Saints Amongst Us

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Tomorrow is All Saints Day. I love All Saints Day for the way it anchors me in the past and points to the future. Hebrews 11 and 12 is one of the best known remembrances for the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us. 

While I know that not all who serve on the field come from a rich faith heritage, when people start to share their story there is often at least someone in their family’s past who wasn’t a stranger to Truth.

Who are some of the saints in your family? Whose faithful shoulders are you standing on?

In my family it is my Grandma Young. Even as I type this memories of her come racing back though she has been gone from this world for more than 30 years. A strong memory that captures my grandma’s two great loves of Jesus and her family involves a weekend that our parents left my sisters and me at our grandparents.  

Grandma faithfully played the piano at her church.  We were too young to sit in church alone while she played, requiring our grandpa to attend with us. Grandma wore hearing aids to help her hear, but for some reason on that day the three of us belted out the hymns so loudly she probably didn’t need them! Grandpa was a sport to stand there, towering over the three of us when he probably wanted to shrink away from the smiling stares.

I wasn’t aware of Grandpa’s strong discomfort of everyone looking at us at the time. What I remember is watching my grandma play with gusto and joy as she beamed at the three of us joining her in singing to God. I have no doubt that I was in China as a result of her prayers and faithful life.

As the generational mantle is now being passed on in our family and I see the potential in my nieces, I wonder the ways in which they will join the cloud of witnesses. But on this day, instead of looking to the future, join with the author of Hebrews and as we fix our eyes on Jesus, be reminded of the ways he has worked in your life and family.

Who are the saints in your family?

Between Christmases

by Katherine Seat

Streams of uniformed children walked into school, trampling on the scattered grey snow. As I watched from my window, I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was all wrong and weird.

I knew well ahead of time that Christmas is not a public holiday in China, but I still felt surprised. School and cold weather should not be present on December 25th.

Christmas to me meant the end of the school year and the beginning of summer holidays. That was all I’d known, my entire Australian childhood. It was for family, church, and water fights.

“We live between worlds, sometimes comfortable in one, sometimes in the other, but only truly comfortable in the space between.” –Marilyn Gardner, Between Worlds

The author was writing about her experience as a child growing up overseas.  She spent her formative years outside her passport county. I can also relate to it as an adult living overseas. I spent my formative years in my passport country, but most of my adult life I’ve lived outside it.

Before I visited China and then moved to Cambodia in my 20s, I was comfortable in Australia at Christmas. That was all I knew growing up. It surprised me that banks were open on December 25th, even though I had known that would be so.

But I would not be comfortable in Australia now, as most of my adult life I have been in Asia. I don’t think I know how to be an adult in Australia or what one would be expected to do at Christmas. But I know there are expectations as people plan weeks or even months ahead.

I was uncomfortable in Asia, but now I’m a lot more comfortable. The feeling of school and cool weather being wrong is long gone. In fact, I appreciate the cooler weather.

At first it didn’t feel like Christmas without Christmas trees and gift exchanges. But now I don’t feel that way. Some years if I have energy, I do trees and gifts — but if not that’s fine.

Christmas trees and Santa Clauses are now visible and available where I live. This wasn’t the case in northern China 20 years ago when I had my first overseas Christmas. Both Asia and I have changed.

Now I’m most comfortable between worlds. Not in Australia where Christmas is such a big deal, and yet also not going about my usual work day in Asia either.

So what are my Christmases like in this season of life? I still think of December 25th as a holiday. I feel like it is the right day to celebrate Christmas, even though I don’t believe there is anything spiritual about that date.

We join the local church to celebrate Christmas. It never feels like a proper Christmas to me because they have it on a Sunday. Local churches choose any Sunday in December or January to celebrate Christmas. It’s usually a big, noisy affair and includes a nativity play and meal. It’s an amazing display of God’s gift to us, the biggest time of the year for the young church in a Buddhist nation.

In Australia we have a church service on December 25th no matter what day of the week Christmas falls on.

