Sacrifices and Joys {Book Club}

Sacrifices and Joys {Book Club}

From the very beginning, the moment we say yes to following Jesus across borders and cultural lines, we sacrifice being completely understood.

Despite long hours of language study, deep and amazing friendships with local partners and neighbors, intentional and unintentional cultural lessons, we will never fully be a part of the place that we call home. We might dress like them, have homes like them, and shop in the same places they do, but we cannot completely shed the culture that we come from.

When the time comes to leave that place and return to our passport country, the same can be said as well. While we might be able to slip more easily into patterns and habits and rhythms of a place we once knew, we will always be different. We are marked by places and cultures and people.

This is a gift, but it can be incredibly painful too. We might be laughed at because no matter how hard we try, we can’t quite communicate our thoughts in just the right way. No matter how much we know, we will make a decision on how to parent our children or remain single way past the acceptable age, and this doesn’t make sense to our local friends.

It will be hard to put into words for our friends back home what we have seen and experienced, the ways that place has driven roots way down in our hearts. We might look the same on the outside (although for many of us, we’ll come home with a few more gray hairs, am I right?), but have different views and opinions and theological beliefs then when we left. It can be hard to have to explain that over and over again, and so we might stop trying.

This is one of the sacrifices of Kingdom work.

In Tamie’s story (Chapter 8) in For the Joy, she shared similar thoughts about being a “third culture mum.” She said, “You can’t divest yourself of one world as you move into the other, so we operate in a kind of middle space.”

Have you seen that happen in your own cross-cultural journey? Tamie described how she has mixed the parenting styles of her passport country of Australia with her place of service in Tanzania. Has the place you are working influenced how you parent your children? Have you seen it in other areas of your life?

We started this section with the heart-breaking story of how Julie and her husband lost their little son, Owen. When Colleen said to make sure to have tissues ready for this book, she was right! I appreciated how honestly Julie shared in her story about the waves of grief and the journey she and her husband went on. I love the picture she shared of being cracked, clay pots. She said, “There has also been much joy as we see that God can use cracked, rough pots like us, often in small ways, to share the truth of His gospel. It is a joy to know that in our brokenness, we can point to the light of Jesus glimmering through us.”

I don’t love the fact that I am a weak vessel, a cracked clay pot, but I do know from experience how God’s grace allows His light to shine through the broken places in my life. In the darkest, hardest seasons, I can look back at my utter weakness and see His faithfulness. It becomes more obvious that I can do nothing in my own strength.

Do you have a cracked clay pot story?

Are there other gems you found in the stories from this section? I’d love to hear what you think of this book!

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

May 19: Chapters 11-16

May 26: Chapters 17-21

We are so excited to be partnering with William Carey Publishing for this book, and they are offering us a 50% off code for the e-book version of For the Joy! Click on the link HERE and use the code VABOOKCLUB50!

In June we will be reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin! Stay tuned for more details.

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash


  1. Amanda May 12, 2020

    I SO appreciated Tamie’s stories of childrearing in Tanzania. Her example of an early bedtime for her son and the “exploring” vs. sitting quietly resonated with me. Every time we have attended a later event, I have felt very self conscious of my rambunctious toddler running around or crying/having tantrums because her normal bedtime is much earlier.

    “Living with this ambiguity has become part of my parenting as well; I exist in that third space, and that third space sets my expectations.”

    This has been so challenging for me. As Sally described Latin American culture, I was laughing hysterically because it was basically a description of my life. Raising my first baby was a nightmare because everything I did was wrong according to my neighbors, and they were not afraid to share that opinion. I won’t deny that sometimes my responses were less than patient or polite. By the time my second came along, we had started parenting more out of that “third space.” On our first furlough in the States with both kiddos, we were regularly met with disapproving comments or disbelief at some of our parenting choices (running around without shoes on, waking up at the crack of dawn, giving kisses on the cheek to everyone). It feels like a lose-lose, but it is out of that “third space” struggle that I meet opportunities to share Jesus with others—and they listen because they are intrigued to see what this crazy momma has to say. A cracked clay pot.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann May 14, 2020

      Amanda, thank you so much for sharing! My heart hurts that you’ve had those “lose-lose” situations. While understanding the third space idea of parenting and overseas life can be helpful, it is also hard to realize the pain of that space too. I don’t like being a clay pot. 🙂 But it is also humbling and comforting to know that God’s light can shine out of me even then. 🙂 I’m so glad you are reading this book this month. I love your insights!

    2. Marissa May 15, 2020

      Amanda, I so appreciate your comment and sharing about how you have had to adapt and live in that third space. Tamie’s story related to me in a very similar way and I am glad to know I’m not the only one that feels like there’s no way to win with all the conflicting culturally-appropriate ways to raise our kids. I love how Tamie called herself a “third culture mum.” I feel like it makes me feel a little less secure and little more thankful for who I am when I can embrace my unique role in this way. It’s not just the kids that are “third culture”!

  2. Colleen May 13, 2020

    I appreciated the idea from Tamie of parenting in a ‘third space’. It sounded so obvious to read it, but I hadn’t thought about it in those words. Sally pointed out that this cross-cultural parenting makes us evaluate what is actual biblical, not just our cultural comfort zone (also true for lots of areas of life). What is healthy? What is important? Am I acting out of fear? Is it loving?

    I feel like my parenting is mainly altered by our context. The school we work at reaches out to young adults and the other expats don’t have young kids, so it feels like the Australian-ness of my parenting is affected more by the lack of parks and social groups than by direct interaction with local parents. We have taken the kids to a local ch, but it is hard to keep them quiet and occupied and just their presence seems to distract everyone else!

    It’s easy to feel like the odd ones out in any situation and also to compare how ‘little’ it feels like I am doing and learning compared with others working here. So I definitely need reminders that my relationship with God (and my parenting) are not dependent on my work (from Jessica).

    1. Sarah Hilkemann May 14, 2020

      Colleen, I agree with what you said from Tamie’s story, that it seems obvious but I found it so helpful myself! Not the parenting aspect, but I think it applies to other areas of expat life too. It helped me re-frame some of my overseas experience and what I’m experiencing now in re-entry.
      I’m grateful for the reminders that the Father is giving you through this book! What you are doing is so important, but most of all, you are His beloved kid. 🙂

  3. Rachel Kahindi May 14, 2020

    Jessica’s story really took me back to my first months overseas with two small kids – especially the part about engaging with God during that time. I wish someone would have talked to me about that, a what to expect when you have small kids kind of thing: “You won’t have the mental or emotional energy. Your time with God won’t be there same, but you’ll develop new methods and new routines as the kids get older and more independent. And also if you move overseas during this time, it’s going to be even harder, but it will be ok.”

    I loved the way Irene ended her chapter. “I’m a heavenly citizen, and I’m still traveling the road home.” True of all believers, but felt in a more intense way when we live outside our passport countries.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann May 14, 2020

      Rachel, it’s hard for me to totally understand all that you as mothers experience when moving overseas. This book has been eye-opening in that respect and gives me so much more admiration for you! 🙂 But also a desire to shout from the rooftops some of the lessons these ladies have pointed out, like what you mentioned about time with the Father. There just needs to be so much grace given to ourselves in a lot of these ways, doesn’t there? I feel like that needs to be a theme on constant repeat in overseas life. 🙂

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