To Moms of TCKs and Those Who Love Them

Oh, I’ve had my doubts.

Not just moments of “I wonder if…” kind of doubts, but the wrestling-with-God “what am I doing to my children” kind of doubts.

In our first year in this country, a teammate quoted Lottie Moon, “If I had a thousand lives, I’d give them all for China.”  I wanted to wholeheartedly echo an amen.  But that night, lying in bed, I didn’t know if I could offer up and give those three little lives sleeping in the next room.  I thought of all they would be missing.  Of how different their childhood would be than mine.  Of how much their identity would be wrapped up in being a “foreigner”.

Did the Father settle that struggle immediately? Nope. It was months later, after many restless nights of counting the cost, He convinced me that anywhere else in the world – with all its “advantages and opportunities”- could only be second best for my kids.  Because here is where He called us.   All of us. 

Fast forward 8 years.  I again struggled to surrender my perceptions of what constituted “best” for our three children.  Ironically, this time pleading for God to let us stay in this foreign place where our children had grown tall and strong with deep roots. This had become home for them.  Back to my knees, I confessed my lack of trust in His goodness.  This time, His response was immediate, “You can trust Me.  My Father heart is so much bigger than your mother heart.”

That truth settled deep.  Highlighting the provisions.  Enriching the adventures.  Comforting the heartaches. Silencing the doubts.

I know there are times you are weary and unconvinced of the validity of raising your family in a cross-cultural context.  It can seem easier to be there than here.  No doubt your situation is not ideal by any commonly held “standards”.  The grass looks – and maybe is – greener on the other side of the world.

But if God has called you here, He’s called your children as well for this season of their lives.  He’s chosen the sorrows, as well as the joys, of this lifestyle for your children.  Rest in knowing He has assigned your child’s portion and cup.  The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places.   Surely your children have a delightful inheritance.  (Psalm 16:5-6).

We have only glimpses of what God is doing in our children – how this place specifically chosen for them is shaping their interests, gifts, and passions.  You, mom, are providing a rich inheritance for your children. How they spend that inheritance is up to them, squandering it on pursuits the treasure was never intended for or living out a Kingdom destiny carved out for them by your obedience.  The value of the treasure of the inheritance remains the same.

Be blessed, my sister, in your irreplaceable service to your family – and through them, to the nations and future generations.

I’ll be hanging out here today, and I’d love to hear where you are at in this journey of trust.


P.S. I’m excited — tomorrow my daughter will share with us!

Photo Credit: RaGardner4 via Compfight cc


  1. Cyndi May 13, 2014

    Patty, this is beautiful.  As a mom of three TCK’s who have now transitioned back to the US, I can relate to all of these feelings.  My three grown children will now tell you that although it was a struggle sometimes, they wouldn’t change a minute of their lives overseas.  Those words are music to my ears!

    1. Patty Stallings May 13, 2014

      Cyndi, thank you for sharing “life on the other side” of the journey of raising your children overseas.  It can be challenging to take the long view when in the middle of the struggle, but I’m guessing other moms will be deeply encouraged to know your children are grateful for their experience growing up overseas.  Thank you for taking the time to share the “music” you’ve been enjoying from your grown TCKs!

  2. JulieB May 13, 2014

    As an adult TCK, I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything.  I realize now the sacrifices my parents made – leaving comforts and conveniences, and family and grandparents to live in Asia. And in those years there was no email or Skype!  Just letters which tool 10-14 days to cross the ocean.    I spent my childhood years through High school graduation overseas, with a few years in America for home assignment (or furlough as they called it then).  I loved college in America.  Although I would be lying if I said every part of life was wonderful – of course there were the normal bumps along the road of life.    I loved my career in America as a pediatric nurse.  I loved being able to speak a second language….Mandarin….no one expects a Caucasian to be able to speak Mandarin without a western accent!  I loved being able to use that language in my job in America from time to time.  I love the fact that I can connect with other TCK’s from anywhere in the world and we have something in common on which friendships are easily formed.  I also love that now I have the opportunity in” later middle age” (its not possible that I am that old!) to live again overseas.  My adult children and grandchildren are in America.  I now understand even more the sacrifices my parents made and I am grateful.  I am so thankful that my parents answered His call on their life and gave me a legacy and understanding of what it means to  follow God’s call.  Yes….there is nothing better than knowing and experiencing this “delightful inheritance”!

