How “Home” Scares Me + Swedish Meatballs

Fearless: lacking fear.

Synonyms: bold, brave, courageous. (Thank you, Google!)

When we were preparing to go to the field, or went back to our passport country for a visit, how many people used the words above to describe us? I’m guessing most of us.

But how many of us feel this way on a daily basis? I’m guessing few of us.

Our work is hard. Grueling, at times. Exhausting most of the time. Rewarding all the time, if we choose to see it that way. But fear seems to be a constant in our lives overseas. Fears like: what will supporters think and do if I don’t fulfill their expectations? How can I keep my family safe in this place where kidnappings–and worse–happen more than I want to know? What if I can’t keep up with the work I came here to do? And so on.

These are real. They are legit. And they won’t die until we address them.

I’m learning this lesson—again. How to lay my fears at His feet and grasp on to the peace that only He is capable of giving.

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

In a few months, we’re heading back to the States for a quick summer visit. I normally look forward to going back. I lovingly call it “The Time of the F’s: Family, Friends, Familiarity and Food!” I’ll be honest, though, food probably takes up the most space in my daydreams. (Shh, don’t tell my people.)

Except this time, some fears are creeping in. Actually, it’s not new. Every time we’ve been in our country of service for a few years in a row, more fears seem to cloud my mind. Last time, it was this list:

This time, they’re mostly surrounding me fitting in, and protecting my kids.

Fitting in, people pleasing, and wondering how others view me is a constant battle. I care too much about what others think of me. I wonder what they’ll think of how I dress. Am I way out of style? I don’t even know what style is anymore because of all the “triple pretty” outfits worn by the locals. I haven’t kept up with all the political craziness. Are they going to scold me for not knowing the latest quote from the one with interesting hair? Because I’m not bombarded with the temptations of having the most or best, watching the coolest new show, or Pinteresting everything, I’ll be an automatic outcast in some conversations.

In general, China feels safer than the States. I don’t know stats, but I know my daily life. I can allow my children to run ahead of me a little (although, last week that ended in a stray dog {uh, rabies?!} attacking my 4-year-old). I can walk short distances alone at night and be totally ok with it. I can let the kids play in the alley behind our apartment without watching them every second. Here, most adults look out for all children, and are usually just extra curious about our curly-headed ones.

In the States, though? Eagle Eyes must be in-use at all times. My oldest has been nicknamed Mr. Safety Patrol because he’s just that: rule-follower, cares about others’ safety, and won’t go far from me. My middle child, on the other hand, is in his own world most times. He’s carefree and congenial. Here, if strangers talk to him, he’ll talk back, innocently hold their hand, or take whatever little snack they are offering him. This cannot happen in the States! But how do I explain that to a child without instilling the same fears I struggle with into his heart?

I can’t hold onto these fears. Not for myself, and not for all the little eyes watching me. If I don’t lay them at Jesus’ feet, they’ll keep tormenting me. And isn’t that just what the enemy wants, our eyes off Jesus?

“But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

I take immense comfort in knowing that I am HIS.

During the recent VA Retreat, someone mentioned that “trust” is often the answer to “fear.” May we trust Him with our fears!

What fears do you have when visiting your passport country?


IKEA. They’re famous for practical, affordable housewares, simple styles, and Swedish meatballs. I’ve eaten them twice in-store, and honestly, wasn’t impressed. There was so much hype! I was disappointed with the fabricated flavors. When I came across this recipe of similar, but better, I knew I had to give it a whirl. These are so much better than the ones in the store!



All ready to mix up. If you’re like me and don’t love smooshing raw meat, put on your doctor gloves (everyone has a box of those, right?) and smoosh on!


I can make 25 meatballs with 1 pound of meat. My fam of 5 (including 3 kids 6 and under) eats every last one. Maybe someday when beef isn’t $6/pound, I’ll double the recipe.


Please ignore the burnt look. That’s what I get for multi-tasking! You do want them nice and crisp, though!


Making a roux seems intimidating, but if you can pour and stir, you can do it! This is what makes the sauce thick n’ creamy.




Because we live in Asia, we eat everything with rice. But, these would be good with pasta, too! I had some cherry preserves on hand, so I enjoyed the sweetness with the salty, creamy sauce. My family thought I was weird. Clearly they’ve never been to IKEA.

Swedish Meatballs

Time: About 45 minutes

Serves: 4

Adapted from: This site (I don’t condone the name of her page!)

