Christ came for you too


I love Christmas cards and letters because they remind me. They remind me of different stages of my life and people I have known. They bring people to mind I may not have thought of in months (maybe not since the last Christmas card!). They help me feel connected to a larger story than my own.

So, I’m writing this post more as a letter from me to you. It’s been, as we all know, quite the year. As I’ve prayed over this post and what it is that God would have me write, a list of ideas came to mind, but none of them seemed quite right.

I know that this year COVID has invited us to identify with those we have come to serve in unique—at at times annoying—ways. And these are important lessons for us. We cannot deny this. But if I’m honest, these lessons don’t get down to the core of what I need from God.

Advent is traditionally a season of lament and Christmas (December 25-January 6th) is a time of celebration. This week, as we round the bend of Advent and move towards Christmas, what is it you are longing for?

God sees individuals and groups. God sees you. In Advent he asks, “What are you longing for? What do you want me to do?”

Maybe you’re not sure.

Read over this list of desires or longings and see which catch your eye, or stir a longing in you:










As I said, I love Christmas cards and letters because they remind me and help me feel connected to a larger story than my own. My hope and prayer is that this letter reminds you that Christ came for you too.

Christ came to meet your deep longings. He sees your local friends and neighbors and he wants to meet their needs. He does. But you are not a mere conduit of his love to them. You are a vessel of longings and needs he wants to fill.

Christ came for you too. What you you longing for these days?

Grace and peace my brothers and sisters,

P.S. If you’re wanting something old and new, did you know that each verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” focuses on a name or attribute of Jesus? Global Trellis has partnered with The Invitation Project to create a bit sized way for you to daily encounter Christ through this song. This advent tradition begins on the 17th and ends on the 23rd – each day focusing on a verse of the song and the scripture that correlates “O Antiphons,” refers to the chorus that is repeated after each verse.

 Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel

You can get the special recording and short daily emails here. Christ came of you too.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Looking for a Place to Land

by Kate Motaung

I was a few weeks shy of twenty-one, and my plan was to stay in South Africa for five months. But just as my childhood stay in a renovated pump house stretched into a decade, what I thought would be a few months overseas morphed into ten and a half years. God’s plan kept me there and stained my heart with Rooibos tea and red African soil.

Over ten years, I moved ten times, bookended by my initial move to South Africa, and then back again to West Michigan. Time and time again with each new rental apartment, each borrowed house, I desperately tried to convince myself that I was content. But the truth was, when I was here, I wanted to be there, and when I was there, I wanted to be here.

At first, all I wanted was to hang pictures on the walls without fear of our landlord inspecting the drywall at the end of our lease. To pound a nail into fresh paint and transform a bland house into my signature flavor. But after a chain of rented apartments and long-term house-sitting stints, I lost interest in making any effort. Knowing we’d be moving again soon stifled my desire to settle. Sometimes I didn’t even bother to unwrap the scented candles from their swaths of newspaper. In the last few rentals, I even left the framed family photos tucked away in their Bubble Wrap, knowing that I would just have to rewrap them soon anyway. As we packed suitcases and boxes for the umpteenth time, I felt the burden of exile. The weight of my wandering.

Then finally, I understood. This whole life is a rental. This whole body of mine is a borrowed house. And sometimes it’s a good thing to be discontent with where we are, because this is not it. It’s a good thing to feel like we’re not at home and to long for another, for permanence, for stability, because we’re not home yet. Having been washed by the astounding grace of the cross, praise God, my citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

My life sprawled out between the parentheses of two continents. This is living in the “in between”—between the fall and redemption, the already and the not yet, between hope’s longing and fulfillment. Where time passes with the click of a mouse and drags like a whiny toddler down a grocery store aisle. Where graves are dug and happiness buried. Where bees and words sting, and hopes are ripped off like stubborn bandages. Where victory has been accomplished, but Christ has not yet returned.

God took my definition of home, tore it up, and tossed it out the passenger seat window, where it caught the southeaster, never to be seen again. He opened to that chapter of my soul where the ink is faded, the yellowed pages transparent from vigorous scribbles and constant erasing. For years, I obsessed over the pursuit of home. It always felt just out of reach. Visible, but unattainable. Now I see I had it all wrong. Home in its truest sense—my eternal home—is exactly the opposite. It’s attainable but not visible. Attainable only because of Christ’s work on the cross and His gift of faith to me. Invisible for a little while longer, “for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). It took me decades to figure out that home is partly about where I’m from, yes—but home is far more about where I’m heading.

Home is more than just a place—it’s a promise.