    1. Patty Stallings May 13, 2014

      Julie, you are the kind of person I would corner and drill with questions when my children were younger!  (What did your parents do right?  What do you wish they would have done differently? Etc.)

      Thank you for sharing your journey as an adult TCK!

    2. Marilyn May 14, 2014

      Love this Julie – you spoke my heart! I too am an Adult TCK and then raised my own TCK’s. Looking at another move overseas in late middle age. Your words echo my own – I feel so privileged to have the life I did. Despite pain, separation at boarding school, all of it. Thanks for the post Patty!

      1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

        Marilyn, both you and Julie are an encouragement to us all.  Knowing that when you look back you are grateful and then raised your own TCKs says a lot about who you are as well as the value of your experiences.

        I know not all adult TCKs are at a place of gratitude for their experiences and oh, how my heart aches for them.  May healing, grace, comfort come!

        1. Marilyn May 14, 2014

          It hurts my heart as well – though I understand it. I’ve many in my life right now who are tcks of all ages – and one of the things I’ve realized is that you don’t really know what’s going on with a person’s family unless you’re part of that family. Some of the stories feel and are incredibly hard and I know none of us is a single story. It makes me realize how much of this is grace. Grace for the hard memories, grace for the imperfect parents, grace for the imperfect kids.

          1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

            Grace – yes, yes, yes!  Redemptive, merciful, truth-loving grace!

  3. Mary Gemmill May 14, 2014

    I agree that God places families in places, not just the parents.

    My call to the field has been with foreigners who come to my country- especially Chinese young people.

    My great-aunt was an overseas worker with the China Inland Mission 1920-1936 and I seem to have inherited her passion to reach Asian people.

    Over the past 14 years I was host-mother to 20 international students from 12 different countries, and my  married daughter seems to following in my footsteps, hosting international students in Australia. BUT she and her husband will soon be on the field in Thailand for 2 years- she will teach at an international Christian school and he will work for an NGO involved in rescuing children from child trafficking.

    God certainly blessed the children of parents called to service, whether at home or abroad.

    I hope you will have the joy of seeing the fruit of your life as your children become adults and choose how to spend their lives in service to Abba Father,

    May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace and great JOY, in Him.

    1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

      Mary, what a needed work you are involved in.  I’m always so sad when I talk with an international student who studied in the US and never stepped inside an American home.  I hope your daughter and family have a rich experience in Thailand!

  4. Amy May 14, 2014

    Thank you so much for the encouraging words and real stories.  My 5 & 7 yr olds are rookie TCK’s and I often wonder what they will think of their cross cultural growing up experience in the future.  For now, I just do my best with/for them day by day and trust that their Heavenly Father will take care of the rest!

    1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

      Hey Amy, we’ll be trusting with you!

      Tomorrow, my 24-year-old daughter Sara will sharing a bit about her experience as a TCK adjusting to life in the States.  She was 6 years old when we left the US and 18 when she returned for college.

  5. Brittany May 14, 2014

    Thank you, Patty.  This greatly encouraged my heart.  My young sons seem to be thriving here since we moved and they are young enough to not miss the States at all.  But many people have been concerned for us that we are raising our kids in a foreign land.  As if we should wait to pursue the call on our lives until they are grown.  Or at least leave them with grandparents or someone who can raise them in the States.  But THEY are the call on our lives just as much as Romania is our call.  I think God prepared my heart for this as we prepared for the field.  My in-laws really struggled with their son moving overseas and we had the discussions over and over that deep down, they don’t really want us to be anywhere but in the center of God’s will.  That challenged me in my own parenting as well.

  6. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

    Brittany, I am so glad you stopped by to share.  ” but THEY are the call on our lives just as much as Romania is our call”  So true!
    And you reminded us that parents and grandparents also offer a sacrifice of obedience when they send their kids and grandkids to the field with their blessings.

