Hello! Does anyone still read this??

This blog has been a little lot neglected this year. Even though I haven’t posted in months, I think of this space often and miss this community. Life has been busy and, while I still love Not of this World, I don’t think it’s meant to be such a large part of my life anymore. Let me explain.

When I first created Not of this World as a freshman in high school, I did so to 1) attempt to fill a gaping hole of encouragement and support for TCK girls and 2) to give me something to do in a period of intense loneliness with an empty schedule.

I think God used this magazine and blog to do both and He used it in my life in powerful ways. Even though it more often than not felt more like a burden than a joy, it was a beautiful burden to carry. Now that I’m in college, I think God is burdening my heart for a different community. I still have a huge heart for TCKs, but I think God is teaching me to minister to my home country and the community He has placed me in here.

So, all that to say: I’m sorry for an unexplained absence of posts. I tried to keep all of this going my freshman year but I became too busy. I think for now I’m finished making issues of the magazine but I do want to keep this blog going and still have some ideas for the future of Not of this World. So hopefully more posts will be appearing soon. Thanks for following along this journey with me!

Be Mine by Michaela F.

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Last Valentine’s Day, I wrote about how to love God better. This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write about real life ways that God reveals His perfect love for us. He really is a romantic God and I want every girl to feel special today, whether you are receiving flowers and chocolate or not.

Imagine a scenario with me. A guy gets all dressed up, so excited to see his girl looking absolutely ravishing and walks to the door with a boyish grin on his face. He rings the doorbell and is met by a surprising sight. His date looks HORRIBLE. Her hair is a rat’s nest, she’s wearing her painting tshirt, and her face is covered in streaks of a makeup experiment gone wrong. What would he do? Unless he was an exceptional fellow, he would probably postpone their night out. But if that guy was Jesus, He would say “Hey, precious girl! I am so happy to see you and I can’t wait to spend the evening with you because you are the BEST!” Alone, we are a mess every single day, but our God still cherishes us!

Lately, I have become very disillusioned with popular romantic movies because they portray unrealistic and flaky relationships. When I find myself “ahhhh”-ing at a guy who did something sweet for the girl on the screen, I suddenly want to throw up because it is not love. The only redeeming thing about these situations is that I remind myself about my amazing Prince. The One who died so He could woo me to Himself day after day with the sweetest words, the most thoughtful actions and the most perfect love of all time. The love that pursues me when I am sitting in the middle of my sin, selfishness, confusion and pain. The love that protects me from all kinds of harm and the love that provides infinitely more than I could ask or imagine.

In December, I found myself really struggling with the fact that I had a really hard time letting God love me. I saw people who  had encountered the relentless, incredible love of God and I was so jealous to have my own experience. A wise friend told me to speak to a guy from our church who had gone through the same thing. He gave me advice and prayed for me and I went back to my dorm room feeling expectant. As I lay alone in my dark room, I had the urge to stand up and pace. I just started talking out loud to the Lord and speaking His truth over myself and it dawned on me that 1 Corinthians 13 is not just directions on how to love others. It also describes how our Father loves us. I started going through each quality of love and I got to the part where it says “love keeps no record of wrongs”. A little voice popped into my head and said “He doesn’t care!” and then I cried. He doesn’t even remember or care about what I said to my mom today or my bitter thoughts yesterday or my failure to seek Him last week. He just loves me. He just wants what is best for me. He just looks at me with a happy-tears smile. The King of the universe is enthralled with my beauty, inside and out.

I don’t know about you, but I have a big date with the One who chose me to be His before creation, wrote my DNA code, and pieced me together. I even shaved my legs and I just might wear lipstick! I am going to think of prayer as hearing His words of love for me and worship as thanking Him for His radical love. I am going to listen to this song over and over again until the truth of the words permeate my heart. Our God is the Perfect Father, the available Best Friend, the greatest love song Writer, the Painter of the skies, the Author of our story. And the best part about it is that there are no questions involved in the phrase “Be Mine” with Him. We are His and He is ours. That is the best news ever on this pink and red holiday.

 

Happy World Nutella Day

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Yes, World Nutella Day is a real thing…except it happened last week. February 5th to be exact. But can you ever have too much nutella in your life? No. So here are some yummy nutella recipes to celebrate…

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Peanut Butter Banana and Nutella Cupcakes via The Wiegands

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Nutella Mug Cake via Babble

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Nutella Milkshakes via Just Easy Recipes

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Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake via The Pioneer Woman

Enjoy your nutella concoctions!

