Little Snag In My Life Plan {Book Club}

It happens almost every time we start a new book. I pick the book, am excited, make the announcement and then start to reread it and think, “What in the world were you thinking?!” A moment of panic sets in and I think This is it, the jig is up. They’re going to see I have no idea what I’m doing. 

So, when I opened Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan to reread it and these familiar feelings started swirling, I told myself to just ride it out, all would be okay. And it is! Nuggets are hidden in these stories she tells.

In chapter 2 Carolyn said, “My mind wandered all the way back to yesterday when I’d been a successful, competent adult.” She went from a high powered, “important” job in the capital city, wearing fancy clothes and getting to go to fancy events to rural town, functioning as a temporary (albeit well dressed) receptionist.

I’ve shared before that one of the reasons I picked this book is because we haven’t talked before about cross-cultural experiences within a country and how they can, at times, be more disorienting than actually going to another country. Because, after all, we’re still in the same country. How different can it be?


Obviously some of the countries we live in are large, so there’s going to be differences. But I know smaller countries have differences too. Where I first lived in China had historically been separated from the capital by a bunch of mountains so the “emperor was far away.” It created a laid-back cultural that loved to sip tea and play Mahjong (Majiang). And do not ever, ever, ever schedule anything during the rest time after lunch. They took their resting seriously.

When I moved to Beijing, I really wondered if I was in the same country. Where was the sweet pace of life? Where was time to sip tea and talk? Why did everyone in the entire city have to work so hard? Hadn’t they heard of this lovely thing called “rest time”? Well, the “emperor” wasn’t far away, he was near and his presence was in the air.

Have you lived in different cities/locations in your country of service? Do share, please.

Because she thought she’d be straddling two worlds for a short time, she kept a foot in each and tried to keep them separate. I had to smile when she’d take calls from Washington while she was in the family barn and the person she’d be talking with asked, “Is that a cow I hear”? “What? No, no cows here.” How have you handled your two worlds coming together? When do you try to integrate or introduce them to each other and when do you try to keep them separate?

I appreciated at the end of Chapter 4 her description of her youth as being “misfitting” and how she felt she fit in Washington. I think we can all relate to fitting in some settings better than others. I remember as I got older and realized that for a few of the people from my elementary school, elementary school was the pinnacle of their social power. With their feather bangs and big comb sticking out of their back pockets, they were the epitome of cool. I, however, had a “mature mouth” (not that way!). I was ready for braces a good two years before most of my peers. Nothing says “not totally cool” like an appliance in first grade, head gear in third and braces in fifth.

My (delightful) quirkiness makes sense in junior high classrooms and foreign countries. And thanks to many years overseas, I’m now given a pass in most settings and my semi-oddness is now endearing. Of course, I can’t know what it would be like if I’d never lived overseas. But I wonder what I’d be like if I hadn’t. How about you? Where do you feel you fit? What has contributed to your fitting or misfitting?

Two more quick thoughts. I appreciated this quote from the end of chapter 5: “I got it. I was going to have to downshift from the fast-lane pace that was a prerequisite for survival in Washington. Here, I just needed to coast.”

Her relationship with Jacob reminded me of us and the ways we are thrown onto teams of people who are, on the surface, quite different from us. But if we have the same moral compass, isn’t life richer for the differences?

Carolyn interacts with a host of colorful characters. Did any of them remind you of someone you know? Back home or on the field? What did you think of how Carolyn and her father interacted with her mom’s medical treatment (e.g. not being in the hospital when she had surgery)?

After my mini-panic attack, it turns out we have plenty to talk about :)! See you in the comments.


P.S. Here’s the reading plan:

June 2 — Chapters 1-7
June 9 — Chapters 8-14
June 16 — Chapters 15-20
June 23 — Chapters 21-25

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


  1. Keri Christensen June 1, 2015

    Amy and VA followers,

    For those of you who have not started the book yet, I encourage you to start.  It is a perfect summer book that reads fast.  It even has a cameo appearance of fainting goats.  I know that will entice some of you.