    Blessings on you and your family.  May your sons grow up to be oaks of righteousness, firmly rooted in Jesus!

  7. Elizabeth May 14, 2014

    I look back over my own TCK experience in a military family, and I see how those experiences help me to survive on the field. I praise God for this. Wow, God, you are amazing, I never knew your plans could come together like this. But even though I marvel at His wisdom in guiding my adult life, I still have doubts for my children. Sure, I am fine overseas, but will they be ok when they go back?? Will they be able to live an adult life in America if they want to? Or will they be destined, like their mother, never to fit in anywhere but overseas?? These are the things I think about when I think about my 4 little TCK’s. I’m thankful for my experiences as a TCK, but I worry for theirs. Does this show a lack of faith on my part? Maybe. Probably. But it’s also honest. I didn’t get to this place of thankfulness with ease or with rapidity. No, it was long and difficult to parse the good from the bad of the TCK life, to be grateful for the good, and allow God to heal the bad. I feel like as long as we live as a family, they will be ok. We have each other, we have love. But when they launch into adult life, that is when my questions begin.

  8. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

    Dear Elizabeth, your four little people are so fortunate to have you as their mom.  You’ve done the hard work of reflecting on what was good and what was not, allowing God to become a part of both.  That takes courage.

    Parenting really is a journey of trust, isn’t it?  No guaranteed outcomes.  Just a good and faithful God who loves our kids deeply and completely.  And loves their mamas, too,  and understands our concerns and desire for our children’s best.  I actually think there’s a lot of value in the struggle and surrender.  It’s where Jesus meets us in deep places and brings us rest and hope and courage.

    May your children be rooted and grounded in the love you and our Father are surrounding them with!

    1. Julie B May 14, 2014

      I think when I was growing up, my parents generation didn’t really give much thought to TCK’s.  In fact the term was not even used.  The issues of TCK’s were not really addressed all that much.  Maybe some of my friends’ organizations had some kind of re-entry program, but I do not remember them even being that available.  There just really was not a lot of thought given to the kids of my generation.  As a result, I have a number of friends who have had tremendous difficulty adjusting to life back “home”.  I just want to encourage all of you moms – the fact that you are asking the questions and are concerned about your children’s adjustment is GOOD.   These are important questions.  As you talk about life in your “home” country, and share your good memories of friends and family, your children will remember the things you have said.  As it says, Tell your children about all the ways God has provided and met you in your life, whether at “home” or overseas – let them see that God is faithful no matter where you are.  Believe it!  Live it!  Help them to own their faith!  You can rest in this fact:  He is Always faithful and will enable you as moms to do the task He has entrusted you with!

  9. Kate May 14, 2014

    LOVE this! I sent it to all my favorite moms of TCK kids. Our TCKs at my org are AMAZING, so I love to encourage their parents that they’re obviously doing something right! 🙂

    1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

      Kate, you are such an empowerer!  Thanks for resourcing others!

  10. Stephani May 14, 2014

    A couple days ago, our 6-yr-old turned to me and said, “I love living in both China and America.” (She hasn’t always said this.).  My response was “Isn’t that great? I feel the same way.”  Then she looked past me and mused, “I wonder where He will send me some day.”

    Wow. I didn’t wonder that until I was a high-schooler.  This parenting-TCKs gig is humbling and awe-inspiring.

    1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

      Absolutely humbling and awe-inspiring!

      Won’t it be fun to see how this current “being sent” as a child will influence her future sendings!

  11. Deanna May 14, 2014

    This morning I stumbled upon this website.  I have to say it is in His perfect timing.  My family is in the beginning stages of moving overseas.  First, my husband will finish school in Scotland and then to Asia for His work.  We have three kids (ages 8, 6, and 4) and know they will have two cultures to adjust to.  So many thoughts and emotions have been going through me and they seem to increase as the move date moves ever closer. Most days I can lay it all over and have complete peace, but other days are more trying.  It is nice to find such an encouraging community like this.  Thank you guys!

