Planting Roots + a Giveaway from Red Letter Words

I was the fifth generation to live on Quarry Rd. A quiet country road right outside of a one stoplight town in the Eastern Piedmont of North Carolina. Tobacco growing country that my family had farmed as long as anyone could remember.

I lived across from my grandparents and my great-grandmother and I don’t know of anyone in my ancestry that didn’t live in North Carolina. My roots in the old North State go deep.

It was quite the boat rocking moment when I decided to move to Georgia for my freshmen year of college. I then moved to the North Carolina hills and that is where I’ve chosen to dig my roots as an adult, even if they are somewhat superficial because of our travels.

I’ve traveled tons, lived on African red clay and like to fancy what it would be like to be a West Coast gal, but I always come home to the land of the long leaf pine. Though we come back to North Carolina as home we are always poised on the edge of going to a new place or pursuing an open door for service that could take us anywhere.

I didn’t worry about it a whole lot until we had our first child. Then I began to think about the short walk across the road to my great-grandmother’s house and Herbert’s flea market full of ancient treasures at the crossroads of our town. Herbert was a picker before being a picker was cool. I thought about stopping at Bob’s store for a SunDrop and a honeybun with my dad on the way to the trash dump on Saturday mornings.

I have wondered and wrestled with this lack of real roots and how it will affect our daughter. I worry that she won’t feel connected or have a sense of place and that at some point that will breed resentment toward myself and her daddy.

There. I said it.

My daughter is a unique child and I am certain that God placed her and made her in a way to fit our family’s very different way of living. I’m confident that God has done the same for your family if He has called you to life overseas. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not conscientious about the way that all of the back and forth and up and down of our life affects her. Because it does.

There are very practical ways that we can help our children to feel rooted even when we are rootless. Maybe “rootless” isn’t the right term. What we are looking for in our context isn’t so much roots as it is connection. We have to help our children connect with where we come from and to find ways for them to connect right where they are.

But what about the guilt? Take it to Jesus. He tells us that there is no condemnation for us and living the calling He has called us to, even if it doesn’t give our kiddos a “normal” life, it’s not something to live under the weight of guilt.

There are wonderful things about raising a third culture kid. They tend to be more resilient and flexible and will carry a different perspective then their peers. A valuable perspective that can foster amazing compassion and vision for the world and the Gospel.

When the guilt knocks hard we have to remember that Jesus was a homeless man with no place to lay His head. The son of refugees. The Son of a Holy God sent into a broken world. He was the ultimate third culture kid.

Do you struggle with raising a third culture kid? Have you experienced guilt about raising kids overseas?

Perhaps you could use a bit of beauty to remind you that God is working through you as a parent to a third culture kid and that He will be faithful in that journey? We have a beautiful giveaway from Red Letter Words today!

Perhaps you could use a bit of beauty to remind you that God is working through you as a parent to a third culture kid and that He will be faithful in that journey? We have a beautiful canvas giveaway from Red Letter Words today!

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  1. Kate May 11, 2014

    Thank you for your honesty here, Jessica!  I have three third culture kids and one has already admitted, “I’ll never know where my home is … until I get to heaven!”  Another has a strong allegiance to his birth country, which does not happen to be my birth country, nor the country in which we are currently living.  Lots of challenges and blessings to having multiple “earthly homes” and diverse experiences — all of which make me long for my eternal home.  🙂  Blessings to you and yours.

    1. Jessica Hoover May 14, 2014

      Yes, lots of challenges! Cheering you on as you mama them all with bravery and the belief that God is bigger!

  2. Charissa May 11, 2014

    I can so relate to these fears  questions Jessica!! Thank you for your wisdom:)

    1. Jessica Hoover May 14, 2014

      Don’t know if it is wisdom, but it is where I am at, lol! Glad to know that we’re walking this road together!

  3. Liz Schouten May 11, 2014

    I’m so thankful for the accumulated wisdom of many generations of “Sent Ones” who have raised their families outside of their home countries. There are so many resources and there are people ready and willing to help us families work through this with our kids. I’m glad for that, because I have two kids, and the elder very much keeps her emotions on the inside. As she grows, it will be that much more challenging to help her adjust to the many changes that are part of this life. I want to help her flourish in this life, and really LIVE in this country. Not just be here because her Dad and I are here.

    1. Jessica Hoover May 14, 2014

      What an encouragement Liz and yes, there are SO many excellent resources out there!

  4. K W Freeman May 11, 2014

    Yes! There is always a tinge of guilt in my heart. Whether it’s because our kids know how to play cricket and not baseball, or because they eat chapatis and not biscuits and actually call cookies biscuits, there is always the knowledge that my children don’t exactly fit in when we visit America. They’ve done amazingly well for the most part–they love India and think it’s a very exciting place to live and have tremendous compassion as they have seen in-your-face suffering. Still, as we visit our family this summer I expect some stings and heartaches to materialize as they reconnect with the life they left behind. Great topic to discuss!

