanent resident. So you basically pay for the non-conditional permanent residency and then immediately pay for the citizenship process to begin).

Total cost: $2,680*

*That’s just the total to file the correct paperwork. It does not include any lawyer fees, travel costs to get the in-person interviews, required medical exams, loss of income during “wait times”, etc.

We could not have made it through those first six years without nuestra comunidad. The folks that…

…cheered us on and double checked our paperwork

…moved all our earthly possessions and filled our fridge when we were on our honeymoon

…hired Karlitos when he was finally able to work, but still just learning English

…let us sleep on their living room floor when we moved across the country

…(parents that understood that) we did not want to start a family until Karlos received his citizenship for the very real fear of deportation that so many families face on a daily basis

…church families and our CSM family that prayed over us for years – speaking truth, calming fears, and giving encouragement along the way

So many prayers, tears and cashier's checks went into the making of this photo!

So many prayers, tears and cashier’s checks went into the making of this photo!

From the moment we submitted our first round of paperwork to the moment Karlos received his US passport, three things have become glaringly clear – we are grateful that mi amor had a “line to wait in”, our current immigration system is broken, and we pray for reform of that system.

Throughout this journey, our paths have crossed with some amazing families, each having their own unique immigration story – whether having come to this country this generation or a few back.

What’s your family’s story?

The Worst Engagement Story Ever

The Worst Engagement Story Ever

We’ve been told that we have the “worst engagement story” ever.  It’ s so true.

But it’s also the best, because it’s ours.

Karlos was living in Mexico while we were dating. I was in California – transplanted from New England after college on a whim to stretch my wings and be just a tiny bit closer to mi amor.

Because of the distance, anytime we wanted to see one another, a 24 hour bus trip or flight was required. So, for our one year dating anniversary, we planned on meeting in a US-Mexico border city to celebrate and see one another after a six month stint of separation.

On the night of our anniversary, we headed to the fanciest restaurant we could find – L’Applebees. I know – jealousy ensues when I mention both sports bar and fine burgers.

We shimmied into our booth and our unsuspecting waiter grabbed our drink orders. We chit chatted and then the conversation took a pretty serious turn. Karlos started asking some tough (albeit, necessary) questions…

“Do we know each other well enough to get married?”

“Do we have enough money?”

“What if I’m not granted a visa to move to the US?”

You know – all the important questions every couple gets to talk about over the course of months. Here we were processing them within an hour in Applebees. My heart started beating a mile a minute.

What’s he getting at?? I flew all this way…and invested all this time…and fell madly in love with you…just for you to break up with me over some endless fries?!

Then it got worse: “I need to tell you something…but I can’t tell it to you while looking you in the eyes. Can you please close your eyes?”

I close my eyes and clench my fist.

“I don’t want you to be my novia anymore…

…abre tus ojos…”

I open my eyes ready to cry/scream/faint/slap…all the crazy things…

and see him holding a ring box.

“Quiero que seas mi esposa.”

“I want you to be my wife.”

And with that, fear & anger was replaced with joy & celebration. All the big scary questions remained on the table and we continued to process them through our engagement, but the course was set and we journeyed towards the altar together.

 

What’s your engagement story? Did you or your spouse almost get slapped?