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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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?

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!

 

When I Don’t Feel Like Running

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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 

Bridge:
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.

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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.

 

Look and Live: Sights of Christ That Thrill The Expat Heart

slava-bowman-161206Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

Hello friend!

Maybe the title caught your attention because you are a fellow expat. Or maybe you, like me, are on a quest to know the Risen Jesus more and more. Either way, I am so glad you are here.

I have had at least 10 different addresses in the last 15 years. 3 of those moves have been cross-cultural. God has taught me to love the places I have lived in. I enjoy new places, meeting new people, discovering new cultures. I have tasted the faithfulness of our homemaking God who has made a home for me and for my family everywhere we have lived.  He really does prepare places for His people.

At the same time, God has used every move to  peel away the dragon-like clothes I have been wearing without knowing. Even though I have known God as mine for a long time, and even while being very acquainted with Romans 3, I lived for a long time with the delusion that I wasn’t as bad as other people. I rested on what I thought was the strength of my faith. I grounded much of my confidence in who I was.

But God in His mercy has orchestrated the places of my story to slowly remove the scales off my eyes. In her book Keeping Place Jen P. Michel says:

“No place is insignificant in our stories. In fact, in paying them attention, we pay attention to the salvific movement of God. Wherever we move, we may be sure of this: God always moves toward himself.”

Well, God has definitely been doing just that. This is my 3rd year living in a country in the Middle East. Moving over here was like being a in a pressure cooker. I can’t tell you how intense God’s dealings with me were the first year and a half or two. Initially I was crushed under the realization of how dark was my heart. But when I was drowning in the sea of self-contemplation, Christ rescued me.

He did it by telling me to do the same He told the Israelites long ago when they were bitten by fiery snakes and were dying in the desert. He had Moses set up a fiery snake on a pole. The Israelites were to look on the serpent and live (Numbers 21: 9).

Jesus told Nicodemus that serpent in the desert had pointed to Him: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3: 14).” Christ was willing to become sin to save us, to save me. Bearing all my sins and transgressions, Christ took them all to the grave and buried them. He crushed the serpent and its power over me. He rose up in new life by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6: 4) and the life Jesus lives He lives to God.

Christ raised me up to new life many years ago but He keeps sustaining me in the same way He saved me then: giving me faith eyes so I can look at Him and continue to live.

Over these next few weeks I am excited to share some of the glorious sights of Christ that have been sustaining and reorienting my expat heart. There has been nothing more life-giving over these past years than to search the word and discover the riches of His strength. There is none like Him.

You may be an expat living in a country other than your own. But even if you belong in an earthly sense to the place you live, I hope these posts encourage you. If you live by faith in Christ Jesus, you are also in exile. I pray that these posts stir your affections for the One who keeps you until you make it home.

I am far from Home and I am not what I will one day be. But instead of looking at my brokenness and despairing, as long as I am homeward bound, I will look to Jesus and live.

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I joined the write31 challenge this year. I am writing every day but due to the season of life am in, can only actually post 1-2 times a week.

These are all the posts related to this writing challenge:

Two Songs

When I Don’t Feel Like Running

Swirly – A Book For TCK’s

15 Ways to Celebrate Fall When You Live Far From It

What Matters To Me in Homemaking

A Truth That Rocks My Nomad Socks Off 

A Fall Poem

Helpful Resources on Union with Christ

Who Said We Have To Grow Up?