Our first book!

We’ve compiled over 50 of our short essays into a new book. The book covers topics like transition, TCKs, grief and loss, conflict, marriage on the field, and more. The Kindle version is $1.99 and is available here.

Here’s what Elizabeth has to say about the print edition:

What I like about the paper copy is that it’s in 8 1/2 X 11 inch format, so it has lots of white space and (ahem) margin to make your own notes, to sort of journal through it, as it were. A lot of our posts really are like journal entries of what God is taking us through, so having a hard copy allows you to journal through those issues on your own, too. Hopefully that’s a blessing to someone!

We are ordering a bunch to have with us here in Phnom Penh, so if you’re local and you’d like a hard copy, check back with us in a couple of weeks. Thanks so much for all your support along the way.

all for ONE,
Jonathan T.


A-41: Essays on life and ministry abroad

Purchase the Kindle version of A-41 here.

Purchase the print edition here.

Here’s what Elizabeth has to say about the print edition:

“What I like about the paper copy is that it’s in 8 1/2 X 11 inch format, so it has lots of white space and (ahem) margin to make your own notes, to sort of journal through it, as it were. A lot of our posts really are like journal entries of what God is taking us through, so having a hard copy allows you to journal through those issues on your own, too. Hopefully that’s a blessing to someone!”

If you want to save a couple bucks and you don’t mind clicking a ton of links, most of the content can be read by clicking the various links below. Merry Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by!

all for ONE,
Jonathan T.


Missionary Mommy Wars
The Church: On Not Being the Casserole Lady
I’m a Proverbs 31 Failure

Failing at Fatherhood (how moving abroad ruined my parenting)

Parenthood & Third Culture Kids
On Your High School Graduation: A Letter to My Third Culture Kid
What I Want to Give My TCKs
A Prayer for My Third Culture Kids
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Third Culture Kid
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Missionary Kid
The Little Word That Frees Us
Particle Physics Finally Explains Third Culture Kids!

The Purpose of Marriage is NOT to Make You Holy
Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)
Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)
Trailing Spouse: He Heard, “Go!” and I Said, “No!”
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Wife

A Letter to Singles

On Grief, Loss, and Being Really Sad
Outlawed Grief, a Curse Disguised
Grief on a Spindle (a poem)
Don’t be afraid of me, please (and other lessons from the valley)
A Lonely Birthday
For the times when you hold back the tears
When Grief Bleeds
When Friends Do the Next Right Thing
A Sorrow Sandwich
Heaven and Human Trafficking

Deeper Musings on Missions and “The Call”
Why Are We Here?
The Idolatry of Missions
Before You Cry “Demon!”
Demon and Divine
What If I Fall Apart on the Mission Field?
How Do You Write Your Name in the Land?

Lists (because they’re fun)
– 10 Reasons You Should Be a Missionary
10 Things Flying Taught Me About Missions
6 Reasons Furloughs are Awesome (sort of)
10 Ways to Survive Your First Year Overseas

On making decisions with your head and your heart and Him
Navigating the Night (3 things to do when you have no idea what to do)
When the Straight & Narrow Isn’t
To the ones who think they’ve failed
Distractions and the Voice of Jesus

Conflict and Anger
– Run Away! Run Away! (And Other Conflict Styles)
Anger Abroad
Angry, Mean, and Redeemed

Things you should probably be aware of if you’re even slightly interested in missions, serving somewhere in the Church, or just living in general
Four Tools of Spiritual Manipulators
How to Communicate so People Will Care
Facebook lies and other truths
margin: the wasted space we desperately need
Please Stop Running
I’m Not Supposed to Have Needs
How to Transition to the Foreign Field and not Croak: Six Essential Steps
Women are Scary (and other lessons modesty culture teaches men)
What To Do About Women’s Roles
Jesus Loves Me This I Sometimes Know
The Journey To Feel Starts Small


Open letter to trailing spouses {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today, offering words of encouragement for marriages struggling through a trailing spouse issue.


