Book recommendations summer/fall 2021

Disclaimer: I enjoy reading widely – not only genre wise, but also author-wise. Ultimately God’s word is my authority and so I read with discernment, evaluating what I read from the worldview that the Spirit has given me through his word. I encourage you to do the same.

Counseling/Therapy: 

I am working towards getting accredited for biblical counseling. We also live in a country under trauma – both collective and individual. So I have been doing a lot of research and learning about trauma informed counseling in the past year. Some of the books on this list reflect that:


Is It Abuse? by Darby Strickland – Abuse in the church is very difficult to identify and address. Especially in churches with a strong emphasis on headship and submission. This book, while hard to read, is a very important gift to the church. I am thankful for Strickland’s perspective. I would caveat that as counselors we need to be careful not to have a one dimensional view of the oppressor or the abused.


The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis – I really appreciated this book and the podcast associated with it (Empowered to Connect podcast). Although its audience is adoptive parents, I appreciated understanding how trauma impacts children and how understanding this also helps us know how to parent kids that have gone through trauma. This is personally relevant to me for many reasons.


Boundaries with Kids by Henry Cloud – this book has been really helpful to me. The authors define boundary as “the property line that defines a person; it defines where one person ends and someone else begins.” It has given me a lot to chew on – especially in how to teach my kids to see themselves primarily in relationship with God and how to live faithfully and responsibly in light of that. It also helps me understands important dynamics in helping people that grew up in trauma settings, because often that is one of the ways they learn to survive: not knowing where they end and where others begin.


Try Softer by Aundi Kolber – This book is a helpful look into how trauma rewires our brain, and how often anxiety is not simply just a sinful response but a survival technique after being exposed to trauma (either big T trauma or little t trauma). It offers practices to help retrain our brains and souls how to respond to triggers. I really appreciated her tone and her insights. As with any book you want to read it with discernment. She sometimes will talk about how we need to parent ourselves. But I think that language misses that we have a Father that is parenting us. In counseling, especially counseling believers, I don’t want to assume union with Christ and all the gifts that come to us because of it (including that Christ has shared his Father with us). At the same time, I think it is important for biblical counselors to grow in their understanding of the body/soul connection and the complexity of the way both them and their counselees are wired, and this book was helpful to me in that.

In Our Lives First by Dianne Landberg – this is a devotional for counselors, with six weeks’ worth of readings based on Landbergh’s experience as a counselor. They are short and to the point but tremendously insightful and encouraging. She is very aware of the temptations and discouragements that counselors and mentors face, and breathes fresh hope with her words. I would recommend it for anyone in mentoring and discipleship relationships.

Memoir
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan – this memoir explores the relationship between mothers and daughters and how it changes over time. She recalls her time as a newly college graduate on an adventure around the world and reflects on how her nannying for a family that had lost the mom to cancer, made her think a lot about her own. It also explores grief.

A Place to Land by Kate Motaung – I met Kate this last summer when we were in Grand Rapids. This is a memoir that explores the idea of belonging. I laughed and cried reading about her life growing up in West Michigan (where my husband is from), her move to South Africa and her new life there, and her eventual return to the US. I related to her so much, with all the layers of both loss and joy that come with a cross-cultural life.


Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh- Anne Morrow is a writer who spent many seasons by the sea. She writes reflections based on different shells she found. These were thought provoking and helped me slow down.

Historical Fiction: 
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – I really enjoyed reading this story about a young Chinese boy who meets a young Korean girl in the 1940’s here in the US. I learned a lot about US history at the time and how all Asian were treated on the West coast, during the Second World War. The book goes back and forth between 1940’s and 1986 when the boy, now a grown man in his late 50’s is trying to follow clues to help him find that girl that he so loved.

Spiritual Formation:
Truth on Fire by Adam Ramsey – This book was such a breath of fresh air. I really appreciated reading this early in the mornings along with my daily reading of God’s word. It truly led me to worship and to sing for joy for the God we have.


I Forgive You by Wendy Alsup – this book is coming out in January. I am on the launch team for it. Wendy and I were on a writer’s group many years ago and I was really impressed back then by her gracious yet discerning mind. She has suffered a lot and has been hurt by those who should have protected her. When I saw she had written a book on forgiveness I knew I wanted to read it. Her take on forgiveness was unexpected yet so powerful. She writes as someone in the trenches who understands the ache of betrayal and sin, but who also has tasted the beauty of the gospel and how it helps us work toward reconciliation. Her heart for racial reconciliation was especially moving to me. While I would be careful to caveat a little more than she did in talking about repairs, I think her heart for God’s people and for the oppressed is beautiful.  This book will especially help those living in the complex & excruciating intersection of trauma & sin. 


