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.
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!