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.