where i belong

It’s Five-Minute Friday again, and this week we’re over at Crystal Stine’s place with the word BELONG.  

Ready … GO.

It’s pushing a trolley through a Cape Town Pick n’ Pay and asking where to find the ketchup instead of the to-MAH-to sauce, calculating the exchange rate between dollars and rands, and wondering how many millileters are in an ounce.  It’s signing the credit credit card slip and being asked if that’s really your surname, and then a quizzical look before, “…Why?”  It’s answering with an American twang why you have a Tswana surname, and still being unsure whether the cashier believes you.  It’s climbing into the driver’s seat on the right hand side of the car, rolling down your window a crack to tip the car guard with a five rand coin before stepping on the clutch to drive your stick shift in the left lane.

100_2608It’s going back “home” to the States and realizing your twang has been sanded down over the years, softened and eroded after a decade abroad, and having local natives ask you where you’re from.

It’s that nagging awareness that you don’t really fit here or there, and then the subsequent, beautiful freedom of eyes being opened and knowing that

we’re not supposed to.

As long as we’re living in the in-between, in the already-not yet, in the waiting room between the fall and redemption, we’re not supposed to.

“All I know is I’m not home yet

This is not where I belong

Take this world and give me Jesus

This is not where I belong …”

~ Where I Belong, by Building 429:


For a great series on belonging, visit Bronwyn Lea’s 31 Days of Belonging over here.

(P.S. I created a Five-Minute Friday board on Pinterest .. it’s over here if you’d like to check it out!)


willing to serve

A few weeks ago, my daughter landed her first summer job.

She’s not even nine years old.

A mom in our church asked if our eight-going-on-sixteen-year-old would be available to act as a mother’s helper for an hour a week.  She basically just needed someone to go along to the library to keep her one-year-old from pulling all the books off the shelves while she looked for books to check out with her three-year-old.

This generous mom even offered to pay our daughter for her services.  After chatting with my husband, we decided our girlie could go ahead and help, but we asked the mom to rather not pay her for her work.

Here’s why.

We want to instill in our kids a heart to serve.  

We want them to be willing and eager to use their gifts first and foremost to the glory of God, without the motivation for money.

Yes, it’s good and right for a worker to be compensated for his labor, and fair wages are important and necessary.

But we don’t want our kids to develop the mindset that the world owes them something.  

And goodness, that attitude can spring up from the ground faster than weeds.  I once made the mistake of telling my kids I would pay them each a quarter if they picked up all the sticks in the backyard.  It was a big job, and it took a long time.  They did it well, and I gave them the money I had promised.

It was the first time I had ever offered to pay them for doing a chore.  And you know what happened?  After just one occurrence, they immediately expected money the next time.  They started to ask, “If we do this, will you give us a quarter?  If I do that for you, will you pay me for it?”

We do give them a (minimal) monthly allowance, but the primary purpose of that is to teach them how to budget, save and tithe.  The understanding with the allowance has never been, “We’re giving you this money for all the ways you helped out around the house this past month.”  

Our motto is that we should all be “happy to serve,” even when you’re not the one who left the puzzle pieces strewn across the floor, even if it’s not your candy wrapper on the table, even if you didn’t spill the cereal in the kitchen.  

My goal and desire is that when my kids do grow up and start earning wages for their work, that they will still have the underlying principle of being eager to serve, to the glory of the One who “came not to be served, but to serve.”

This post was written for The High Calling, in response to the theme, “Working for Free.”  Do you have a “Working for Free” story?  Share it here by July 12th.  


That year, Father’s Day and our anniversary fell on the same day, and was spent stuffing and zipping suitcases before scurrying off to the airport.  We hugged goodbye as I gathered my three chicks around me like a mother hen and shuffled them through security to the boarding gate.


Table Mountain 3

One overnight leg from the southwestern tip of Africa to the bustling hub of London and a long, hungry layover in Heathrow.  Another skip across the ocean after a three-hour delay, a missed flight, an unexpected night in a Cleveland hotel.  Forty-something hours and four flights altogether, we finally arrived.

And she was waiting.  It had been almost eight months since I’d seen her, and her health had deteriorated beyond my sleepless night wonderings.

But we were there, and she exhaled.

And for the first time, I understood what it felt like to be waited for.


Written in five minutes on the prompt “Exhale” over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place.  For more Five-Minute Friday posts, click here.



losing home and finding it

Twelve years ago today, on the 2nd of July 2002, I left home.

Not in the rebellious, “I’m-never-coming-back” way, but in the “I’m spending a semester overseas” way.

With the ten-hour layover spent dragging my bags up and down the Frankfurt airport terminal and the seven-hour time difference, it would be two days later before I reached Cape Town, South Africa.

There would be no 4th of July fireworks in that country, except those felt in my chest as I exploded with giddy college-girl excitement and fell in love at first sight with the aerial view of the city that, unbeknownst to me, would become my home for the next ten years.

And somewhere between being sprawled out across multiple airport chairs in Germany, subconsciously drooling on my bag, and then consciously drooling over the breathtaking beauty of The Mother City several flight hours later, He did it.

The Lord took my neatly packaged definition of home, crumpled it up, and tossed it into the southeaster, never to be seen again.

