Building a Home for God


I remember my Word of the Year for 2011. Home. It was the year we were preparing to move our young family thousands of miles from every home they had ever known. I knew I would need a way to define what home meant in order to stay the course of the lifelong calling of God upon our lives.

While our current calling is stateside with a ministry which resettles refugees, we remain a thousand or more miles from the other homes we have known. We are a year and a half into the process of our move, and I continue to ask what it really means to build a home for God which supports our family and welcomes others.

As the holidays approach, I think of the refugees we serve who desire to make true, life-giving, and sustainable homes in the U.S. They seek to do this even while they remain displaced and far, far away from many loved ones. And I think of you, similarly, seeking to build a home, ultimately for the living God, in places which are thousands of miles and oceans and cultures away from the homes you once knew so well.

As I ask myself this question, I ask you as well:

“How do we build a home for God wherever we are in this great, wide world?”

The answer is at once simple and yet complex. Building a home for God depends deeply upon finding a resting place of security and love which is ours in God. Yet this work must also be intricate and intentional as we live amidst diverse environments and cultures.

I was recently reading through the book of Exodus, and I found parallels between the Israelites’ construction of the tabernacle during their wilderness years and our construction of similar dwelling places for God in the places and spaces of our own sojourning. As we consider these similarities, we remember to keep holding the tension between this intricate construction of a tabernacle and the assurance of the veil torn in two which yields constant access to the presence of God.

So I offer to you some key elements of what it looks like to build a home for God wherever you are:

  1. We must build or obtain a physical home: For the Israelites, the first element was the construction of the outer curtains and their frames. Before there were inner elements, there were the outer ones. In our journey, we must find a physical place to live wherever we are. When we found our flat in Hungary after much searching, I remember taking a deep breath and thanking God for all of the elements which came together to find the right place for us to live. For many missionaries, this piece is crucial to thrive in the work of our calling. Furthermore, it is important enough to be a selective process. As we pray and give this element to God, we find that he will provide just what we need.
  2. The construction of a home involves skilled artistry: For the Israelites, they needed skilled workers who could find and sew together the right materials in the correct size and color. In addition, other artisans were needed to weave in specific designs. For us, this means that we remember that the unique gifts we have weren’t left in our home countries. We may be good at decorating or language learning or meeting new people, or some other thing. But we must remember that the specific abilities which make us special are needed for important aspects of the homes we will construct. As we manifest the ‘poema’ or poem of God’s workmanship through our lives (Ephesians 2:10), our home begins to take the specific shape of God in us.
  3. We must be prepared to sacrifice, but there is also space to grieve: In the building of the tabernacle, the next step is the construction of the altar upon which sacrifices will be made. Metaphorically, our building of homes for God involves costly, even perpetual, sacrifice on the altar of our lives. In worship to God, we give our love for our families far away, our existing friendships, our comfort, our status, and more to live where we are. However, there is also a spacious courtyard which surrounds this altar, allowing us space to commune with God in our grief and time to surrender these losses to Him.
  4. The oil of readiness must continually burn: The Israelites were called to prepare fine oil for the lamp stands of the tabernacle. Furthermore, Aaron and his sons were to make sure the lamp stands in the holiest place were continuously lit before the Ark of the Covenant. Similarly, our lamps must always be lit. In times of plenty or want, we are to be ever giving the light of the Gospel both to ourselves, as our own soul nourishment, and to all who experience the presence of God through us. Just as the central dwelling place of God in the tabernacle was the ultimate destination of God’s home, so with us we most centrally bear the light of God as we possess a living, vibrant home where we behold Him, in His faithful character and matchless love. We can have no home for Him without His presence sustaining our lives.
  5. We are clothed in priestly garments: The building of the tabernacle included detailed instructions for the garments of the high priest, Aaron. Yahweh declares His people to be a ‘kingdom of priests, a holy nation’ in Exodus 19:6. Peter reiterates this in I Peter 2:9 for all who trust Jesus, saying, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Our garments are perfection and can never be taken from us. They were bought with the exquisite, unfathomable price of the life of God’s own Son. As we continually acknowledge this truth, we can minister as living intercessors for the lives of others with both confidence and humility. Whether in intercessory prayer to our Great High Priest, Jesus, or through being in relationship with others as His hands and feet, our homes radiate gorgeous light from the holy of holies of God.

Wherever you are, I pray you feel hope and encouragement to stay the course of building a home for God. You may feel far behind where had you hoped to be in some areas of construction. But rest assured that as you allow your light to shine, you represent to the world our beautiful Immanuel, ‘God with us.’

