A Conference for Chronic Illness Warriors: Exhausted People Who Feel Invisible

My mother can’t listen to music and talk to us at the same time. It’s not because she’s elderly or because she’s out of her mind. She has a mild case of tinnitus – a chronic illness, and people with it feel pain whenever they hear loud noises. People with extreme tinnitus feel pain whenever they hear something.

But tinnitus isn’t the only chronic illness. There’s chronic fatigue syndrome, POTS, multiple chemical sensitivity, Lyme’s disease, chronic pain illnesses, bouts of temporary paralysis, Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, autoimmune diseases. The list goes on. Some people go undiagnosed for years before finally finding out what they are sick with after visiting the 12th (or more) doctor. Most chronic illnesses don’t go away.

It’s hard. And that’s an understatement. 

I have a dear friend named Sara Willoughby. She’s the author of He’s Making Diamonds: A Teen’s Thoughts on Faith Through Chronic Illness. It was published two and a half years ago. She now hosts an annual online conference called Diamonds for chronically ill Christians. 

God is working through her work. Many chronic illness warriors can’t even go to church – and encouragement is hard to find. That’s often because these illnesses are usually invisible. People don’t know these warriors are fighting. 

So once a year, Sara brings a lapful of encouragement right to them. 

This year, Diamonds 2021’s theme is Purpose In Affliction. The conference focuses on chronically ill people’s identity in Christ and how illness strengthens their relationship with Him. 

Here’s some quick info:

What is Diamonds 2021?

Diamonds is an annual online conference for chronically ill Christians. Millions of chronically sick people battle impossible trials every single day – but so many of them feel alone. The speakers of Diamonds 2021 want them to know they aren’t — not by a long shot. 

When is Diamonds 2021?

Diamonds 2021 occurs this weekend — from Friday the 22nd through Sunday the 24th. You can join live for free, and if you miss anything, you will still be able to view the recorded version by purchasing the all-access pass.

Who is speaking at Diamonds 2021?

This year, they have twenty speakers from around the world. Each of these fantastic people has a special message of hope and compassion to share with you out of their own experiences with long-term illness.

What does Diamonds 2021 cost?

Because they know that many chronically ill warriors face burdensome medical bills, and their goal is to uplift instead of adding just one more thing, Diamonds 2021 is 100% free while it’s live. 

After that, you can purchase the all-access pass to gain lifetime access to the conference content along with some exclusive bonuses. 

Where is Diamonds 2021?

Diamonds 2021 is entirely online. They know that traveling with an illness is difficult, so they want to bring this right to you — even if you’re in a hospital bed or are housebound. You can register for Diamonds 2020 for free here.

Does the conference have a Study Guide?

Absolutely! They have a beautifully designed study guide with take away points from every talk and reflection questions and resources for further study. You can buy the e-book or paperback copy here

Friends, this is extremely important. Many chronically ill people are discouraged and depressed, and exhausted because they don’t have encouragement. This conference will fill that gap extravagantly. 


Please spread the word. If you know someone who is very sick or is chronically ill – send them this blog post. Send the registration link. The world needs these messages of hope!

The Secret to Living Fear-Free as A TCK

What if they think I’m bragging? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m stupid for not knowing who so-and-so is? What if they don’t understand why I’m struggling? What if they don’t get why moving was so hard?

Have you had any of those thoughts before? They may seem like the thoughts of an average self-conscious teenager, but if you look closer, there is something more going on. These are the thoughts of the anxious TCK.

I’ve been there. I’ve been the awkward girl in the US sitting in the Sunday School room. A couple seats over from the end of the row… But not too close to the middle — that might seem weird. Sometimes I’ll sit there and barely talk with anyone. Everyone there has their friends and their clique — no need to try and interrupt. 

Once in a while, there will be a friendly girl. She’ll ask me where I’m from— the dreaded question. I’ll explain. “I don’t live here,” I’ll say. “I live overseas.” 

“Really?”

There is so much locked up in that word — her presuppositions about me, her expectations, curiosity, or lack of it. I don’t know what is coming exactly — but I’m nervous. 

Why?

Why am I nervous? Why do I care so much what people think about me? Why do TCKs especially struggle with this?

After years of moving, trying to fit into multiple cultures, and living an ever-changing life… the TCK finds themselves in another new place. 

And the fear kicks in.

Why Fear of Man Is Problematic

That fear is wrong and sinful. 

As humans, we were made to love and worship our Creator. He is to be first in our minds, our hearts, and our lives. 

When we worry about what the monocultural new person will ask us or think about us, God isn’t in the first place. 

We are fearing the approval of the created more than the Creator. The Creator’s approval is powerful and everlasting. The created’s opinion might seem powerful — but the approval will sway as easily as a blade of grass… and eventually wither up. 

Wanting approval isn’t wrong. What matters is whose validation you are seeking. 

This is where it gets tricky. 

All their life, TCKs have looked to people’s approval to learn multiple cultures and languages. That’s how they’ve navigated life. It’s taken them a lot longer than most to figure out where they stand in a community and culture because those cultures and communities change a lot for most TCKs. 

But here’s what we have to remember: Although people’s approval might teach you, you cannot let it rule you. Because when you fear their disapproval, you become a slave to their opinions. 

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Proverbs 29:25

Escaping the Handcuffs

Trusting in the attributes of God — who God is — will change your perspective on who you are. Those who are secure in their identity won’t fear others’ opinions… because others’ opinions won’t change who they are. 

My dear TCK friend, if you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to fear

That doesn’t mean you won’t still struggle with fear. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be anxious again. Nor does it mean you won’t feel awkward around people sometimes. It means your chain binding you to that cell wall has been broken, and you are free to walk out. 