Expect Something Beautiful by Laura Booz – I met Laura two years ago and found myself thinking, “I wish I lived on her street and had her as my neighbor.” She is so winsome, humble and yet refreshingly joyful in Christ. Her confidence in Him oozes out of her. This book is such a gift for moms about how in Christ and because of him, we can expect something beautiful in motherhood. Christ’s wisdom and grace through her are a gift. She comes alongside you as a big sister would, and while acknowledging where she is growing and learning, offers what the Lord has taught her through 16 years of parenting 5 kids. I especially loved how she explored in the second part of the book each fruit of the Spirit and its implications in parenthood. You will both cry and laugh reading this one. It would be such a great gift for a mom who needs extra encouragement in parenting.

The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson – If you want to learn a little about church history, you will appreciate this book. It is about the Marrow Controversy in Scotland back in the 1600’s and its relevance to us today. It is a book about legalism and antinomianism and the gospel. This book is from a strong covenant theology perspective and holds to the 3rd use of the law. I am still working through my own understanding of some of the categories of that theological framework but appreciated at least understanding better his position. This book made me glory in all that Christ has given us in Christ and in the richness of all that the gospel offers.


Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot – I read this book in a harder season this last summer. And as always, Elisabeth Elliot challenged me with her thoughts on suffering. Her confidence in Christ and in the goodness of God in hard times is a huge encouragement.

Kids/Family: 
Beginning: Family Worship in Genesis by Joel Beeke – We have been reading this book in family devotions this summer and fall. I have been really thankful for it. Joel Beeke and Nick Thompson have a great understanding of biblical theology and know how to make it accessible for kids. These devotions are short and to the point but dripping rich with the treasures found in God’s word.


George Muller by Jane Benge (Audiobook on Scribd) – we have been listening to this audiobook during lunch times. George’s life is not only really encouraging to us as a family but also this particular narrator keeps us all (even Ethan and I) captivated. In case you don’t know who George Muller was, he was a man of God who depended on God in supernatural ways. He eventually opened a home for orphans and the stories of God’s provision for those homes will breathe fresh faith into your soul. If you are interested in reading his biography for adults, this one really challenged and encouraged me a few years ago.

Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld (Read-aloud) – our family has been homeschooling this past year and a half. We have been doing a mix of classical education and Charlotte Mason. This story was a read-aloud set in early Rome. It is a mystery about a group of boys trying to figure out who desecrated the temple of the goddess Minerva in their city. It was really entertaining but also taught us more about what school looked like back then, and how society functioned.

God is Great, Gods Good by Sanna Anderson Baker (for babies and toddlers) – I just discovered this book this week and fell in love with it. It is an older book (first came out in 1987). It is a retelling of Job for toddlers. It is not only incredibly worshipful but it also has beautiful illustrations by Tomie de Paola.

Day 20 -Home is a person

Christians are people on the move. 

On this side of Eternity not one place here or set of circumstances is permanent , nor our lasting home. So we live day by day knowing we are journeying to our promised rest.

For some Christian families the seen reality of our lives is a tangible expression of that unseen truth: that we haven’t made it yet to our permanent home. For our family it has been all the pain, grief and loss that comes from life overseas, chronic health issues and food allergies, among other things.

For your family it may be other circumstances: a child with autism, all kinds of loss, an impending death or serious illness, or dealing with the complex world of trauma. Or, it may be other forms of suffering -maybe not incredibly traumatic but constant and draining nonetheless.

But that is exactly why I am so grateful that our Father didn’t leave us alone to journey home to him. He gave us the assurance of his presence. His faithful love encircles and embraces all our realities and circumstances here. As we move onward and upward (through fire and storm), he moves with us in cloud and fire. This is his glory: that his love never stops. 

We join millions of God’s people throughout the history of redemption who have had the surety of his home with them, him always moving toward them – in the garden, tabernacle, temple and ultimately in Christ who came to dwell with us. Now his spirit lives in us as the guarantee of the day we will hear a loud voice saying, 

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:3-4‬).

Dear friend, our homes are homes in motion – moving toward THAT day. Because his fierce and tender love never leaves us, we actually remain unmovable in the one permanent circumstance that Christ bought for us with his life, death and resurrection. 

