All of life is theology.
What do I believe about God? What do I believe about people? What do I believe about how God interacts with this world, his creation? My beliefs about who God is and how he interacts with people profoundly shape the way I see the world. That theology informs everything about how we humans, image bearers of God, are called to move in this world.
I believe God loves his creation—his fallen, broken, marred and often evil creation. I believe that through Jesus, God paid the ultimate price of death to restore this creation to himself. I believe that God calls people to himself, naming those who trust in his name as his beloved sons and daughters. I believe that, if you are his child, then you are an ambassador of God, a representative of the Creator, to this crazy, unjust, greedy, power-hungry world. If you are a child of God, it is your responsibility to display the difficult, sacrificial, life-altering and life-changing love of God to to others. This includes not just our friends, but especially our enemies. (Mt. 5:43-48)
Perhaps you know where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m talking about refugees. I’m talking about Trump’s recent order to: halt for 120 days the entry of all refugees; to totally stop Syrian refugee resettlement until further notice; and his ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US on any type of visa. (Thanks The Atlantic for the 411 on what the order does and doesn’t do.)
If you know me, you know I’ve made some unusual choices with my life. For most of my life since college, I’ve lived overseas. I’ve spent my life sharing the Gospel with those who don’t yet know Jesus and discipling those who do. I don’t think that every single Christian is called to move overseas and do this. But I do believe that every single Christian is called to spend your life on the mission of making God’s name great among the nations. That means that whether you go or whether you stay right where you are, sacrificially working to see God known and loved in places where he is not is not optional. I’ve been so grateful to be the recipient of the radical and self-sacrificial generosity of so many who haven’t gone, but have given to the point of pain to allow me to do so. I’m so grateful for that partnership, and I’ve learned so much from the Christ-exalting generosity of others.
And guess what, America? Right now the nations have come to us. The reality of the current “wars and rumors of war” means a global scattering is currently underway. The question we face is not whether it will impact us, but how we will respond to the opportunities this dispersion presents.
It’s hard for me to be back in America, truth be told. I loved my life overseas, and I miss many, many people who were dear to me beyond words. But for this time and this season, God has me living on the outskirts of Los Angeles in the immigrant suburb of Alhambra, Ca. There were hard moments in my time overseas. I’ve had visa problems, I’ve had a knock on the door in the middle of the night, I’ve been scared for myself and for my friends. I’m a fraidy-cat by nature, as much of a natural worrywart as anyone I know, and my fearful tendencies have been exposed and amplified time and time again. Usually the fears were nothing but my own ephemeral imagination. Sometimes they were based in reality. But despite all that, despite my fears and despite the times my fears were realized, working with people who are radically different from me is a privilege. Along with being married to my husband and parenting my two children, working among the nations is the greatest joy and privilege of my life.
I’m not going to get into what the rules for vetting refugees and immigrants are. According to my understanding and the experience of people I trust, the process is thorough, and the process works. I’m not going to deal with the role of government policy in national security. (If you’re interested, please read this. I found it quite wise.)
But I’ll say this, crazy and controversial though it may be. If you believe that God deserves to be worshiped by people of all tongues, by people of all skin colors, by people of all cultures, then you should hope and pray and work to do everything you can to allow those people here. I don’t personally think there’s much chance that a refugee to America will perpetrate terror. (The process is extensive and the vetting is thorough. This is America, shielded by two oceans, not Germany, which refugees can reach more easily. Have I even mentioned this?: those refugees, by the way, are desperate, hurting people who are longing for a safe place to raise their children.)
But here’s the really crazy thing that I believe with all my being: in God’s upside-down kingdom, victory comes through death. That might be death to dreams of success or money or stability, or it might be through actual physical death. God’s glory is worth death: my own or even that of my family.
Those are difficult words. But I believe them with everything in me. In North Korea, Christians are asked to deny their faith. If they refuse, it can mean the most dire consequences, not only for themselves, but for their families. I recently re-read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Taylor’s wife and four of his children died as the price of his work in China.
