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 🙂

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.

Truth4TCKs: Citizens of Heaven

This post was originally a guest post (written by me) on my friend Clarissa’s blog. You can find it here.


When someone asks you where you are from, what do you say?

My answer looks something like this: Well, ethnically I’m from X country, and both my parents are from there. But actually, my dad grew up in Y country, and I grew up in Z country. 

I have a passport from a certain country, therefore I am its citizen, but I’m not very patriotic. I don’t share many similar views with the people of that country. Thus, I don’t feel like I belong there. 

Instead, I live in a different country. I adore it immensely, love the people, and yet I’m not its citizen. I don’t belong there either. 

So where do I belong? 

That’s the question every human being tries to answer. Many do find their answer. However, TCKs tend to not really know. This can be frustrating to them.

But for us Christian TCKs, it’s different. 

Why?

Because the Bible tells us that our identity is in Christ, and our citizenship is in heaven.

Our Identity: If We Don’t Belong, Who Are We?

As TCKs, we’re different. Some people love that, and others hate it. We can tend to find our identity in our TCK-ness. We try to tell people that they don’t get us because we’re different. We wrap up who we are in the fact that we’re different. As a result, we can be defensive. We can have self-pity because we don’t belong, or we can get rebellious when people talk about our passport country as home, simce to us, it isn’t. 

Where is our identity first found? Are we first TCKs, or first Christians? 

The answer is pretty simple, but it’s important. First and foremost, we belong to Jesus. 

How does that change our relationships? 

If we belong to Jesus, we love others who belong to Him as well. That includes the person who hasn’t left their town their entire life. That includes the person who seems to know nothing about the “outside world”. That includes the billionth person who asks you how life is like where you live.

We love them completely. Christ gave His life up for billions of people who can never understand Him. He is God, and we’re not. If Jesus could love like that, we need to love others who honestly, can understand us more than how we could understand Jesus. 

Citizens of Heaven

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20-21

The old english meaning of conversation is the place where one lives (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2020). In Greek, conversation is politeuma, meaning community or citizenship (Bible Study Tools, 2020). In the context of this verse, the idea is that there are two spheres: the earthly world, and the heavenly world. Returning to the verse which reads For our conversation is in heaven. We conclude that we don’t belong here. Our community, our citizenship, our home is in heaven.

Most Christians aren’t TCKs. Whether they are Canadian or Kenyan or Turkish or Singaporean, they’ve grown up in the same place their whole lives. They have roots. They have a culture, an ethnic or patriotic community. They have a sense of belonging. 

But the thing is, all Christians are citizens of Heaven. None of us truly belong here. We have a better Home. 

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

– Hebrews 11:13-16 

This passage comes after the “Hall of Faith” as many people call it in Hebrews 11. It lists the numerous heroes of the faith from the Old Testament. The passage is talking about them. They sought a better country. A heavenly country. A country where every nation will come together and will be one people. God’s people. 

What Our TCK Lives Teach Us

I think TCKs have an advantage. We don’t belong, anywhere really, on this earth. I’ve heard many TCKs call themselves “global citizens”. However, Christian TCKs don’t belong anywhere on this earth. Being a Christian TCK is a blessing. Because we’re not attached to any country 100%, we long for a better one. Thus, we can comprehend better that our citizenship is in heaven as compared to someone who has never left their town their whole life long. 

And just think about it! A country where all ethnic groups, all cultures, all languages will live together, as neighbors, praising God! Is that a comfort to a TCK soul or what?


Sign up for my friend Clarissa’s TCK Email list here.

Truth4TCKs: Painful Goodbyes Are Good

The word “goodbye” has always been a part of my life. I’ve switched schools five times. I’ve had different friends at those different schools, and I always had to say goodbye. I live in a different country than my passport country because of my parents’ work. When our summer visits there come to an end, I have to say goodbye to family because I won’t see them for a year or two. 

As a TCK, (third culture kid), I have struggled with those goodbyes. It’s horrible because my attitude becomes one of “since I’ll have to say goodbye anyways, why bother investing in this friendship?” It’s not that I don’t want deep friendships. I do… I desperately do. But I lie to myself so I won’t have to go through the pain. I say that it isn’t a big deal if I don’t put my heart into something, because it’ll be gone soon, anyway. 

Dear friends just left the country I live in. To me, they were the embodiment of what it meant to love others. They only lived here for two years, but when they left, I felt, like so many others, like they had been here for ages. They invested in dozens of families and people and were generous, encouraging, and loving. They didn’t hold back. They gave so much of themselves that even when they were gone physically, they remain in the hearts of many.

When they left, it hurt. I felt like a part of me was being ripped out because they had been such a huge part of our lives and they were always so loving. Even now, I struggle with wanting to block out all the emotions. 

But my friend told me something she heard years ago: this hurt that you’re feeling, it’s okay. It’s good, even. Not everyone experiences so much love that taking away that friend takes a part of them too. 

That might sound obvious, but just the fact that the pain was good is such a powerful reminder for me. 

These pain-blocking, goodbye-normalizing walls aren’t just bad because they prevent friendships, they’re sinful. They’re sinful because I don’t see the people I interact with as worthy of my love. I don’t see people as valuable, eternal human beings created in God’s image and will be impacted by the way I choose to love them or not. My walls might seem to protect me, but all they do is create more damage. 

I harbor God’s love and His Spirit in me. As a child of God, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God uses broken people as a means to bring other broken people to the Perfect Father. When I choose not to love others and give them my time and love, I choose to not show them God’s love. 

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

1 John 4:10-11

Think how much it must have been painful for God the Father to be separated from His Son. The different persons of the trinity were in perfect communion. He had to punish and be estranged from God the Son, yet He loved Him. And He did this because He loved us, who were incomparably less worthy of love than Jesus. If we don’t deserve all that love, why do we build these walls to try to protect ourselves from fleeting feelings? Why do we do these things when eternal lives and souls are at stake? Are we really that selfish? 

If God loved us, we ought to love. And when the pain comes, we rejoice, because we have loved and have been loved. We rejoice because our pain is temporary. We rejoice because, if the loved one has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, we have stored up heavenly treasure and the friendship with that person will never end.