Oh, the Questions We Hear from Those We Love

I saw a headline a couple weeks ago that pressed down on my chest like a heavy stone. It read, “‘Don’t You Love Us?’ Millennials Say Their Parents Are Making Them Feel Guilty for Turning Down Invitations to Come Over for Passover and Easter.” While the lead-in question is directed at young adults, asked by parents who don’t understand why they won’t be sharing a holiday meal together during the pandemic, it could just as easily be asked of health-care workers or grocery-store employees by loved ones wondering why they are putting themselves at risk by going to work every day.

So this is another thing that cross-cultural workers face that is similar to what’s been brought on by COVID-19: the questions.

Hands up. When you decided to work overseas, did any of you hear “Don’t you love us?” or something similar, from parents, siblings, children, or close friends? How many of you have heard it more than once, maybe each time you say goodbye?

When we make decisions based on our convictions, when we decide to do something difficult or out of the ordinary because we believe it to be right, our actions often affect others, especially those closest to us. And they have questions, and those questions can land with a thud.

That weight on my chest is because my wife and I have heard a couple of those questions ourselves, and the effect still lingers. How about you? Here are some more examples:

  • Can’t you serve God here?
  • How can you be so sure?
  • Why can’t someone else go instead?
  • Are you taking your children with you?
  • What will happen to our grandkids?
  • Aren’t you being selfish?
  • Can’t God talk to me, too?
  • Why do you have to save the world?
  • Why are you leaving me?
  • Why would God want you to hurt us?
  • Can’t you stay?
  • How will you ever get married?
  • When will this be over?
  • Do you know what this is doing to us?
  • Why can’t you get a real job?
  • What about all your plans?
  • What if . . . ?

It’s not just the words that are said, it’s the meaning that lurks behind and between them. We have complex relationships with those near to us. They’re the ones who know our emotional wrinkles, nooks, and crannies. They’re the ones who know the words that can slip into the hidden spaces, spaces where our own doubts sometimes live.

All these questions need answers, right?

Maybe not. But if answers are in order, what should they be? Well, that depends on the person, the relationship, the situation, the setting, and the timing. While I can’t offer up specific replies, I can suggest an attitude.

I don’t tend to take these kinds of questions well. I too easily hear them as attacks or passive-aggressive challenges (“Wow, I was only asking!”). And I live in a culture that celebrates “clapping back,” “pushing back,” “shutting somebody down,” “destroying someone,” and “counterpunching.” At best, I lean toward responding with a chilly silence.

But I think age and experience (that’s what it’s taken for me) have taught me a better way. I’d rather put effort into thinking about where the questions are coming from. We often say “consider the source” to discount something said because we don’t trust the one saying it. But “consider the source” can also apply to the emotions leading to what is spoken. Yes, some mean words come from mean places, but most of our loved ones are asking their questions out of fear or concern or shock or disappointment or grief or confusion or misunderstanding.

Knowing that, I need to be able to give people the benefit of the doubt, to wait, leaving space in the conversation when necessary—and then, when I’m able, stepping into that space with empathy, compassion, grace, and love.

I’ve learned this from better examining my own motivations and actions over the years, knowing I wasn’t always the best at communicating them to others. I’ve learned this from seeing godly family members of cross-cultural workers type out their honest, desperate questions—in all caps—wondering if they’re allowed to feel that way. I’ve learned this from having grown children of my own, children whose principled decisions aren’t always going to fit with my closely held, best-laid plans.

There’s something else I’ve learned—that when I feel a heavy weight, it helps when I can share it with people who understand, people such as you. Thanks.

(Erin McDowell, “‘Don’t You Love Us?’ Millennials Say Their Parents Are Making Them Feel Guilty for Turning Down Invitations to Come Over for Passover and Easter,” Insider, April 9, 2020)

[photo: “What?” by Véronique Debord-Lazaro, used under a Creative Commons license]

How do you praise God when your plans keep disintegrating?

by Alyson Rockhold

At the end of last year, my husband and I found ourselves unexpectedly back in the U.S. Our missions agency was in the middle of transferring us from Zambia to South Sudan when instability in the region forced us back home. We had left friends in Zambia believing God was leading us to a new country: had we misunderstood? During this time of uncertainty, I struggled with sadness over the death of our great plans. I wrestled mightily with being so reliant on family and friends to provide for us as we found ourselves without a home, a job or even a whiff of a timeline for moving forward. 

During church one Sunday, I realized that my mouth was forming the words of a praise song but inwardly I was singing a lament. Each word of praise I tried to force out of my mouth tasted like chalk: a dry, anemic thing with little belief behind it. I knew the sadness itself wasn’t the problem, because God has given us the full range of emotions and wants us to bring him out hurts and concerns. However, I had let my lament become so big in my mind that I had forgotten that God is bigger. 

That night I searched the internet for praise resources and stumbled upon a PDF entitled 31 Days of Praise. Each day included an attribute of God and  a short prayer. I started right away. Over that first month, I saw my vocabulary of praise strengthen in a way that also made my sadness and fears weaken. So I continued going through that document day by day over the last five months.