“Feeling so fearful and alone since moving as a trailing spouse”

Last month someone found my blog because they did an internet search for that phrase. It reminded me how much pain a trailing spouse endures. I remember the struggle; I remember the suffering. And while whoever typed those search terms is actually not alone, I can attest to the fact that it very much feels that way. I remember how dark it felt, how black the future seemed. I remember how much pressure I was placing on myself not to ruin my husband’s dreams. I remember being afraid that nothing would ever be OK again and that it would all be my fault.

Telling my trailing spouse story has opened up conversations with women all over the world, both before and after they reach the field. (A trailing spouse doesn’t have to be a woman, but women are the ones who have reached out to me.) So with that in mind, I’m going to share parts of emails I’ve sent to women who have asked for more of my story. I’ve deleted identifying details to protect their privacy. These are the things I would say to any marriage dealing with a trailing spouse issue.

Finish reading the post here.

“I Can’t Trust Anyone” {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today.


The last two months we’ve been exploring the ideas in Timothy Sanford’s book “I Have to be Perfect” (and other Parsonage Heresies). I hope this series is as healing for you as it has been for me.

So far, we’ve given ourselves permission to say “and” in The Little Word That Frees Us. Then we began to exchange our “shoulds” for “coulds” in “I’m Not Supposed to Have Needs” | Lies We Believe. If you’re new to the conversation, you might want to go back and read those first two sections.

I’m different

Before we dive into this lie, I need to clarify something. Sanford, himself an MK, says this belief has nothing to do with the legitimate “differentness” of being an MK and having a blended-culture worldview. That’s the TCK part of being an MK, and is a different discussion.

Rather, the belief that “I’m different” comes from being treated differently. It comes from living under different expectations and being required to abide by different rules. Sanford says this is not imaginary: though church members try to deny it, they often do judge PKs and MKs differently. People apply standards to them that they don’t apply to “regular” people. Likewise, we ministers and missionaries often apply standards to ourselves that we wouldn’t think of applying to non-ministry people.

We need to pause here and acknowledge the truth inside the lie: adults and children in ministry contexts do have different experiences, and those experiences can be quite exotic. More travel, more exposure to other cultures, more opportunities to attend events and meet well-known Christian leaders.

Other times our experiences are darker. We (along with our children) see the underbelly of church and missionary culture. We know all about problem people and problem finances. We know who is “against us” and at times we even know who is responsible for eliminating our positions and reducing our influence, all in the name of Christ. These are the secrets we must keep and the burdens we must bear — and that too, makes us feel different.

If we think we’re different, however, we may keep ourselves from pursuing deep relationships. We may push people away and close our hearts to them. We may become lonely and even depressed. Alternatively, we may slide from believing we’re “different” into believing we’re “better.” We may like our positions of influence and authority: they boost our ego and pad our sense of pride. Although it’s uncomfortable to admit sometimes, we are a tribe who likes to set ourselves not merely apart, but also aboveNeither of these reactions is right or healthy.

Click here to finish reading and join the conversation.

How Do You Write Your Name in the Land? {A Life Overseas}

Here’s an excerpt from Elizabeth’s recent post on A Life Overseas:

Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of a woman from Maine who moves to Kansas as a mail-order bride for Jacob, a widower with two children. Jacob and Sarah fall in love, and by the beginning of the movie Skylark, they’ve been married for a couple years.

The people of Kansas are now facing a drought. The prairie dries up a little more each day, and it has truly become a “dry and thirsty land.” But Sarah comes from a place by the sea — a cool, wet place, where drought is unknown — and she’s never experienced a season like this before.

When the wells run dry, the people of the community travel to the river, hoping to find water there, but the river is nearly dry. In desperation, Sarah’s closest friend Maggie, and her husband Matthew, tell Jacob and Sarah that they are considering leaving the prairie and settling somewhere else. Sarah is so frustrated by this possibility that she blurts out:

I hate this land. No, I mean it. I don’t have to love it like Jacob, like Matthew. They give it everything, everything, and it betrays them. It gives them nothing back. You know, Jacob once told me his name is written in this land. Well, mine isn’t. It isn’t.

