On This Earth

In light of recent political events the world seems to have shifted slightly, or rather it’s rocking back and forth subtly – like an earthquake that’s just powerful enough to knock your glass off the table but not quite enough to shatter the windows. Perhaps you have felt no difference, or perhaps you are one of those who has picked up a sign and protested alongside a diverse crowd. Perhaps you’ve read and written countless blogs or analyses on the past US election. Perhaps you’ve posted your praises on Facebook, or your sorrows. Or perhaps you’ve reacted as I have – at first in harrowing tears, and then after a sleep and a cup of tea you felt okay, almost serene. After all, this isn’t the final world, this isn’t the last call, “this too shall pass” right? And then you go to work, log on to social media, or go to Thanksgiving, and you remember – this is a different world now, something has been unleashed, something has been terribly, awfully distorted. You return home feeling a bit like Alice, as though you’ve grown a lot and shrunk just as much in very little time. You’re not quite sure where to put your feet, or your hat, or your teacup, and you’re certainly not sure of what to say next. You’re trying to live your life, day in and day out, as peacefully and lovingly as possible. But how? When there is this much adversity, this much convolution of the Truth, being propagated? How do you go on acting as if this political tectonic shift didn’t collapse your world? How do you find the balance between reacting in love and acting in defiance?

If you resound with any of these sentiments, we really should grab coffee sometime. These are the qualms I have wrestled with the past few weeks. At last, after several long runs and a few more cups of tea, I feel I have a few words to write. Now, I do not pretend to be a political science major. I am not a journalist or an economist or a campaigner. I never even ran for school government. What I am is a believer of Jesus and a lover of all people, and I desire to share my heart on these current issues. I write this not in confrontation, I write not to condemn those who voted differently from myself. I do not want to make snide jokes or derogatory comments towards those who have varying opinions from mine. I write only out of my own convictions. During my time on this earth I will strive to follow Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, though many Christians in this country will say I have abandoned my faith for how I voted. So I want to write this post correlating Jesus’ life and actions, to how we as Christians should react in this political climate. There will be a thesis with three main points, because that’s how my sophomore English teach taught me how to write.

Jesus exemplified love. He WAS and IS love incarnate. We, as Christians, have diluted our faith and our churches with so much stuff other than love. We have filled our congregations with desires for success, happiness, comfort, safety, elitism – the list is extensive – we must return to love. There are several factors within this political season that have struck a chord with the church and the secular world. For my purposes, I will focus on these – diversity, entitlement, and hatred. The vagueness of these categories may frustrate you, but I assure you it is much more frustrating to write out every single incidence of racism, violence, economic equality, sexism, immorality, and hate crimes. So, I spared you. Now Jesus’ reaction to these three issues was the same – love.

“The universality of the church was illustrated in a marvelously effective manner. White, black, yellow members of religious orders – everyone was united under the church. It truly seems ideal” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The above quote is an exert from Eric Metaxas’ brilliant biography of Dietriech Bonhoeffer, a man who dutifully loved the Lord and people in the bleakest of times. The quote refers to a moment during which Bonhoeffer is visiting a church in Rome. He is attending Mass for one of the first times, and he is confronted with a picture of diversity, different colours all under the same order, the same purpose, the same Lord. While these colours refer to religious orders, it is made known throughout Bonhoeffer’s life that he believed Heaven’s promises were for all colour’s of people as well. The words that haunted me while reading this chapter were “It truly seems ideal.” I saw a post from a conservative several days ago, he was telling liberals to go live in their “idyllic utopia and stop stomping around the real world.” At first I was angry at him for insinuating liberals do not have a grasp on reality, and then I was at peace with his demand. Of course, as a Christian, I seek the Kingdom of the Lord. I know that while I’m on this earth that kingdom will not be actualized. We as humans have done a fine job screwing up this world, it is nowhere close to being His eternal kingdom. And yet, that is what we are called to strive for – each and every day we breath this soiled air we are called to look for ways to illustrate His ideal kingdom on this earth. One simple way to do this – invite diversity into your life. Invite the spectrum of the human race – white, black, yellow, red, American, European, Asian, African, bring them all into your life and your church. Revelations 7:9 states “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Should we not make an effort to represent eternity in our limited lives on this earth?