Is Jesus worth it? Is the glory of His name worth this steep a price? I believe, I wager my life, on the fact that he is.
So no, I don’t lose sleep over a refugee killing me in my bed. But Christians—every Christian, not just crazy ones who move overseas—ought to be willing to give up their life for the sake of the name of Jesus. In America, we have been shielded from the persecution and difficulty and self-denial that Jesus himself tells us is the cost for following him. (“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Mt. 16:24-25) This isn’t a special price for super-Christians. This is the price that every believer should expect and be willing to pay.
Remember how I mentioned Germany just above, where refugees are pouring in, not trickling? Refugees from Syria and Iraq and all over the torched landscape of the Middle East are coming to Germany and there, in the churches where the fires of the Reformation were first lit, they are finding that Jesus IS the Son of God. And yes, I’ll agree with you that terrorists are likely hiding among the refugees of Europe. But God is merciful, severe though that mercy may be. And in this case I believe his mercy is being extended through allowing people, refugees, to find him, the Pearl of great price—although they lose lands, home, and father and mother to do so.
May Christians in America open the door to welcome them with gladness.
This is my foreign daughter reading with and being loved well by her classmates during our time overseas. Just a little levity and a picture of how much of a difference kindness can make in the day-to-day life of someone who’s new to a country/culture. 🙂
In the summer of 2005, I packed two bags and one carry-on and moved to East Asia. One year later, Michael did the same. Since we boarded those planes over a decade ago now, Asia has been home. But after years of joy and heartache and hope and disappointment and a life bigger than we could have ever dreamed, something new is on the horizon.
Stella’s last day of school in Asia. Zane is in super-serious mode apparently.
In another month or so, we will pack those bags again and move to Los Angeles. It’s certainly not the direction we ever expected life to take us, but we are grateful for and excited about the opportunity to continue to be a part of reaching the world with the Good News of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It’s just that, this time, the world is in America, not Asia.
Click the link below to find out more about our big move!
Hello Dear Internet Diary (aka my parents),
Long time no see! There’s been lots happening in life lately, but little—nothing—showing up on this here blog. Reasons? Not because I’m busy, but because the simple act of sitting down to write about the current state of affairs seems far too overwhelming to contemplate. But here I am, and here goes a recap of life, lately:
We are in Atlanta. Living by the grace of God and other people’s generosity, in a mother-in-law suite attached to someone else’s home. It blows my mind that this is available to us, but it’s real, and we are–maybeperhaps–just beginning to figure it out. The first six weeks we were back in the States, Michael had a few classes in Atlanta and the three of us bounced around like a ping pong ball between Alabama and Tennessee. We are gloriously glad to be (semi-)settled, particularly because all that transition was hard on the Bean, leading to clinginess and unsettled sleep patterns. Michael starts class this week, and we are trying to ease ourselves into some semblance of routine.
It has been–and here’s the Dear Diary aspect of this post–a difficult transition for our family. It has been obvious that the Lord is leading us and He has abundantly provided for our needs, but there has been much uncertainty, little alone time, the stress of our different personalities responding to events in different ways, and (particularly on my part) grief for what we left behind. As we begin to settle into life in the States, I’ve realized that this season has placed me in a bit of a pressure cooker. Living overseas, we often talk about how life in a second culture (in the recent words of a friend) “lowers the water level” and reveals the ook and grit we’d prefer to keep hidden beneath the surface. For me–at least at this point–it seems that this year in America is placing me in a place of uncertainty and instability and revealing bits of me I’d prefer no one (least of all myself) to see.
Unknowingly, I’m realizing that I took quite a bit of pride in my ability to “live well” overseas. After six years, I could speak the language; had long-lasting friendships in the midst of the constant transition of ex-pat communities; knew how to cook and go to the market and just generally accomplish things; loved our apartment complex and loved how well our neighbors loved StellaB; and found our daily lives purposeful. This year, I am confused by Publix; feel anxious and awkward making small talk; have great friends near-by-ish but not in my vicinity (or at least my life stage); am intimidated by American fashions and styles; and–maybe this is the kicker to my pride!–am not an expert on anything in daily life.