 

Image credit via pixabay

Home Hunting

Since 2020, our family has moved all of our belongings five times to five different houses, stayed in too many hotels to count, and slept on the couches, beds, and floors of all our closest relatives.

We’ve been looking for “home” in one way or another for the last two years. Our TCKs often ask questions like “Which home do you mean?” or “When can we go home?” or “Where are we living again?”

We are orderly, scheduled people, and these many moves were not part of our goal-setting, high-reaching, productivity book-reading ministry plans.

As the Proverb says: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I know many of us are tired of talking about how covid changed things. But our family’s many moves weren’t just the result of the global pandemic.

Despite covid, we managed to stay in our country of service in our “sparkly house” throughout all of 2020. We loved our sparkly house. It was a huge answer to prayer and has a story of its own. We wanted to stay in that house, serve our people, and participate in their sufferings alongside them.

The strict covid rules, however, meant that our whole family could never leave the house at once. We ended up taking our kids on “dates” to the only grocery store in town one by one. We worked creatively to make home the most fun we could, despite no grass or yard and only a small cement pad on a dusty, busy street to get “fresh” air. We started to look earnestly for a new home with more outside space for our kids.

At the very beginning of 2021, we found a house with a large dirt yard and fruit trees. We were so thankful to find a home that could be a haven for our six children!

My newest baby was just two weeks old when we packed up everything and moved. The kids mourned the loss of their favorite “sparkly” house, but we renamed the new house the “new sparkly house,” and life seemed under our control once again. We could again put down roots and make our plans.

Then on February 1, 2021, we woke up to the news that a greedy military leader, citing election fraud, had imprisoned the rightfully-elected leaders. He was taking over, and the country was slipping into chaos and civil war.

After a few weeks of escalation, violence near our home, and the evacuation of US Embassy staff, our organization made the difficult call for us to evacuate as well. Less than 24 hours later we left our home with only two suitcases.

Our six-week-old baby still didn’t have a birth certificate or passport due to the covid restrictions that had prevented us from traveling to the closest US Embassy.

Three days of little food, a lot of praying, multiple embassy trips, covid tests for the whole family, and God’s presence being our only comfort in the big city, and we were on a flight back “home” to America. Except America didn’t feel like home.

Evacuation was not part of our ministry plans. How could we serve our people and suffer with them if we were a world away?

In America, we rented an apartment near our organization’s headquarters for six months. It was small and cramped, but there was a great tree to climb out front, and so it became our “climbing tree house.” Six months came and went, and we still weren’t sure what we should do. Finally, we decided to continue waiting in uncertainty nearer to our supporting church, so we bought a house in that area, sight unseen.

I was still struggling to feel at home in America, but at least I could have a place to call my own while I “waited to go back.” We bought the house after watching a three-minute video a realtor sent us. It almost didn’t matter to us what the house looked like; as long as we could buy it and own it, we could make it our home and develop a new plan. But how long would this temporary plan last? How long would we have to wait to go back? Could we ever go back?

Somewhere in all that transition and travel, my father died, and I felt like I was losing my childhood home and my current home all at once.

I am a planner, and none of this was in my plans. I am a scheduled, predictable person, and this was all unexpected, upsetting, and out of control.

I am also a sentimental collector of personal relics. I want to hold on to my past by holding on to the things that remind me of the past. I have almost nothing from our Asian home to hold on to. I have almost none of my father’s possessions to hold on to. Home was slipping through my fingertips.

I didn’t want to grieve the loss of my identity, the loss of my home, the loss of my father, all in the span of a few months. I didn’t want to wait indefinitely for things to change, for things to heal. I didn’t want to be stuck in America with nothing to do besides pray. I wanted to live incarnationally alongside our people.

It wasn’t just my plans that felt unproductive. I felt unproductive. I felt useless. I felt misplaced. I felt lost. A disillusioning fog set in and covered my life in total grief.

I started believing lies. If I didn’t have a home, I couldn’t feel at home. I couldn’t make a home. I couldn’t rest in the peace of a home. Maybe I would never fit in or be welcome anywhere. Maybe I would never have a home and never feel at peace again.

Satan’s lies cut deep, and it took time to uncover them, unpack them, and uproot them from my heart. Through the power of God and the avenue of healing prayer, I began to see the lies and let go of control and resentment, grief and loss.

I began to heal, and the fog began to lift.

