I sit in my corner booth next to the wall of windows, and I wonder how I can express the key peace, purpose and identity in the next half an hour. How can I do justice to so great a theme?
I think about my own heart wrestlings through these issues, my quest for a heart occupied by peace, fully content with its purpose.
My mind is cast back to a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. She was about to move to an unfamiliar city with her spouse and three small children. Her husband had landed a different job, and the whole family trailed along into unknown territory. She said to me one morning: “I just don’t know what I’m going to do there.”
I thought about this for a while, and realized I’ve felt the same way.
“Do what you’ve always been doing,” I told her. “Keep serving your husband. Keep loving your children. Keep teaching them the ways of God. Your identity and purpose haven’t changed just because you find yourself with a new view out your kitchen window while you’re washing the dishes. Your job is to continue fulfilling the calling that God has placed on your life — in this season, as a wife and mom.”
While her primary roles at that time were as a wife and mother, that wasn’t all that defined who my friend was as a person.
I’m a mother of three — but that’s not all that defines me.
I’m an adoptive mom — but that’s not the only thing I am.
I’m a homeschooler — but I am not my job title.
I’m a pastor’s wife — but my purpose isn’t found solely in my position.
I have brown hair and hazel eyes — but my reflection in the mirror doesn’t reflect my heart.
The thing is, these so-called “labels” I’ve listed above might contribute to my sense of identity, but they don’t dictate my soul. They’re not the core of who I am.
More than that, they could all be snatched away in a heartbeat. My children could die, my spouse could pass away, my kids might be sent to school, my husband might change jobs. My hair that used to be dirty blonde is gradually going gray — and I’m not even 35.
If my family were taken away or my hair all fell out — would my identity be taken away as well? Would my purpose in life dissolve?
I think about the world today. We live in an era where identities can be changed, stolen, compromised.
How do we think about these things and not be discouraged?
The answer lies in a place far deeper than any gender surgery or identity theft hacker can reach.
I have a friend who has recently retired, and one who has recently graduated. They’re both squinting their eyes, navigating through a hazy windshield, unsure what lies ahead around the next bend in the road.
While these next few months may feel frustrating in the land of in between, my friends’ identities have not changed.
They both belong to Christ. Yes, they are now called “graduate” and “retiree,” but far above these earthly labels, they are His.
It was my first time attending an African funeral.
My South African husband and I drove nine hours to be there. We arrived at the family compound in the township late at night.
A thick canopy of grief hung over the property.
The next morning, I woke up and walked outside to brush my teeth. The only water source was a single faucet on the exterior wall, which emptied into a drain in the ground.
I was almost three months pregnant with our first child, and still experiencing a fair share of morning sickness. Before I could even make it to the tap, I was greeted by a row of cousins, each with a plastic tray on their laps. “Morning!” they smiled. To my shock, on each tray was a sheep’s head — eyes glazed over, limp tongue sticking out. The cousins sat with flat razor blades in hand, shaving off the sheep’s hair.
The odor was pungent. A wave of nausea swept over me.
I returned the greeting and covered my mouth, rounding the corner of the house to escape the animals’ stares and smells. Around the bend were more cousins, elbows deep in huge metal bowls filled with sheep intestines. They spoke cheerful hellos as pesky flies swarmed around.
I was keenly aware that I was a stranger in a foreign land.
I adored this debut novel by Katherine Reay. A Jane Austen-loving orphan named Samantha is sponsored by an anonymous donor to attend Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. The only stipulation is that she must write regular letters to this mysterious benefactor, who wishes to be called Mr. Knightley. The storyline is captivating and cleverly written, and I found myself drawn to the main character, and sad when the book ended.
This is a book I’ll be going back to again and again. In a nutshell, it’s really a book about sanctification — but it’s so beautifully and poignantly written, you might not realize it. My review is loaded with some of my favorite quotes. Check it out by clicking here.
From August 17th-September 25th, I’m hosting an online discussion group right here on this blog, based on topics found in this book. I’d love to have you join in! Grab a copy of this useful and practical resource so you’ll be ready to take part in the discussion in August.
