Why My Kids Are God’s Grace In This Season

IMG-20190131-WA0004

Have you ever gone through a pretty significant transition as a family and found yourself thinking, “Man! Doing this with kids is HARD?” Yeah? Well, it has actually never crossed my mind. I love every minute of going through transition with our kids. Like when I come home dead tired after getting lost in a city I don’t know while running errands in a language we are still learning, only to find kids that need discipline. Or when I want to retreat in the downswing of culture shock to process all the change, but my kids are needing me to process their own emotions as they, too, go through change. Yah, it’s super sweet. 😉

No, but really. Going through change with young kids, especially cross culturally, IS hard. The constant demands of caring for them paired with culture shock makes for a great deal of stress. We have done this whole gig without kids and it’s another story entirely (though admittedly, with it’s own set of hard).

And yet, moving with kids has been God’s grace to us. Here are a few ways I see the blessing they are to us in this season:

  1. When you transition with family, you bring your own little home with you. Even when your new house doesn’t feel like home, and you still don’t have “safe” friends that you can be yourself with, you have your husband and children with you – the people that know & love you best.
  2. Children help you live life in community. They introduce you to new friends through their friends at school or in the neighborhood. Having kids forces you out of isolation – their need to burn energy takes you to the park; their need for friends helps you remember you need friends too; and, their cuteness breaks down walls & ice with neighbors.
  3. You get to experience the new city or country twice – through your eyes and theirs.
  4. Having kids pushes you to keep doing hard things necessary to create a life in your new community when maybe you’d take a break. For example, my girls really enjoy going to church.  Even though I love worshipping God with His people, sometimes going to church is hard work for me in this season, because of significant language barrier. There have been times I am tempted to stay home. Knowing how much they want to be there is a sweet encouragement to me. The discipline of showing up Sunday after Sunday to a worship service in a foreign language is yielding fruits in my heart. There is a knowing & being known happening that in turn deepens love for God’s people in this place. This gives Him glory. I will write more about this soon.
  5. God uses my kids to build up my faith. He uses their endurance to grow my own. Their courage in the face of hard things is life- giving to me. Christ really knows what he is doing with them.
  6. Having little people’s needs to care for ahead of my own is God’s mercy to me. Their vulnerability and neediness drives me to the end of myself very quickly. When life gets hard, and I want to seek strength by myself, Christ draws me to Himself as the one who alone is my strength.
  7. Finally, kids – they keep you laughing. And man, the Lord knows how much we have needed laughter in the middle of all the crazy.

Christ’s faith in us gives us eyes to see God really is kind in all his ways. His wisdom planned this transition & language learning season with kids. It is challenging and yet also His good gift. I look forward to getting more perspective into all He is doing in us during this time. And yet the trustworthiness of God assures me of this: goodness & mercy will follow us as a family every single day of our lives.

I’d love to hear from you. What are some ways you see God’s gift to you in your kids during challenging times?

Advertisements

(A) Typical Woman – Book Review

a-typical-woman-photoshopped

Have you ever thought, “I’m not a typical woman?” I have. I remember many years ago, not “getting” what was so great about being a woman. Somehow my idea of womanhood was tied to doing things with my hands like baking and crafts. But I didn’t think I was good at those things. I was more drawn to “heady” things (nerdy things you might say) like theology and philosophy. I thought men’s conversations were “typically” more stimulating.

The Lord was very gracious to me and through a process that involved the gospel, faithful mentoring, and rich redemptive-historical theology, I embraced God’s design for womanhood. I didn’t embrace womanhood as a gospel, as the good news. But the more I fell in love with Christ and His gospel, I was glad the Lord had made me a woman. His purpose for womanhood was to tell the world something about Himself that men alone could’t do. I was a woman by Him and for Him.

Over the years, the Lord has continued to sharpen my theology on womanhood. More recently, Abigail Dodd’s book, (A)Typical Woman was helpful in that process.  I appreciate many things about it but what sets this book apart is Abigail’s emphasis on the fact that Christian women are women who are one with Christ. She fleshes out the significance of this reality and its implications for every woman. This is a message that the Church sorely needs. We need to know what it means and why it matters that we are women who have truly died and are entirely new in Christ Jesus. 

