The Relationship Between Tattoos and the Shema {Book Club}

If you are a tattooing type I’ve got some suggestions for you. No, not those kind of suggestions, some new tat ideas!

“Disillusionment that is not dealt with can lead to burnout.”

“Each expectation we have of ourselves needs to be recognized, evaluated, and either discarded or committed to work on for progress.”

These gems come from chapter three of Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission written by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg. This week we’re exploring the idea of “role” in relation to what we expect of ourselves.

Even if you’re not a tattooing girl on the outside, we are each tattoo gals on the inside. What you have tattooed on your heart about yourself is what you will believe and live out. Even if it’s a lie. God knew this and gave the Israelites the Shema as a constant reminder (dare I say tattoo) of the truth he wanted as default heart whispers.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I added the bold, no real news flash there. But God knew and knows the power of truth pouring through our veins.

In this chapter I appreciated that Sue and Robynn didn’t say, “work hard to never be disillusioned.” It’s most likely going to happen to some degree or another. Much of life is out of our control, even disillusioning things. But we are responsible for how we respond, how we deal with them. And the hope is, that if we deal well, it might leave scars and be a part of our story, but it will not become the most defining part or what we are known for. Even for the super big things. Doesn’t that help to fan the flame of hope to face what comes?


As I was reading this chapter, I kept thinking of ANTS. Automatic Negative Thoughts. Thoughts that are so automatic a person doesn’t notice them and assumes they are the way things are. Words like always, never, everyone, or assuming the worst case scenario in a situation. It made me wonder if we cross-cultural workers have our own unique form of automatic thoughts: AUE. Though not as easy to say or as catchy as ANTS, AUE can be as deadly. Automatic Unexplored Expectations. The authors mentioned we often don’t take into account the




needed for what we have been called to do, including keep ourselves fed, clothed, and alive. As I read through the survey questions, I was struck by words like immediate, close, dynamic, daily, best, and be content without. 

Not that I my dream is for us to all aim so low, we expect nothing. No! One of the ways we are image bearers is through out ability to dream. God loves dreams and hopes and desires. And that might be one of the reasons spending time with him is good for our souls (as “proved” in the survey). Did those stats surprise others? I’ve read them before. I don’t bring them up here to guilt you. I’ll also admit there is something about the phrase “quiet time” that kind of creeps me out. So, let’s not get bogged down in guilt or terminology.

Instead, what helps you in your time with and walk with the Lord?


I’ve typed out this survey and used it with people who are in pre-field orientation. There was only one small modification I made.

I am willing for my marital status to stay the same.

I didn’t see much on the survey relating to (in particular) single women who desire to me married. I’m sure you’ve heard it too, “I do not want to be on the field single.” Singles, how does your marital status play out in your role? I thought the chapter hit a lot on marrieds and in particular of mothers with young children. Both, very important subjects to address. And most of the posts this week are from married women who have graciously shared about roles. I’d write more, but this post is already longish.

So, what say ye marrieds and singles, how has your marital status informed and impacted your role?

See you in the comments :),


P.S. Next week chapters 4 and 5: Exploring expectations of sending agencies and sending fellowships.

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


  1. Kimberly Todd March 16, 2015

    Love the idea of the Shema as a tattoo.

    I, too, plucked out the second gem to shine on my expectations, great or otherwise. I’m so glad that Sue and Robynn didn’t just say that expectations get us into trouble and we should discard them all. Acknowledge and reflect, then abandon or bring intention. This feels like an innovative approach to expectations.

    1. Amy Young March 17, 2015

      :), Kim, I did the teacher version of a tattoo when I taught this module for folks new to the field … I had that second quote in every single powerpoint presentation! 🙂 By the end of the month, people could almost quote it in their sleep.