So far I have been able to take December 25th off every year; I know this is not the case for many. There was one close call when I was helping at a school, but luckily I had dengue fever so I stayed home anyway.

My husband and I didn’t have a tradition of doing presents. Since our children have been old enough to know what’s going on, they have decided they need presents!

Our favourite way to spend December 25th is having a quiet day at home. I usually buy special food. Something delicious that is easy to prepare, often something foreign that we don’t eat on a normal day.

Some years we get together with other expats for a meal, sometimes not. I love that we can make a big deal of it if we want to, but if we are feeling like a low-key day, we have freedom to do that too.

What about you, O fellow expat or repat? What are your Christmases like? And how are you feeling about this Christmas?

Are you excited to be able to choose your favourite Christmas traditions and adapt? It could be an opportunity to create your own Jesus-focused fusion of cultures.

Or maybe you are dreading being in a place where you’re away from family and there are no signs of Christmas? It might not even feel like Christmas at all.

Or are you missing that expat friend whom you used to do Christmas with? Life hasn’t been the same since they moved back to their passport country.

And if you are back in your passport country, you might also have mixed emotions.

Maybe you are looking forward to finally having a proper Christmas? You’ll have it with the right people and the right weather.

Or are you dreading the first in-person family Christmas since the death of a loved one?

Or perhaps feeling overwhelmed at the commercialism and obligations?

Maybe the church in your passport country seems so different to how you remember it? Perhaps it feels Christmas time would be more meaningful with people from around the world?

I don’t know if you will be in a world that is comfortable to you or not this Christmas. Whichever it is, I hope you can still celebrate that the maker of the universe entered our world.

The light of life among us dwells
Oh, hear the darkness quake
as angels all proclaim
The glory of Immanuel!

 

