Saturday, August 31, 2013

Do They HAVE to Grow Up?

My Facebook Feed is full of farewells. It's that time of year again in the Northern Hemisphere where kids go off to university.  I seem to have a disproportionate amount of friends who have kids leaving for the first time! And it brings back memories.

I keep having the same conversation with women.  It bursts out of them when the subject comes up. "We dropped him off and I cried all the way home. I still cry way too much." "I thought I was ready, but it felt like I'd been punched in the gut." "I feel bad because I'm actually excited for her but it's been so hard on me." "Why didn't anyone tell me that letting them go was going to be soooo hard?"

Someone should write a book about it. Really. It's huge and so many of us seem to be blindsided by it. I wasn't prepared for sure.  There are all those books about having babies, raising them right, but not about letting them go.  Or maybe we're too much in denial first to go looking?!!

I love the relationship I have with my girls now. I love watching them spread their wings.  I love having adult conversations with them and getting a window into their world.  But that leaving and getting used to it after?


It's reminding me to savor the time I have left with my boys.  They'll be gone all too soon.

I look forward to the future with Steve.  We've never had much time alone.  Getting married with four kids already was pretty busy! We haven't begrudged the focus on family, it's been wonderful, but we've been aware that we need to remain intentional about 'us.' It will be nice to be able to be the 'us' that normally comes pre-kids.

But before that means more leaving.  More letting go of the children of my womb and even more so of my heart.  More taking off of protective hands and helping them jump out of the nest.  More moments of fluttering wings, holding of breath as you wait to see what will happen........

The other day I said it.  Trite words spoken in the frustration of the moment.  Fifteen isn't easy on them.  The emerging adult trying to push their way out, yet the skin of the child not quite shed.  It's hard to keep up. Grown up one minute and juvenile the next.  Flashes of brilliance yet wrapped in humanity.  Fifteen.

In exasperation, "Just, just (searching for words).........GROW UP."

Mentally reaching out to pull those words back in----but I can't.

I want him to mature.  Grow.  Fly.  But I'm in no hurry really.

Grow up. But please, not just yet...............!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Third Culture Kids

This past weekend the boys and I got to go on a retreat with our church.  It was a great time of fellowship and getting to know people better.  It was a family camp with a medieval theme.  Fun!  One of my favorite parts was getting to help with a food challenge.  You know, that game where disgusting, sort of medieval things were put out on a table and teams had to eat them for tournament points.  

I noticed a common theme as people either scarfed down, tentatively ate, or nearly gagged things back up.  By far the majority of those who happily ate anything were those who had spent at least part of their lives serving or were with their parents overseas!  Our boys were champs and actually enjoyed the 'gross' things they ate.  A father who absolutely cleaned things up for his team spent a number of years in Africa, etc.  

The one that caught me by surprise was a stylish, feminine lady who easily downed multiple things with gusto.  It shouldn't have surprised me because she's a friend that I'm getting to know pretty well, but in the midst of everyone I sometimes forget that she's different inside.

She's an adult Third Culture Kid (TCK) and she was the little girl in the middle of this picture. She lived in the highlands of PNG and spent some time in the Philippines as well. 

I love this photo because it speaks volumes to me without any words---joys, losses, victories, good-byes, struggles, hellos, places that become 'home', and just LIFE.  It reminds me of my little girls as well.  Girls that blended in so well that while they looked like the odd one out with their friends, they felt as if they belonged.  Or very nearly.

Being a TCK means that you have a passport culture, the culture of your parents, but it is not your culture because you really aren't 'from' there.  You grow up in other places which become a good part of who you are, but since you really aren't from there it isn't fully your culture either.  Therefore you are actually a 'third culture', something between worlds that is uniquely your own.

The downside is that you will always be different and while you can adjust you will never TOTALLY fit in anywhere.

The upside is that you have a broadened world view, an ability to adapt to wherever you are, and generally you've had to think about some 'big stuff' of life already and are mature in ways beyond your years.

"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.  That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."
                                 ~Miriam Adeney

"As a TCK we mention places, not because we had the opportunity to be there, but because we left a part of our heart and our soul in the footsteps we left behind."
                          ~Bonnie Rose

I think our kids must be sort of Fourth Culture Kids as well since they've had a Kiwi dad for a while now, too!  

Aaron had the chance to share with his youth group in New Zealand a couple of weeks ago about his life overseas.  While the things he shared seemed normal to him and he didn't overly dramatize them, they were very eye-opening to the teens here!  It gave them just a BIT of a glimpse into who he is on the inside.  