Are you struggling to walk out? Here are 3 ways you can fight against the fear of man in your life: 

  1. Focus on who God is. He is:
  • Faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • Loving (1 John 4:8,10,16)
  • Kind (Psalm 116)
  • Eternal (Psalm 90:1-2)
  • Powerful (Psalm 90:11; Psalm 24:8)
  • King (Psalm 24:8)
  • Wise (1 Corinthians 1:25)
  • Just (Ezekiel 18:20-26)

If we have such a wonderful God as our Father, then his opinions and thoughts are precious. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:17

Our identity is anchored in Christ. If God is immovable, then who we are in Him is as well. Focus on that.

2. Remember, you can’t control others’ opinions. They don’t define you. 

(…) in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?  Psalm 56:11 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  Psalm 118:5-8

3. Pray that God would take first place in your heart. The higher a place God takes in our hearts, the less important the opinions of others become. 

As I write this, I feel guilty because I have not attained fearlessness. In fact, I am quite often the most fearful and anxious person in the room. But by God’s grace, I will lose fear… day by day.

Lord, please take first place in my life! Please destroy the idols of others’ opinions and take your rightful place on the throne of my heart. Let me take refuge in You. Give me the grace to focus on who You are and the immovability of my identity in You. 


Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

A TCK Interview: God Loves the Sojourner (Luke & Wendy – Part 3)

I had the privilege of doing an hour-long (!) interview with some friends of mine, an ATCK Christian couple: Luke & Wendy. I had so much fun talking to them… listening to their stories about identity, belonging, love and truth… This is the third part of a 3 part series that I will be releasing over several weeks. Here are Part 1 and Part 2. Have fun reading!


Breanne: I think you already answered some of this question in previous parts. But nevertheless, how did your TCK upbringing influence who you are and how you see the world? Luke, would you like to go first?

Luke: Sure. Being a TCK is essential to me because I’m able to see my “home” country from an outside perspective. I don’t have to feel as if it defines me. That’s freeing because I don’t have to feel like I’m defined by things I disagree with. In another sense, it’s complicated. Because I don’t feel like I belong to anything in terms of a home on this earth. There’s no house, there’s no city, there’s no place I can call home. There are places I have good memories in that are precious to me, but nothing that’s actually “home.” That’s hard.

Breanne: What about you, Wendy?

Wendy: I think my upbringing changed my perspective of the world. Seeing how other people think of certain things has been exciting and has opened up my mind to different perspectives. I am a very opinionated person. I’m thankful I’ve grown up in other cultures. I feel more open and ready to accept other opinions and listen. It’s taught me how to listen.

Switchfoot has this song called “Where I Belong.” I think you would really like it.

Breanne: Oooh, I don’t think I’ve heard that one. I do know of a song with a similar title by Building 429. The chorus goes, “All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong.”

Wendy: Yeah… I know that song too. My other TCK friend loves that song. I think the Switchfoot song is excellent because that’s the perspective I have. Let me read you the lyrics. As a Christian TCK, this wraps up my feelings and beliefs.

Until I die, I’ll sing these songs

On the shores of Babylon

Still looking for a home

In a world where I belong

So, many people have asked, especially in college, “how do you feel not being rooted, or not having a physical home?” For the first few years, I didn’t know how to answer that question. I was like, “Wow, that’s really hard. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve lost my home.” Because we moved from Prague and that house was emptied. Our friends left. It was like our home died. I experienced the most profound feeling of loss when we moved from Prague and left our home and neighborhood where we had lived for 10 years. So I think experiencing the grief of the loss of place and feeling like I no longer entirely belong to any physical space… Not feeling at home literally anywhere made the reality of “that is how we are spiritually” much more evident. We aren’t entirely at home anywhere, physically or spiritually. That Third Culture Kid lack of home has actually enriched my understanding of what it means to be a Christian in this world.

Breanne: That was so good… that’s what I’ve been trying to communicate with my writing. The second question I was going to ask was regarding the intersection of your upbringing and faith. You’ve already answered part of it. How has your faith helped you in your TCK struggles, maybe in a way you’ve observed TCKs without a relationship with Jesus Christ don’t have?

Wendy: Luke, do you want to speak into that?

Luke: My TCK-ness is a part of me that’s both positive and negative. The negative is not feeling rooted anywhere or not feeling at home anywhere. But I also feel at home with the people I have come to love. What makes the homes I’ve been a part of “home” is not the place. It’s because of my friends or family and now my wife. I think my connection to all of those people is also a spiritual connection. God is at the center of all those things. Throughout the times I have identified certain places as home, my relationships with the people have also been connected spiritually. My faith has helped me find connection points with people that either I’ve just met or people I’ve known for a long time… and that makes me feel at home.

Breanne: Hmm… that’s good. Ok, another question: what Biblical truth has helped you most as a TCK?

Luke: First, that God is good, and second that He is never changing. Life changes so much. You never really know what it’s going to look like. One thing you don’t have to worry about is that He won’t change.

Wendy: I’d say the truth that I belong to God is very healing and important. That there is belonging there. That’s been good for me to remember. Also, I think all the Bible passages where the Lord is talking about the exile and the sojourner are significant. The idea that the Lord loves the sojourner and the gentile. Almost every woman in Jesus’ genealogy is a gentile. The fact that “this is not a religion for whites, or Jews only, this is God’s love for the world.” I love focusing on the global nature of God’s love. It’s something that has become more real to me, the more I’ve lived abroad.

Breanne: That made me think of the passage in Hebrews 11. It talks about the people of faith in the Old Testament. They lived not looking back to the country they had come from but looking for a heavenly country and recognizing that their citizenship was in heaven. They didn’t conform to this world. And right after that, it says: God was not ashamed to be called their God, concerning what it said previously. I think that’s so cool.

