From Relational Poverty to Relational Wealth

This weekend I devoured Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey’s book, “What Happened to You: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.” The succinct case studies Perry described intersected with Winfrey’s poignant debrief questions created an expected rhythm in each chapter while incorporating digestible (and understandable) neuroscience facts (basically breaking down how the brain works and why it’s relevant for relationship-building).

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It offers a paradigm shift in how we approach our understanding of why and how someone behaves is in direct relationship with their past experiences and worldview. It’s a matter of both correlation and causation. Three principles I’ve extracted from this read are: be presentbe intentional, and be rhythmic in building and maintaining relationships.

Be Present

We live in a distracted society. If we are not being fully present with someone, we are sending them the message: You aren’t important enough to hold my attention. Dismissiveness is creating both disconnection with and detachment from others. As a result, we are seeing more maladaptive behaviors such as people seeking forms of unhealthy attention-seeking, self-sabotaging, and self-destructive behavior. Oprah points out on page 258: “Isolation and loneliness are an epidemic.” Perry agrees and describes how social media connections are often “hollow.” Authentic connectedness is getting better at listening and reflecting; at having more interactions with people who are different from you. The challenge I walk away with is: Pay attention to, focus on, and learn about relationships. This is being present.

Questions to ask yourself about being present:

  • What does active listening look like for me? For them?
  • How do I practice reflective listening in my relationships?
  • What does support look like to them (relationships)?
  • How can I nurture them (relationships)?

Be Intentional

Maya Angelou always said, “You teach people how to treat you.” Everyone’s life is busy. We have different challenges and demands. If we are intentional to understand our own patterns of routine and rhythm, we can in turn be intentional in the way we improve how we treat ourselves and others. It may be that we incorporate more rest, exercise, and entertainment to regulate better; or it could be that we cut down on these things. Intentionally engaging in regulating and relating ways with others can be profoundly healing to them; to know that someone is invested and cares to be present and to play witness.

Questions to ask yourself about your intentionality:

  • How is my schedule impacting how I am intentional with others?
  • What is my intention in doing this?
  • What does safety look like to them?
  • How can I make them feel seen? Heard?

Be Rhythmic

The power of rhythm is undervalued in our understanding of resilience, regulation, and relating to others. Perry points out that there is significant research and history that showcases how regulating one’s rhythm through dancing, shooting hoops, doing needlepoint, walking, drumming, etc. is a significant way to have control over how to create space to recover and process. The power of rhythm comes into play when we want to connect with others in their ongoing stress, distress, and trauma. Perry writes, “Instead of saying, ‘Hey, tell me what you’re thinking about,’ you need to let them control when and how much they’re going to talk.” (Page 198). Be present and be intentional in how you engage others in their routine and rhythms.

Questions to ask yourself about rhythms:

  • How do I self-regulate?
  • What about my routine grounds me, centers me, calms me?
  • What are some other activities I can explore to incorporate into my regulating routine?
  • What are some activities that work well for me that I can suggest others try for themselves?

Ultimately the claim posited by Perry and Winfrey is that if we shift our approach to asking others, “What happened to you” instead of “What’s wrong with you,” we have the ability to create spaces for understanding, resilience-building, and growth in community.

In my forthcoming book, “Belonging Beyond Borders,” I explore these concepts more deeply. In each chapter I offer a self-guided reflection exercise and debrief questions to consider how to belong more holistically not only to self but also to others. Perry writes on page 203, “Most healing happens in community… a healing community is full of hope because it has seen its own people weather – survive and thrive.”

I love this quote because I offer in one of my chapters, “Hope is not passive. It’s active. When you’re hoping, you don’t wish for something; you work and do your part in expectation that things will work out for your good and well-being. We can foster hope and nurture it, but it also involves other people, places, and even possessions—all external forces outside of our internal hoping. Hope takes a willful commitment to be uncomfortable and to seek discomfort. Hope will get you to speak when others say be quiet, to stand when others say sit down.”

Relational wealth and health involves being present, being intentional, and being rhythmic. If you would like to be aware of when my book is released, please connect with me at

An Interview with Joy: a member of the “TCKs for Christ” Team.

What is your TCK story?