I opened my heart to serving people who were right in front of me, and I kept praying for our friends who were far away. I allowed others to serve me in my grief and to see the hurt I was experiencing. I mourned. I grieved. I repented. I prayed.

I began to have hope again. I began to have peace again. I began to see that I could feel at home and make a home wherever God called me and whatever unfolded.

And then something amazing happened: we were able to make decisions and move forward.

My husband and I, after prayer and much discussion, decided that although we could not return to our host country because of the military coup, we could continue our ministry from a neighboring country in Southeast Asia.

Opportunities seemed to open up. We finally had a trajectory again.

And this is when our purchased home, unnamed for nearly a year, got the name of the “smiley-love house” by our kids. Hope is a powerful thing.

Fast forward to now. We’ve recently arrived back in Southeast Asia. We moved not knowing anyone in this city. We lived in hotels for two weeks while we were finding a home. It’s taken courage and perseverance. It’s taken God’s mercy and the prayers of many, many people.

But God did answer our prayers, and He has been with us. We had a tangible sense of His peace guiding us. We have found a home, our “nature house.” It is a small house with a giant yard that our kids can play in, an amazing answer to our kids’ many prayers for a house with “nature.”

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that God has provided us with a home here. But it isn’t this physical home that is His greatest gift: His greatest gift is His presence with me, telling me that I am home because I am with Him.

In my Father’s house, there will always be a place for me. No matter where I go or what happens to me along the journey, He will always be there, eager and waiting for me to return to Him. In His home I am always welcome. He is running to meet me, and His arms are open wide.

Our “nature house” probably won’t be my last house. I’ll need to look for another someday. But I never have to feel lost anymore, because Home is where He is, and He is always with me.

How to Make Yourself at Home in the World

by Carol Ghattas

As a young twenty-three-year-old, I had so many preconceived notions about how life in cross-cultural service should look. I left for my first two-year assignment with newly coiffed, permed hair, a pressed linen blouse, modest skirt, and two hard (and heavy) Samsonite suitcases. Why I thought I would easily fit in upon arrival to my West African destination is hard to conceive.

I think my first meeting with reality came the day I pulled a load of laundry from my French washing machine. My beautiful linen blouse was now more of a tie-dyed, shrunken piece of fabric. Within the first couple of months, a trip to the local hairdresser left me with lice and no curls. No quick call to Mom for laundry and other advice in those days. I was on my own and missing home.

I made many mistakes during those first two years, but I learned a lot about myself and how God viewed my desire to serve him in missions. Thankfully, I was able to take some of those lessons with me when I later traveled with my husband to serve in the Middle East and North Africa. My desire by this time in my life was to settle. After all, I was newly married, thinking of children, and wanting to make a home. Again, God had other plans, and though he blessed us with two sons, we ended up moving to six different countries over the next twenty years—not all of them on our schedule.

The longer we served, the more the Lord taught me about how to find home wherever we were, including during furloughs and a final return to the States. If you’ve struggled to be at home in your place of service or are looking toward service and want to be better prepared, here are five ideas that could help.

1. Know yourself.
Recognize your natural giftings, personality traits, and even weaknesses. Ask questions about how each of these will be affected by the stresses of cross-cultural service. Be sure of your spiritual foundation in Christ. When we are outside of our comfort zone, Satan loves to throw darts at our vulnerability and shake our faith. What can you do now to prepare for inevitable attacks?

2. Remember that you do not serve in isolation.
We all need others in service. That’s the foundational nature of the Body of Christ, and it carries through to any ministry in which we serve. Take the time to recognize and acknowledge your need for people, from your family, home fellowship, and larger Christian community, in support of, not just your ministry, but you. Be willing to let them hold you accountable and help you through times of struggle.

3. Get to know your people group.
Not only will stronger relationships with your home support groups help to mitigate your longing for home, but coming alongside the people you serve and with whom you serve will also build a greater sense of home in your new land.

4. Establish boundaries.
Understanding yourself and building these relationships will do wonders for helping to stave off the homesickness that can so easily distract us in service. These are the foundations in finding home, but there are also some boundaries we need to have as part of these relationships.

When we have misguided ideas about contextualization, we can sometimes lose balance in our life. We can also find ourselves growing bitter about where we live and the people we serve when we fail to set limits in relationships and keep a healthy distance. It’s not easy, and I’m not a great example by any means, but I have learned from past mistakes.

Nothing can suck the joy out of service more than sheer exhaustion because we don’t allow for personal space in our relationships. Once the joy fades, the longing for home increases and many will leave the field.