Several people I know have expressed pro Trump feelings via social media or other outlets. It wouldn’t be difficult to hear their remarks or read their statements if they were not also professing believers. One instance was particular disturbing. A friend of mine shared a popular article “The painfully obvious reason Christians voted for Trump (that liberals just don’t understand).” Of course, there are several comments to make from the title alone. For one, articles like this completely write off Christian liberals. I, as a Christian who votes blue, am now incapable of understanding ‘painfully obvious’ truths. In fact, I’m not even included in the “Christian” category, because I did not vote for Trump. The article went on to speak about Christian persecution within the United States. It made several good points about the American Christian’s struggle against the secular world’s regime. But it missed the point of being a Christian. It is true – being a believer is difficult. The world will not become progressively more Christian, regardless of who is president or which party has the Senate, the United States of America will not gradually become one big evangelical church. We will not be meeting for coffee and shallow conversation on Wednesday nights before returning to watching Game of Thrones, all while complaining that the foreign, secular world has become too gruesome for our liking. And yet this seems to be the expectation of Evangelical Christians. They seem to think that they’ve done their time being persecuted and trodden on in America, that now is a good time for two white men to stand in the oval office and say, “Let’s get rid of Planned Parenthood, the Christians don’t seem top happy with it.” When this is entirely against what we are called to believe as Christians. Hillary’s administration wasn’t an atheistic one, as some people believe, God’s hand is in every choice and every change. Trump’s administration is not a God send for Christians, because (despite everything else wrong with that statement) we are not promised a government that follows our agenda. No, we are promised the opposite. In Matthew 20:20-28 we read a story about a mother asking Jesus to allow one of her two sons to sit at his right hand. She desired for her sons to be honoured, to serve the Lord faithfully and be rewarded in eternity for their work. To her sons Jesus said “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” He was referring to the cup of death, a death brought about by the people persecuting Him, and the government being unable to stop them. Later in the passage Jesus says “whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If we are to truly emulate Christ’s life on this earth then we must know we are owed nothing from this world, our reward lays in heaven. We have nothing to gain from being represented by a vice president if we are not ourselves representing Christ in our actions. We have nothing to be gained by fighting the progressive acts of this secular world, if we are not loving those who think and act differently from ourselves.

John 15:20 “Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well; if they kept My word, they will keep yours as well.” This is our promise for this earth. As for American Christians, they need to realize that persecution is not defined by being asked to make a cake for two people who love one another. The peak of persecution is not Target deciding to make unisex bathrooms. No, those are realities that make us uncomfortable because we are aliens in this world. Persecution is when a shooter breaks down the doors to a Kenyan university and asks students if they are Christians. The Christians answer faithfully and are killed. Our citizenship does not lie in this country and the rights its constitution seemingly gives us. Our citizenship resides in His kingdom, and if you are a believer, you know of the cup you are asked to drink. So please, do not fight triflingly against the changes of this world as if we are entitled to a holiday bible school like nation. We are not promised acceptance in this world, but we are called to love its people all the same.

Lastly, hatred. I was reminded recently by my sister in law about my own hypocrisy involving love. She, of course, didn’t use the word hypocrisy but we are all our own worst critics. We were discussing the difference of opinions within our wider family. I had mentioned to her, after a comment made by another family member, that it was difficult for me to understand how professing believers carried so little love for others. She gently told me the same could be said of me – I will leap at the opportunity to defend the oppressed, the marginalized, the different sorts, the diverse, but I struggle when it comes to people who are outwardly more like me. My circle of acquaintances, here in southern TN, is largely other white, college educated, straight, church goers. And yet I have the most difficult time loving them. I’m convicted daily to remind myself that they too are His children, and they too deserve the understanding and respect I am asking them to give me. I think I have trouble freely giving them love because there is so much contempt in the words they speak, and the words of the mouth reflect the state of the heart. When I hear a Christian proudly reminiscing a bombing it’s difficult to imagine that same Christian on their knees in prayer for those affected by devastation. When I hear Christians defiantly calling for the destruction of Planned Parenthood, it’s difficult to believe they have a heart for the poor, the afflicted, the abandoned women. Planned Parenthood, incidentally, does much more good than the Christian world would like to admit. It gives treatment freely to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, an ailment the church is not quite willing to address in its monthly givings budget. (But that is, perhaps, for another post.)

And yet the Lord has called for love. He has called for us to pay our taxes, whether they are going to welfare programmes for unemployed people or not – because we are called to love those people. He has called us to fight for the oppressed and underprivileged, as He did when He walked this earth. Christ befriended all the people the modern Evangelical Christian would shun. He walked with those who had immoral livelihoods, those who had debilitating diseases, those who conned the people out of house and home. He loved them all, and called for us to love them as well. He did not call for us to cut funding, to be stingy with our charity, or to pass judgment on the secular world. He called for us to give, to forgive, to accept, and to love. This does not fit into the modern American’s practical world. It really does not. Love does not fit into the budget, but it must be given. If you desire to love the widows and the orphans, then give to organizations that are truly helping women across the country. If you desire to love the people of the nations, then give to organizations helping refugees resettle themselves in a foreign land, and open your doors for more. If you desire to love the poor and the oppressed then be an advocate for standardized healthcare and socialized education – yes be an advocate for people with more money paying more taxes so people with less money can have a better life. Listen to Hamilton and decide what you’re willing to both stand and fall for.

Now, people may have backlash to this post. They may be able to talk about the economy and the essence of the working American, all the practical reasons explaining why the liberal platform is not feasible but I do not care right now. Because the moment we choose to put wealth and security above compassion is the moment we choose to forsake our humanity. And I, while I am on this earth, will choose love and humanity, until the day I am called home.


