Book Review: GRIT TO STAY GRACE TO GO by Sue Eenigenburg and Eva Burkholder

Grit to Stay Grace to Go: Staying Well in Cross-Cultural Ministry

by Sue Eenigenburg and Eva Burkholder

Sue and Eva wrote this book with global workers in mind. Both authors have spent many years overseas with several relocations, so they have personal experience to write this book. But, they also interviewed countless others and researched articles and books which is what makes this book stand out.

It is a workbook designed with the intention of being useful to those who stay, those who leave, and to those who are trying to make the decision of what they should do. A section is dedicated to each of those groups. Every chapter includes reflections questions with biblical passages to reflect on; response questions to dig a bit deeper; a short prayer; and a list of resources that offers the reader other articles, books, or videos to help them even further.

Whether you are a newbie or a veteran, I highly recommend this book because I honestly believe you will find yourself referring to it over and over.

Book Review: EXPECTATIONS and BURNOUT by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss

Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission

by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss

Sue Eenigenburg’s dissertation linked expectations women serving on the mission field have of themselves or others thrust upon them to burnout. She explores expectations that women have of herself, her sending agency has on her, the sending church may have, her co-workers, the host culture, and even expectations she may have of God. When these expectations go unmet they can cause stress, anxiety and even frustration which if left covered and not exposed and dealt with leads to burnout.

Robynn Bliss adds the human touch to the research that Sue has done. As an ATCK, Robynn shares her story that led to her experience of burnout. She is vulnerable and real with the hard truth of her own expectations and how she tried to push through.

This book is not just for women on the mission field, but it is a great resource for sending churches, agencies, or people in member care roles to help them evaluate their own expectations that they may have on their female team members. And then to find ways of adjusting procedures and policies to encourage these courageous women of faith to continue to thrive, not just survive in the place that God has them.

Book Review: NAVIGATING GLOBAL TRANSITIONS AGAIN by Frances Early, Jeni Ward, and Kath Williams

Navigating Global Transitions Again: A Journey of Faith – Graduate Planner

by Frances Early, Jeni Ward, and Kath Williiams

Like the title says it is a journey of faith by taking the soon to be graduate on a study of Galatians and relating it to where they are in life. The scripture is printed out on the pages and followed by questions that can be answered by the reader. This is nice as the reader does not need to look up Scripture and we all know that time is precious for those in this age group.

It is also a planner that starts twelve months before graduation and ends twelve months after. There are check lists of things to think through and do, but also discussion questions or processing questions to help the graduate during this time. The authors note that this can be done as an individual or in a group.

While I think the idea is great and needed (and I’ll be buying one for my soon to be graduate because I got an advanced e-copy), I think it is lacking for an individual to do alone. Most of the questions need to be discussed because this is a new area for the student and sometimes the parent. I think that some of the suggestions need to be explained a bit more in detail to help clarify what the authors want to convey. That being said, a well prepared mentor could use this book to lead and guide graduates in helping them transition.

I also have questions about some of the suggestions for the months before. I’m not sure twelve months before they leave that graduates can find a “bridge” person (if they know what that term means) because most students at this point do not even know which university or program they will choose, let alone what city, state, country. As I have talked with soon to be graduates, they are nervous and feel enough pressure as it is, especially those that really do not know what is next. So, while the checklists are great, a well prepared mentor would be able to help individuals navigate this unknown world a bit better.

There are some great activities for the graduate to do to help them build their RAFT. There are photo suggestions and places to draw maps. In fact, I do love that they have pages called “Wreck this Journal Page” where anything goes. In fact, they have a lot of blank spaces for processing and making notes.

Overall, I think the book has potential to be a good resource for counselors or mentors who work with students in their final year of high school or first year out. It is also a good resource for parents to help think through and have conversation starters. As for individual use, I do think there are a few individuals who could do it, but discussions are always better within a group.

Book Review: THE OTHER SIDE OF SPECIAL by Brown, Clime, and Holt

THE OTHER SIDE OF SPECIAL: Navigating the Messy, Emotional, Joy-Filled Life of a Special Needs Mom

By: Amy J. Brown, Sara Clime, and Carrie M. Holt

This may not be a typical book that I would review here because it is NOT about TCKs. (But don’t stop reading. Read the next few sentences before you decide this book isn’t for you or someone you know.)