    I am new to the field and am still trying to find the balance between life in the states and life in China.  I spent my first 40+ years in Colorado, a state I love, and so I have lived a lot of life and I have responsibilities to friends and family.  I feel guilty if I neglect my first home and I feel guilty to my new home if I give Colorado too much attention.  Still finding the balance.


    1. Linda June 3, 2015


      i can completely relate as I to am new to the field having lived 50 years in the state of Iowa.  God is so good to take us on new adventures!

    2. Amy Young June 3, 2015

      Keri, I’d love for others to comment and chime in here. I can see how much stage of life and what technological realities are when you go influence/complicate/ease this. I was much younger when I went (though still had lived life and had friends and it was hard enough to walk away. But that’s more what I had to do because the internet was in nascent forms. Also has pluses and minuses). Keri, I feel this tension now, though, as I try to keep up with my China life. Others, thoughts? :)? Experiences? Stories!

    3. Patty Stallings June 12, 2015

      I’m still finding that balance too after 19 years!  Especially now our that kids are in the US while we are in China.

  2. Lydia June 2, 2015

    I live in a city and work in a village 15 minutes away. The differences between the two are startling… in the city, I can hold my husband’s hand in public, but in the village there is no pda. In the city, friends call and ask you to go for a coffee, but in the village there are no women in coffee shops because that would be indecent. Instead your women friends will either invite you to their home or show up at yours expecting coffee. People in the village work very hard, in rhythm with the seasons. Many people do not keave their house without someone home, for fear of burglary. Girls are expected to learn how to keep house from a young age and many want to be engaged before they graduate high school. In the city, college is expected, even a masters degree – though gypsy girls in the city marry very, very young and probably won’t finish high school. In the city, you can try to avoid the gossip of your neighbors, but in the village public opinion can run or even ruin your life.

    We are looking for a house in the village. People in the city try to talk us out of moving there, but people in the village are visibly touched that we want to live in their community.

    1. Amy Young June 3, 2015

      Lydia I love this comment so much. I know it is right and good to look at cross-cultural as being “overseas,” for indeed it is. But the difference between, as you say, 15 minutes is important too!

  3. Ashley R June 2, 2015

    Warning, this will be long. I have lots of thoughts, in no particular order.

    I’m so, so, so glad I’m re-reading this book. So much to love about how it portrays my little subculture of America with humor and dignity. One of the reasons I think I am cut out for this life is that growing up Appalachian means always growing up cross-culturally. Each area of America has it’s own quirks, of course, but I think Appalachia is the culture that fewest people understand. Also, this book has so much reverse culture shock in it. I grew up in East Tennessee, but I moved out of my hometown, unlike many of my classmates, and I always go back and feel a bit out of place. I was a misfit in my hometown, and I found success out of it. But I am always welcomed back with love because I am part of the long history of that community. My daddy was a doctor, too, and everyone knew and loved him. It doesn’t really matter what I do or who I am, they love me because I am part of that family, and they welcome me back like that little girl I was. Of course, many really, really don’t get why I would move overseas…after all, “Culture makes the world a better place…to go to hell from” as the church sign said. 🙂

    One of the questions I have is what things about our particular home cultures actually help us to understand our host cultures. So often we focus on the differences. One thing that struck me in re-reading the book was how indirect Appalachian people are when it comes to expressing their deep emotions. I love this line from chapter two, ‘I looked at Fletcher, and he was gilded by light…I was momentarily flustered, wondering maybe if this was the way angels looked, but I couldn’t say that. “Fletcher, I said, you look just like the FTD man.” ‘ I knew exactly what she meant here, you can’t say something that deeply emotional to someone else in Appalachia, even a family member. Many times, this indirectness has helped me here in China.

    I also LOVED the descriptions of the ways her daddy had been paid over the years. What are some of the most unique gifts we’ve been given by Chinese friends?

    There are so many gems in here that apply to cross-cultural life:

    The description of Michael and Harley and their different approaches to life really got me. I loved this line: “If there was one thing I’d learned growing up in a doctor’s office, it was that people’s mood was rarely dependent on their external circumstances. Its origin was almost always internal.”