And while our kids may not yet know the Father through Christ we can teach them to abide, stay, remain in his love. As we talk to them about their sin and their need of a Savior, we tell them how we never repel him if we come to him needy and weak. 

He is always saving, helping, keeping, loving…giving us in Himself the home that brings to our real, permanent, fully satisfying home. 

Day 19: A Home Grounded in Goodness

Few things have impacted me more than women who know with all their heart that God is good.

They have suffered deeply sometimes, AND often. They know loss, grief, chronic pain – but they also are sure that God is good and that He is for them in Christ.

Christ’s mission on earth was to show the fullness of grace and truth of the Father. He came to reveal his glory. His life was an invitation: “Come and taste how good my Father isj” (John 1: 14-18).  So that is our mission in all our mothering as well. 

“God is so good” is no mere children’s song. It is our song as we mother our kiddos through transition, suffering, answers to prayer, walks in our neighborhood, shopping for groceries or process trauma with them. 

Some ways we can help our kids live in the goodness of God are: 

  1. Celebrate the gospel. When we do, we are celebrating the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior (Titus 3: 4-6). 
  2. Train them daily and teach them about God. By studying the names of God and his attributes, we ponder together the multi-faceted glory of our beautiful God. 
  3. Be gentle when they fail or sin. Our kids are complex beings. Their meltdowns, outbursts of anger, and meanness is multi-layered – with sin being just one component of many. Try to understand them, get down to their level, be aware of your body language and all it communicates. Yes, be faithful to their soul remembering what leads to repentance: God’s kindness (Rom. 2: 4). 
  4. Abide in the steadfast love of the Lord when you apologize and face your own limitations. Sometimes we hijack ourselves. Functionally we live like wanting our kids to be grounded in our goodness. We need them to approve of us. Instead of apologizing, we shame them when they don’t affirm or reflect the good job we think we are doing…because *we* are feeling shame. But friends, his steadfast love assures us redemption is real. So it frees us up to say, “I am sorry,” and to boast in the Lord – “oh sweetheart, God is so much better than me.”

May we pour forth the fame of his abundant goodness so we all know that the Lord is really good to all and his mercy over all that he’s made (Psalm 145: 7, 9). 

Day 18: Embrace Life-giving Authority

I think we all have a complicated relationship with authority. We may have experienced the gift of kind authority AND may have suffered under harsh and needy displays of authority as well. Maybe we swing back and forth on the pendulum – going from authoritarian to permissive continually and struggling to know what the middle looks like.

Are you glad you are in authority over your kids’ life? Or, do you fear misusing it? Are you convicted by how you use authority in the lives of your kids and are tempted to abdicate it? 

I know I have. And yet in wanting them to know the Father’s grace we are tempted to walk away from authority altogether. But to live without authority is not really how our Father parents us, his beloved kids.

It has steadied me to look at Christ, who is my life. I wanted to learn from him, who is gentle and lowly. So I studied the Scriptures asking: Is he authoritative? How does he wield authority? How can we, as parents that are one with Christ, use authority in a way that gives life?

I observed three things about Christ’s authority: 

  1. Christ’s authority is a stewardship. The Lord knew authority had been given to him (Matt. 28: 20). His teaching was not his own but came from the one who sent him (John 7: 16). He only taught what His father had taught him to speak and did what he had seen the Father do (John 8 28).
  2. Christ’s authority is humble. I am astonished at this.
    1. He didn’t use it for himself but to empower and save. It enabled others to go to the ends of the earth, make disciples and teach them all that He taught them (Matt. 28: 20). With his authority, he gave the assurance and comfort of his presence with them, that would be with them always.
    1. His was not a needy authority. Knowing the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and going back to God, he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13: 3). He used his commands to save his disciples and those under oppression (Matthew 8: 23-27; Mark 1: 27). All authority was given to him and he used it to lay down his life and take it up again so that with his life we might have life too (John 10: 18). That is why His Father loved him.
    2. But not only did he wield power to enable others but also to reveal the glory of Another (Luke 10: 22). He has the name above all names so that when every tongue confesses his lordship, they glorify his Father (Phil. 2: 10).
  3. Christ’s authority is confident. One of the distinctives of Christ’s teaching was it’s authority (Matt. 7:29). He didn’t teach with insecurity or self doubt. He was never embarrassed about having so much authority. Rather, after his resurrection, it was that truth that encouraged the disciples who still had doubts, “All authority [not some authority] but all authority in heaven and earth has been given me.” He gladly used his authority to teach his disciples everything about the Father, to preach the good news about the kingdom and explain how to live in a way that brought honor to his Dad.

