My Immigration Story

I have vivid memories of being 4 years old, in my house in Tehran waiting for my dad to come home from getting groceries. I stood at the door and saw him running down the street, avoiding intensifying riots right there in our neighborhood. The decision was made for my mom and me to leave the heart of it and go stay with my grandparents in London for two weeks.

Meanwhile, my mom began experiencing leg pains, numbness and an occasional loss of balance. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Two weeks were extended to two years as it was decided we would not go back. At some point during those two years, my dad joined us after getting on the last flight before the borders in Iran were closed to anyone, incoming or outgoing. Meanwhile, hostages were in the midst of their 444 days locked in the American Embassy in Iran.

My aunt, who lived in California suggested we come to Los Angeles, to get my mom away from the cold, damp London air that exacerbated her symptoms. The U.S. immigration policy at the time allowed her to help us get green cards. We were “vetted” – whatever that process was at the time. We did our due diligence and were welcomed through the borders of Los Angeles International Airport. My dad got a job, I went to school and my mom was able to begin receiving care from a neurologist and eventually through government aid for all the medical assistance she required. I lost my British accent and began to blend into my environment.

Several years after I was welcomed to the US, I was awakened to the welcoming community of Christ. He who began to reveal Himself to me as He did to my mother and her siblings in an American missionary school in Tehran, became a full indwelling part of my life. Once again, I was welcomed in.

Now, I live in a paradoxical space of being naturalized, born again and still afraid. That same spirit that wrecked the country  I fled as a little girl, continues to wreak havoc on the same region and haunts the waters between us. The same spirit of terror lures unsuspecting young people with a God-given desire to belong.  Some raised here like me, and some even born here inside our borders to martyr themselves to their cause, drive planes into buildings and shoot innocent people at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. The same spirit of terror that strikes fear in me when I wonder, what will happen next?

Today I went to the grocery store and a woman walked in at the same time with her head covered. I smiled and said, I’m glad you’re here. She said thank you, God bless you.

He already has.

Paris and the One Thing ISIS and I Agree On

 

It was reported by CNN when the gunmen stormed into the Bataclan Music Hall in Paris, they were shouting “Allah akbar.”

God is great.

And He certainly is. Although we are not speaking of the same God, this is the one and only thing I can agree on with ISIS.

Lately I’ve been camping in a story about Syria. Not the ones of late but one of long ago in 2 Kings 6. The story is part of the great story of God that continues with Syria, Israel, and us today.

On this mourning after, we might be waking up numb because these news headlines seem to be coming one after another. Or we may have woken up with a significant measure of fear. Or outrage.

PC: CNN.com

In the story in 2 Kings a young assistant runs to his master, Elisha when he sees the attackers of his day, great in number, with an artillery of horses and chariots encamped around this city.

“What shall we do?”

Isn’t that often our response on days like today? When we see babies washed up on beaches. When we see people in crowded city streets clinging to each other.

Elisha answered him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Then, Elisha prayed for his fearful young assistant and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.”

The LORD immediately answered this prayer and opened the eyes of the young man, it says.

“He saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

All along there were these angelic armies that outnumbered those who were coming against them. They were there the whole time but they were invisible to Elisha’s servant until the LORD lifted his eyes to see them.

God never vacates His throne and He never turns His face from those He loves. There is great power in our prayers as we pray against terror, as we pray for protection and peace.

I woke up this morning praying for Paris, praying for Syria, praying for Israel, praying for us to have eyes to see what God is up to, but I was also deeply compelled to pray for ISIS.

I believe we are living in a time when the Church is waking up. The upside of the information age is that we can’t look away at the evil and destruction that is happening in all parts of the world. Rather than be paralyzed by fear or numbed by headlines, we need to be moved by our grief, moved by our rage, moved by our doubts because regardless of what we think and fear God is on the move. We who are part of the subversive Kingdom of God are called to arise and walk in love. We are to walk in love because it is written that this is the best use of our time as the days are evil. {Ephesians 5:16} Walking in love is not exclusive from walking in justice, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Love was poured out in the form of all of that on the cross where Jesus died. The answer to “what shall we do?” is informed by what we know, what we have seen and what we believe about God.

The thing about those men who stormed into public places firing rifles with explosives strapped to themselves is that they too have been terrorized.

Like the child who grows up bullied, abused, tormented and mentally destroyed by an abuser grows up to abuse his own children, so are the terrorists who are victims to their government’s evil ideologies and have been shaped by their practices. They are often people who want to be accepted, valued and belong to a people group and a cause greater than themselves.

Can’t the same be said for you and I?

Let justice have its way. It needs to have its way. People who walk in love, like imitators of God are marked by grace, mercy and forgiveness. We are people who are courageous because courage is what you need when you are called to do justice and love mercy sometimes in the form of prayer and sometimes with your hands and feet. Courage is what you need when you are people called to pray and walk in love especially when you are praying for a clear enemy.