  2. Melissa March 16, 2015

    How has my marital status affected my role?  Well I think it makes sense that married mothers are addressed a lot in this chapter because that state is very affecting of one’s role doing anything besides mothering.  But that was my expectation coming down here (Nicaragua from the US) with three kids already too.  It’s just hard to do anything besides mothering when you’re mothering — unless you have someone else do some mothering for you and, well, do you want to do that?  How often and in what context do you want to do that?

    For me, I’d expected to mostly just mother but to develop meaningful relationships with neighbors, other moms at my kids’ school and ladies at Church… and to some extent I have, but it has taken more time and energy than I expected to get there and I really was hoping to have deeper relationships by now.

    But we’re only 1 1/2 years in and I spent most of that first year pregnant and then with a newborn so I am coming to a phase of having more energy for such things now.  It works out well for me timing wise anyway because I know a little more about how things work and who we are as a family in this land and have more contacts when I do want to make use of childcare to be able to move forward in develping deeper relationships wisely and thoughtfully… Or that’s the goal anyway 🙂  I think our mindset of being here for the long run helped me not feel too pressured during the tough first year when I was just so spent even without leaving the house.  And the fact that I’d done the whole pregnancy/baby routine before to know “It won’t always be like this.”  I told that to myself a lot!  And prayed it too! “God it won’t always be like this, right?  Please let it not always be like this!”  And, it wasn’t.

    So anyway, for me my marital status and maternal status figured into my expectations and that helped, but it was still a tough first year!  But it IS getting easier.

    1. Sarah March 16, 2015

      So I haven’t gotten the book yet but after today’s post am inclined – great to hear your comment Melissa! I am currently in the US but our family is planning to be in Nicaragua by the end of this year serving. I will also have a toddler and who knows possibly be pregnant as well by that time 😉 I think it’s hard to disconnect the mothering role and it is pretty FULLTIME especially those early years! So it does take the bulk of expectations : wife and mother are no easy labels or jobs –

    2. Amy Young March 17, 2015

      Melissa — as I’ve watched friends over the years, I can say it will get easier 🙂 (and then harder in some ways … but that’s true of most paths). Motherering young children is a special and unique and all consuming phase of life.

      It’s hard that relationships are slow. I remember being so tired of small talk I wanted to poke my eye out :).

  3. Raquel March 16, 2015

    I was so excited when my book arrived a few days ago that I sat & read it all morning! Thanks Amy! 🙂

    I loved the emphasis on relying on God to give us healthy expectations as we readjust our expectations that are dangerous, that we can’t be super woman like we want & like others sometimes think we are!

    I started a new job today, which means I’ll be living in Alabama again for longer than I expected. Funny how God always seems to lead me to the last place I expect!

    And as a single, who lived with a married couple my age, on the field, I had so much more freedom & flexibility most of the time. I tried to take advantage of that & serve them & others in ways that were really hard for a mom to do. Being single also has made it easier for me to stay in contact with friends & youth I worked with & be able to go back to visit. Flights for one person are much cheaper than for an entire family! I’m also aware that my friends overseas do have expectations of me that they don’t necessarily have of the married couple who I served with. They understand it’s hard for them to keep in touch, they expect me to check in, so Im very intentional about that!

    1. Amy Young March 17, 2015

      Raquel, glad you got the book :)! You touch on an interesting topic — time. I’d love to hear what others experienced in this area — both marrieds and singles.

      I did feel marrieds time was more protected than singles and the assumption was singles could work in the evenings and weekends when marrieds needed to be with their family.

      But I’d love to hear others experiences. I know there are LOTS!