    And what about the skylights in the hospital and how “heavily medicated, really sick people get disoriented in the hospital” and seeing outside helps them “keep track of up and down and day and night.” How often do we feel like that? What’s our mental skylight?

    And I know in interactions with people back home, I’ve hidden in a figurative barn “where nobody would be able to humiliate me within earshot of people who thought I was a smart, competent, professional adult.” That whole telephone conversation reminded me of what it feels like to communicate between two cultures.

    Then in the emergency situation near the end of this week’s reading: “I wanted my life back. I wanted to be in charge, in a world I could understand and control-a world where I was smart and successful and everyone knew it.” Maybe that’s your host culture, maybe it’s you home culture. But it does take humility to stay in the culture where no one gets you and you usually fail at what you try.

    Thanks for making me re-read this book through the lens of cross-cultural living.

    And if you haven’t started it yet, you really should. There are stories later in the book that will have you laughing out loud.

    1. Elizabeth June 2, 2015

      I was also really struck by that comment about Michael and Harley and people’s moods not be externally guided, but rather, internally guided.

      And I love that you’re from Appalachia and that your daddy was a doctor too! I hope you drop by in the comment section every week to share your thoughts and experiences!


      1. Ashley R June 4, 2015

        I’m going to try and drop in and comment every week. I’m loving this online book club thing. It’s my first time doing one.


    2. ErinMP June 3, 2015

      Haha, yeah I have a similar experience with my small town–they may not understand me but they welcome me back with love because of my history there. It’s good to have a place to go home to, even as a misfit–I think being overseas made me appreciate that more.

      Loved mental skylight and -“But it does take humility to stay in the culture where no one gets you and you usually fail at what you try.”

      1. Ashley R June 4, 2015

        Erin, small town are certainly a love/hate relationship, aren’t they? It’s true that the older I get and the more I travel I go, the more I appreciate the rootedness and community that come with having grown up where everybody knew my business.

        1. Ashley R June 4, 2015

          Oops! Bad editing. I need a nap.

    3. Amy Young June 3, 2015

      Ashely, as Elizabeth said, please, please comment every week! One of the things I love about book clubs is that books can be a jumping board for people to share their stories. As this is not my experience (small town, Tennessee, or parent who is a doctor), I love hearing yours!

      And as to the ways that our home cultures prepared us for our host cultures, great question! Okay, I’m going to sit and think for a moment. Talk amongst yourselves …. in my family, my paternal grandpa came from a large, large family (11 siblings) but they weren’t raised in the greatest overall environment so when they became adults, many opted not to have kids. So my grandpa was one of the four who did — meaning that my dad (and mom who married in) ended up having lots and lots of elderly aunts and uncles to help care for as they aged. This example is more from my family culture than my country culture, but I got the importance of taking care of family as they age. And even if you’ve married into a situation, it’s important to honor and serve. Okay, maybe this isn’t the best example :). I’ll keep thinking. I KNOW there are ways!

      1. Ashley R June 4, 2015

        Amy, that’s a great example. We all have so many layers of culture, not just our home country’s culture but our hometown and family cultures. My husband and I joke that he grew up cross-culturally (and that he and his sibling thrive in cross-cultural friendships) because their family is so weird. I love the idea of looking at the ways our stories and cultures equip us for living in our host cultures instead of focusing on the ways that we are misfits.

    4. Michele Womble June 3, 2015

      Then in the emergency situation near the end of this week’s reading: “I wanted my life back. I wanted to be in charge, in a world I could understand and control-a world where I was smart and successful and everyone knew it.” Maybe that’s your host culture, maybe it’s you home culture. But it does take humility to stay in the culture where no one gets you and you usually fail at what you try.

      It’s funny – that “world I could understand and control” and where I felt smart etc. used to be my home culture but now is my host culture.

