Reasons to Smile

To the individuals that taught me I couldn’t do it all: Thank you.

To the loved ones that taught me I couldn’t say it all: Thank you.

To the man God used to teach me how to look for God before I looked for love: I pray this next year teaches you what I could not. Where ever you are, may God break you as gently as He did me, simply to restore you more fully than you may ever think possible.

To the people I’ve had to love at a distance: May someone do what I could not and hold you closely and love you actively until you see Christ.

To the loved ones who taught me how to laugh through the worst: Thanks for teaching me to see Christ even when I can’t see a silver lining.

To the friends that taught me I could be loved despite my differences: Thanks for the memories.

To the man who pursued me because Christ called you to do the (seemingly) impossible: May you never experience this adventure without the Lord driving you forward. Thanks for being so preciously stubborn and teaching me how to look for Christ.

To my Master, King and Savior: 12 months has never been more painfully beautiful. Thank you for loving me when I couldn’t love myself and rescuing me even when I didn’t think rescuing was needed. Thank you for reminding me that the person I was last year was not forgotten nor was I unchangeable. Thank You for using the beautiful, the difficult, the unexpected and the precious to give me even more of Yourself.

You, my King, are the ultimate Reason I can continue to love and laugh anyway.

Christmas Defined

According to the “Christmas-aholics” I’m a midget sized Grinch with a really boring heart. I am not your typical “Crazy About Christmas” young adult. I don’t lay awake daydreaming about what I’ll get who or what lights I can buy to make my apartment pop out from the normalcy on my street.

I love Christmas, but I couldn’t care less what day the rest of the world celebrates it on.

I love going “all out” to give the kiddos in my life the gift of anticipation and the joy of mystery. But still… there’s a part of me that cringes living in the Midwest and watching how “Christmas” gets celebrated.

Christmas is the day celebrating Christ, God’s Son and His arrival on this earth as one of us. He came to save us from our selves. God – the Supreme of all gods and the Ultimate King Eternal became one of us. Hallelujah! Christmas!!

As Christians, do we have a right to celebrate Christmas as if it is merely a 48 hour joyride and then act as if Christ is an optional “thing” 363 days of the year? Do we actually treasure Christ as much as we make it appear we do when the time of year comes around where we sing songs most of us don’t have to ponder because we’ve known them since we were conceived?

It may sound cheesy but may this year’s Christmas be an attitude; not an event. May you see Christ and His gift of provision in the roof over your heads, the smile on your lips and the joy in your laugh. Only then will Christmas start making sense.

If Christmas is merely the “hype” of the “Baby Boy”, we have completely misrepresented Christ in the first place. Christ came to this earth concealed and lowly and yet His presence – the presence of God with Us – is not something to only strike up joy and excitement for a few days a year.

When the lights come down, the presents get exchanged and the wrapping paper gets put away… I pray your Christmas doesn’t disappear.

Christ is still here.

Merry TCK Christmas

“You really are a TCK aren’t you???”

I chuckled when my “host-mama” asked me that question. Apparently, I have all the personality of being a “TCK” – a Third Culture Kid. Though my heart understands what that means, my Spirit fights against it.

I grew up resonating more with the culture my parents served in as missionaries than I ever did in the setting where all my friends looked like me. I’d come back to my “White-life” and be intensely confused why I didn’t fit in anymore. But I was okay with not fitting in. I learned to laugh when Caucasian friends quipped dramatically, “Hey! You’re WHITE! Act like it!”

Okay… how?

A lot of my confusion and processing was because I was young enough to be impacted by everything I saw. It wasn’t very black and white in my mind what applied to me as a kid and what didn’t apply… I loved sharing my heart with two cultures.

I didn’t fit into either one.

Though it is just my opinion, I think “TCKs” feel their differences the most around the holidays. Every culture has their traditions. As a TCK, you never really know what your mind and heart is supposed to feel when Christmas comes around. I’m white… so Christmas trees, presents, Jesus and the manger it is. My heart still attests to the people I grew up with, so though traditions may be similar, they’re not the same.

I’m 25, I haven’t “done life” in the Culture of my Heart in almost 9 years. But I still battle the need to know how to feel about Christmas without someone else that tells the same stories, dances the same dances and sings the same songs that I’m mentally rehearsing simply because it’s a precious memory.

I’m a TCK- I can deal with that. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but… what do I do about Jesus? In the culture of my heart, Jesus is still Jesus… He’s God’s Son, He’s the Gift I’ll never be able to match, run away from or understand completely.

But Christmas feels different now that I’m the majority rather than the minority. I’ve never been able to say that out loud. I don’t know if I can even now.

As I was observing my jumbled TCK thoughts this morning, I could almost hear my Christ remind me that I didn’t have to completely understand a Savior that spanned cultures and traditions.

He did, after all, create every culture though they “see” him differently. I just had a small period in my life where I was given the chance to see Him in more than one at the same time.