(Lyrics from “Maker, Made A Child,” by Abi Marthinet-Glover, Alanna Glover, and Jake Marthinet-Glover. Emu Music, copyright 2020.)

~~~~~~~~~

Katherine’s childhood church in Australia launched her on a trajectory to Asia. After a decade of preparation she landed in Cambodia and married a local Bible teacher.

Oops, I went home for Christmas — How to readjust to life abroad after a quick trip “home”

Ahh, busyness . . . sneaks up on you doesn’t it? Especially this time of year.

Caught me off guard and I’m a bit overrun by cookies, carols and Christmas cheer to pause and post something fresh.

So . . . please accept my apologies and this repost from The Culture Blend.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year to boot.

Oops, I went home for Christmas

This post is specifically for the masses who have been transitioning to a new life abroad and thought that a quick trip home for the holidays might be exactly what they needed to crush their culture shock and get rid of that pesky homesickness.

You know who you are.

Fetal position?

More homesick than ever?

Pricing airfare again?

I used to say don’t do it — EVER — don’t go home in the first year.  Give yourself a chance to work through the mess and the bumbling of learning how to be a foreigner before you run back to everything familiar.

I stopped saying that for two reasons:

ONE: No one listened.  A bit of advice (no matter how spot on) always loses miserably to Nana’s pumpkin pie.  Hands down.  I get it.

TWO: Some people do it really well.  They go.  They come back.  They re-engage and it’s good.  I won’t argue with that.

However, it is a harsh reality that a quick trip home in the middle of a cultural transition CAN be more painful than you expected.

 

Maybe you’ve seen something similar to the diagram below.

It’s the standard culture shock continuum that charts how we process things that are “DIFFERENT” (namely everything) when we move abroad.  It happens to most of us although it takes on a million different forms since . . . you know . . . we’re all different.

Point is . . . transition is a process.

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So it makes sense right?  If you’re at the bottom of the curve and everything is stupid, you need a break.

A fast infusion of familiarity would do the trick.

A hug from mom.

A night out with old friends.

A Ribeye.  Medium Well.  With a loaded baked potato.

What were we talking about?

Oh yeah . . . a quick trip home.

That’ll fix it.

In our heads, it looks like this.

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It will be a nice little taste of the well known in the middle of the dip so I can recharge and come back refreshed . . .  ready to move forward.

But home doesn’t live in the dip.

Going home (especially for the holidays) can be more of a super spike of hyper-charged emotions . . . on crack . . . and steroids . . . and Red Bull . . . and Nana’s pumpkin pie.

It actually looks more like this.

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Think about it.

Detaching from all of the sources of your greatest frustration and plugging in to all of the sources of your greatest joy ONLY to reverse that moments after you get over jet lag is not a sustainable solution to the frustration.

Au contraire (pardon my French).

 

Here’s the thing — this scenario doesn’t apply to everyone but the principal probably does:

  • For some people going home IS the pain.
  • For other people the holidays are the pain.
  • Some people don’t go home but they go somewhere warmer, or nicer, or more exciting or just less frustrating.
  • Some people do this in May or September.
  • Some people don’t even leave but they still detach.

The point is that you can’t FIX transition by stepping away from it.  It’s a process.  You’ve got to go through it.

That said — don’t despair if you’ve already made that choice.  It doesn’t need to be a bad thing.

 

Here are some quick thoughts on moving forward:

 

ONE:  Don’t blame your host country for not being your home

That’s not fair and all of the facts aren’t in yet.  You knew it would be different when you came.  Now you know “how” it is different.  Keep learning.

 

TWO:  Don’t compare the end of THAT with the beginning of THIS

It took you years to build the great relationships that you are mourning as you adjust.  It makes sense if you don’t have deep roots yet.  Give it time.  Give it a chance.

 

THREE:  Focus on how far you’ve come

Especially if this is your first year abroad . . . think about it . . . the last time you took that flight you had NO IDEA what to expect.  You didn’t know the people, the places, the customs, anything.  You’ve actually come a long way in a short time.  Keep moving forward.

 

FOUR:  Compartmentalize

It’s ok for your trip home to be wonderful.  It’s supposed to be.  It’s also ok for your time abroad to be tough.  It’s supposed to be.  You don’t have to feel guilty for either one of those and they can actually exist perfectly in tandem.  Trust me, in time they can do a complete 180.

 

FIVE:  Engage even if you don’t feel like it

You can’t kick your roller coaster emotions out of the car . . . but you don’t have to let them drive.  Do something, eat something, learn something you don’t necessarily want to right now.

 

SIX:  You are not alone

Really.  You are not.  I’ve had this conversation at least 30 times this year.  You are not the only one who feels like this right now and there have been millions before you.  Myself included.

 