5. Schedule time for maintenance.
Just as home appliances require regular maintenance and repair, being at home wherever we serve means we have to maintain our spiritual, mental, and physical health. How are you doing spiritually? How’s your walk with the Lord? Have you talked to him about what you’re feeling? I encourage you to start with him and make sure you’re keeping your slate clean and remaining spiritually disciplined.

Life is full of changes, and the same goes for Christian service. Our feelings about home can shift when children start school or go off for college. Aging parents, sudden illness, or a forced evacuation can set off the homesickness bug for your native country and sometimes for your previous place of service. By God’s grace, we can learn to handle such changes and continue to be at rest right where we are.

When your world is shaken, and Jesus seems to have disappeared—wait. Wait and ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill your home-shaped heart with his peace and contentment, no matter the circumstances. Jesus is the one who keeps us centered with whatever life throws our way. May you find your home in him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With thirty-plus years in missions, Carol Ghattas has made her home in over six countries and among a wide variety of peoples. She’s also had to rediscover what home looks like after returning from the field to her native land. A writer and speaker on missions, Islam, and other topics, Carol maintains an active blog site, lifeinexile.net. Her newest book, Not in Kansas Anymore: Finding Home in Cross-Cultural Service, is now available through online book distributors in e-book and paperback format.

Searching for Home After a Global Upbringing

Editor’s Note: The following piece is an excerpt from Lisa McKay’s memoir, Love at the Speed of Email. She first shared it on A Life Overseas many years ago, back in March of 2013. But many of our readers weren’t around then, and I love this story so much that I asked her if we could bring it out of the archives and share it with everyone again. ~Elizabeth Trotter

Love At The Speed Of Email is a memoir – the story of how I met my husband while he was in Papua New Guinea working for a humanitarian organization and I was in Los Angeles working as a stress management trainer. It’s more than a love story, though. It’s a recounting of my struggle to find an answer to the question, “Where’s home?” after being raised in five different countries and then embracing a career that kept me perpetually on the move. I suspect that this struggle to define home is one that those of you who were raised as third culture kids (or who are raising global nomads yourselves) will be all too familiar with.

The section I’m sharing comes from a chapter called Airports and Bookstores. I was twenty-six years old, in Hawaii, and having the time of my life at the first creative writing workshop I’d ever attended when I realized for the first time that I might have a real problem when it came to this concept of home . . .

Borrowing inspiration from the tale of the prodigal son in the Bible, our instructors had told us to write a “coming home” story. We should, we were told, write the prodigal who was us as an adult, coming home to ourselves as a child.

“Pick the clearest recollection you have of home and use that,” they said.

Everyone else reached for a pen or a laptop. I just sat there.

I was still sitting there ten minutes later.

Eventually I went up to the front of the room, to the giant leather-bound book of synonyms that was sitting on a podium, looked up home and wrote down these words: Birthplace. Stability. Dwelling. Hearth. Hearthstone. Refuge. Shelter. Haven. Sanctum.

I went back to my seat and stared past the book of synonyms, past the palm trees standing still under a blanket of midday heat, and out into the hazy blue of an ocean that promised a horizon it never quite delivered.

The list didn’t seem to help much.

Birthplace conjured Vancouver, a city I’d visited only twice, briefly, since we’d left when I was one.

Stability then. Unlike my parents’, this was not a word that could be applied to my childhood. In stark contrast with their agrarian upbringing, I’d spent an awful lot of my time in airports.

Maybe that was it, I thought, wondering whether the sudden spark I felt at the word airport was a glimmer of inspiration or merely desperation.

There was no denying that as a child I’d thought there was a lot of fun to be had in and around airports. More than one home movie shows me and my sister, Michelle, arranging our stuffed animals and secondhand Barbies in symmetrical rows and lecturing them severely about seat belts and tray tables before offering to serve them drinks. When we were actually in airports, we spent many happy hours collecting luggage carts and returning them to the distribution stands in order to pocket the deposit. We were always very disappointed to find ourselves in those boring socialist airports with free trolleys.

In Hawaii, I was tempted to start writing my story about home but didn’t.

“Your clearest memories of home as a child cannot possibly be in an airport,” I scolded myself, still staring past my laptop and out to the white-laced toss and chop of cerulean. “Home is not a topic that deserves flippancy. Work harder. . . . What about dwellings and hearths?”

