An Open Letter to My People

I’ve been putting this post off for a while now. Partly because I don’t know how to express what’s weighing so heavily on my soul, and partly because I’d rather not be the one to address it. But no one else has, so here I am.

This is a message for my people. The ones I grew up among and love. The ones I can count on, the people who I’ve known my whole life, the ones whose world I feel I understand.

There’s something that is breaking my heart. Slicing it in half and keeping me up in the middle of the night in tears. I’m begging you to hear me out on it, because it’s weighing into the pits of my soul.

I understand where you’re coming from. I grew up with you; I was culturally trained to think like you. We’re American. We believe in our rights, our freedom to express ourselves, and good old hard work. I get that, I understand that. I believe in it too.

But right now, I scroll through my Facebook feed and listen to the discussions among the people I come from, and my heart leaps into my throat because we’re missing something.

We talk about issues like Ferguson and Baltimore and we sneer. We shake our heads in disgust and feel rage in our hearts. They’re acting like animals! we cry. Breaking apart their own cities, and for what? Lazy thugs! Maybe if they wouldn’t get all these hand-outs this wouldn’t happen. How dare they blame us for their own crimes?

We claim to be Little Miniature Christs. Followers who take his principles in radical hand and imitate his every move. Followers of this man who died for the least of the earth, the scum of society. Who said, over and over, that we have to lay down ourselves, our opinions, our pride, our self-righteousness, if we want to follow him. The man who condemned condemnation and embodied a love so fierce he gave up everything for the worst.

And here we stand, exempting ourselves. Casting our verbal stones. Condemning our own countrymen with distaste and disregard, grasping onto an eye for an eye as we shout “they deserve to be punished for this!”

You say it’s not about race, about the color of someone’s skin. And I understand how you feel, and what you’re telling me. But the truth is, we have to admit something to ourselves.

We’ve taken on this American cultural lie that you have to choose one side and then yell at the other for being wrong. That if you don’t think like me, you should go find another country and live there.

We think we’re not cultural, because we might dress differently or listen to different music or bring our neighbor’s kids to Sunday School. But as a people our minds are just like the world. We’re picking sides just like our culture has trained us.

Let me say something, and I’m begging you to hear it.

Jesus doesn’t care if the Baltimore rioters should get a job. He doesn’t care that they live in a country where they could work with their hands instead of live on welfare. He doesn’t care that they have no right to burn down the buildings of their own cities.

He doesn’t care that you disagree with the politics or gun conversations surrounding the Charleston shooting either.

Jesus said, Love as you would like to be loved.
Matthew 22:39, Matthew 7:12, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27

Jesus said, If you call a man a fool you deserve Hell fire.
Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus said, Instead of an eye for an eye, don’t resist. If someone takes from you, give them double what they took.
Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said, If you give clothes, food, a drink, a kind welcome, or a visit in prison to the very least of society, then you’ve given it to God Himself.
Matthew 25:35-40

Jesus said, If we don’t do those things to the least of society, we have failed to do them for God Himself.
Matthew 25:41-45

What if being Little Christs means laying down our massive pride long enough to see that these people – the ones we judge as the scum of our society – are image bearers of the same God we are?

What if it means that we treat every single person as if they were Christ himself – even the lazy ones, the criminals?

What if we love these neighbors of ours as much as we love ourselves – granting them the dignity to be heard, desiring the best for them, giving them our kindness – instead of yelling over their voices with cruel names and spitting on them in our hearts?

What if we visited and cared for and talked about the people we call animals and criminals and idiots – and treated them like Christ Himself, walking on our Earth?

What if that broken, beaten man in the story of the Good Samaritan is a broken kid with a broken life acting out in broken ways, and we could come to his aid – but we’re passing on by with our noses in the air?

Instead of improving our means to communicate and understand each other, we are creating a vaster chasm between the sides. Every verbal rock we throw is knocking down a portion of common ground, making that gaping hole of mistrust, disbelief, and anger wider.

If we don’t watch out, soon we’ll be so far apart that we won’t even have the materials left to build a bridge.

We Miniature Christs should have started building the bridge a long time ago. We should stand firmly now before our fellow rock-throwers and urge them not to do it. To come use their rocks for building the bridge instead of breaking all the common ground away.