      1. Elizabeth March 17, 2015

        This is such an interesting comment, Amy, and I know you’ve expressed this frustration before. I (personally) don’t think singles should work more evenings (overall) than marrieds, but I know your experience is different than my personal expectations! So I’m not negating your own experiences in any way! I just want to add my perspective as a married person with children. . . I often look at singles and child-less couples with . . . sigh . . . jealousy. . . jealousy over their amount of free time, time to do whatever they want with. I think longingly of all the things I could do with that extra free time. I am not saying it’s good for me to be jealous. I am only admitting I am sometimes. :/

        Interesting too about the different expectations of marrieds vs singles, because my husband was told recently that he should commit to a certain number of evenings out of the house each week and that the family should just get used to that. He was actually told 3 evenings per week, and it was implied 3 evenings each week wasn’t that many. So I think there are different messages out there for marrieds and singles depending on context. Again, not to negate your experiences in any way, just to add my personal experience. 🙂

        I also want to validate your feelings on this. If I were you, I’d have been totally frustrated by the message that I as a single should work more than my married counterparts. That is an unfair expectation. I think your frustration is natural and normal and relatable, and I’m so sorry for the pressures you felt in this regard. 🙁

        1. Amy Young March 18, 2015

          Elizabeth, I’ve been thinking about your comment since I read it last night. I light of what Robynn and Sue said about factoring in time and effort in overseas living, I wonder if for all of us regardless of stage of life we take the long view at hand. Yes, we need to be doing things now (bathing children, cooking meals, studying the word with friends), but in terms of sharing our faith with others, being people who have something they don’t — Jesus said come to me. I look at some Christians and I think You are not what I want to be like AT ALL. But then there are others and I think You, you have something I want more of in my life. If we take a longer view (and here I’m mostly just talking, not to or about you in particular :)), and foster qualities that are in line with the life Jesus is inviting us to live, if that wouldn’t actually help our ministries far more than we realize. So, spending time working hard, yes. But also resting and enjoying people in our lives.

          Maybe I should idealistic and pie in the sky. But if I do, then so does Jesus 🙂

        2. Melissa March 18, 2015

          Elizabeth I do understand that feeling of wishing for more freedom…  and yet, those kids are such a sacred trust and a holy responsibility to raise too!  It really helps me to think of the time I spend serving them as doing just what the Bible commands us to do too – “giving a cup of cold water” and “washing feet.”  I do literally those two things quite regularly in our hot and dusty land these days.  Why is it that somehow those activities don’t quite count as ministry?  Are these little disciples God gave to me somehow less worthy of being served than others outside our home?  No, they are not!  It might not be glamorous and nobody may notice or think it thrilling to discuss what I did all day as a mom, but it is still so meaningful.  Not saying that I shouldn’t minister to those outside the home too… but that ministry tends to flow out of what I’m doing in the home anyway as people see my children and our family and ask why we do what we do or how we do what we do.  Putting family first allows us to be better witnesses of Christ to the watching world out there looking in all the time.  And yes, it’s so hard.  Yes, I long for the freedom of the childless too.  But not really.  Because this is who God called me to be for this season.  I think the free seasons will come again, and I will so miss those sweet little burdens!

      2. Jewel March 18, 2015

        Amy, I am glad that you wrote about being single.  It is our identity.  Others identify themselves with things like ‘married to a wonderful man and have 3 beautiful children.  We say ‘single, no children.’  We are met with attitudes of pity or intrigue.  I too at times find myself with those same attitudes.  Most of the time life is just life, but at times I again have surrender myself to living in a fallen, imperfect world.

        As far as roles as a single, I find the greatest struggle for me is in knowing what to do with my opinions and ideas and wisdom – yet being submissive, humble, and serving.  I am not a strong independent type, yet I am capable.  That often causes confusion in what is expected of me.  The tension between living content as a single, yet longing to be married.  The knowledge that in many ways, I have a ‘better’ life than most married ladies, yet feeling like my life is second best.  Thankful that – ‘at least I don’t have marriage problems’, yet wishing for a Garden of Eden world were there was exactly a male for every female.

        I believe that we each have our own set of struggles that God uses to mold us to His glory.  My challenge often is ‘Am I taking advantages of the opportunities I do have?’  Maybe I do have to babysit so that couple can go have a romantic date, but then they shouldn’t be too jealous when I can go hike to the mountain top this weekend.  And maybe I will go eat out with a friend instead of sitting at home wishing I were married.  To you married ladies, I will do my best not to be jealous of your life – husband, children, home of your own, etc – but I plead for you to be understanding also when my life doesn’t match yours, and it seems I do more ‘fun’ stuff.  I know, it is not fair.  But I am determined to enjoy life to the fullest – even if I am considered an old maid.  I love you married ladies.

