A Home for the Uprooted

Home is sewn into the seams of my suitcase –  

Caught up in the fragments of childhood memories

Where I can’t place the country or state, let alone the date;

But I remember who was there

 

Home is in the beauty of silver-tipped mountains

And sweeping red canyons;

Where snow sneaks in for Easter

And July Fourth bakes the earth to a crisp

 

Home is in fierce, drumming rainstorms

Crashes of thunder

And the soft blink of fireflies;

Where stars pierce the sky

And mosquitoes outnumber them

Rachel olson home

Home.

The land of ever-changing, ever-flying, ever-new.

And the question, “what are roots?”

 

The longing for something constant in life –

Something else besides “goodbye”

 

The familiar taste of spicy meals and bustling market stalls

A far-off airport terminal I’ve known for as long as I can remember

And the voice of a treasured friend spanning oceans

Or sitting next to me

Home Rachel Olson

Home.

Both everywhere and nowhere

In heartfelt conversations or the scent

of my grandmother’s Irish Spring soap

 

And when it seems shattered, scattered to the winds

In a million pieces too tiny to recover

Home is still here in the promise of the Psalms:

 

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. ” (Psalm 90:1-2)

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.” (
Psalm 139:7-10)

 

Inspired by this post from Communicating Across Boundaries.


Rachel Olson moved back to the US last year after making Africa home for a while. She is now living in her 17th home and has yet to find a simple answer to the question “where are you from?” She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes and is currently wondering if that might mean returning to Madagascar (one of her previous homes in Africa). You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram, or visit here to help her get back to Madagascar.
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Fruit in the Desert

Lately, I’ve been learning about foster care and the brain development of children who grow up in a sea of instability and trauma. One of the most common themes is the discussion of resiliency – questions like, what allows a child to make it through rocky circumstances and come out the other side whole and hope-filled? Leaders in this field are asking, how can we help kids to become more resilient as they face incredibly harsh circumstances?

What I hear time and time again is that the likelihood for heightened resiliency hinges on the child having at least one stable adult to trust and rely on.

When taking this observation and juxtaposing it with the topic of identity, I’m struck by the parallels, how our ability to see God at work in hard spaces is intertwined with our trust. This can be the defining difference between thriving and floundering through life.

Identity Rachel Olson

I think the best example of this is Jesus’ own life — Jesus lived rooted in the Father.

He often took time away to pray, and always directed people’s attention towards his Father.

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.” (John 14:10)

While life may lack what we consider “stability”, Jesus remained deeply connected to his Father. Jesus lived every moment with purpose; fully anchored in his Father’s will and his identity as the Son of God. There is no question he knew who he was and why he was here.

For us, it’s easy to forget. We need reminders of who we are and where we find life. Our identity is not based in what happens to us or around us; instead who we are is based in who Jesus is.

Our life flows from Jesus.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)

Sometimes it’s easy to feel inadequate and weak. Like we can never be enough. On our own, we fail, but that’s ok. When we can find our identity in Jesus we will be resilient flourishing trees, because we rest in the trusted gaze of our Father in heaven. How beautiful, how hopeful it is that we can be in the driest of circumstances and still bear fruit. Good fruit, not because we are trying extra hard, but because we are so deeply rooted in Jesus that his life continues to nourish our souls in the desert.

Rachel Olson Identity

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.
Images from Pixabay

When Conviction Leads to the Less Traveled Path

Do you ever find your convictions leading you upstream, taking you outside the norm, even in the context of Christian community? I often find myself wanting validation from others around me about my convictions. While encouragement and community with like-minded people are invaluable, it is not what is of most importance.

Being around so many different people with diverse perspectives and good ways of living out their faith has brought this to the forefront of my mind recently. This summer has been full of family gatherings, old friends, and new friends. One thing that’s stood out to me is the common thread of a deep love for Jesus lived out through a wide variety of personal convictions and styles of worship. In the last few weeks, I’ve encountered small home churches, liturgical services, and large auditoriums. Teachers, parents, nurses, pastors, and accountants devoted to loving their families and communities, at home or across the world.