For our country this is an issue of unity. For Christians, this is much weightier. This is an issue of loving our God, of being his ambassadors. We have no right to continue on in hate, when we have been offered infinite love and redemption, no matter our own flaws and mistakes and indecencies.

John said if we don’t love our brother, we can’t say we love God. How many times have we read that? How many? Do our eyes see? Do our ears hear? The reason my heart is ripping in half over this is that we’ve lost the love of our brothers – our own countrymen! – and we’re forgetting that we received free redemption. We’re not only misrepresenting our King Jesus, but we’re not even loving our Father – not the way Jesus described Love.

“We love because he first loved us.
If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar;
for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
1 John 4:19-21 (ESV)

Please hear my plea, my friends. Please open up your heart enough to let this digest.

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Our New Adventure

I think it’s time I give some kind of explanation about our new lifestyle, and just what it is we’re doing anyway.

The Dream

For years my husband Jon and I have had a dream of living on the road. The weeks we fell in love,  at the ripe ages of 17 and 18, we’d stayed up to all hours sitting on my rooftop in Southern Spain, discussing all the places we could go and things we could do. As time went on and we married young, we planned out how we could spend our 20’s living out our youthful dreams and being responsible in one fell swoop.

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Overtime this morphed from dreams into reality. We fantasized about Westfalia vans and old 70’s Boler trailers, while settling into a seemingly normal life with proper jobs. We knew we’d have to take a few years to settle in before we could scamper off on the adventure we were planning for.

The summer we got married Jon came into contact with a man who was making smokeless fire pits – yes, you did read that right – and joined him to become a co-founder of Breeo Industries (follow the link to learn about the fire pits).

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Skip forward a few years, Janessa was working for Breeo part time, Jon was switching from his marketing job to full-time with Breeo, and the projected 2015 launch to life on the road was just around the bend. Our search for the perfect home on the road was top priority.

The Rig

After a lot of research we discovered Casita Travel Trailers. They were perfect. The Spirit model even had a bathroom with a shower, and it was only 17 ft long and weighed just over 2,000 lbs – meaning it could be pulled with something as simple as a Subaru. They combined everything we could possibly want or need. We fell head over heals for the little “eggs”, and spent a few months scouring the web for any up for sale.

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We found one in Knoxville, TN and made the trip. By November, 2014 we were proud owners of our 1996 Casita Spirit Deluxe.

A Subaru Outback was next on the list, and all I can say is that it was handed to us as a miracle car for about half the price it was worth. We’re still in shock about it.

10304645_10204353264546218_1583239397493582664_n(pictured in back is our previous car. dear little thing was quite loved and used.)

Next on the agenda was a trip to Spain during January and February of 2015, and while we were gone the Casita had solar panels installed. Now we can park anywhere at anytime. True freedom!

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The Tour

We got back to the States in March of 2015 and have now officially started the Rethinking Fire Tour.

So, what exactly does that mean?

  • Living out of our 17 ft Casita Spirit Deluxe
  • Travelling across North America
  • Bringing smokeless campfires to America
  • Jon is working full-time for Breeo Industries.
  • I am earning my Bachelor’s in Communications through a distance-learning program.

Essentially, we’re doing normal life from any location we please!

Feel free to follow along and enjoy our fun with us. We’d love to have you.

Always faithful.

I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about myself. About God’s intentions through me.

Things that I already knew, under the surface, but He pulls them out bit by bit, showing me a little more of what He means to do.

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He’s been working faithfully and continually.

Patiently walking beside me, watching me go from sitting in a hump on the ground to sprinting joyfully to falling down in tears again.

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And when I finally learn to walk for longer periods, He just goes beside me, whispering truth and courage.

Even when I turn my face and listen to the wind instead.

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Even though my faith has been so small.

My desire for Him so weak.

My weaknesses so strong.

My personal indulgence so high.

My understanding too large to pardon the limits of my action.

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My inadequacy always remains smaller than His ability.

And He is always so faithful.

Putting Aside Fear

I’ve had so many thoughts and ideas spinning through my head of late. It makes me want to write about them more than ever, yet it scares me out of it more than usual. My own education, my own intelligence, are not enough to address the topics my mind is mulling over. I am so small in the vast expanse of things – history, the universe, the future. Were I smarter, were I more advanced, were I more diligent, then I would have something to say.

