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: 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: Swirly by Sara Saunders

Swirly by Sara Saunders
Genre: Picture Book

Lila’s parents are blue and from Blue country. They move to Yellow country where Lila begins to feel different from her parents, but isn’t like her yellow friends either. They move to Red country, where she feels more different, but meets others who have different colored swirls like herself.

My Take:
This is a good book for young children to begin to find words for this journey of a TCK. The main theme of “where do I belong?” is highlighted through the main character, Lila, as she realizes that she not like her parents. It is a Christian book, so the ending may surprise a few with where Lila does find her identity. Overall, if you are a Christian I think you will like this book. If you are not, you might not agree with the ending or it might make you wonder. Either way, I do recommend it for younger children as a simple way of starting a discussion with them.

Book Review: SHANGHAI PASSAGE by Gregory Patent

SHANGHAI PASSAGE by Gregory Patent

Illustrated by Ted Lewin

Genre: middle grade autobiography/memoir

SHANGHAI PASSAGE is a collection of memories of the author, Gregory Patent, as a young child living in Shanghai at the end of World War II. Born in Hong Kong, Gregory was a British citizen to Russian and Iraqi parents. His stories are from the age of five, when the war ended, until he was around eleven when his family emigrated to the US.

My Take:

I picked up this book a few years ago from a school that was discarding it from their library. It has been sitting on my shelf and I’ve been wanting to read it. The cover has always tempted me to read it, but for some reason I’ve never taken the time. This summer I added it to my list for the Summer Reading Challenge by Amy Young. I’m so glad I did. Gregory’s story is just fascinating. The time period, the city, his cross-cultural family dynamic, and his opinions as a third culture kid – just a great read. He is truly a boy that has grown up, as Marilyn Gardener has coined, “between worlds“. As a mom raising some TCKs and CCKs, I was drawn to his thoughts about friends leaving, learning his father’s mother-tongue, and countless other things that Gregory shares in this very short book.

Honestly, I wanted to know more about this young man. So, I did some research and found that he is a cookbook author. You can read more about his life and try some of his reciepies at his website, The Baking Wizard.

Book Review: STRONGER THAN DEATH by Rachel Pieh Jones

Be sure to read the author interview at the end. Rachel shares some of her memorable moments while researching for this book. You don’t want to miss that.

STRONGER THAN DEATH by Rachel Pieh Jones

Genre: Biography/Memoir

My Review:

STRONGER THAN DEATH tells the story of Annalena Tonelli, a woman from Italy, who was passionate about serving the poor, especially those affected by tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa. If you should Google Annalena’s name, you’ll find that she pushed the limits in most everything to accomplish all that she was involved in and honestly became well known in the world of humanitarian aid work. She has been described as a humanitarian aid worker, a missionary, a nun, and a social activist, though after reading this book I don’t believe she’d claim any of those descriptions. Through extensive research and countless interviews, Rachel shares a much broader picture of who Annalena was as a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a mother, and yes a Christian working with what many would label as “the least of these”. Annalena struggled, but as her story unfolds we see that her faith and love for the people she served came from God alone. Interwoven throughout this biography is historical and cultural facts about the people that call the Horn of Africa home, but it is also a memoir of sorts as Rachel shares how she and her family were affected by Annalena’s murder. On top of all this, there is some journalist reporting, as Rachel shares her own thoughts and questions regarding some of the decisions that Annalena made. I believe that if you are interested in the Horn of Africa, humanitarian aid work, female genital mutilation, or Muslim/Christian relationships than you should read this book.

My Take:

I cannot lie – this is a must read for any adult. You will be challenged in the way you think and live your life. I highlighted many sections of this book because the quotes are THAT good. Rachel’s style of writing was so refreshing to me – the threads of Annalena’s life, the culture of the nomadic people, the hot topics that are still relevant today, and Rachel’s own life all woven together really create just a beautiful wall tapestry that can be read in a book. Because honestly, a beautiful life comes from what we learn and gain from the hard and challenging, and yes even suffering that we go through.


I can tell you’ve done extensive research for this book. It not only covers the life of Annalena, but some very hard topics and places in Africa. How long did it take from research to final draft? 

 I kind of started the research, without knowing it, when my family moved to and then fled from Somaliland in 2003! But that was just research by experience. The actual digging in and finding people and documents and dreaming of a book started around late 2013 with some conversations with my research partner, Matt Erickson. At first we talked about a film project, but it morphed into this book. I was finally able to gain access to her family members and other key people in 2016 and sold the book in 2017.

