Painting Pictures: The Third Way

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Painting Pictures: The Third Way

risingToday’s Painting Pictures post is by Idelette McVicker. One year ago this month I wrote a post for SheLoves Magazine and then I received an email inviting me to join a community of stunning writers I knew almost nothing about. But when Idelette writes and invites you to something, you say yes because she is inviting you to joy and community and deep waters. My writing and thinking have been challenged, strengthened, and grown less isolating since that email exchange and all I can think of is ‘gift.’ SheLoves and Idelette have been gifts. I am thankful and honored to host her words, always brave and strong, here.


Glimpses of a Third Way

I have a favorite laundry detergent on three different continents.

Growing up in South Africa, my mom used Skip. She stood in the laundry room and mended and ironed and listened to SABC radio on both warm and winter evenings. I learned to buy Tide in Taiwan from the Wellcome supermarket (with two l’s) and now I shop for earth-friendly Ecos at the Costco on King George Highway.

When I lived in Taipei, I stocked up on my favorite toothpaste (Mentadent P), my favorite roll-on and Freshpak rooibos tea whenever I visited Cape Town.

I’ve had bank accounts in Africa, Asia and N. America.

I learned to eat pancakes for breakfast at Jake’s Country Kitchen on Chung Shan North Rd. in Taipei and learned there. in that city to shop for tealights at Ikea. It’s where I had my first American Thanksgiving, celebrated Diwali and spent Christmas eating vegetarian food with Ananda Marga monks, while on assignment.

I’ve celebrated the national days of Turkey, Jordan, Honduras, Guatemala, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, Haiti and more at elaborate banquets, while my scooter was parked on the sidewalk outside the hotel.

I wore Chinese silk for my wedding dress, created by a kind tailor in Taipei, on a freezing November day in Vancouver.

When I first learned about Third Culture Kids, so much of it resonated. This concept—of somehow being part of a third and unique culture outside of the dominant culture we live in–helped give me understanding for my way of seeing the world. I may not have grown up in a third culture, but I’ve spent half my life finding my way on the other side of getting off that plane at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport in 1995.

I can never go back. Nor do I want to.

I am a Third Culture Adult, an immigrant, a global citizen, an outsider.

Now, not only am I a proponent of a global way of embracing the world, I also think those of us who have done so, get to see glimpses of a Third Way.

This Third Way—a Way where power shifts to the margins and becomes Love and understanding—come to us through different experiences, I believe. Mine just happened to come by walking through the door of a global life.

I also believe it can come through experiences like deep pain, or loss, or struggle or grief.

Scott, my hubby, lost his mother as a young teenager. She’d filled his life—had been the wind beneath his wings—and when he lost her, he wandered out to the wilderness to grieve and mourn and find himself in a different way towards the future.

His life was broken open by this grief and loss and he tasted this other way, so when I came from worlds away, we could meet each other here.

That’s why, even though he’s lived all his life in a 50-kilometer radius, our home is a home for many. This is why our door is open, to let the sunshine in, the sounds of neighbourhood and friends and virtual strangers from around the world.

Maybe this is why the Sermon on the Mount calls us blessed when we are mourning; blessed when we are humble.

Blessed when we eat last; blessed when we understand our shortcomings.

We come to this Third Way by being broken open and it becomes blessing.

We come to this Third Way whenever our story shifts and we suddenly find it doesn’t quite run according to our expectations.

This Third Way comes when we find ourselves on the outside of the dominant story.

Becoming an immigrant broke me open for this other Way. It splattered me and poured me out, so my old container no longer worked.

Here on the outskirts, pioneering a new life in Canada, no previous degree or family line or achievement or friend could speak on my behalf.

I learned that our essence, without the trimmings and the branches and the shade or even the fruit our lives may offer, is enough.

Once we are broken open like this, we inevitably spread out and set up camp outside of the center. This is where we find our hearts open and exposed, our lives vulnerable without the re-enforcements of the city wall.

We learn that we need each other, like daily bread and a little wine.