There is always a fear. There is always an impediment. 

It doesn’t matter what you’re striving towards, what you’re longing for. Few things are gained without a test of strength. Will you press forward anyway, in spite of yourself, towards a bigger purpose – something greater than yourself, something that seems unimaginable? Or will you shrink back, to the normal, the close, the easy things. The parts of life that you know well, the things that you can’t really mess up too much. Your normal is so comfortable. What if you jumped out into the scary? Into the broken, hard, uncomfortable things? What would happen then?

Perhaps your list of ‘perhaps’es is too long, too overwhelming. Perhaps you tell everyone else to strive after their callings, their goals, their dreams. Perhaps their purpose is obvious, but yours seems too impossible, unreachable, unattainable. Perhaps you’re wrong.

It’s so easy to have faith, when it’s faith for another. It’s so easy to believe miracles happen, when they happen to another.

Where is the faith that your purpose is irreplaceable?

It might be a small purpose, it might be a big purpose.
But the thing of it is, it is your purpose.

What if we stopped being jealous of those who do great things, even stopped wishfully imagining how we would use their callings? What if we stopped judging the right and wrong of what everyone else is doing?

What if we dove into our own purpose, with the faith that it can change the world?

If I put aside my fears,
if I admit that my purpose is greater than my impediments,
then my purpose can be fueled by passion
and I can play my role in changing the world.

I’m not from here.

So I recently have sort of reactivated this blog, and I decided to change the name to ‘earthly vagabond’.

Some of this naming stems from the fact that I’m a TCK (Third Culture Kid or Global Nomad or whatever you want to call us wacky, culturally homeless kids. I’ve chosen ‘vagabond’ for myself.) I can call two very different places and cultures equally home, and a third culture forms a deep part of who I am. Now, once again, I’ve moved to a new community, though not an entirely new society. Calling that many places home automatically strips you from being able to call any one place really home. Parts of your heart will always, always be left elsewhere. I’m sure millions of people can identify with this to some degree, whether they’ve culture-hopped throughout their lifetime or not.

But us TCKs, we’re a strange breed. We grow up with a million homes and yet no particular home of our own. Swapping cultures and languages becomes second-nature for us. Sometimes that life can be confusing and hard and a little unbearable, because we do become homeless, in many ways. When I lived in Spain I was American, when I came back to America I was from Spain. You become ‘the outsider’ wherever you go. I’ve watched it play out for many of my TCK friends: Muslims, Evangelicals, Catholics… we come in all shapes and sizes and racial origins.

It’s worth it, absolutely. I wouldn’t trade my culture-filled, vagabond up-bringing for the world. Our live are so ENRICHED and filled and overflowing with worlds of perspective and wisdom – all just handed to us! We’re given so many experiences, and people, and places, and ideas to fill our minds and test our beliefs and make us figure out exactly who we are and what we think. Honestly, the times when being a TCK was really hard feel like a very, very distant past, but there was a time when the hard part was painfully real.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned by growing up in this vagabond life: I’m not from here!

No place on Earth was ever meant to be my home, and no place on Earth ever should become my real home.

I am a citizen of HEAVEN!

Oh glory, hallelujah I belong in Zion! Living a vagabond life feels so right, because earthly homelessness is normal when your citizenry is in glory. 

And so I am thankful for my vagabond life, for the earthly homelessness it has taught me. I’m not from here, I’m just on a really long trip, passing through the earth until I get back to my REAL passport country. That’ll be such a crazy wonderful day, I can’t even imagine! Right now I feel like Abraham, just trudging along in faith, pretty clueless about my homeland, but so so sure that it is mine, that it is wonderful, and that I’m meant to be there!

I claim my earthly vagabond life. So joyfully!

Just Processing

I haven’t posted in a really – and I mean really – long time. Writing has always been so therapeutic for me, I decided it’s time I try whipping out my pen (or more appropriately my laptop keyboard) once again, just to peek and see what all might be pent up in my mind.

I’ve had quite a few changes in my life in the past year and two months, way too many to even try to touch on here. I moved continents (again) and spent the last year dedicating most of my time to one specific family (and getting paid for it, imagine that), living 15 minutes from where I was born, and eating lots of cereal (cuz I genuinely desire it over proper food at least half of the time). I went from the world of at least three cultures meeting in my house on a regular basis to being surrounded by Rush Limbaugh advocates who collectively hated the President. It does test one’s perspective a bit.