Colossians 3:14-15 “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”


On Breaking Ties and One Sided Good Byes

They say it takes the human mind six weeks to adapt to a new habit. Supposedly, after six weeks of waking up at 5:45 and running two miles, your mind should automatically prepare itself for that seventh week. There should be no more early-morning struggle against your own will. It should be natural, normal, a new part of your daily routine. But if your mind is weak, just once, if your fingers follow nasty habits and hit snooze one morning, and your eyes stay closed until 8, your new routine is devastated. The six weeks have to begin again. You can’t have a remote lingering shadow of your old ways in order to move forward. You can’t live side by side with your past and try to make a future.

Earlier this week I was searching through emails to find information on Angola. In a blur of looking through emails from years ago I stumbled across some from an old boyfriend. Intrigued, and hoping to find something amusing, I opened the most recent exchanges we had shared. I should have known better. I should have reached deep into my memories and pulled out the heart grating emotions these emails had created, then I would have had the sense to close the computer and move on with my present life. But I am not that wise.

His words, typed neatly across the screen so many years ago still stung.

“You’re too emotional.”

“You and I have nothing in common”

“You’re too different.”

Three opinions from one eighteen-year old. Three phrases burned into my mind. Over the years as scar tissue grew over the wounds my mind became calloused. It had accepted those sentences as truth, they had become an integral part of my mind’s being, leaving no room for new thoughts. Funnily enough, I can recall saying these exact words to every man I dated in university.

“I’m too emotional.”

“We have nothing in common”

“I’m too different”

Many of them brushed those words aside and said something along the lines of “I’ll overcome that, don’t worry.” They made it into a chivalrous opportunity, as if they knew those things to be true of me, but they wanted to be the brave man to look past them and succeed. My husband, on the other hand, simply shook his head –

“Yes you’re emotional, your heart for people is what I love most.” “yeah we don’t have a lot in common, but we love the Lord, and we have a desire to serve Him. That’s enough.” “Yes, you’re different from anyone I’ve ever met, and I hope I get to spend the rest of my life learning all your differences.”

These were truths that should have performed that figurative plastic surgery in my mind. His honest, good words should have extracted the hold the lies had in me. And for a few weeks, I thought they had. I thought the surgery had been successful, that recovery was going better than expected, that my mind and heart were healing splendidly – they were already up and loving again! But, alas, no. Lies, past ties, truths that have evolved without us realizing, are toxic. They grip onto cells, they infest the mind and await, dormant, until a flash of words on a screen, or a memory, or a smell, or the finding of an old yearbook, evokes them into action. Then they proliferate, attacking each cell they can sink their virus teeth into, they travel through vessels and make themselves known through tears, sleepless nights, and silent days. They infect and metastasize when you thought they were eradicated.

It takes so much more than an overlay of current truths to eliminate the damage done by the past. It takes so much more than a few stitches and a band aid to fix a botched lobotomy. And until I realized that, I was walking around like a mental Frankenstein. I wish I could have entered this new life in America, taken six weeks to adjust, and been content. But I didn’t. Besides all the set-backs in life that make adjusting nearly impossible, I was my own detriment. I kept slamming on the snooze button, letting all the un-faced memories sneak their way into my warm covers, tie my hands down, and keep me from running my two miles every day. I let them in for a moment, then shoved them under the bed, allowing them to fester until I was a weak, ideal host for their disease once again. I think this happened because I don’t want to untie myself from my entire past, but I do need to find a balance. I need to be able to say good bye to the bad, and remember the good with an honest perspective – it was good. It was all I knew for a time, but it is over, and life moves on.

So I’m writing today to dismantle that figurative snooze button. I’m writing to put down once and for all my good byes to certain haunting thoughts. I know, however, that someday they may find their way back into my life, but I hope, having written this, I will be a little less susceptible to their infection. And again, I do know that not everything I’m saying a figurative good bye to is bad or hurtful, but it is something that does not fit into this life, something that cripples me from running full force into marriage, into nursing, into Jackson, TN and all that may come after this. So, to begin six weeks of a new habit, I am breaking ties, and saying good bye to people and places who let me go many years ago.

Good bye to the concrete safe house, the red dirt and sticky floors. Good bye to power outages and late nights listening to gun shots. Good bye to sipping Coca-Cola on Friday nights, good bye to imprints of the window screen on my face, as I eagerly watch for the city light to come on. Good bye to a faithful watch dog, a morning greeter, and an afternoon sleeper. Good bye to homeschooling alone, listening to my sisters cry from loneliness and wishing I was enough company. Good bye to long aeroport lines and never understanding the stress of a visa, but always knowing I can never lose my passport. Good bye, a childhood Iona, playing safely in Angola.

