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?








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).


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.







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.


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 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!


How does union with Christ encourage your heart?

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!


When I Don’t Feel Like Running


Just a few months ago, I was pregnant, exhausted and ravenous all the time. Some days I waddled faster than others; other days I could barely crawl. Running? Not so much.

When a friend suggested I speak on running with faith at a retreat for expat women in our Middle-Eastern city, my heart sank. I had not only literally not felt like running, but spiritually as well. In the last 7 years I have moved twice cross culturally. Just in the past two years, our family has lived in two different cities in the Middle East  – losing home, friends and family in multiple places. While my Father has been very good to us, and has provided in countless ways, this town doesn’t feel like home yet. Roots don’t go deep enough in any direction. Ministry is challenging and unrelenting stress is a phrase that describes our life.

There were moments when I didn’t want to face life here. I just wanted to quit and go back. Go back to a life that seemed less complicated, to lush green, to friends that know me well, to a place where memories run older than a year, to everything that is familiar, comfortable and safe.

To read the rest, visit the Velvet Ashes website, my writing home today.


Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Songs of Encouragement

God has used two songs to ingrain in me what He has been teaching me these past two years.

high and lifted up

One of them is High and Lifted Up by Zac Hicks. I can’t find a youtube video for it! Such a bummer. But here are the lyrics.

High and Lifted Up 

1. In the wilderness we wander
Bitten by our sin
We cry out for resurrection
Finding none within

2. Weak and fainting from our sickness
Feeling death’s dark sting
We behold our Substitution
Jesus Christ our King 

Come, come, see Him
Come, come, see Him

High and lifted up
Our Salvation’s come
Look on Jesus
forever, forever

3. Gazing at my bleeding Savior
Lifted, crucified
There I see my plague and poison
Traded for His life 

Look upon Him and believe He’s redeemed us
Look upon Him and believe He will heal us
Look upon Him for His scars show He loves us
Look upon Him and live

Words & Music: Zac Hicks & Julie Anne Vargas, 2015
©2015 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP); Julie Anne Vargas
CCLI #7056907

Love the invitation to come see Him – This is what I want for this series.

gray havens

The other song is by a group that quickly became a favorite: The Gray HavensStole my Fame: (To Grace) by Gray Havens has been really encouraging to me.

I think my favorite verses are:

“So please throw me down
And steal my fame
Please don’t stop until
You crucify my name

Take my boast
Put it in the ground
Bury it in water
Now the water’s showin’ how”

If the Lord has done anything while living away from home is to teach me to lose the love of seeing myself as strong. It has been humbling and hard and so good for Him to crucify my name and teach me to boast in Christ. Praise God my boast is buried in the ground! What a mercy that He would set my heart afire for the only One who is worthy of my praise.


So, come with me, sister! Will you join me these next few weeks? Let’s see Him – let’s catch glimpses of the riches of His glory that give hope to the fainting, homesick heart. Let’s look upon Him over and over and over again. He is bound to thrill our hearts.