Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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A Foreigner’s Perspective on the Refugee Crisis

When I lived in the United States, my life was very much red, white, and blue {well, mostly white, middle-class} with the exception of a few multi-cultural experiences.

I had a student once who only spoke English and her parents only spoke Spanish. Her sister was the translator in their home. I wrote her progress report notes in my best Español.

I employed a kind woman from Mexico to help me clean my house twice a month. She was an illegal immigrant. I kept her secret.

Gavin and I picked up a young Hispanic woman on the street one day who had run away from her abusive boyfriend. We brought her home, I made her a sandwich, and per her request, we drove her an hour to the nearest Greyhound station. We bought her a ticket. She gave me her watch. And then she was gone.

I’m sitting here REALLY trying to rack my brain for more instances of cross-cultural interactions, but this is it. Three times in my adulthood I can remember allowing someone from a different country to interrupt the rhythm of my daily life on familiar soil.

Good grief, these weren’t even interruptions.

I never once thought about how to warmly include Lydia’s parents in classroom activities.
I never considered inviting immigrants to share significant holidays with my family.
I never checked back in with the runaway girlfriend.

Hadn’t I done enough? Hadn’t I made an effort to connect with foreigners on my turf?

I thought so. Until I became a foreigner myself.

There are many things that I’ve learned from moving overseas, but one of the greatest lessons has been the definition of hospitality.

There was not a single soul that asked us to move to SE Asia. No one invited us here without our prompting, no one begged us to grace them with our presence and skills and education.

We just showed up…and hoped someone would welcome us in.

I wonder if that’s how refugees feel?

I have no idea what it’s like to flee my nation’s border out of fear. I have no idea what it’s like to stick my kid on a boat in distress. I have no idea what’s it’s like to be forced out of my safe place dependent on a merciful hand.

So I can’t say for sure how it feels to be a refugee. But I know what it’s like to try and find my place in a culture that’s not my own, immersed in a language I don’t understand, and surrounded by societal norms I just can’t figure out.

Daily life is stressful. Finding food for your family is stressful. Taking public transportation is stressful.


Sleeping in an unfamiliar place.
Comforting your child in new surroundings.
Trying not to offend your neighbor.
Running important government paperwork.
Shopping for basic clothing and household items.

But the hardest, most stressful challenge of transitioning across borders?

Finding a community that welcomes you.

Not in any single one of these stresses do I feel like I can understand the crisis so many Syrian refugees are facing today. They aren’t even being granted freaking asylum. Much less an outreached, welcoming hand.

We moved abroad with twelve trunks of cataloged, familiar belongings.
We flew in an airplane.
Someone paid for us to study language for a year.

We were immediately surrounded by teammates who helped us transition.
Our landlords helped us run important paperwork.
Local acquaintances became friends who took us shopping for necessities.

The community was just…here. And we were welcomed into it.

How I wish this narrative were the same for every one of the faces I’ve seen in the news recently. I wish the 4 million Syrians who have fled into surrounding countries had the social support I’ve known. I wish there were as many online resources and counseling centers and training organizations helping these people enter their cross-cultural transition.

I’ll never look at an immigration issue or refugee crisis the same after living overseas myself.

I’m thankful that the world has been unnerved by the images in the media over the past couple of weeks. I’ll never be thankful there are bodies of babies on a shoreline. But I think we could all use a little unnerving.

I’ve desperately wanted to have words instead of just a heavy heart. I’ve struggled to find the black and white after living in a world of perpetual gray. But I saw this image tonight, and I was struck by how deeply it resonated with me.

Yes, church, let’s open our doors. But let’s also open our hearts.
Let’s give our money. But let’s also give our time.
Let’s lift our hands in prayer. But let’s also put those hands around real shoulders.

There may not be a refugee knocking at your door today. I know there’s not one knocking on mine.

But there are sojourners looking for a home. Grasping to understand their new surroundings. Seeking a welcoming community.

And I just wonder…are we ready to be the Gospel as much as we’re ready to preach it?

If we are really going to respond to a refugee crisis, it’s going to take more than our feelings and our money.

It’s going to have to be a whole crazy mass of God’s people adding chairs to our kitchen tables, inviting different people into our regular social circles, and sharing life with foreigners in our land.

The Freedom to Go Slow {Velvet Ashes}

When we move overseas, we think we’re moving alone.

We may only be responsible for the people who share our surname and travel itinerary, but the reality is that we’re bringing a lot of baggage.

Of course you know I’m not talking about the suitcases (although there are a lot of those, too)….it’s the emotionalbaggage that weighs us down, my friends.

And do you know where I hear it stemming from most often? The relationship between religious expatriates and their senders.

Foreign servants and our supporting fellowships. We depend on each other and yet we inject insurmountable portions of stress into each other’s lives.

I’m here to talk about the dynamics of the first year of living abroad. But I want to write to two audiences: the goers AND the senders. And I want to be a middleman of sorts.

Because the people who go are only as strong as the people supporting them to go.

So, lest you think you’re running away to a foreign land alone, I’d like to propose a revolutionary concept: WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER. Goers and Senders.

Not in a we-need-money-and-they-need-workers kind of way. But rather, in a the-Kingdom-of-God-is-at-hand kind of way.

And I’m afraid there are a few things that need to be said on neutral turf. Click here to read two short letters addressed to the above.


A Letter from a Daddy to His 2-Year-Old Girl

This morning we sat down for a special birthday pancake breakfast to celebrate baby girl turning two. Gavin surprised us by pulling out a letter he had written to her. I don’t often get to share his heart with you here, but I’m thankful for that opportunity today. It is my honor to parent alongside this man, and Eliza continues to bring me so much joy. I’m sharing his letter on this space because I don’t want to be the only one to shed a few tears over the beauty that is raising children.