That year my parents were living in the Philippines. My brother was in Sydney. My sister was in Washington, D.C. The bed I could legitimately call mine resided in Indiana. I had lived none of these places except D.C. as a child, and they were such awkward, lonely years that the thought of going back, even in a story, made me squirm. We lived in Washington, D.C., for three and a half years before moving to Zimbabwe, and what I remember most clearly about that time is that I spent much of it reading.

I’ve been in love with reading since before I can remember. Our family photo albums are peppered with photos of me curled up with books – in huts in Bangladesh, on trains in Europe, in the backseat of our car in Zimbabwe.

I can’t remember my parents reading to us before bed, although they swear they often did – sweet tales about poky puppies and confused baby birds looking for their mothers.

“You were insatiable,” Mum said when I asked her about this once. “No matter how many times I read you a book, you always wanted more.”

“Awwww,” I said, envisioning long rainy afternoons curled up with my mother while she read to me. “You must have spent hours reading to me.”

“I did,” my mother said in a tone that let me know she fully expects me to return the favor one day. “But it was never enough. So I taped myself.”

“What?” I asked.

“I got a tape recorder,” she said. “I recorded myself reading a story – I even put these cute little chimes in there so you’d know when to turn the page. Then, sometimes, I sat you down with the tapes.”

“Nice,” I said in a way that let her know that I didn’t think this practice would get her nominated for the motherly hall of fame.

“You loved it,” she said, completely uncowed. “Plus, I needed a break every now and then. You were exhausting. You never stopped asking questions. You asked thirty-seven questions once during a half-hour episode of Lassie. I counted.”

I can’t remember any of this. My earliest memories of reading are solitary, sweaty ones. They are of lying on the cool marble floor of our house in Bangladesh, book in hand, an overhead fan gently stirring the dense heat while I chipped away at frozen applesauce in a small plastic container. But it’s when we moved from Bangladesh to the States when I was nine that my memories of books, just like childhood itself, become clearer.

Of all the moves I’ve made in my life, this was one of the most traumatic. Abruptly encountering the world of the very wealthy after two years of living cheek by jowl with the world of the very poor, I discovered that I didn’t fit readily into either world. My fourth grade classmates in Washington, D.C., had no framework for understanding where I had been for the last two years – what it was like to ride to church in a rickshaw pulled by a skinny man on a bicycle, to make a game out of pulling three-inch-long cockroaches out of the sink drain while brushing your teeth at night, or to gaze from the windows of your school bus at other children picking through the corner garbage dumps.

I, in turn, lacked the inclination to rapidly absorb and adopt the rules of this new world, a world where your grasp on preteen fashion, pop culture, and boys all mattered terribly. Possibly I could have compensated for my almost total lack of knowledge in these key areas with lashings of gregarious charm, but at nine I lacked that, too. I was not what you would call a sunny child.

So I read instead. I read desperately.

I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. One of the few good things I could see about living in the States was the ready availability of books. Some weekends Mum and Dad would take us to the local library’s used book sale. Books were a quarter each. I had a cardboard box and carte blanche. On those Saturday mornings I was in heaven.

Like many kids, I suspect, I was drawn to stories of outsiders or children persevering against all odds in the face of hardship. I devoured all of C.S. Lewis’ stories of Narnia and adored the novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett, especially the ones featuring little girls who were raised in India before being exiled to face great hardship in Britain. But I also strayed into more adult territory. I trolled our bookshelves and the bookshelves of family friends, and those bookshelves were gold mines for stories about everything from religious persecution to murder, rape, civil war, child brides, and honor killing.

In retrospect, even at eleven I wasn’t reading largely for pleasant diversion, for fun, for the literary equivalent of eating ice cream in the middle of the day. I was extreme-reading – pushing boundaries – looking to be shocked, scared, thrilled, and taught. I was reading to try to figure out how to make sense of pain.

It is entirely possible that had we remained in Australia throughout my childhood, I would still have spent the majority of these preteen years feeling isolated and misunderstood. After all, in the midst of our mobility I never doubted my parents’ love for me or for each other, but this did not forestall an essential loneliness that was very deeply felt. I suspect that I would still have grown into someone who feels compelled to explore the juxtaposition of shadow and light, someone who is drawn to discover what lies in the dark of life and of ourselves. But I also suspect that the shocking extremes presented by life in Bangladesh and America propelled me down this path earlier, and farther, than I may naturally have ventured.

It was largely books that were my early companions on this journey. They were stories of poverty and struggle, injustice and abuse, violence and debauchery, yes. But they were also threaded through with honor and courage, sacrifice and discipline, character and hope.