Were their times you just wanted to give up? If so, how did you stick with it and finish?

So many times! But two in particular. The first was when it became clear that her family in Italy weren’t initially excited about this project and wouldn’t answer any questions or engage with me. But after a full year of slowly massaging that relationship, of explaining that my goal wasn’t to sensationalize but to tell the real story (which had been sensationalized and manipulated in the past, and this hurt them, so they stopped talking with people), and through the quality documentary Matt Erickson produced for the UNHCR about her life (again demonstrating that I wanted to be respectful and accurate), they were willing to talk with me. And once they opened up, they really opened up! Other people were then willing to talk with me, they shared papers and photographs and it was absolutely incredible. The second time was when it took me so long and so many rejections to sell the book. I went through two agents and multiple conversations with editors but nothing worked out, nothing felt right, until I found Plough Publishing. I think I just felt compelled to press on, convinced there was an audience for this and even simply value in doing the work, because of how I was so personally impacted by what I found – which started to find its way into the manuscript as well.

Of all the people you interviewed, of the countless places you traveled, who or what stands out most in your mind?  

Oh wow. So many. So many good, beautiful people. The exchange of some of her items – that really moved me. Maria Teresa, her best friend, gave me one of Annalena’s prayer books. And Antonio, who had been held hostage with her, gave me her red blanket. Both times, I cried. That people would trust me and share these treasures was powerful. In a way, it was like they were urging me to carry on her legacy – both through telling the story and in learning to live a little bit more like her – more love, more courage. Also, Elmi Mohamed, a nurse who worked with her in Wajir, to hear his stories about the Wagalla Massacre…and to see his continued service to his people in Kenya, it was powerful.

What genre would you label STRONGER THAN DEATH? I mean, it is a biography, but really it seems more than that.    

Biography, but also history, science, maybe spiritual? Memoir a bit…the largest term I use is narrative nonfiction, but to non book nerds, that doesn’t communicate a whole lot. Well, to this book nerd, it makes sense. I think that is one of the reasons I liked it so much because it was such a mixture of different genres.

Is there a story or an inspiration for the title?

Titles are so hard for me. We probably spent hours, days even, with list and lists and white boards and spread sheets, tweaking every word. Ultimately, it was the title Plough picked.

Do you mind sharing your favorite quote from Annalena?

She once said, about people doing humanitarian aid, “our coming here only has meaning if we are joyfully willing to be manure.” When I read that, I thought, WHAT?! Manure? That wasn’t what I wanted to be, for sure, in doing humanitarian work. And yet…she was right. To be effective, to truly help, we need to be humble, low, learners, we need to help other people flourish. She wasn’t just saying be like a pile of crap! But manure, at least in composting, also helps people flourish. So be low yourself, so that others can rise up and be great.

So, as I was reading Annalena’s story a few other names came to my mind: Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward. I didn’t think of them as the “Mother Theresa” figure types, but more that these ladies all had high expectations for themselves in living and working, but also for those who wanted to “help” them in the work. I find in them what Angela Duckworth wrote about in her book, GRIT. I see it in them. Any thoughts on this idea?

You know, her family balked at the term Mother Teresa, and I did at first too. It almost can seem cliché. But it also captures a certain way of life and character of being with just two words. And that helps, when talking about a book! She certainly had grit, she could be stubborn and hardheaded, which I think is often what is necessary to also be productive.

Do you think that other women from our generation or younger that will pick up this baton that these women had and carry it out in other parts of the world?                 

I hope women will pick this up, I know some Somali women themselves who are serving in the Horn – Kali for example, one of the girls Annalena took in, is now the headmistress of a deaf school in rural Kenya. I think there is a kind of push-back about race and colonial attitudes and I agree that white people need, myself included, to be wise and sensitive and humble. We have made so many mistakes and need to do better. But I don’t believe that means we, or black and brown people, shouldn’t do service across race and cultural boundaries. I think that is what makes the world beautiful – that we aren’t confined to one culture or one location or one racial community, but that we can learn to love and support and be supported by people different from ourselves.

Okay lighter questions… Do you have another project started or thinking about a new one? Can you share or is it too early for sharing. =)  

I do! I’m under contract for a second book with Plough, manuscript due in April. I can’t say a whole lot about it except that it explores similar themes but from a much more personal perspective. Ooh, can’t wait to hear more about this when you can share more.

Have you come to love the desert, yet? 