But it is on another topic that you know is near and dear to my heart. Plus, you may know someone in your life or community that needs this book. So, here’s my review. 

The title is a little misleading as it says it for the “Special Needs Mom”. It’s not really just for them, I would include the dads, the grandparents, the older siblings and then anyone that works or cares for families that fit this description.  

The chapter titles are simply the best. Here’s a little snippet:  

  • Loneliness to Connection 
  • Grief to Hope 
  • Guilt to Acceptance 
  • Weariness to Rest 
  • Fear to Trust 
  • Disappointment to Gratitude 

Aren’t they just great titles? The other ones are just as great, too. The authors tell you in the intro that you do not have to read the book in a specific order. In fact, if you are feeling guilty, then just read that chapter. Each chapter is fairly short, so it really doesn’t take up that much time either. 

It is a Christian book, but it is not preachy. In fact, it feels like you are sitting with the three authors having a cup of coffee while they tell you that they understand what you are feeling. They share their own stories of how they felt guilty and came to a place of acceptance (or whatever the chapter is on).  

Living overseas with families like mine is hard. For one, there are not that many, so the road can be lonely. Though people care, few understand how hard it really can be. I’m not saying that all days are hard – unless it’s just a season of hard and then it can be days of hard. What I am saying is that this book feels like a friend. The authors have put words to the aches and joys I have felt over the past several years. 

And while that is all good, I think the most helpful part of the book is that at the end of every chapter they have given space to process. There are 3-5 questions that make you slow down. To stop and mentally take in what you read and apply it to your own life.

Picture Book Review: WHEN WE CALLED MYANMAR HOME by Julie Jean Francis

When We Called Myanmar Home by Julie Jean Francis

Julie writes that this book “was inspired by Cynthia Rylant’s book When I Was Young in the Mountains”. Each page shows what a day in the life is like living in Myanmar before the family had to leave. The photos are captured in a watercolor type feel which makes the book not feel like you are looking at someone’s scrapbook or digital photo album. It adds to the creative side of thinking about your own life and how you live in your current home.

Julie has added a few pages at the end which is a bonus to the book. She has questions that can be used as conversation starters with your children. These questions go along with the previous pages to help you talk about your own home. And there are questions to help your child(ren) process that time during the pandemic. The last page is a list of resources for parents of third culture kids which is also a nice touch.

Book Review: THE PRACTICE OF PROCESSING by Elizabeth Vahey Smith

Living overseas brings out many emotions from the time you leave your home country to the arrival of your new city. Or take the emotions you have when you watch friends leave to move on to the next destination. But transition is not the only thing that brings out emotions. Hard things happen. That is why it is important to process your emotions, but also the situations you find yourself in.

THE PRACTICE OF PROCESSING by Elizabeth Vahey Smith is just what the book title says. Elizabeth had those who transition often in mind when she wrote this book. It is a book that I found to have the why one should process, but also provides a guide in ways to process. She begins with emotions and how understanding them as “communicative…we can intellectually process the new information they provide” (pp. 18-19). Emotional intelligence is important and she covers that topic well. Elizabeth also provides examples of how to help children process, which is a nice bonus for parents or those working with young people.

If processing is new to you then I would suggest that you look at this book for yourself. Or if you are in member care for your organization, then a nice resource for people who need help in this area.

A Day in the Life of Me: Domino Affect

It’s September* and everyone is back in school. Did you hear me sigh? Did you sigh along with me? Don’t get me wrong summers are good, but with a child with special needs they are usually not great. She needs a set schedule with a para and we don’t get either in the summers. Summer schedules are suppose to be flexible. They are to be a time to relax, take a vacation with the family, right?

So, with school starting and the schedule in place life would flow down a lazy river. Nice and easy. You’ve heard of the domino affect, haven’t you? You know after one domino falls, others go right behind it? Today’s story will follow the domino trail; not a lazy river experience.