SEVEN:  Accept the truth and move ahead

If you went home for Christmas (or otherwise detached) it COULD do something like this to your transition.

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Detaching momentarily doesn’t come without a price.  There is a good chance it’s going to take you a little longer to work through the transition process and feel at home in your new normal.

Ok.

But you had a great Christmas.

You made some great memories.

If you’re in this for the long haul then accept the penalty and move on.

 

There is nothing like the experience of living abroad.  There are great things waiting of the other side of the dip.  In fact, there are probably some pretty great things all along the way.

Don’t miss them just because they’re not as good as Nana’s pumpkin pie.

Nothing is.

 

What’s your experience?  Have you left and come back?  Flying out this week?    Share your story below.  

9 Ways to Make the Most of Christmas Abroad

Christmas abroad can be lonely. It can also be delightful. Here are some things my family has learned over the years that help to make our holiday season special.

Stuff shmuff. The cheaply made but expensive toys break. The box sent from the US arrives late, like next October late (which, in truth, can be super fun. Christmas in October? Why not!). Stuff is easily forgotten over the years. But the gift of a camping trip to the coast? A safari? SCUBA lessons? They are the ‘stuff’ of memories. (I will say, I am super thankful for the actual stuff I have received over the years, too. As anyone knows who asks about my running watch, I still rave about last year’s Christmas present.)

The privilege of making our own traditions. The first few Christmases abroad are blank slates. Do you love the breakfast tradition your family had in your home country and can you replicate it? Then do it. But do you want to have something else for breakfast? Awesome, your choice. We Joneses wrestle, bake cookies, go camping, and laugh at our ridiculous homemade ornaments. Those are yearly traditions. Others come and go depending on people, supplies, schedules. It can feel intimidating, or maybe even sad, to look at advent and Christmas and to feel pressure to make something meaningful. Think of it as an opportunity to creatively design your personalized traditions. (also, know that anything you do one and a half times will be considered a ‘tradition’ by your children.)

Family far away? Make a family. Local friends who don’t celebrate Christmas and local friends who do. New coworkers. Friends from school or sports. Singles and young families, empty nesters and college students. It can be easy to assume others aren’t lonely, like you. Or others have already been invited to dinner or a game night. But maybe they are also sitting at home feeling lonely and uninvited. Love the people far away, yes. Skype and send gifts or messages, visit. But love the people nearby, too. Love them well.

It doesn’t take much to make it special. A two-foot Christmas tree. Paper cutout snowflakes dangling from twine and taped to the ceiling. A scented candle. A special tablecloth. Music.

Portable traditions are really valuable. You can bake in Minnesota and you can bake in Djibouti. You can wrestle in Minnesota, in Djibouti, even in the airport or at Disney World. Develop at least a few traditions you can bring anywhere.

Food blesses everyone. People without kids want to frost sugar cookies, too. Muslims enjoy a good spritz cookie, too. Moms with babies might not have time to bake but they sure appreciate a box of Christmas chocolates. Asking someone new which food they miss most and then surprising them with it on Christmas can make people cry and form lifelong friendships. Recipes are portable, mostly, so you can take that lovely, homey, Christmas kitchen smell with you when you move. You can even box it up and send it to kids in college. Food itself is also portable and communicates someone is remembered.

Enjoy your local friends’ attempts to celebrate with you (and return the favor on their holidays). Even, perhaps especially, when the attempts are funny. Like the mannequin at the grocery store that is more barefoot-martial-arts-stripper than Santa or the ground beef snowman with a carrot nose and olive buttons. Or their delight at seeing their first ‘real’ Christmas tree, ever. Or their building of awesome meat-based snowmen.

Stories matter. Build them, create them, and retell them. They ground mobile kids in their heritage, they give them the building blocks of lifelong laughter, belonging, and shared memory. Santa and the goats. The screaming baby in Santa’s lap (who happens to be her own father). The awkward nativity play. You have your own, tell them.

Read out loud together. Here’s another portable tradition, even one that you can do over Skype. Read the Nativity story in the Bible. Read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (we do, every year, and laugh more every year). Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and then make up your own, local-style version.

I’m sure y’all have buckets (or should I say action packers) of Christmas lessons, earned through tears and loneliness, learned through laughter and creativity. What are some of your suggestions for making the most of a Christmas abroad?

A Christmas letter to parents, from a kid who doesn’t have any

Your kids aren’t going to remember what you get them for Christmas. They’re just not.