One of the best things about being a TCK (or a Third Culture Adult---which is what I feel like!) is that you don't need to be reminded that:

" ...this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come." (Heb. 13:14)

Because that's where our real home is!  We just aren't there yet.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Man in the Making

Since we don't have any retirement, etc, in the sort of work we do, Steve has been very strategic about the use of our own private, pre-living-overseas funds to build them up for later.  As part of that we have a small farm in a growing area not far out of Auckland as an investment property.  And since we're spending time in New Zealand right now, we've been working on developing it a bit as a family to add to it's value.

While a not good enough or big enough piece of land for a proper farm, it would be a great size for a lifestyle block--a place where someone who works in the city can live that's not too far away, but far enough out that they can have some aspects of the 'lifestyle' of a farm for their family.  Steve has dug some tracks around the place with a borrowed digger, we've been working on a shed (with materials given to us by a mate) with a gravel driveway coming soon.  Steve found some sheep quite inexpensively (as Steve does!) from some lifestyle block owners who didn't have enough grass for their sheep after the dry summer, to keep our grass down. As well as food for us and others later.  Yeah, we're not going to get as close to these sheep as the lamb we hand-reared recently!

Oh, and there's a calf coming from some dairy farmer friends soon, too.  This city girl is loving it!

Steve, kids, and Hannah's boyfriend Luke 

The land has become a real place of peace for us. A place to bask in the beauty of Creation, work hard together, and just spend time as a family. The boys like to take Adam's hard-earned slug gun out for target practice, too. Since we see this year as a year of healing for our family in many ways, hanging out at the land is a perfect context for that.  While we have other things going on as well, I find myself looking for any excuse to go to the farm!

It's also a place where we are strategically giving our boys opportunities to enjoy physical labor and learn 'manly' things.

An extra special season is happening right now as our little flock is beginning to lamb!  So sweet to see the lambs dashing around and playing on the hillside.

Yesterday on his way down to a meeting in the city, Steve stopped by the farm to check on a sheep who he knew had started lambing a few days ago.  Fully expecting to see yet another lamb on the hillside, he found a suffering sheep instead.

The boys and I drove out and met him on his way back in the afternoon to help catch the sheep to help her give birth.  To do add to the value of the place we'll put up interior fences for paddocks soon, but right now only the perimeter is fenced.  The four of us fanned out and drove the flock to a corner of the property where the sheep especially like to spend time.  After a couple of attempts to do this and catch the still-in-labor sheep from the rest before they bolted (sheep can look pretty big and move pretty fast as they're leaping down a hillside!) we thought it might be a lost cause without borrowing a dog from someone nearby.  Organizing that would take time, however, and we reckoned our sheep had suffered long enough without help already.

We decided to give it one more try and drive them up the hill again.

I found myself praying and asking that we would somehow catch this girl.  Being a girl myself, I really wanted the mama to have the help she needed (!) even though we knew the lamb would quite probably be dead.

As we drove them up the hill this final time, the sheep we were trying to single out stumbled on the hillside and headed down into the ravine by herself.


We followed her and found that she had slipped down by the stream with a steep, muddy bank on either side.  We knew in her condition that she wouldn't likely be able to get back up the bank, but Steve and Aaron came at her slowly from different directions while Adam and I blocked her only possible other escape route upstream.

Aaron held her and calmed her while Steve tried to help her remove the lamb, only there was nothing there. The lamb wasn't even engaged in the birth canal and must have been quite twisted inside. And she was so tired, swollen and bleeding that we felt nothing could be done outside of a C-section. But this was a farm animal, not a pet, and she was by far too heavily pregnant for us to get up the slippery slope from the stream bed without causing her a lot more pain---if we could even do it with her wiggling.

A hard decision had to be made.

I thought, "God, you answered my prayer about us catching her!  What's up with this?"

We talked to the boys about how much she'd already suffered, how she was headed towards a slow, agonizing death, and sent Adam up the hill out of sight.

I knew Steve hated the thought of killing her, but especially felt for our big son who can be crusty and tough on the outside but gooey on the inside.  Our boy who has already seen poverty, injustice, death, and is still processing things beyond his years. Yet I wasn't physically strong enough to hold the sheep still instead.

The thought came into my head, "But this is the sort of thing that makes a man."

Yes, this was hard, but sometimes enduring what you hate if it's right is part of being an adult.  Doing something that takes strength for your family and for something in your care is definitely part of manhood.

And maybe healing can come through the doing.

I had envisioned us catching the sheep, helping her, and having her trot away with great relief.  But obviously there was a different plan.