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Dear Eliza –

There are some things I’ve been wanting to tell you. Now that you’re 2, I figured you’re old enough and mature enough to handle it. Please listen closely to what I have to say. I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you these things. Here goes:

You are such an amazing daughter.

Remember all those times we start to eat and you remind us we need to pray first? That is so sweet.

Remember when we tuck you in at night, and you say, “Hug, kiss, hug, kiss,” over and over again? That is really special.

Or all the times you take such good care of your Froggy: checking his heartbeat with your stethoscope, making sure he is staying hydrated, keeping him warm at night, and teaching him how to color? That is so precious.

Or how about the times when we are brushing your teeth and you exclaim, “Jesus!” because you’re excited to read the next bible story? So cool, dude.

You are such an amazing daughter.

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But man, you are a little monster, too.

Remember that one time you pulled down the curtains in the living room? That was really mean.

Remember the time you got out of bed during naptime and applied hydrocortisone cream all over your legs? That was so ugly.

Or the time you peed in Daddy’s lap 5 minutes after he asked if you needed to go pee? That was a real punk move.

Or how about the time you put Mommy’s iPhone and the A/C remote in her cup of coffee? Not cool, man.

You are such a little monster.

As I have been thinking about your 2 years, I have seen so much of myself in you. The way you can quietly play by yourself. The way you love playing with the football. The way you are able to cram an entire plateful of food into your mouth at the same time and still manage to chew and swallow. All that, you got all that straight from me.

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You need to know that there are other ways we are alike: I am a monster, too.

I am really selfish. I gossip sometimes. I get jealous of other people. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I am not very generous. I don’t usually give people the benefit of the doubt. I am often apathetic. I am pretty lazy. And I’m really bad about holding grudges.

I am a pretty terrible monster. We’re both terrible monsters, you and I. Maybe someday we can find out what terrible monsters eat and just stuff our mouths full of it just to show off how much we can chew and swallow.

But until then, I have to show you one other way that we’re alike: we have a Father who loves us no matter what.

He’s a Father who made us in His image. He’s a Father who walks with us in the garden and in the valley. He’s a Father who is so sad when we do dumb stuff. And He’s the Father who is waiting on the porch for when we finally come back home.

He’s a Father who loves His monsters, because they are His.

Eliza, God knows you are going to do monster-like things. But He also knows that in your heart, you are becoming a girl who loves Jesus more than anyone else. And I think your heavenly Father couldn’t be any more proud of you.

I know for a fact your earthly father couldn’t be, either.

I love you sweet girl.


2 year bday d

How to Stay Sane When Living Abroad {Velvet Ashes}

Last summer, I submitted a 47-page thesis exploring the mental health functioning of career medical professionals serving overseas. I spent almost two years gathering articles, reading books, and attending conferences surrounding the topic of cross-cultural adjustment as it related to depression and anxiety among expatriates. This all sounds so academic and professionl, huh?

Let me tell you a secret. It was COMPLETELY SELFISH. The only reason I spent so much time researching data and reporting statistics was because I didn’t want to be a statistic.

I’d watched it happen to too many people.

I had friends who had been chewed up and spit out by their experiences on the field. I’d read blogs of disgruntled religious workers who had completely lost hope in God’s design for His body. I’d seen the glazed-over look on the faces of foreign servants who were completely ineffective in their ministries.

I prayed the Lord would spare me from this, but I knew the odds were stacked against me. Cross-cultural adjustment is no joke, and it does crazy things to our minds and our bodies. For those of us in the throws of cultural disequilibrium, I’ve compiled a list of 5 things that I hope will help us all remain sane, serve well, and stay long in our work overseas.

1. Exercise spiritual discipline.
2. Recognize when you’re stressed.
3. Focus on your family.
4. Don’t wait on member care—help yourself.
5. Reverse the stigma against mental health issues. 


stay-sane-living-abroad-726x484 I expound on these thoughts here. Read on at Velvet Ashes!

I <3 Noonday Collection

Maybe you remember that this time last year I was trying to win a blogging trip to Rwanda with Noonday Collection. You all voted me into one of the top spots!

Then, I learned that I wasn’t eligible for the trip because I don’t live in the United States. I was super bummed, but really enjoyed following the rest of the competition and linking up with the other gals who had also entered to win the trip.

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The discussion surrounding Noonday’s fight for justice connected me with all kinds of women doing Kingdom work around the world. One of those gals is Meredith Toering who is working in China doing amazing things for babies with heart defects as the International Director for Morning Star Foundation.

And it’s just cool how the Internet makes online friends real life friends. In a couple of weeks Meredith and I will be sharing a room in Hong Kong for the Justice Conference Asia. How cool is that?

Also, last month my amazing already-real-life friend Amber decided to become a Noonday Ambassador! I was so ecstatic I started planning my first trunk show right away.

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So, in honor of Noonday making friends of strangers and businesswomen out of house moms, I’m hosting that show! I’ve been sharing this with my Facebook friends, but then I remembered how much you all supported this amazing company last summer. I wanted to share this opportunity with you, too!

Noonday Collection is a business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world. And you can jump online RIGHT NOW and be a part of sustaining the livelihood of artisans around the world through fair trade.

If you shop here by the end of TODAY (Tuesday, April 14), you can not only be a part of making a difference in the lives of people across the world, but 10% of sales will also go to support our adoption!

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Follow this link to shop the most beautiful fair trade jewelry and accessories on the market (and just in time for Mother’s Day). I’m so excited to share these pieces with you!

The show will end at midnight. Go, go, go!