A Life Overseas – For You in the Trenches

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Readers, I’m at A Life Overseas today talking to those of you who are in the trenches, where world events happen all around you. I hope you join me in that space. 

All weekend I have thought about what to write this morning. I think about world events and how they have filled up our newsfeeds, yet I also know that you live in your own world events. You live in places where bombs go off, where corruption runs rampant, where trash builds up because of anger at governments, where babies die too soon and young women and men lose their innocence to the evil of others.

So what do I say to you who live in the trenches; you who sigh as you hear the news, because you know how awful it is, you know how broken it is. You don’t need a bomb to tell you the world is broken. You heard God’s call to a broken world, a world he loves, and you try to live out that call every single day. You have given up what Rachel Pieh Jones calls the Western illusion of safety, instead you walk in the safety of God.

You have chosen a currency beyond fear. Because when fear is our currency, we cannot live effectively. Whether this be around parenting, around work, or around where we are called to live, this is truth.When fear is our currency, we forget that safety is not about where we live, or work, or play.

Safety is about knowing where our security lies, what we’re called to do, and who we’re called to be.

What are we called to when we face a broken world?

Read the rest here at A Life Overseas. 

Filed under “Why?”

There is a file in my brain and heart with the label “Why?” It’s where I file the tragedies that make no sense. Some of these tragedies happened to people close to me, others far removed — but no matter. The thing they share is the “why?” 

The file started when I was young. Why did Lizzy Hover’s dad die?  Why did the little baby from the sweeper colony die from a freak accident? 

Growing up, we faced many tragedies,  And one of the ways I chose to cope is to create this file.  The file grew as I grew. Why did my friend lose her husband on their honeymoon? Why did Amy Jo die!? Why did  a beloved pastor fall to his death in Cairo?  Why did my brother face such extreme loss at such a young age? 

And then there’s the looking back in time. Why the massacre of the innocents by Herod?  The weeping and grief of mothers captured by an artist in the 16th century, a brutal reminder that has lasted through the centuries. 

The file sometimes stays closed for a long time, and then it opens again with an angry roar. That’s what it did yesterday. A young man, new husband, newer father dies. It makes no sense. The tears flow for his young wife and the child who will know him only through pictures. 

I put these things in the “why” file because they make no sense to me. Discussions on a broken world, on evil, on the goodness of God don’t help. 

The only thing that helps is the face of Jesus, God incarnate. It is the icon of the Pantocrator that I weep before. “He had compassion on the crowds,” I’m told. And I beg for his compassion, his mercy. 

A poem from long ago comes to mind and I alternate between that and the Jesus Prayer. 

“I lay my ‘whys’ before your cross, in worship, kneeling. My mind beyond all thought, my heart beyond all feeling. And in worshiping realize that I, in knowing You, don’t need a ‘why?’ “

The file stays, and it won’t be open until I see the one who can make sense of all of it. Until then, I’m allowed to grieve, I’m allowed to weep, I’m allowed to lament. And I’m allowed to have a file labeled “why?”  Because at the feet of Jesus, it will all make sense. And I stake my life on that. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12

When Your Heart Hurts on a Friday

Robynn continues on sabbatical this week – but if you want to read an amazing piece that she’s written in the past – perfect for yesterday’s events take a look here: On Common Prayer.

I’m sitting in my spot – my early morning spot that I’ve described before.

And though I want my heart to feel light, it feels heavy with the weight of tragedy. Israel mounted a ground offensive against Gaza yesterday and the pictures of children and moms cry out to me from their inanimate place on my computer screen. An airline was shot down by a surface to air missile and all people on board were killed. At least 295 – perhaps more. I read about an Australian woman whose heart is breaking – first she lost a brother in an airplane that went missing, yesterday she lost a step daughter.

And there are still those horrible tragedies that have gone on daily; those that I’ve pushed to a convenient spot in my mind, a spot that doesn’t continually surface and paralyze me for the sorrow of all of it.

