When Following Jesus Is a One Way Trip

I met Deanna Davis through blogging, and it was an immediate TCK connection. Deanna writes with honesty and clarity about her faith and her life as a TCK/ATCK. I think you’ll love this piece by her: “When Following Jesus is a One Way Trip”. There is more information about Deanna at the end of the post along with a link to her blog. Enjoy!

While living in Germany for several years, I was painfully aware of the fact that I wasn’t German.

Us at the airport in Leipzig in 2008, saying goodbye to more than just our friends.

If the language and culture were not daily reminders for me, then the Germans certainly were. It isn’t that my German friends didn’t genuinely love and value me. I know they did. But one of them let a revealing Freudian slip pass once that marked me. I forget the context of the conversation, but at some point she said, “Well, you know Deanna, when we (meaning Germans) talk about you…”.

I’m sure the dot dot dots were positive. And I guess I should be flattered that people cared enough to make me a subject of conversation. But all I heard was, “You guys talk about me? When I’m not there?” The meaning was clear. They were German, and when the Germans got together, I wasn’t one of them. I was the American on the outside. I didn’t really belong. Not like the Germans did anyway.

This wasn’t unexpected. Of course in my head I knew I wasn’t German. It’s just that I had made such a tremendous effort and so many sacrifices to try to fit in. It broke my heart to realize the place I’d called home for the last few years wasn’t really home.

Then there was the time we were back in the States over the holidays for the first time in years, sitting in our big-suburban-cookie-cutter church’s Sunday morning extravaganza. And I knew in that moment, in fact, I think my heart even used these words, “This isn’t home anymore”. The styles, the themes, the subjects of conversation. None of it spoke to me. The connecting points were gone and I remember feeling so out-of-place that I wept. My home wasn’t home anymore.

It was an “Oh cr@p!” moment for me. Was this what Jesus had asked me to give up as I followed Him overseas? I didn’t belong in Germany – and now I didn’t belong in the states either.

Had following Jesus made me homeless?

I can see now it was one of the unexpected costs of following Jesus. What before had been comfortable, normal and “mine” was no longer so. He had changed me. Changed my heart, the things I like, the things I got emotional about, the things I wanted to talk about, the relationships that anchored me, the very definition of words in my heart like home, success, normal, enough. I wasn’t the same person who had left America with Jesus a few years earlier. I had returned quite different – with more of Jesus and less of me. Not American. Not German. Homeless. And there was no going back.

I am coming to realize that sometimes following Jesus is a “forward-only” proposition. It is a one way trip. I can never again be the person I once was. I can never fully return to the relationships I had.  What used to satisfy or make me happy doesn’t anymore. And it has taken me the last 3 years to figure out something of what this means in my life.

It means that Jesus loves me too much to let me remain unchanged as I followed Him.  He loves me too much to let me return to the “me” I was before He and I started walking together. And we are never going back.

Deanna Davis is an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid) who grew up in a military family and lived and traveled around the globe. She is also a writer and blogger interested in the intersections between the eternal and the now. You can read more of her work at Intersections, her personal blog. The quote below gives a little glimpse into what she loves!

“If I could do anything I wanted with a day I’d spend most of it walking through a really beautiful place, reading something intellectually challenging, eating something spicy and then talking it over with someone I love.”

Guest Post at Tamara Out Loud – Unfair Grace

Today I have the privilege of guest-posting at Tamara Out Loud: Thoughts on Real Life and Real Faith. I am honored for a couple of reasons. The first is that Tamara is one of the best writers I know. At times she puts together words and thoughts in ways that go straight to your heart and work their way into your soul; at other times she is laugh out loud funny with an irreverent humor. The second is that Tamara is editor of the upcoming book What a Woman is Worth. This is a book that will be released sometime this summer and I have the honor of being a contributor to the book. I’ll be writing more on that in a future post but right now take a look at the beginning of the post and wander over to Tamara’s blog to read the rest!