Rachel Olson conviction

I find freedom here, to seek wisdom that’s appropriate and good but not depend on others’ approval. It’s liberating to know my peace does not hinge on other people seeing the same conviction I see and approving of it. I am learning to confidently take hold of what God’s putting in front of me and not feel like I need to make excuses for it. I don’t need to dwell on if people disagree, or wonder how they’ll feel about it if God’s word says it is true. If others think my convictions are foolish, it no longer hinders me from taking hold of and finding joy in believing God alone. I can follow him and just run my race confidently.

Conviction is a gift that when we follow, enables us to be closer to Jesus. That’s a deep part of the purpose of conviction—to bring us closer to Jesus.

So follow your own convictions, not what people say around you, based on what God says in the Bible. Do that with freedom and joy. See it as a gift.

Because of my convictions and where they have led me these past several years, I’ve at times had some abrupt shock. Moments of questioning and comparing my status to the status quo loom large in my weaker moments. I am still single, without a home, a stable career, or really any roots that look to be building up what we generally associate with adulthood. While many of my friends have homes and families and long-term stable-seeming jobs, here I am being me and wondering if it is enough. At times the truth that God has a purpose for me here and now can be difficult to see. I would love to have my own family, and a life that feels more stable. Sometimes it’s easy to compare my life to others’ and feel like I’m missing out on these things. Or even worse, to wish that I had something to prove my worth to onlookers who probably aren’t even questioning it.

Am I less capable? As a competitive person, it can be difficult to feel like all my friends have the things we normally associate with adulthood and I don’t. I’m an adult, but what represents that?

As I question and process through these emotions again, I remember the decisions that brought me here were made out of strong convictions and a desire to follow God’s leading. If I had chosen a more normal career path, I know I would have regretted not obeying. I would have missed out on so much good that God has invited me into over the last few years. So even in the lack of adult things, I would rather face discomfort and disappointment about cultural expectations and some of my own dreams, than be without the peace of following God’s guidance. He knows better than I do, and I can trust him. It’s better for everyone, for me to follow that, and I won’t be satisfied with other things if I am outside of it. So I choose again that it was is worth it, and keep trusting and following Jesus’s ways. Even when his ways look weird or counter-cultural. If it’s conviction from God it’s worth it, good for the soul, the heart, and the world.

Conviction Rachel Olson

Conviction is a gift that enables, empowers, and equips us to align ourselves with God’s heart.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look for his wonderful face.

The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of Jesus’s glory and grace—this is the heart of conviction.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

Anticipating Celebration

When I think of celebration, I can’t help thinking of the wait that’s so often attached.

I think of the unfulfilled callings held quietly inside for years – either left on a back burner or pursued unsuccessfully over and over again; until suddenly God brings all the right pieces together in a whirlwind of motion.

I think of the woman who bore a disfiguring tumor for decades before God provided an opportunity for surgery as the answer to her prayers. Or the joyful praise of a man who’d  just regained his sight after being blind for half his life. And the teenager who spent several years in a wheelchair, unsure if she’d ever walk again – until she did.

Celebration Rachel Olson

The depth of celebration witnessed in long-awaited moments feels like a glimpse of heaven.

We see it in the Bible as well.

It’s the story of Abraham and Sarah – when God promised them a son, they were full of doubt and went looking for their own shortcuts; God fulfilled his promise through the birth of Isaac.

It’s the Israelites, who lived in slavery for 400 years before God parted the Red Sea and rescued them from Egypt. If that hadn’t felt long enough already, they went straight into wandering the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people lived in a state of waiting, hoping for the day when the promised Messiah would come.

It’s the story of Jesus himself, when he entered the tomb and the world held its breath for 3 days.

Rachel Olson Celebrate

Today it’s our story as we wait to see God’s faithfulness in the little details of everyday life, and as we wait for the ultimate celebration. Hearts longing for a place better than this one; longing for the day when Jesus will be nearer than ever before. When all darkness and pain will be swept away.

When doubt and discouragement come, may we look to stories from the past to remind us of God’s constant faithfulness. The wait may be long, but celebration is coming.

“Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.”  (Psalm 111:2-4)


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

 

Photos from Pixabay.

 

 

God is My Provider

One of the most powerful ways I have seen God’s love and presence is through his provision. Whether it’s a physical need or something deeper, God knows it every time. He discerns what things I think are needs that really aren’t, and He also attends to the deep needs I don’t even recognize are there.

As I think back over the last few years, I am in awe of the many ways God has personally provided for needs in the world around me.

