Lori Doutrich (Part 2)
Moving every two to three years around the world as a family in the Foreign Service is both challenging and rewarding. Lori Doutrich, our guest again this month, talks about how God has met their needs, including friends and schools. She shares what she's learned about identity as a result of struggling to find purpose and employment, and why she appreciates the embassy community.
How does your family adjust to moving around the world so much, since your husband is in the Foreign Service? Has anything in the Bible helped?
Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21 KJV).My family changes addresses every two or three years. So knowing that the "kingdom of God is within" helps me know that God is right here, meeting my family's every need.
Part of these needs include friends and school. Being new isn't easy, but my children do always find friends. I pray that God will lead them to the right people; and I've been grateful that God has always met their need. I do pray each time we move for the right school for them. I look for what's best for them, and it's not what the school looks like. I pray with the story of Solomon, who asked God for an understanding heart – understanding where my children are going to bless the most and be blest the most.
We had a really good example of this when we lived in Uruguay. My husband and I decided not to enroll the children in the American school, since we wanted them immersed in the culture and language. It's been important to me to raise my kids bilingually. When I checked out the local school, it was not the prettiest, and not the nicest, but it seemed like it had everything that a parent and teacher could want. It ended up being a blessing. We all got to know the culture through the eyes of our children, their playmates, and the school. It's a good lesson to learn – not to go necessarily with the best human picture.
What are some of the challenges of moving from country to country?
Each time I go to a new country, I feel like I have to re-identify myself. It's not easy. My husband has his job; my kids have their school; but I always seem to have to find my purpose, figure out what I'm going to do, and apply for new jobs. I really have to trust God.
Were you thinking your identity was tied to your job?
Yes, I was. It was important to me to be with my children when they were young, but when they started full-time school, I struggled with what to do with myself. I love the idea of working part time, and I have been blessed with opportunities to do that. I often found teaching jobs but have also worked as an Admin Assistant, an event coordinator, and a Community Liaison Coordinator.
When we returned to the States from Tunis, it was clear to me that I shouldn't work – that I needed some healing time after the attack on the U.S. Embassy to find peace again. I needed to focus on my children and myself to make sure we had fully adjusted to this sudden change of life. It was a time for me to be alone with my thoughts, with God. This time helped me feel at peace with the fact that I was going to be a single parent for awhile and know that God would provide the parental guidance and companionship I needed until my husband came home.
Gradually this led to what I love to do – giving back to church and praying for the world. I've been taking one day at a time and asking God, "What do You want me to do today?" without feeling a sense of burden with all that must be done as a parent. As I learn more about spiritual living, I'm realizing that my sense of identity doesn't necessarily mean having a job. I'm really trying to be a blessing without feeling that I have to work at a job to be that blessing.
Are there any Bible stories or passages that have been particularly helpful?
The phrases "with God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26) and "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt 6:33 KJV) have been really helpful to me in my travels. I've seen that I can trust God with my desires – parental guidance, right activity, a sense of completeness or recognizing my spiritual identity or purpose. It's all about putting God first, giving God my all. Then all things are possible to God.
What have you enjoyed about living abroad in so many different countries?
The embassy community is very close-knit, so I feel like I'm welcomed into a family right away. We all know it's only for a short time, so we move through the superficial straight to the automatic family and community. It's always hard to say goodbye, but I know we're going to meet more wonderful people and make new friends wherever we go.
I feel that when we're abroad, we have more time for family than we do when we're back in the Washington, D.C. area where we seem so busy. So we cherish our time together. Our friends are always changing, but our family is the same.
Some couples have hobbies or sports they like to do together. Ours is the Foreign Service. My husband and I enjoy planning together. It takes teamwork to move each time. I know some couples can't do this and end up divorced because it's too difficult on one of the spouses. So I feel very blessed to have Jack as my husband. We enjoy the adventure each time, we communicate and work together, and we're aware of each others' needs. He knows what's important to me. For example, each year I go to a spiritual retreat. There's no argument. It's a matter of respect for each other. God has kept us together, even in the midst of aggressive mob attacks.