At least I don’t.

My mother died when I was a teen, my dad when I was in my early twenties. And when I think of the holiday seasons with them, I remember them. I don’t remember their gifts.

I remember my mom stomping down snow and scattering bird seeds to feed the menagerie of winged color that knew where to find a good meal.

I remember slow evenings around rock and wood and fire.

I remember egg nog, sipped slowly, and luminaries of sand and wax.

I remember Christmas Eve walks with family, sometimes comfortable and sometimes minus twenty.

I remember their love, not their presents.

Remember, the one with the most toys does not win.

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Your kids don’t need more stuff. They need you.

To put it bluntly, there will come a Christmas without you. Hopefully, it’ll come much later, but it might come sooner. That’s not a morbid thought, it’s a centering thought. Your kids will always have stuff. They will not always have you.

So hug them. Read to them.
For Christ’s sake, be silly with them and show them that joy exists outside of presents.

Dance with your children and make memories. Watch Elf together and belly laugh. Schedule some down time. Block it out on your calendar because it’s important. Say no to something so you can say yes to something better.

Pause long enough this holiday season to cuddle with your little one. Or listen to your big kid. Don’t spend so much time watching football with your kids that you never play football with them.

Remember: it’s not about stuff. It never was, and it never will be.

Please, don’t give your children something so cheap as things. Stuff never connects people in meaningful ways. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect, isolating the user: “I play with my stuff and you play with yours.”

Stuff fills our hands, making it harder to touch another person’s soul.

Stuff fills our ears, blocking out the heart-cries of the near ones.

Stuff fills our eyes all the way to the periphery, keeping us from seeing the tremendous value in the people right here.

Remember, the best memories are not made of money. The best memories are made of people and places. If you have money, spend it on memories. If you don’t have money, that’s ok too, because money’s certainly not a prerequisite for memories.

Remember, for this Christmas and the ones to come, the gifts won’t be remembered. Your presence will. Or your absence. Both of my parents are absent now; I can’t change that and neither can they. But while they still could, they gave me memories. And I do remember.

I remember my mother’s last Christmas. She was sick and we all knew it. That last Christmas morning, she sat on the couch and held a large stuffed bear and watched her children. And she smiled.

And that smile remains one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.

 

*from trotters.41.com

The Signs of Christmas

What are the signs which point to Christmas coming?

In every culture there are different visuals which alert us to the coming of this holiday season.

When I first moved to South Africa, Christmas snuck up on me because I did not see the normal American signs. Once I learned the new signs, I could anticipate its approach.

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Here are a few signs which pop up in virtually any culture.

1. Things appear. Things which are unable to be found for most of the year, begin to appear around Christmas. Certain music, different types of food, and of course decorations. It is the time of year some people appear in church for the first time all year! Each nation is different, but all have things which appear.

2. Gifts. Some are large, some small, many spread over multiple days. But Christmas seems to universally include gifts. Children line up to meet Santa Claus or Father Christmas and make their requests known, provided they have been more nice than naughty.

3. Wrapping. More than any of other holiday or celebrate, gifts are wrapped in elaborate packaging. A quick google search reveals this to be a huge industry, netting 2.6 billion USD per year. Some estimate the amount of paper thrown away could encircle the globe over 9 times! (226,800 miles of discarded paper)

These are all signs Christmas is nearly upon us.

But these are not the true reality of Christmas, yet they can point us to what Christmas is all about. Here are three signs Christmas has come.

1. Jesus appeared. Titus 2:11 tells that “the grace of God appeared bringing salvation for all people.” Just as certain foods or decorations appear at Christmas, it reflects the true appearing that occurred. Grace came. Jesus appear. God came to Earth.

2. Jesus gave himself as a Gift. As we exchanged gifts with loved ones, it points us to the true gift which Christmas represents. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,…”

Only this gift is not based on being naughty or nice. That represents wages or what is do to us. The true gift an act of grace from God to us. We were all naughty. Jesus, unlike Santa Claus, does not weigh out the good from the bad. Rather, he forgives us and gives us what we need to learn how to be “nicer”, even though we will never perfect this.

3. Christ Wrapping Himself in Humanity. Philippians 2:6-8 describes the ultimate act of humility, when Jesus took the form of a man. “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,…” Other versions say he “wrapped himself in humanity.” Creator God taking on the form of the creation, wrapping himself in weakness. Wow.