Ok. Last question. This is more of a practical question. How are you using/have you used your TCK giftings/abilities/superpowers to the glory of God and the good of others? This could be anything from being more empathetic to languages and translating to writing fantasy books with different worlds.

Luke: For me, it’s less of a specific thing. Not like one thing I’ve sought to do. But definitely identifying with people who are feeling displaced or have a different perspective on life. When they find out I have a similar worldview to them, we connect.

Breanne: Well, I do know of one thing you are doing that I think is intentional, I mean, I don’t know, but I’d love if you could talk about the youth group you are leading at your international church. That’s definitely a way you are using your TCK upbringings to bless others.

Luke: That’s a good point.

Wendy: I just think the Lord has given us a part for TCKs. A big part of how we remained sane in high school was a really solid youth community. Feeling understood by other TCKs. It’s an essential part of what we both believe in. That’s something we have a heart for, and we hope it is helpful. We really love it.

Also, because we were both Pastors’ Kids, we were involved in the music at church. It was partially useful that our parents made us learn music to help out in the worship team. So that’s something we have going for us. That has been really good to use. I’m really thankful it’s useful.

I think something else that I have used is my global perspective and ability to relate to the kids at the international school I teach. I’ll be like, “Hey, where do you like going back to vacation?” They’ll often answer with a “We go home.” I follow with “where is home for you?” That’s a question that pops into my head because it’s such a relevant question for me. It’s great to have those conversations and feel understood. So that’s helped me teach.

Breanne: I think that’s huge. I think that’s so cool. You’re helping awaken the students to a self-awareness regarding being TCKs a lot earlier than they might have otherwise. Like you just said, asking questions like, “where is home to you?” That’s crucial because all the adults in their life use the word “home” for the passport culture. As far as I observed, most parents don’t give kids a global perspective. It’s usually very home/passport country oriented. Especially at international schools, ironically, I feel like people exaggerate their passport country. Like “I’m Korean, so I’m going to be %100 Korean.” Or “I’m American, so I’m going to talk in a Southern accent and talk about how amazing America is and wear patriotic clothing to school.”

Wendy: So true. 

Breanne: It’s really sad to me. Obviously, those countries are amazing places. That’s not the point. It’s just that you have a much richer heritage—a heritage comprising of more than only one country. So I think it’s cool that you can partially give them that perspective. “You are more than just American, you are more than just Korean, more than just Canadian” or whatever it is…

Wendy: Thanks. So yeah. Those are the things that come to my mind.

Breanne: Man, that was all so good. Thank you for doing this with me. It went a lot longer than I expected.

Wendy: Oh my gosh. I know! I was surprised about how much we had to say. Thanks for listening and wanting to hear. I feel very honored.

Breanne: Yeah. There were many things you guys mentioned that were great. I think it’s good to listen to others’ stories because they might express something differently or have another perspective on the grand thing called being a TCK. I know people will be very encouraged and blessed by this.

Wendy: Aww, for what it’s worth.

Luke: Good 😊


Credits to Sharon Ko Photography for the picture 🙂

A TCK Interview: Life Long Love (Luke & Wendy – Part 2)

I had the privilege of doing an hour-long (!) interview with some friends of mine, an ATCK Christian couple: Luke & Wendy. I had so much fun talking to them… listening to their stories about identity, belonging, love and truth… This is the second part of a 3 part series that I will be releasing over several weeks. (If you haven’t read part one, you can here.) Have fun reading!


Breanne: Can you share your love story?

Wendy: Well, Luke and I met when we were in fifth grade.

Breanne: Actually, can you tell us about the onion-garlic conversation? It’s hilarious.

Wendy: Yes! I’m going to give a bit of pretext to this. So Luke’s family moved to the Czech Republic. I had gone through a tough year at the British School. I didn’t have any friends. Then we heard, “Hey, a family is coming here with kids about your age, and they are coming to your school and your church!” I was like, “Yaaaas!” Then they said, “It’s a boy that’s your age.” I thought, “Darn it! I’m ten. I don’t want to hear that.” I was kind of bummed—no offense Luke. Now I’m not bummed at all. I’m the opposite of bummed.

We met the Yurkoviches – they were so quiet! Our family is lively. So we’re in the van with them, driving to one of our houses once after church, and it’s so quiet. I didn’t know what to say. So I turned to Luke, and I was like, “Your name means onion in Russian.” And then he turns to me and is like, “Yeah… it means garlic in Macedonian.”

*Everyone laughs*

He looked so forlorn, like “I was made fun of in Macedonian, and you’re bringing it up now?!”, like “Why..?”

Breanne: So good… *haha*

Wendy: So he was like, “Yep… that’s me. Thanks for bringing that up. Not that it’s a sore spot or anything.” I believe those might have been my first words to Luke. Unfortunately.

We went to the same school. We actually sat next to each other in 5th grade for the first few months of the year. And then I made a best friend and had a lovely time.

Luke doesn’t remember this, but his friends would tease me about liking Luke and tease him about liking me. I don’t really know why. There was a time when he and his friend were talking, and his friend stood up and was like, “WENDY! LUKE WANTS TO DANCE WITH YOU!” We had this valentine’s dance. And I responded with a sassy “No, he doesn’t!” and was really awkward about it. Luke does not remember this at all. His friend kept teasing me, and then I pushed him into a mud puddle. I was like, “Take that, Fran!” His name was Fran. Who names their kid Fran?

*Everyone is laughing hilariously at this point*

Luke like never spoke to me again for the rest of the year. I was thinking to myself, “I have made a horrible mistake. He might have liked me, but now he hates me because I pushed Fran into a mud puddle.”

