In favor of a few essentials : where a christian gal finds herself amidst culture shifts and adulthood.


A whole year in beautiful New England!!! Next week! As we've talked over this at home, I have been processing what all these moves have taught me. Here is a good summation (albeit lengthy) of where I find myself (particularily as it pertains to my view on faith) today.


I grew up with a very conservative take on the world. I lived and loved in black and white. I'm a daughter of a Pastor. Grew up in small, conservative, Midwestern culture.

I recollect from time to time the dialogues I had as a young woman with others outside of my framework and wonder how different the discourse would be if I got to engage with them again.

 When I went to university I felt a bit slighted by the construct I had grown up in. I had lived many years without gray and now my whole world felt filled with it.  I think I blamed my parents a bit. How could you let me grow up in a bubble??? Yet, as it often is with parenting, we fault our parents less and less as we are parents ourselves.  I now understand the gift it was to let a child be a child and I'm giving that gift to my kids too.  I've now seen the way my daughter undergoes a great deal of anxiety when confronted with all the gray and I'm eager to protect her wisely. Maturation comes, and with it, broader understanding of circumstances.  I hope to equip her to face those days as my parents did me. She's already been faced with seeing racism on display, culture clash, language barriers, and loneliness. Much of that I was spared at her age, she grows up differently than I and I'm sure she will have her own reconciling with how we parented.

When I entered my early twenties and needed to mature a bit, the gray continued to abound. From wrestling with it came slight deviations in theology and world view. I changed my views on a few issues. Yet, I still found myself in familiar territory. Just enough changes to feel like I was a black sheep in the same pasture. Novel, but not radical.

Getting married to a kid from a different denomination caused a few more necessary deviations. Death of children and theology of suffering contributed to a few more. A bit more gray had to be allowed here and then again there. God became more complicated. God became more real. No longer an equation, Less of a religion, More a God who spoke and who had the time for case-by-case. More El Roi - The God who sees.  He proved more masterful than I originally knew him and much more kind.

When we went to Finland, my world kind of blew up. All those clear lines that had for the most part found themselves straight in Midwestern culture came unraveled and messy. Parenting and marriage and how one ought to function were not universal, I came to understand. Even the ways God reached people were outside of what I thought was acceptable. An entirely different culture meant that my 'essential values' weren't actually absolute truths. Please hear me, around the world several friends and I hold the same deep love of our Savior even though we come from entirely different cultures and paths to Him. I do believe in absolute truth. My most treasured understanding from living abroad is this truth:  Jesus is larger than culture. His impact, healing, miracles and way with his people are universal and timeless.

MUCH of what I originally designated as essential and true, however, slowly slid into the 'specific to culture' category. It took its rightful place and in the space that it left, there was a lot of freedom. A lot of humbling too, if I'm honest.

Then we moved to the South.

In a lot of ways, that move was an even bigger shock to my set of values and beliefs than across the ocean.

See, while we lived in Finland, christianity was not the normative. In the south, White-christian culture was. At least as it was presented to me. 'Monogram that jesus shirt! Pray over the cashier! Ask each individual where they go to church. Just don't confront the racism. Just don't challenge me when I talk poorly of my darker neighbor. '

 I struggled. How do I respond when I find myself hearing such hurtful comments in the same paragraph as casual conversation about religion and Jesus?

There was a very clear distinction of non-white and white christian culture. I wrestled with that. When we found a church that also wrestled with this brokenness in southern culture, and challenged it, we found our place. What I mostly learned is that I didn't have a clue.  I didn't know even a little bit of the challenges most of my black friends and families face and I had yet again a lot of humbling to do. Our Pastors lovingly challenged our own majority culture embrace and with it the covert racism I allowed in my own heart. Their Jesus looked different than mine in more ways than one.  Thankfully, my friends chose to engage with me and through their honesty and explanations and corrections, the essentials got clearer. My faith began to align more with scripture and my friends taught me to understand our God in a way I had never understood Him. He grew even more beautiful and more righteous and more at work in his people.

It's funny how in my entry into adulthood my essentials began to shrink, but as time progressed, those few 'essentials' became more full bodied.

This season was a curious time for me. There was an invitation. If I wanted to enjoy being in the club I could, or I could figure out a way to step out of it. Our thoughts on politics, on social issues , on the christian ethic in the began to show itself as different from majority culture. It honestly was a bit of an identity crisis.

We voted differently. We worshiped differently. We understood scripture differently. We didn't own any monogram!

Then we moved North.

From being a 'kinda-sort of-liberal (who just came from a country who has a social system)' to being the 'conservative-homeschool-mom-who-is-neck-deep-in-Jesus-Land" over a short plane ride was a bit of a shocker. A funny one, if I'm honest.