Homeless Emmanuel

I grew up with the typical Christian family Christmas mantras. Thoughts such as- “It’s better to give than to receive” and “The richest man is a man that knows he’s loved” were things said often around Christmas. As a child I knew my family was poor, but I heard my mother’s optimism so often through those phrases that often times, I forgot we were poor. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. Christmas still had to have something for me, though. If I were to be honest, God coming as Savior was always the second thing on my mind. I loved Jesus, but… What would be in my stocking this year? I was 21 before that attitude changed.

That Christmas, I was serving my first of three years at a shelter and prevention center for the homeless community in my home town. Through the help of the Churches we started organizing Christmas gifts for people that just needed a little help that year. I made calls to quilters asking for as many handmade blankets they could manage. A coworker called local businesses asking for pledges of food, coats, pencils… Anything. We asked for any kind of toy… Anything at all.

One family that I was responsible for that year was just a single father and his four year old daughter. A group of ladies volunteered to sponsor the little girl.. And sponsor her they did. It took three of us several trips to the car and back before all the presents were delivered. The little girl couldn’t stop squealing. She knew those presents were for her and she couldn’t be happier.

Another one of the ladies with me took the daughter outside to play as I spoke to her dad. He hadn’t asked for help, but had been warned that we were stopping by with, “something.” The gentle giant just cried and hugged me until I almost couldn’t breathe. I had never experienced not being provided for… Nor did I know what it was like to not be able to provide for a child. The look on this father’s face testified that he knew that feeling all too well.

“You made her smile. You gave her a pillow-pet. You made her smile. You actually made her smile.” I didn’t stop smiling as I timidly apologized that the only thing we had for him was food and blankets. His next words changed my attitude of Christmas altogether.

“Hun, I couldn’t care less about what trinkets you could collect for me. You provided for my child when I couldn’t. My heart is full. You’ll never know the power of a gift until someone provides when you cannot.”

I walked away from their home overwhelmed with the reminder that I knew very little of the gift of Christ. But what this Daddy had said hit the nail on the head. God, in his Greatness provided for me when I couldn’t provide for myself. Without the gift of His Son, life would be pointless and impossible yet God gave me Jesus because He knew I needed Him. Just as this father in front of me sacrificed his pride because he knew the outcome would bring his daughter joy… God sacrificed his Son to bring me life- despite the fact that I would never have enough to match His gift in full.

From then on out, as trite as it sounds, Christmas became an attitude- not an event. God gave everything out of Love and with complete joy. He then called me to go and live likewise. It was never about what I got on Christmas in the first place. It’s always been what I could give and how my heart mirrored the joy of Christ because of the gift first given to me. Christmas became the reminder that God called me to be His image-bearer.

“Emmanuel” means something completely different when you lock arms with a struggling father.

Disfigured Love

I stood in the Throne Room of my Savior trembling in fear.

Did He.. know my fear?

Would He… mend my brokenness or just testily acknowledge my imperfections?

For the life of me, I couldn’t decide what to believe. His grace seemed unreachable and it didn’t seem logical to assume His mercy could fill in the gaps of my broken heart. I had nothing of value to give Him. Why would He serve me?

“Baby Girl, why are you afraid of Me?”

He almost always brings me into His Throne Room with a question. Ranging anywhere from “Do you know how much I love you” to “Do you want to involve me in your life or is this still off limits?” His questions always spurred on thoughtful silence.

But I’m afraid of silence. In silence the heart speaks. I don’t like it when my heart speaks. Therefore… words must happen. I can hide behind conceptualized Christianity, right? Jehovah Yahweh won’t see past my big words and spiritually-sounding, sermon-making, awe-inspiring empty words… Will He?

“Jesus, I’m not afraid of you. You are Elohim…”

“Child, I know who I am. You have no idea who I am. Those words, those names, they only bring a smile to my face when you allow them to mean something. I’m not impressed that you know 100 of my countless Names. I didn’t ask for you to introduce Me. I’m asking you why you are afraid of Me. Why? Talk to Me, Little One. You’re still hiding a portion of your heart from Me as if I’m the one that will destroy it, not mend it. Why are you afraid of Me?”

Brokenness overwhelmed my heart as I shouted the only answer I had left when all superficiality was torn away:

Can you tell me why I shouldn’t be?! How can I not be afraid of you? Have you seen the remains of my heart?

Instead of judgment, my outburst was merely met with with compassionate eyes and a patient smile.

“Your heart is broken, but it’s not shattered. You’ve tasted of what it is like to be deserted; have you ever felt as if I joined the loved ones that deserted you?

“Baby Girl, never let your heart define My love for you by what you’ve seen in your fellow man. You have learned well the imperfections of mankind’s concept of love. But remember one thing:

Your heart has never experienced a reason not to trust Me. You’ve just allowed the world to disfigure My love for you.”