      1. Michele Womble June 3, 2015

        The first paragraph is supposed to be in quotes (it’s a quote from the comment I’m trying to reply to) and the second I didn’t mean to put in italics because it’s my own thoughts….sigh.  What was that I was saying about where I feel smart and competent and in control? Ha. 🙂

        1. Amy Young June 3, 2015

          If we all were in person, this is where we’d have a burst of laughter together :). Thanks!~~

      2. Amy Young June 3, 2015

        Marie :)!! Yes! Yes, yes. I love how you point out humility — I find as my life has kind of gone “off script” from what tends to be the normal life story of a person and where I often feel not gotten by people (but I think this really is more the common story than people feeling gotten by others), I have to be okay with not being gotten :). And you have struck the most important part of that — humility combined with, as Mary DeMuth says, “settle your worth.” I’m worth what God says (and not what a paycheck, compliment, good/bad behavior of kids, or others say). You got me thinking :)!

  4. Elizabeth June 2, 2015

    Real fast, Amy, and then I’ll come back later — I’m loving it so far. Lots of laugh out loud moments! And some deeper stuff to ponder too. Will be back later when I have more time 🙂 Love you!

  5. ErinMP June 2, 2015

    Interesting cultural note on China! The only experience I have so far with that is in theory…apparently my attitude works better in the area of the country I’m not in, so while some of the people I’ve met from that area like it, some of the people from the area I’m working in want me to act differently (and have you noticed how some people really want to control everyone around them? It happens overseas even! I assumed I’d be given a pass for something for being foreign, but it turns out most people aren’t actually that ‘multicultural’!). I’m really interested now in traveling to see how far the differences go!

    I liked the quirky characters, like her mother (“she’d never done anything remotely healthy for 70 years” made me happy) and father, and Harley (for some reason he was one of my favorites, but I grew up around a fair share of bikers and military men or veterans, and some of them acted like that, either in stories I heard or real life)… and fainting goats! My neighbors had those! They also sneezed a lot, but I think they were allergic to me. My country life wasn’t quite like this, since my country is right by LA so there is a lot of influence from the “big city,” but aspects were the same-mainly the kids growing up on their daddy’s tractors, feeding animals, the less-than-normal paperwork and injury descriptions. Did anyone else here grow up in the country-side to some degree?

    I guess I resonated with her feeling like “emergencies that seemed to crop up whenever I was around,” since my first year on the field may have felt a little like this. I was a far cry from a lawyer where I came from, but I at least felt social, competent, well-liked, was offered/given small promotions in fields I could have stayed in…and then came here and it all went to…memory! I like how she was high-strung, easily traumatized, the “emotional vehicle” for her stoic parents (loved that–not my family life, but really liked the description and how she must have felt growing up), and part country and part city. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Loved the quotes- “Sometimes the gift was a burden in itself, but Daddy always accepted it gracefully anyway.” Doesn’t THAT have a lot to say about life?!?

    “Harley would wade around in the raging torrent until he figured out some way to plug it-like a professional little Dutch boy from Hell.” OK that isn’t deep but I like her descriptions of Harley. Also liked that he didn’t get any credit because it wasn’t a PR flashy job. So sort of a good commentary on how social status works.

    “There was one thing I’d learned growing up in a doctor’s office, it was that people’s mood was rarely dependent on their external circumstances. Its origin was almost always internal….He lived by the grace of God and a valiant nature…” I resolve to change!

    And I liked what happened when the Baptists spotted her! 😉 That part definitely reminded me of my lovable small town.

    There is definitely a lot to get out of this book!

    1. Elizabeth June 2, 2015

      I underlined the “little Dutch boy from hell” sentence too — I loved the picture it created in my mind, and how it reminded me of the children’s story. 🙂

      1. ErinMP June 4, 2015

        Ha! Yeah, I liked that dichotomy too.

    2. Ashley R June 3, 2015

      Harley is definitely one of my favorite people in the book, and I loved the description of his work, too. And I grew up in a small town in East Tennesse, but not on a farm or with animals. Still, country life was all around and easy enough to find. I love this book because the quirks of rural life make me feel right at home.

      1. ErinMP June 4, 2015

        Yes, it’s nice when a book either feels like home or reminds you of home. 🙂

    3. Amy Young June 3, 2015

      Loved the quotes- “Sometimes the gift was a burden in itself, but Daddy always accepted it gracefully anyway.” Doesn’t THAT have a lot to say about life?!?