I’d love to tie this all up with a pretty bow and summarize why this is healthy or how it’s going to help and change me, but right now I believe instead of feel all these things and so have no neat wrapping with which to package this. I’m grateful for where we are, but learning to deal with all of this is certainly a process.
Annnnnd Stella is crying to get up from her nap, so there’s my cue. Next time maybe I’ll have cute pictures to post, at least?
One day out from moving back to the good ole US of A, and I figured maybe it was finally time to put some pictures of the Beaner’s nursery up. For posterity, you know.
It seems surreal that Stella is nearly one year old, and it breaks my heart to leave this place so soon. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it is what is happening.
So, one last look before we go.
The crane mobile. Hand-folded origami birds + sticks. I love it, and Stella does, too!
Michael’s mom made the gown above her dresser for her going-home-from-the-hospital outfit.
The camel is from Egypt, and the puzzle from Ethiopia. Both gifts from my little sister who lives in Africa.
More paper magic with the chain of yellow flowers.
We bought this little wooden animals in Bangkok back when we thought StellaB was a he, not a she. My friend Cat made the “Jesus Loves Me” artwork.
I adore this rocking chair. (Michael isn’t as in love as I am, but he just doesn’t know what he’s missing out on.)
All the artwork are free downloads from Vintage Printables.
And that, friends, is StellaB’s room!
Have you ever wondered how it would feel to have the paparazzi on your tail, stalking your every move, documenting your tiniest sneeze, analyzing your clothing choices, rating your performance?
Well, wonder no more. Just ask Stella!
This girl is princess of the playground, ruler of the one-and-under crowd, queen supreme of have it your way. That’s her taking over some kid’s portable keyboard. (FeiLong, in the gray sweater, is public enemy number one as he also likes to have it his way. Kid is half-American: sensing a pattern here?)
On the downside, this means Stella’s clothing choices are regularly criticized and bringing her out with a runny nose and short sleeves leads to looks of death and judgment. On the plus side, if I’m feeling tired, I just head outside and I betcha 10 bucks I can find someone else who’s willing (desperate! dying!) to hold the Bean.
There are a lot of things that make me nerve-y about being back in the States for a year. Maybe the biggest? Who’s gonna take care of my baby?
Yes, that’s right: other people regularly grab Stella and go. This is her with her name twin: XuanXuan jiejie (that’s XuanXuan Elder Sister, also known as Stella) and XuanXuan meimei (XuanXuan Younger Sister, who’s smaller by two months). This picture was taken a month ago; on Sunday, Stella danced for 30 minutes or so to XuanXuan meimei‘s stroller boom box and then, like the tyrant we all know is bottled up in there somewhere, made XuanXuan meimei‘s mom walk her around for another 10.
Last week, I was eating lunch with a friend at a fine local establishment. Stella was in the stroller making faces at the people at the next table (who asked if I was ever worried someone would steal her because she was so cute). Next thing I knew, Stella was out of the stroller and the waitress was bouncing around the restaurant with her. Lest you think this was odd, this was the second visit in a row where this happened.
Sometimes I should probably be a little more hands off. But y’all. Seriously. People are happy to entertain my child while I enjoy a leisurely meal. They are happy to make faces and coo at her when she cries on the elevator. They are happy to get the door and open the gate and happy to share their kid’s toys and happy to laugh at her when she pitches a fit about wanting to take said toy home with her.
I swear that Stella must think her name is yang wawa (foreign baby doll) because honestly, people scream it every time she shows up. And it’s not just around the local crowd.
