An In-Between Place {Book Club}

This month we are excited that Amanda is going to be leading us through our Book Club discussions! Amanda has been part of Book Club for awhile now, and we are looking forward to diving in with her and with all of you this month.

~ Sarah and Rachel


“It’s not a settling kind of place—it’s an in-between place.”

Ah, yes, the in-between place. It is an uncomfortably familiar space that we find ourselves in all too often as cross-cultural workers. Even as I settled in to write this post, I very much felt stuck in between so many themes and concepts to discuss from these chapters. So let’s go there!

In These Nameless Things, we don’t know much about what happened on the other side of the mountain, but we do know that it was traumatic and that Dan made the regrettable decision to leave his brother behind. It is evident that he, along with the others in the small town, are dealing with profound grief.

Dan acknowledges that on this side, it was easier to fill their days with other things than to actually process through what had happened on the other side of the mountain. “We had all tried to cover up our scars, most of us through distraction or busyness or work or fun.” Distractions are a way to avoid emotions. I think that is part of why the 2020 pandemic was so hard on people mentally. They were grieving what was lost, but were no longer able to fill their schedule to keep them from dealing with their feelings. We had to sit in an inescapable place of uncertainty. At the same time, when restrictions began to lift, there was a new discomfort as many did not feel ready to leave the new reality they had created.

As unsettling as living in the in-between place can be, we tend to find a strange comfort in the routine of it all. Dan’s community worked together to make their temporary space feel like home.

“I loved the garden because it reminded me of us, of how we were making our way on our own, how we didn’t need anyone else. It was a picture of this new life we had created outside of the mountain. I didn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave the garden, the food, the space that was so entirely ours.”

Throughout the first seven chapters, the characters are living in tension between their settled and unsettled feelings. They have created a community with rituals and routines. They are certain they do not want to return to the mountain but are unsure whether or not they want to leave this space. When Mary announces that she is ready to leave, Dan starts to panic. From my perspective, it was not the idea of losing her that unsettled him. I think it was the certainty of her decision that rocked him.

A few years ago, my family had an unexpected extended furlough. We lived week by week, hoping that circumstances would change so we could return to the field. Every time one of the other workers from our sending organization left the States for their assignment, I panicked. It was a reminder that others were moving on when I wasn’t sure whether or not we were going to be able to. They were entering into a place of certainty.

As stagnant, mundane, or as trapped as we can feel in the in-between place, I found it profound when Smucker stated, “Even here, something is happening.” We don’t always know how God is working or how we are growing at times, but we can be assured that even in the wintriest of seasons, SOMETHING is happening.

And if we are healing from grief or a tragedy, we can have faith that one day we will look back and recognize how much we have grown and how the Lord brought us through it. As Smucker put it so well:

“The strangest part of all was how beautiful that range was from this far away.”

Being in the valley is not great, but the view can be breathtaking. He takes our worst life experiences and makes them masterpieces, showcasing the beauty of His redemption.

There is so much more to unpack here, but I would love to hear your thoughts! What have been some in-between places you have experienced? How have you seen the hand of God hindsight, after coming out of barren seasons?

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:

August 10: Chapters 8-15

August 17: Chapters 16-22

August 24: Chapters 23-30

August 31: No Book Club, learn about the next session of Connection Groups

12 Comments

  1. Michelle Kiprop August 3, 2021

    Well I wound up really diving in and just kept reading. I’m really looking forward to discussing the next session already!

    Thinking about in-between places made me remember when I was in a place where I knew I was headed towards becoming a medical missionary in Africa, but I still had so much training to complete before I could go. I wound up learning this song “Use Me Here” by obscure camp band Everybodyduck. The song talked about laying our heart’s desires before the Lord and asking him to use us in the place where we are in the current moment. I wound up getting involved with Youth Ministry in that season even while I was studying, working, and preparing to go overseas. I had some great years serving in that capacity. Today several of the girls I worked with actually support our work in Kenya. The song is here if you want to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=364pchLaRaw

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 4, 2021

      Oh, that song is really good! Thank you for sharing that, Michelle!! 🙂

    2. Amanda Hutton August 4, 2021

      Michelle, I agree that this one is a page turner. It is so mysterious that I just want to keep reading to gain clarity. Thank you for reminding me of this song… I had forgotten about it!

  2. Bayta Schwarz August 3, 2021

    Your thoughts on living in an in-between place resonate so much right now! Even though physically I am in my new location (and have been for just over a month), because of various factors (struggling to find an apartment, helping lead an online conference which meant I lived primarily in “Zoom-land” for almost 3 weeks, and most regular activities being on summer break), I feel like I still haven’t landed properly, never mind starting the process of settling and putting down roots.
    Can’t wait to find out where the story takes us – so many open questions after this first section!

    1. Amanda Hutton August 4, 2021

      Bayta, I appreciate the term “Zoom-land.” That is DEFINITELY an in-between place!

  3. Rachel Kahindi August 3, 2021

    The in-between place is so relatable! Getting ready to leave my home country, arriving in the host country and having to get those life routines started before work could commence, being stuck in the house for so many months because of the pandemic, any transition from one life stage to another… It always feels like we are *going to* do something, but in the meantime we wait and do daily routines.

    I loved that “even here something is happening.” I have not always noticed what was happening in the in-between, but looking back I can definitely see it.

    1. Amanda Hutton August 4, 2021

      Rachel, I absolutely agree that hindsight is 20-20 in those in-between places.

  4. Sarah Hilkemann August 4, 2021

    This book is the right mix of curious and creepy for me. 😉 I’m very intrigued to understand all the different layers and meaning!

    So many of the phrases in the first section feel like they could have come out of my journal. The heaviness of nameless things, in-between places, not wanting things to change. It’s funny how it feels familiar even if it is slightly unsettling.

  5. Amanda Hutton August 4, 2021

    Sarah, I agree that it is quite creepy. I look forward to actually understanding a bit of what is going on… ha!

  6. Abby August 8, 2021

    I definitely can relate to in_between place right now! I have been preparing for international work slowly and surely for over 10 years. But more like Mary than Dan, as timeline to departure gets closer and closer, but is still not settled, now that I’ve decided it is time (or almost time) to go, the in-between place suddenly feels not-right, and I feel antsy to be on my way. It is amazing how the conviction of sudden decision can so totally change the perspective of the same place that I have been peacefully waiting and seeing things happen in the background.

    1. Amanda Hutton August 11, 2021

      Abby, you sound like you are ready to move on to the East! 😉 It is amazing how quickly we can transition from that in between place to the next. Blessings on your endeavors!

      1. Abby August 11, 2021

        Haha yes definitely! But I think God is taking me through His own sort of leaving ritual first, which takes a little longer than one night 😉😄. Thank you for the encouragement and affirmation!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.