      YES! 🙂

      And I love hearing about your life too Erin!

      1. ErinMP June 4, 2015

        This is too kind, thanks ^_^

  6. Elizabeth June 3, 2015

    I’m back 🙂 I appreciated tons of stuff in these first 7 chapters, so I’ll try not to spend too much time on each thing 🙂

    I chuckled at her descriptions of the difficulties of Medicare, ironic because it started as a way to help. But I also have more compassion for the difficulties of Medicare recipients and their care providers now!

    So interesting to me how she stayed friends with Jacob, even when the romance was over. At first I didn’t understand it, but then she explained more later, about having a shared ethical code, and it made more sense. My relationship with my own husband is such that the romance and the friendship mingle to such a degree that it’s hard to separate them sometimes, and I often marvel at the intermingling. So it’s hard for me to imagine how people could separate them. Not questioning or doubting her experience! Not at all. Just not relating to it, since my own experience is so different.

    I laughed at the Cheryl Piatt scene! And about Cheryl’s boyfriend being this extreme hypochondriac, and the author’s daddy telling her most hypochondriacs are women (like me!! ha!!) but the rare male hypochondriac can be even more extreme.

    I laughed again when she talks about how she and her daddy don’t have any business sense and would run everything into the ground without their momma.

    “I could tell from his voice that he missed his cows. His family had been dairymen for four generations that I knew of. People like that were natural herdsmen and were miserable without their animals.” That was just so beautiful and honoring and helped me better understand the hearts of some of my dear friends who are dairy farmers.

    I was also struck by how much her parents keep their feelings to themselves.

    I also noticed, as someone else mentioned, the skylights over the ceilings of the heavily sedated. Fascinating, and understandable. My favorite place to do my quiet time is the living room, which, although loud from the construction, affords the best view of the sky and yields the most sunshine, which I absolutely require to stay alive. Something so important about the sky and the way it tells how time has elapsed.

    And then I laughed at her description of the J. Edgar Hoover building being easier to navigate than the hospital, even though it was designed to be tricky and misleading by some of the most paranoid people in the world. LOL! Then on their trek through the hospital she notices that they’ve passed some of the same places already and sagely refrains from informing her daddy, saying D.C. had taught her that.

    “Your daddy’s smart. He could’ve done anything, could’ve been any kind of doctor and got rich, but he cam out here instead cause he wanted to help people.” LOVE LOVE LOVE that.

    I laughed at the lady who kept telling the same birthday dinner at Cracker Barrel story!

    “I was going to have to downshift from the fast-lane pace that was a prerequisite in Washington. Here, I just needed to coast.” I thought that was interesting. In some ways, it applies to life overseas, if you’re in a culture where things progress more slowly. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t, because the pace of life can quicken. Perhaps work does not quicken, but the rest of regular life takes so much time to accomplish in a foreign culture, that overall coasting isn’t going to happen!

    I laughed at her description of Friday afternoons versus Monday mornings! Monday morning hangovers make intuitive sense for everybody, but the Friday afternoon drug-seekers I think would only be intuitively obvious to people with medical backgrounds. I absolutely loved how he could see through the desperate drug seekers and refused to give in. I remember stories from my husband’s dad, who was a dentist, and who routinely got requests for pain meds, especially on weekends.

    I laughed when Bennie couldn’t find her momma and freaked her out, but her daddy wasn’t scared at all. And I laughed at her question about assuming the morgue was in the basement and couldn’t bring herself to say morgue, so she asked her dad, “you don’t think they took her to the basement?” In the inner city trauma center my husband worked in, the morgue was right next to McDonalds. Go figure.

    “I went into the e-ray room, closed the door, lay down on the hard table, and curled onto my side in the fetal position. Being a receptionist was tough. I needed to rest.” I so get this! I worked as a receptionist in a Wal-Mart Vision Center for 2 summers in college. It was a great job most of the time, but also very demanding, especially when we would get very backed up.  And I worked with optometrists, so it had a little bit of the medical aspect. We did have to abide by HIPAA regulations.