Domino #1: Beach & Teas

It was a school holiday, Mid-Autumn Festival. So, off to the beach we went for the morning. Just the two of us because the other two were out of town. The sky was blue, the wind was strong, and the sand was warm. M2 rolled around in the sand and waves, built sand mounds, and ran up and down the empty beach. Perfect.

Teas are usually something we buy to take to the beach, but since we left so early there were no shops open. So, after rinsing off the sand and sweat we stopped at a shop before going home. My wallet was at home, but I had a zip-lock full of copper coins. They are worth 1 New Taiwan Dollar. I ordered and paid with 110 coins. Bless those workers hearts as I counted out stacks of ten coins eleven times. (Maybe you are wondering why I had a bag of coins in the car. Well, I’ll save that story for another time, but you can try to guess in the comments.)

We got home and I put the teas in my bag.

Domino #2: Keys & Flipflops

I gathered all our belongings and coaxed M2 out of the car. She is sometimes a sloth when she wants to be. I reminded her that we had tea and then threatened that she would not get tea if she didn’t hurry. Mama had to use the bathroom.

We live in a house with a yard. To enter you have to unlock a tall solid metal swinging gate. Ours is blue. I fanned out the keys on my key ring, but could not find the key to this gate. I looked through the bag to make sure they didn’t get buried under the towels and sand.

“No! Please don’t tell me I left them in the house?!?!”

M2 giggled, snorted, and smacked her leg.

I dropped the bag and climbed up the side wall to see if I could be like my super amazing husband who climbs over and jumps down. I looked down. It’s about a 6-7 foot drop, so not bad. But I looked at my shoes. Flipflops. I was not sure my ankles could take that jump onto concrete. And I was sure our dog looking up at me wagging her tail would not catch me either.

I called a friend who has an the extra set and lives just down the road. No answer.

I found a curved tool in the hedges. “Oh, Lord, please let me jimmy this door open. I really need to use the bathroom and need your help.”

Nothing. I try several times. Nothing

I felt my breathing pick up and my heart rate quicken. By this time our dog was whining on the other side of the gate.

I tried once more, probably with a little more frustration than wisdom. But the door popped open. I got in and I didn’t break the lock. A miracle, I think.

Domino #3: Wet bag & Wet Keys

After washing my hands, I went to the kitchen to retrieve our teas and get something for lunch. My bag was wet. Soaked. I reach inside and pulled out one full cup of tea and one empty cup. When I dropped the bag, the seal on the tea opened and out went the tea onto everything, including my car key which has a battery operated button to unlock it. I ran everything under the water to rinsed it off and then gave M2 chocolate almond milk. She was just as happy with that.

Domino #4: Car Alarm

Two days later we used the car to go to church. The key fob has the buttons on it to lock and unlock the doors. They were not working. I manually unlocked the doors and we drove to church. Later that day we were heading to pick up a friend to go to the beach. The car began to lock and unlock on its own. Strange, but I thought, “Maybe the keys are still wet and they just need time to dry.”

Monday morning same, but not a huge deal. Monday afternoon, I go out to the car to pick up M2 from school and the car alarm goes off when I open the door. I cannot get it to shut off. I try several times to unlock and get in, but the alarm goes off. One time I get in without the alarm going off, but then when I started the car it went off again. A little later, I had the car started, but when I pulled out of the drive the alarm went off again. By this time it had gone off four times. I was loosing my mind.

I call handsome hubby. Bless his heart, he was of no help.

“Push the button on the key fob, that will turn it off.”

“Really,” I said, “You don’t think I’ve tried that? It doesn’t work.”

“Oh, then I don’t know what to tell you, but you have to get to school now or you will be late to pick her up.”

This conversation was going on while the alarm was going off. You can imagine how we were both feeling.

I prayed, “Oh Lord, please let this crazy alarm stop. I cannot go down the street with it going off. Please don’t make me stand out any more than I already do!”

It stopped.

I sent handsome hubby a message asking him to let the teachers know that I was on my way.

He messaged back: “I’m sorry I was not helpful. I was mad because I wasn’t there to help you. I’m glad you got it to stop.”

I love that man.

