Redefining Success for the Faith-Based Expatriate

Quick link: You Are Not a Failure

Over at A Life Overseas today, writing about something that’s been bugging me a bit lately.

I’ve read lots of blog posts and essays about failure lately, about people who grew up wanting to change the world and end up discouraged. Jonathan Trotter wrote about this a year and a half ago. Sarita Hartz wrote about it just last week. Abby Alleman wrote about it in February. I guess its my turn.

To people who made youthful commitments they didn’t follow through on, to people who moved back ‘home’ earlier than planned, to people who don’t see what they dreamed of seeing, I want to say: You’re not a failure. And, you didn’t even fail.

You were on a date and you’d been trained to think this was a marriage. You got on a train and mistakenly believed you could never, ever get off. You’re lost in a new city and you think U-turns are not an option here. You fell in love and like most first loves, you fell out of it again. Or, it was in truth just a crush. Thankfully no one expects us or pressures us to marry our sixth grade ‘boyfriends’ and none of us feel guilty for abandoning them on the playground. But if, in our youthful naiveté and with the emotional high of a summer project, we make grand pronouncements of a lifetime commitment to service in the name of faith and turn our backs on that – we call it failure.

No one should be berated, by themselves or anyone else, for getting lost and making a U-turn. Even with Siri and GPS, we are not infallible. And when it comes to lifelong decisions, even with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we’re allowed to change direction as we grow and evolve.

Click here to read the rest of You Are Not a Failure

Never Dead Enough

This is an essay I wrote for SheLoves Magazine a few years ago. I’m re-posting it because I needed to read it again. It was officially written for Good Friday and Easter. But we can have cold, dead hearts all year long. We need life and resurrection every day. So here it is again.


Never Dead Enough

In her Pulitzer Prize winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard describes a desert plant, Ibervillea sonorae. This member of the gourd family looks like dead wood, with no roots and no stems, like a lump of coal. Lifeless, beauty-less, connected to nothing, producing nothing. “If the rain arrives, it grows flowers and fruits; these soon whither away, and it reverts to a state as quiet as driftwood.” Hoping for rain. Waiting for water. Once, in the New York Botanical Gardens, the Ibervillea sonorae waited seven years, patient and still, alive but with no water. In the eighth dry year, the plant died.

How dead does something have to appear before it is dead? How dry and lifeless and alone and fruitless does something have to be before it is actually, and finally, beyond hope? Stories of desperation, need, hopelessness, and destructive sin are all over the word of God.

Caught between Pharaoh’s furious army and the raging Red Sea. The only son of a couple who battled infertility into their old age lies cold and still. A king mired in lust and murder. A widowed foreigner and her childless mother-in-law, gathering life from discarded grain. A man being slowly digested by the stomach juices of a giant fish. Four hundred years of God’s silence.

A virgin, pregnant out of wed-lock, and could face charges of adultery and the punishment of stoning. Five thousand hungry men, plus women and children, and nothing to feed them. A man dead and buried in a tomb for four days. People plagued by leprosy and shunned by the entire community. A man blind from birth. A woman isolated, drawing water from the well alone. A crown of thorns, a bloodied back, nail-pierced flesh, and a sword in the side. Three days in a tomb.

But these things aren’t the end of the story.

How dead does something have to be for God to give up on it? All around looks like Friday. Ibervillea sonorae in the desert. Children, lifeless and unmoving. Sin and danger. Accusations. Need and disease. The Word made flesh, emptied of breath.

But Jesus says, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living for to him, all are alive.” And Jesus says, “Come to me.” And God says, “Where, O death is your sting?”

Come to the God of the living. Come. Bring your dead and dying things. Bring them here, where there is no more sting.

Bring your losses and discouragements. Bring your betrayals and failures, your consistent sins. The gossip and the greed and the laziness and the pride. Bring the loneliness and barrenness. The bed with one side cold and unwrinkled. The no-longer-needed elementary school backpack. The wedding ring thrown into the corner of the underwear drawer. The chemotherapy. The what-ifs and the if-onlys. The disappointment and rejection and regret. The addiction and affliction. The cheating and the cheated and the cheater. Bring the emptiness and the need and the longing. Bring it and lay it down and wait and see.

Nothing is dead enough.

Today might feel like Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Nothing is ever dead enough. Are you ready for a resurrection?

What is your Ibervillea sonorae that needs to be revived? What are the dead and dying things in your life that God wants to resurrect?