    Later she says, “You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to be a receptionist. I had no idea.” Also true! That’s because it’s in the service industry, and I’ve always thought service industry jobs are GREAT prep for living overseas. Because you have to work hard and sometimes people are mad at you. 😉

    The part where she’s returning calls and the guy tells her she has to shut the nuclear plants down NOW, but she says she can’t because they need electricity. So much to say about that one. People in developed countries DO need their electricity, because we’ve created a lifestyle that requires it. Also she says the CA voters decided on nuclear and now they’re stuck with it. So true about so many things in life. You know, the “make your bed and lie in it” type of thing.

    The part where they talk with the surgeon about not being there for her momma’s surgery! The shock for that guy! And later when he calls to talk to the doc (who is busy treating anaphylaxis) who won’t come to the phone, something that’s really quite unheard of. Then again that chapter was SO scary. I’ve had 2 mild reactions to amoxicillin (a penicillin). The first time I thought it was related to my acne. The second time I put two and two together, and told my care provider, who told me never to accept a penicillin-class antibiotic again. She told me reactions only ever get worse, and you can never predict when the next reaction is going to go anaphylactic. Which is why this chapter was so scary to me! So glad it turned out ok, but a scary prospect for anyone.

    I was a bit dumbfounded by how much money she was spending on her clothes.

    I loved how her daddy shunned doctor clothes and wouldn’t even drape his stethoscope around his neck like the TV doctors. Too pretentious for him. Love that.

    “I wasn’t some little receptionist they could push around. I was a freaking Senate Counsel. And I was getting irritated.” Laughed at that. And related. There are time I think, I’m not as dumb as I seem in this culture! I have an engineering degree! But can carry on only minimal conversation in the local language. Then she says, “I wanted my life back. I wanted to be in charge, in a world I could understand and control — a world where I was smart and successful and everyone knew it,” and “I wanted to go back to Washington. This was not the job for me. I wanted to help people, but I wanted them to be strangers, and I wanted to do it from a vast impersonal distance.” I think I get these things too — they are the symptoms of having crossed cultures.

    And about crossing cultures — I agree it doesn’t have to cross country lines. My first inkling of that was several years ago when we got involved in some urban ministry in Kansas City. Such a different culture! They even had a different language. The memory that stands out most clearly for this was at a meal when a guy shouted, “That’s so crispy!” and I husband had no idea when he was talking about. Turns out it just meant “that’s so cool.” So we were using the same English words but with different meanings.

    Another story about language — when we were preparing to come to Cambodia we learned that Khmer has no “to be” verbs. (It sort of does, but not exactly. I won’t go into it here. But I will mention that I’ve been told Russian also has no “to be” verbs. That’s fascinating to me.) Ok anyway, so we were telling this to some close friends who had worked in the urban ministry with us, and they told us, oh that’s just like the kids we pick up on the church bus. “Where’s George?” you might ask, and the answer you receive would be “Oh, he at home,” with no “to be” verbs. Anyway, we got a chuckle out of that.

    And the only other thing I would say about this book is that I totally get her not wanting to go back, not wanting to be recognized. I also had some rough upper-elementary and junior high years. Life as a college student and adult has been considerably better. I would never want to return to those days or find myself in a situation where people remember me only as that awkward, uncool nerd girl. She went off into the world to find where she fit, and she found it, and finally felt confident. I went off into the world and found my place among other engineering students (and specifically other Christian engineering students at the local campus ministry), and life suddenly got a whole lot better. So that’s a commonality for me.

    I know that was long! I just loved so many parts in this book 🙂

    1. Elizabeth June 3, 2015

      P.S. I know I have typos here. I hope you can still figure out my meaning!

    2. Amy Young June 3, 2015

      I also found her relationship with Jacob interesting — when I asked her about how long she ended up working with her daddy, she updated me on Jacob too (sorry to be cryptic, I’m tying to figure out when to share my questions and her answers, I emailed her on a whim after she commented and I don’t have the best plan :)!)