My story starts in Nigeria, Lagos to be exact. I am the second of four siblings and a Nigerian by fire and force (as my fellow Nigerians love to say). Growing up, my father travelled frequently as he was highly involved in academics and that was one of the stipulations of his occupation. However, I wasn’t expecting my parents to announce to the then seven-year-old me that we would be permanently moving to South Africa, where my father had been stationed for a few months. It’s been thirteen years now, and I am still getting used to the culture and languages here, but with each passing year, it has been slightly better.

What have been some of the benefits/strengths and challenges in your TCK journey that you’d be willing to share?

One huge benefit that stands out for me is that people (for most part) enjoy asking me about my country and my culture. Since South Africa is a ‘rainbow nation’ filled with diverse cultures and languages, I sometimes manage to fit in an ‘exotic/unclassified’ niche. Basically, I would be asked the same questions as a Malay whose family has stayed in SA for the past five succeeding generations, but still looks ‘different’.  However, Nigerians do not have a particularly good reputation in SA, and so I do meet people who would rather ‘judge a book by its cover’, and to those people I try to stress through my actions that a nationality is just a place of birth, legal identity and ancestry, and that an individual should be assessed by their own characteristics and not judged by preconceived notion.

As with the challenges, there have been many negative experiences I have faced, specifically as an African TCK who still resides in Africa, albeit on the other side of the continent. It would have been better if I was a TCK in Ghana, for example. Ghana is still a part of West Africa, hence the accent, culture, traditions, food, languages etc are still strikingly similar. This is something often seen in Africa. The countries of Northern Africa are similar in their cultures, traditions and religion; and so it is in the West, East and South. I should think the same rule of thumb will apply to Europe as well. Hence, South Africa is vastly different to any country in West Africa, especially when it comes to culture.

For one, I have been faced with hostility due to the fact that I don’t necessarily speak the local African language(s). People tend to think that this is disrespectful; I am in their land, so I must surely know how to speak their language; this mentality, unfortunately, is usually only applied to African TCKs by South African blacks; it is not something a non-African TCK would frequently complain about.

A second challenge has been the weird accent I have acquired. It is somewhat a sign of my failure at accclimizating, and shows a syncretism of some sort that I have managed to achieve, quite unintentionally, after my stay here. Consequently, I have an accent that is not Nigerian enough to be Nigerian, and not South African enough to be South African. Due to bullying I acquired in my primary school because of the said accent, I often have an habit of fumbling unintentionally over my words when I am in a conversion with a non-black South African (the primary school I had gone to had been attended mostly by whites), and I also have the same tendency to stumble over my words when reading aloud; when I am alone or around people I am comfortable with my calm is quickly restored.

The problem with my accent is merely an outward show of an inward identity crisis. I am now too ‘westernized’ to fit nicely into the Nigerian culture, but I am still too ‘uptight’ to fit into a very westernized South Africa. I have been called out by both a Nigerian and a South African for being disrespectful (in an African sort of way) when it wasn’t my intention to be. In both cases, I was just being ‘me’, you know, the me which tries hard to conform to two vastly different cultures while pleasing both sides at the same time, and in both cases, I had failed … miserably.

What is a food, a smell, a song, etc. that immediately brings you back to a certain point in your life and makes you feel at home?

Jollof rice! I must say, jollof rice reminds me of home and Nigerian restaurants, and also to mention any other food, save for jollof rice, would be almost akin to forsaking my Nigerian identity (and while I am here, I must also mention that Nigerian jollof is better than Ghanian!).

A smell that reminds me of home would probably be the smell of palm oil burning on a stove or any of our traditional soups like ogbono or egusi. Songs … definitely church choruses, especially ones that have the characteristic Nigerian interjections (oo! ee! etc), a splash of pidgin, and aggressive rhythmic clapping (which is probably why people say Nigerians have hard hands, we improvise our drumming in church with our hands!).

How can older ATCKs support/invest in younger TCKs?

Definitely give them space to speak of their troubles, and also provide needful advice. Being a younger TCK, I wish I had someone who had gone through a similar experience with whom I could speak to. I never did find someone like that though, and what I do know now has been through a messy run of ‘trial and error’.  In effect, there are many things I could have done differently if I had known better that would have affected me more positively today.

What would you like to say to your younger TCK self? Advice? Bible verses? Truths?