  4. Catherine March 17, 2015

    I am a mum of small children who is not content just with mothering! I was here 6 years before I had kids, involved in lots of ministry and I still want to do  as much as I can – fitting everything in is a constant struggle! The biggest thing I have learnt that unless I am spending time with God, everything else I do is pretty pointless – how can you teach people what you don’t have yourself? And in my case that means spending some of my precious hours when I pay someone to take care of my son to go to a coffee shop and pray and reflect, when I found quiet times just weren’t happening at home. It took me a while to accept that that’s ok. Its possibly one of the worlds most expensive quiet times by the time I’ve paid the carer and bought a drink. Most of my supporters don’t have that luxury. But not spending time with God is more expensive still. Its a discipline! There is so much I could be doing in those hours both personal and ministry. But if I don’t have time to pray, I don’t have time to do anything else. I need to lower my expectations of how much I am going to do in order to get this balance right.

    1. Amy Young March 17, 2015

      Catherine, I love how we are wired in so many different ways and that you are finding ways to feed your soul. I’m a fan of saying money is only one way to pay for things — sounds like money is a reasonable trade off/ way to pay for some time with God. If you aren’t able to connect well within your home, it’s an opportunity to be creative :).

  5. Elizabeth March 17, 2015

    Oh goodness, where to begin?? That list of those 34 expectations? When I read through them again, I literally thought to myself, “There is not enough time in anyone’s life to fulfill all those expectations.”

    I think somewhere in there was a statement from one of the women about her expectations of nationals — the expectation that they would be ready to hear the good news. Something about the “fierce opposition and resistance of the people.” I think this is a very important point to make — many times we go overseas expecting immediate or at least quick fruit, that if we merely bring the gospel to a foreign land, the people will embrace it, that all along they’ve just been waiting for it! But it’s not like that. The good news is good news, but it’s hard to accept. Salvation by grace, a gift from a loving God, that is NOT a human story. It is a supernatural story, so it is hard for humans to accept, in all cultures. It’s what we crave, but it’s hard to accept. It’s why unreached places are unreached, and sometimes we forget. That part just really struck me.

    I remember when I read through this book the first time, last fall, the main message I took away from it that the most important thing I can do to prevent burnout is nurture my relationship with God. The statistic in there that reduces burnout from a 32% chance for women who don’t meet regularly with God, down to 9% for women who do, that is a powerful statistic for me. Of course, there are confounding factors. Once you become depleted enough to be entering burnout, it’s probably harder to find the time and motivation to meet with God, thus affecting the statistic. Still, that is one of the most valuable pieces of information in this book, for me.

    But how do I meet with God? I think that in itself brings with it expectations! “I must do it every day.” Or “I must do it for an hour each time.” Or “I must read a certain amount” or “I must never skip a day.” I think these internal expectations for our relationship with God keep us running away from Him. At least, they have for me in times past. If I wasn’t already being consistent, then I thought I didn’t deserve to spend time with God or to enjoy my time with Him. So I guilt tripped my way out of the thing that would build my relationship with Him. If it wasn’t enough time or enough times, then I wouldn’t do it. Or sometimes we have this expectation that God will make every devotional time miraculous and magical, and that’s just not going to happen. So I think the expectations are huge, even in the very thing — our relationship with God — that will help reduce the power and pressure of internal and external expectations. And now that I think about it, there was a direct correlation between reading E&B and making tangible changes in my life to make more space for God. Had never really put two and two together before, but WOW, that’s amazing.