Good bye to being called weak. Good bye to raising my hand in class, and quickly putting it back down, afraid of being wrong, or worse, of someone disagreeing. Good bye to spending lunches in my dorm room, watching baboons and birds play in the tall tree outside, waiting for the final bell. Good bye to running alone on a hill after field hockey practice, because dinner just has too many people. Good bye to sneaking into counseling on Tuesday mornings, making sure no one sees my flaws. Good bye to being afraid of caring community, because the ones I enjoyed weren’t there, but I had to pretend, because these were the good ones and the house belonged to the dean. Good bye walks to the dukas, lingering freedom in the vegetable market. Good bye to the name calling, the bullying, the terrible confusion. Good bye, to an Iona eating Korean noodles in high school, finding safety in a few friends and a single burnt pot.

Good bye to being afraid of red trucks and empty houses. Good bye to hating Virginia and never wanting to meet another doctor’s son.  Good bye to being the newest one in a new country, to keeping to myself, to not understanding, to hanging out with the wrong people time and time again. Good bye to letting compliments go to my head, and letting insults go to my heart. Good bye to spending summers without my parents, drinking with strangers in several continents, and always going home alone. Good bye to an Iona, writing papers in the library, running through Kroger with once upon a time friends, to an Iona safely making an illusion, just getting through the next four years.

To the friends with whom I didn’t stay in touch, good bye to something that could have been great, but we both know we don’t have the time. To the friends with whom I tried, and tried so hard, good bye. If I was a better person I would keep trying, I would keep writing unopened texts and making unanswered phone calls. But I’m only human, and I’ve reached my capacity for pouring out to people when I’m clearly cut out of their life. I’m sorry for what I may have done, for the choices that led us slowly in different directions, I’m sorry if I wasn’t worth keeping in your life, and I really wish you all the best. Good bye. Good bye to an Iona trying too hard to keep everyone safely happy, when some people will walk out anyway.

Good bye to trying to build a safe world, one where I’ll never be hurt, and hello to facing the real world – one raw and vulnerable and ever changing. Hello to new mornings with my love, hello to new cities on my own, hello to new traditions and memories with ourselves. Hello to living a life free of illusion, one fully dangerous and fully real, a life I really could get used to.

On It Goes

The key scrapes in the lock, turning the metal knob until the door gives way into the living room. We tumble in, suitcases in hand, bringing with us the lingering scent of holiday. Greeting us remains the staleness of an apartment left to its own devices for a week, along with the familiar smell of oldness that comes when a place has not been renovated since the 70s. A pile of wedding presents neatly resides along a bench, leftover food is carefully stored, and the remnants of a remarkable day are found in various lodgings. They seem quite out of place next to the drably stained carpet and the off white dry walls, as if their story is much more remarkable than any that could be told within these rooms.

Of course that might be true. The wedding, with its white dress and smart ties, its gay music and soft flowers, its scrumptious pies and luxurious drinks, is no doubt considered the star of any marriage. It is the culmination of months full of anticipation and planning. It is the visual representation – to all family and friends – that two people love each other desperately enough to commit their lives to one another. Guests eat, drink, and dance in merry celebration of this declaration – but they are not there after the honeymoon.

No, there are no cheers or sparklers when that week of marital confusion is finished. There are no toasts when two newlyweds unlock the door to their shared home, their shared future. The remnants of peoples well wishes lie in torn wrapping paper and opened envelopes. It’s over. The wedding is finished, the vows are said, the music is silent. On the guests go.

Day in and day out we learn to be married, we learn to live up to the purpose of that celebration. For the wedding, with all its wonder, was just a precursory party. It was a preemptive celebration of all the shared joys and trials to be faced. It was young and old, friends and family, joining hands to sing on our behalf. It was people of all sorts telling us – we will celebrate now, today, because we know what a blessing into which you are entering. I do wish however, someone told me how to mourn the hard times ahead. I do wish someone taught me as I was zipping up that white dress, how to combat the insecurities found in a secure marriage. I do wish someone wrote in their congratulatory letter “this is hard, celebrate the difficulties with joy, and mourn the hard times fiercely, because this is real, it is real and painful and true and good.” But we missed that bit. We had honest toasts, and heartfelt prayers, but no one can really convey how resilient you have to prepare to be in marriage. You have to wake up each morning knowing – the wedding is over, it’s up to us to celebrate the marriage now. The family has gone away, and our life goes on. And that is hard.

So for newlyweds wondering – how does this bliss end?? How could the joy of the wedding, the smiles, the laughs – how could all of that NOT propel itself into our future? How could that immense, cheek torturing happiness not erase all the potential discomfort and sadness??

It just doesn’t.

The happiness, those fleeting moments of purest joy, move on, they go. They’re commemorated in delightful photographs, captured in sunlit memories, but life goes on.

Day in and day out, with grocery shopping, meal cooking, carpet cleaning, working, and friend making, life goes on. It goes on without invitations to celebrate, it goes on without RSVPs, it goes on without pies and popcorn, without dresses and bare feet, it goes on without any plans at all (and that’s the most terrifying part).

But, just as the good things go, as they are meant to, the bad things go too. When you’re fighting, screaming, crying, and you think “how could this be the very thing people raised their glasses to, merely weeks ago?” Know that it goes on, the fights pass, calm comes, and love remains.