This vocabulary of praise was a lifeline for me when we eventually canceled our plans to go to South Sudan and began moving forward with a new assignment in Kenya. Reminding myself about the truth of who God is gave me the strength to continue trusting Him as we moved yet again into the unknown.  As our new plans begin to take shape, I realized we would have time to visit friends in a remote area of Tanzania before finally re-settling in Kenya. Our Tanzanian friends asked us to teach at their school while we visited. We were happy to comply! 

Little did I know that two weeks after leaving American soil, I would once again be stuck, jobless, reliant on others and have no idea when this will change. Yet, this time I feel totally different. Maybe a short overview of the last week will shed some light on why:


March 18: We learn that Kenya’s borders are closed for at least the next 30 days.  As a result, we are stuck in Tanzania. Also, with an unknown start date, we can no longer stay on our agency’s insurance. We scramble to find an alternative. 

           -Today’s praise: God of Peace: I praise you with all my heart  because you are the Lord my peace. You are the God of peace who will soon crush Satan under my feet.    (Based on Romans 16:20)

OK Lord, all I see around me is chaos, but I trust that you are the God of peace.


March 19: Tanzanian schools are closed for the next 30 days. Now we are not only stuck here, we are jobless. We finally get decent Internet access and are overwhelmed with reports about COVID19 around the world. 

            -Today’s praise: The God Who Heals: Father, I praise you because you are the God who heals your people physically, emotionally and spiritually. (Based on Exodus 15:26)

Heavenly Father, this virus is terrifying. What if it harms my family or reaches us here? Oh God, I believe you are the great healer!


March 20: The couple that was supposed to serve with us in Kenya has already returned to the U.S. We assess what we brought here when we planned on staying for a month (We left a big box of supplies for Kenya with friends in another city and only brought the minimum to this remote location.) Important things like cheese and chocolate got left behind and we really wish we had those now to comfort us!

          -Today’s Praise: The God of All Comfort: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of All Comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Father, my flesh is longing for worldly comforts. I praise you as the God whose very presence is comfort!


Since COVID-19 has trapped us here in Tanzania, our plans are once again moot! And yes I’ve definitely sung some laments. Yet, each time I have the truth of Scripture to re-center me and words of praise to refocus me. I can look back now and see how God used the struggles of last year to teach me how to bear with uncertainty and trust in His goodness no matter my circumstances. And I’ve discovered that praise can be the bridge between what my eyes see and what my heart knows to be true. Praise God!

Do you struggle to praise God when your circumstances aren’t exactly praiseworthy? I would love to hear what lessons God is teaching you during this challenging time. 


Alyson has lived half of the last seven years overseas including time in Tanzania, Haiti, and Zambia. Her resume includes such diverse experiences as teaching English, assisting with C-sections and making weekly cookie deliveries to the elderly. She’s so thankful to have a grounded, wise, hilarious husband to share the adventures with.

Entitled to Suffer

by Krista Horn

Several years ago, a missionary friend of mine made the difficult decision to leave the mission field because of serious health concerns that couldn’t be addressed in her host country.  She had spent a long time enduring physical suffering and attempting to find answers locally before her condition became so complex and so unbearable that she was forced to return to the States for medical help.  Once in the States she still endured a long and painful journey of recovery. In the midst of all that, my friend reflected, “In order to attain a theology of suffering, one must suffer.”

I have never forgotten those words.

They’re particularly poignant coming from an American worldview.  The American psyche does not accept suffering well. Our culture feels entitled to not suffer, as if all the hard work and thinking and planning and determination and zeal that were instilled in and passed down by our forebears grants us a “get out of suffering free” card.  This is our American Theology of Suffering: we have the knowledge and willpower to combat and defeat suffering if we choose to. We get confused at best, offended at worst, when we suffer anyway.

That perspective doesn’t seem to line up with a biblical view of suffering.

Living and working at a mission hospital in Africa has given us an opportunity to see how other cultures view and understand suffering.  While Americans (in general) experience comparatively little suffering and fight against it at all costs, Africans (in general) experience a lot of suffering and accept its existence in their lives as normal.  Death is known here. Death is fairly understood and even expected. And although death is greatly grieved, somehow it’s also accepted. While we struggle sometimes with how easily it’s accepted – we fail to understand the lack of “Why God?” in so many situations – we’ve also been learning something from our Kenyan brothers and sisters that is so hard for us as Americans: how to identify with our Savior through suffering.

Because of COVID-19, the entire world is suffering right now, and disciples of Jesus in this present age have an opportunity.  We have an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus and to know Him more by willingly walking down the road of suffering.

I would argue that “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10, emphasis mine) is best done by suffering willingly.  I don’t mean welcoming suffering in a masochistic sense or never fighting against sickness and disease.  I mean that it’s beneficial to acknowledge that suffering is a part of this world and no one is exempt from it, and that for followers of Christ it’s beneficial to invite Him to use our suffering as a way of connecting with Himself – the man of sorrows who was familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3).