    1. Patty Stallings May 14, 2014

      So glad you found us, Deanna!  Warmly welcome!

      May the kindness of God surround you in powerful and convincing ways as you and your family transition and navigate adjusting to this new season.  We’ll be trusting with you that He will provide whatever you need in these coming days!

  12. NK May 15, 2014

    As an adult TCK with parents who are also TCKs, I would echo what Julie has said- I would not trade my cross cultural upbringing for anything! This despite the fact that it has by no means always been easy. Being a TCK brings a richness to life that no time or training or money can buy. It gives you a different perspective on life which at times can be very challenging because others don’t always understand you or get where you’re coming from, and it can make you the odd one out – particularly in your “home country”, but it means you find it easier than most to adapt and relate almost anywhere else.

    I am most at home in cross cultural, non- western settings- at least I usually find it easier to fit in there than I do here. In a Western context I’m usually attracted to the other foreigners (migrants, immigrants, refugees, or at least people who have lived abroad) because in some ways I have more in common with them than with others who have the same passport(s) I do.

    I see a huge role for TCKs in today’s world as we are the ones well versed in dealing with transitions, welcoming the foreigner, accepting different cultures, adapting to people who do things differently than you do, understanding different ways of thinking about or perceiving things etc. What I am confronted with regularly in this melting pot world of ours is fear of the person who is different from you (read wearing a head covering or other clothing that means you think you don’t know how to relate to them). As a TCK I have unique skills in bridging that gap between the different worlds, between people who are all human underneath the cultural layers.

    Being a TCK will definitely have an immense impact on your life but to me the benefits far outweigh the risks!

    1. JulieB May 15, 2014

      NK – I love what you said about being the one as a TCK who can relate to the “foreigners” and welcome them.  What a great perspective!  God has such a delightful way of taking us and our experiences and using them for the Kingdom!  I say Amen to all you wrote!  Love your perspective!

    2. Patty Stallings May 15, 2014

      NK, thank you for sharing with us!  The benefits far outweigh the risks – that’s what every mom of a TCK loves to hear!

  13. Carin May 29, 2014


    This mom of two teen TCK’s needed to hear this today.

    We are facing a field transition, and this mom heart worries.

    Needing to rest with Jesus and remember he called “us” to overseas work.

    1. Patty Stallings May 30, 2014

      So glad you were encouraged today, Carin!  Transitions are prime times to “rest with Jesus and remember he called us”.  I’ll be trusting with you for Him to give you that rest.

  14. Jo Johnson June 30, 2014

    Just yesterday as I was off to a overseas conference with my 13 year daughter. I was joking with her and said that she could come and help me on the exhibition stand and convince those who had fears about taking their kids overseas that it was OK.  Her reply stopped me in my tracks:

    ‘It’s not the living overseas, Mummy, that is a problem. It’s the coming back!’

    We’ve been back for 3 years.

  15. Leigh November 14, 2014

    We left our home state after having lived there our entire lives (40-plus years) to follow God’s call to Europe, bringing 2 younger children and 2 teens with us. One of those teens returned to America for college within two months. That was three years ago. The struggles that oldest child has faced have been immense — I have known heartache so deep it has been palpable. I’ve been angry at and confused by God, and have struggled with guilt at what feels like my own abandonment of her. Your words here today have been a balm. I’m grateful.

    1. Patty Stallings November 18, 2014

      Oh, Leigh, my heart hurts for both you and your daughter.  Thank you for sharing with us.

      Jesus, wrap this precious daughter in Your merciful truth and abundant grace.  And wrap this mama up in Your gentle comfort and kind peace.  Remind them both how deeply and completely You love them.

  16. Rachel Adamson December 31, 2014

    My children never had to go over seas. I do remember how it felt having to leave the United States and move to Canada.  It was a very scary feeling.  Like most places we lived we adjusted nicely.  Being a preacher’s kid had it’s advantages.  Also it’s disadvantages.  Overall I would not trade any of it for the world.  I have  always wanted to go over seas. God has blessed me and our family.  Right now he is getting me ready to go into ministry.  I’m all excited about what God is doing in my life.

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