A Life Overseas – Gently Lead Those That are With Young

Readers, I would love to have you join me at A Life Overseas today! I’ve included and excerpt below. 



When my parents moved a couple of years ago, they gave my youngest son a painting. The painting is of a Pakistani shepherd. He is holding a lamb on his shoulders, and his expression is one of gentle love. 


It was my first day in Iraq and I was at the offices of our Iraqi hosts. While sitting there, a young couple from the United States walked into the room. They had two blonde little boys, toddler and pre-school age. As the dad went to a meeting, I talked a bit to the mom. They had lived and working in Iraq for a couple of years. Their children ate a lot of cookies and actively engaged with those of us in the office. They talked excitedly about going to a restaurant in the city, a place where you could get hamburgers.

My mind went back to when my husband and I first went overseas. We had been married for a year and a half and had a four-month-old baby.  Other children followed, and soon we were raising a flock of third culture kids.  Our kids traveled the globe with us, learned how to bargain in Arabic, and negotiated friendships with kids from all over the world. My parents had done the same with me. My earliest memories included eating spicy curry with my hands, hearing the call to prayer every morning as I woke, and bazaars full of spice and flavor.

In those moments of watching those kids and thinking about my own life, I thought many things. And one of them was this:  “This TCK thing is real. I don’t care what any naysayer says – these kids are not growing up like their peers in their passport country. This is real, and we need to honor it.”

Read the rest here at A Life Overseas.


christmas ornamentBarren, brown ground and leafless trees are my landscape as I stare absently through the bus window. I’m on my way to visit my parents, taking a Greyhound bus from Boston to Rochester, New York.  I am not a bus traveler, preferring the imagination that planes and airports afford to the bleak of bus stations, seemingly always in depressed downtown areas, where any attempts to make them nice feel thwarted by economics and defeat.

The landscape feels absent, void, lifeless. It is a picture of a world waiting.

And December, above all, is a month of waiting. Some of this waiting is hopeful and some of it is terrible. The hopeful waiting comes in white lights and kitchens that smell of butter and cinnamon, Carols that speak of a coming King, hushed churches filled with candle light. The terrible waiting comes in the form of diagnoses of cancer and news of death; in the people who still occupy the streets, despite cold and snow; in the knowing we are part of a world broken, not yet fixed.

Yesterday I found out that someone dear to me is full of the insidious parasite that goes by the name of cancer. I found out just as I was ready to board a crowded subway that would take me home at the end of a tedious workday. Tears filled my eyes, tears that I had to control because it wasn’t safe to cry. Not there. Not in a public space.

Later I heard the news of the death of Nelson Mandela, a man whose commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation was a challenge and model. A man whose death will be felt by his nation and the world.

If Shakespeare were to write a play about December it would be a mixture of tragedy and joy. Why is it that so much hard news comes in December? Why is it that this is when the body is found to be so full of cancer that a person’s lifespan is suddenly reduced to months not years? Why is it that marriages are at their most fragile during this time? Why is it that even as we wrap presents, we are aware that next year, the person we love will no longer be with us?

The calls for happiness that assault us from television screens and advertising seem at best irrelevant, at worst like a mockery of our grief.

Yet isn’t this life in all its complexity?  One weeps while the other shouts for joy; one has plenty and the other crawls their way to a homeless shelter; one has health while the other faces death. One land has peace while the other has war.

So as I look out the window and see barren from a land that just weeks ago was filled with the brilliance of fall colors, I think of Advent. For Advent is about waiting, about coming, about expectancy. It is hope combined with longing. It is joy combined with sorrow. It is living between the already here and the not yet. Advent is December in all of its contrasts, all of its paradoxes, The sorrow is strong, but hope is stronger still.


No longer will violence be heard in your land,
    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
    and your gates Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
    and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
    the work of my hands,
    for the display of my splendor.
The least of you will become a thousand,
    the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will do this swiftly.”  Isaiah 60: 18-22

Note: Fridays with Robynn will be back next week. Robynn is in India and says this: “Tandoori Chicken from a street side food cart on day one. Taxi rides through crowded city streets on day two. Sweet reunions with wonderful friends. We are having, quite literally, the time of our lives! Thanks for your prayers and well wishes!”