M2 was in the office waiting for me. I did not turn the car off, but left it running while I ran in to get her. We went straight to the mechanics and asked him to disable the alarm system. He did.

With a chuckle.

Conclusion

Dominoes are fun to watch as they cascade around their merry path. But when that path is your life and it is affects so much of what you do, then that is not so much fun. In fact, it can make you aware of thoughts and emotions that you have about yourself, others, life, and/or the world. I’ve been studying Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in my final class for my Master’s in Care and Counseling. The biggest takeaway is that beliefs directly influence our emotions and behaviors; not the situation or the event.

Example from my story. The moment I realized that I left the keys at home and did not have them to open the door triggered a belief. The belief that I should never do such a stupid thing like forgetting to take the keys to the house with me and this is terrible, I’ll never be able to get in. This belief started the domino affect of me dropping the bag; not setting the bag down. You could probably go back and see where this belief rises back up at various points in the story. How to change your beliefs is through disputing them, but I’ll save that lesson for another time.

*This story was supposed to be published in September, but for some reason I forgot about it. Maybe it was because I needed to understand REBT more and could begin to introduce it to you all as a way to process events/situations in your own life.

A Day in the Life: Graduation Trip

We have another Senior (Grade 12/ 高三) in our home. Child #2 – our daughter who has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome and attends a local special education school in Taiwan will graduate in the spring. I got to attend the two day Graduation Trip with her and like all the other stories in this series there were lessons learned.

Preparations: Attitude

I got the packing list translated. Thank you Google 叔叔 (Uncle Google). Packed clothes and some extra snacks because you never know. But, the day before we left, I felt my heart racing and tension in my neck/shoulders area every time I thought about this trip. I took fifteen minutes and reflected on it.

I have gone on her other graduation trips, so what was different about this one? What emotions am I feeling about this upcoming trip? What thoughts do I hold that would cause these emotions?

It all came down to not knowing the plan. In my mind I needed to know where we were going; what was going to happen; what to expect. Well, thanks to my husband and Google 叔叔 I learned of the location, but that was it. I then remembered that the last time I went on an overnight trip with her and her class I had a “go with the flow” attitude. I can’t be honest and say that all the tension disappeared, but I can say that I noticed I began taking deeper breaths and relaxing. I worked the tension out with a roller later that evening.

The Trip:

Have a motto

Maybe you’ve heard this saying when you first moved to a new location, or maybe like me you have forgotten it. A friend reminded me of it as she was talking about a recent move and having to remind herself that where she is now is not like where she was previously living.

It’s not bad. It’s just different.

This became my motto for the entire trip.

Asian tour groups are known to have everyone follow the tour guide and not wander off to something that might interest you. They are also known for moving quickly so that you can see everything possible. That way you can get all the perfect photo ops. They are also known for having all the meals planned out in advanced at specific locations. And they help promote buying certain products.

This motto, along with the “go with the flow” attitude, proved to be very useful. For instance, the first day was spent going to three different places of interest. We rode the bus for about three hours stopping for bathroom breaks, of course. Our first stop was a cocoa farm where we saw how they make chocolate from cocoa beans. We even got to see some cocoa trees. We ate lunch there. The food was really good, except for one thing. At the end, we could drop a chocolate into the hotpot (think fish based soup with vegetables). According to my taste buds, fish based-soup and chocolate do not blend well together. But I remembered, It’s not bad; just different – yet I did not drink anymore as I was full from all the food we had eaten.

The second stop on the list was what was translated as an “elves garden.” When we arrived, I realized it was a garden with gnomes. They had some rabbits you could feed, but were not allowed to touch. Well, that proved difficult to avoid with an animal loving daughter. But, I tried. We were only “scolded” once. “Go with the flow” served me well here. They had costumes where we could dress up as gnomes. And as another famous quote goes: “when in Rome…”

From there we drove another hour to a deer farm. We were given instructions on what we could and could not do, then given metal tins with leaves and grain to wander around the lot with deer. They can be quite aggressive for such passive sweet looking animals.

From there was the hotel, where the fun did not stop. After supper they had a DIY project planned and the kids could dress up again. I was ready for bed and thankfully she was too.