Arguments are essential for forgiveness, forgiveness necessary for growth, and growth needed for you to move forward – towards a deeper, fuller marriage, one well worth all that preemptive celebration. So yes, the wedding is wonderful, the fights are terrible, and the days are unknown – but amongst it all one thing is certain – on life really does go.

On the 4th

I stepped out in July,

For a run, a short one mind.

As I made the first step I was quick to realize

This was the 4th, and memories flied.


I hear the first bang, the pop and the whizz.

With the whistle behind, it’s not so bad

But then that incessant snapping is,

And my stamina flagged.


Suddenly my thoughts matched my pace

And rhythmic words phrased

Sentences and stanzas carefully raced

And I knew my run would be poetically chased.


You light your fireworks and let off a bang.

You cheer for the sound that’s causing someone pain.

You let the loudness startle the crowd,

And watch the trailing sparkles in awe.


How do we celebrate something we barely remember-

With the sounds someone else will never forget?

We watch floral fires light in the sky,

And we forget for this holiday, something had to die.


Now don’t misunderstand me,

This day is grand, not at all protested,

apple pie and sweet tea are hardly contested.

But we celebrate emancipation with a sound that

Emanates the perpetuation

Of death?


Why raise red cups spilling beer, and making claims of greatness,

When in the next street over, your neighbors can’t make

Monthly payments –

and not because they’re lazy or unmotivated,

Some people can’t get hired because of to whom they’re related.


You cheer for your independence, but you’re not walking free.

No, we’re all walking around chained to our fear.

Convinced bullets are the only way to break out.

Determined that our carry anywhere AR15  permits are the tickets

To safety.


But we don’t seem to see the millions felled, the ones gunmen select

We celebrate people who died over 200 years ago,

For a country of free citizens we cannot protect

Because, senselessly we cling to something we cannot control.


We walk in a world deliberately armed as a militia.

Where we’re more likely to fight for the accessibility of ammunition,

Than the feasibility of a free education.

Because one means we can kill and end up on top,

And the other means we might all be equals, and,

goodness, then where would the progress stop?


So by all means, let us look to the fire tinged red rockets glare

See the melted popsicle stain smear into the night sky

Only if then, we can look at the ground and see the bodies piled there.

And finally admit, freedom might be a lie.


To some this may sound angry,

I swear to God I’m just scared.

I sit with my back to my wall and listen to the fireworks.

Listen to them all.


I hear the people here, crying for their murdered friends.

Begging, pleading with America to make it all end.

I see the Syrian girls, half my age,

The African children, already enslaved.

The soldiers we praise, who’s nights will never be silent,

Who will flinch the rest of their days.


I think of the war and the battles we’ve instigated,

Because of people we’ve envied or hated.

I shudder in horror at this culture we’ve created.

This monster of fire we’ve bred.

It was us, the engineers and the builders, it was us asking for more,

More ways to make more people dead.

It is through our fault the gun was fed.


And we’ve stood here before.

In wars gone by we fell

In tragedies we thought history could never retell.

And again here we stand.

Hand on throat, gun in hand.


Don’t you know, o people, war doesn’t make the world whole?

So if you believe, throw down your guns and pray.

Pray for those people you don’t even believe have a soul.

Pray until your knees are as bloody as the hands of the country you call home.


Please, I don’t say this to be mean.

It’s not hateful, or out of spite.

It’s not for the blue against the red.

It’s just from a being, female and white.

From one who doesn’t give a damn if a gun is my right.


I care if my children grow up safe.

I care if the babies I bear

Have education opportunities to spare.

I care if the home I create, is expected to entertain an arsenal, just to be safe.

I care if the people I vote for, can protect the country we entrust to them,

Without the people of this broken democracy, stopping them.


I care that someone listens to the plea of peace.

I care that my children grow up knowing things can change.

That Harry didn’t die for a fantasy world in vain.

But to teach my generation that things can’t stay the same.


Something’s got to give, and fighting is the age old tale.

It’s never gotten much more than blood and tears.

Let’s spin something else,

Something worth lasting through the years.

Let’s teach ourselves now, the ways of peaceful loving.

So as our children grow, they won’t be left wondering –


Is this world any more than a bullet ridden death toll?

On Going Home

Earlier this week a friend asked me when I was going to take Jeremiah to see my home. They were speaking of Scotland, naturally. They were asking when I was going to take Jeremiah on romantically historic trails. When were we going to sight see ancient castles and survey the vibrantly green countryside? When were we going to sit in quaint tea shops eating our soups and sandwiches while the rain lashed charmingly outside? When were we going to visit the land full of quiet houses and a surprisingly uproarious population. This is what they meant when they asked me about home.

And I cannot blame them. If one has to be named, Scotland is home now. It is where I worked during my university summers. It is where I return for holidays. It is where my parents own a flat. In all respects, it is home.

But the answer that immediately sprung to my mind when the question was presented was a simple “never.” Jeremiah will never see my home.