No one saw a global pandemic coming and no one saw the acute, increased suffering in our present world.  No one saw the sickness and death, the separation and isolation, the stress and anxiety, the financial failures and economic disasters.  No one saw a world imploding and crying out for answers.

Answers may elude us, but opportunities do not.  Opportunities abound for displaying kindness and compassion, for increasing our prayers and study of the Word, for choosing to connect and encourage each other in an era of social distancing, for giving of our limited resources because someone else has even more limited resources.  And another opportunity has presented itself: to identify with Christ through our suffering. 

Most of Paul’s writings on suffering refer specifically to suffering for Christ, for the Gospel.  “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29).  The average world citizen suffering in this pandemic is not suffering for Christ, for the Gospel.  But that doesn’t exclude the reality that suffering for its own sake is opportunity to identify with Christ.

Paul tells of a time when his “brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier” Epaphroditus became ill and nearly died, a circumstance that no doubt caused Paul great anxiety since he acknowledges that a deadly outcome would have spiraled him into “sorrow upon sorrow” with grief for his friend (Philippians 2:25ff).  God had mercy on Epaphroditus, and on Paul too. The life of his dear friend was spared. Yet I’m sure his experience of stress and anxiety (and for a time the loss of his fellow worker’s presence) caused Paul to lean heavily on Christ, the Savior who also knew stress and anxiety and the loss of His fellow workers’ presence.  I’m sure Paul turned to Christ for help and for comfort, and I’m sure Paul understood his Savior a bit more too.

Even for the times when our suffering is granted by God (such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh and of course Christ Himself who submitted to the “the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Isaiah 53:10a), we can take heart that God’s grace is sufficient for us.  His grace sustains us, it teaches us, and it helps us to know Him more.

Charles Spurgeon, who was no stranger to suffering, once wrote: “Will the Head be crowned with thorns, and will the other members of the body be rocked on the dainty lap of ease?  Must Christ pass through seas of His own blood to win the crown, and are we to walk to heaven in silver slippers that stay dry? No, our Master’s experience teaches us that suffering is necessary, and the true-born child of God must not, would not, escape it if he could.”

As we walk this road of suffering during COVID-19, let’s acknowledge the opportunity before us.  It’s not an opportunity to fight against our current suffering because we’re entitled to not suffer.  Conversely, we have the opportunity to endure suffering as people who are entitled to suffer as followers of Jesus.  And maybe, if we’re willing, there’s an opportunity to develop a biblical theology of suffering as we lean into this time of identifying with and understanding our Savior, the Man of Sorrows.


Krista Horn met and married the man who once took her on a date to go tree climbing, which just about sealed the deal then and there. After her husband slogged through seven years of medical school and residency (with Krista doing quite a bit of slogging herself between work, grad school, and becoming a mom), they left for the mission field with three boys 3 and under. Now they live and work at a mission hospital in Kenya. While her husband is busy on the wards, she stays busy with all the details of motherhood on the mission field.  When she’s not making meals from scratch or singing lullabies or chasing skinks out of the house, Krista loves to curl up with a book, bake chocolate chip cookies, and go to bed early.  Krista blogs at www.storiesinmission.blogspot.com.

Sources of Stress During COVID-19

It is no surprise to you that COVID-19 is stressful. Yet, I found that simply saying, “This is stressful” wasn’t very helpful. Oh sure, it helped a little, but in the way that eating a bit of chocolate helps me in the moment. Five minutes later, that bit is long gone and fast forgotten.

Instead of the big ball of yarn labeled “stress,” I sat down and teased out sources of stress specifically related to what you and I are experiencing. To help us remember and categorize these sources I used the acronym “COVID VIRUS.”

See how many of these are a source of stress these days:


  • Autonomy on your decision to stay or leave 
  • Family – do you have college aged TCKs, aging parents, single
  • What special events do you have this season or year?


  • What has been Shut down or postponed
  • What new opportunities are created? New skills you need to learn?

V—Virus (medical reality)

  • Health (yours, family, friends, locals)
  • Medical systems you may need to access or not be able to get to

I—Isolation (are you)

  • With family
  • With friends/co-workers
  • Alone


Your own temperament will find different aspects stressful if you are a person wired for: 

  • Optimism vs. Pessimism
  • High vs. Low Structure

V—Visa (and other parts of life on the field)

  • Support raising and financial realities of supporters
  • Transportation

I—Isolation/Social Distancing

  • Stay-at-home and how the regulations are made
  • Different interpretations of regulations


  • The amount of time you have known people
  • The moods of those around you


  • The sheer amount of disruption
  • The sheer scope of the disruption


  • Distant from God
  • Disappointed in yourself

Whew! That’s a lot. Listing it out like this helped me to understand the many directions that stress is coming these days. Understanding how much COVID VIRUS stress you are experiencing is a key first step. Review this list and see how many of these you have experienced. You are still in the thick of the stress, so it is okay that you are stressed. It is reasonable that your body, mind, and soul are impacted. But as the weeks and months go by, this is also true: Unmanaged high stress over time can lead to burnout or depression.

