Where do you belong?

Jennifer Shaw Ministries October, 2016 Update
Where do you belong?
Where we belong is such a fundamental question - one that I explored in my latest blog post below, "Two Cultures and True Identity."
It's been several months since I sent an update and so much has happened, some very good, and some very hard. Our new son, Noah, had his open heart surgery which was terrifying and wonderful. When we brought him home from China, we weren't sure if he would still be operable, so it was amazing when they told us they could still help him! But then the surgery itself was so incredibly scary, and he had complications in his recovery that kept us in the hospital for a month. You can read all about our stay on my blog where I consolidated it all to one big post. Now, though, I'm happy to report that he is doing so well! We see him getting stronger every day, and we know it's going to be absolutely life-changing for him!
A month after we were home from the hospital, we also had some extremely hard personal loss. My dear, dear friend and co-worker Donna went to be with the Lord on Sept 5th after battling cancer for many, many years. She worked with me on this ministry for five and a half years, and I just loved her. She left an incredibly legacy of faith, joy, loyalty, and fun that I will not forget, and I wrote about the lessons she taught me here.
I took many months off to get Noah settled and get through his surgery, but now we are back on the road again in ministry. I leave tomorrow morning to do a women's conference in Michigan, and the calendar is filling up for next year. If there's a ministry opportunity with your church or group, I'd love to be with you!  God has been teaching me so much and I am excited to share all that he has shown me! Let me know if there's a way we can partner in ministry!
Thank you all so much for the many ways you've let us know that you are praying for us and care about us in the last crazy months with our family and minsitry - you are so appreciated!!
In Christ, 

Like Jennifer on Facebook!
Follow Jennifer on Twitter!
Check out what's happening on Jennifer's blog!
Two Cultures and True Identity
Picture at right: Our family during our trip to China experiencing Noah's culture before he came home and tried to adjust to ours.
It's a very interesting and thought-provoking thing to suddenly be raising a child who is from another culture. Until just a few months ago, Noah had never been outside of China, and with the exception of traveling to Beijing for his surgery as a toddler, outside of his home town. He'd never seen a Caucasian person in person except the adoption workers. He'd never eaten any food except Chinese food. He'd never heard any language but Chinese. Even when we traveled to other parts of China and he heard new dialects or accents for the first time, it was startling for him. So you can imagine how vast the change is for him here.
Here, he comments constantly on the sky (we can see clouds and the sun because it's clean). He comments on the suburban houses (he'd only ever lived in a high-rise apartment building, and everyone he knew lived in one too). He thought our backyard was a park (he never knew people could own an outdoor space). He comments on the food (he wishes, wishes, WISHES I could make homemade dumplings!). Some of his observations are good and some are bad. There are things he loves about the U.S., and things that he misses about China. This could be the most amazing place in the world, but for a child who spent their first nine years somewhere else, it's going to take a long time for this to really feel like home.
When Noah was first home, I told him we were going to send him to Chinese class. Having two languages is such an amazing blessing, and adopted kids lose their first language at an alarming rate. We don't want that to happen to him, so I had been talking to him about it and getting him used to the idea.
I'd brought it up several times, but this day I told him he would definitely start the next week. "But why?" he asked me. "Why do I need Chinese school? I am good at Chinese!" I explained, "But here, Dad and I don't speak Chinese. Your brother and sisters don't speak Chinese. Many kids who are adopted forget their Chinese, and we don't want you to. We want you to keep it. So you will go to Chinese school." This was the fourth or fifth time I'd explained this.
He looked at me so strangely then and said, "I don't understand when you say this. You say this a lot. I think you are making fun of me. I AM Chinese. How can I forget to be Chinese?"
While he had misunderstood what I was saying, he had a good point. In Chinese culture, the language is a huge part of your fundamental identity. Having "good Chinese" made you Chinese, gave you honor, and reflected your place in society. Noah was saying, "If I am fundamentally Chinese, how can I ever forget who I am? How can I forget my fundamental identity?"
And yet, we forget our fundamental identity all the time. As Christians, we are Christ-followers and citizens of Heaven. The Bible tells us that we are transplants here, just as Noah has been transplanted to the U.S. This is not our home.
Phil. 3:20 (NIV) "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ."
We are foreigners in a foreign place. Even if we've lived somewhere our entire lives, it isn't home. Home is with God. Our home is where He is. And the longings we have, that sense that something just isn't right is our reminder that this isn't it. We are looking forward to something much better, something greater, something that is coming, and that is our hope!
Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) "For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come."
Or, as the Message puts it:
1 Peter 2:11 (MSG) "Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it."

So often we get so comfortable in our culture that we can forget our fundamental identity. We get distracted or lulled into complacency. We can forget our first language, the language of God's love and purpose for our lives.
As Noah's mom, I pray that he will become more and more integrated into American culture, and that he will get comfortable and feel at home here. But I also pray that he will come to know the Lord and in that find his true identity, an identity that doesn't depend on culture or status or location. An identity as a citizen of Heaven, a permanent and unshakable hope and belonging.
As we experience things here that are tough or counter to the Bible, I pray it makes us uncomfortable. I pray it makes us long for our true home, and that we always remember where that is. I pray that we will keep our true identity so forefront in our minds that our response will always be, "How could I forget who I am? I AM a Christ-follower!"
Keep reading on Jennifer's blog...
About Jennifer Shaw
Jennifer Shaw is a Telly Award winning speaker, author, singer, songwriter and five-time Top 40 Billboard artist. Her ministry has been featured by Focus on the Family, Insight for Living, FamilyLife Today, Autism Speaks, Joni and Friends, and many more. Her new book, Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed My Faith and My Song, has brought national attention to the issue of Sensory Processing Disorder.
After being classically trained as an opera singer at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, Jennifer became a professor of music at Cedarville University before she felt led into her role as a contemporary worship leader. Her testimony includes tragedy and triumph, being both an adoptive parent and the parent of a special needs child, and losing her father to Lou Gehrig's disease. With the release of her fourth album, Someday, her songs offer hope in any circumstance and also reflect her recent experiences on the mission field in Asia, Africa, Central America and the UK.