The book has three sections:

Women Through and Through – In Christ

Women in All We do – In Christ

Fearless and Free Women – In Christ

In these sections she talks about different aspects of womanhood as married, singles, moms, working and disciplers. She digs into what it means we are embodied women and wholly women. Those chapters were beautifully written and moved me deeply. She also explains what she means by (a)typical women… I won’t tell you what it is, though. I’ll let you find out for yourself. 🙂

You may have read many books on Christian womanhood but I think this book will still challenge you. It will spark rich conversation that our churches need. Chapters are relatively short and each chapter ends with discussion questions. Maybe you can grab a friend or two use and use those discussion questions to explore the topics found there.

While this book is a very comprehensive view on womanhood, it is not exhaustive. I wish Abigail had had space to develop some ideas more fully.  She doesn’t engage too much with possible positions or interpretations of passages that differ from her perspective. She is gracefully bold and in some ways counter cultural (maybe even within the church). I am thankful for her faith.

Friend, I think you will sense that these words were penned by a woman who delights deeply in Christ and it will make you long to know Him like she does. Her delight will overflow in making your own heart glad in Christ. It did for me. It led me to worship Him and to glory in who He is. It renewed my joy that I exist as a woman for Him. I praise you, infinite Christ, that I am in you and you in me. What a mystery…what a glorious hope!

There are so many quotes I wish I could share with you but I will leave you with this one:

“When we participate in Christ’s death, we die, every bit. It isn’t that the sinful part of us dies and the nonsinful part endures, so that on the other side we’re still us but with a makeover. There is no nonsinful part. And on the other side, having been raised with Christ, we aren’t still us. We are entirely new, entirely in Christ.”

Go get the book and read the whole thing! It will make you want to be an atypical woman for all the right reasons.

A Journey Back in Song

We are leaving the UAE in 3 days. For almost 3 years, this country has been our home. Father brought us here, brought me here, to continue remaking me after Christ. He has used so much – people, conversations, trials, disappointment, joy, temptation, the birth of our son – to reveal my heart, to feed my hope on the Resurrection, to delight in being one with Jesus… to give me more of Christ.

Something this week made me want to look back on the songs that God used at key points to minister to me these past 3 years. Re-listening to them this morning brought back such strong memories of specific moments in this journey. Through them I can see where I was on the journey at different times: excited and hopeful, weary and broken, rested and comforted, tempted and failing, steadfast and full of faith. They remind me what I needed from the Lord and how He was so faithful to comfort, encourage and strengthen my faith every step of the way.

I tend to listen to songs over and over again. These are my most-listened songs during our time in the UAE.  I thought it’d be fun to collect them all in one place.

 

 

 

What We Gained from Losing a Bike

Today we are starting to sell/get rid of all our things, getting ready for our move next month. So yesterday, we went around the house saying goodbye to the things we love. At first it seemed like a funny thing we were doing. The girls were very amused by the exercise.

“Bye, couch…!” Giggles.

“Mom, that’s so funny! Couches can’t talk!”

“Bye fridge!!” More laughter.

20180317_141009

But then, we got to their bikes. Our four year old melted in my arms, completely devastated. “I can’t keep my bike?!” Her voice broke down. “But I LOVE my bike! It’s my birthday bike. I really wish I could bring it on the airplane….” All this between sobs. It was one of the hardest moments we have had as parents. We knew it would be hard. Ethan and I had already pre-grieved this loss earlier this week. But seeing her walk through it was heart-breaking. We sobbed with her.

20180317_141628

At the same time, beauty blossomed in front of my eyes. My husband held her for a long time. And she spontaneously prayed, “thank you, Father for giving me my bike…”

It’s funny how God knows the ways I need to grow up as a mom. I have been dreading these last moments here in this city. I wish I could keep my kids from hurting, but if I did, I wouldn’t see this: their child – like trust in God or the beautiful picture of a Father that embraces us and hold us in our grief.

20180317_141900

I wouldn’t hear my oldest daughter say, “We get to stay together as a family. It’s like we get to bring our house with us wherever we go.”

I wouldn’t see God giving them the faith to say, “I’ll have more adventures on another cool bike.”

Yesterday, God grew my faith for this new transition. He’s not only asking us to walk through it, but He is really carrying us into it. He is creating something beautiful in us as a family in the midst of loss. And He is giving us something far better than bikes, and friends forever and a grief-less childhood:

My girls are tasting the comfort of the Father.