Unfair Grace

“I read Ann Voskamp’s book” pause “And I was thankful for a few days”

This came from my friend as we recently sat together drinking free coffee from an inn on the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The inn thought we were guests – they offered us both the coffee and cookies embossed with a cursive E, (“Signature cookies!” we were told with a smile) free with no questions asked.  A good lesson that there is free lunch if you walk with confidence.

We both laughed at her statement about the well-read and loved book “One Thousand Gifts”, for reading a book is one thing and working out the details of the challenges presented within is completely different.

Whenever I get together with this friend we go for the jugular vein of faith conversation. We don’t waste time or words. Both of us are in something of a waste land when it comes to friends who share our faith so we go deep. Quickly. The conversation was like rapid gun fire going from head to heart, from  gratitude to grace. And there is where we stopped and struggled. You can read the rest of this post at http://tamaraoutloud.com/2012/06/07/guest-post-unfair-grace/

Guest Post: Free the Hikers – The Brother Behind the Scenes

Today’s post is written by Cliff Gardner. If you have followed news on the hikers in Iran, or are just tuning in, take a look.

I remember the first time I read the news about three American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran for crossing into Iranian territory and accused of being spies. To be honest, my first thought was, “How could you ‘accidentally’ be hiking so close to an international border?” especially that of an international pariah like the Islamic Republic of Iran. I followed the news on and off as the conflicting details of their detainment was reported in various news sources.

It wasn’t until December 2010 that I would become more closely connected to these “hikers”. I was hosting an event at Harvard with our guest lecturer, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at AmericanUniversityin Washington, DC. After his lecture I was introduced to Alex Fattal, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard. He was introduced to me by Amb. Ahmed as the “brother of one of the “hikers” detained in Iran”. I was fascinated to learn over dinner that night some of the details behind the media stories that I had heard. Alex shared with us about his brother Josh’s story with such passion, empathy and desperation. I found out that Amb. Ahmed had been instrumental in helping the three families work diplomatic, educational and humanitarian channels of communication to try to obtain the release of Josh, Shane and Sarah. You can read more about their story at their website: http://freethehikers.org/

I met with Alex later that week over coffee in theHarvard Law School café and was fascinated to hear about all the efforts made on behalf of the three “hikers”. Alex had put his PhD studies on hold to focus fulltime in the effort to obtain the release of his brother and Shane. Sarah had been released in August 2010, and they were all hopeful that Shane and Josh would be released soon as well. I told Alex that I would pray for his release and spread the word among my family, friends and colleagues about their plight. Alex has tirelessly travelled all over the world to speak to government officials, journalists and humanitarian groups to share about their release. I would be in touch with him periodically on Facebook or email to see how he was doing. He’d be at a fundraiser in San Francisco one weekend, in New York for a benefit concert a few days later, and then be interviewed on some news channel the next week.

On August 20, 2011 I heard the news that Josh and Shane were charged in an Iranian court of illegal entry and espionage and sentenced to 8 years in prison. I felt sick to my stomach and yet, prayed even harder for their release.

We woke up yesterday to the amazing news that the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had announced on NBC that Josh and Shane would be released in the coming week, prior to his visit the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. News of this spread like wildfire on the internet and by word of mouth.

As I have followed Alex and the roller-coaster ride of emotion he and his family have ridden since July 2009 I am overwhelmed by the love that he has for his brother. His dogged determination has shown me that one should never give up, even when facing the most Goliath-like of challenges. Alex vs. The Islamic Republic of Iran?

Having four brothers myself I wonder if I would exhibit the same kind of passion and determination he has shown these past two years? We anxiously await the reunion of two brothers on a tarmac embracing each other after such a long and desperate separation.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Bloggers Note: Cliff is the Administrative Officer for the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University. He is also the love of my life.

Today is World Refugee Day….But What About Tomorrow?

