by Kris Gnuse
I got off the plane and stepped out into the height of rainy season. The hard stuff struck me like the honeymoon glow of language school blowing its first transformer. Mold in full bloom on our car seats and furniture. Trash scattered on the streets. The cramped feel of our house after the heartland’s big wide open. Five years serving in Costa Rica grooved it all normal, but 3 weeks stateside lured me out of sync with pura vida rhythms.
As a missionary, stateside visits are a sprint effort. Work and play full out, all of it different from the routine of life abroad. It doesn’t take long to acclimate to the absence of pre-dawn roosters, childcare by grandparents, or hometown selection and prices.
I thought re-entry stress would fade as we became seasoned at life here. It’s always nice to get back into our own space, sleep in our own beds, cook in our own kitchen. Each time the bump of transition greets me with the new ink in my passport, whichever direction I’m going. I no longer see it as an assessment of my functionality at the destination. It’s just an admission that change is always a little difficult, wherever you call home.
How do we smooth the landing, or just shake off the everyday doldrums, and fall in love with normal again? When our nest is cozy, life follows suit, so that’s a great place to start.
1. Clean something.
No kidding. The best way to appreciate something is to invest in it. When I feel down on my digs, one solution is to grab a rag and use it. This doesn’t mean clean everything. Martha Stewart is not the goal; progress is. I cut a deal with myself to dirty one dust rag or wipe one wall. The clean spot usually leads to another, a beneficial momentum. Clear windows aren’t my strong suit, but they do give a better view. Tackling dust bunnies, or let’s be honest–woolly mammoths–helps me feel in control.
I can make this place better. I can make a difference. I can love this again.
2. Let something go.
A statement I heard years ago stuck with me: what we love about all those Pinterest decor shots is really the lack of clutter. Everything inside our walls costs us physical and emotional space. Suitcases usually return from our passport country laden with goodness. The abundance is like Christmas, but it all has to fit somewhere.
Use the happy of the new to help release the old. Send it forward as donations or landfill, and revel in the order and openness. I can’t make my house bigger, but I can reduce the unnecessary and make it feel that way. Last week I went medieval on our storage. I pitched expired meds, outgrown clothes, ratty shoes, and that stuff set aside months ago to see if I would miss it. No surprise–I didn’t.
Side note: do not let “maybe I’ll need this someday” trick you into keeping PVC pipe joints or random extra parts of any sort. You know your husband will go to the store and buy new things without searching the dusty “miscellaneous” box. Just say goodbye now and live free.
3. Save a bit of splurge for home.
Often we arrive at our doorstep with a back-to-the-grindstone attitude. The fun shouldn’t end the minute we cross the threshold. As we scrubbed mold and overhauled storage totes, my husband suggested we treat ourselves to lunch out after worship. I was surprised how nice it felt to have something to look forward to. It reminded me that life in our mission country isn’t all DIY. There is much to be enjoyed alongside the serving. Plan something playful to help your heart transition back.
4. Knowing is half the battle.
Expect turbulence in the landing. G.I. Joe had it right. Understanding makes it easier to walk through. Give yourself grace. Don’t pole vault into work the next day, if you can reasonably avoid it. Make time to reconnect. Message your friends on the ground and the ones you just hugged goodbye. Set a date for coffee or Skype. Leave white space to process.
What did you love about your time away? What bumped you about your passport culture? What’s the good, bad, and ugly about being back overseas?
5. Go to your happy place.
Sipping coffee on my balcony or getting creative in the kitchen puts new spring in my step. Getting outside of our walls into the sunshine is good for the soul. Sharing simple eats like popcorn or pancakes fill the house with something better than tasty smells–life.
So put your favorite tunes on, diffuse homey scents, light a candle, laugh together. Take space to be real and love real to see the extraordinary in the everyday again.
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home.
Psalm 90: 1a NLT
What are your favorite ways to reacclimate after a time away from normal routines? What makes you grateful to be home again?
Originally published here.
Kris Gnuse is living proof the Lord gently leads those with young. Their family of five just celebrated 5 years serving at a transitional children’s home in Costa Rica. Cross-cultural ministry, parenting, and sometimes breathing in general, drive her to God’s grace each day. Join her in embracing his great love and breaking free from what holds us back, at thegoodnewsfamily.com