  5. Ashley Felder May 11, 2014

    My kids are still pretty young (almost 5 and 2.5), so I’m not sure how much they truly grasp. But, I’m really curious how they’ll act and react when we go back to the US for a furlough in a few months. My youngest doesn’t even know where “home” is. My oldest is just excited about all the cool things he can see and do in America, but I’m betting he’ll be begging for his favorite Chinese foods within the first week. Looking forward to more posts on this topic this week!

  6. Sherri May 12, 2014

    Now that two of my TCKs are back in the States, it’s interesting to see how they process their growing up experience. One says she doesn’t really know a place that is home; home is where she feels connected; it is a comfortable place, not a geographic place. Overall serving God overseas has been a positive experience for us, giving us a broader view of God and His people.

  7. Lori May 12, 2014

    Yes, I can so identify with LOTS of your story!  I am also from eastern NC and grew up visiting my grandparent’s tobacco farm and have lots of memories of the special treats like the glass coke bottle from the corner store 🙂  The Far East where we now live is literally and figuratively worlds away from that sort of upbringing and after 4 years here now, my youngest (now 6) doesn’t remember much of daily life in the USA,  just a couple of summer vacations where everything seems like Disney.  He has declared he is “American-Chinese” once  or twice and my oldest (now 9)  loves both places but still has more memories from the USA.  Never knowing how much longer we’ll be here or even what we would do if we were called back there is always in the back of my mind and how this life will shape our children.  I do trust Father has it all in His hands and know He will be faithful to provide for them a purpose for their unique life.  I love the opportunity for them to know more of the globe than I did growing up but still feel the guilt at times for the things they miss out on (which they don’t know about, just I do….such as soccer teams, school field days, neighbors to play with that speak their native language, etc.).  On the other hand, I’m so thankful for all the things they aren’t exposed to that aren’t so enticing about our home culture.  It seems as though we’ll always wonder “what if…..” (if our life wasn’t where it was) and even now, I’ve changed enough myself from this global life that my own definition of home is forever changed.

  8. Marilyn May 12, 2014

    As a third culture kid now adult who is in contact daily with tcks of many different age groups, I echo the “give the guilt to God” advice. That is really important. In a post on A Life Overseas about TCK’s that’s the first thing I said and I would still say to any parent raising their kids overseas. Second is that your worldview and your home are not their worldview and their home.  Great subject to address in this forum!

  9. Brittany May 12, 2014

    I’ve wondered how my kids will turn out as TCKs.  They are so young, 3 and 1.5 years.  We moved overseas 7 months ago, but before that, but this is the 4th home my 3 year old has lived in in his short little life.  Talk about wanting some roots!  I long for the day when we will live in a place longer than 2 years!  The longest my hubby and I have ever lived somewhere together is 23 months! But I also believe with all my heart that because their daddy and I have been called to this life, my sweet little boys were created to be raised like this too!  In fact, from birth I have felt like my boys were perfect MKs.  Both have been extremely flexible, incredibly social kids.  What a gift!  I know that God is going to use this seemingly unrooted life to mold them into the men He wants them to be.

  10. Amy A May 12, 2014

    I am a TCK adult, now full time worker overseas with no real roots but tons of connection. I am so grateful my experiences as a child that continue to impact who I am today. The perspective and strength that was developed in that time I will forever be grateful for. Be encouraged parents of TCKs, I feel as if the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  11. Malia May 12, 2014

    Yes, I also wonder about my children not having roots. They get struck with the “where are you from?” question even as preschoolers, and they don’t have an answer. It IS comforting to remember that Jesus was likewise nomadic.

    1. Marilyn May 13, 2014

      I love the reminder that Jesus was a nomad Malia – I’ve been meaning to write about how Jesus is the ultimate third culture kid. And that place is important – that’s what the incarnation is about –Jesus coming and finding a place on earth here among us, though he knew it was not his permanent place. He was designed for so much more. And God uses places to draw us close.  I also think tcks have the unique opportunity to learn early on that home is not about white picket fences and beautiful homes in specific geographic locations, that it’s about people and places and the memories that go with them.

  12. Lauren May 12, 2014

    I loved your story because I’m a TCK adult and have lived in eastern North Carolina for the past two years.  I’m now getting ready to move out of North Carolina and am moving “back” to somewhere for the first time–it’s made me think about home in ways I haven’t had to in the past, having spent almost 18 years overseas.  But much like others say, I wouldn’t trade the questions of home or the feeling of “rootlessness” for the world–I value the life that I had in Asia, and am so thankful for the perspective it gave me.