I don’t know if Luke actually liked me in fifth grade. I don’t know if he even knows.

Luke: I don’t think I thought about it.

Wendy: No, I don’t either.

Breanne: You’re not that self-aware in fifth grade.

Wendy: No, you aren’t… It was a weird environment, though, where people asked people out and gave people chocolate and flowers…

Luke: It was like, the class… well not just the class, the whole vibe of the school was “What is the new drama?” If you were somebody who had like no drama, they would try and make it so that you had drama.

Breanne: Oh my goodness, tell me about it… That’s literally all my middle school years.

Wendy: For real… So I remember it was a rainy day. Luke was cupping his hands over Fran’s mouth, trying to get him to shut up. And Fran was like, “WENDY! WENDY!” And then I pushed him into a mud puddle. It was all very traumatizing. I did write about it in my journal. I was very proud of myself for pushing him in a mud puddle like he deserved… but enough about that. That is not the most crucial part of our story.

Luke: *haha*

Wendy: After that one year, I moved to the Christian international School in Prague, and Luke stayed at the British School. And I began to miss him, and my other friends, especially my best friend. But I also missed Luke. I would look forward to seeing him on Sundays. And I would think, “Why do I miss Luke? That’s weird.” By seventh grade, I definitely had a crush on Luke. And that um, continued, um, until this present moment.

*Luke silently laughs to himself*

Wendy: So in ninth grade, he came to the international Christian school, and life looked up a little bit from there. You want to take it from here?

Luke: Sure. I looked forward to going to that school. A lot of my friends were there. They were friends who weren’t super into the drama… at least sort of.

Wendy: At least it was wholesome.

Luke: For the most part. *haha* But anyway, there were friends that I looked up to. Wendy was one of them. I wanted to be with all those cool people. I was quite excited. I remember being on the bus sitting next to you. And you were like, “So what are you doing next year?” I said, “I’m actually going to CIC! (the school),” and you were like, “OH MY GOSH THAT’S SO GREAT!” and I was like, “YES I KNOW RIGHT?!!”

Wendy: I could barely hold in my excitement. I was so happy. 

Luke: Yeah, so I spent some time at the school. We were in the same class together and had a lot of random interactions. 

Breanne: As classmates do. 

Luke: Yep, by the time our junior year came around, there came a time when we had gotten back from a homeless outreach with our youth group. We were sitting at this McDonalds, as you do at 10 at night. Wendy asked me if she could talk with me.

Wendy: My heart was beating so fast.

Luke: She told me, “I feel these certain things. I have felt them for a while, and I wanted to say it.” I was grateful that she liked me. I think I could sense something was awkward between us. I didn’t know what or why. I felt relieved that she had said something. But at that time, I was actually interested in her best friend. It was a good conversation, but it was an awkward moment in our lives.

Wendy: I mean, it was awkward but not in the way the word is often used. It was more unfortunate.

Luke: Yeah. Because I don’t think we felt awkward afterward.

Wendy: Not at all.

Luke: It was actually quite helpful for our relationship. The air was cleared. Wendy now knew where my thoughts and emotions lied. Ironically, I was able to feel closer to her.

Wendy: It was good, though.

Luke: I did end up dating her friend for the next year or so.

Breanne: Poor, Wendy.

Wendy: Yeah, it was hard.

Luke: I wasn’t necessarily good at knowing what to do in a dating relationship. It was the first one. I didn’t know what to expect or what to talk about. It was more like a guy-girl friendship. Eventually, it became apparent there wasn’t chemistry. On our Senior trip, we ended up breaking up. It was an emotionally crazy time. I was relieved, but it was hard. It was an emotional end to the Senior year. During that time, I actually started feeling things for Wendy – in part because of the frankness and honesty that we had.

Wendy: It was about time!

Luke: Yeah… But the timing was just not great. I knew that it wasn’t smart to start any relationship at the end of high school senior year. I wasn’t going to do anything or say anything. But I did feel things. Whereas before, I didn’t really understand my feelings. But now I did. It was hard to know what to do. I ended up feeling stuff but not saying anything. That was the end of our interactions. It was not the best way to say goodbye, but we carried our feelings for the rest of our story. We moved to different colleges.

When I was in the USA at college, I tried to shut off my TCK life. Not because I was ashamed of it, but I was like, “It’s time to move on.” It wasn’t practical. I knew I wasn’t going to interact with most of the people in my high school again, I wasn’t going to move back to Prague, so it wasn’t practical.

The next time we saw each other was a year after graduation. I was living with some friends of mine from high school in Tennessee. Wendy wrote to me about an assignment she had.

Wendy: Yes, so I went to college, and I studied Psychology. One of our Psych professors was very like, you know, female empowerment, and “It’s your turn to initiate girls. Don’t wait for a man to ask you out. Ask him out.”

Breanne: That’s funny.

Wendy: This should not be allowed. But she gave us an extra credit assignment to ask somebody out on a date. I was like, “What?” but also, “I want that extra credit.” Little Wendy, who had a 97 percent in the class, thought, “I must have this extra credit.” Must. So I write Luke, and I’m like, hey… so I have this assignment. I explained the project and was very real about it. Luke responded with a “sure, sounds fun.” My heart is beating a million times an hour. I’m telling myself, I do not like this guy anymore. Why do I feel so many things right now? We talked, and it was so good. It felt so normal and natural. It felt great to chat and catch up.

(Later on, Wendy went and spent some time with Luke and his friends, and they spent some time together, both felt what Wendy describes as an “aching soul” emotion. Wendy had come with an innocent excitement to see Luke and was now confused. Luke was at a low in his life and concluded it just wouldn’t work.

If you want more in between details, check out their full story at the Wandering Optimist.)