A Travel Guide to New York City

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“New York is a different country. Maybe it ought to have a separate government. Everybody thinks differently, acts differently –they just don’t know what  the rest of the United States is.”

- Henry Ford

I have often thought that New York is its own country, a sort of melting pot of the cultures from around the world. With this New York has so much to offer. There is so much to do, to see, and to eat, and although I am far from a New Yorker (I have only been here 2 years, the standard is generally 10 years depending on who you ask) here are a few of my favorite things the city has to offer.

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Museums  There are some really amazing museums in New York. Let’s face it though, it is hard to pick and sometimes the entry fees just don’t seem worth it. However, there are several museums here with a sort of “hidden trick.” Museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art advertise their prices with the words “suggested donation” in small print next to them. That means that the $38 advertised is only what they would like you to pay, not what you need to pay. It’s really up to you what you give and it is completely normal not to pay the whopping entry fee advertised. I have given as little as $2 on one occasion. Other museums like this are the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and many more.

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Skyline Another thing the Big Apple is know for is the breathtaking skyline. The trademark Empire State Building is a must do for most visitors. I must say it is quite an amazing view and historical building, however something practical to remember is that if you are on the top of the Empire State Building, you won’t be able to see/take pictures of this iconic building. Another option for seeing the skyline is the Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller center. It is slightly cheaper and lines are generally a bit shorter and you can see the whole skyline, including the Empire State Building. If you are looking to see the view on a budget, another option is going over to New Jersey in the other side of the Hudson River from New York.

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Iconic Attractions One of my favorite things to do with people as I show them around this wonderful city is Wall Street, Ground Zero, and the Statue of Liberty. I usually take the subway down to Ground Zero and the New Freedom tower. It is quite an amazing sight to see. The entrance to the actual memorial is also a suggested donation, however the museum is still under construction, so it might not be worth your while. But a year ago I stumbled upon a little gem in that area that has become on of my favorite things in the city. Saint Paul’s Chapel at Trinity Church is a small church a few blocks away from the 9/11 site and was a sanctum for the first responders and has been turned into a fascinating and breathtaking memorial/museum. Right around there is also Wall Street and the famous bull. And to top it all of you can take the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. The ferry is free and departs every half hour so when you get to Staten Island I would suggest stepping outside the terminal to look at the view before the next ferry leaves for Manhattan.

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Central Park Central Park is definitely one the best things the Big Apple has to offer. Although it might not be ideal during the frigid and rainy winter months here, I would strongly urge you to visit it it you get a nice (or even just mild) weather day. Central Park is huge, so don’t expect to do it all in one day, and there is honestly no need to do it all. Just pick a part or two and go explore (I still to this day get lost in Central Park). Some of my favorite places are the Reservoir, the Great Lawn, and the Conservatory gardens.

A Few Helpful Tips If you have a smartphone I would highly highly recommended app Hopstop.  You can put in your current location or any starting location, then your destination and it will tell you walking or public transit directions or estimate how much a cab will cost and the amount time it will take you to get there. The bus and subway system is slightly confusing, but also just a lot for a visitor to take in during a short stay here. I still use this every time I leave my neighborhood and it has yet to fail.

Except for the very bottom and tops of the island, Manhattan is composed of street blocks and avenues. It is helpful to remember that the street blocks are ordered in chronologically going from South to North. So if you are at say 13th street and need to get to 86th you need to go uptown because the numbers go up. If you are at 112th and need to go to 64th you need to go downtown.

New Yorkers are known for being stereotypically rude. Yes, I do encounter some unpleasant people but for the most part New Yorkers are generally very willing to help you out. So if you get lost or can’t figure something out, don’t be afraid to ask. Just don’t stop someone who looks like they are trying to get to work/home quickly.

New York City is divided into 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Manhattan is where most of the tourist attractions are found but if you are feeling adventurous exploring the other boroughs can be fun! I hope you enjoy your visit in the wonderful city of New York!

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This travel guide was written by Ragan K.

Parade of Nations

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On Friday night, I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I love the olympics and have always looked forward to the opening ceremony but, as a TCK, it has so much more meaning for me now. As all the countries walked in during the Parade of Nations, I had so many countries to cheer for.

While my friends watching with me only saw foreign names on the screen, I saw faces. When Hungary entered, I thought of all my TCK friends who live there. When Turkey walked in, I thought of girls on my South Africa mission rip who had grown up there. With each country, I felt such excitement because for someone that’s their country that they’ve grown to love.

One of my favorite opening ceremonies was the London ceremony. I was in South Africa during it and crowded around a fuzzy tv screen with other TCKs. It was so fun to watch with other TCKs and see everyone get excited as their country walked in. I love that the Olympics bring together the world in cheering on our athletes.