We go to the root of the problem and we courageously pray towards the root of evil and pain and pray for the restorative and redemptive way of Jesus to have it’s way in our times and nations.

Because God so loved the world.

This Perfect Love casts out the fear we are feeling today. Perfect Love regardless of any circumstances be they the hardship in your life or the devastating things happening around the world is greater than what we see with our own eyes. The story in 2 Kings 6 provides a backdrop to the words of John, “for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

May the Jehovah Sabaoth, the great LORD of hosts, the LORD of armies be the fuel of every prayer and may He take every thought of yours captive today and move them towards himself.

 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” {John 16:33}

What I’m Learning About A House, A Home and the People who Dwell There

When Steve’s grandpa Lind passed away, Grandma Jo started giving away all his belongings within a week. All his clothes, books, etc.

I asked her if she felt like it was too soon and gently suggested she might want to hold on to some things for a little while longer. She looked at me totally convinced and said:

“My memories of Hugh are not tied to his stuff.”

That lesson has served me well through times of grief, the KonMari method of cleaning out my closets and today it comforts the bittersweet final goodbye to a home well loved.

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A home where we broke bread with people around a table made just for us.

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Where several young couples sat on our couch, sharing their dreams of marriage and talking through the preparation for all of it.

A home with a dry and desolate land of a back yard where relationships bloomed and the best talks happened around a fire served with s’mores.

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Where loving and skilled hands built more space for our growing family making the attic the best room in the house.

Where two babies of the four were brought home to complete our family.

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Where two foster kids were brought in until their forever family found them.

Where Easter Eggs were hidden and hunted for along with Heineken for the grown ups.

This house was home not because of how lovely it was but because of the lovely people who came through its doors.

A new friend who experienced a similar road recently said she has discovered “our home is Jesus and a house is simply his provision.”

I’ve been struggling with this because as true as it is, my heart’s desire is to have a home here on earth that is spacious enough for my tribe and the people to share life with. A place where I can put down roots and make it my own. While we have this beautiful rental now, it isn’t ours. But here’s the thing… nothing is really ours and everything, including our dreams need to be held loosely so God can take them and show us what is beyond what we can ask or imagine. Honestly, this is requiring my faith muscles to be built up in ways that  make me sore at times because this whole journey has been about seeing the divine in the day to day and God doing great things with prayers answered differently than I pictured in my finite mind. Surely His ways are not our ways and grace is found in the most unlikely places.

What I’m learning about all of this is even when we uproot and go, even when we say goodbye to what was and look forward to what is next, our roots remain in these.

Faith.

Hope.

Love.

Faith God brought us here to this place without the road being fully clear. Faith he is with us and will never leave us. Hope there is much more and the best days are in front of us. Hope that no matter where we are, we always have Jesus. And the greatest of these is love. We were loved well and loved others well in that little house in San Pedro.

I am confident of this.

The memories I have are not tied to the house itself but to the love that took place in words and deed. In the gatherings in the kitchen where over 3000 dinners were made sometimes with the help of a grill so well worn it didn’t make the journey to Nashville. My memories will always be tied to the people who are still our people and to the God we can point to when we say… look at what He did.

 

Weekend Reading

As we enter into the weekend, I hope and pray you have time to play, time to rest and time to savor God’s grace in your life!

This week I’ve been enjoying a visit with one of my bests and her baby boy. We’ve had fun exploring Nashville with the boys on Fall Break. In the down time I got to sneak in some good stuff around the web.

Here are a few of my favorite reads from this week. Enjoy!

This one is a great post of moving, change, courage and putting one foot in front of the other at Nesting Place.

Happy Birthday Jamie Wright! Read why 40 is NOT the new 30 and prepare to laugh and relate if you are there.

This post was hilarious and went viral this last week. If you’ve experienced a surge of adult onset Calvinism in yourself or those around you, this will make you laugh and maybe cry just a bit.

My cousin Colleen is a super hero. Her daughter Claire has Rhett’s Syndrome and if you’ve ever struggled with mom guilt, her post on Monday will bring you some comradarie and perspective. Her writing is always raw, deep and profound and it’s these little things she is faithful with that God is doing much with her life AND Claire’s.

One of the most powerful reads on how the church can best serve singles by Lore Ferguson Wilbert. Single people, prepare to be encouraged.

Happy weekend!

Loved & Called {Lifeway Women’s Blog}

The Lifeway Women’s Blog is a great resource for women, particularly those who serve in leadership. I’m over there today talking about a passage that has spoken loudly to me over the last few years. One that I am still wrestling with in these days as I pray and ponder what might be next for me.

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The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Romans resolved in what his calling is (Romans 1:1-6) and greets his readers with a powerful statement those of us in leadership can easily let slip by:

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Loved by God. Called to be saints.

You see, the truth you are loved comes before the fact you are called.

You can read more by going here.