Dear Christian parent, this is our Christ. Let your heart melt as you consider his life-giving power and authority. If you have been on the pendulum swing, I offer these thoughts:

  1. Embrace your role of authority as a Christian parent. The fear to misuse it might be warranted – you have seen how often it happens. But you are not alone. Christ has gifted you his presence so that in his name, you can make disciples of your kids, teaching them to obey what you’ve learned from the triune God. You can joyfully guide, train, enforce boundaries, and discipline them because it is about revealing to them the beauty of another. May I gently encourage you to take your focus off from what you are able to do and rejoice in Christ and what he is able to do through you.
  2. Remember to use your authority as a stewardship – it is a temporary role, not a permanent identity. It has a purpose that is bigger than your family, your needs, or your desires. Have you ever found yourself needing your kids’ love, approval or affirmation? I have. But when I remember how deeply loved I am, Christ enables me to steward my role humbly so that from his abundant goodness to me, I generously show the Father’s fullness to my kids.
  3. Steward your authority relationally. I am so overwhelmed by the thought that Christ, who has all authority in heaven and earth, promises his presence with us. He is always near. Sometimes we give relational consequences to our kids – withdrawing affection, acting offended and forcing them to initiate relationship with us after they sin. But Christ’s love actively pursues us, and stays in relationship with us.

I know this topic can be difficult to consider, maybe even painful. I really hope it comforts you to rest in the promise of Christ in Matthew 11:25-28: 

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:25-30‬).

He has chosen to reveal the Father to you. And it is that relationship that gives you rest. He knows what wearies us in parenting so he invites us to learn from him – our gentle and lowly Christ, so we can find rest. And from that place of rest in the Father and Son’s love we will be able to be conduits of the life and authority of the Son – to the glory of our Father and the joy of our kids.

Day 17: Devotion in Action – Guest Post by Sara Lubbers

Do you know what the most quoted verse in the Bible is?


It’s probably the one we most need to commit to memory, the one we most need to recall while parenting, and the one we most need to teach to our children.


It comes from a powerful encounter that Moses had with the LORD after He’d given the Ten Commandments and the Israelites had indulged in gross idolatry. Moses again climbs Mt. Sinai, a new pair of stone tablets in hand (for he’d broken the first pair when his people had broken them in their hearts), and the LORD descends to the mountain top veiled in clouds to not just stand with Moses but also to reveal His heart. In the wake of their unfaithfulness as a people, He gives Moses a peek into His heart by saying He’s “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sins…” (Exodus 34:6-7)


This cloudy, mountain top revelation of God’s heart made such a lasting impression on Moses that he went on to mention it in both Numbers and Deuteronomy. Then Nehemiah, Joel, Jonah, Jeremiah, Nahum, Isaiah, and David—moved by Moses’ mountain top experience with the LORD—all make reference in their writings to how God revealed Himself on the mountain that day, making it the most quoted verse in the Bible.


But why? Could it perhaps have something to do with the very thing we’re exploring together this month? Might it have to do with abiding in His love?


Twice in this description of Himself God points His people to His “hesed”—His love—and my guess is that if He emphasized this to His children, then He wants us and our children to experience Him in this way as well.


But what is hesed
Hebrew scholars take stabs at translating this word as…
Steadfast love…
Faithful love…
Lovingkindness…
Unfailing love…
Loyal love…


… all are used, yet none fit quite right. There isn’t one English word or phrase that fully captures its rich meaning. It’s a word that implies a strong covenant and drips with sacrifice. Far from a concept we believe in our minds or vague feelings we have, it’s devotion in action for the loved one’s benefit. It’s a word that epitomizes His posture toward us. It’s at the core of who He is and He invites us to anchor our lives to it. His hesed keeps Him moving toward His people, no matter what.


**So when Job’s life was overwhelmed by grief, he stood firm in God’s hesed. (Job 10:12)
**David the adulterer could wrap up his life proclaiming that God’s hesed never had failed him and that it wouldn’t fail any of his descendants. (2 Sam. 22:51; Ps. 18:50)
**Isaiah could comfort his people with the truth that even if mountains were to shake and fall, God’s hesed could never be shaken. (Is. 54:10)
**While Judah was going to hell in a hand-basket, Jeremiah could say that God was drawing His people to Himself with cords of hesed. (Jer. 31:3)
**As Hosea’s adulteress people trampled all over God’s hesed, he’d remind them not only of God’s reckless, extravagant love, but he’d boldly call their unfaithful hearts to give God hesed love in return. (Hos. 6:4,6)
**When confessing the sins of his exiled people, Daniel could direct his prayer to his hesed-keeping God. (Dan. 9:4)
**When the exiles return to Jerusalem, Ezra (9:9) and Nehemiah (9:17) both remind the rag-tag remnant that God’s hesed would never let them go.