This Third Way is not hierarchical.

It’s a movement outside of the center.

Often it’s finding each other through conversation and food.

Memories of bi bim bap are mixed in with memories of a family braai on a Sunday afternoon.

Sharing stories over a steamy bowl of noodles or while sipping a Fanta under a thatched roof in Burundi, unite us.

We, the mish-mashed participants in a Third Way, know that we can’t survive without connection.

We know that, essentially, we are the same. And it’s not strange when the woman in the Costco aisle, both of us leaning over our carts, tells me my Gabrielle has a twin walking about in Afghanistan.

We see this essence in each other.

Our world only makes sense because of the people.

I tried so hard to find my place in this world. I yearned so long and hard for home and then one day, I realized there had to be a different way. That’s when I stopped looking for home and became home.

I stopped looking for Peace to appear from outside of myself and I am owning—slowly and humbly—my part in making Peace. I have a part in picking up the pieces and mending the broken pieces and finding the missing pieces. We are all part of shaping this different world.

I’ve come to understand that how my daughters treat each other—how they become peacemakers in their little messy room with the bunkbed and the Ikea rug in the suburbs—is important work of Peace. I’ve begun to get a glimpse that how they are with each other, is also how they learn to be with the world.

I don’t always get it right. (Just ask my girls!) But I want to do it better.

I imagine that if we could all meet the girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or in Moldova, we’d hate for anything bad to happen to them. When we shift to friendship and a closeness—when the world is no longer big, but small—then standing up for justice, is no longer something we should do, but something we want to do, because these are our friends, our sisters, our daughters.

When these stories of bombs and fear and poverty are no longer far away, but when they become close, because of the people we’ve connected with or the experiences we’ve lived, how can we not believe in a different Way?

We’ve tasted and we’ve seen.

idelette mcvickerI love cinnamon buns, vanilla Rooibos tea and sweet chai. I drink my lattes plain, but most days I think animal print is the new black. I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women.

I have three children and–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen.

I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth.

I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 14 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us.

I blog at and tweet @idelette.


  1. SG November 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    I absolutely love this. Oh, my heart. It expresses my adult life in 5 countries so well. As a PK, I moved every 3 years as a child. Though it was all in the same state in the US, it prepared me well for the life of a global nomad.

    I love this! –
    “Becoming an immigrant broke me open for this other Way. It splattered me and poured me out, so my old container no longer worked….Once we are broken open like this, we inevitably spread out and set up camp outside of the center. This is where we find our hearts open and exposed, our lives vulnerable without the re-enforcements of the city wall.”

    Such a beautiful and accurate description of what we feel when we’ve been ruined for the ordinary through intentional living overseas.

    And, yes: “We learn that we need each other, like daily bread and a little wine….We, the mish-mashed participants in a Third Way, know that we can’t survive without connection.”

    I long for that community and connection our family had overseas. Now that we’re settling back into the US for a season (where people are too busy for each other!), I hope we can be that for others, perhaps “become home” for them, as well.

    Thanks for giving me much to ponder today.

    • idelette November 27, 2013 at 9:19 am - Reply

      Whew! Moving every three years as a kid … Thank you so much for reading and sharing how my words moved you. That means a lot!

      I’m making a fire and getting the marshmallows out. 🙂

  2. J Showalter November 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Fits so well with my thoughts these days, piqued by my non western theology class. Awesome what each people group brings to the Lord’s table, and how much we westerners can learn from them.
    Also love the thought of when we know we need connection to survive, we will be motivated by compassion to meet other’s needs.

    • idelette November 27, 2013 at 9:20 am - Reply

      I’d like to sit in on that non western theology class!