My heart hurts for people I don’t know, those I have never met. And  my heart hurts for those I do know, those who are local and have problems and sadness that will never make a news story, but are so real and so paralyzing in intensity that their whole world is affected. The hurting marriage, the mom who just found out her son has been arrested, the pregnant teen, the old man who found out he has cancer, the young man fired and wondering how he will tell his wife — all the sorrows that overwhelm the individual yet are privately grieved. Our God is a Global God; our God is a local God. Just as concerned about the person in my neighborhood who is hurting as he is about the huge tragedy in the skies over the Ukraine. That’s what makes him God.

And I’m human so even as I hurt for those suffering, I feel enormous joy this week for a book that was released. It feels so big, it feels so small.

And because I don’t know how to pray, I don’t know how to properly care, I say the words that have reconciled man with God through the ages “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy.” 

I leave my spot on the couch. Paralysis helps no one. I go forward knowing there are still “10,000 reasons for my heart to sing ‘Bless the Lord’….” 

What do you do when it’s too much to bear? You put your head down and pray so deeply it hurts. And then you go to work doing what you know you’re called to do for the day, because you are not the Saviour, you are only the saved and that by grace alone.” from On Polio and when it’s all too much to bear.

On Loss – A Repost by Robynn

Today it is appropriate that we repost this beautiful piece by Robynn on loss. As she works through yet one more loss in her life I am grateful she wrote this almost a year ago for all of us. You can follow Robynn on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobynnBliss

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Last Sunday I attended a seminar on loss.

Once again I realized how thoroughly marked by loss my story is.

During the session we were brain storming categories of loss and specific examples of loss. The object of the activity was to get people thinking through their own losses. At one point I contributed, “When a person who’s grown up overseas returns to their passport country there’s loss: Loss of culture, of community, of language, of place, loss of family, and friends, loss of pets, loss of parents….” The moderator nodded and wrote on the white board, “Loss of Culture” . That was it.

But that’s not it!

It’s overwhelming to begin to identify all the losses the Third Culture Kid experiences. It’s too much. If we begin to unravel our stories the grief will choke us. There’s been too much loss. Too many goodbyes. Too many metaphoric deaths.  Too many figurative funerals.

We grew up with the loss of our extended families. Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins were said goodbye to as we boarded large airplanes destined for foreign places. We didn’t grow up hearing the family folklore. Later coming back to these circles we often felt foreign and slightly estranged.

Boarding school routines put us on a cycle of loss. We went off to school and there was the loss of our parents, our security, our homes. We left for home and there was the loss of routine, of friends, of teachers. We went off to school and there was the loss of parents, our security, our homes. We left for home and there was the loss of…. And on and on it went. We were forever saying goodbye. We were forever grieving. And when we weren’t actively doing so we had it in the backs of our souls that the countdown was ticking down. 3 more weeks and we’d have to say goodbye. 2 more weeks and we’d be leaving. 1 more week and it the pain would be unbearable. The dread of goodbye was nearly as palatable as the goodbye itself.

People were always leaving too, departing, disappearing. Families would go home on furlough. Boarding parents would come and go. Friends would say goodbye. High school graduates would leave.

All of it should have readied us for the bigger loss that was yet to come. But how could we be prepared for the layers and layers of loss that would leave us raw and broken when it came our turn to leave. When we ourselves left and landed in a country that was supposed to be “home” but felt so completely foreign. We lost ourselves.

But it’s too big of a topic for a seminar. You can’t write it all down on the white board. It’s too much to contain in the confines of a blog or an article.

This has been a week of loss of hundreds of people around the globe. Earthquake victims have suffered the loss of their homes. Villagers in Iraq have endured the loss of their loved ones. Runners and bystanders have lost limbs and lives in Boston. An entire town in Texas is reeling from an explosion that took at least 5 lives and injured 160 more. There’s no standard of measurement for loss, no measuring stick, no system of weights and scales. Who’s to say who hurts more, who has suffered the most? Thousands of people are grieving loss just now.