And then when we turn the page to the New Testament, we see hesed incarnate in Jesus Christ. We see clearly in Him the one who stood veiled in clouds on the mountain with Moses, proclaiming and promising His always love. He wants us to know He always loves us so that when we live in unlovable ways, we’ll still go back to Him and find Him faithful.


Sweet friend, I bet the key to teaching our kids to abide in His love, is abiding in it ourselves. Turning to His love in our grief like Job, white-knuckle grasping hold of it when mountains shake like Isaiah talked about, confessing sin while standing on no other ground than His love like Daniel did, letting His love draw our rebellious, adulterous hearts back to His like Jeremiah or Hosea—and doing it all in full-view of the little ones watching us—is probably a pretty good way to teach them.


The more we read every page of His Story in light of His hesed (rather than combing its pages looking for what we must do to secure it), the more we let it anchor our soul—the more we’ll rest in it. And I know the more we rest in it, the more our children will see His hesed incarnate and know how to rest in it too.


Dear friend, as you go about the rest of your day, may the cloud around His love for you disperse, may you see Him clearly, may you rest in His always love—you and your children.

Sara Lubbers is a homeschooling, expat mama of four spending her days changing diapers, diagramming sentences, writing in the margins of her life, and learning to rest in God’s love. She wrote a book called Always Love that traces the whole storyline of the Bible in light of God’s hesed—like a Jesus Storybook Bible for older kids and adults. You can find her book on Amazon and snippets of her life in tiny squares on Instagram at @saralubbers.

Day 16: Celebrate

“Mom, I really miss my friends.” We’d moved to the Middle East a few months before, and my oldest – then 3. 5 years old – was really struggling with leaving our old life behind.

Her downcast look made my heart sink.

“Oh sweetheart, I know. I miss my friends so much too…” I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone. But I also wanted to guide her heart to the One who comforts us. So I asked,

“What do we do when we miss our friends?”

She looked at me and said, “We cry.”

“Yes… we can definitely cry… then what else? What else can we do?”

“We can eat ice cream!” (We were conveniently right in front of a Baskin Robbins at a nearby mall…)

I burst out laughing as I hugged her tight. Why yes! ice cream helps. How did you know, sweet girl?

Eventually we finally got to “we can also pray…” 🤯🤯 And we did.😉😉

I realized that year how important celebrations would be to help ground us in the place that God was planting us. We were going through a raw season but there was more happening.

I appreciate how Jen Pollock Michel put it, 

“No place is insignificant in our stories. In fact, in paying them attention, we pay attention to the salvific movement of God. Wherever we move, we may be sure of this: God always moves us toward himself.”

Because this is true we’ve cried with our kids and taught them to lament but also to celebrate. We eat ice cream and s’mores; we’ve made books with pictures of our favorite places; we enjoy local foods and have made lists of things we are thankful for about our present circumstances and the places we live. We’ve kept old traditions and started new ones. We’ve hosted fall festivals and fondue nights. We love exploring new cities and markets, getting away to the ocean and riding traditional boats. 

Celebrating is not just a distraction or a way to turn an eye away from the hard. It is a prophetic act that says, “I know how it will all end, redemption is at work. So I will pay attention to what God is doing and honor his continual salvation.” 

What are some ways your family celebrates together even when going through difficult seasons? 

Day 15: Chasing Beauty

This summer we were devastated, gutted by tragic news from our host country. I could feel hopelessness starting to envelop me. For the first time I got what it must feel to believe God is truly gone, that he is absent. It seemed as if God must have disappeared. I felt lost. The ground beneath my feet evaporated.

But God. He surrounded me with beauty and grace and buoyed my soul so I could lament. He gave me the goodness of Psalm 23 during sleepless nights and the surety of his presence – not absence- in this valley. He embraced me through a friend who sat with me as I collapsed to the ground in shock. We witnessed the beauty of community as she and her husband prayed with us and watched our kids while we spent a few days away grieving, stunned and broken hearted.

His beauty was all around us as we went on a walk in the woods – giving us all shades of green to feast our eyes. Birds sang, worshipping when I couldn’t. Beauty became my lifeline. It anchored me to the goodness of our God.