God has designed you to be an integrated being who is impacted by the stress and trials of life.

The next step is to ask yourself, how are you managing your stress and what adjustments do you need to make in the short and long term to manage it better?

You will forever be marked by this COVID-19 season. How could you not be? Yet debriefing in-person is expensive and right now almost impossible to get to. The material in this article is modified from one of the debriefing modules created by Global Trellis “Debriefing COVID-19.” Because whether you left or stayed, you have a lot to unpack from this season so that seeds of burnout or bitterness don’t take root.

You can start debriefing today. Or get it today since it is discounted for one more day and start it in a few weeks or when you have time.

Which of these three could you beneifit from today:

1. Space to reflect on how COVID-19 has influenced your life. 
2. Begin to process loss so that seeds of bitterness don’t take root.
3. Create a record of what you have experienced.

Or all three? God will meet you in what you need as you debrief COVID-19.

Raising Healthy Third Culture Kids

It was in the fall that I first saw the announcement from Lauren Wells that she would be writing a book about raising third culture kids. Like many TCKs, I get skeptical any time I hear that someone is writing a book about us. But Lauren’s approach and the fact that she herself is a third culture kid had me curious. That curiosity led to a full and enthusiastic endorsement of the book she has now beautifully delivered. I received my copy in the mail a week ago, and it sits here, beside a picture of my own second generation third culture kids. It’s easy to think “Where was this book when I so needed it?” but that is nonproductive at best. What I will say is that I am so delighted to know that this book is now available.

Today we have the opportunity to hear from Lauren about this book and her journey to writing the book. We begin with my review and then move forward in the interview with Lauren. You can read her bio at the end. Enjoy!

“Lauren Wells begins her book by describing what she calls the ‘ampersand’ life of the third culture kid, demonstrating the wonder, beauty, and difficulty of a global childhood. The description is remarkably accurate  If we could ensure that our TCKs would grow up healthy and resilient in this ampersand existence, able to withstand the inevitable adjustment process that comes with the global life and adapt accordingly, we would do it in a heart beat. In Raising up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids, Lauren Wells has gifted us with a gentle guide and a preventive health primer, unique in the field of third culture kid literature.

As an adult third culture kid who works professionally as a public health nurse focused on prevention and wellness, I applaud the comprehensive content between these pages. The preventive wisdom in the book includes evidence-based practice around the adverse child events study and survey, research and findings from Dr. Brene Brown’s work on belonging and fitting in, and important information from key thought leaders in the TCK world. It is a goldmine of wisdom, organized in a practical and readable format.  While we cannot know all our TCKs will go through, we can take a giant step forward by reading this and learning how to multiply the benefits of a global life and conversely pay attention to the challenges that can become stumbling blocks to healthy development.

If you are working with, raising, or love third culture kids from any part of the globe, buy this book today! The pages will quickly go from crisp and new to dogeared and underlined, worn in the best possible way for reading and internalizing this gift.” – Marilyn Gardner


Tell us a bit about your background, and with it what prompted you to write this book?

My TCK journey began when family moved to Tanzania when I was 12 years old. It was a challenging transition, but I came to love living in Africa, and I integrated deeply into the village culture where we lived. In university, I realized how significantly my years overseas had impacted me and I decided that I wanted to work with families who were on a similar globally-mobile journey. 

I began working with families in 2015 when I became the TCK Program Director for a training organization called CultureBound and created programs for children and teens that paralleled CultureBound’s adult trainings. As I worked with children and teens, I began to also work more and more with the parents, but in the short amount of time we were together, I felt I could barely scratch the surface of what I felt they needed to know. It wasn’t uncommon for parents to ask for a dinner conversation to continue talking about TCK care. 

In 2016, I founded TCK Training as a way of continuing the conversation by providing practical ways for parents to be intentional about every step of raising their TCKs. TCK Training offers a blog, workshops, trainings, consulting, and many other resources. I had never considered myself a writer and certainly never anticipated writing a book, but through four years of writing content for TCK Training, A Life Overseas, and other forums, I developed a love for typing out my thoughts, and people often told me how unique and helpful my practical, preventive approach was. 

In spring of 2019, I attended a conference with others who are in the TCK care world, many of whom are authors themselves and all of whom had read my work. They encouraged me to write a book and believed it would fill a gap in TCK literature. So, I decided to go for it and here we are exactly one year later! 


How might this book differ from other literature on third culture kids?

There are many great books on Third Culture Kids, but I wanted to offer something new to the TCK community in three different ways: 

  1. I wanted to create something very practical, easy to read, and not intimidating for parents (understanding what it’s like to try to get through a book with young kids during transition!) while still filled with excellent research-based content. I wanted it to be accessible enough for parents, yet highly informative for member care workers and organizational personnel. 
  2. Many of the TCK books talk about what a TCK is and discuss the challenges and benefits of the TCK life. This is excellent! But I wanted to take it a step further and offer a practical guide for what you can do with all of that information as you parent TCKs. 
  3. Finally, all of my TCK work focuses on proactive, preventive care. Much of the literature available focuses on reactive care – addressing the TCK’s challenges after they have negatively manifested. I come at it from the other side – looking at how parents can begin to address those challenges when they first move and begin a life overseas and doing this through the application of prevention science.