As we see the signs of Christmas appearing, the exchanging of gifts, and the wrapping of presents; they all stand as reminders to point us to the true reality Christmas brings.

In other religions, you must appease the angry and distant gods with gifts.

In Christianity, Jesus appeared and came near, giving us the gift of salvation, as he wrapped himself in humanity.

This is the true sign of Christmas.

What other signs in your cultures or nations are signs of Christmas that point to the true meaning?

Merry Christmas!

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

Photo by D Buster via Flickr

Celebrate and Vacate

Today is my daughter’s Golden Birthday: 12 on the 12th! Yeah for Gabrielle! So today’s A Life Overseas post is dedicated to celebrations… and vacations!

Washington kids (Gabrielle is in the middle)
Washington kids (Gabrielle is in the middle)

Celebrate the small stuff! Celebrate the big stuff!

Don’t let the work take up so much room that you “don’t have (make) time” for: celebrations, travel, relaxing, fun, vacations, parties… breathing.

When one finds themselves in a long season of frustration the reasons can come from two different places:

#1 – – One has lost the vision / passion / motivation and must return to face the question eyeball to eyeball: why? Why am I here? Why have I sacrificed? Why can I hope?

#2 – – One is exhausted and needs to combat the fatigue with exhaling.

Exhaling

Work is like inhaling. We inhale stress. We inhale troubles. We suck it up and push through and that taxes our beings.

Exhaling is breathing out all that we have sucked up. It takes the form of a break. Because, really, if the work is breaking our backs maybe that is a sign we need to take a break from the work.

Little breaks are vital. Take one day off a week. Contrary to the opinion of some, I do not believe that two half days constitute a full day off. I say a day off is: no work from the time you lay your head down to sleep one night until you lay your head down to sleep the next night.

Make space for margins in your life. Anticipate holidays and enjoy them. Put birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days on your calendar and in your budget so that you can fully embrace the importance of the days.

7 – 7 – 7

Every 7 days how about you take a break? (I know you’ve heard it before… but you need to hear it again: Even God took a rest.)

Every 7 weeks how about you get away for a few days? (It’s about every other month.)

Every 7 months how about you take a vacation? (But that is almost 2 vacations a year!?!? Yes. I hear you. Please keep reading…)

Vacations

Here’s a nice way to look at it.

Single? Once a year do a vacation just for you. And then once a year do a vacation with friends or family.

Married? Once a year do a vacation with your spouse. And then once a year do a vacation with another married couple or a group of friends.

Kids? Once a year do a vacation with the whole family. And then once a year do a vacation by yourself (if you are a single parent) or just with your spouse.

family vacation

Furloughs are NOT vacations

When you travel back to your passport country and you are speaking in churches, meeting with potential donors, and going to conferences you are working. That is not a vacation. If you would like to combine your vacation time within your furlough time, by all means do so. Be sure you, and others, can distinguish vacation from furlough, though. Maybe a week of vacation before furlough or a week after. Maybe the middle week to break up the work time. Guard it. Value it. Enjoy it!

What’s the next celebration on your calendar?

What creative ways have you found to “exhale”?

– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie  facebook: atangie

Traveling Missionaries

Being a missionary carries a great cost, but does have some benefits. It is not all doom and gloom, complete with vows of poverty and poor fashion choices for clothing.

In today’s day and age it is easy to benefit from one aspect of the missionary life. Frequent travel. The nature of missions involves being traveling missionaries. We have left home to go somewhere.

There are great opportunities and value given to those who find themselves on the road often. It is easy to believe that obtaining these perks are not something “spiritual” missionaries do. I would like to contend it is the practice of the wise

I’ve written several posts on my blog regarding how to benefit from these perks. Some of the topics I have covered are:
Racking Up Frequent Flyer Miles.
Finding the Best Flight Deals
Avoiding the Middle Seat and more Travel Tips.

Some rights reserved by Moyan_Brenn

These posts have been some of my most successful. I will not repeat what is in them, but would like to offer a few points based on my experience and mention the benefits of following the advice to the Life Overseas community.

1. Always, always collect your miles. You might not be a missionary who’s job involves multiple trips, but simply earning miles for moving to the field or your visits home can earn you a lot of free travel. When you move a family to the field, you can earn miles for EACH member. One trip can net miles in the six figure range.