So my emerging man held her and comforted her as much as possible while my other man slit her throat and the blood drained away.

Strength with gentleness.  Compassion all around.  Careful, accepted responsibility.

Things were quiet as we walked out.  The day definitely hadn't turned out how I wanted.  Yet later when we all met up again at home, father hugged son, thanked him for his help even when things weren't easy, and told him how proud of him he was.

And our young man stood that much taller, strengthened and encouraged.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pray About EVERYTHING (Thing I'd like to tell my younger self #3)

The other day my friend's son was kidnapped.  They 'serve' in South America and while I've never met her face to face, through the wonders of modern communication, I know her pretty well.  We've been part of a small group of Internationals that have supported each other for over ten years.  And I have actually talked to her over Skype before!  I've seen this son, her youngest, grow from a little guy into the mischievous-eyed twelve-year-old he is today.

It felt like being kicked in the gut to hear her news.  Not only for her son, but she had been held at first herself for a while before she was released and then her son was kept behind.

What a thing for a mother to bear!  I prayed with a heavy heart.  And honestly?  I worried.

I was oh-so-concerned for them, yet this trial of theirs struck awfully close to home as well.  All of us in that international group knows what it's like to take our children out of the 'safety' of the First World and into something a bit more precarious.  While kidnapping has never been something at the top of my list of concerns, the physical safety of my children in a less safe environment (and not just germs!) has often been a constant niggle in the back of my mind.  Mine has been more just loosing kids in general.

I remembered our first New Year's Eve in our Third World home.  The kids and I met up with Steve, who had come by motorbike from somewhere else, at a KFC (big treat there!) on a popular road.  Being newbies we totally underestimated the crowds that would be out already celebrating at an early hour and as Steve drove off home, I headed to the Metro with the kids. As we rounded the corner to head underground we were met by an even thicker mass of humanity, some trying to come up while others were going down. It was a free-for-all in the dimly lit night, totally devoid of the politeness expected in the West, and I felt six-year-old Adam wrenched behind me in the crush and began to loose my grip on his hand.  I couldn't even see him in the mass of bodies and knew if I lost his hand I might not ever see him again.....

I woke up yesterday morning to the news that there was no news.  My friend had been left restlessly wondering for more than a full day by then.  But miraculously only a couple of hours later her son was freed!  The kidnapper, obviously not a professional, had let him go.

I cried happy tears for her, very much rejoicing and praising in the outcome, but then felt the need to 'recover' and lick my own wounds a bit after the ordeal as well.  Why, I wondered?

It made me wonder about the quality of trust in my prayers in this situation.  If something that hit a nerve in my heart shook me and made me anxious as I prayed, what had my prayers really been like?  Sure, God heard them regardless, but I hadn't succeeded in, "Be(ing) anxious for nothing."

I recently read a blog written by an author named Gari Meacham.  She said:

"The spirit hunger within me longs to trust, but I masquerade instead.  I pretend pray--realizing that what I think is prayer, is really worry with a few God words at the beginning and end:

'Dear Father, worry, worry, worry, worry....In Jesus' name. Amen'

What I often whisper as prayer is a sliver of faith wrapped in a blanket of panic.  
Worry restates negative trust in fearful outcomes.  
It's the belief that what I dread will be the outcome of what I pray."

Because the truth is that what we fear COULD be the outcome.  My friend's son may not have ever come home.  There could be a time where something happens to my own children's safety as well. But we serve a God who loves us.  Truly, deeply, and forever. And he's promised that we are fully 'under the shadow of His wings.'  Safe and secure in His plans that are frequently beyond what we can understand, but full of purpose and care.

That kind of faith is present in this prayer:

(by Ignatius)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
All I have and call my own you have given to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace, 
That is enough for me.

My friend Fran Francis wrote about these words, "The secret of Ignatius' carefree abandonment of all that he is and has comes down to knowing that he is loved."

To trust, we need to understand how deeply we are loved.

As I waited yesterday wondering about my friend's child I remembered another blog I'd read recently:

"Even if He doesn't (answer our prayers the way we want), He still is.

Even if he doesn't do what we will, His will is still right and His heart is still good and the people of God will not waver.

Real prayer has eyes on Christ, not the crisis.

Even if He doesn't--He does give enough--Himself.

Even is He doesn't--He does still love us.
                                 -Ann Voskamp

I'm so glad that 'He did' in the life of my friend!!!  But the situation has made me realize that it's time to re-learn yet again something I've been working on afresh for a while now:

Pray about EVERYTHING!

Philippians 4 says, "Don't worry about ANYTHING, instead pray about EVERYTHING.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done."  Then it promises peace that exceeds anything we can understand. Peace that will guard our hearts.

