Who Said We Have to Grow Up?

When my husband and I were in university we went to the same church. I would mostly gravitate to ladies older than me. My husband (who was then just a friend) would mostly hang out with their kids. I thought he was too goofy; he thought I was too serious.

The truth is, I have always wanted to grow up (just ask my childhood friends). I have always prided myself in being thought of as “mature.” My friends were often older than me. A perfectionist most of my life – I wanted to grow up because I thought I would make fewer mistakes, I would know more, would have more experience. I didn’t want to fail. And I definitely wanted to finish strong.

That’s all great and all except that getting older has made me see how weak I actually am:

  • In my singleness, I struggled to be joyful and fearless as I faced loneliness and unmet longings.
  • In getting married and moving away from my family, country and home, I struggled with insecurity and jealousy.
  • In motherhood I went through post partum depression. I was shocked to discover my faith was not as strong as I thought it was.
  • In moving overseas, I have seen how demanding, faithless, proud, and self-centered I am.

Tonight, I listened to Susan Hunt speak on finishing well at the Revive 17 conference. (Do yourself a favor and go listen to it – so very precious!) I was moved to tears when she said, “Finishing strong means finishing weak.” This is so counter intuitive to the way I naturally think. To my flesh, to be weak and to finish weak seems like some kind of failure.

As my awareness of my weakness has become clear to me, I have discovered a deep seated fear of failure in my heart. But meditating in the relationship between the Father and the Son, I am finding the confidence I need to overcome that fear.

The Father’s Delight 

Right before Jesus’ public ministry started, the Father spoke these words in his baptism, “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew writes that immediately after that, the Spirit drove Jesus to be tempted and in the first temptation Satan attacked His sonship. “If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus’ response was, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4: 4).

Empowered by the words that had just come from the mouth of God -“this is my Son, whom I love”- Christ overcame temptation. I am so thankful for the Spirit’s intention in connecting both stories. He wants us to know Jesus lived on those words. His Father’s love and delight grounded his whole life and ministry.

The Father’s delight was not dependent on the Son’s performance. Christ’s ministry was driven not by a fear of failure but by an unshaken confidence in his Father. Such was his child-like dependence on his Abba that He was able to entrust Himself to His Father and finish his earthly ministry in what must have seemed to the naked eye like the weakest way possible. But loved by His Dad, Christ knew better. He was sure of His Father’s commitment to keep Him and that He wouldn’t be left in death (Acts 2: 38).

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A Tiny Shadow

I adore my newborn son. I don’t love him for what he does. It is actually his helplessness that endears him to me. I love him just because he is mine.

My heart for my son is but a tiny shadow of the Father’s love for me:

I have upheld you since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you (Isaiah 46: 3-4).

Why do I think I need to grow up? My Daddy in Heaven tells me that in the same way a mother carries and sustains the life of her needy, tiny and dependent newborn, he will sustain and carry me through my life.

Content To Be A Little Girl

Susan finished her talk by asking: “what does it feel to be an old lady?” With a twinkle in her eye, she responded:

“It feels like a tired, very dependent, very happy little girl being carried in the arms of her father. And she is calling to her friends, ‘Look how strong and how good my daddy is.’ And she knows that when she falls asleep in the arms of her Father she will wake up at home.”

Christ’s child-like trust enables my own. To walk well and finish well is to never outgrow my neediness and to ceaselessly boast in the power of my Keeper. As I look ahead to raising my kids, to learning a difficult language, to facing all kinds of ministry challenges, to being weak and yes, even to failure, I firmly hold my confidence. I glory in being just a little girl – my Father’s little girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joy-sharing: Helpful Resources on Union with Christ (Vol. 1)

Over the past two years I have been reading and learning more about union with Christ. For a recovering perfectionist with strong introspective tendencies, it has been very life-giving to become a serious student of the One who is perfection. Jesus has, by a ridiculous act of grace to a very undeserving sinner, bound His life to mine forever. To know Him and Him crucified has become the obsession of my soul. Here are a few articles, sermons, interviews and a song that have helped me in my study of this glorious reality.