A Rare Moment of Quiet


Quiet moments in my life are rare. I have a big family and though the kids are older, at any given time I still have a couple of them at home. My job is busy and full of people. I live in a city that teems with people on weekdays, and on weekends there aren’t many quiet moments.

But I found myself with a moment of quiet yesterday morning. All I heard was the ticking of a clock in the dining room. I never realized how loud the ticking was. The quiet was welcome and disturbing at the same time. In the back of my mind I felt I should be ‘doing’. Because sitting, meditating, thinking? All of those are counter-culture — contrary to the way the world operates.

In a world that says “Do”, I need to learn to “Be”.

In a world that says “Go”, I need to learn to “Stop”.

In a world that says “Get”, I need to learn to “Give”.

In a world that proclaims “Self”, I need to remember “Others”.

In a world that rewards noisy arrogance, I long for quiet confidence.

So in the quiet, I reach out for words to affirm what my heart knows full well. I am not disappointed for I find them from the prophet Isaiah who lived and prophesied in a world that heard a lot of noise.

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

The quiet is no longer disturbing, instead I soak it in the way I soak in the sunshine from the window –  For this is life-giving, soul-strengthening, confidence-producing quiet.

“My Weary Wheels Need a Rest”

LightbulbAfter an outing that included a hike up a hill, my brother’s grandson, David, remarked to my sister-in-law “Grandma, my weary wheels need a rest!”.

These words from a not quite three-year old. Wisdom indeed!

It’s how I feel. My weary wheels need a rest. Sickness has crowded out our energy and sucked up the fresh smell of pine and cinnamon. Tiredness and uncertainty have camped out in our living space. We can’t keep up with tea and Tylenol.

Snow came last night and so the world outside is a white wonderland. And we’re giving ourselves permission to just ‘be’.

In a society that judges worth by occupation and productivity, letting our weary wheels rest isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes a fever to knock us down, force us to our  couches, our knees…and to our moms.

And it was my mom that reminded me of Isaiah 40. The title says it all “Comfort for God’s People.” The words are a comfort for weary wheels.

Today, if your weary wheels need a rest, sit down, put your feet up and read Isaiah 40. 

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

A Way in the City

I step off the subway at the Park Street stop and walk up the dark staircase that takes me out to the Boston Common. It’s still dark and winter is all around me. The annual tree lighting ceremony has taken place and the lights shine brightly in this early morning hour.

White, twinkly lights brighten other trees in the area as well – symbolic of the season. But despite the attempts at magic and celebration, all the lights and decorations in the world can’t hide the homeless man who I just passed, can’t hide the dirt of yesterdays’ tourists, can’t hide the brokenness of the city.

All around me I see evidence of this brokenness. It is in the glum, moodiness of passers-by. It is in the grocery cart pushed by the homeless woman, piled high with bottles and filthy blankets. It is in the impatient honking of a car, driver angry at the vehicle in front of him. It is in the sadness in the eyes of the young woman on the street.

It’s the world of Isaiah 35 – A world of the blind, the mute, the lame, the broken.

A world that needs the hope of the Incarnation, the joy of redemption.

And in the quiet of the city morning, the melody of Joy to the World comes faintly, unexpected. I can barely make out the words and I don’t know where it’s coming from. I wonder if it’s in my head, a trick of my mind. But as I walk it gets louder and there is no mistaking Mariah Carey’s strong soprano “Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King…..No more let sin and sorrow reign, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his glories known, far as the curse is found….” It’s a song of redemption in a weary city; a God-breathed reminder that our world has not been abandoned.

This is the everlasting Joy that Isaiah speaks of — that our God will come; our God has come. This is the joy in the desert, the joy in the city, the joy of the redeemed. The joy of a rainy Monday in a bleak December.

(This piece was originally written for an Advent Devotional produced by Park Street Church)

Boston Common Christmas Tree – Early Morning Hours

I want to thank so many of you who shared yesterday’s post “It’s not the way it’s supposed to be!” I purposely didn’t post on Saturday feeling like there were no words and that was best. I know some of your stories, and I know that you are keenly aware that it’s not the way it’s supposed to be – and yet at the end of the day, you have hope. Thank you – it shouts to me from your comments and emails.