Luke: There came a time when I was living in Indiana. I had graduated from college and was without much of a direction in my life. It had sort of came back around to me that I was actually a TCK, that I could think of myself in that way. Besides that, I didn’t have very many lasting friendships from the States. I was remembering my feelings for Wendy. I now desired to be connected to my past and to tie it to my present. I was also thinking about the future. What did I really want life to look like? I came to the point of asking myself, “Am I going to live with this regret of not seeing where this could have gone with Wendy if I don’t make some sort of initiative right now?” And so, after a lot of talking and thinking about it and wrestling with it myself, I finally reached out to her. After a couple of video calls, we had the conversation. I told her I felt things for her. I was unsure what that would look like because dating online, across the ocean, is a little complicated. (Wendy had moved to Istanbul by then.) Wendy decided that she needed a week to think about it.

Wendy: I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe that the thing that I had been aching for my entire life was actually happening to me. I was just sitting there in complete awe and wonder, thinking, “Lord, what do I do?!” I guess I had also protected myself from thinking that Luke could ever actually like me. The thought that he would was so weird to me. I took a week to think about it. After a week, I asked him some tough questions. I don’t know what I wanted or expected, but he definitely delivered. It was terrific. I said yes to dating him.

Then we found out that our friends were getting married in Hawaii and they were paying for both of us to go. That was crazy. So we had our first date in Hawaii.

Then a couple months later, he moved to Istanbul. The rest is history.

Breanne: That it is.


If you find this story absolutely amazing and want more, check out their full story here.

Isn’t God amazing? He used their experiences to mature them and bring them closer to Him, yet He didn’t let their “aching soul” feeling go in vain. He had a grand plan for them.

Keep on the lookout for the final part of the interview! Part 3 is my favorite part, as they share a lot of truth and encouragement.


Credits to Andrea Stewart Photography for the beautiful picture.


Have you been enjoying this interview? Would you like me to do more of these?

A TCK Interview: Finding Our Identities (Part 1)

I had the privilege of doing an hour-long (!) interview with some friends of mine, an ATCK Christian couple: Luke & Wendy. I had so much fun talking to them… listening to their stories about identity, belonging, love and truth… This is the first part of a 3 or 4 (I still don’t know) part series that I will be releasing over several weeks. Have fun reading!


Breanne: Thank you so much for letting me interview you for my blog! I wanted to ask both of you to tell your individual stories and your very unique love story if that’s ok.

Wendy: Luke, do you want to go first with your individual TCK story?

Luke: Yeah, well, I was born in the States, but when I was two years old, my family moved to Macedonia. My parents served in the church there, and we lived there for eight years. After that, we spent a year in the States in Ohio, and then we moved to Prague, Czech Republic, and we were there for eight years again. After that, I went to college in the states, and my family moved back to the States temporarily. Then my parents moved back to Macedonia. I stayed in Indiana, where I was going to college. And then, well, I actually crossed my life with Wendy’s and ended up moving to Istanbul. So that’s like a brief synopsis of where I lived.

In general, I think my reaction to life as a Third Culture Kid has been mostly one of going with the flow. My parents were very considerate of us kids. They definitely wanted our input and wanted us to feel like we were heard, which was really great. But for the most part, I just kind of went with whatever… *haha* was going on.

When we moved away from Macedonia for the first time, I was young enough to not really understand what was going on. But I was old enough to trust my parents to do something good. But it wasn’t something I remember honestly, like the moving part. Like precisely right when we moved, I don’t actually remember much of that, which is kind of interesting.

Breanne: Yeah, ‘cause you think that would be the part you would remember the most.

Luke: Yeah, maybe it was traumatic or something, I don’t know. *haha* No, I don’t think it was that bad.

Anyway, it was a lot of exploring the new space that I found myself in, but kind of on my own. I sort of developed a kind of outsider perspective wherever I went. I kind of had my own little world that I lived in for the first few months of being in a new space, maybe a couple of years, who knows?

But no matter where I moved, after a while, God always blessed me with friends. So I could find at least one or two people that I felt welcomed by and sort of make a life there, with those friendships, which is really a blessing.

Breanne: Luke, I was reading your guys’ story on Wondering Optimist, Wendy’s website. I remember hearing something about you wanting to be as American as possible during your college years. I think it would be fascinating to hear more about that.

Luke: Moving to America was different from every other time I moved. I first moved to America when I was ten. I was too young to really…

Breanne: Everything’s an adventure when you’re ten!

Luke: Yeah, but when I moved to college, I sort of experienced the States as a place where I was expected to fit in more than I actually felt that I could. So I kind of tried to work with that. Like I said, I tried to go with the flow. And the flow was expecting me to be American. I didn’t really mind that at the time. Honestly, I thought it was interesting because I never really knew or could be American until I tried it.

Wendy: Did you succeed?

Luke: I don’t really think I succeeded *haha*

(Everyone laughed)

Luke: Well, I succeeded in some ways. I made friends there and identified with people about things that weren’t just about being a TCK, you know? So in that way, I succeeded. But that wasn’t necessarily an American aspect of me. It was just identifying with people as individuals.

But I always sort of felt like I was missing something. And I think that was because I was pushing my past away, in my mind. Thinking, “Ok, that was part of my life that I need to move on from.” In thinking that way, I sort of stabbed myself in the foot, as it were because it stopped me from feeling fully home wherever I was. Once I embraced that I am a TCK again and that it is actually significant and good, it helped to move forward with my desires… to figure out what I actually want. ‘Cause being a TCK affects the things I want.