How do you think writing this book has helped you as an adult TCK?

Writing this book has helped me to process so much of my own experience. I joke that I never know what I’m feeling until I write it down, and that certainly was the case as I wrote this book. While I have been teaching this content for years, writing it down in book form helped me to process how I have grown in each of these areas – and especially how that has shown up (or still needs work!) in my own parenting.

In some ways, I feel like I wrote a mirror that I constantly need to look into as a gauge for how I am doing as an adult TCK. The premise of the book is that we can raise up healthy TCKs, but it is helpful to realize that there will never be a point when we, as adult TCKs, arrive at our perfectly healthy selves. This book has helped me to have a good way to check in with myself and assess how healthy I am (or not) in each season and transition.

What is the most significant piece of advice or wisdom you have received as a third culture kid?

I was told once that nothing will ever undo the TCK piece of your identity. As an adult, living in my passport country and raising my own kids, there have been times when accepting this life felt like a betrayal to my TCK-self – that I would slowly lose my TCK identity. Realizing that part of me will always be a TCK has allowed me to be willing to learn to put down roots, develop deep friendships with people who aren’t TCKs, and be all right with raising my kids in my passport country for as long as God has us here. 


What do you hope parents will gain from your book?

I hope that parents will reach the end of the book feeling hopeful, encouraged, and equipped with practical tools and skills for caring for their Third Culture Kids. I hope that they will see how intertwined the benefits and challenges are of the TCK life and will be inspired to address the challenges, not out of fear, but because it is through working through the challenges that the amazing benefits of the TCK life are magnified. 


As an adult TCK, what are some words of encouragement you want to give parents?

I would say two things. First, in the book I talk about the TCK life as an ampersand (&). It is both good & hard. More than anything, I want to encourage parents that while it is difficult to embrace that your child’s life will include the hard, so much of the good comes because of the hard. So many of the amazing benefits of the TCK life like high emotional intelligence, adaptability, and resilience are only there because they were born out of the difficult pieces of TCK life. 

Second, the entire premise of my book is that it is possible to raise healthy Third Culture Kids. As an adult TCK who has had to work though (and in many ways is still working though!) each of the challenges, I know that when the energy is put in, the benefits of the TCK life become incredibly valuable in every aspect of adulthood.


Lastly, If you had 20/20 vision, what would you tell your younger TCK self?

This is a hard question! Two things come to mind. I would say…

“I know this is so hard right now, but you won’t regret being a TCK. It will become such a huge and significant part of who you are and what you do with your life. Out of this hard will come so much good.” 


“You don’t have to work so hard to adapt perfectly to every situation and be a constant chameleon. You can let people see the many different pieces that make you who you are instead of constantly trying to show them what you think they want to see. It’s ok to let your African TCK side show – people will probably even like it!”


Other articles by Lauren on A Life Overseas:

10 Questions to Routinely Ask Your TCKs

7 Ways to Teach Your TCKs to Process Grief

Should TCKs Take Their Parents to College?

6 Ways to Help Your TCKs Manage Their “Need for Change”

GRIT: A Guide to Praying for Third Culture Kids



Lauren Wells is the Founder and Director of TCK Training, Director of Training for CultureBound, and author of Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids. She specializes in practical, proactive care for TCKs and their families. Lauren grew up in Tanzania, East Africa, where she developed a love for smokey chai and Mandazis (African doughnuts). She now lives in the US with her husband and two children.

Are You Doing Enough?

My daughter, a freshman in high school, said to me this week, “I don’t feel like I’m being productive right now.”

We were on a long walk with our dog because we miss being able to go to the beach during this pandemic and we both wanted to see the water. We walked and talked and she added, “Like, I’m not being useful.”

My first response was to tease her about how she was welcome to be more useful around the house (she already helps with dishes and laundry and cooking). But then we had to drill down deeper because what she was feeling is something I think a lot of us are feeling lately.

I believe humans are created with the innate desire to be useful and productive, to do work. To make things, care for each other, invent, build, improve, brainstorm. Most of that involves being around other people. Yes, some of us can work from home but clearly, there are significant limitations to this, and we are being forced to examine in new ways the choices we make in how we spend our days.

I think an underlying question is, “Am I doing enough? Am I enough?”

Is it enough to feed my family three meals every day entirely made by me? No pizza delivery, no restaurant, no bag of spaghetti from the corner, no fresh baguette?

Is it enough to keep the floor (sort of) free of dust and dirt?

Is it enough to play Settlers of Catan and do puzzles?

Is it enough to call my nieces and nephews over Zoom and read them Dr. Seuss?