Union Theology

This website is chock-full of articles and other resources.

Michael Reeves’ talks on union with Christ

This is the first of 3 talks by M. Reeves. These talks had many thought-provoking insights into union with Christ. One of the things I love about Reeves is that this is not academic for him. He truly enjoys God and you can tell by the way he passionately talks about him. Check other things by him on that website.

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Michael Reeves interview on Union with Christ 

You can read the whole interview (please do yourself a favor and do read it). Here’s a little excerpt (just to whet your appetite) about the mind-blowing covenant union Christ has made with us:

“Paul says: This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christians and the Church. He is saying that the relationship that the Church has with Christ is a marital union. And actually Martin Luther used this image as the first way in which he articulated his reformation discovery in 1520. He used marriage to explain the gospel to the world for the very first time properly. It is in a little work called The Freedom of the Christian. And he said what happens is this. It is rather like the story of a great king marrying a harlot. And what happens is this harlot can’t make herself the great king’s wife by anything she does or her performance, but by his wedding vow she becomes his. And he says to her: All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you. And so gives to her the status of royalty and all that is his. And she turns to him and says: All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you. And so the poor sinner shares with King Jesus all her sin, all her death, all her damnation. And when Luther had articulated this he said: Therefore, the sinner can consider her sins in the face of death and hell and say: If I have sinned, yet my Christ who is mine has not sinned. And all his is mine and all mine, my sins, my death, my damnation, is his.” This just makes me want to fall on my face and weep, overwhelmed by  such grace.

Sinclair Ferguson on Union with Christ

Here’s an excerpt from the article (you can click on the link to listen to Sinclair’s sermon):

“We do not know what the apostle Paul says we know.

So says Sinclair Ferguson on Romans 6:6. Speaking to a gathering of pastors a couple years ago, Ferguson shared his sentiment that most people who sit before the preached word each week do not know what it means to be united to Jesus. And yet this doctrine is so central in how Paul conceives of what it means to be a Christian and a minister of the gospel. We want to know what it means.”

What Does It Mean to Be One with Christ?

This is a Q & A that Tony Reinke does with Sinclair Ferguson. Here’s one of the quotes that struck me most:

“The concept of one union with many dimensions is helpful. Of all people, Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) said that the preposition into (εἰς in Greek) — into Christ — has no parallel to be found in classical Greek for that kind of language, in terms of the relationship between two people (Romans 6:3Galatians 3:27). The relationship attaches to the whole question of the mystery of this reality. What Paul sees in the gospel is such a multi-dimensional singularity that it creates a new style of language, without parallel.

Of all people, Bultmann lifted my soul to the heavens and caused me to think: What a glorious thing it is to be united to Christ! It was one of those unexpected moments in life.

Lastly, here’s a song by The Gray Havens (have I told you they are one of my favorite groups these days?!). This song is a poem about the reality of Romans 5 : man is either in Adam or in Christ. Union with Christ is such a personal truth – not an abstract heady concept…and this song does a great job of driving that fact home.

A Fall Poem

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I am delighted by how much Maia loves to write. She loves writing stories, letters, lists… and recently she suggested writing a fall poem. It reflects the two realities she knows about life both in the US and here…especially the last two lines. Everyone here knows that the mall is where you go to eat donuts! Here is her poem. She is my favorite guest poster so far 🙂

UAE fall and USA fall

by Maia Merck

I love the fall

I can cuddle my doll

I can buy a cat or play with a bat

Or put on my orange leaf hat.

What do you want to do?

I want to jump in the leaves

And get donuts at the mall too.

Picture by Autumn Mott (Unsplash)

A Truth That Rocks my Nomad Socks Off

It dawned on me this morning that for the past 15 years I have been saying goodbye.  I have repeatedly left family, friends, church, country and home. Each time I have left, there has been gain: college education, sweet friends, adventure, a husband, teaching experiences, discipleship opportunities, outreach ministries.