Surprises:

With the “go with the flow” attitude, I could handle surprises: good or bad. Like not knowing we would be allowed to swim in the hotel pools and not bringing suits. Disappointing, but we found other things to do the next day.

Or finding out that there is not only a Starbucks at the last bathroom stop, but that they do have your favorite: Pumpkin Spiced. So, I treated M2 to her very first Pumpkin Spiced Frappuccino. Ahh, my little TCK did drink most of it, though she thought it was too sweet. Honestly, I thought so too.

Back Home

We got home and there were two things that I did that helped. First, I had prepared food before we left so I didn’t have to cook supper from scratch. Heat and serve – so easy. And the second, I declared Saturday a Travel Rest Day. We stayed in our PJs, watched movies, and rested all day.

When Complication Tries to Move In

Complicated can be used to describe math problems, recipes, emotions, relationships, and even life. On May 13th I wrote on Instagram about how life can be complicated, especially for expats raising third culture kids (TCKs). Who knew that a few weeks after that post my life would become more complicated?

Complication always visits my life at the most inconvenient time. Maybe you, too, have had a visit and can relate or maybe Complication has unpacked his bags and is living in your guest room right now.

If you would like to read more about how to navigate these seasons head over to Multicultural Kid Blogs where I was a guest writer a few weeks ago.

A Day in the Life: A Story on Learning

I find that no matter how long I live overseas I am learning. Some days I learn from others; be it books, internet searches, or people with more knowledge. Other days I learn from experience. Yesterday I learned from both. A lesson that not just taught me about a fact of life, but reminded me of something about myself.

The Setting:

It has been hot here on the island. Handsome is visiting his parents. M2 is back in school this week after having three weeks off due to case numbers increasing. M3 is out of school for the summer. We had dinner plans to meet friends from out of town. So since I did not have to cook I decided I had time to water the house plants.

The Conflict:

This plant had a hole right in the middle of the pot. So did another one. These two plants sit on the top of a six foot shelf on either side of our TV cabinet. So, I did what any one of you would do. I got a stool and armed with my security type flashlight. (You know the long handle ones that are super durable) and checked out the crime scene. It was a mess. There was dirt and plant leaves strewn all over the shelf. I could not imagine what would do this, so I got out my phone and searched in the “Land of the Net”. You will not believe this. Or maybe you already know. But, rodents can dig in house plants to hide their food.

A rodent digging in my HOUSE plants. There is a possibility I have a rodent in the HOUSE again! You see last time my husband was gone for a period of time we had a rodent in the house.

At this point I only have speculation and no hard evidence, so with about 45 minutes before we are to leave I decide to investigate a bit more. I moved one of the shelves out from the wall. There on the floor was the evidence of poo, but that is not all. Out of the corner of my eye I see the end of a tail scurry out of sight.

I scream. M3 screams. M2 giggles as I pull her away from the potential new crime scene.

That is hard evidence.

We have less then 45 minutes to get rid of this rodent before we need to leave.

Rising Action: (Oh, yes this gets better…)

M2 changes her tune from giggling to screaming. Her Duplos are all over the floor in front of the TV. While I take all the breakable things off of the shelves and move the TV to a safer place, M2 picks up her Duplos and takes them to her room. Seriously, the fastest I have ever seen her pick up her toys.

M3 becomes the “gate keeper” to keep M2 in her room while I let in our amazing rodent killing dog, Marley! Marley is half Lab and half mountain dog- so a medium sized dog. She enters excited to be let in the house. But, quick to be on top of the scent, she darts behind the TV cabinet with her tail wagging back and forth. She begins pawing. I look at the clock and think we have half an hour or less until we need to leave.

I grab a broom ready to hit the rodent if it should come out. “Come on Marley, get that thing.”

Marley barks and scratches more. She is moving the cabinets out of the way like a machine. I’m glad that I moved all the breakables. “Is this such a good idea? What if she does get it, then what?”

I hear M2 voice my thoughts, “What if she gets it, Mom? Won’t that be gross?” I look behind me and M2 is now standing on a chair. I hear M3 giggling again. She is now sitting in the rocking chair in her undies trying to put on her shorts. Apparently she was so scared she had a an accident and was changing her clothes, but didn’t want to miss the action.