This harrowing and riveting story is hard to put down. A true account of an American family’s Ukrainian adoption journey, this book is captivating. It’s a genuine testimony of the Lord’s faithful provision, even in tremendously difficult circumstances. Click here for my review.
If you’re looking for an easy read that will encourage you to think differently about your own circumstances in life, this is the book for you. Every chapter include thoughtful and thought-provoking nuggets of wisdom. I’ve gleaned so much from Annie’s anecdotes and direct challenges to be brave in both the small and the big things in life.
We made it! It’s the final day of October! For those who have been doing Write 31 Days, CONGRATULATIONS!! This is me sending you virtual cupcakes, hot tea and lots of expensive, dark chocolate. Seriously, posting every day for 31 days is a huge accomplishment. Well done!
This is also our fifth and final Words Matter giveaway. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the giveaways as much as I have. Thank you to all who have offered the fantastic prizes, all who have entered, and congratulations to those who have won so far!
This week I’ve put together a fabulous package to wrap up our month of goodies.
The winner of this giveaway will get not one, not two, but THREE books from women that I admire tremendously.
These three authors have shown through their lives and ministry that words really do matter.
The first book in the giveaway is the beautiful new family Advent calendar just released by Ann Voskamp.
If you’ve ever read Ann’s writing, you’ll know what an incredible gift she has, and this gem is no exception. In fact, I opened it expecting to use it with my children, and I have been so challenged and blessed by it, even as an adult. I just adore Ann’s perspective, and she weaves Jesus into every single page.
Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you want this book.
The second book in the prize pack is Vivian Mabuni’sWarrior in Pink. I actually won a copy of this book on my friend Bronwyn’s blog several months ago, and it was so moving. Since then, Vivian has become an online friend and a great encouragement to me through her writing and her testimony. Warrior in Pink is Vivian’s story about her journey with breast cancer, and how the Lord cared for her during that intense trial. Read my review here.
And last but definitely not least is Emily Wierenga’s memoir, Atlas Girl. Emily is one author whose voice has really influenced my own writing, and I’m thrilled to be able to give away a copy of this thought-provoking memoir as Emily recounts her life’s experiences thus far, including a battle with anorexia and caring for her mother with brain cancer. Read my review here.
In addition to her book, I want to take this opportunity to highlight a brand new nonprofit which Emily founded herself. It’s called The Lulu Tree, and it exists to minister to women in the slums of Uganda.
All proceeds of Atlas Girl go directly to The Lulu Tree, and not only that, but they have a boutique as well! Check out some of the gorgeous items available — and all prices include free shipping! You can even purchase your copy of Atlas Girl directly from The Lulu Tree boutique and not pay any shipping at all!
Check out some of the gorgeous items available at The Lulu Tree boutique. This year, your Christmas shopping could really make a difference:
And since it’s the final day of Write 31 Days and 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes, and the last day of my 31 Days of Life in South Africa series, I had planned to write about the day my family and I left South Africa to move to the States for a temporary stint before going back.
(And since it’s Halloween, I’ll indulge you with this picture of the two of us, just a handful of years ago …)
I love what she came up with in five minutes of free writing. Her unique perspective as the sister of someone who spent ten years in South Africa is the perfect way to round out this series.
Here we go ..
Go. Don’t stay. It reminds me of the Bible. A time to laugh, a time to cry. A time to stay, a time to go.
Through various personality evaluations, I’ve learned what I already know about myself: I’m loyal. One of the hardest things for me to do is to walk away. In some ways, this helps. In some ways, it hurts.
I remember a specific time that I brought my sister back to the airport (though don’t ask me *which* specific time; there were a lot of trips back and forth to various airports). I wanted to pull up to the curb, drop her off, give her a hug, and leave. She wanted me to stay, come inside, chat for a while until the very last moment we had to say goodbye, I had to watch her walk through security.
It might seem counter-intuitive. I just told you I don’t like to leave. But since leaving was so hard for me, I wanted it to be fast, quick, over with as soon as possible.
Don’t get me started on the times I visited her in South Africa, when “leaving” usually took about 36 hours, from her house, to the airport, on a plane, to another airport, on another plane (one more round of that), then finally, home.