I am seeing Jesus living His life in me, giving me His own child-like trust to entrust our family to my Papa in Heaven.

Our whole family is learning to live inside the much bigger Story we are part of.

After all, He is worthy.

Better Than Dipping My Toes

I have never liked January (if this is your birthday month, sorry!), and I am not sure exactly why. I don’t like January probably in the same way I don’t like Mondays and that I am not a morning person. And probably why I love Thursdays and my favorite time of day is dusk.

To me January feels like dipping my feet in the ocean, testing out the temperature to see if I want to get in. But unlike deciding whether I want to get in or not, I can’t really decide whether I get into the New Year. And so I usually just “get into” it, dreading that I have no choice but go in.

abbie-bernet-251310 (1)
Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Maybe it is just another way that perfectionism has trickled into my life. I would much rather finish something than start it.  This dislike may also be another way of looking inward – of figuring out whether I have what it takes to do something and do it well.

This year, especially this first quarter, feels more like an ending than a new beginning. We are moving from this country in May, which means we have about 4 months left here. We need to plan our move to another country, as well as our summer back in the US. We long to care for our family and love others well as we do this.

We are exhausted (“Aylín is barely making it” my husband wrote to a friend this week) ‘cause baby. ‘Cause sickness. ‘Cause post partum hormones. ‘Cause church planting. ‘Cause we have 3 littles. ‘Cause we have been culture-shocking and in transition for about 2.5 years and about to go through another round of it.

If I look inward I already know I don’t have what it takes to get into this year. But still the year begins. We have change ahead with lots of unknowns. And lots of goodbyes. Then transition to new beginnings and a new way of life.

Fresh start is not exactly what comes to mind when I think about January. Fresh strength, however, does come to mind because it is what we need, not what we have.

In desperately obsessing about my need for rest and fresh strength earlier this week the Lord took me to Isaiah 40: 31: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” I had read this verse before. But this time it took me by surprise: that the way to fresh strength is waiting? I personally want to do something about it. “Where can we go to rest? What plans do we need to make it happen?” That’s what I kept wondering this week.

Waiting can also be draining. And yet the Lord calls the one who is fainting and weary to wait. Wait for Him. Reading the whole chapter helped me to understand the logic of God in that verse.

Behold the One You’re Waiting For

Isaiah 40 is God’s comfort to His people who are in exile. He comforts them by setting their gaze and their hope in their God and in the cosmic display of His glory. The Lord would come as a mighty King, a generous Rewarder and as a gentle Shepherd. All flesh would see Him.

He can’t be compared to anything they could think of. His power, His understanding, His wisdom are unsearchable. They might feel as if God had forgotten them, could not see them. But Isaiah reassured them their way was not hidden from their God. He is the everlasting God, He created even the ends of the earth, hidden to everyone but Him. He had all the power to deliver them because He doesn’t faint or grow weary.

He is completely trustworthy. He shows up at just the right time. He is an endurance-producing God. The way to fresh strength is waiting for this God.

From this side of the Cross, I know that the cosmic display of the glory of the Lord was revealed at the Cross, when Christ, the Servant of the Lord was lifted up. The Mighty King used His might to die and to atone for our sins; the Rewarder received God’s punishment in our place. The Gentle Shepherd became the Lamb of God, silent before its shearers. And praise God, his death was not the end of His life. He saw the offspring He fathered through his death. His days were prolonged (Isaiah 53: 10).  He rose to everlasting life.

Behold your Champion

Christian courage is active faith in the strength of Another. While perfectionism would have me look inward for strength (leading me to feel faint), the Lord has me find strength by beholding the Lamb of God.

I see Him seated at the right hand of God, governing History (including my little life) with all authority to accomplish His purposes. He is there, praying for me. He will never grow weary of completing the good work He started in me and in the world.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a FIFA Club World Cup match here in our city. The teams, Mexico against Brazil, were competing for second place. The stadium was vibrant as the fans cheered the players on, especially awesome loud Brazilians with their drums and chants. (It was the closest I have felt to my country and the most alive I have felt in a very long time). I was struck by how invested they were in every play. Their energy was contagious. The players were on the field and the spectators were at the edge of their seats, excitedly watching their every move. It occurred to me that this is how the witnesses of Hebrews 12 must be.