Many people seem to view “real life” as the gold standard by which to interpret stories, but I don’t think that does novels justice. For me, at least, the relationship between the real and fictional worlds was reciprocal. These books named emotions, pointed to virtue and vice, and led me into a deeper understanding of things I had already witnessed and experienced myself. They also let me try on, like a child playing dress-up, experiences and notions new to me. They acted as maps, mirrors, and magnifying glasses.

In those lonely childhood years, books also provided refuge. They were havens and sanctums.

Did that make them home?

When the writing exercise ended after half an hour and we were invited to share, I’d come up with only two ideas.

Set the scene in a bookstore. Or set it in an airport.

I hadn’t written a single word.

 

Searching for a Sense of Home

by Beth Barthelemy

“The word home summons up a place—more specifically a house within that place—which you have rich and complex feelings about, a place where you feel, or did feel once, uniquely at home, which is to say a place where you feel you belong and which in some sense belongs to you, a place where you feel that all is somehow ultimately well even if things aren’t going all that well at any given moment.”  –Frederick Buechner, Longing for Home

//

I sat around our school table, looking into the mostly eager faces of my daughters, though one face was less eager than the rest this morning. A single candlestick flickered in the middle of the table. My hands rested around my coffee mug as I sat back from our morning’s Bible reading, once again having veered off topic.

“South Africa is our home. We barely even remember living in America. This is where I have mostly grown up and where the cats are,” simply stated the black-and-white-thinking, animal-loving child.

“I just don’t know where my home is,” stated the more pensive daughter. “I mean, I love America, that’s where I was born. I think that’s my home.”

The third-born just snuggled on my lap, listening carefully as she always does but saying nothing this time. The youngest was singing in a loud voice on the carpet beside us.

Inwardly, I sighed. I did not feel up to having this conversation this morning, to steering their hearts toward the truth that I myself was desperately seeking. I knew well the significance of this conversation for my children, who live an ocean away from where they were born. My heart was fragile, had been fragile for some time after a devastating family tragedy a few months earlier. I resonated deeply with my daughters’ rationalizations about home. Our life and ministry was here in the deep south of the African continent, yet my hurting family and missing loved one was across an ocean, back in the place where I had grown up. Even in the move five years before, I felt the sore splitting of my heart; it had not healed over time, no. In fact, that splitting was deeper and sorer than ever.

I took a deep breath. I shared that I too struggle with this question of home, and that isn’t home where we are all together? We reflected on the little farmhouse where we had briefly stayed years ago, and how that indeed felt like home, if only for that single month. “And,” I added, “I think there is a part of us that will never feel completely at home anywhere in this world. We will always feel a bit split between the people and things we love here, and the people and things we love in America, because neither of these is our true, forever home.”

The girls sat silently nodding, knowing enough to understand the true, forever home to which I was referring. That seemed to satisfy them well enough, for just then they were off to another subject. I still stared out the window, however, trying once more to imagine a home where I would never again feel this splitting, this longing. A home where the shadows of this world would never darken.

//

Buechner has similar conflicted feelings about home, though unique to his own life just as my feelings are unique to mine. As he does in many of his works, he connects his own story with many of ours; he has weathered his fair share of storms and is well acquainted with the dark shadows which follow for the rest of our earthly lives.

“I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom,” Buechner writes in The Longing for Home, “which exists both within us and among us as we wind our prodigal ways through the world in search of it.”

Both within us and among us. This is the beauty of the gospel breaking into this broken world; it is transforming our individual sinful hearts and the larger world in which we live. We see our need for home met in the coming of Christ’s kingdom, in that “here but not yet” reality. Yes, Jesus, you are here in my heart and life, and I long for that day when I will be fully at home with you. And, yes, Jesus, you are alive and at work in this dark world, and I am looking for the ways your kingdom is breaking through. I want to see.

As the years fly by in my life — I’m now in my mid-thirties — I am learning that much of my daily work is to see properly. Many days, the shadows of the world threaten to overcome the good and the inherent light. As those of us old enough know, we have little control over the shadows. And if it’s not the shadows, the distractions are endless, the worldly pulls ever strengthening their grip. What I can do, and what I can help my children to do, is to look for the light, choose to see the good, and foster our imaginations for our true home. This is the work of living as children of God in this world, wherever we may find ourselves.