Through ten moves in those next ten years, the Lord would peel back my layered notions, and would slowly and persistently teach me about home.  I would long for it, grieve the loss of it, grasp at it, cry over it, watch it slip between my fingers … all to realize that, as Augustine so wisely declared, “our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

And that’s the secret.  We might grieve over home as though it can be lost, but we just haven’t found it yet.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:1


Check out Emily Wierenga’s new travel memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look.



atlas girl


This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, click here.


Years of anorexia.  Disillusionment with the church.  A grandmother’s suicide.  A two-year break-up.  A mother with brain cancer.  A heartbreaking miscarriage.

Emily Wierenga‘s story is not an easy one.

It’s not easy, and yet she tells it with such grace and gratitude in her new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, published by Baker Books.

271487_Wierenga_WB2Emily is an artist, and her gifts shine through as she paints pictures with words in this travel memoir that spans countries and continents.

Frustrated by the rigidity of religion, the lack of attention by her pastor father, a tense relationship with her mother, Emily turned to one thing she thought she could control — her own food consumption.  She decided to starve herself, and for four years, she succeeded.

Little did she know the ramifications her decisions would have on her early adulthood, her marriage, her relationships.

Then her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and life was turned upside down.  Nothing was the same.  Emily writes of how she moved home to care for her mother, whose right frontal lobe had to be removed in order to combat the cancer.

And she makes me remember.

She makes me remember what it was like for the roles to be reversed, when mother can no longer care for child, but daughter lifts the woman who birthed her onto the toilet, tucks her into bed, lifts the mug to dry, thirsty lips.

And through it all, Emily sees God.  She sees her God in each crease of her mother’s broken smile, each brush of the cheek, each muted sunrise, even on “the fuzzy days.”  And she writes,

“I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know how this story will end. All I know is that there is a very real God whom my mother adores, and if she, in all her pain and suffering, can still radiate worship, how much more should I?  He sees the little sparrow fall.  He sees my mum dancing to the rhythms of his grace, and he sees me in all my anger trying to love him in spite of it all.  So I will continue to trust, even if it means letting her go” (p. 228).

I remember the pain and the strain of that tug-of-war, and then the surrender.  The surrender and the acknowledgement that the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Emily, too, comes to this realization and depicts it so strikingly as she writes of her own pregnancy, a time when the Lord chose to give life:

“I am starting to understand the concept of second birth — the one God desires of us.


To be born again; to become like infants in God’s womb, entirely dependent, utterly quiet, never alone.  Wordless communication, unspeakable love, cushioned against the world’s blows.


Grace within the belly of our Maker” (pp. 240-241).


It’s words like these that leave me coming back for more.  I came to respect and admire Emily‘s gentle spirit and soft heart that radiates in her writing even before I read her first novel, A Promise in Pieces.  Hers is a voice that inspires me to greater writing, and her words linger in my mind long after my eyes have left the page.

The generosity of Emily’s heart is evident in her efforts to start The Lulu Tree, an organization dedicated to “preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers” in Uganda.

All proceeds from Atlas Girl go toward The Lulu Tree.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, in exchange for my honest review.

letter to a new bride

Dear newly married bride,

You probably don’t remember me.  I was behind you in line at the County Clerk’s office the day you picked up your marriage license.  I sat in the row of chairs against the wall of windows that let the June sunshine filter in, my three kids sandwiched between my husband and me.  You heard that I was there for passport applications, and you kindly turned around to point out the paperwork on the counter.  My husband asked if you were also applying for a passport, to which you cheerfully replied, “Nope!  Marriage license.”

We later overheard that you would be getting married the very next day.

The picture made sense, you standing there with your fresh french pedicure and flip-flops, your long blonde ponytail tied back loosely with a turquoise band.  You looked healthy and radiant, and ready to get married.

I mentally calculated the date, and it was then that it struck me.

Exactly ten years ago to the very week, I stood at the same clerk’s window, picking up the very same document.

Our marriage license.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “Do you think I should tell her that in exactly ten years, she’ll be looking like this?”  My arm swept over the heads of our three kids, and my husband smiled and let out a silent laugh.

I wanted to tell you then and there that you might be sitting in that same chair ten years from now, telling your nine-year-old not to throw frisbees indoors, and asking your seven-year-old where his shoes are.

Your nails will likely be chipped and softened by then, from countless sinks full of dish soap and bathtubs of bubbly water and squirmy, muddy kids.

Your eyes will still sparkle, but they’ll look more tired then, the dark circles under your eyes a near permanent feature.



Now, your ring probably still feels awkward in its newness, and I bet you still drive with your left hand placed strategically on the steering wheel, staring at the sparkle as discreetly as possible while you drive.  A decade from now, you’ll still marvel at the sparkle when it catches the light, but it will have become a regular fixture, a tan line on your ring finger when you slide off the gold at night.

You will have broken your vows a thousand times, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But if you hold on to His promises, He will take those shards and glue them back together every morning into a colorful mosaic cemented in grace.

You can’t possibly know the scars or the joys that will be etched upon your heart these next ten years.  You might face pain and trials like you’ve never experienced before.  Anything could happen, and everything could change — everything but this:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Cling to that truth, and you’ll be just fine.


Related Posts: My Top Four Books on Marriage & Team Us: Marriage Together


Team Us - Cover

Photo Credit: Tela Chhe, Flickr Creative Commons