You can’t write it all down. It’s too much to capture on a keyboard. It’s still too raw, too deep.

As those who have suffered repeated loss, we are equipped to bring the grieving thousands to Jesus. Years ago four friends loaded up their friend on a bed and they carried him to Jesus. The crowds couldn’t deter them. They climbed on top of the roof and they persistently dug a hole through the rafters—a spontaneous skylight!—and they lowered their friend down through the chaos and the crowds and the clammer. They brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. The four understood paralysis of one kind or another and they knew there was hope and healing in one place, one person. That person was Jesus.


Today I load up the thousands on to the mat of my intercession, and I limp along to that One Person. I lay them, the grieving, the traumatized, the displaced, the misplaced, and the wounded gently down at his feet.  He is their only hope. He remains their only haven of healing. And nothing can separate them from that.

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Wrapping up Quite a Week…..

20130408-213015.jpgToday’s wrap-up will be short and sweet. It was a long week beginning in Istanbul and ending in Cambridge lockdown. How different life looked for so many a week ago? Boston will slowly heal on the outside but I am of the unpopular opinion that to heal on the inside takes more than time and therapy; it takes a Saviour and the miracle of redemption.

So today I am primarily going to highlight posts on Communicating Across Boundaries that you may have missed. But first let me send you to the happiest, funnest, truest post that I read all week. I’ll include a few paragraphs so that you are drawn in and can’t wait to finish it over at Huffpost. It comes from my favorite blogger, Djibouti Jones and is called Turning Black and in this week of sorrow – you need to read this! Trust me!

“We’ll turn black pretty soon,” Maggie told Henry. They sat together on the front steps of our home in Somaliland. Henry tossed pebbles at the neighbor’s goats grazing on the weeds in our yard and Maggie brushed her dolly’s hair.

I was trying, unsuccessfully, to coax green bean plants from the rocky soil beside the house. I beat back locusts, fought off goats and sheep, drenched the soil with bottled water, anything for a bite of fresh green vegetable, but the plants would not grow. I leaned back on my heels, listening to the twins’ conversation.

“I know,” Henry said. “Probably on our birthday.” We had been in Somaliland for five months and they were six weeks away from turning 3.

“You won’t turn black,” I said. “You’re white, like Karisa.”

Karisa was another American girl living in our village. Her dad taught history at Amoud University and worked with my husband Tom, a physics professor.

“Karisa isn’t old enough to turn yet,” Maggie said. “She just turned 2.”

“White mommies and white daddies make white kids,” I said. “Black mommies and black daddies make black babies.” I pulled the skin of my forearm. “So you are white.”

Henry shook his head. “No. Jack and Negasti are black.”

Jack was Somali-Chinese and Negasti was Ethiopian and they lived two hours away, in the capital of northern Somalia, Hargeisa. They were adopted by Americans, a white mommy and a white daddy. Jack was 7 and Negasti was 5.

“They turned black on their birthdays,” Henry said. Be sure to read the rest here at Turning Black – Why My Kids See Race Differently.

For the rest of the wrap-up check out these posts from the week if you haven’t already – particularly the one on Loss by Robynn.

On Tragedy:In the midst of tragedy – A Call to Pray

On Loss: Robynn’s article on loss should not be missed so I am linking to it again to make sure you get it. Read it here

On Lockdown: Yesterday was spent in lockdown. Around 2:30 in the afternoon we phoned Trader Joe’s desperate for milk and eggs, but to no avail. The intrepid Dunkin’ Donuts was, however, open – making me proud of Boston! Here are my thoughts on lockdown.

May you rest today and through the weekend. I’m signing off until Monday. Thanks again – for caring enough to read in the midst all the other information online. I never take it for granted.