Posted by Brenda VanWinkle

Following God To Find Our Identity


Perhaps the only thing better than heading out is heading home. Born an adventurer, heading out is in my veins. Born to be a mom, heading home is a dream. One that sometimes comes true.

Those who know a bit of my story know I began to love Ireland, the UK and Europe early on, most likely before I was born. These lands were bred into my blood and I never quite understood why my dad never wanted to talk about these places or visit them. What my dad did do, sometimes (usually) to groans and grumpy faced companions, was to take the family to nearby IUP, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, for the quarterly Travelogues. As far as I remember (and I was pretty young so this may not be accurate), these travel shows were put together by university professors who traveled overseas. The advanced multi-media of the late 60’s, early 70’s captivated the senses as three huge screens displayed the fast-paced and beautifully choreographed show of slides simultaneously beamed from three slide projectors. Music swelled and whispered behind the voice of the narrator as he explained what it was we were seeing. I remember leaving the room feeling as though I’d just been in the far-off land whose beauty we’d just taken in with great wonder. The world was huge, much larger than our valley between two hills. The God who made it was larger in my soul each time I vicariously visited another place He had thought to create and the fire of longing to see, to go, to put my feet in these places was stoked with each presentation. I had no idea whatsoever this fire was put there by Papa God. I didn’t know it was part of being me.

Each one of us has a way we protect ourselves from whatever frightens and overwhelms us and by third grade I had found a land where my dreams and imagination could take root and make a difference: I had discovered China. That is, I had discovered the many books written by Pearl S. Buck about her missionary family’s experiences in China. Challenging, not easy to read as she was brutally frank in her description of the hardships of life there, I was nonetheless captivated and read them over and over again. In my book, In Love Where I Belong, I tell the story of the little Chinese looking erasers I bought each week with my meager allowance. Never did I dare dream I would set foot in this mystical, frightening yet compelling land. How could I have known I have a Chinese family that is vital to my understanding of being me?

Jim and I drove home to Colorado yesterday from Iowa, one of our former homes. As we drove to Iowa last week it dawned on me that I have now lived in each of the four time zones in America as well as Europe and Asia. Each one is so dear to my heart! My family and friends in Pennsylvania helped lay the foundation of who I am. Those in Iowa gave me room to grow a bit more into my identity and those in California granted permission to expand my capacity for love and grace to new levels. China changed me forever and Ireland and Europe continue to speak to the very roots of my DNA. Now Colorado calls me higher still as God is doing a marvelous and unexpected thing in bringing our grown children and grandchildren here to call this place home. His ways are certainly above and beyond my own. I’m so blessed. So aware of His blessings. And so very, very grateful.

My journey of a lifetime is bringing me to a greater understanding of the importance of being me. The ability to be oneself is the ability to be free. Knowing oneself is an important first step in knowing the direction to go when we head out on the journey of becoming. One way to know oneself is to take time to look back and remember. Don’t stay in the past! But look back long enough to see the scarlet thread of His presence with which He has woven the pattern of your life. In that you will find not only new depths of His close and intentional care for you, you will begin to see who He saw when He formed you in your mother’s womb. What, Who were you born to be? A bigger picture will begin to emerge or be confirmed and your confidence in heading out with a ‘yes’ in this next season of life will bring a settling in your soul. You will walk in the confidence to go and the confidence to come home again. The confidence to stay when He says stay and send others when that is what He asks. On a new and deeper level, you will begin to be you.

When I am me, when you are you, the world will respond with gladness. It’s a big world out there. One that longs to Love Itself To Life. One that is waiting for mothers and fathers living humbly and confidently in the awareness of whom they are, available and ready to lead the way home.

Happy Mothers Day from my heart to yours.


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