Author Sue Eenigenburg Joins Us Today {Book Club}

This week as we walk together towards the Cross, our theme is scars. We wanted author Sue Eenignburg of  Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission (written by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg) to share because this book is tangible evidence of the wounds we can get in this line of work. It’s also an act of redemption, Sue and Robynn take their wounds offer them back to, no longer as open wounds, but the scars that can come from redemption. Sue, thank you for being here today.


People talk about examining expectations. Can you share a few practical tips you’ve heard others use or you use yourself to examine expectations?

A good place to start is planning a yearly review where we make time to consider where the expectation comes from. Is it from yourself? Is it perceived to be an expectation from others but really isn’t? Many times I think women hold themselves to a higher standard than anyone else does. Women have to be proactive in this and enlist the support of others in order to take this necessary time off to think and pray.

Is the expectation in line with one’s gifting and strength? Many of my expectations were based on what I thought M women should be able to do, not necessarily how my gifts could contribute to the great commission. Taking a spiritual gifts inventory or strengths test and then looking at your ministry goals would be a good opportunity to see if there is alignment.

A very good book that I recently used was by T.J. Addington called Live Like You Mean It and in it he asks ten questions that helped me look at my expectations, dreams, faith and reality. It was a great opportunity to let a few dreams die and develop new vision with different expectations based on God’s leading and not my own ideals.

Some women might take a spiritual retreat to spend time with God in reflection and in his Word, praying through expectations, goals, schedules, and dreams.

Going over a list of our expectations with close friends, a mentor or trusted supervisor (someone who knows us well) can give us good insight into what might be realistic and what might be unrealistic.

How do you distinguish between knowing your expectations do need to be adjusted and sensing your expectations are reasonable and the problem is outside?  (For example in your organization, team, or host culture.)

Here is the thing, even if the problem is from outside we usually have to adjust our expectations even as we consider how to respond! We often want a quick fix and that is seldom possible.

Many times expectations aren’t met because they aren’t known and even if they are known they are often not communicated. Being assertive in speaking with your organization or team about expectations is imperative. Before arriving on a team let them know what you are expecting and ask them what they are expecting of you. Sometimes we can let disappointments simmer until we explode.

Being proactive to talk about expectations before the explosion is essential. Developing the ability to say no to some things in order to say yes to more strategic ways of using our gifts are vital to M women. When saying no to some opportunities you are expected to say yes to, taking the time to talk through reasoning is helpful for team and organizational leaders.

Women could make a list of what they think the expectations of them are from their organization and/or team. Go over those with the main leader to see if they are expecting what you think they are expecting from you. This could be a good opportunity to discover if those expectations are real or perceived. One young woman went to her leadership and after a discussion similar to this, she stated they were expecting too much and showed them her schedule. They agreed and became more flexible and realistic in their expectations of her.

It is harder with expectations regarding a host culture as overseas workers as we are always learning new things about the host culture. We learn a lot by making mistakes. Also, we must be deciding on cultural adaptations, both in our home and host cultures, based on scriptural principles and not merely what is expected of us.

I was expected to go to a national church in our host country to gain language skills (and worship the Lord) but when my children were little I spent most of the time outside trying to keep them from disrupting the service. I decided not to go since I wasn’t worshipping or learning more language. My time was more profitably spent at home.

There’s always more to say about a subject, but at some point you have to say, “enough!” and publish the book. What do you wish you could add to the book?

I would have loved to delve more into expectations and their impact on vision. I think being more intentional in dealing with our expectations of God would have been helpful.

Dealing with the lies we unknowingly believe from our culture and our own past or ideals would be a great topic as they affect expectations we might have of ourselves. Women are constantly bombarded with lies like ‘You are not worthy. You have to work harder and be better.’ ‘You are not as gifted as your team mate. You are less significant.’ ‘You should go home. You would be happier there.’ ‘You will never be a good mom. Look at what you did today and you call yourself a M.’ ‘Singleness is what is making you lonely. God is at fault for not bringing you a husband.’ ‘Your team expected more from you. What a disappointment. You should feel ashamed.’ ‘Look at all the needs. If you don’t meet them who will?’ What are the truths we need to know to battle the war with lies as we seek to examine expectations as we serve and honor the Lord?

I love Robynn’s story as she shares hope out of heartache. I know there are other stories of burnout where hope is also experienced and shared. I would have loved to read more of those testimonies and include them in the book!  Burnout isn’t the end. God’s amazing grace gives hope.


What a great note to end in light of Holy Week and the Hope that comes with Easter. Sue, thank you for you time with us today! Book Club Buddies, what stood out or was stirred in you?

Our first comment will be another answer from Sue about scars and expectations. We just didn’t have room for everything :).