Do we really do that?

The minute we find our minds beginning to churn---Pray!
The moment we realize we're stressed---Pray!
When we're worried, afraid, confused---Pray!
When we're joyful and thankful---Pray!

The first blog I mention above loosely quotes Oswald Chambers as saying, "It's not only wrong to worry, it's infidelity.  Because worrying means we don't think God can look after the practical details of our lives...."

Convicting words.  Being faithful to my husband is monumentally important to me.  How could being faithful to my First Love be anything less?

Walking through trials in peace sounds idealistic.  Unrealistic.  But giving Him our anxiety by placing it in His loving hands is a process that brings us closer to Him and helps us better understand His love.  And His love never fails!

My friend is slowly telling the kidnapping story here. Click on to read!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Who He Is

Once upon a time there was a man named Job.  One day he lost everything.  Not some thing, but everything.  In one day.  His children, his wealth, his security and joy.  And then he lost his health.

He knew he hadn't done anything to deserve it despite what his friends said.  And he would not curse God when urged to do so.

But he did ask God, "Why?"  Why did you let this happen to me?  Why was I even born?  Why are you treating me this way?  Why do you let bad things happen in the world?

God didn't answer the 'why'.  He reminds Job 'Who'.

"Were were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? (Job 38:4-5)

What supports its foundations, and who laid it's cornerstone as the morning starts sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (vs. 6)

Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb? (vs. 8)

Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?  Who laid out the path for the lightening? (vs. 25)

Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up? (vs.27)

Who is the mother of the ice?  Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? (vs. 29)

And more.....

At the end of this Job, reminded of his humanity, said, "I have nothing more to say........" (Job 40:5)

"Very wise," I'd say if I were in on the conversation.  Or had the nerve to say ANYTHING after what God said!

There once was a man named Moses who was called at a bush that was burning but didn't burn up to lead his incredible number of relatives out of slavery.  He said, "I can't!!!!

God didn't say, "Yes, you can."  He reminded him Who was asking.

"Who gave human beings their mouths?  Who makes them deaf or mute?  Who gives them sight or makes them blind?" (Ex. 4:11)

And then there was a man named Abraham who had no children and he and his wife were old. God told Abraham he would make a nation out of him.  Abraham asked God, "How?"  God took him out and showed him the stars.  And standing under the vast heavens Abraham  remembered just how small he was and how big God is.

And then God sent His son.  Emmanuel---God with us.  To show us even more of Who He is.

God often doesn't answer our questions, but He's always there to remind us Who He is!  Who we can trust.  Who has it all under control.  And Who said,

 "Remember I am with you always, to the end of the age."  (Matt. 28:20)

And that's more than enough.

What We Think


They're a powerful thing.  They are a tool used to 'steal, kill, and destroy' (John 10:10) or they they can uplift and heal.  The tongue can start a fire (James 3:5-6) or be a balm and bring joy to a hurting heart.

Jesus said in Matthew 5 that sin begins in the heart.  In our thoughts.  Who we are, what we will become, and how we will behave are directly in line with the way we think.  That's why it's so important to:
     Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  ~Philippians 4:8
This concept translates into our thoughts in general as well and how they impact the way that we live.

I've been learning a lot about this lately.  Even though I've been a believer for a long-time there are still thought processes I have that aren't true that drag me down.  Things I didn't even know that I thought and therefore believed about or expected of myself and about my perceptions of what God and others think and expect of me.

I've had the opportunity to learn how to identify some of these lately and am amazed at how differently focusing on truths instead help me to live a more joyful, more peaceful, less guilt-filled life.  To be more of who He actually created me to be!

Changing your thinking is like developing a new habit. It takes time and effort. What we think becomes what we actually believe.  But sometimes in the process it's good to go ahead and draw a line in the sand in the face of the enemy.

I am no longer not good enough------I am precious and bought with a price!
I am no longer broken------I am restored!
I am no longer defined by my failures------I am complete in Him!  (And what I see as failure may not be!)

Etc, etc, etc.....

This says it so well:
Hello, My Name Is

Hello, my name is regret
I’m pretty sure we have met
Every single day of your life
I’m the whisper inside
That won’t let you forget
Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win
I’ll drag you right back down again
‘Til you’ve lost all belief
These are the voices, these are the lies
And I have believed them, for the very last time
Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, and I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind
The one who makes all things new
Has proven it’s true
Just take a look at my life
What love the Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called His children
I am a child of the one true King
                  ~Matthew West
Click to hear song "Hello, My Name Is"