Don’t try to become someone you are not, it only leads to trouble and heartache; if you don’t fit into a group now, wait on it and try again later, forcing the process is a dangerous thing to do. Truly, as a TCK, you will soon find that you can never truly fit in; not in all areas, at least. Oh, you could come close to it, but you’ll never be fully there! Rather take your comfort in the Lord and His Word. Above all, you are a citizen of heaven before you are a citizen of any country. Take joy in the fact that God’s kingdom is made up of diverse people from different tribes, tongues and races, and you are one of them too! It took me a long time, but the friends I have now, and those who have stayed with me, are friends that I acquired through worship and prayer meetings etc. True Christians don’t care what country you are from, you are simply their brother/sister in Christ!

Also, don’t abandon your time with God,  men will always fail you in one way or the other, but Christ promises in Matthews 28:20 that He is with you always, even to the end of the world! Always remember to commit your ways to the Lord, He makes your time count. Whether you need a friend, want to play the piano better, want to get a book written, or want to neglect a bad habit, going through it your way will make the passage of time excruciatingly obvious, but when you commit your way to the Lord, He will direct your path and lead you in His timing.

Lastly, keep your minds busy on things that matter! Work, studies, position etc. are all things necessary to put food on the table; but laughter, family, literature, friends, music are what make life colorful and worth living; and neither of those care if you are a TCK or not!

Why have you decided to be a part of the TCKs for Christ team? What do you hope for this platform?

I joined the TCK for Christ team as a staff writer because I thought (and still do!) that the team was doing something that mattered! A lot of TCKs, like me, are suffering from bad memories and emotional trauma that need to be addressed. We had gone through experiences that other TCKs/future TCKs could avoid or better manage if they are given a better approach.

What is a resource or type of care that you would like to see provided for/offered to TCKs in the future?

Definitely more online Christian help groups like TCKs for Christ. Maybe a magazine/journal/podcast specifically targeting Christian TCKs. Anything really that encourages fellowship and oneness across borders!

Website link –
Email List link –

What is TCKs for Christ?

TCKs for Christ is a website ministry that strives to serve, encourage, and challenge teenage Christian third culture kids and young adult TCKs. These include missionary kids, business kids, cross-cultural kids, mixed-cultural kids, diplomat kids, etc. 

The TCK life has its struggles and challenges, and TCKs for Christ desires to encourage a TCK in truth and to tell them that they are not alone and there’s Someone who cares more than they can ever know. The TCKs for Christ team consists of TCKs writing for young TCKs to motivate them to use their gifts for His kingdom and to live victoriously with a firm identity in Jesus Christ. 

Who are TCKs?

Third Culture Kids or TCKs are people who have lived in a culture other than their parents’ or their passport/birth country’s culture during their developmental years or years before adulthood.

Does TCKs for Christ have an Email List?

Yes, they do! Upon signing up, you will receive exclusive content of one TCK letter and one newsletter per month in your inbox.

The TCK Letters convey heartfelt experiences through words, in which a few of our writers talk about the struggles and triumphs of their TCK life.

The Monthly Newsletter is a fun, convenient summary of new articles and interviews published on our website for the month.

Interested? Subscribe through their website,

Where Could I Connect with Them?

Their social media handle is @TCKsforChrist. Connect with them through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

A Sunday Reflection on Braving Fear & Raging Peace

It’s five o’clock on an August Sunday and I feel the weight of the world although I am safe and unharmed on my couch in the sunroom. The screen door is open and I hear the rustling leaves and light traffic on the main road. It’s quiet. It’s unhurried. I’ve just finished a book I bought on Friday and reach for my phone — a default transition habit. Scroll after scroll I am bombarded with the fears, pain, and unknowns of people I know and that I don’t know. I wonder if we as humans were ever designed to consume so much visual and written trauma in one setting (or sitting!) through one medium. As my current world is in relative equilibrium, I feel for those whose worlds are upside down and broken. Granted, I have my own traumas, suffering, and brokenness to navigate and heal from; but in the security of my home and with the freedom and ability within my power, I decide to do what I can to encourage and thank those in my sphere. Perhaps that is the purpose of this moment to brave fear and rage peace.


As I sit here in comfort and abundance I know that it is my calling in this moment to invest encouragement into others. We are all going through hard things. Our hearts feel dry. Our hearts are hurting. At this moment I am compelled to say “persevere!” I want to scream “how can I help?” At the same time I’m tempted to panic. And yet I look at what is within my reach and my ability – who can I encourage with a word, a smile, a handwritten note? I feel inadequate, but I move bravely and sometimes awkwardly to encourage. To encourage means “to inspire with courage” and so I share hope and my heart in love.