Maggie replies in a thick Scandinavian accent:

“You don’t have to love this land. But if you don’t, you won’t survive. Jacob is right. You have to write your name in it to live here.


To read more, visit A Life Overseas here.


Trailing Spouse: He Heard, “Go!” and I Said, “No!”

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

When my husband first told me, rather excitedly, that he wanted to apply with Team Expansion to become a missionary in Cambodia, I did not in any way share his excitement. I had many mistaken ideas about missionary life – mistaken ideas that told me, “No! Never! Don’t go!”

Continue reading

Trailing, Revisited (Looking Back on a Year in Asia Part 4)

Just FYI, the next couple posts in this series will dip into some serious topics. Don’t worry, though, I won’t stay there forever.


The tutors at our language school really wanted all six of us to attend their annual Christmas party. (Red Flag! Taking children to cultural events markedly increases my stress.) Jonathan had some duties during this party. He was assigned to read the Scripture in Khmer and lead a Christmas carol in English. This meant that we needed to bring not only the 4 kids and diaper bag, but also Jonathan’s oversized Khmer Bible and his guitar, which does not yet possess a case of its own. (Yes, you are entirely right. A guitar does indeed deserve better. We really should remedy that situation.)

The child-care and the stuff-care fell to me during most of this program. Our four fair-skinned blondes are quite the spectacle in this country, so I knew people were watching me as I watched my kids. And I felt more pressure than normal for them to behave during what amounted to a church service, complete with incarnational sermon.

It seemed like my younger kids squirmed and fought their way through this entire service. I had no husband sitting next to me to take one of the kids, or enforce their silence. (Oh why are fathers so much better at keeping kids in line?) When Jonathan read the scripture, I held the guitar. When he played the guitar, I held the Bible. All the while trying to prevent my toddler’s escape and begging my preschooler not to whine too loudly. And I was smiling. Oh yes, I smiled through the whole program.

But I wasn’t happy.


Here are my kids after the program. At least some people were happy.

Jonathan was the main event. He even received some free tutoring hours as a thank you for his help at the party.

Sometimes he was the main event back in America too.

Every Sunday for seven years, he sat on the front pew to lead worship, and there was always a line of people waiting to talk to him after church. I sat in the 3rd pew with my parents, who thankfully helped me with my kids. But the thing is, I felt secure. I was at my home church, and everybody knew me. I had friends – people who knew I wasn’t just the wife of the youth minister and worship leader, capable only of smilingly policing my kids. I had my own identity. I had my own skills and opinions, my own relationships and personality.

But as I endured that Christmas party, and its aftermath, with all the tutors praising Jonathan to the sky for his language ability and contributions to their party, I did not feel that same security so familiar to me in the Midwest. Nobody there knew me as anyone but my husband’s wife. Nobody knew if I had anything of interest to say, or had any skills besides holding squirming children. Nobody even knew if he had had good reasons for wanting to marry me. (I may have been slightly Overreacting there.)

I felt Exceedingly Sorry for myself.

What really happened that night is that I experienced all the emotions of a Trailing Spouse.

And it is NOT fun.

Trailing Spouses often do not have the meaningful, fulfilling, and yes, congratulatory, work that their spouse has. Their skill set may not be useful where they live. They may be unable to relate to their spouse’s colleagues. They may be lonely. And they may be deeply unhappy.

I was unhappy that night; I was Trailing. It had been almost 3 years since I identified myself as a Trailing Spouse, and I had forgotten how awful it feels. Jonathan’s skills and abilities were on display that night, and I was little more than a babysitter on display.

The Christmas party reminded me how draining it is to take children to cultural events.

But the experience also made me more thankful than ever that I am no longer trailing behind my husband in his desire to live and work in Cambodia. It made me more determined than ever to remain non-trailing. Oh, I may always trail in the language department. But I don’t trail in the passion department. I don’t trail in the settled-in-this-country department.

And I’m really glad.

Because Trailing stinks.