I have seen God provide:

Rachel Olson Character of GodHope to people who had none.

Healing to patients who seemed far too sick to find it.

Unexpected gifts to meet financial needs at exactly the right moment.

Tangible comfort and peace in times of grief.

Opportunities for connection between believers on opposite sides of the world who needed each other’s community.

A place for me to put down roots and find community with other believers after the go-go-go atmosphere of the last few years.

Ways for old things to get stirred up from the nooks and crannies of my heart so they could be resolved.

Sometimes in the moment it’s hard to see what God is doing, or it seems like he’s taking a lot longer than we want. But our God sees every need, and he provides for it in his timing.

When the Israelites left Egypt and wandered the desert, they had a hard time finding food and began to question God. Some even talked about going back to Egypt. But God saw their need and showered down manna from heaven, providing the exact amounts they needed to be filled each day. (Exodus 16)

When Abraham agonizingly prepared to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, he held fast to faith that God would provide another way. At the very last moment, God sent a ram in the thicket; the perfect substitute for Abraham to sacrifice. (Genesis 22)

Character of God Rachel OlsonWhen Adam and Eve disobeyed God, all of creation fell into chaos. On our own, we had no hope of recovery. But God provided his own son, making a way for us to be restored to him. (Genesis 3, 1 John 4:9)

It is in our God’s nature to provide.

I write all of these stories and moments down so that I won’t forget. Each one is a tangible reminder to me of God’s sovereignty, his nearness, and his goodness. It stretches and strengthens my faith to see that every time I step out in risky obedience, God meets me there and provides for my needs. He is present, at work in our world, just as he was in Bible times.

Remembering all the times God has provided in the past gives me patience and faith for tomorrow. Whatever life brings, it gives me hope to know that I can always depend on the God who can do more than I might ever ask or imagine; who loves, and does not hold back what I need—even when my deepest need required his Son.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

5 Ways Bitterness is Made Powerless

Over the last few years, some frustrating situations have jarred my expectations and pushed all the wrong buttons. Over time, as these things stacked weight heavier and heavier in my heart, I realized part of the reason they were so hurtful was because they were dredging up unrelated pain from years ago. As I thought over how old things were still affecting me and all the ways I wish they had been different, I found bitterness festering.

Rachel Olson BitternessThankfully, I had a couple wise friends who helped me sort through the whole thing, instead of just addressing the bitterness at surface level and having the same underlying issue continue to pop up over and over again. Here’s what I’ve learned through it:

Pour out your heart to God. Don’t stuff the pain and bitterness or try to muster your own strength to fix it. It won’t do any good trying to pretend or force your bitterness away. Bitterness loses its strength when we can see the situation through God’s eyes. Give God whatever mustard seed of trust you have and ask for his perspective. Ask him to work in your heart and the situation.

Share with a trustworthy friend. Vulnerability can be hard sometimes. It’s so valuable though to have a wise friend to listen, pray with you, speak truth when you need to hear it, and offer insight that you might not see on your own.

Sometimes even just by saying something out loud, helps me see an issue from a new angle or realize it’s a lot more trivial than it seemed in my head.

Ask what’s at the core of the issue. Is it unresolved conflict? Your own pride? Someone else’s sin against you? Unrealistic expectations? Disappointed dreams? How might you need to sort these things out with God, and possibly another person?

If there are action steps, take them. Maybe it’s a process that only needs to take place between you and God in your own heart, and whoever else was involved in the situation never even needs to know about it. Maybe going forward, there’s a change you want to make in how you relate to a specific person, or how you handle conflict.

Or maybe there’s an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with someone. It can be tempting to look ahead and say ‘that’s too hard’, or ‘I don’t think that will make any Bitterness Rachel Olson (1)difference, so why bother?’ But you’ll never know for sure until you try. When I look back at times in the past when I used that logic, I wonder, ‘would things have been different if I had just tried anyway?’

Ask God to move! When we allow God into life’s hard places and give our pain to him, he is able to carve beautiful things. It doesn’t have to go to waste or fester into bitterness.

Today I can look back with thanks for what God has done through those more recent situations I disliked so much. It’s a long process, but the baggage I didn’t know I was carrying is already a few pieces lighter. Where old hurts sparked bitterness, God is bringing beautiful new growth, life, and redemption one day at a time.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.