They have gone before and are right now cheering us on as we race on to the finish line. They see us facing temptation, difficulty, discouragement and all kind of opposition. And they whistle and shout and carry us on – “You can do it!! Keep going! The end is near! It is so worth it! And Jesus – oh man, Jesus is SO worthy!!”

What blows me away is to see Christ as the main witness in Hebrews. He is at the head of the trail since He blazed it for us as our forerunner. There is a Man in Heaven guaranteeing my victory, because as my Champion, He went there ahead of me (Heb. 6: 20). “You can do it, because I did it for you and in you!”

It is for this tireless, victorious, promise-keeping God that I wait.

So it is another day and I only slept 3 hours…again! I wait for the Lord.

We have weighty decisions ahead of us and we are not sure what is best for our family. We wait for the Lord.

My nursing baby is still feeding multiple times every night which means sleep is short. Interrupted. I wait for the Lord.

We have lots of things to do before we move internationally in 4 months. We wait for the Lord.

My kids are sick. Weren’t they just sick? I wait for the Lord.

I am going through transition feeling weak and vulnerable in more than one way. I wait for the Lord.

We look ahead to the year and we don’t know how we will make it through. We wait for the Lord.

Will we even see the fruit of all this effort and uprooting? We wait for the Lord.

I am not dipping my toes into this  year. My Strength is coming and carrying me into it. And that is infinitely better.

What are you waiting on God for? In what specific ways does His worth encourage your heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy-sharing, Vol. 2 – My favorite reads in 2017

Full disclosure: This year was the first in a while that I read so consistently.

The first part of the year I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and I felt like I had no capacity to read or process. I watched lots of Hallmark Christmas movies posted on YouTube. But at some point, I don’t remember how, the Lord nudged me to begin reading again. And once I started, I couldn’t quite stop.

I am so thankful for my Kindle (maybe possibly my favorite toy?) for a few reasons:

  1. The built-in light allows me to read at night without bothering my  husband. So when I was awake during those sleepless 3rd trimester nights, and later nursing, I would read.
  2. I can get books either on Amazon or through my library in the States. I don’t feel as limited by the fact that I don’t have as many options available here as I did back home.
  3. I can carry it with me easily and read while I am waiting in different places.

Now on to my picks! If you are my friend and have a kindle, I would be so happy to loan any of these books to you!

First pick – Love that it is written by an Anglican. She has a different framework than mine to think about life. I welcome that. I don’t usually reread books and yet found myself with this one going back to think through some of her insights.
20171231_1251211094103525.png
My second pick. And quite honestly could have easily been my first. This book was thought provoking and gave me insights into our homemaking God that I had never considered. Jen melted my heart with beautiful pictures of a servant, homemaking, feast-preparing God.
I really enjoyed reading this book memoir by these two ladies and again – a framework different than mine enriches my perspective.
A writing Memoir – Need I say more?
I really loved how this book is part memoir. But my favorite thing about it is how Anderson kept fixing my gaze on Christ and his humility. I journalled through some of the chapters as it helped me process my life. It is beautifully and honestly written. Probably my 3rd pick 🙂
20171231_124836374983568.png
I really enjoyed reading this book about this traveling family. Now I want to go to New Zealand.
I am not quite done with this book but have been savouring every single chapter. There is no truth that buoys my hope as this one: I am one with Christ. Wilbourne’s writing is compelling, clear and what he shares thrills my heart again and again.

This year I am hoping to double the amount of books I read – sharing this because accountability. I am hoping to do that by trying different things:

  1. Read two books at the same time: non-fiction and fiction.
  2. I deleted a few apps from my phone that I use too much and can distract me from reading.
  3. I am planning to listen to more books on audio – especially fiction books. (Listening to non-fiction doesn’t work as well for me).

What are some books you read in 2017? What do you do to make time for reading? 

 

Paradox at Christmas

This Christmas, as a global nomad, joy looked like…

… being able to decorate the same house for Christmas two years in row (we’ve moved a few times the last two years so this was a sweet gift)

…having both sets of grandparents visit us during the holidays

…receiving packages from dear friends with pumpkin spice coffee, peppermint candy canes, clothes, stickers, red and green chocolate chips — so. much. love!