And even as the shadows lengthen, even as we feel the splitting in our hearts, we keep looking for the places the kingdom is breaking in, we keep longing for home. It’s coming.

~~~~~~~~~

Beth Barthelemy is a wife, mother to four young children, and cross cultural worker. She and her husband, Ben, have lived and worked in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, for the past five years. She has an MA in Christian Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can find her online at bethbarthelemy.com and on Instagram as bethbarthelemy.

Searching for Home

It’s hard to describe the turbulence of soul that comes from being on the move, always unsettled. You cannot be still and breathe deeply. You cannot love the wild-growing front-lawn tulips too much, or the way the sunlight turns the living room into a golden elven forest in the afternoon. They will soon be gone. And with every big move, you are the new person all over again, trying to make friends at double-speed, weary of explaining where you came from and why you’re here.

We have lived in our current home in Taipei for thirteen months, the longest in any one place for nearly four years. This dubious “longevity” doesn’t prevent my gut fear of another uprooting. Experience leaves an imprint of expectation in our hearts. The nomadic lifestyle began in earnest when we finished seminary, after which a pastoral job and preparation to be missionaries led us to several different cities and even more homes. We moved twelve times in a span of two and a half years, and it hurt my heart terribly.

At nearly every house or apartment I resolutely unpacked everything, decorated the walls with my grandmother’s paintings and the children’s art, and brought cookies when meeting our new neighbors. I tried to make each place a home, even if it would not last long. And I grieved the loss of our previous home and the life we had built there.

I grew up in one place, but without knowing it, even then I longed to be home. I kept subtly searching for something that tingled like a phantom limb; it had to be there—my entire being reached out for it! Or was it only an untouchable dream?

I can relate to Peter when he tells Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). I reflect with some self-pity, perhaps like Peter, that we have left our family and our friends and our homeland to follow Christ. I know that dying to myself is the only path to life and abiding happiness, but even so, my heart is burdened in the midst of loss.

Jesus responds to Peter’s outburst with a longer-term view:

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

His words, though demanding, are a balm to my soul. God has fulfilled the temporal part of the promise many times over. We have been welcomed into the physical homes of fellow believers when we were in need, and our brothers and sisters in Christ are our family in every way. But even more so, the fleeting losses of following Christ are nothing compared to the eternal gain.

The ESV Study Bible notes that “Jesus assures the disciples that they have answered the call and are blessed.” This pain of being between worlds is not a logistical problem, but a sign of following His call. It’s not a sign that we are failures as missionaries, but that the redemption of the world is costly. Christ bore the greatest cost of all.

The home we long for is not a phantom or a dream: we were created to yearn for our Lord’s lovely dwelling place. “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Psalm 84:2). In his earthly life, Jesus shared in our homelessness. He left his perfect heavenly home to rescue us from our sin; he had no place to lay his head. And he will return to remedy our aching hunger with the ultimate Home he prepares for us even now, where there will be no more crying or pain because the former things have passed away.

 

Originally published at A Life Overseas on December 22, 2015.

A Trip to the Embassy

by Seth Lewis

I was excited. We’d only lived in Ireland a few months—long enough to begin to feel the reality of deep differences, but not nearly long enough to adjust to them. Our second son had just been born, a different experience in a different medical system, and we needed to register his birth at the United States embassy. American soil, in Ireland. It would be nice to get a little taste of all we’d left behind. A few hours on the motorway got us to Dublin, where we found the US embassy—a big round thing looking out of place on its street-corner, like a landed UFO. Like us. 

To get through the outer wall, we had to go through security. I hadn’t anticipated that, but it made sense, and I knew what to do. On the other side of the metal detector, the ground was American. Even the flowers were red, white, and blue. This was going to be fun.

I opened the door to the UFO, and was immediately struck by the lack of country music. Not even rock. Nothing. Just another security guard, another metal detector, and a sign that said “Please take a number”. A number? I’m not a number, I’m an American! This is my embassy! 

I took a number. White walls and tiles. Uncomfortable chairs. Drop ceiling. I knew there was a ballroom in the building, but no one offered to show it to me. Come to think of it, the room did look familiar. I’d seen this set up before, in America, at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Office. 

An embassy is a US government office. I should have known it would look like one. That I would hear several people being refused before I got a turn to hand my number through the thick (bullet proof?) glass and hope I had every form and supporting document exactly right. Somehow I had thought they would be as happy as I was to see another American. I had wanted a taste of things we left behind. I got one.