When I think of returning home to Angola, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of childhood memories I have from the sub-Saharan country. In this incident I vividly remembered the chickens.

In our second compound, we moved there within two years of living in Angola, there was a consistent hen and flock of chicks. I adored these animals as a child. I would chase them incessantly, running alongside the hen who angrily flapped her earth bound wings. I would laugh with glee at the sight of new yellow chicks tumbling over themselves in an effort to keep up with their disgruntled mum. In the mornings, before I had to study math or science, I would check on new eggs, huddled safely under the cargo containers we used as car garages. There I would lie, tummy down, head poked into a dark, dirty cavernous space. Mother hen would squawk and ruffle. But I just wanted to watch. I just wanted to be with them, and for them to belong to me. So I spent hours in the dirt, inhaling the feces infested dust, collecting feathers, counting eggs, and loving chickens that were not mine.

These chickens, of course, did not have momentous lives ahead of them. They were not nursery rhyme chickens, set out on great bread making missions. No, they were scrawny African chickens, destined for the coal heated pan from birth. I don’t remember being traumatized by the fate of these chickens. Maybe my parents remember some awful realization I’ve blocked from my mind. But I remember just knowing, some days there would be less chickens than the day before, and that was okay. The chickens didn’t belong to me, they belonged to the street, to the guards’ families. They were not entertainment, they were food. And though they kept me company for many years, eventually they were all gone, and that was okay.

Jeremiah will never meet those chickens. He will never lay on his stomach in ashy red dust and watch as angry hens cluck under a MAERSK container. But that is a memory I call home.

Home, home is waiting for that light on the guardhouse to switch on so your mum will stop worrying about the freezer. Home is begging your dad to turn on the generator so you can have coke, pizza, AND an episode of MASH on Friday night. Home is turning off the telly to listen for gun shots. Home is the acrid smell of burning rubbish wafting over a cement wall, a scent I would give all the Glade candles in the world to smell again. Home is always being a different colour, and never really belonging but not knowing anything else. Home is having malaria and fitting in with everyone else. Home is long, bumpy car rides listening to a Walkman full of Billy Joel and Dixie Chick CD’s I took from my sisters’ room while they were at boarding school. Home is melting gingerbread houses, tangled mosquito nets, and a furry, loyal watchdog.

Home is the place no one can go. My home, the house, the compound, the country that sprung to my mind after that question is a place to which I will never return. On the off chance we were to procure visas for Angola, there is no guarantee that house in Graffanil is still there. There is no way of knowing about my dog, or the guards, or the church. There would be no more chickens, and it wouldn’t be my home.


So here I am, with a wedding in the imminent future, waiting. People shower us with gifts and cards. Phrases such as “it’s so exciting to make a home for each other” hit hard. How am I supposed to make a home for someone else, when I can’t go back to mine? How am I supposed to make this tiny, university owned flat a home when it’s in a country foreign to me? How am I supposed to make meals, home-style dinners, when going to the nearest Kroger is still overwhelming? How am I supposed to invite people over to “our” home when I feel like a stranger in its walls? How am I supposed to make this space a home for Jeremiah, when I don’t even belong in it?


This thread of questions keeps me up late at night, wakes me in the early morning, grips me at work. These attacks on my future fatigue me, they call for me to give in, to put the ring back in the box, say a polite good bye and move on to the next place. But I can’t. I can’t leave. I can’t give power to the lies saying I’ll never have a home. I can’t give truth to the lies saying it’s better to run. I can’t give in. I almost do. Really, ashamedly, I’ve taken my ring off more times than I would like to say. I have come so close to pulling out old suitcases and packing them with new clothes, ready to board a plane and leave a life I don’t understand. What stops me is my question – where else will I go? Where, within this universe, can I go and say I will feel like I belong?


I do not have a home on this earth, and I never will. I do have a home, in the heavenly realm, with the perfect Father. I have a home free from turmoil, I have a home secured. I have a home overflowing with love. But it is not here. No, here I will not belong – not just in America or the UK, but on this earth. I will not belong. It is terrifying to know that, to think that there is no place my parents can conjure out of brick and mortar that will make me feel at home. It’s daunting to realize that daily I will walk alongside co-workers and find them complete strangers. I will not belong, but I will not be alone. Each day I will come back to Jeremiah’s waiting arms. Each night I will sleep folded in with one who loves me deeply, one who loves me well. Each morning I will wake wanting to know him more, and he will wake wanting the same. And we will go through our lives, day in and day out, not belonging to this world, but belonging to one another, and looking ahead to a heavenly, heavenly home.

On the MK Burden

Years ago, during the ages of exploration, Europeans came across people groups foreign to them. As their ships landed on the shores of Africa and South America, the Europeans were astonished to find civilizations living in manners so vastly different. From the moment of those first encounters, the pale Europeans took it upon themselves to educate and refine the darker skinned cultures they met. They called this responsibility the “white man’s burden.” They, as educated people were laden with the calling to reform the lands onto which their ships happened to beach.  Decades later, I believe, the burden isn’t gone. It has just changed. Both the need itself, and the people carrying it.