Monday, June 20th, 2011 – World Refugee Day is recognized today. Thanks to my daughter and one of her friends I am reminded that this one day is set aside so we can remember, we can honor, and we can collectively advocate for refugees. Today’s post is a thoughtful, beautifully written reflection by one of my daughter’s friends Brittany Gonzalez. See the original and link to her blog at Writingpeaces.  Some facts to remember as you read:

  1. The number of displaced people is at a 15-year high. 
  2. Poor countries host 80% of refugees.
  3. Afghanistan & Iraq are ‘top source’ countries. (Source: Time.com)

“…and then they raped me. With their bodies, with their guns, with sticks. Over and over until I was no longer human.” She looks down at her hands, ashamed, and repeats the last part, “I’m no longer human…” She begins to cry and I offer her my hand, but she doesn’t take it. Instead she finds the nerve to look me in the eye and apologize for the horrors she has just unloaded on me. In her arms, she holds a tiny bundle, the product of a nightmare. A human life that never should have existed, a living testament to the horrors she endured, and now – the only thing giving her a reason to live.

I want to tell her that everything will be alright. I want to give her hope and comfort. I want to empty my wallet in order to help her create some semblance of a stable life. I want to scream. Instead, I press on with the interview, somewhat grateful that my shaking hands are hidden behind the screen of my Macbook. God forbid I should appear weak in the face of atrocity.

I finish the interview, assure her that her resettlement case will be written up and submitted to the UNHCR for review, knowing full well it will be months before they look at it and another few months before they return with an answer, most likely denying her the opportunity to move to a place where she can be free from persecution, from fear.

She stands up to leave, to shake my hand and thank me for taking the time to listen. With her hand in mine, I look her in the eyes, searching for the right words, desperate to say the right thing. The words will never seem right, but I can try. “You are human. I see you sitting in front of me, exuding strength. You are human. I see how you love your child. You are human, and none of this is your fault.” She manages a thin smile, stroking her baby’s face with the pad of her thumb, unsure of how to respond. After a few moments of silence she says, “thank you, I know there is not much you can do for me. I just needed to tell my story.”

She leaves, and I lock myself in the office bathroom, crumble to the floor, and cry. After a few minutes there is a knock on the door:

“Brittany, your next client is here.”

Today is World Refugee Day. One day a year set aside for the world to honor and advocate for those who have been displaced by war and persecution. Mothers who have seen their children die at the hands of hatred, husbands who have watched their wives raped repeatedly as a tactic of war. Men and women who have endured torture for their political views, only to escape to a country where they will be persecuted again – for the color of their skin, for their inability to speak the language, for pursuing their human right to live, and to live free.

Today is World Refugee Day, and in cities across the globe, people are preparing for the celebrations. Community centers are throwing international themed parties, museums are showing special exhibits, the UNHCR is posting excessively on Facebook. Today is World Refugee day, but what about tomorrow?

Tomorrow, the war against illegal immigrants will rage on in the United States. In England. Italy will intercept a boatload of Libyans fleeing war and send them back to their deaths. Americans living near the U.S./Mexico border will take up arms to protect themselves from those who are brave enough to leave the only life they have ever known in search of hope. The Egyptian military will exercise its state-sponsored right to shoot and kill anyone seen attempting to cross the Egypt/Israel border illegally. Hundreds will die in North Korean labor camps, and dozens will be sentenced to death in China for daring to send out a potentially political tweet. Another child will be tortured and killed in Syria, a homosexual will be murdered in Uganda, and the main story on CNN will be about the latest sex scandal in Washington D.C.

I’m thankful that there is an entire day dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees, and to honoring those who have survived unimaginable atrocity. All I’m asking, is that tomorrow, we don’t forget them. That we will continue to tell their stories. We are all human, and we all deserve to be acknowledged – to have our rights acknowledged – EVERY DAY.

On this, World Refugee Day, I ask you to help us help refugees find a place to call home. ~ High Commissioner António Guterres