“This is almost a circus,” I think.

The rodent which I am now naming Ralph, must understand my look on my face because just then he races out from under the cabinet. I watch in slow motion as he stretches with each leap as if running the 100 meter sprint and he sees the red ribbon at the end.

We all scream. Ralph finds safety under the yet to be installed oven. When I say oven, I mean full size American oven. Marley continues to scratch by the cabinet…maybe she isn’t such a genius after all.

I look at the clock. Twenty minutes before we are to leave. I pull out the oven from the wall expecting it to run out like those oversized roaches do, but no Ralph. He is smart. He has crawled into the hole in the back, I think. I call Marley to sniff it out and sure enough, she again gets excited and whines.

I have fifteen minutes before we are to meet our friends outside to drive to the restaurant. M2 is pulling up her shorts. M3 is off of the chair. We cannot leave Ralph. I decide to go to the store to buy some sticky rodent traps to place around the oven in hopes that Ralph will jump on the gooey mess thinking it is a fun game while we are having dinner.

The girls are to stand watch to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere else.

At the store Handsome calls and the friends send me a message to let me know they have arrived. I give him the rundown as I speed walk up and down the aisles looking for the traps. I’m probably yelling at him on the phone, poor guy, asking him where the crazy things are located.

I buy three sets. That is six sticky traps. Think 8×10 picture frame with a super sticky substance where the photo should go. Surely this will work. As I’m paying I text my friends to tell them what is going on and that we would be ready in fifteen minutes. The cashier smiles in acknowledgement that I have a problem. I’m not sure if she is talking about Ralph or the fact that maybe a glass of something is needed to calm that poor foreign lady down. Either way, I nod in agreement and head home.

Climax:

At home, I welcome our friends and show them where to park. I wonder what they think of me. I thank God for that time I ate at their house and seemed calm and normal, because I am pretty sure I am not calm and normal right now. But, no time to worry about that.

In the house, I place all six traps around the oven while M3 prepares the live trap. M2 is suppose to be putting on her shoes. “Suppose” is the key word here – she doesn’t, but after a few words and looks we get our stuff together, say a prayer and shut the door.

Supper was a great distraction for us all. Laughs and good food. We even had mango ice – I felt we needed to celebrate catching Ralph.

Is it a good idea to ever celebrate early?

We got home. Turned on the lights to find.

Empty traps. All seven empty.

Conclusion:

Handsome calls again to check on us. I am at a loss. Do we just go to bed? The girls are nervous. Do we go to a friend’s house? Handsome talks me through it and I become a robot. I follow his instructions.

I put all the sticky traps in a safe place and let Marley back in to see if she can smell the rodent (I had to take his name away at this point) inside the oven. She wags her tails and whines. Love that dog.

In robot fashion, I put the traps in strategic places suggested by Handsome. Have I said that I love this guy and miss him?

We turn off the lights. I text a friend to pray. (Yes, yes I did pray that the Lord would have the little creature he made get into a trap).

I close the hallway door and use the dining room chair to block it shut. I get M2 ready for bed. I read a little and then sleep. I dream that I catch the rodent along with many of his cousins. “Oh, please let there not be more.”

When the sun rose the next day. I said a prayer and quietly took away the chair holding the hallway door shut. I found my flashlight and shined it into the kitchen. One. Two. Three. Four traps empty. I went to the other door and there it was on a sticky trap.

I sighed relief and then groaned as I knew I was going to have to bag it and put it outside.

Learning by experience has not always been the easiest of lessons, but ones that I have remembered the best. Yes, I learned that rodents can dig in house plants, but I was also reminded of something else about myself.

I am bound and stressed by Time. Go back and notice how often I note how much more time we had before we needed to be at the next thing. And maybe you can sense that I am getting more frazzled as time goes by. I notice this too in other areas of my life. I am more focused on the task instead of the relationship. My family notices it too.

This lesson comes up often as living overseas puts a stress on Time. It always takes more time to do things. And just when I think I have Mastered it, an uninvited guest comes into our home at just the right time for me to see that I still have work to do.

A work in progress. That is what I am.