  3. Bev Murrill November 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Idelette, I love you so much. I really didn’t know I could love someone I don’t know, so much. But I do know you because your heart is open and transparent, laid out in every line you write, laid out in technicolour, laid out in its life and even in its deaths. I loved that you stopped looking for home and became home – for yourself and your husband, for your girls… and then for so many others. I really love you. Thanks for the way you share your heart for all to see. xxxxxxx

    • idelette November 27, 2013 at 9:22 am - Reply

      O,Bev–the feeling is so mutual. I think you know it. I am amazed at the pace you run and yet … You make time to connect and interact and be so present. You are 110%–nothing half-hearted–and I LOVE that! Love you right back. xo

  4. Sarah Richardson November 26, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    I read this and cried all over again. Oh how I love you, fearless leader.

    • idelette November 27, 2013 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Your encouragement means so much, Sarah. Thank you fearless and gorgeous, Sarah-that-I-don’t-want-to-do-life-without-ever-again. 🙂

  5. Tim Pickering November 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    I know when Bev Murrill sings the praises of an article like this it is worth look- and I was not wrong! I love the sentence “That’s when I stopped looking for home and became home.” Wow. Having moved all over Canada, three years in England and a year in Japan in my youth, and now approaching 18 years in the UK as an adult, I have had this constant feeling of “I don’t belong”. I have spent almost half my life in UK, where is home? Thank you for a better perspective.

    • idelette November 27, 2013 at 9:25 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for reading, Tim! Sounds like you’ve had some wonderful global adventures. You know that just makes me want to hear more of your stories!

      Bev is one of my absolute favourite women on this planet and we haven’t even met yet. So thankful for social media and the internet.

  6. Adele November 27, 2013 at 2:37 am - Reply

    It’s when you enunciate so well the beauty and the challenges of our lives as global citizens that I wish we lived in the same city again, like back in Taipei, before we knew each other well… when you had blue hair and I was stuck in a world of magazines and radio. Someday, our paths will cross again. We’ll sit under a tree in Kenya and sip chai. Or maybe in a tea house in the mountains of Northern Thailand. My deur is oop: Kom kuier. 歡迎光臨!

    • idelette November 27, 2013 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Dankie, Adele! Ek sal darem so graag deur daai oop deur loop now en ek sien uit daarna wanneer ons pad wel weer kruis. Natuurlik is daar altyd ‘n plekkie vir jou hier as jy wil kom kuier in Vancouver! Nogal amazing hoe ons al die kontinente deel, ne?

      歡迎光臨 … dis asof ek hierde woorde hoor; asof ek in die 7-Eleven instap! 🙂

  7. Janet Fierbach November 27, 2013 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Dear Idelette – I remember when I first realized the special bond between people of Third Culture. It occurs to be as I read your piece that part of why makes it so precious and powerful is that it is the workshop of Gos Himself, where He can give us new hearts. I am always incredibly moved and encouraged by your words that reveal your heart.

  8. Janet Fierbach November 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Oh my goodness – so many typos. That’s what happens when I comment from my phone. Humbling but

  9. Tina/@teenbug November 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Awww…this makes me want to make a list of my detergent, toothpaste and favourite restaurants from my global past and present.

    I love that I got to hear your initial thoughts about writing this piece just before heading off to the airport to fly to India! 🙂

    Gorgeous writing. xoxox

  10. Whitney November 28, 2013 at 8:17 am - Reply

    You have expressed what my heart feels when I try to describe what it’s like to be a global citizen. My memories are colored in completely different ways than my family’s back home. I’ve spent more of my married life overseas than in America, and we’re getting ready to deliver our first baby in a country we’ve never lived in. I have favorite foods from countries I’ve never been to because my expat friends always bring them back from their journeys home to share with me. Our life is challenging, but so worthwhile. Thank you for your words!
    Whitney @ Journey Mercies

  11. Saskia November 28, 2013 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Beautiful and poignant Idelette! Thank you for sharing this piece. I know a little of ‘the third way’, of making home instead of looking for it. What you described here resonated, and in such a lovely way. Love you Xxx

  12. Megan November 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    This is just you all over Idelette. Thank you for opening your door WIDE open for all. I will be forever and a day grateful to you for showing this Canadian the third way of doing life. Love you

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