But leaving so much also sucks. I yearn for a house where we can stay for a while; one I can decorate freely without wondering how long it will be before I have to take it all down again. Relationships are tricky to navigate when you know you won’t likely get to grow deep friendships. I am perpetually longing to be deeply known: the kind of known that only comes with roots and with being in one place long enough. And it hurts to think about uprooting my children away from the people and the places they have grown to love.

A Truth That Comforts
Over the past two years there is a reality that has become increasingly dear to me: When I repented of my sins and put my faith in Christ, Jesus made Himself one with me. He took all that is His and gave it to me. This leaves me breathless.

I was just a little girl then – I didn’t quite understand the magnitude of what was happening. But it didn’t matter. Right there and then, through His Spirit Jesus made his home in me, giving me his life. Paul puts it like this:  “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2: 4-5). Christ crucified all my sin and put to death everything I was without Him (Gal. 2: 20). To be a Christian is to have no life apart from the life Jesus lives inside of me.

These are wildly good news for every believer. As an expat and global nomad, this fact has secured my hope in many ways.

Moving has meant a lot of relational loss. I have felt very vulnerable and insecure in opening up to people over and over again. It has been very tempting to seek safety, identity and approval in people and what they think of me. But I am one with the Beloved Son. This means God loves me as much as He loves his Son. His delight in me through Christ never changes: I am safe there. I am therefore freed up to love others more and need them less.

Union with Christ also encourages me when I consider the glory of the Incarnate Christ who is one with me (John 1: 14). When I believe His hope, obedience, humility, faith, holiness are all mine, he enables me to be faith-full, obedient, holy & humble. This feeds my hope for the incarnational ministry He has called me to as a mom and as a cross cultural worker. I see his sufficiency and I hold fast my confidence for a life that I am not enough for. 

Lastly, even though change, uprootedness and all around culture shock have revealed profound darkness in my heart, union with Christ tells me all that sin actually died and lost its power over me when Christ died. The Light of the world became my darkness, endured God’s wrath for it, buried it in the grave and when He rose again (Rom. 6: 3-4), he freed me from being a slave to it. There is spiritual darkness around me and there is remaining sin inside of me but I need not be afraid.  I am hidden in Christ (Col. 3: 3). None of those temptations and sins will have the last word.

Moreover, united to Him I have assurance that He will complete what He started. Who He is now as the ascended, risen Christ is my destiny. As I face brokenness – both my own and that of those around me – I am thankful for a vision that transforms me and pushes me onward. I am thankful for how Gerritt Dawson puts it in this fantastic article:

“Our destiny in Jesus is man in communion, man in glory and harmony, man in loving dominion over a flourishing earth, man restored to a glorious destiny. The ascension is the guarantee, the down payment on all God is going to do to restore his redeemed race. Behold the man! If we are in Christ, we are meant for heaven. We are bound for glory.” 

“You Are Home”
I once had a pivotal conversation with Ethan, my then-boyfriend-now-husband. We had been getting to know each other for several months. We had been careful not to voice our feelings for each other. We didn’t want to do or say things that would cloud our judgement. When we finally became “official,” it took Ethan a few days to realize that it was now appropriate to express more of his heart to me. I was unsettled. We had a tearful conversation where I expressed my insecurity. He asked, “Are you asking me if I love you?” I nodded, fearful of what his answer might be. “Oh Aylin, I have been looking for home for two years. I found home with you.” **cue all the melting hearts!**

I love remembering that story because it is a shadow that points to a wonderful, heavenly reality: home is a Person. Just as Ethan is my home here on earth, Christ is home for the one who puts their trust in Jesus. 

Union with Christ enables me to enjoy God and his unchanging goodness everywhere I go. I have been in Christ ever since before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1: 4). I will still be in Him a billion years from today. He is my one place of permanence in this transient life.