In this season my heart is awakened to those who anchor me. Who teach me. Who challenge me. Who invite me. Who invest in me. And I am deeply grateful. To build relationships is an extraordinarily brave act. To be vulnerable with a select trusted mentor who helps settle your soul is an extraordinary gift. I am grateful for those who entrust me with their prayer requests, their pain, their hurts. I pray. I am grateful for those who nudge me to reconnect with someone in my sphere who could use a kind word; those whose worlds are collapsing around them and need to know that I see it too. Be grateful for your people.


Am I listening to my soul? Am I encouraging others to listen to theirs? Our souls are crying for purpose and for stability. It is within my power to purposefully pause to grant my soul grace. For the unknowns, the mistakes, the judgments, the assumptions. It is within my power to grant other’s grace. For this is what I know: the world is suffering. There is heartache. Can we commit to grant more grace to each other? Perhaps that is our purpose when we don’t know what else is.


In the coming days, months, and even years, may we have the courage and commitment to welcome grace more – for both ourselves and for others. May we reach out more to connect intentionally. May we be extraordinarily brave as we wage raging peace on our souls, minds, and bodies. 

In these days, may our fear not overwhelm our faith. 

I pick up the book again and thumb through the pages. I stop at one of the sentences I’ve underlined. I’m grateful for Ann Voskamp’s words: “Fear is what we feel but brave is what we do.” 

Go brave the fear. Each day.

Tell it.

“A story is never complete until it is told, heard, and understood.”

As an Adult Third Culture Kid, I have a lot of stories to tell of my global background. Of my safaris, my international school field trips, my advice on luggage, my speaking three languages in one sentence, my definition of home, my favorite restaurant in Tokyo, etc. When I was a K I D moving to another country, I found it a bit easier for others to understand me – and my story/stories. As just another foreigner in the foreign school, I had an understanding that most of my friends had just moved from another country as well…not their passport country necessarily.  We just got each other…as kids do. And we loved each other’s stories. [You bet ‘Show & Tell’ looked a bit different in the international school compared to a homogeneous one].

But now, as an A D U L T, I’m finding that my global stories are not as well received when I tell them to my coworkers, family, or even fellow adult friends.  The stories are considered, sometimes, as bragging and/or exaggerations. Too Exotic. Too unbelievable.  The (non)reaction I perceive and experience has silenced me on more than one occasion and I have downplayed – or even hid – my international upbringing. Sometimes, I don’t mention my TCKness identity in order to fit in with my new community. I don’t want to alienate myself because of jealousy or misunderstanding.  But this is a T R A G E D Y.  People need to hear my stories. Stories of diversity. Stories of adventure. Stories of what has (re)shaped who I am today.  But it takes an effort on my part to (re)frame these stories so they are heard and understood. I can try to link them to a frame of reference or compare them to someone else’s story.  

But not be silent.  

In telling my story, perhaps I can discover someone else who has struggled with reentry into their passport country and we can tell our stories together, or someone else who has felt marginalized as a minority, or someone who has even used a wooden toboggan to sled down a Swiss alp at 10 years old. 

Hey fellow travelers, TCKs, wanderers, nomads, friends: tell your story so it’s heard and understood.

Post 1: This Adult Third Culture Kid “Non-Blog”

A couple months ago in Western Michigan, I had coffee with Michael Pollock (son of David Pollock, co-author of “Growing Up Among Worlds”) (and by the way the newest edition is hot off the press: “Third Culture Kids”).  We talked about our (non)writing thoughts and discussed the posts we have in our (non)existent blogs and what a (non)blog might look like. Months later…this is my attempt at a (non)blog.  

My non-blog looks like this (right now): the majority of the blurbs are short, most of the posts are succinct, but all of the thoughts produce additional ones.

Perhaps, as this venture proceeds, I’ll have longer posts. Perhaps, I’ll have a lot to say about something. Perhaps, I’ll want to get back into writing more after recovering fully from my second master’s degree academic papers. But for the beginning, expect short.  I have the ATCK change mentality, so expect a mixture of both long and short posts long-term.

I am excited to share with you my



thoughts, inspirations, and questions.

To be clear, I’m going with the classic definition of an “Adult Third Culture Kid” : an individual who has spent his/her developmental years living outside of his/her passport country………..And is now grown up.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, inspirations, and questions on this ATCK identity!