For the Meatballs:

Olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup bread crumbs*

1 egg yolk

pinch of allspice

salt and pepper, to taste

For the gravy:

3 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp flour

2 cups beef broth

1/2 cup sour cream** or thick, plain yogurt

salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, egg yolk, allspice, and cooked onion; season with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon or clean hands, stir until well combined. Roll the mixture into 1 1/4-to-1 1/2-inch meatballs, forming about 25 meatballs.

Heat a little more olive oil in the skillet. Add meatballs, in batches, and cook until all sides are browned, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

To make the gravy, melt butter in the skillet. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in beef broth and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in sour cream/yogurt; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Stir in meatballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and thickened, about 8-10 minutes.

Serve over rice or pasta.

*I can’t find breadcrumbs locally, so if I have homemade bread that is about to go bad, I’ll dry it out in the oven (a low setting for 20 minutes or so) and crush it up, then throw it in a baggie and into the freezer. So convenient!

**I have only used plain yogurt (Greek-like in thickness), but the original recipe calls for sour cream. Use what you can get! If neither, and you have access to cream, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, stir, and let sit. It will thicken right up.




  1. Danielle Krouch May 3, 2016

    Before we Moved back to the states, I was worried that my husband’s job would take him away from my family too much because I have gotten used to him being more available. Now he has a job that’s very family-friendly and I’m so happy.

    I was also worried that I wouldn’t know how to be a parent here in the states because people are so safety conscious. It did take some adjustment, but I have found that my parenting style is adaptable. I am much more relaxed though than a lot of my friends.

    1. Ashley Felder May 4, 2016

      I worry about the same job thing if/when we move back to the States. Although he’s busy here, it’s definitely a much more flexible schedule! And, how great to see that your parenting style is flexible. I’m sure it makes other parents think when they see you do things differently.

  2. Dorothea Guglielmetti May 3, 2016

    Thank you so much for your encouragement! We are going back to Germany with our 2 Teenagers. Trying to help our daughter settle there for further education after high school and trying to help our son overcome his not wanting to be in his passport country… My fear how to juggle all of this with all the visitations and expectations! But HE knows and loves our kids so much more than we ever could! Need to keep my eyes ? on HIM!

    1. Ashley Felder May 4, 2016

      The teenage years seem so daunting to me! So many more expressible emotions involved! Lord, help Dorothea remember that You are in control as she helps her kids transition.

  3. Kristie May 4, 2016

    I also have struggled with the fear of keeping my kids safe in the US. I “feel” safer here (doesn’t mean that is reality). My kids are used to taking candy from strangers…it is perfectly okay to do that here but NOT in America. It is hard to know how to communicate that to them without causing them to struggle with the fears that I have. We are having lots of talks and reminders of what is and isn’t okay as we prepare for summer. Thanks for this post and the delicious looking recipe.

    1. Ashley Felder May 4, 2016

      Glad I’m not the only one! Thanks for the reminder to start the conversations now. Repetition is key, huh? Although, I’m wondering just how many times it’ll take with my 4yo. While we were in Beijing over the weekend, he kept asking, “When are we going back to China, Momma?” I probably told him 37 times that we were still in China! 😛

  4. Danielle Wheeler May 4, 2016

    Now I am craving meatballs.  And it’s 10pm at night. 😉  Thanks for that.

    I think your kids need a nice long visit this summer with some other TCKs stateside to help them feel normalized.  I would be happy to provide those TCKs. 🙂

  5. Soundra May 5, 2016


    Thanks for sharing. As we prepare to move back to the US, I have thought about many of these things. I think it seems scarier to move back to the US where everyone expects us to understand the culture even though we have been out of it for 7 years.  At least in China, I know no one expects us to understand. After saying all of that, I know who I can trust and who I can run to when I feel out of my element-my Father.

    1. Ashley Felder May 5, 2016

      The cultural piece is a hard one to figure out. Father, help Soundra and her family give themselves grace as they walk through this transition. Surround them with people who understand what it might be like for them.

  6. T May 7, 2016

    Just made these meatballs with my daughter and served them over tagliatelle!  Thanks so much–they were delish!

    1. Ashley Felder May 7, 2016

      So glad you liked them!! And, thanks to you and Google, I now know what “tagliatelle” is. I had a guess, from the way I pronounced it in my head with my best Italian accent. 😉

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