  13. T May 13, 2014

    I like talking to my TCK colleagues, who remind me that it can be an amazing thing to be a TCK!  And, I love this print!!  Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. Alia Joy May 14, 2014

    I love this Jessica. I have always felt a little displaced as a TCK and it hasn’t been easy but as an adult, I’m seeing so much value in being able to acclimate and stand apart. Sometimes it’s lonely because I don’t ever completely fit, but then who does? It demands a reliance on God. In some ways, I feel more guilt that my kids are growing up with such a monocultural world view here in Oregon, despite my best efforts to broaden their perspectives.

    1. Jessica Hoover May 15, 2014

      I get it. With our back and forth jobs and ministry callings I think I worry about what my own identity is found in and subsequently how my wee girl will struggle with that very thing. Love your perspective and I get it about the monocultural perspective. Sometimes I worry that if we choose to live here that she’ll be missing so much which is really just the same fear.

  15. NK May 14, 2014

    I’m an adult TCK currently living in my seventh country. I think that it depends very much on what you define roots as, as to whether you have them as a TCK. Do I feel a particularly strong patriotism to one country….no, not really. Do I feel a strong connection to some countries- I would say yes, but I think it is probably different to the kind of connection that has been talked about where generations of a family have lived in one place.

    As a teenager I have to say that I really struggled with a sense of not fully belonging, of always being the foreigner, even if you don’t sound – or even look- like one. And no, don’t even get me started on the where are you from question (which doesn’t get any easier I might add!!) As a teen I was looking for the kind of roots that I see in people whose families have lived for generations in one place. My family isn’t like that. My mum is a TCK, as is my dad. One of my grandads emigrated across the world age 19, so he fits the trend too… one of my little TCK friends put it- in the words of a song: oh-oh, I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien….which often does feel true, but the good new is, us TCKs are becoming far more normal in this global melting pot of ours!

    As for my roots…..I see them differently. They tend to be more about people than place, but above all, what I learnt very early on is that I can’t put my security (or roots) in either of those. Faith is my roots, relationship with my Abba. This above all is what has been my lifeline through all the changes and ups and downs of life. Faith is what anchors me. Isn’t that how it should be?

    1. Jessica Hoover May 15, 2014

      NK, yes, I totally agree. What we want more than anything is for our children to find their identity in the everlasting anchor of faith. I think the struggle is letting go and letting God take care of that particularly at young ages where you watch your child struggle with a sense of belonging as God works these things out in their hearts and minds. As a parent  you don’t want to feel responsible for that and no one wants to watch there child struggle. It is easy to blame yourself and your choices rather than laying those things down and trusting fully in Jesus. As a TCK you bring so much to the table to encourage parents who are raising their children overseas. I love that you have such a grounded view of growing up and I would wholeheartedly agree that ultimately connection and roots have more to do with relationship than place. That is why cultivating community isn’t just for ourselves, but for our whole family. Love what you brought to this conversation!

  16. Lynn May 15, 2014

    Thanks for these words.  I’m not a TCK and don’t have any children, but have seen how hard this issue is for parents and for TCKs as they get older.  Some do fine with the transitions and others have a harder time.  Even so, it is good to let go of the guilt on all sides and to remember that the Lord brought us all to this time and this place and He knows how to get each of us through to Him in the end.

  17. Emily March May 17, 2014

    I can kind of relate to being uprooted.  My parents were high school sweethearts in a small country town north of Columbus, OH.  Both of their families, and everyone else in them, still live there, as they have for generations.  My parents, on the other hand, moved to Kansas when I was 5.  I grew up seeing “my roots” from the outside looking in.  Each year when we went back to OH to visit, I could see myself growing farther and farther apart from my parents “home culture.”  (The two places have very different cultures!)  With that, we lived right next to a military base, and it seemed that my best friends always lived in it.  So my friends frequently moved away after about 2 years.  Since graduating from college (in another state) 10 years ago, I have not lived in the same place longer than 2 years.  Now I am living in Asia and my second baby girl was born (in a non-English speaking hospital) 3 days ago.  As I reflect on that, and my Third Culture Kids, I can see how God was preparing me for this life beginning with my parents move to Kansas.  Also, He has given me a completely different definition to the word “roots.”  I agree, as it’s been mentioned here already, that roots are not grounded in a geographical location, however, I would go further and say it’s not necessarily wrapped up in relationships for me either.  God has allowed me to place my roots in His family.  His family, which dates back to the very beginning.  🙂  Since he adopted me into his family when I started to follow Christ as a young child, my grounding and stability has been in His worldwide family ever since.  Everywhere I go, whether on vacation with my parents, or moving to yet another new home with my husband and kids, I am immediately connected to my brothers and sisters in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever been talking with someone you just met, and you know that you are “related” in Spirit before the subject ever comes up?  Being a Christ follower is something I have in common with other Christ followers from any culture around the globe.  And often that’s the only thing I have in common (especially with people who have never left the US), but it means more to me than other worldly things.  God has blessed me with so many Grandparents, Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Friends when I have needed them throughout my life.  It has been a really fun journey.  And I can trust that He will guide my kids to have the same “roots.”  🙂

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