    In the survival tip I noticed the focus on the “shoulds.” I wrote about that last month, based off another book called the Parsonage Heresies. I was like, wow, yes, the shoulds are everywhere. And I appreciated how they pointed out that sometimes the expectations we feel are not real; they are perceived. This is so important, I think. We think we need to be a certain way and that other people will judge us, but perhaps they won’t. (Ok, ok, some will, but many won’t.)

    I just listened to a podcast for homeschooling moms (because I am one of those, ha!) where this lady said people ask her all the time “How do you do it all?” And she was extremely clear that she does not do it all. She listed out the couple things she does and tries to do well, but then laundry-listed all these things she either doesn’t do, or doesn’t do well. She and her husband decided together what their family’s focus would be, and then pruned out the rest.

    I think that’s important, practically, for accomplishing God’s purpose for you in a particular season, but it doesn’t necessarily do anything to root out the voices in our heads. And oh do we have voices. Just this past weekend, after a bad day of power outages and parenting and cross-cultural shopping, I had all these voices telling me what a failure I was (and yes, some of them come from other overseas workers, ouch). I knew I shouldn’t be listening to these voices and that no one measures up perfectly in all areas and I need to give myself grace, but those negative voices can be so strong, can’t they??

    1. Amy Young March 17, 2015

      Elizabeth, that list reminded me Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and the way Scazzero points out that limits point us to God. Only God could do all 34 of those :). While I wish I could do it all, that list helps me remind me to remember who is God … and it’s NOT me :). I’m slowly training myself to see lists like that and see all the freedom God offers me. He never wanted me to do it all … but to chose a few. Which will I choose? Now that’s fun and freeing.

      And I love the connection you made with reading this book and making changes that nurture you 🙂


      1. Kimberly Todd March 17, 2015

        Loved that book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Add it to the book club potential list yet? =)

  6. Melissa March 17, 2015

    Oh goodness, so sorry for the gigantic picture!  I thought it would be the little icon at the side!

  7. J March 18, 2015

    Hi everyone.

    Chapter 3 was really good. I particularly agree with the point that others also mentioned, that our personal relationship with the Lord is crucial. Otherwise we are just trying to do things in our own strength and , apart from being ineffective, we will burn out. I know I am lacking in this area and have to daily prioritise prayer, worship and scripture. Also mentioned in one of the surveys was spiritual warfare. I think that the enemy will do all he can to draw us away from deepening our relationship with God, our Father.

    I laughed at the part where, I think it’s Sue, said she had thought that crossing the ocean and becoming an M would make her more spiritual! As she discovered, it may eventually but only through trials and the testing of our faith developing perseverance (James 1 v 2-4). There are no short cuts!


  8. Jenny March 18, 2015

    ANTs and AUEs, they really are pesky critters. I think naming them out loud is of some value, thanks, Amy.

    One thing I learned about my AUEs was how incredibly faithful God was to correct some of those whether I wanted Him to or not. 😉 Our leaders lovingly and regularly challenged me to examine the ways my life felt exhausting and see if those expectations were really in line with Scripture and God’s character or if some of the burdens I felt were self imposed. So sometimes I did that.

    Sometimes I kept right on wearily striving without much openness to the possibility of letting go of more of my expectations for myself. And in that place, God pursued my stony heart and crafted perfect storms in our life to knock out some of those expectations. When I couldn’t keep up with my expectations for myself and some things fell apart I was rather stunned to see my world did not collapse…because it was actually God keeping it all running, not me, I was not the Savior after all, He is. And freedom began to be the song of my heart, and more of what I could offer the people around me. This is very much a living work still in progress, not a chapter with a tidy ending in my life.

  9. Clarissa March 22, 2015

    Really appreciated this chapter! We discussed unrealistic expectations of self in my small group last night, and it was so refreshing and freeing to hear my friends and teammates share unrealistic expectations that I also struggle with, to realize that I’m not alone in that. Some AUE’s got broken down last night, PTL! That conversation was spurred by this book, already thankful for the conversations happening here and in real time with my community because of it!

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.