Our friend group here is disproportionately young and single and that means Stella is disproportionately the center of it all. She does have a few friends her age (see above: hi Jack and Luke! Addie and Noah, we miss you!), but the numbers are so far out of whack that there are always at least 5 or 6 people available to coo and giggle and clap and cheer.
Girl has got a cush life. Oh, well–all that’s coming crashing down in T-minus 25 days when we pack it up and head for ‘Merica.* Tell me, are Americans generally happy to be seated next to one-year-olds on trans-Pacific flights? No? And how do they feel about happy babies who have been traveling for 24 hours before they sit next to you on the Dallas-Atlanta leg? Not great?
Oh well, Asia. Stella (and Stella’s mama) are in for a cruel wakening in the real, harsh world of the SouthEast USA.
*Who am I kidding? Gran and Grandpa and Bebe and Papa will pick up the slack right where Asia dropped the ball. Stella, honey, you’ve got it made.
In addition to getting ready to move, we’ve recently also been hitting the road. Planes and cars and hotels and other people’s empty houses… I guess there haven’t been any train or boat rides in the last month, but it sure feels like we’ve done it all. Traveling with a baby isn’t the easiest thing, but I am thankful that traveling with 10-month StellaB is infinity times better than traveling with 6-month StellaB.
Here are some pictures from one of our latest trips, this one to a beautiful area in the south of the country. We met some great people, saw blue skies and sunshine, and learned a lot. I don’t have photo documentation of us all together, but we were also grateful to travel with our friends and neighbors, Owens and Jess. They make entertaining the Beanster 1000 times simpler–and are dang good company, too!
Thirteen or so months ago, we loaded up our lives into rice bags and hauled them 20 stories down, across the street, and 10 stories up into the apartment complex across the street. We weren’t thrilled about moving–our landlord kicked us out because he wanted the apartment for himself–but thought we’d ended with a good deal in our new home. A newer place; bigger; only marginally more expensive; and (maybe best of all) a landlord who was just keeping the apartment as an investment; a place we could settle and STAY.
The idea of staying was attractive because I’ve logged up the moves since starting college at 18. Here are the stats for the last 12 years.
Times I’ve moved continents: three
Times I’ve moved an hour or more (essentially to a new city, although one of the in-Asia moves was to a different part of the massive city where we live): six
Times I’ve moved apartments: 11
(Is it clear that this is a total of 11 moves? Not a total of 20. Just if you were keeping score. I sure am.)
But last spring, as far as we could see, there were no more moves on the foreseeable horizon.
Turns out, we couldn’t see that far.
Because here we are again, one scant year later, getting ready to pack it all up and move it all on. I won’t get into it here, but due to an unforeseen turn of events, we are headed back to America next year. It’s taken a bit of time for this fact to sink in, but now that it has, I feel: sad. uncertain. apathetic? thankful (that Stella will get to see her grandparents in real life, not just on Skype). overwhelmed. But mostly, I feel tired.
This life we live is crazy from any normal point of view. Who in their right mind would change countries as seemingly cavalierly as others change–I don’t know–their gym? Well, here we are, guilty as charged. (Although of course I must insist that these changes are not at all unconsidered or off-hand.)
It’s true, this ain’t normal. And while anyone who makes the life choices that we have made is obviously a little bit off somewhere up there, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. The constant transition frays, sometimes more than just a bit, at the edges of my weary soul. People come, people go, it’s a fight to care. To know when relationships are worth fighting for, and when to just let them fade. To manage the details of packing up a life, of making plans for a new and temporary home, of planting and uprooting and re-planting.
No answers here, just questions. And this thought, from Abraham Verghese’s book Cutting for Stone:
“Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?”
Old as this song and dance can become, this is truth. We have so many homes, so many places where we are wanted. Come or go, stay or leave, I’m grateful for that.
Sorry your life is so unsettled, StellaB.
But I think, hope, that it’s rich in some ways that a “normal” life isn’t.
It’s a trade-off, for sure.
Just know this: wherever we land, one of your many, many “homes” is ecstatic to receive you.