I swing back and forth on if this experience is a gift. I do think it is, but sometimes it feels rough. What one culture prizes, the other rejects. I'd like to now say that my identity is secure after all these moves. I'd like to say that I move boldly from one culture to the next, girded with my clear essentials and my ability to adapt in the gray. I'd love to say I know exactly who I am in the midst of it all. ONWARD!

The reality is much less of that. More a touch of being lonely. More understanding deeply in scripture that 'this is not my home. ' It's more wondering if there's any other misfits who long for a kingdom where all is made right? Who take God seriously and themselves not so much (Most New Englanders take themselves very seriously, I have found)... It's more combating social anxiety and deciding how to go forward when  I was terribly misunderstood when I said that. Which happens a lot, actually.

At this point I'd like to take a moment to thank all you new england lovelies who have been kind, who have laughed with me and let me be whatever this is that I've become. Your laughter, your wit and wisdom and your choosing to come and sit at my table literally have saved my heart and made my days bright. Thanks for loving me even when I say awkward stuff.

I like to think that seeing so much of this earthly kingdom is preparing me to feel at home in my Heavenly one. Actually I know that to be true. Which is why I choose to thank God for this unique life we're allowed to live. What a gift to have so many friends all over the world. How lucky am I that a time is coming when we'll be all together at last!

Here is where I find myself in this season. This whole year of living in the North East:

Because I lived with clear cut answers so long, I now have grace for others to not see it my way. I too couldn't understand how someone would live in that gray tension. I too tended toward dismissive and large language to separate what I knew to be true and what they claimed.

Because that (broken) theology fell absolutely apart when crisis came,  I now live confident that perfect understanding of God is not the point. HE is the point. Yet, I don't fault you for holding tight to some of what I would now say are non-essentials. He's faithful to all of us to show us what we need for the good works He has for us.

Because I lived a stranger in a foreign land (and still do) surrounded with those who didn't hold my values, I'm able to set down any value that don't match up with who God's showing himself to be. And I give you that permission too. It's okay to change. It's actually imperative.  I also have room for you to hold values that I don't have. I know we have a few essentials we can agree on. Even if you don't love Jesus.

Because I lived to see the way a christian (lower case c) culture can twist things a certain way, I understand why so many have rejected my Jesus. But I don't pretend that I get the fullness of the hurt you've experienced in the name of some Higher Power that shares the name with my God. I do think  I'm getting better at listening. A lot of you have been vulnerable enough to share with me your 'why' and I deeply thank you for letting me in. Thanks for letting me still pray when your kids are sick and when your heart aches. I love you deeply, thank you for knowing that.

Because I now live in a culture that isn't really too fond of Christianity, I'm back to remembering what it means to not be in majority culture. I don't have it figured out. It feels lonely. And its hard to know somebody one way and to see that so many haven't experienced Him in His goodness. I'm okay with being your weird Jesus friend, if your okay with me being your weird Jesus friend.

I love theological discussion. I love the way we think about God and I like thinking about the implications of embracing a world view that includes Him or not.... However, if you're wondering where I am at, here's the basics for me:

My essentials when it comes to Christianity:

I really do think that Jesus guy was/is for real. I think he came alive from the dead, and I think heavens coming.

I really do believe He came for us who are sick, who recognize our need of Him  and that there isn't room for shame at his table (or mine.) He already took care of that. I think he looks for reasons to save, not reasons to condemn.

I really do think He actually holds marriages together, because I contemplated leaving mine and He showed up. I think he holds mothers together as they weep over their dead children because I wept over mine, and he showed up. I think he sees lonely faces as they try to get through their days without community, because I've been seen....because he showed up.

He weeps with us as we sit in the ache of what ought to be, but what isn't in our lives. And even if you don't embrace my Jesus, I hope you let me sit with you as we ache with what ought to be. I also will bring the party hats when things go right.

I used to struggle really hard against a God who weeps and yet holds the power to fix it.

I've come to understand that  we can experience a weeping Jesus and not grow bitter against him because He IS doing something about it.  His kingdom is coming and glimpses are here. We want him to make it right, and that is because he put that in us.  Our need for right-eousness is from Him. We will arrive at a day when all is made right. Glory. What a gift that he aches with us in the wait of it all.

I think he calls us to a different life, for our good. I think I've learned my best thinking got me in some terrible places, so I want to do things His way. I dont think he's afraid of our wrong doing-He's just already seen how the story ends, and he knows which path leads to joy. I think he's a Good Father, and thats why obedience doesn't feel like a dirty word to me. The more I've experienced Him, the more I've grown convincd of his goodness. The more I've grown convinced of it, the more I've grown willing to follow...

and lastly, there's room at my table. I really like when you're here.

 You can always sit with us. 

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