Is it enough to make cinnamon rolls and drop them off on door handles for coworkers on Easter?

Is it enough to help a third-grader with math?

Is it enough to hold my tongue at the end of a long, monotonous, groundhog-type day?

Is it enough to create inside jokes, like literally inside (the house and the family)?

Is it enough to tutor students through lessons over the telephone?

Is it enough to ask over WhatsApp, but how are you really?

Is it enough to respect a lockdown law?

All of these things look like good things, right? But they aren’t what we want. We want more. We want to celebrate Easter by sharing the meal of cinnamon rolls. We want the third grader to learn from an actual teacher. Forget about all the development and aid work or business work or whatever job work we are hired to do.

Is this really enough? Enough…what? What does that even mean? Enough to be worthy of being alive? Enough to be pleasing to God? The question seems to imply a belief that we must earn the right to exist.

And yet.

Marilyn Gardner said to me recently, “It is as if we forget that just being alive is productive enough.”

John O’Donohue wrote in Walking in Wonder, “To be born is to be chosen.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe it is enough to breathe in and out, for your heart to beat? Do you believe that simply by nature of existing, you are chosen, you are enough? 

And all that other stuff – the cooking, cleaning, teaching, working, loving – that’s part of the enough-ness. It isn’t bonus or extra because you can never be extra enough. You are already completely enough. You can’t be extra chosen, either you are chosen or you aren’t. And you are.

This week as you go into yet another week of long days and an uncertain future, remember you are enough. It is enough.

It is enough to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apple slices and to spread a blanket out over the grass (or rocks, in our case) in the backyard and go on a picnic with your toddler, to lean back and watch the clouds or to examine the lively ants.

It is enough to complete all the work Zoom meetings for the day and then sit back and watch Netflix.

It is enough to reheat leftovers and to leave a patch of dirty footprints through the kitchen.

It is enough to call your friends just to say hi and check in.

It is enough to take a shower and put on fresh clothes.

It is enough to admit your worry and anxiety.

It is enough.

It is more than enough.

You are chosen.


We had a rough year. From running our base on our own to riots in town, we were happy to close the door on 2019. 2020 would be a good year. We had a furlough coming! I couldn’t wait to relax, let down my cultural guard, connect with friends and family, and forgo cooking from scratch.

 We had pinned so many hopes on a good furlough, then COVID-19 happened.

We watched the spread and wondered if we would be able to make it out of our country of service. Thankfully we left just before countries around us started closing to transit flights. We landed in the US on March 6 and enjoyed one week of freedom before social distancing orders took over. Our furlough plans crashed down around us as spending time with much of our extended family, friends, and our sending church became impossible.

We still have a lot to be grateful for. We are safe. We are provided for. We do not lack. But man oh man we are disappointed.

Disappointment is where I sit today and type out this message to you. A part of me feels like this disappointment is a sign of just how self centered I really am. The world is sick and I feel sad because I can’t take my children to the movies?

That’s the thing about disappointment, no amount of attempting to reframe my mind to be grateful for what I have really helps. I am thankful for where we are and how we are able to wait out this virus in safety, but I am also really, truly, sad about my dashed expectations.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Luke 24:13-35. It’s the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but as far as the two disciples in the story are concerned, Jesus is dead. They walk along the road to Emmaus rehashing the events of the last years and days. They are heartbroken and confused. Jesus appears, unrecognized, and walks alongside them asking what they are talking about. The disciples recount the story of Jesus and the crucifixion, then say my favorite line of the entire passage, “but we had hoped that he was the one…”  

But we had hoped. Can you hear the disappointment? Can you hear the sadness?

This is where I find myself, walking loops around the neighborhood, talking to Jesus, recounting events and spilling out my spoiled hopes.

I had hoped to use this time to let my children experience American culture.

I had hoped to make memories with family we haven’t seen in years.

I had hoped to spend hours catching up with friends over coffees or pizzas.

I had hoped to share face to face stories of all the things we’ve experienced over this last term.

I had hoped…

In the Emmaus story, Jesus listens. He lets the disciples share everything on their mind, all their disappointments, before saying, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all the prophets have spoken!”  

I don’t believe Jesus was angry with them. The passage is full of tenderness, of walking alongside, of listening, and of explaining. Jesus took them back through the story from the beginning and expanded on all the scriptures, he replaced disappointment with understanding and peace. At their invitation he even went on to stay and eat with them before being recognized.

As I pour out my disappointments, I ask for understanding and peace. I know the One walking alongside me. I’m not looking for some bigger reason of why this virus had to happen, but I am asking for understanding that even in the midst of everything, God is still good. I long to hear that gentle chastisement, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe!” and for his outlining of truth-

Truth that God is at work in a broken world. That he cares for us all. And that no disappointment, no matter how small, is too small for his attention and teaching.

Grief at Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

On February 15, at five o’clock in the morning I received a phone call from my oldest brother. My second brother, Stan, had died tragically from a fall in Thailand. The news traveled fast to our large extended family. From Thailand to Saudi Arabia to Istanbul, to Greece and on to California, New York, and Boston and several parts between, the news stunned all of us with its magnitude.