2. Don’t see benefiting from hotel points or airline miles as un-spiritual. I believe God would say it is wise. Last Christmas our family traveled home to the USA from South Africa. We purchased the international tickets, earning nearly 80,000 miles for this. While in the USA, we did not pay for a single domestic flight to see our families or supporters saving several thousand dollars. In fact, we used 7 free tickets to visit family and supporters. We were even able to use this commodity to bless others. We gave others three tickets. We might not have a lot of cash, but this is a currency we can be generous with.

3. Miles or points can benefit your ministry. I have flown free within Africa on ministry trips, Often it costs less to fly 10,000 miles to the USA than it does 2,000 within Africa. If I pay for the high mileage tickets, it helps me fly free on the lower mileage but higher priced ones. Also, on the hotel side of things. Having a free night in a hotel on a long international layover beats sleeping in an airport anytime!

4. Mileage can serve us in emergencies. This is a savings account of sorts. Recently, our family needed to respond to a family emergency back in the USA. Within 2 hours of hearing of this, I had a mileage ticket booked for my wife to travel internationally. She departed the same day we found out. If I were to buy this ticket, it would have cost me several thousand dollars.

5. Travel currency can benefit you with rest and relaxation. Even missionaries need rest. God commands it after all. We might fight the guilt battle which says we can’t do this (maybe believing we are indispensable), but God tells us to. As you read this, my wife and I are on a much needed break. We have flown to a foreign destination and are spending time in hotels, completely FREE. With the year we have had, we needed it!

Not sure where to start? It’s simple.

The next time you fly or stay in a hotel, make sure you have signed up for that airlines or hotel chain’s loyalty program. Try to pick one which serves your frequent travel destinations and stick with it.

It’s called wisdom and it carries many benefits; financially, emotionally, and “vacation-ally”

How have others in the community benefited from travel perks? What stigmas do we need to expose which tell us missionaries we are not able to do such activities or that they are “un-spiritual”? 

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

Merry (Tacky) Christmas

This Christmas Eve, I’m remembering another Eve not so long ago which was spent in flip-flops and not snowboots, with skype and not flesh-and-blood. And this season, as I pray for you, my friends who are living internationally, I will ask that your holidays be rich with the love of Jesus– even if you are forced to decorate in epic-tackiness. Maybe you can identify with this post I wrote last year in SE Asia: 

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I’m not afraid to say that we’re having a tacky Christmas this year–  tackier than I experienced while growing up in the deep South, and tackier than when we were married-young and living-in-government-housing college students.  I’m finding that celebrating a Christian holiday in a country that’s 96% Buddhist limits your decorating options, and so, we’ve settled for a

sadly sparse, and glaringly-obvious fake tree,

plastic ornaments and a foil star, reminiscent of last year’s sale items at the Dollar Tree,

and, {perhaps the ultimate in Tacky} a fringed and foil Merry Christmas sign that adorns our kitchen wall.

But, I am learning this year some important lessons, in terms of cheap garland and plastic evergreen and celebrating so very far away from home.  I am learning that

The Spirit of Christmas far outweighs the decorations of it,

That the Holidays are about what you DO experience and not about what you DON’T have,

and that the message of December 25th is the same on the remaining 364 days of the year, and it has always been that

Love Wins.

His Love.  My Love.  Our Love.

And the rest is really just decorated plastic, anyway.

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How are you feeling this Christmas season? What are the gifts of spending the holidays internationally?

– Laura Parker, Former aid worker in SE Asia

Sunday’s Inspiration

The histories of hymns fascinate me. I feel connected to the flesh and blood humans who poured their life into words we let our lips form to lift our spirits. My favorite Christmas carol is no exception.

Here is the story from good ol’ wikipedia:

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley, John Wesley’s brother. A sombre man, Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the joyful tune we now expect.

A hundred years after the publication of Hymns and Sacred Poems, in 1840, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, and it is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, that propels the carol we know today.

The creation of my beloved stanzas spanned over one hundred years. Wow! Take heart! Your efforts, coupled with those who have gone before and those yet to come, effect eternity!

Hebrews 11:39 -40 proclaims this truth after the long list of heroes of the faith:

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. (msg)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise;
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the favored one.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

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What is your favorite hymn or Christmas carol? Why do you love it?

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– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie work blog: House of Dreams Orphanage