James and Ellie serve with Wycliffe and live in Malaga Spain.
Spanish Winter (update from out newsletter)
Our ‘normal’ holiday season is often one of newness and transition. This was our 4th Christmas being married and we celebrated it living in our 4th country. In fact for James, he has only been in Texas for the Holiday’s once since 2012. So even though COVID made Christmas really different, different is what we are most accustomed to. Thank you all who sent Christmas cards. It was so enjoyable to see many of you on our mantle.
As with many places in the world Spain has had ebbs and flows with restrictions and COVID response. For the second time in a few months we are confined to our small town, have curfews from 10p-8a, are only allowed 4 people in a house and most non-essential businesses are closed. This certainly impacts our social and fun side of life but we have learned to enjoy our quiet evenings. Since much of our work was already virtual it seems to be the most consistent part of our lives.
Next Month James celebrates 10 Years with Wycliffe. It has been a joy and privilege to represent you, our partners, in this global ministry through counseling, teaching, leading and caring for people from around the globe. He has been able to counsel people from over 32 different countries and lead workshops and trainings all over the world. Thank you for your love, prayers and support over the last decade. May God bless you as you have us.
James Update (Feb 2021)
Since work has been the most consistent part of my life, much is the same. I do virtual counseling, lead a team of staff care providers, consult leaders on staff issues, develop strategy and look for new ways to support our staff. I started a podcast called “Shop Talk with Brandi and James” in which a colleague and I discuss issues related to Mental Health and cross cultural workers.
I continue to create ways to build community among our staff and publish new material regularly. Here is a blog post I wrote for the organization on the ongoing Mental Health Effects of COVID.
One of my tasks has been around conversations of team health and I have invited my Father-in-law’s company Group Dynamix to lead a leadership team I am on through some virtual team building. It is so fun to partner with family and a great company. Feel free to check out Group Dynamix for your own virtual teams.
I did not grow up playing football but have enjoyed getting to be a part of a team here and am now the starting middle linebacker. It is a great opportunity to work on my Spanish and get in shape. Hopefully I will end the season in one piece.
Ellie (Feb 2021)
As the new year began, several projects and opportunities have come my way. It’s so exciting to dig in! I am currently in the first year of my Spiritual Direction course, Deepen. It has been an exciting way to grow, experience God more deeply, and learn how to companion others. This week I am helping facilitate a virtual “spiritual refreshment” retreat. What an honor it is to care for weary cross-cultural workers during this challenging season.
I have been leading community connecting times for single women who are isolated during, and because of, the Pandemic. I am also delighted to share that I’m helping SentWell publish a workbook for cross-cultural workers who are moving back to their country of origin.
Of course…still studying Spanish, going on bike rides, and doing puzzles;)
Working Virtually – 6 Steps for success
I normally work from home so the rest of the world is joining my normal reality. The nice part is you get to dress like a mullet business half and fun half. Here are some tips for working from home, especially during the current crisis
- Create an office space. If you work from home or even a shared space, developing some physical boundaries for work will help you maintain life boundaries from work. That way when it’s time to ‘work’ you do it from the ‘work’ space and when work is over you leave it in the physical office space. It will help prioritize work staying at ‘work’ and home life not being interrupted. It will require practice in not allowing work things to infiltrate other parts of your house and life. An example will be if it’s an work email, only answer it from the ‘office’ location.
- Find opportunities for “virtual” connecting. Working so far apart means its worthwhile to try and find unique opportunities to connect in-person with teammates or like-minded workers whenever possible. Because of social distancing it means using things like: facetime, whastapp, zoom, skype, Marco polo. Use these virtual means to connect with work and non-work people. You may have to initiate but its worth it.
- Maintaining Margin or Work/Life Balance. Even the most structured among us may have difficulty keeping all of our daily tasks in the right category. Margin means having extra time in the week that isn’t planned but open. That way when things do come up they can take ‘work’ time in the ‘office’ and not disrupt the rest of one’s life. It may be worth recording how many actual hours are worked in a week (remember anytime answering emails is work time). Schedule in breaks from work – espcially if your families are all at home too. Play a game, do family exercise time, read a book or follow #2 and call someone.
- Time on Computers. This is more of a warning. Since computers are intrinsically linked to working remotely it important to be careful about the overall time spent on one. It would be a worthwhile activity to measure the time on a computer/tablet/phone over the course of a week. This would include any non-work activities on these devices. Then figure out a healthy amount of time in a day or week and limit your usage to those times.
- Fast/Retreat. Take time away technology and work. This means a break from all technology for certain amounts of time. This could be connected to quiet time, personal retreat or silent retreat. Regardless, replace that time with something that is good for you mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally. As a community, lets hold each other accountable to being healthy individuals.
- Take Care of your health. One of the best ways to avoid illness or be prepared if you get sick is to be as healthy as possible. Increase immune boosting nutrient dense foods. Use time at home to try new recipes or swap ideas. Exercise either going outside or in your home. Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. Other things like vitamins or supplements can be helpful.