Honestly, none of this was bad. Different, certainly. But not bad.

I’m quite content. Actually, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. A month and 10 days ago I married the man who was infinitely weirder, and smarter, and more complete than any person I had ever imagined myself being lucky enough to find before. He swept me off my feet at 17, changed all my plans, and only made my dreams seem bigger and more possible than ever before. God sure does know what He’s up to.

So this entails another change, another move, another phase of life. Still haven’t really delved into the cooking thing, but slowly starting studying for school again, travelling with the hubby for his work, and having a nice dose of introspective time. Sometimes for me that means lounging in my pajamas at two o’clock in the afternoon, making eggs for lunch, and putting off going to the post office because I finally got inspired to write out my thoughts. I would hardly recommend it for habitual repetition, but it’s nice when you get the chance.

I don’t really know what all this change will mean yet. I feel like I have some time to let that fall into place though. My surname is still in limbo at the Social Security office, rendering my ID invalid everywhere; even the library won’t take me until I can prove that I am, in fact, who I say I’ve become. Somehow it’s nice. This slow change, without a job yet, travelling too much right away to have gotten involved in anything… The change of pace is good.

Point being, I am extremely happy. I am content.

Now I feel pretty done with my little holiday and ready to start (new) real life again. Simple stuff, like running in the mornings again and finally owning a couch.

We actually bought a couch last night, so there’s my start!

SATs, Catholic Boys, and Combovers

My life is peculiar, and from the peculiarities I get to experience many things – things which generally leave me quite thoroughly entertained.

Today, for example.

It was time to take the SAT. I signed up for this months ago via the internet, and I’d been pleasantly surprised to discover that there was an American school in the province next to mine. It was only a week or two ago that I looked up the school on Google, intending to find directions and check in with the headmaster to make sure everything was on schedule; but instead I made a grand discovery which left me laughing for the rest of the day: I had signed up to take my SAT at a private Catholic boarding school only for boys.

And I laugh madly. Oh, boy.

Feeling highly amused with the mere thought of what might await me (awkward scholastic types in uniform, incapable of speaking to females, etc.), I awoke at 5am, drove the two and a half hours with my parents, and arrived at the school out in the middle of Spanish mountains. We were met by a secretary and the teacher in charge of the SAT – both were women, oddly enough, but it left me thinking that perhaps I had a completely false preoconception of what this day would be like.

I didn’t.

And I discovered as much about a minute later, as I roamed down the empty hallway towards the classroom. It was only a few steps, really, when I suddenly stumbled upon four boys in matching pants and haircuts and shoes, who all somehow managed to spin around and awkwardly sit down on one couch at once (it was a badly timed mutual sitting process which I can’t seem to explain, but it really comes down to this: I interrupted their pleasant existences, and they immediately stuffed themselves into a fluffy white couch in retaliation.)

And then they all just kind of stared at me, as if they had no idea what they were supposed to do.

“Hi,” I say.

Silence.

There may have been a mumble, or a nod or something in return, I’m not really sure; but whatever happened, it ended in me turning around after about two seconds to nonchalantly stare at a bulletin board sporadically covered in SAT reminders. The teacher lady passed by a moment later, so I flitted on behind her to the classroom, like a little puppy who has no idea what he’s supposed to do, so he just follows the nearest person that seems followable.

And the boys continued together,  the four of them squished onto their couch meant for three.

(To discuss the test is not only prohibited, it is also boring; therefore we shall skip that part. Only imagine to yourself and smirk: a small classroom of the aforementioned four boys and myself, studiously being studious. The end.)

Now, back to the entertaining stuff. At the first break the boys all rushed out at once, shutting the door before I’d even managed to leave. (In their defense the teacher and I had hit it off earlier, so they probably thought I’d stay behind and talk to her – or at least they hoped it, I’m guessing.) I’m too curious, though; I wanted to see the school. So I roamed.