But enough cheesy Olympic thoughts, I have to get back to cheering on both Italy and the US in skiing  :)

Thoughts on the American Church / part 3

church blog series

In conclusion to last week’s discussion on the American church, here are Lizzy’s closing thoughts on the subject…

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Great thoughts, Courtney! I like your words, “I’ve never encountered the church he’s describing.” I wish I could agree absolutely, but I don’t think I can. Daniel was kind enough to give us an updated blog post which you readers see here, shortened for the purpose of NOTW’s post. One idea I resonated with from his original, however, is the phrasing that the church “lost” him. Every TCK can come up with a list of the American church’s grievances that rub him or her the wrong way. Churchgoing in the US is just gruelingly hard for us. It presents each of us uprooted, adjusting teens with a unique set of challenges. In fact I believe Satan is often the one presenting those challenges, trying to drive us away from the American church–a body that creates an environment so unlike any we’ve known and yet is crucial to us fulfilling our individual callings in America.

Daniel’s post made me stop and think how the church has lost me. Rich white people? Materialism? Inwardly focused? Oh yes! I don’t want to believe those things of the entire church but I most obviously do! I don’t blame monocultural churches–diversity requires a lot of creativity, and giving, courage. And I can know that though there are most definitely great numbers of rich white families who are the best lovers of and walkers with God and I’ll still hate the image of Christian wealth. Heck, I could get rich, go to church, and still feel uncomfortable with other wealthy whites. Let my hypocrisy be revealed, that Satan’s victories in my heart be exposed!

I moved to the States two and a half years ago, to a good sized town that locals might call a city. The town is operating off of a big church planting revival period about ten years ago, and rich fruit has been born. I tried out churches for the first six months, quickly realizing there would be nothing quite like the loving international fellowship I’d left in East Asia, that met in a dirty shopping mall and represented over 160 countries. I was also astounded and a little disappointed by how long my list of criteria was for choosing a church. When my family decided to settle in one fellowship I went with them, but I wasn’t fully satisfied. When discussing spiritual subjects with my art teacher at school, I couldn’t honestly recommend him to attend my church, since what he felt would bring him back to the faith– a church of deeply sincere people, contemporary but art-filled music, diversity and a casual, accepting atmosphere–was what I was still looking for.

I ended up attending college in the same town two years later. I’ve spread my wings a bit. I now go to services at a large building half an hour from me, that does a great job of engaging believers of all ages and backgrounds in the Word. Really though, I just go for the college Bible study that meets early. I’m not so hot on the service that follows it. There you have my story; I’m going on two and a half years.

I’ll now pull on some tendencies to sin that I’ve encountered, and I think all of us do. (If you think of more, please respond to this post below!):

1. Giving in to generalizations about Americans that we have applied to form generalizations about the church.

2. Letting our high (or at least culturally-tailored, specific) expectations make us picky about churches.

3. Letting our misery in transition hinder our action in participating in the American church system.

4. Claiming our cultural upbringing as an excuse to give up on churches in our passport country.

To all you TCKs out there, I challenge you to ask yourself, “where has the church lost me?” Then, PRAY ABOUT IT. The church in America has major, MAJOR issues, but make sure you offer the things you see before the Lord so you are not tempted to judge and think falsely. I applaud our Slovak MK’s open, wise words here when he repeats throughout his post, “I am confused about_________in the church.”

Daniel: It takes time. Don’t give up on this flawed church. I believe that all those verses in the Bible that instruct Christians to meet together are yet embodied in the church system in America, and it’s therefore our responsibility to keep trying to participate in it, to engage in spiritual warfare there because the over-equipped, materially attractive sanctuary with the comfortable seats and stage lighting system is still the hotly contested ground, the spiritual battlefield.

Thoughts on the American Church / part 2

church blog series

Continuing with our discussion on the American church, here are some thoughts from Daniel. You can read his original blog post that inspired this series here.

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“I am culturally and theologically confused by the American Evangelical Church, specifically as it relates to the mega church scene.

To a foreigner like me, the worship time looks like a concert in what is meant to be a house of the living God. (In the mind of this European TCK, concerts and cathedrals don’t mix.) It seems to be more about attention than worship. In addition, it was far outside of my comfort zone. I worship God silently and stoically. They worship God loudly. I was willing to learn the songs, but in my mind, many of them did not hold much significance to me, and there are so many of them.