There are more goodbyes ahead, but union with  Christ guarantees that my last goodbye on this earth will be followed by the most glorious hello to joy with Christ forever. 

I. Can’t. Wait!

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How does union with Christ encourage your heart?

What I am Learning That Matters to Me in Homemaking

It has taken me years to sharpen my sense of style in homemaking. Moving around has helped me to clarify what things I want and love in a house. It has also helped me to appreciate what God gives, even when it isn’t my first choice. Tonight, as I talked to my husband about a particular strong preference of mine (that is actually not a reality in the place we live now), I thought about what I have learned over the years about my likes and dislikes, not only in the layout of a house but also about the kind of space I want to create where we live.

Here are some of the things I have discovered:

1. I prefer tile floors over carpet…but I love area rugs.

2. I need big windows in my life that let in natural light and that connect me to the world outside. 

3. We love houses with run-thru-ability. Houses here tend to have rooms separate from each other. We prefer open layouts or at least well connected spaces. Our living room and dining room right now are connected through big double doors, making it easy to flow from one room to the next. 

4. Villas (or stand alone houses) provide space for the kids to run around safely; on the other hand, apartments seem to facilitate getting to know our neighbors better than villas do. I am torn between the two options. 

5. Real plants and fresh flowers are very life – giving to me. Living in the desert has made this crystal clear.

6. Over time I have discovered that these words define my taste in decor: eclectic, indie, rustic, minimalist

7. Having a dedicated guest room brings me great joy. (Please come visit! We are ready.)
8. A big dining table around which a crowd can gather thrills my soul.

9. We love a living room that is big enough to gather lots of friends.

10. Counter space in the kitchen is really not overrated.

11. A house with a green kitchen and pink  and blue bathrooms is a house with great personality. I am learning to embrace it.

12. Scents matter to me in creating a welcoming ambience.

13. I like having a space that my kids feel is their own (other than their bedroom).

14. It is important to me that our decor reflects the places we have lived in (both as singles & married) and that shape who we are becoming.

15. Mood lighting helps create a cozy inviting atmosphere. I need more lamps in my life!
If you come to my house today, you will see it is very much a work in progress and that not all these preferences are evident here. But I am slowly working towards that goal. 

Homemaking in itself is not a frivolous act. It is actually quite the opposite. The Son of Man didn’t have a place to lay his head here on earth – his willingness to be homeless so I could be home with God is incredibly humbling. But that does not mean that He doesnt care about the work of the home.

Jen P. Michel, in her book Keeping Place, does a beautiful job in showing how God is not beneath housework. It moved me to tears more than once for all the glimpses it gives into the heart of God as a humble servant, host par excellence, labouring housekeeper and generous Father.

Christ is the radiant image of the invisible God and in Him we see most clearly God’s heart and his intent to make a home for His children. Michel puts it this way,

“Jesus appears in the midday gloom of Israel, just when the people of God despair of ever being home. God – made flesh pitches his tent in their neighborhood, he tabernacles among them (John 1: 14). He declares an end to exile. He signals the beginning of a long-awaited homecoming. He travels proclaiming the good news of home. Eventually Christ is killed. He is raised up and Jesus insists on the permanence of his presence in the language of home: ‘I will not leave you as orphans… If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him…’ The story of the Bible witnesses to the happy ending called home. Our anxiety to belong, our desire to be received, our hope for intimate embrace: these are met in the homemaking God of Abraham, who speaks the yes of his promises in Jesus Christ.” 

God is a home-making God and He is re-creating me to be like Him. Once upon a time I almost despised the work of the home. But God has turned my heart. The labor of love that goes into making our house a place of welcome, a place for feasting, and a place of rest- not only for my family but for all who come visit- is becoming one of the biggest joys of my life.

What about you? I would really love to hear what matters to you in home making.

15 Ways to Celebrate Fall When You Live Far from It

So, it is October. But we live far from apple orchards, corn mazes, fall leaves, and chilly weather.