…opening up our home to friends from all over the world for our traditional chocolate fondue

…baking Christmas cookies with fellow TCK buddies

…doing a cookout at the park with grandparents

…fall and winter scented candles that made home in the US feel a little closer

…practicing Advent with our girls

…slowly rebuilding our Christmas ornament collection with handmade, bought and gifted ornaments (because we didn’t bring any from the US)

…going to the zoo in 80’s weather

…holding Wes – I carried him inside me most of the year and the thrill of having him in my arms doesn’t get old.

…listening to City of David by Gray Havens and Emmanuel by Caroline Cobb

…being able to drink dairy free hot chocolate mix from clean ingredients (not always easy to find here – especially clean coconut powdered milk !)

…Feasting with fellow expats in our home even if the reason for feasting is that two of them are moving away.

…enjoying rain in the desert after 8 months of no rain.

But in the paradox of life we know joy co-exists with sorrow…

…Wesley began his first Christmas throwing up and ended the day at the hospital getting checked for a fever and a cough (thankful it wasn’t pneumonia)

…having my parents here for Christmas meant my family in the DR didn’t get to be with them

…sending Christmas gifts back with grandparents to sisters and brothers and niece and nephew meant one more Christmas that we are not together

…enjoying amazing weather here means missing snow there

…living in a country where the majority of people don’t celebrate Christmas is a tangible reminder I don’t live in my birth country nor my passport country (which are not the same for me!).

…we are moving in 4.5 months which means this is not only our second Christmas in the same house and same city but also our last.

…every time we enjoy sweet community here we are painfully reminded we are soon leaving community behind once more. Ethan and I find ourselves mourning this often.

…the day after Christmas I hugged my parents goodbye, with my heart breaking & tears flowing as I did so.

Paradox at Christmas is just as it should be. Christ’s first coming was filled with paradox. When Simeon saw Christ in the temple, he both rejoiced and prophesied sorrow. Even as he praised God when he saw the long awaited salvation of God’s people, he also told Mary that this baby that she had just delivered, and who would deliver her, would do so at a great cost to her. “A sword will pierce through your own soul.” The same baby would bring judgement to some and exaltation to others (Luke 2: 34-35).

His second coming will also be filled with paradox. What will mean glory for all those who have longed for his appearing, will mean wailing for those who pierced him. While His children sing, His enemies will bow in terror (Rev. 1: 7).

Growing up, Christmas was such a joy but once death entered our family through the death of my grandpa & later my cousin’s, Christmases were never the same. Since then, unfulfilled desires, sickness, separation from loved ones and homesickness have been unwanted guests that expose brokenness especially at Christmas.

I am so glad we practiced Advent again this year. For the first time in a long time I did not resent that Christmas was polluted with grief.  It just heightened the reality that I am a woman in waiting. The small story of my life is simply joining the history of the world. I am doing what history has always been doing: groaning as it waits for one of the two comings of Jesus.

The beauty and comfort of being one with Christ is that I am not on my own as I wait for Christ’s return. Emmanuel, God with us, has come. And through His Spirit, He has come to me. By taking on flesh, Jesus took on my sins and my sorrows and made them His very own. As I wait, I do so knowing He is for me and with me.

“We can’t be reminded enough that though Christ is physically present in heaven, he is spiritually present with all those who are in him (1 John 5: 20). To belong to Christ means to have His Spirit, and to have His Spirit means having the risen, ascended, reigning Christ within you, wherever you are.” (Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ)

Practicing Advent helped me to fix my gaze – and my hope- past Christmas to the Resurrection and the return of my King and Brother. The deep desire of my heart is that Jesus is known, loved and worshiped all over the world. Because I love Him, I hasten his return by living a godly and holy life wherever I am (2 Peter 3: 12).

Christmas is a joy not because it is filled with undiluted joy. It is a joy because it testifies that just as the Incarnation truly happened, He is certainly coming back again. Because of Christmas, I am waiting for and hastening the coming of Resurrection in clouds of great glory.

What were some of the paradoxes of your life this Christmas? What are specific ways that the return of Christ comforts you, emboldens you and gives you hope as you live in paradox?

 

Picture by Ginger Ivey PhotographyView More: http://gingeriveyphoto.pass.us/merck