By |December 5th, 2016|Faith|0 Comments|

Stepping Stone

Stepping Stone: Finding Life and Love in a Foreign Land by Stacy Dyck

Stacy Dyck spent two years as a young single woman in Hungary. Stepping Stone, based on her memories and journals kept from that time, is her story of learning more about herself, about God, and also finding love while living abroad. She went into the two years hoping for the first two lessons but was happily surprised by the third.

Stepping Stone is the story of a young woman filled with faith but not a lot of experience talking with people about that faith, or experience in living it out in a cross-cultural context. She grows in these areas while enjoying (most of the time!) life in Hungary. Dyck takes readers with her while she learns, through successes and failures, about a God who is bigger than any nation or culture or person. Through showing her kind and helpful neighbors and by describing her favorite Hungarian meals, Dyck demonstrates a lasting love and respect for her host nation.

At times the book veers into tropes of the American abroad, for example comparing Hungarian culture to American culture and struggling to see the value in the Hungarian way. However, the author’s honesty about this struggle makes her appealingly easy to relate to. Haven’t we all, as expats, been caught struggling to understand something so different from our own previous cultural experiences?

Dyck’s main purpose for living in Hungary was to talk about her faith and she shares the joy and challenges of doing so in the middle of loneliness, exhaustion, and language barriers. The two years abroad stretch her far outside her comfort zone and reveal unique talents that she continues to use today.

Some of her final words sum about the spirit behind this book, which will encourage many women in similar circumstances:

“God delights in using the weak, the ones who people think can’t make it, the ones who are still too often entrapped by their own sin. God exploits these for his glory, to make His strength and compassion known.”

Stepping Stone: Finding Life and Love in a Foreign Land is available at Amazon.

*I received a copy of this book for review.

Stacy Dyck Stepping StonesStacy Dyck grew up in Weatherford, Texas, and later graduated from Hardin-Simmons University. After graduation she moved to Hungary to fulfill her part of the Great Commission. During two years of service she met and fell in love with her now husband, Johann. Eleven years later, after living in Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria, Stacy is returning to her Texas roots with her husband and two boisterous boys. They live in the Dallas area.





Something Bad?

Quick link: Is Something Bad Going to Happen Tomorrow?

This is a repost (I am on vacation) but sadly is still relevant. It is up at A Life Overseas, with some updated resources.


Is something bad going to happen tomorrow?

I mean, is something really bad going to happen tomorrow?


I guarantee it.

Maybe not to you. Maybe not where you live. But yes, something really bad is going to happen tomorrow.

Sometimes I catch an undercurrent of fear among Christians, a sense that the world might be careening toward the ‘End Times’, an anxiety about the future, and a worry that something might go terribly wrong. If not today, then tomorrow, or next month. (I’m not the only one, Marilynne Robinson wrote about it here)

Guess what?

Something horribly wrong already happened today...

Click here to read the rest of Is Something Bad Going to Happen Tomorrow?



Pondering Privilege, a Book Review

Jody Fernando has written a beautiful, practical, and challenging book: Pondering Privilege: Toward a deeper understanding of whiteness, race, and faith.

Jody blogs at Between Worlds and if any Djibouti Jones readers have read When Rich Westerners Don’t Know They’re Being Rich Westerners, know that that blog post was inspired by Jody’s superb post When White People Don’t Know They’re Being White. That’s how I first met Jody, three years ago now and I continue to be challenged and inspired by her writing.

Pondering Privilege takes what Jody started with that viral post and deepens it. As a white woman in a brown family, her perspective is uniquely helpful to someone like me – a white woman in a white family, living in a brown country.

The book could be a quick read but Jody raises such important issues and asks such challenging questions that it is a book one could sit with for weeks. It will make readers uncomfortable and this is a good thing – anyone who wants to grow in their ability to communicate about race, to understand, to seek forgiveness, and to deepen community and move toward healing, should read this book.

Jody takes concepts like ‘cultural competency’ and replaces them with ‘cultural humility,’ examines privilege, and calls out white people for our ignorant ways of thinking and acting as well as addressing the issue of entire systems of privilege. She will not let us sit in complacency.

Each chapter ends with questions to ponder, which makes this an excellent book club choice for people who are ready and willing to wrestle, to be brutally honest with themselves and others, and who want to grow.

For me, the best part of Jody’s book is the utterly practical but radically transformative 21-Day Race Challenge. This alone makes buying the book well worth it because, if you take her up on the challenge, you will be changed. This isn’t a book to read and put away on the shelf, it is a book that can, if you let it, seep into your life and actually change things for the better.

*I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book for review.