In the five minute roam I became quite convinced that I like this school, because they had paintings of Don Quixote and a giant map of Middle Earth, complete with pictures of the movie characters. (Yes, they had a giant Lord of the Rings poster hanging in their school. HOW COOL ARE THEY?!) When the boys came rushing out of wherever they’d been, I was examining an odd little statue sitting in the front lobby. I was curious as to what said statue was, so I asked their little posse as they skittered past me. The posse halted, responded briefly that it was (another) Don Quixote, and then I tagged along beside/behind them for the whole twenty second walk back to the classroom.

We passed the map of Middle Earth, and I couldn’t help but comment on how amazing their school is for having it; they all kind of tittered, and I think we might have been able to break the chains of awkward and perhaps contemplate a day-long sort of friendship, except that we had reached the classroom by then. When these boys enter a classroom, they go into  super respectful private Catholic schoolboy mode – which is probably a compliment to their school, really – but I believe in that moment all hope of their ever speaking to me was firmly dashed.

At the second break they didn’t shut the door on me, and they even kind of lagged out of their close-knit posse, giving me the feeling that they might not faint if I followed them, after all. However, I received no verbal invitation to join them in their lounge or whatever it was, and I wasn’t about to follow them unwelcomed, so I stared at the Don Quixote statue again.

By the third break, I think the one nearly invited me to join them to their special room back the hall, but in the end I was left standing by the bulletin board again. I gave up and went back to class, where I spent the next five minutes having a rather grand conversation with the teacher, who was a complete dear.

So. Last year I took the SAT at a public school in the States, in a classroom crammed full of sleepy high school kids in sweats. This year I sat in a room with four uncomfortable boarding students of various nationalities, complete with polo shirts and combovers.

The humor factor of this year officially wins by a million.
I love my life.

Flailing and Fighting

Prayer isn’t easy or happy-go-lucky or a wishlist of ponies and pixies and faerie dust.

It’s a fight. 

A full on mental, emotional, and (most importantly) spiritual battle that you have to choose to enter into and give your all to.

Prayer is hard.

It means picking up a sword and running headlong into the enemy lines, screaming at the top of your lungs. It’s courage and hope and love and strength. It’s standing up for others and protecting them when they can’t stand on their own.

It’s loving.

Not the sweet, flitty-eyelashes, top-of-the-world, I’ll hold your hand and make you giggle kind of “love” our world sings about and obsesses over. Not a silly feeling that fades away, leaving people empty in search of it, quick to throw away a marriage cuz it’s just not there anymore.

No. It means loving. Really loving. Loving so hard it hurts you.

It’s watching your brother’s back. It’s carrying him when he’s wounded. It’s taking his fight for him and not daring to let go, because you know he can make it, with a little extra strength. It’s giving up your own safety, making yourself vulnerable for the sake of another. It’s hard work. It drains you. It’s needed.

And it’s worth it. Every tear.

You don’t need your own strength. God’s got that.
You don’t have to worry about your safety. God’s got that, too.

It’s just a letting go, a giving up, a selfless sacrifice for the sake of another, for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Did I mention it’s hard?

(I, for one, suck at it. No, really. If I’ve got a sword, I obviously haven’t mastered it yet; I can just see myself flailing around chopping awkwardly at air. But I’d like to call myself a warrioress in training, if you will. Perhaps I can send the bad guys running for fear of the vicious air chopping, at the least – seriously, who wants their head caught up in that madness?)

That parenthesis enclosed insert was an irrelevant taste of Nessa’s brain that doesn’t have much to do with anything. Except that I’m saying: it’s hard and I’m far from handling it properly, but I’m trying. God’s teaching me. And I’ve been so very, very blessed as to have great and amazing warriors and warrioresses fighting all of my battles with me since the beginning of my meager existence.

Thank God, or I wouldn’t be here, happily humming away my days.

That’s the happy thought, though! We are not alone.

We don’t run on our own strength!

Even the worst of air flailers can be a medieval hero and save the day. Cuz we’re not controlling our own fights, we’re just saying, “Hey, God. Use me.”

…and if you say that, and mean it, and let yourself hurt?
Well then, He will.

Note: I’m referring specifically to intercessory prayer here. There is much, much more to prayer, obviously: praise, thanksgiving, simply… being with God etc, etc, etc! I was just having a random rant about praying for others, as I feel like it’s so overlooked as a general rule, and we need to stand up and FIGHT!

Anyway. That’s all, fer naaaooo. Have a jolly liife.