      And yes to how hard it is to be a receptionist — I worked for several years as a fast food restaurant and though I loved it (I really did, but I tend to love most things), IT WAS SO HARD. It was exhausting to be on my feet all day and interacting with the public. The public is a  wonderful, wild beast :). I try to remind myself that so many jobs I think might be “easy” are actually much harder in some aspects than the more intellectual jobs I’ve ended up having. I thankful for these roots, otherwise i might not know.

      1. ErinMP June 7, 2015

        Great point. I also think those jobs are harder because you have to be focused on every-day practical details the whole time, and keep on a smile, and help the public, and remember a million food details (or whatever business it is)…which is hard work.

    3. Michele Womble June 3, 2015

      I have an engineering degree, too! (had to respond to that. 🙂 )

      Russia actually does have “to be” verb but it’s almost never used in the present tense.  I find it fascinating, too.   So yes – “he at home.”  But past and future would still use a past or future form of be.

      1. Elizabeth June 3, 2015

        Ooh fun Michelle! On both the engineering and the little Russian tidbits. Thanks for sharing those!

        What kind of engineering? I’m chemical 🙂

          1. Elizabeth June 4, 2015

            You go girl! I confess I was always so confused by electricity (and still have difficulty when electricity and magnetism come up in homeschool lessons). Once I confessed this to an electrical engineering friend (did they call them EE’s, or “double E’s” where you went to school??). I told him chemistry is so easy, all you have to know is where the electrons are and where they’re going, and voila, chemistry makes sense, to which he replied, “It’s exactly the same in electrical engineering,” and to which I laughed. Because, to borrow a Cambodian phrase, “same same, but different”! 🙂


          2. Michele Womble June 4, 2015

            Elizabeth – double E. 🙂

            (your little box doesn’t have a reply link on it, so had to hit reply on my own box – hope it works out right)

            Love that about it’s just knowing where the electrons are and where they are going.  Hilarious!


            But, although I have the degree, I haven’t done anything in the field in over 20 years.  I would say I’m no longer really an engineer at heart, even.  If I did it again I’d get a degree in language, or music or some writing area.

            What about you?

            What abou

          3. Elizabeth June 4, 2015

            Well, I graduated and gave birth 2 months later. So I never did anything with it. Actually that’s not exactly true. . . I tutored high school and college math and chemistry off and on while continuing to have babies. And I taught math and science topics at our homeschool co-op. So, I guess it’s more accurate to say I didn’t use my engineering degree professionally, but math and science are still in my blood. I love them. I love how math and science point me to God. I could go on and on about that, but for your sake now, I won’t 🙂

          4. Michele Womble June 5, 2015

            I guess I would have to say the same thing – I’ve never used it professionally, but of course some of the knowledge and the discipline and etc. has come in handy, in addition to the whole experience of getting the degree being part of who I am….

      2. Phyllis June 8, 2015

        I was going to say the exact same thing. I’m glad there’s another Russian lover here. 🙂


        I’m enjoying the book, too, and I’m loving “listening” to you all discuss it, even though I don’t have anything to add right now.

          1. Phyllis June 9, 2015

            We were in central Russia for almost 7 years, and now we’ve been in Ukraine (Russian-speaking) for almost 7 years. I clicked over to your blog to find out where you are, too. 🙂

    4. ErinMP June 4, 2015

      I love the part about her daddy being able to do anything else, too, but he chose to come there. Why did the part about her parents being stoic strike you so much, if I can ask?

      Good points from the book 🙂

      1. Elizabeth June 5, 2015

        Hey! This thread got long and confusing, so I think you’re asking me this question 🙂 I just thought it was really interesting that both her parents kept their feelings to themselves, but she didn’t. Where did she learn how not to keep it in? How did she know that was ok to do it a different way? That kind of thing. Just an interesting little twist for her to be so different from her parents in that way, is all 🙂

        1. ErinMP June 5, 2015

          Elizabeth- haha yes you guessed right. I forget to use names when I reply sorry! Ah, yeah good point/question. Maybe it was a complete reaction to them. I really liked how she described herself as comparison to them as the vehicle for their emotions. 🙂

      2. Michele Womble June 5, 2015

        Yeah, I like that part, too.  He could have done anything, but has given his life to this community.