“Your parents are working for GOD. That is AWESOME.” “MK’s are the coolest kids out there – no one else has this opportunity!” “You should feel SO blessed to live this life.” These were the phrases thrown at me, and other MK’s, during annual mission meeting or school retreats. We were the wonder kids. We were the products of the Southern Baptist American dream. In the states, every church was praying for people like our parents, they were taking up offerings for our families, for our parent’s work. And there, in Africa, volunteers were handing us sour patch kids as if it was the greatest blessing they could bestow upon our sheltered minds.

But we were anything but sheltered.

We didn’t know about slushies or bubblegum inside lollipops. We didn’t know how to work digital cameras, Gameboys, or current fashion trends. And yet, because we were white and carried American passports we were supposed to be versed in this culture completely foreign to us. So, we spent one week out of the yearly 52 learning how to be America, hearing how great our lives were, how wonderful and important our parents work was, and then we were sent home. At home we met our faulty generators, dirty water, and cholera ridden neighborhoods. Our “sheltered” lives.

Yes, we were blessed. Yes, our parents work was awesome. Yes, we were the superstars of Christianity. But, as all sane celebrities say, being a star comes with a price. The burden of an MK can be two fold – guilt and silence.

And so, we all in our ways carried the burden. The MK burden. Some people carried it much better than others. Many of my friends gloried in being MKS, they were born to live on the mission field. Their feet were appropriately barefoot and their attitudes were properly enthusiastic. My feet were barefoot, and that’s where my claim to being a good MK ends. I followed my parents around the country of Angola, bumping along in the back seat for 16 hour journeys and I never felt like a “good” MK. I enjoyed the scenery, the experience, and some of the projects I was able to help with, but I also compiled baggage. As a child, I saw things my university peers will only ever see on the news. I saw epidemics, I saw poverty, I saw what civil war does to a country untouched by democracy. I saw starvation, water depravation, and the third world standard of living. All of these things were absorbed by my tiny eyes and stored in my little heart. I couldn’t tell you when the guilt started to grow, but I can definitively say it had grown exponentially by university. I saw these humanitarian atrocities accepted as the norm, and I got out. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, most first world citizens would welcome consistent electricity and running water. In some way, to rationalize the feelings I have, I need to compare them to survivor’s guilt – a phenomenon in which tragedy strikes, some fall and some live. In my case, Angola was the tragedy. And I was a survivor, a privileged white American, able to escape on an aeroplane to a first class university, receive an education, and carry on in a western world I neither belong to or understand. The guilt of being able to plan a wedding here in America, while girls my age are on their third child in Angola, is at times overwhelming. It is one of the burdens MK carries.

The other is darker. Selfish. Introspective. It goes back to those loud statements from the volunteers. Our parents work is awesome. We are the superstars. So why are we so lonely? Why are we so desperate to leave when this work is so important? I don’t think I ever wanted my parents to leave their work until I was in high school. In Angola, I felt I had a home. My house was definitely ours, IKEA furniture and all, it was a safe, familiar place. In boarding school, nothing was familiar. Everyone has different families; families nothing like mine. Then my parents moved to the Middle East. And I was diagnosed with depression. Even then, in the midst of being lonely, very lost, and sitting in the counselor’s office week after week I never thought I had the freedom to ask my parents to leave. I couldn’t be the MK who failed. I couldn’t be the one who took two faithful individuals away from the Lord’s work. I couldn’t be that selfish. High school came and went, I don’t think I reached my lowest there, it just felt like it.

No, the lowest moments, the darkest moments came in university. New counselors, same pills. New roommates, same loneliness. And even then, in moments where I wanted to take my life, moments in which I wanted to see what would happen if I drove into oncoming traffic, or if I took the cut deeper, or took one too many Xanax, I couldn’t be honest. I wasn’t honest with my parents, my friends or myself. I buried the pain, smiled at the questions and told people “Yes my parents are missionaries in the Middle East, they work really hard and serve well.” I didn’t tell people “I’m angry, I’m alone, I wanted a home to grow up in, a home to go back to, I want to know that it’s okay to feel this terrible, even when my parents are doing such good work. I want to know I’m not an evil person for being bitter, when the life we’ve lived is the one of the faithful.” But I never said those words. I don’t know what would have happened if I had. I couldn’t say them. I couldn’t be the one MK who needed her parents to leave their work, I just needed to find other ways to get through it, shoulder the burden and move on.

This is, hopefully, the most inconclusive post I will ever write. I don’t have answers. I cannot tell other Third Culture Kids how to overcome the loneliness or the bitterness, because I haven’t done it myself. I can only tell them; I think it’s normal. I think, for some, being a third culture kid if second nature. And for others, we handle it in small, growing moments. We have moments of understanding, breakthroughs of compassion and gratefulness. We also have moments of irrational anger, confusion. We have moments where we wish we could crawl back into our past and build a safe house all around our childhood selves – a safe house that will never change, never move, never be left empty.