The same is true for our kids. Beauty has made them feel at home when they are homesick or going through heartache.

Beauty strengthens the soul to face grief. And grief makes us long for beauty. 

When our kids are struggling to live in the love of the Father because of suffering in their lives, chasing beauty is just what the doctor ordered. Grab the kids and choose a project that will breathe life and hope into your souls:

hanging flowers on the porch, 

decorating bedrooms to their taste,

going on picnics on poppy-covered fields, 

baking favorite desserts together, 

having dance parties, 

exploring favorite markets,

rejoicing together at the sunset,

singing worship songs, 

reading poems while drinking tea, 

beholding breathtaking cliffs or, 

gazing at star-filled night time skies.

His beauty opens our eyes to the steadfast love of the Lord that surrounds his kids even when darker colors inhabit the landscape of our lives. It shelters us in the day of trouble enabling us to believe we will see his goodness in the land of living (‭‭Psalm‬ ‭27:4, 5, 13‬).

Day 14: Helping Children Find Joy When Their Life is Hard – Guest post by Alicia Vining

“He doesn’t like anything about this country or the people,” I told the therapist about one of my children.⁣

I initiated a phone call with her because I had exhausted all my ideas. The mom guilt was weighing heavy on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but think of all the long-term issues I might be causing my child by living somewhere he simply did not want to be.

Mentally, I had prepared myself to hear the therapist say the situation was beyond repair—because that’s how I was feeling. Instead, she asked me what my son enjoyed to do.⁣

⁣“He likes to play games,” I responded.⁣

⁣“Well, maybe we can turn some of these difficult parts of the culture into a game,” she suggested. “For example, every time he successfully dodges a random cheek-pinching, he gets a point. Or if he greets people in the local language, he gets a point.”

⁣“I’m listening…,” I said with a piqued interest.⁣

⁣She went on to explain that once a certain amount of points are collected for handling a difficult thing well, we should do something really fun. BUT, the fun thing had to be something related to — or found within— where we we lived. This was key.⁣

From a young age, in an attempt to make sense of our world, we begin categorizing our experiences. When we start forming negative associations about people or places, we create a category of “things to avoid like the plague” in order to protect ourselves and set up boundaries.

Sometimes, this really does protect us from harmful situations. But it’s not helpful when mislabeling is at play and begins causing prejudices or misconceptions. Positive association, on the other hand, can help break down a category that a child is still trying to form on their own.

As parents, the last thing we want to do is accidentally teach our children that all the fun, enjoyable, and rewarding things are only found apart from our current location. We want them to find joy and happiness in all circumstances. We want them to know that hardships are inevitable, no matter where they are in the world, but rewarding experiences can found right where they are, too.⁣

Day 12: Living in Paradox

“One of the keys to learning how to thrive in a cross cultural setting is,” our instructor explained, “is to learn how to live in paradox.”

“It is very easy,” he went on, “to live with an “either/or” mentality, instead of learning to live in the tension of “both/and.”

Life away from home is a collection of both/and’s. Life here is polluted with longing, suffering, tears, and grief. Undiluted joy is coming but it is not here yet.

Living far from home – either figuratively or literally – we live in the Father’s love more fully when we embrace paradox.

The same circumstances (a father’s military deployment, a family’s temporary displacement because of COVID, a scary health diagnosis) has both joy and sorrow, highs and lows, beautiful gifts and excruciating gifts…. Sometimes they are beautifully hard in the same breath, a severe mercy. 

Our Father pays attention to both. It honors him when we face our life honestly & recognize that in his love there is space for mystery & for the things we don’t understand. 

So we want to be both people that celebrate AND lament. People who give thanks AND feel safe with our Father to voice our complaints, questions and doubts. Not just one or the other but both.

We want our kids to be safe enough with us that they can voice both the good and the hard. So we talk together about what makes us glad & also what makes us mad. His Word guiding & steadying us. Knowing He is our refuge and yet not denying the storm:

“Breath by breath, I’m learning what You say

When You told me I could trust

Even when the storm is raging on

And song by song, I will sing of your great love

While You’re singing it back to me

With the very voice that calmed the sea

So let the thunder roll

And I won’t be afraid, ’cause You roll the thunder

And let the rain beat hard

Upon my roof, and I’ll dance to it’s rhythm

And let the mighty wind

Blow between the oak trees

As I let You steady me

‘Cause You’re right here in the whisper

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭91:1-2‬ ‭