Out to Lunch With My Passport

The Facebook post was simple. It was on my brother Stan’s page tagged with all his siblings:


Stan Brown
May 9
Ed, Stan, Tom and Dan are currently abroad. Marilyn? — with Ed Brown and 3 others.
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Marilyn Gardner I hate all of you and now I’m going to go bite my pillow and give in to my state of bright, green tck envy.


Many of you readers know what I’m talking about. If you’ve been raised overseas and you find out all your siblings are overseas and you are not, you feel life is unfair. It’s not right. You too belong in Kazakhstan and Pakistan, Kenya and Turkey. You too should be enjoying the jet lag, the airline travel, the missed connections, the food, the chaos, the crowds, the miscommunication, the laughter, the food, the relationships, the cultural missteps, the time difference – oh and did I mention the food? 

What do you do when you are assaulted with this childish jealousy? I wrote a post some time ago where I go into detail on this ugly, green envy but this time I felt like I had grown exponentially.

Because this time it was funny. I could laugh. Despite the seemingly childish response by me on Facebook, I really did not begrudge them these trips. This, my friends, is a miracle. And I began to do a bit of self reflection, self analysis if you will. I realized that while I still long (and pray) for another opportunity to live overseas, I no longer go into a depression when others who I love get to do this.

Maybe I’ve grown up. Maybe I realize no one can take away my past – it’s a unique stamp on my life and colors my now with memories and understanding that can be used in our multicultural communities. Maybe I’m at a place of peace internally that cannot be dictated by where I live….I’m not sure of the reasons. But this I do know – I could laugh about it and banter over social media.

But I had to one-up them – perhaps not through travel, but certainly through wit and words. They are, after all, my siblings.


So at the suggestion of my husband, I decided to go to lunch with my passport. Because my passport doesn’t just say where I’m from, it tells me where I’ve been. It has those precious stamps from Egypt and Pakistan, Istanbul and Mexico, St. Maarten and London. The passport is the identity card of the third culture kid; the stamp of belonging that tells the world we’re a bit from everywhere and a bit from nowhere. The legal document that tells a story of a life lived between worlds.

What better lunch companion then my passport? What better place to eat than a Pakistani restaurant where chapatis and curry take me miles away?

So next time you feel those waves of envy come over you and you want a humorous response – take your passport out to lunch. 

Guest Posting at A Life Overseas – “I Don’t Do Goodbye”

I am honored to be posting over at A Life Overseas today. This blog is a tremendous resource for those of you living and working overseas, so if you haven’t yet found it, you’re in for a treat. To be asked to guest-post for this blog felt like I was given a gift with a huge bow on top!

From the blog: The blog collective ‘A Life Overseas’ provides that place of online connection for Christ-following missionaries and humanitarian aid workers living in foreign countries– from the past, present, or future.  As a team of writers who have logged years of overseas experience ourselves, we want to create an online space where expats of many nations come together to interact, encourage, and find a community that ‘gets it’.


I’ve included an excerpt from the post here: 

One week ago we said goodbye to my younger brother and his wife beside a ferry boat in Istanbul. In the grand scheme of goodbyes, this was surely not the hardest, but it still stung.

I don't do goodbye! I love you

Making it more difficult – another brother and his wife arrived from Kazakhstan and Cyprus and we had an unexpected family reunion. We collectively decided Turkey is an excellent place for a family reunion.

We arrived on a grey, chilly Saturday afternoon and drank sahlep on the banks of the Bosphorous before catching a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul. Our first meal held the magic of a crowded shopping area, a soccer game between warring teams viewed on a television perched high above the crowd, and kebabs that filled the mouth with tastes of the Middle East. Every day was filled with belonging and connection. And then it was over. We had to say goodbye.

Read more over at A Life Overseas – ‘I Don’t Do Goodbye’

Make sure you take a look through that blog as you won’t be disappointed with writers like Rachel Pieh Jones and Tara Livesay – two people who live what they write and more.

God – Uniquely American?

Imagine with me for a moment that God arrives at JFK international airport – The ‘Leading International Gateway’ to the United States.  As he steps off the plane and heads toward passport control, which line will he need to get into for immigration control? U.S Citizen, Resident Alien, Non-resident alien, or Foreign Persons?

It’s an interesting question as we think about God’s care for the world and our beliefs about his alliance with people, communities, and nations. There are many that without hesitation would send him through the U.S Citizen line and without hassle he would be quickly on his way – except let’s say he has a stamp from Yemen or Pakistan in his passport.  Then the questions might be more pointed and the manner of the immigration official slightly more suspicious.  There are a lot more who would send him through the foreigner line feeling he is in no way American and deserves the same scrutiny that any foreigner, particularly one arriving from the Middle East would get.  The resident alien line is our last choice. By definition a resident alien is an individual that is not a citizen or national of the United States and who meets either the green card test or the substantial presence test for the calendar year. So does he?

It’s all hypothetical and maybe cheesy to ask the question but I think it raises a bigger issue. One that has troubled me for some time since I have relocated to the U.S.   It  is the underlying thought that God loves and aligns himself with Americans more than Egyptians, Pakistanis or others in the world, his care and favor focused primarily on the Western world. Yesterday as I was pondering this it struck me yet again that this posture is a threat to Christianity. It is idolatry to believe that the primary identity of a Christian is in  membership to a nation and that those who are not part of that nation will lose out on the grace of God .

We have a friend living with us right now – he is 24 and graduated from college in May. He was raised in China, Kazakhstan, and Sharjah, coming to live in the United States only after he had graduated from highschool.  As we were discussing this he said that on his entry into the United States for college 5 years ago, he encountered a view of Christianity that he was unfamiliar with. That of Christianity as a political force that was uniquely American as opposed to a transformative lifestyle indiscriminately available to all people at all times. As a third-culture-kid (one who spends a significant amount of their childhood in a country that is not their passport country) his identity is not related to citizenship or being a member of a nation or people group, so his encounter with a uniquely American brand of Christianity was, and continues to be, troubling to him.  My story is similar, my source of belonging and identity is not rooted in this nation, or any other nation. I struggle to articulate this within churches as I have conversations with people who voice and practically live out a different perspective.

I know that this is a larger conversation than a blog post and I would love to have readers explore this more through comments, but I will close with this: Having my identity rooted in something as potentially fragile as a nation doesn’t feel safe and secure or correct to me – by contrast the safety of being rooted in the eternal is remarkable.

“The identification of religion with nation and nation with religion is something Christians should avoid at all costs. It is a direct violation of the growth of a body in which there is “neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28).” by Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens~The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity

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