        1. ErinMP June 10, 2015

          Amen 🙂

  7. Esteci June 3, 2015

    For anyone still thinking of beginning this book, you might try getting it through Freading. I downloaded it for free. It’s a quick read, reminding me of the Mitford books. It’s peppered with interesting people and cases, much like James Herriot’s veterinary chronicles. While  Heart in the Right Place is mass-market and fluffy, it is occasionally brilliant, and Amy has done a great job of bridging its themes to overseas living.


    1. Phyllis June 8, 2015

      I’ve been reading Mitford, too, and there is a slight resemblance.

      1. Elizabeth June 8, 2015

        I bought the first Mitford book a while back on someone’s recommendation, but haven’t gotten to it yet. This gives me more motivation to give it a try. Thanks for the reassurance Phyllis and Esteci!

  8. Michele Womble June 3, 2015

    I LOVE this book, Amy!  Thank you for choosing it!

    All the quotes I loved about cultural differences have been shared and discussed already – but these are some that struck me in terms of serving others/ministry.

    “Previously I’d overreacted only to visible injuries, but now I had a paranoid fear that the people who looked fine were the ones who might be in the worst shape.”

    I guess it speaks for itself, but sometimes the people who really need help or need to be served aren’t necessarily the ones who look like they need it.

    “It was a losing proposition.  But so it had been since the day he was born, and he was sixty now. ”

    Sometimes I may think a situation or problem or person is unsolvable, a lost cause.  And maybe in a way their problems or wounds – or my problems and wounds – won’t be completely healed in this life.  And yet this guy was still living 60 years later, constantly working on his health, and with a positive outlook.  It’s convicting to me to keep on – not give up on someone or some situation just because it’s “a losing proposition”.

    “The entire community colluded to take care of her.”  This is about Hiawatha Hancock, who was “senile in an eccentric but charming way.”  The community mowed her yard, took her places, decorated for her, and conspired together to sneak her trash collections out of her house. All without her knowing it.  I thought that was a beautiful description of community.


    1. ErinMP June 4, 2015

      You made me think about the “lost cause” point in a way I hadn’t before, thank you for sharing Michele!

      Yeah, I really think that level of community…I’ve seen it in my small town and some churches, and I hope to find it elsewhere…it is beautiful… but rare, don’t you think? It makes me think, how can we make sure we help build this wherever we go?

      1. Michele Womble June 5, 2015

        Yes, I think it is rare….

        …although, on the other hand,  maybe not as rare as I would tend to think.  I mean, they aren’t mowing EVERYONE’s yard – or collecting everyone’s trash – just hers – because she really needs it – and so maybe community is happening but not in such a Vivid way because the need isn’t as vivid…and so maybe it’s a matter of knowing when and how to rise to the occasion when the occasion presents itself – and being willing to – which they did.

        I would be a bit disconcerted if members of my community started to show up regularly to take my trash out – but I pray for eyes to see the ways that they are already serving me and each other, ways that maybe aren’t so obvious.

        1. ErinMP June 5, 2015

          Michele– lol! Good point. Hopefully wherever the body is, something good is happening. I know I have experienced that, it brings me hope to think it is going on as needed elsewhere.

  9. MaDonna June 7, 2015

    Great book, Amy!

    I just got my copy in the mail – I wanted a book to hold for this one. I just finished reading chapter 7 – so many things to discuss…I’ve enjoyed all the comments and thoughts on this book as well.

    I grew up in a small town in Missouri – so some of the issues and characters reminded me of people “back home”. I, too related to not always wanting to be noticed/found out when I’m back – isn’t that funny? I giggled at the sisters that came in and had the table flipped up and the poor friend in a mess.

    Oh, the language/phrasing that was used in conversation. The lady asking if they “wash out feet” in the first chapter. My husband is a German MK who grew up in Taiwan – so when we go to visit I sometimes have to “translate” for him and the kids – but sometimes I can’t remember or know what they are talking about either, especially when it is farming related.

    I’m enjoying her similes and analogies as well. Now that I’ve almost caught up, I’ll mark the parts I really like better. 😉

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