God took the tug-of-war that waged in my soul, the thick rope that spanned across the ocean, and yanked from both sides. He cut it clean through the middle, somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic. And He made me look up. To see that the greatest and strongest pull is neither east nor west, neither here nor there. It’s the heavenward pull.

It’s the pull toward home.


Author’s note: This post was an excerpt from my memoir, A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging. It appears near the end, as I reflect on the consequences of my decision to spend the final semester of my cross-cultural missions degree in Cape Town, South Africa. I ended up meeting and marrying a South African man, and we now have three children.


Kate Motaung is the author of A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and BelongingA Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief, and co-author of Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me). She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing, editing, and digital marketing services. Kate blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

“Fernweh” and “Heimweh” — words for the one who’s far from home

I found a new word on the Facebook profile of a missionary writer, and it’s the best new word I’ve heard in a long time. It’s called fernweh, and it’s a German word that means “a longing for faraway places.”

The feeler of fernweh carries a desire — whether met or unmet — to travel to distant countries, to visit new places, and to have new experiences. Its nearest English equivalent might be the idea of “wanderlust.” When transliterated, fernweh means “farsickness,” in much the same way that heimweh means “homesickness.”

Fernweh and heimweh: these sister words draw me in. Ever since I found them, I cannot get them out of my head, for I live in a faraway place.

At least, it’s far away from the Europe and North America in which I grew up. It was far away, but now it’s near. I find now that the faraway place has become home, and home has become the faraway place.

The sense of home I get when I see a palm tree is so deep that I think the Maker must have inscribed it on my heart when He made me. For me there is both longing and fulfillment in a palm tree.

I travel through the city in a tuk tuk (open carriage), and I pass by a wat (temple). This Asian architecture seems so familiar now and not far away at all. I crave these sights. I want to see them my whole life.

The place I live is both far and near, and somehow I have fernweh and heimweh all at once.

But how can something be both foreign and familiar at the same time?

It is this way for all of us global nomads, I suppose.

And perhaps, in the kingdom of God, fernweh and heimweh are really the same longing. Whether we ache for something new, or whether we ache for something known, all our aches point us to God.

All our longings — even the unholy ones — are for the true Water that quenches our thirst and the true Bread that satisfies our hunger.

So when I desire this place, it’s really God I’m longing for. And when I desire another place, it’s God I long for there, too.

Jesus, the One who formed us from the dust and breathed the breath of life into us, knows this about us. That’s the reason that, right before He dies, He tells His disciples to “Make yourselves at home in my love” (John 15:9 MSG).

So whether I am at home, or whether I am longing for home, what I really want and what I really need is my true Home in Christ.

And when I feel fernweh, or when I feel heimweh, can I find in these yearnings the God who created them in the first place?

Can I truly find my home in His love?


How have you experienced “fernweh” (the longing for faraway places)?

How have you experienced “heimweh” (the longing for home)?

How do you respond to these longings?

*****In this post I’m simply responding to newly encountered words and the emotions they evoke in me. I welcome input on these words from the German speakers among us.*****

*****Many thanks to Amy Peterson, whose Facebook profile inspired this post.*****

A Holy Disturbance

This was written several years ago, two nights before I left the country I had called home for nearly 20 years.


I texted her You want to go for a walk? It had been a day of defrosting and sorting while the rain poured cleaning out the air. Still full from lunch, I wanted to walk before doing yet another round of dishes.

Sure. Let me finish bathing the kids and hubster will put them down. (That’s not really how she talks, that’s an Amy translation.)

And so we walked into the cool of the night, headed first for the local park (pictures at that link from a morning walk in the spring). It’s alive at night! Turns out there is a “dancing with big ribbons” club. Who knew?! Maybe I can bring that back to America. Maybe not.

We exited the park onto a street that’s under massive construction and has become a bit of a migrant village alive with village activities. A man getting his hair cut under a single light. Stores spread on blankets. Food vendors selling freshly cut fruit.

This picture obviously wasn't taken at night. Picture a single slight bulb hanging above, same guy, same chair.

This picture obviously wasn’t taken at night. Picture a single slight bulb hanging above, same guy, same chair.

Years ago, to the left of this picture, a massive four lane bridge was built going over a canal. On either side of the bridge small hutong/alley neighborhoods existed. But that bridge meant that the City had other plans and come one day, those alley communities would be replaced. Both sides now look like the background of this picture. But every night, that abandoned bridge becomes a local community setting with vendors and restaurants and snake oil.

On nearly my last night, my heart broke afresh.

Going up the stairs to the “bridge” we heard a loudspeaker and if you’ve been in China, thought nothing of it. Loudspeakers are a dime a dozen. But there were flashing lights and a ginormous crowd gathered around. This, this in a country where you need a permit to gather in public spaces, was not a dime a dozen.