Within a few short hours, a couple of us had tickets to Thailand. It was the beginning of the spread of the coronavirus beyond the borders of China, and along with the throat catching grief of death and loss was the background worry of travel and an epidemic that was rapidly crossing borders to become a pandemic. We went anyway. 

My brother worked alongside farmers in Central Asia, teaching them more efficient and effective ways of farming and working the land. He loved God’s good creation. His life, his work, and his photography reflected the tension of seeking out and searching for glory in the midst of a broken world that groans. For Stan, there was glory all around – nothing was mundane. 

A couple of days after we arrived in Thailand, surrounded by the beauty of a grief-laden garden, eleven of us gathered to remember my brother. The depth of love and bearing witness to grief that we shared as a group was indescribable. We spent four days together – four days of grieving which meant we wept, we laughed, we ate, we reminisced, and we talked about how we were angry at him for leaving us too soon. 

Within days after arriving back in the United States, our world had changed. Suddenly dinner table conversations became about working from home, shelter in place, the number of fatalities, and borders closing in countries all over the world. The solidarity that we shared as a group together in Thailand, grieving my brother and taking comfort in each other’s love and grace, was overshadowed by a global pandemic. Suddenly the vice grip of grief and loss became a world-wide vice as the death toll began to rise in country after country. My brother’s death faded in people’s memory. He was just one more dead in a world where death was becoming numbers instead of people. With gallows humor we talked about putting an engraving on his as-yet unordered tombstone with the words “He did not die of COVID-19,” but realized it would be far too expensive. 

We waited with dread, knowing that the church where his memorial was to be held would be cancelling the service. We would have to postpone grieving with others who loved him, with my mother who had lost her son, with my oldest brother who had not been able to make it to Thailand because of a separate tragic death, with friends from around the world who were sending expressions of love and grief through cards and messages.

In the meantime, we were still spread around the world. We waited anxiously as different family members made plans and then watched them fall apart as borders closed and planes stopped flying. We welcomed some family back and began communicating daily with other family who were staying in their host countries. Our collective grief spilled over in messages and phone calls, trying to comfort each other, to see silver linings where there were only frayed edges. 

I felt the grief of my brother’s absence in every statistic I saw of those who had died from the pandemic. I felt it in every article I read that took the statistics and changed them into actual stories of those who had died. Who were they? Who had they loved? Who would miss them? Who would mourn their absence for years after the pandemic ended?

And where was God in all of this? God of the individual and God of the masses, God of the broken-hearted and God of the joy-filled. God of Gethsemane, another grief-laden garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives where Jesus reckoned with the mission he had come to accomplish. Where he, overwhelmed with sorrow, poured out his human heart before the Father.

We see Jesus, in the mystery of being fully man and fully God, taking friends along with him to bear witness to his sorrow. And yet, in his hours of great grief, they fell asleep. They disappointed him. Anyone who has known grief knows the pain of grieving alone, the discomfort of awkward interactions where people don’t know what to say, and the sense of disappointment when our friends don’t understand. In this time of worldwide grief, we are witnessing families broken apart by grief, unable to honor those who have died and bear witness to each other’s grief. Yet, it is in this place of deep sorrow that we find a comforter and counselor.

So it is to this garden that I go today; a garden significant in this Holy Week for Protestants and Catholics around the world. A garden that stands as a symbol of grief and the costly weight of the journey to the cross.

It is here that we see Jesus in his frail human state speak of his soul, overwhelmed with sorrow. We watch as he begs the Father to “Take this cup from me.” We feel his grief, we see his sorrow, we enter into his suffering. We bear witness to his journey to the cross.

The journey of Lent leads us to the Garden of Gethsemane. We don’t stay there forever, but right now, let us pause a moment and gather in Gethsemane. Let us stay with the broken world of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – with the cry that echoed to the Heavens “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Let us stay with the grieving and those who have lost, let us bear witness to pain, to suffering. Let us grieve for our broken world and let us do it together. Let us not be alone in our suffering, but let us journey to the cross as a people who are living out the “fellowship of his sufferings.” And there, at the foot of the cross, let us fall down and weep.

[Scripture from Matthew 26: 36-39]

The End of All Things

Darkness and grief, shadow and death
The Hope that had been
Sags low without breath

Weak and alone, absorbing the pain
The one who was Love
Endures for my gain

“Forgive them,” he prays,
“Jews, Romans, all!”
Redeeming us from our sins and the fall

“It’s finished!” he yells
For his sons and his daughters
His life and his mission now lead to his slaughter

Giving it all, keeping naught in reserve
The Lamb takes my place
Taking all I deserve

The darkened sun hiding, the women are weeping
The earth loudly cracking, the curtain now ripping
Blood and water are dripping

The death of the Lamb is obscene, but predicted
The fog of great evil begins to be lifted
But first, the end of all things

The son of God dies.