Breanne: Thank you! That’s awesome. Your turn Wendy…

Wendy: Alright! My story is quite similar to Luke’s. I was born in a tiny town in Illinois called Winfield. My dad was going through seminary at the time, and my mom worked for a proofreading company. When I was two, and my brother was less than one, we moved to Ukraine. It was Donetsk Ukraine, as in the Eastern side of Ukraine, so very Russian. It was right after the Iron Curtain came down, so right after the Soviet Union disintegrated. My parents served in the church in Ukraine. My father worked as a pastor and in the seminary. We lived there for four years until my brother Jackson began to struggle with asthma. It really became clear that it wasn’t the right place for him and his health. So we went back to the States for one year. And then to Austria for a year. Lastly, we moved to the Czech Republic. It was like four countries and four schools and four different languages in four years. I was six when we left Ukraine. My first grade year in the States was in a private Christian and super-white school. And then we moved to Austria, Vienna, and I went to my first Christian International school. It was my first International school experience, and it was the best. It was there, in second grade, that I discovered I was actually an extrovert. Before that, I was just in my own little world… I remember I felt really distant in Ukraine and the States. When I moved to second grade in this International School, I was like, “Oh my gosh, everyone is different, and it’s ok that I am different from all these people. I don’t need to fit in because no one fits in.” It was so freeing. I made friends with this guy from Kenya named Tumani, and we would play soccer together. It was such a great year. I felt accepted for exactly who I felt I wanted to be. Very liberating.

Then we moved to Prague, and I started going to this British International School. That actually took me back into my own little world somewhat because there were a particular culture and a certain way of being… It was mostly for business kids; they were primarily British, I didn’t really fit in. It was a time of a bit of hardship, I guess? That was just a different genre of a TCK that I hadn’t interacted with yet, and a lot of them weren’t believers. That pushed me into a different headspace, and it was hard not to fit in with that; they were into some dark stuff as well. That was my first experience of like, “Oh, I need to be careful with what I hang out around. I shouldn’t be watching these movies.” It was just kind of dark. I guess that was when I needed to choose not to fit in, consciously, which was different. Because as a TCK, you automatically just want to adapt, at least I do. In a way, I’ve always wanted to adapt, but I never remember actually adapting. I was always like, “but I am my own person. I am Wendy, and no one else is.” I really embraced the “I am different from you” kind of mentality.

And so we switched schools to a Christian international School, which Luke joined later. I think my story is more complicated in some ways. The lack of control I felt I dealt with in some negative ways. I think I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression, which resulted from not feeling in control. Some expat families are rooted where they are, but our family wasn’t like that. Every year they’d be like, “We’ll see, we’ll see”… It gave me an uncertain feeling of “Do I learn Czech, do I not? I don’t know. What’ll happen? I hope I don’t leave my friends”. I think I felt out of control. I do think I suffered from the effects of those sorts of things.

Going to college, I went to college after working on my mental health for a long time, which helped me stay ok and process. And unlike Luke, I embraced my TCK-ness in college. I joined the intercultural organization. I wanted to be involved with TCKs and find internationals. I really made an effort to get to know multicultural people. I think I felt most at home in a diverse community.

The first two years of college were really hard. After that, however, I started to realize that everyone had a really complex story. There were so many other ways of finding diversity and different perspectives. That really kept me sane in college. I was blessed by rooming with a foster kid and hearing her story, and having a bunch of friends who were Vietnamese… I hadn’t met many people who were Vietnamese.

When college was coming to an end, I had studied abroad in Italy. Then after that, I came to Turkey to visit my parents in Istanbul. This was like my junior year of college. I remember thinking, “I think I could live here. I really like Istanbul.” And I really liked Italy as well. I thought to myself, “Man, America’s cool, but I really do feel more at home here, on this side of the world.

Some TCKs are like, I’ve moved, I don’t want to anymore, I want to settle down and put down roots. I had the opposite. I want to keep being a nomad, totally up to that hippie life; let’s go!.. Everyone at college knew me as the European cultured hippie Wendy who liked art and wanted to travel the world again. That was kind of my identity already. I just embraced that.

After college, I backpacked through Europe to Istanbul, and I started my life here. And yeah, I think I will be connected to the international community my entire life. It’s so much a part of who I am… feeling more like a global citizen than an American citizen. My identity is nuanced. More and more people than we realize have that. Whether they have a passport or not. They can be multicultural, multiethnic in some way.


Come back this next weekend for the Part 2: A Long Lost Love!


Credits to @istanbul.lovestory on Instagram for the picture

Truth4TCKs: My Plea to TCKs + ANNOUNCEMENT

I am a Third Culture Kid. I am ethnically American but have grown up in another country most of my life. I am a bridge between cultures and languages, not belonging to either side. 

A Third Culture Kid is by definition, “ a person who spends a significant part of his or her first eighteen years of life accompanying parent(s) into a country or countries that are different from at least one parent’s passport country(ies) due to a parent’s choice of work or advanced training.”

This kind of upbringing is increasing rapidly as the world globalizes. More and more people are moving overseas (wherever that may be), and their kids are moving with them. 

When one is raised in constant, daily contact with several cultures, it impacts them tremendously. They do not feel like they belong in one country, or people, or culture. 

Why does this matter? 

Because the increasing number of TCKs means an increasing number of Christian TCKs. 

Christian TCKs are a very unique, special group of people. They are passionate about the nations, love cultures and languages, and see the world a bit differently than their monocultural brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I want to encourage and challenge that group of people. 

Christian TCKs are given their unique upbringing by God for a reason. They understand multiple cultures, languages, and have a more global world view. They don’t belong in any one place, and so they feel as if the one place they will fully belong is in heaven. They see the differences between Christianity’s culture in various nations and often know how to spot ethnocentricity. TCKs act as cultural brokers, bridging two or more groups who normally wouldn’t understand each other. 