Haha! Sometimes. Isn’t that a terrible answer? I do miss Minnesota lakes though.

Thank you so much, Rachel, for your time and answers.

If you would like to learn more about this book, check out this book trailer. You can pre-order (release date is 10/1/19) your copy of STRONGER THAN DEATH at these locations: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie Bound

Book Review: BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein

BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein20190106_100135

Audience/Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Summary: Teo and Emilia are friends from birth. After a bird strike during a flying stunt performance by their mothers they become siblings. Em’s mother wants to follow her late best friend’s wishes: to raise Teo in a place where he won’t be judged by the color of his skin, the country where his father was from. Set in the 1930’s Em’s mother makes the decision to move to Ethiopia where she can raise her white daughter alongside her now black son in the peaceful countryside. But, as Italy moves to invade and war brews, both children, now in their teens, have to make a decisions about home and loyalty.

My Take: This book has so many layers to it. It is definitely a TCK/CCK book. Teo is half Ethopian and Emilia is half Italian. There are inner struggles of “home”, which is something most TCK/CCKs understand. Ms. Wein weaves prejudice into the lives of the children, but also into the lives of their mothers. It is just a good book that will make you think deeper about issues that are relevant today. As I read the bio of Elizabeth Wein, I came to realize that she understands the issues of TCKs because she was raised abroad and is now living abroad as well. I highly recommend this book not just because of the TCK/CCK issues that Ms. Wein attempts to tackle, but because it really deals with issues that are relevant today.

Your Turn: What have you been reading? Share in the comments below. I’m always looking for new titles to read.

Book Review: HOMESICK by Jean Fritz

HOMESICK: My Own Story  homesick

by Jean Fritz

Genre: Middle Grade Memoir/Fiction


Jean Fritz shares her life as a child growing up in the middle of China during the mid-twenties. She longs to go “home”. To a place she has only read about in letters from her grandmother, a place where she can feed chickens. And though this desire grows stronger as the date for departure gets closer, Jean shares her love for the Chinese people, especially her dear Lin Nai Nai. As with any good story, there is trouble and heartache. Through the eyes of a ten year old girl, Jean shares about the unrest that was developing in China towards the foreigners. Jean also shares her confusion of how her parents reacted to the death of her baby sister. We get a glimpse into the heart and mind of a young child who experienced so much.  At the beginning Jean informs her readers that most of the stories are true, that all of the people were real, but the events are not in chronological order. As a NF writer, this was very important to her to clarify. 

My Take:

Jean Fritz is a TCK. If you want to see examples of grief, frustration, and raw emotions from a TCK, sprinkled with humor and wit, get this book. Yes, it’s written for a middle grade child, but it really is a beautifully written memoir of a young TCK. If I write too much more, I’ll have to write a spoiler alert. I cried and I laughed – maybe partly due to the fact that we used to live in Wuhan, which is now a large city that includes Hankou and Wuchang, two cities that play a huge part in this book. Or maybe just the pain of saying “good-bye“. Either way, it’s good.


Next week I will be starting the series on “The Art of Letting Go“. If you would like to write a guest post you can go back to the original post for the details.

Book Review: OF STILLNESS AND STORM by Michèle Phoenix

OF STILLNESS AND STORM29492092-_sr1200630_

by Michèle Phoenix


Sam and Lauren sell everything they own in the US to move to Nepal. It has been their dream to share the gospel to the distant tribes of the world. But, it wasn’t their son’s dream. Sam trek’s the mountains for weeks at a time. He comes home tired and smelly, but doesn’t want any luxuries because many in Nepal live in worse conditions. Lauren’s sense of adventure soon flattens after their move as she daily bumps along to work at job she doesn’t like, fights a losing battle with the electricity, and watches her son slowly change from the fun and happy kid to a teen who just exists and resents her for everything. As things tense up on the home front, Lauren has an online encounter with a friend from her past. Her isolation leads to disillusionment and soon things come crashing around her.

My Thoughts:

One of the reviews I read compared this book to THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, and I would have to agree. It brought out many of the same emotions I had as I read that book. Michèle Phoenix is a MK (missionary kid) and has worked with MK’s for many years. Her expertise and I’m sure personal experience gives this story the raw emotions that many who work overseas do not want to face. It asks the hard questions indirectly through watching this family try to survive while doing what they believe the Lord has called them to do.

I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I believe that the issues/themes in this book can be related to by anyone who is trying raise their family in a different culture than their own.

*I received my copy from a giveaway on another site.