“He left us!” they cry, confused and alone
“Our friend and our brother, terminated by Rome!”
“Our hopes have been broken, our dreams have been pierced.”
Disciples sit trembling, ashamed of their fears

Three quiet days come and go without Word
The King is nowhere and faith seems absurd
But behind the scenes now, the deep magic stirs
The plan before time finds its time and occurs

The broken world groans, the stone starts to move
Rome’s power now fractures, the Light’s breaking through
The splinters that pierced, pierced more than just flesh
They tore holes in despair, pushed back the darkness

The King wore his crown
Taking authority, striking Death down

Conquering sin, the grave, and all hist’ry
He gave up his life so all souls could see
The dawn of new life and eternity

The Kingdom has come!
The Lamb has been slain
Our sins have been wiped
Along with the stains

The Kingdom has come!
Christ is risen indeed!
Right here and right now, the
Beginning of all things



You can listen to the poem here or below:


In the midst of COVID-19, a message to those who stay and those who go

For the past few weeks, our minds have all been collectively spinning. Many of us have spent hours wondering and praying, either out loud as we lay in our beds or silently within our own heads, about what we should do. We’ve turned it over and over again in our minds, examining it from every angle possible, hoping to see something we hadn’t seen before that will finally make it all clear. 

But it’s been difficult. There’s been so many questions with answers that we just can’t predict with any reasonable certainty. In light of what is going on, what is going to happen to us? What will be the potential effects on my health or my family’s health? On our financial situation? On our ministry and those we have felt called to serve? What will people here think of us? What will people there think of us? Where is God calling me to be right now? 

Amidst this COVID19 outbreak around the world, should we stay or should we go? 

For many of us, that has been the biggest and heaviest question on our minds recently. For some, this decision still needs to be made. While most commercial flights are cancelled, situations are rapidly changing and last-minute government-operated evacuation flights are still popping up sporadically and forcing families to constantly re-evaluate. 

For most though, the decision has already been made and you are where you are for the foreseeable future. For some, that decision was yours to make. But for plenty of others, that decision was made for you…whether by your sending agency or home church, by airline cancellations, or by your host or passport country’s government policies that have kept you put where you are. 

Some are happy with the decisions that have been made. Some though are understandably upset that they were never given the chance to make a decision at all. Some are satisfied with where they’ve ended up and others are disappointed. Some consider themselves “stuck” abroad while others consider themselves “stuck” at home. 

Some people feel like others are overreacting, while some people feel like others are underreacting. People are getting angry and disappointed with the “others” for “not getting it.” 

Some people feel that those that are going back are living out of fear rather than faith. Meanwhile some feel that those who stay are ignoring the facts and living out of ignorance or misplaced confidence. 

Some people think it is selfish to stay (potentially putting extra burden on what is already an exhausted health care system in a developing country and extra burden on your donors if you do get sick) and others think it is selfish to go (placing your own well-being over that of another).

Missionaries who go back to their passport countries or are already stuck in their passport countries might wrestle with regret or guilt of feeling like they are leaving certain people behind or abandoning them. Meanwhile, missionaries who stay in their host countries, might also wrestle with regret or guilt from those who might want or need them to come “home.”  

What are we to do?? 

As always, let us all who hope in the Lord, first be strong and take heart (Psalm 31:24). There is no universal “right” answer here. In these types of situations, there is no choice but to respect one another’s decisions and extend grace to our fellow missionaries. Because either way, the decision was most assuredly not an easy one…no matter how it might have appeared outwardly. We can’t ever truly know anyone else’s entire situation (medical, financial, emotional, spiritual) and it is not our place to judge. We don’t know what God has laid on their hearts or what He has called them to do. We don’t know if they are obeying or disobeying the Holy Spirit’s stirrings in their hearts. We can’t see the future to know what was right for this family versus that one. Only God will ever know that. 

As Christians, we believe in the sovereignty of God’s Will and we can trust that God will use and work good in whatever decision that was made. Just as God calls some to literally “go” abroad into the mission field, He calls and also needs some to stay. Likewise, God has called some people to stay and some people to go. 

So to those who stay and to those who go…

Rest assured, that the same everlasting truths still hold true for us all. Remember that God is still the one in control. Remember that we are not prisoners of fear, shame, guilt, or regret. Remember that you are no less or no better than anyone else, we are all human. Remember that you are still called to serve and give generously, no matter your geographical location. Remember, now more than ever with our minds and worlds shaken and turned upside down and inside out, that we are called to show grace to one another and be patient in love. Remember to be kind. Remember to pray for and check in on each other, many of our friends are struggling. Remember that this is not the end, He is still bigger than it all.

Know that you are worthy and that you are loved by your Heavenly Father, no matter what and no matter where you ended up. Have confidence that He is still working in and around you, through you and in spite of you. No matter how you feel about where you are, your calling is still the same. Continue to lay your life down as a daily offering upon the alter and keep striving to use your words and actions to share the hope, peace, love, and joy that you have found in Christ. 

Most of all, remember that whether you stay or go, you still have a purpose right where He has you.