If someone is a follower of Jesus Christ and is a TCK, they cannot waste their God-given abilities. 

If you are a follower of Jesus and are a TCK, I repeat, you cannot waste your God-ordained abilities. 

You uniquely see the world. You are empathetic and diverse. You love many cultures and you love learning new ones. (Yes, learning culture is a thing, y’all.) You have such wonderful things given to you intentionally by your Father in Heaven. 

Please don’t waste them. Please choose to use those abilities for the glory of God and the good of others. The world needs people like you. 


Also, I have an announcement! I will be posting interviews soon that I have done with Christian TCKs. I’ll ask them about their struggles. We’ll be talking about the way their upbringing has molded them to see the world. And last but not least, how they’ve used their abilities to glorify God and impact others. I can’t wait for you to hear their stories. Ciao, my friends!


School photo created by drobotdean – www.freepik.com

An Ode to Languages

Languages are my love language. I know that sounds redundant, but it is true. I adore languages. There is something inherently special about them. 

Perhaps it is the way each language sounds. One is more efficient, one is strong, one is melodious. One sings with the warmth of the Mediterranean sun. One is matter-of-fact and blunt because it acts as a bridge language between immigrants and nations and cannot waste time with misunderstandings. 

Or perhaps it is the way each language has a story. How they morph over time through wars, colonization, peace, and neighboring peoples. You can trace each word back to something more ancient. Each has its own history and narrative.

Maybe it is the way language connects people. It gives them a voice and a way to express their emotions, opinions, and thoughts. When you learn a new language you enter a new world. You learn the phrases and the mannerisms that are unique to that realm. There are hundreds or thousands or millions of people that you now get to speak to who you could not have understood before. 

Maybe it is how I heard someone say the other day, that languages are power. The more you know, the more you can do. The more opportunities you have.

Perhaps it is that languages hold the culture and the music and the literature of centuries. They hold generations of peoples giving their children their tongue, like a costly inheritance with no cost.

Maybe it is the smiles I see on faces when people realize I can speak in their mother tongue. When they know I can understand them and hear them. Their feelings won’t be restricted within the boundaries of a second language half-learned. 

I am not so sure I can give one reason. But I know within the deepest places of my heart that there are reasons so good and lovely I do not need to question my passion. 

And so languages are my love language.

Truth4TCKs: Family is Home

I’m Close to My Family

For as long as I can remember, my mother has been my best friend. I might have not always called her that, but she has always been the one who knew me best, who loved me enough to tell me when I was wrong, who took joy in the things I delighted in. She has always shared her struggles with me and I with her. 

She has been my constant. 

And as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that I am extremely blessed. Not everyone has such a close relationship with their family. 

I owe this relationship in part to my Third Culture Kid upbringing. I have always felt like I haven’t had close friends my age… I have always had one or two, but then I would move schools, and we would stop talking. Finding friends was hard in a country that didn’t always adopt me, and foreign friends would come and go.

But Family didn’t. Family was always there. 

I would fly across the ocean and visit a country others called my “home.” I would see thousands of faces, travel, and eat food that I didn’t always get where I lived. 

I don’t know what I would have done without my family. They were my anchor. Family was the one thing I could run back to and find the way I left it.

I am not the only TCK who has felt like this. Actually, when asked where home is to them, many TCKs reply with the word “family.” 

TCKs & Childhood Development

In the book Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, they talk about Barbara H. Knuckles’ model of the way all children grow up and form their identity. This model outlines three anchors, Family, Community, and Place, all of which mirror the child’s upbringing. 

Family teaches the child the ways of life, and gives them confidence, and loves them. They show the child how to interact with the community. 

Community shows the child how life functions, how people relate to each other, how people of different socio-economic standings relate in the culture. Community is constant in that it has a culture, it moves and interacts with the child and reaffirms what the family is teaching at home. 

Place is constant and has history and characteristics that influence the child and are the “stage” on which all of life happens. The child learns to navigate life in that particular place. 

These three things are also mirrors because they not only hold down the “tent” of childhood so the child learns how to do life, but they reflect things back on the child that the child then takes as a part of their identity: 

The child of a poor man is treated as less important by the community. The child then learns that he is less important than others. The idea is “reflected” upon the child. 

A mother gives her child attention and lets them choose what to have for dinner, and talks with them about their day. The child then learns that he can choose and he has something valuable to say. 

Place gives the child a sense of belonging and pride. They learn of the history and know the smells and the roads. They learn that they belong. 

Why Family Is Invaluable

And so for the TCK, every time they move, a family is the only anchor that remains constant. While the community and place around the child change and reflect different messages back upon the child, family is the one thing that reflects constant messages. And so the TCK goes to their family for the answers to questions such as “Who am I?” and “Do I matter?”.

It’s quite saddening that in this post-modern world the family unit is being disregarded. It is vitally important for every child, even more so for the TCK. This is why the TCK upbringing can have such a horrible effect on someone if the family unit was dysfunctional in any way. The child has no constant. 

Beautiful Relationships

Being close to your family is beautiful. These relationships have become the most important thing in my life. I know them better than anyone. When I love my family members, I learn to listen, to value others. 

Not only that, but I have gained a life-long friend in my mother. She won’t fade away when I move schools or houses. Even when death separates us, it will be momentarily. It will hurt, but it will hurt because of the deep and amazing love we have for each other. 

Dear TCK, if you feel like even your family hasn’t been constant, the first thing I would say is that I’m truly sorry. The second thing I’d say would be that you can still initiate, however awkward, conversations about things you are feeling and struggling with. 

The third would be, go to the Father and Brother you have in God. He is more constant than any family member ever could be. He understands the hardships of the TCK life better than you do and knows you intimately. 