P.S. Next week we discussion the chapter on expectations and co-workers.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Photo Credit: kennymatic via Compfight cc


  1. Amy Young March 30, 2015

    From Sue in regards to scars and expectations:  
    I had surgery on my neck last year and when I got the stitches out I wasn’t near a mirror to see how bad the scar was going to look. So, I asked my husband who could see it to give me his opinion. I asked him, “On a scale of 1-10, with 1 meaning my neck resembled Cinderella’s neck  and 10 meaning it was more like Frankenstein’s, how bad was it?” He looked at my neck, smiled and teasingly replied, “Well, Frank…” then he quickly added, “Just kidding, it isn’t that bad.” 
    At first the red, ugly scar really stood out and kept my attention focused on the pain and trauma that caused it. It was easy to forget the purpose of the surgery which was to remove a benign tumor encased in a major nerve strand that affected my arm. As time has passed the scar has faded and at this time is hardly noticeable. Though I know that the scar is barely visible to others; I know it is there. The difference is that now I don’t see it as a reminder of the pain. I see it as a symbol of God’s goodness, care and provision for me. He used the pain of surgery to bring healing to my body and maturing for my soul as I sought to trust Him through pain and the uncertainty of how much my arm would recover.
    As people working across cultures, we all have scars that are invisible to the naked eye. These scars come from encountering unmet expectations and persevering through the challenges of cross-cultural ministry.  At first these scars are prominent to us and our attention is focused almost solely on the distress and pain that brought them about. In time, however, as we look to Jesus bringing our disappointments, fears and sorrows to him, the focus moves away from the scars and onto Him. We begin to realize He has the power to redeem the painful experiences to use for his glory and our good. He brings forth abiding hope, joy and peace in our souls as we trust Him each day. At the same time we know all praise goes to the Lord because we know we wouldn’t have the strength on our own to change our focus. He provided the strength and vision for us.
    Our scars help us remember that we aren’t whole, independent and perfect. We are weak, needy and sinful. They point us to our need for Christ and His mercy.
    His scars remind us that though he was powerful, pure and undeserving of death, because of His great love for us gave His life for us to be saved from our deserved, eternal punishment. His scars draw us to His amazing grace.
    Scars lead us to see the need for grace; they also pave the way for us to experience it.

    1. Elizabeth March 30, 2015

      Wish I could “like” this comment as well as the post. It is SO good. Thank you for sharing, Sue!

  2. Danielle Wheeler March 30, 2015

    Sue, you’ve given us all such a gift in the research and writing you’ve done.  You’ve given us an opportunity to bring to the surface so many struggles that lay hidden.  And you’ve provided a real tool to work through those struggles.  I think your book is a key piece in the shifting of the tide that we want to see happen amongst ourselves as overseas women.

    I’m married to a man who is in the thick of research and writing right now.  I get an up close look at all that one has to pour into a work like this.  So I just want to say “thank you” for all those hours you devoted to this.  I think the impact is greater and deeper than you’ll ever know.

  3. Clarissa March 31, 2015

    I was talking to a wise woman today about the many transitions in my life currently that bring up memories of many past transitions. “I’m not sure when that will stop,” I told her. She replied, “The difference is between open wounds and scars.” I thought it tied in so well with the discussion here about scars this week and was reminded of it again when I read “At first the red, ugly scar really stood out and kept my attention focused on the pain and trauma that caused it.” I’m wondering…what is the difference between an open wound, an ugly red new scar, and a scar? 

    1. Clarissa March 31, 2015

      Shoot I don’t know where all of that added numbers and letters came from :/ Can that be undone? Sorry about that!

      1. Amy Young March 31, 2015

        Done … :), and who knows what internet gremlins there are!

        1. Clarissa April 1, 2015

          Thank you!

    2. Amy Young March 31, 2015

      So wise … I wonder how I got the idea that life would settle down and have no transitions. I think it’s not going to happen :). And as I watch people age, I see this will be true until — I don’t know. Because I think heaven will have transitions also. i will say, I can’t wait for transition that don’t have sin and brokenness woven into them :)!

      1. Clarissa April 1, 2015

        Good point Amy, maybe that is an unspoken expectation that needs to be unwoven and laid down at His feet.

    3. Sue Eenigenburg April 1, 2015

      I have been thinking about the difference between an open wound, an ugly red new scar and a scar. Time is one thing that makes a difference. An open wound needs treatment, the red new scar shows that the wound has been treated and after time the less obvious scar  is more like a symbol of healing. It doesn’t deny the wound; it doesn’t define the one wounded; but it shows the wound has had healing. In the non-physical world, time can make a difference but it doesn’t always. There are some very bitter people who, after time and opportunities for healing have been given, keep their wounds open. If they start to heal they reopen the wounds by doing too much too soon or by never allowing the scar to form because the wound becomes more comfortable than the healing that often comes through pain. Taking the time to process our hurts, aggressively forgiving those who have hurt us, giving grace and time to those we have hurt to forgive us, asking God to give strength and healing and persevering in our love for him even when we don’t feel loved all help forge healing scars that represent God’s love and faithfulness in our lives. Similar to grief there is no set time in how fast or slow we heal. Some wounds are deeper; some scars are bigger; One thing we can remember through the process is that Our eternal God is always deeper and always bigger. His love never wavers.

      1. Clarissa April 1, 2015

        Those are good thoughts to ponder Sue, thank you!

  4. Esteci April 1, 2015


    Thank you for your wise and compassionate words about scars, and for sharing some of your story.

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