We won’t let that keep us from enjoying fall, though! By celebrating fall here, we are also celebrating the place where God has us for now. We may not be able to jump in the leaves or wear hoodies but we can go to the beach!

I have been learning the importance of celebrating with my kids the places we call home. The more I celebrate, the more our kids celebrate as well. The more we all celebrate, the more we are aware of God’s goodness in bringing us here. It also opens our eyes to the specific beauty of this part of the world. (I am discovering the desert also glorifies God…Who knew?!)

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Another reason to celebrate fall is that it helps to root our kids in their passport culture. We don’t want them to grow up unaware of the seasons or the holidays that are important to us and part of their heritage.

Lastly, in celebrating together, we enjoy belonging to this family. God has us in a bit of a nomadic journey. Our greatest comfort in that journey is that we belong to Jesus forever. At the same time, one of the unchanging blessings we have from him for this journey is belonging to each other. Keeping traditions and making memories are two of the ways we get to savor God’s goodness to us.

Today, over lunch, we made a bucket list of things we hope to do this fall here in the Middle East. One of the exciting things about the change in weather  is that we can finally enjoy going outside. We get to do fall fun in summer weather. Wohoo!!

  1. Make and eat apple pie a la mode (a gluten – free, dairy free recipe, of course!)
  2. Write a fall song or poem
  3. Explore the Green Mubazzarah here in AA
  4. Go to the beach
  5. Watch a fall related movie
  6. Go to the pool
  7. Make pumpkin spice pancakes
  8. Early morning PSL at Starbucks
  9. Bake pumpkin choc chip muffins
  10. Go on a picnic lunch
  11. BBQ in the dessert (bonfire, maybe?)
  12. Make a thanksgiving tree
  13. Decorate Maia’s and Zoie’s bedroom with homemade leaves
  14. Buy fall-scented candles
  15. Put on PJ’s, lit up candles and read fall themed books

Would love to hear any other ideas from you!

Photo credit: Breanna Galley (Unsplash photos)

Swirly – TCK book review 

Nothing has brought more tears and sobs than counting the cost of the impact on our kids of our life overseas. My husband and I have had many conversations about this. From the day moving was merely a possibility (and our girls were just 3.5 and 1.5) till now, we regularly assess how our children are doing as they process loss and as they learn to love the life, the people, the places that are home for now.

A third culture kid (TCK) is “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs” (Ruth Van Reken).

One of the things that TCK’s struggle most with is feeling like they don’t belong anywhere. I know that feeling all too well. It makes me sad to think my kids experience that too. We are learning to entrust them to Jesus’ care, who chose this global nomad life for them by placing them in our family. His sovereign faithfulness over them gives us rest.

swirly book review

I was so grateful when a friend told me about Swirly by Sara Saunders. It is a book for kids that describes the TCK experience so well. It tells the story of a little girl, Lila, born in Blue country to blue parents. Her family moves to Red Country and eventually to Yellow country. With every move, she discovers she is less and less “blue” and more and more swirly – each country’s color shaping who she is becoming. Lila wrestles with not knowing where she belongs. But when she meets the swirly mom of a friend, the mom explains why she doesn’t wonder anymore where she belongs….

I won’t say exactly what she explains because I want you to get this book and read it for yourself :). But I will say that what is lovely about this book is how it sets the children’s sight on Jesus Christ, who also left his home more than one time and lived far from home. This story beautifully teaches children that who you belong to is much more comforting than where you belong.

Almost every time I read this book I well up in tears. It moves my affections deeply to remember the extent to which Christ identifies Himself with us. I love that through this book I can celebrate with my children the beauty of the Incarnation and how it affects us so personally and dearly.

As parents of TCK’s we have so much hope – not only because there is actually lot of gain and not just loss in the TCK life (that would be another post!). We have hope because Christ knows the expat life well, he sees our kids and He is their Keeper (Psalm 121).

Jesus does loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white…and even swirly little ones. Glory!