To me, the materialism of America is repulsive. To see it within the church is heartbreaking. To see that clothing, books, paraphernalia, CDs, food, and drinks can be sold so readily in some of the mega churches I have been to seems very convenient to be sure, but not unlike the Temple about which Jesus said “My House shall be called a House of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers.”

It is difficult for me to see such little ethnic diversity within the church. Granted, America is made up of mostly white Europeans of mixed ethnicities, but the churches I grew up in were almost as ethnically diverse as the United Nations. There is nothing wrong with the monoculture in churches in America, but I miss the diversity of my childhood.

The churches I have attended since I moved to America a few years ago seem like they do not really care about missions very much. It is not in the preaching, and aside from some people going to Central America for a few weeks every summer, there seems to be very little mention of the Great Commission and discipleship, especially in the context of the nations. To a person who spent his childhood as the son of missionaries overseas, this is frustrating.

Sometimes I see people in church worshipping God, and again in the parking lot getting into their Mercedes and BMWs. Seeing wealthy people in church looks like a paradox, and not a nice one. There are so many verses in Scripture that I could use to support this view, but then I remember other passages, like when Jesus said “Judge not, lest you be judged.” and “First tend to the plank in your own eye, so that you may see clearly to tend to the speck in your brother’s eye.” Every man sins, but to judge him is to sin like him.

I am confused about the politics within the church. It seems in many places, to be a Christian is to be a Republican, and I do not understand this. I had thought that America was meant to be a separation between the Church and the State, which is how countries work in Europe. But some Christians are outspoken about agreeing with a certain political party. To a TCK who does not have a definite political identity to begin with, and who can empathize with many aspects of both Democratic and Republican values, it merely serves to make me feel more like a foreigner than I already do.

There is much about the church in America, specifically as it relates to the mega church scene that confuses and frustrates me about the church, and in some significant instances it feels very alien and alienating. I have struggled to find my place within American Christianity. It is a tiring process into which I have poured sweat and tears, and sometimes I feel like giving up and just leaving. And while this may seem drastic, there are some key steps that I have had to go through in order to make this a plausible solution. 1) I have seen God as a Deity who is separate and above the church. While he dearly loves his Church, how they act and what they say about him do not necessarily represent the truth of his character. 2) My reliance for a relationship with God stems from his Word, not the Church. When you rely on a human institution to reach and commune the Divine, you shall be sorely disappointed, for only the Divine can be relied upon to be able to reach and commune with the Divine. 3) I realize that I need community of some sort. This could be people at a church, college group, Bible study, or friends who can encourage you and keep you accountable. But a community of believers is very important for spiritual growth.

I have not left God, and by his grace, I never will. I think about ceasing to attend church almost every Sunday.”

 

Thoughts on the American Church / part 1

church blog series

A few weeks ago, I saw this link pop up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was a link to a blog post written by a fellow MK, Daniel, about his experience with the American church. I could tell it was a topic he was really passionate about and his words made me think about my own experience with the church over the past few years. I’ve never considered how being a TCK could change your view or experience with church so this week I want to spend some time reflecting on that.

Along with my own thoughts, I asked Daniel to share some more about his experience and I also asked Lizzy to share her thoughts as well. Both Lizzy and I read Daniel’s post before writing our own so if we reference his points negatively or positively, it is not in critique but simply because our thoughts were propelled by his. I hope this series makes you think about your own experience…feel free to share your story with us!

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When we first moved back, I was so excited for us to find our new church. Our church in Italy was wonderful but there weren’t any other teenagers and the sermons were completely in Italian which, though expected, made it difficult to grow. The church we ended up joining in Austin was great for my two final years of high school. I really liked the teaching and the people were so nice. I struggled with feeling at home in youth group though – it never felt like a community to me. If my few friends weren’t there, I’d feel so lost and awkward. And that feeling never went away, even after two years. However, there were so many great things too. One of my favorite memories was planning the spring retreat my senior year with four other friends. The church I’m now going to in college is similar and I’ve absolutely loved it so far.

This is why I was a little surprised when reading Daniel’s blog post – I’ve never encountered the church he’s describing. I think some of his points are quite accurate, but others not so much. I remember I used to sometimes struggle with some of the things he mentioned (specifically the worship) until my pastor said something along the lines of this: “It’s not about you. It’s not about what kind of music you like or how loud it is. A lot of people tune out when they hear a song they don’t know which is wrong for two reasons, 1) it’s about God, not you and 2) it could be perfect for someone else.”

Ever since I heard that, I’ve thought about church differently. Not to say that you shouldn’t have any standards of preferences when choosing a church, but it’s not so much about us. People are messy, so churches are messy but we are called to live in consistent community with other believers.