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 3-6)

He loves you and knows you and cares for you. Run to Him when you feel as if all is changing or you feel alone. He is the best kind of family. 

Truth4TCKs: I’m From… Heaven? – How The TCK Life Is A Blessing In Disguise –

The Confusion Of The TCK: Where They Are From

“So where are you from? “

I paused… Should I give them the long answer? Or the short one?

“Umm, I’m American.”

“Oh, cool.”

It was true. I am American – at least, that’s what my passport says. But I don’t feel like it. Not really. 

I have only lived there for a couple of years. Most of my life was spent in other parts of the world. 

So what? I am still American even if I grew up elsewhere, right?

Wrong. I grew up in a culture and environment very different from those of my cousins and friends in the States. 

I don’t feel patriotic. I am not as worried about American politics as they are. I don’t feel like America is as big of a deal as they crack it up to be. I don’t even think of America as home. 

So, where am I from? 

I don’t know. 

I am literally an in-between. I don’t belong entirely in any of the cultures in which I have lived. I do not belong to them, nor do they to me. I am a Third Culture Kid (TCK). 

Why Where We Are From Matters: Culture & Belonging

In the book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, authors Ruth Van Recken and Michael Pollock talk about “cultural balance”. They say: “A sense of cultural balance allows (…) freedom. Once we have internalized a culture’s customs and underlying assumptions, or know who we are in relationship to this culture, an intuitive sense of what is right, humorous, appropriate, or offensive in any particular situation develops.”

When we have grown up in a certain culture, we know who we are in relationship to it. We know if and how we belong. Being rooted in a soil of relationships and community gives people a sense of identity and belonging. 

When we have not grown up in a culture, we do not know how to act or behave or react in a situation within that culture. It becomes more complicated if we have grown up in multiple cultures. We never know which one we belong in because we haven’t had the time to completely absorb the customs and assumptions. Thus the paradox of the TCK: we’re expected to belong in one culture, but we don’t. 

However, we don’t fit into the other cultures in which we have lived. We have moved too often to pick it up, or we have lived in a family who embodied a different culture than the one in which we did daily life.

Since someone who has cultural balance feels free within their society, they find their identity there. Rarely ever does a TCK feel at home. 

A Home with God

One of the most amazing things about the Word of God is that it applies to every single facet of life. This includes the struggles of the TCK. 

When a TCK does not feel as if they belong anywhere, they can be reminded of Hebrews 11: 13-16 and Philippians 3:20.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)

There is a common theme in these two passages: as followers of Jesus, we do not belong to this earth. 

We belong somewhere else. 

Heaven.

Paul says in Philippians 3:19 about the people of this earth: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” When Jesus transforms the life of a wretched sinner, they no longer glory in their shame. They glory in the redeeming work of Christ. They no longer set their minds on earthly things. They set their minds on godly, pure, lovely things (Philippians 4:8)

I think that we could say there are two cultures: the culture of this earth and the culture of Heaven. 

We don’t belong in any way to the culture of the earth anymore. Instead, we live in accord with the culture of heaven, where our citizenship is. 

This is astounding news for the believing TCK. Although we might not feel like we belong in any country or national culture, we know there is one place in which we belong perfectly. A place in which we are loved perfectly by God forever.

What joy! 

Looking On The Flip Side

As my father likes to say, TCKs often feel that wherever they go, they are a dime short of a dollar. Then he’ll add with a smile, in reality, they are two dollars. 

Even though TCKs might not understand cultures 100%, they can understand them very well. Let’s say 90%. If they understand both sides of a cultural divide, they can act as bridges for those on either side of it.

TCKs get to live a multicultural life full of rich beauty and diversity. They grow up living among languages, different cuisines, various expressions of art, and values.

Also, TCKs can learn to be flexible and adapt no matter what the circumstance. This can be a helpful ability in life. What ordinarily might shock someone is less of a shock for the TCK. Flexibility is an asset that global businesses look for in employees.

Therefore, although the TCK may often feel rootless, without a secure national identity and a sense of belonging, they can make their weaknesses their strengths. They can help monocultural people succeed in their attempts at intercultural interactions. 

Rich Life and Hope

Third Culture Kids can feel like nomads. So did Abraham. He roamed the earth, not knowing where he was going, waiting for a better country. His faith was counted to him as righteousness. 

Dear TCK, have faith in the hope to come. You are a citizen of heaven and belong wholly there. Make use of the God-given talents your upbringing has allowed.

New Blog Series

Hello friends! I want to share with you something that has been on my mind for a while.

I am starting a blog series for Christian TCKs, written by a Christian TCK.

I want to encourage them. And I want to use my writing to do that.

But I know that I am not an expert on the subject. So I need to learn. I have already started doing this. I have currently read two books on TCKs, as well as doing research in the Bible about various topics.

But I can’t just wait until I finish research to write on the topic. Research never ends.

So I am launching a series called Truth4TCKs. You might have seen the term before on a couple of my posts. I have written on the subject before, but I’m making it a priority.

Here’s how it will work: I will be posting every week as I usually do, and the majority of the posts will be on TCKs and Biblical encouragement. (The intersection of the two.)

I might occasionally post something about different subjects. However, as of today, my primary focus will be writing for and about Christian TCKs.

If you have been enjoying my posts on other topics and can’t really relate to my TCK related posts, I am sorry. However, I feel that this is where the Lord is leading my writing.

I want to ask you a favor. If you know any TCKs, please tell them about this series. I want to reach as many TCKs as possible with my writing, to encourage them because there is honestly not much of it going around.

Thank you all so much. In relation to this series, I will be posting little snippets with the hashtag #truth4tcks on my Instagram handle, so if you want to share my writing, sharing those posts on social media would be an amazing and easy way to get the word out.