In a poignant juxtaposition as the tall buildings of Beijing lit up in the background, we had stumbled onto a countryside superstitious blessing ceremony. We joined the crowd standing on tippy toe to see  — at the far end, the truck that acted as stage and sound system with flashing lights, there were two statutes that one of the “sponsors” kowtowed to and then the announcer said for anyone to come forward and for only 20 kuai (about $3.25) you too could be blessed and given a golden chain.

Where was I? What was happening? Were there plants in the audience? Is this what the shaddy medicine men of the wild west did, but with a Chinese twist?

Too many people went forward for them to be plants. Too many longed for blessing — to be touched by something holy, something that would heal them, bring them fortune– for the desires to be fake.

We were in the presence of raw longing.

It was disturbing.

To see people with so little gave so much to something so empty.

The organizers had drawn a line around the perimeter and asked us, the crowd, to step back outside the line. Only two of us did, you can guess who. The crowd couldn’t help but to press in, to see others blessed, to see if a miracle was going to happen.

I thought of other crowds and of the One who had compassion on those gathered and longed to bless them. Blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek and those who mourn. On he went saying “I see you, I know your condition and the longing of your heart and I want to bless you.” Really bless you, not with a gold chain necklace that looked like carnival fare, but with blessings that will last.

We turned and walked away, sobered again by the remembrance that though great, great changes have come, too many hearts that long for blessing, are listening to charlatans. “How can I leave?” I asked. But I will, and it will be OK, because the work here has never been about me or about foreigners, the work here is the Good Shepherd’s and he loves his sheep. He does.

But every now and then, the Good Shepherd lifts the curtain, allowing us a behind-the-scene-glance of the fields yet to be harvested and reminds us — the harvest is great, keep praying, keep investing, there are are still too many who long for blessing.

Will you join me afresh in praying for China? My dishes still need doing and I hadn’t planned on writing today. But I am disturbed in the best, most holy way.

Have you seen something similar to what we did that night?

The Gift of Saudade


We returned to our apartment in Cambridge yesterday after a long weekend away, and I felt a familiar longing. I turned to my husband and asked him if he felt like our home in Cambridge, was indeed ‘home’.

Because I don’t. Not always. Despite my work and church and friends and general life being here, the sense of ‘home’, of ‘belonging’ still seems to be just out of reach. I don’t feel this daily – I feel this when I return from being away. Because usually when I’ve been away, I realize no one knew I was gone.

Home is a place that when you return, people knew you were gone. They welcome you back. But in Cambridge, no one ever knows we’re gone. 

Almost two years ago I was introduced to the word ‘Saudade‘. I learned of the word from my husband, who in turn learned it from a Brazilian friend. I immediately came to love and rely on this word to express that peculiar longing that I never had words to express. I used it in writing. I used it in speaking. I particularly used it when connecting with immigrants and refugees through my job.

Saudade is described as “a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.” – In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell

This is what I felt yesterday as we returned. Once again I had saudade. 

Ute Limacher, in a beautiful piece written for the series Painting Pictures, says that we can have ‘saudade’ for people, for places, and for moments. I’ve felt all three of these, sometimes all at the same time. 

I have come to realize that this saudade, this ‘indolent wistfulness’ will never be completely gone, and I’ve also come to be okay with this. It is a longing that nothing on this earth will ever fully meet. I have my moments of feeling completely at home, feeling like I belong, even as I ache for what I can no longer have, places I can no longer live, people I will no longer see. In a beautiful piece called “Saudade – a Song for the Modern Soul” Rachel Pieh Jones writes: “There is a peace and joy in belonging and an ache for what is not, for what can no longer be.”

As a Christian, perhaps the biggest mistake I could ever make is being too at home in this world, all my longings met, wrapped up in the temporal.

For beyond the reminders of worlds and lives past, saudade is the reminder of another world, another longing not yet realized. A reminder of a world where there will be no more sadness,where tears will be wiped from our eyes, where a lion and a lamb, earthly enemies, will lie down in peace.

So I’m coming to delight in this saudade, to recognize it for the gift that it is. I don’t want to fill it with something false, a shadow comfort of what is real. I want to live each day, accepting the inevitable saudade that comes — sometimes forcefully, sometimes quietly. C.S. Lewis says that if we “find in [ourselves] desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that [we] were made for another world.”

In saudade I recognize that I was made for another world.

Today is a new day. I am back to a routine and grateful for this routine. I feel at home in my skin and surroundings, and it is all the more precious because of saudade.

What about you? Do you find yourself with longings that will never be met in this world?