We move past those moments and enter reality. The truth is, my parents live overseas. Their house is in Scotland. In August, my home will reside in the heart of my husband. My parents work and serve well. It is hard. It does hurt. But it’s not the end. And, as I grow a little older, more honest words come out of my mouth, and the honesty (although I need to work on its delivery) will help to heal some of the past.

I hope someday to return to this post, maybe in ten or twenty years, and be able to add an author’s note. In it I hope to say something more substantial, something more decisive, to all the TCKs and MKs struggling with guilt, loneliness, fear – all of it. What I can say now is have faith. Have faith like your parents have faith. Trust, trust that God loves you, for what more in this world could we ask?

On Purpose

The end is coming. The time for the books to close, the caps to don, the tassels to flip. On the brink of University graduation, I sit in almost crushing silence. I sit, waiting for the answers to come – Where will I go? What will I do? With who? What do I want to do? For most, I have simple answers. I will be here. I will be a nurse. I will marry my fiancé and live with him – and move with him when the time comes. My friends will leave, and new ones will come. But as for the last, the question of desire, or perhaps better, the question of need. What do I need to do to feel purpose? To feel I am living a full life? I don’t need to be a nurse; I don’t need a nurse’s salary. I don’t need to be married. I don’t need to move.

I need to create. And to create well. After a year of working in a coffee shop I have come to express, at last, what I have been trying to tangibly explain for years. The art of process with the value of completion is at the core of being.

As children we learn simple actions of creation – we learn how to pour yellow paint into blue and create vibrant green. We learn how to plant little seeds into empty egg cartons and watch as little sprouts grow. We learn to mix flour with butter to create pastry by watching our mothers. We learn these things as a part of life, the essential aspects that make life, through our young eyes magical and wonderful and exciting. We crave this, we yearn to be the ones mixing the paint, watering the egg cartons and in control of the flour. Yet as we grow up, we grow farther away from this desire to create. We become accustomed to things ready made and simple, we ease ourselves into a luxurious life of immediate satisfaction. We delude ourselves with the corrupt whispers of society saying “this is the life, the fast track is the way, the only way to happiness.” Our professors ask how we will support ourselves, how will we make money, where are we going to work.  They do not ask how we will sustain our soul, how we will seek beauty, how we will create. The focus is shifted. We work for money, we work for status, we work to keep up with the tireless economy around us. We work, following dreams we never had in a world that never sleeps.

And I don’t want to do it anymore.

The coffee shop in which I worked was not a franchise. There was no provided health insurance, no Christmas bonuses or 12 pounds of coffee for free. No, there was only a purpose, a mission, to be a space of community, a space of intentional creation. While I worked there, yes there were days I did not want to sweep the floor – and I only did it out of obligation to my boss, but there were also days when I could not wait for someone to order a cappuccino – so I could serve them, and serve them well. There were days I could not wait to get to work on dusting, or mopping, or wiping syrup off the counters, because these were elements that affected the space – a space I was trying to create – a space of peace, thought, ingenuity, safety.

I find these same habits in myself elsewhere. When I dance, even a rhythmic and steady bit of ballet creates a space, a space of art and time and beauty. And I desire for the space that I fill, in that dance, to be filled well. When I write, I create sentences, I fill a space, on the paper, in someone’s mind, and I want it to be done well. When I run, I run to create a stronger body, a clearer mind. When I clean my room, I create a space for me, a place I know, a place of safety, serenity, unchanging. I do this innately now, and I wish to do it intentionally. To take the time each day to think about my actions, regard them with care, and move forward with good purpose – this would be ideal.

And this is truly what I want to do, to continue doing. For some, it’s their calling. My art major friends will confidently go on creating beautiful sculptures or portraits. The musicians will make music, the scientists will make discoveries, the engineers will make efficient equipment, the financiers will make good businesses. And the rest? What of me? The nurse. The writer. The longing philosopher sitting in a cap and gown that feels more like a straight jacket. The student, almost a grad, with a propelled career path, headed straight to making money. Money to pay off loans. Money to pay for groceries. Money. They ask me how much money will I make? What will you be making? What does that job make? If you measure its making on money, then it makes nothing. It spurns a desire for greed that snuffs out the creativity of man.

No, no I will create. For we are all, in some way, shards of a great Creator. We are all reflective of His will and longing to create. And so I will follow that. I will create. Be it good meals, intentional conversation, written prose, poorly painted watercolours on rainy days, good cups of coffee, bad cups of coffee, gardens, space. I will create, I will open the space for people to be comfortable, vulnerable and raw. I will create community with those like minded and those unalike. I will create a place where beauty can be cultivated, and the Creator glorified in manifest ways.

I have not held a post graduate job yet, but I imagine when I start I will be stressed and anxious and lost, clinging to some lost direction. I hope I do not lose the purpose of why I am there. To create. And to create well.