Welcome Home

Welcome Home

The immigration officer with the stamp in his hand had a strong Long Island accent. We’d been up for nearly 24 hours, and our kids were melting down waiting in the first of many lines at JFK, while more English than we’d heard in a long time swirled around us. We handed over our passports, and he asked us questions about where we’d been and for how long. Then he handed them back with two words. “Welcome home.” I didn’t expect the lump in my throat. And a few hours later when we landed into a brilliant orange sunset in Charlotte, I couldn’t hold the tears back. Home. I grew up rootless – some life in the Philippines, some in Ohio, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina… Fifty houses and twelve schools in the first eighteen years of my life. And now I’m doing something...

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Letting It Go: The Road Back to Joy

Letting It Go: The Road Back to Joy

I freeze people. Not as dramatically as a singing snow queen, but I do. I freeze them in my mind. I remember who they used to be, what they were like before, the words they’ve said, the hurtful things they’ve done. And I keep them there in my head like little shrines to unforgiveness. I forget that they are living, growing, changing human beings. I forget that I’m not who I was yesterday. Or the day before. Or the day before that. Or the string of months before that. In fact, I’ve changed pretty drastically since this time last year. The other day I remembered a piece of myself. I was at Zumba (yes, we missionaries sometimes do Zumba), and I couldn’t get my directionally challenged self to figure out the steps, so I turned to the also-very-lost woman next...

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But What About the Teddy Bear?!

But What About the Teddy Bear?!

The biggest blow up of our early married life was over a teddy bear neither my husband or I ever owned. Before we started dating, during that tenuous stage of trying to figure out how to define our budding relationship, a close friend of Mike’s pulled me aside and said, “Be gentle as you get to know him, because he had his heart broken not too long ago. He gave a girl a teddy bear, and she ended up giving it back to him.” As I got to know him, I kept waiting for Mike to open up and share with me about the girl who had broken his heart. I didn’t ask, afraid of pushing him to talk about something that must have still been tender. He never brought it up. Two years of dating, then engagement, and not one mention of the teddy bear. I didn’t think about it much in the...

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Don’t Wait Until I’m Ready

Don’t Wait Until I’m Ready

I took a deep breath and pushed the words out of my mouth. “Do you want to see the rest of the house?” I didn’t know Susan well, but I had invited her in for a spontaneous cup of coffee without a chance to even try to straighten up. The living room was a wreck – toys and books and crumbs everywhere – and the rest of the house was worse. I had to swallow the impulse to try to explain away the mounds of clothing in the bedrooms and the dishes piled in the sink as I showed off the oddities of one of the quirkiest houses in our community. It rambles and twists like most of it was tacked on as an afterthought, and each turn revealed a little more of my mess. I would like to say this is unusual for me, but it’s not. Recently my friend Carrie told our Bible study group,...

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The Chronic Fixer

The Chronic Fixer

It started with a purple popsicle. At least that’s my first memory of something that would become one of my biggest life struggles. My sister Faith was five and I was eight, and our family had just moved to the Philippines. We were leaving church when a vendor pedaled up with his bike-mounted cooler and propped open the lid to show us his wares. Everything still felt unfamiliar, but this… This we knew. Popsicles are a universal language. I picked a bright orange one, melon-flavored I think, and Faith chose purple. We thought it was grape. It looked grape. But in this strange, new place it turned out to be a strange, new flavor. Purple sweet potato. Overwhelmed by too much new in one day, she dissolved into pitiful tears. And I got mad. I wanted to smack the...

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You Can’t Make Me

You Can’t Make Me

We spent a lot of time in the car when I was a kid. Hour after hour after day of nothing but road rolling on as we traveled the States, visiting churches and partners who supported my parents’ ministry in the Philippines. We were good little missionary kids. The kind who whined and fought in the sanctuary while our parents set up for their presentation. And when we got back in the car, my mom would put our little brother between me and my sister as an attempt at keeping the peace. So naturally, we would turn our focus on torturing him. First it was tickling. Each of us on one of his sides so he had no direction to lean to escape. And when the laughter became cries for help and our mom turned around and said, “You keep your hands off your brother!”… Then… Then the...

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