We walked out past the red, white, and blue flowers and through the security gate. On the other side, the Irish ground felt a little more like home. In the car, I played country music.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seth Lewis has lived on the south coast of the Republic of Ireland for the last ten years with his wife Jessica; two of their three children were born there. He works with a network of local churches who are committed to church planting and also assists with a local Bible college and youth camp ministry. Before moving overseas, Seth worked with a church in Virginia. His accent doesn’t really fit anywhere anymore, and he’s okay with that. You can find him online at sethlewis.ie.

On Family Albums and What I Didn’t Know

Our family albums tell amazing stories. Picnics in the shadow of the Great Pyramids of Egypt; bucket baths in Swat Valley – home to Malala the brave; hiking in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains; feeding pigeons outside the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul; climbing on canons in Quebec City; wandering through Topkapi Palace with cousins, an added bonus; early morning train journeys from Ankara to Istanbul; roaming the streets of Cairo and boat rides on the Nile.

Amazing stories, each one of them. Each one an entry into a thick family album.

And then the stories changed, and with them the photographs. Those fading photographs changed from plane rides to road trips, from palm trees to sugar maples, from apartments in a large Middle Eastern city to a Victorian home on Main Street in New England. Suddenly there were leaves to rake during golden autumns. Warm winters with no need for snow boots changed to delighted cries of “It’s snowing” followed by sledding on the small hill in our back yard. Spring saw us aching for the warmth of summer and forcing forsythia to bloom and bring color and new life. And then there were the summers, where daily trips to the ocean, even if it was for only an hour, were necessary as we experienced the magic of low tide on rocky New England beaches.

We were no longer on planes every year, our passports ready to be stamped. Our suitcases had layers of dust on them and the trunks that had so faithfully crossed the ocean found other uses storing legos and other toys. The reminders of our former lives were reduced to photo albums, stories, stamps in our passports, and Arafat and Rabin, sworn enemies, looking out at us from a heart-shaped frame on our mantle.

Our photo albums capture points in time, but not the whole narrative. Not the narrative of transition and loss, of starting a new life and trying to recreate home. Written through every picture is the hidden narrative of finding home within transition. Finding home in a world that changed frequently.

And what about our children in all of this? What about those blonde and dark heads, those blue and brown eyes, those toddler And elementary school bodies that even then were growing into a space far beyond our walls of safety? What about those kids captured so well in photographs, and yet – not really captured at all?

I knew nothing of the third culture life when we began this journey. I knew that I felt most comfortable between worlds but I had not discovered the language to articulate this. I knew I felt different in the United States then I did in Pakistan, but the research was new and not mainstream. I was a third culture kid raising third culture kids, and I didn’t have a clue as to what that really meant.

Shallow roots are tender, they need care as they are being transplanted. We hurt shallow roots because we didn’t know any better.

In the midst of such constant change, how do we still find a way to be in the world, to build a home under ever-changing conditions? I think the answer is found not in the concept of home per se but what a home provides us, which is a place of dwelling. To dwell is to linger, to safely be.

Dr. Michelle Harwell

When we live lives that take us miles from family and home cultures, we learn that a home is far more than four walls and a roof. Home becomes people, routines, precious objects that make their way across oceans and transitions, and digging up roots that, though shallow, are still roots.

How do we navigate all of this? How do we adapt when change and transition feel like the only constants?How do we keep up the rhythms of home, and a sense of belonging when the walls of home have moved?

As children, I think we take for granted that a home is gifted to us. It’s made for us through the routines, the four walls that surround and the emotional rhythms that build a sense of familiarity and holding. As we grow, that sense of belonging to a place and a people translates to a more robust internal belonging and holding that allows us to venture further and further out into the world.

Dr. Michelle Harwell

I didn’t know back then – but now I do know, and this is what I would tell my younger self:

Let them grieve the walls that have moved! Those walls are so much more than just safety from the elements. The walls and roofs are places that provide comfort and safety when the outside world feels too much. Let them grieve the memories and people who have wandered into that space. It will never be the same, and they need room to grieve this – whether they understand it or not. Let them grieve the stuff left behind.

Let them find their sacred spaces and their sacred objects, for sometimes it’s all they feel they have. Give them time to reclaim what was lost, for reclaiming is an Edenic quality.

Let them grieve, and then walk with them as they move on. Encourage their tentative forays into new relationships and hobbies. Remind them that they can love two places without being disloyal. Listen to their faith questions and encourage them to seek truth. Help them to understand saudade and how to “kill the saudade.”

Learn the language of transition and use it in your family. Even if others don’t understand, your family can grow in their connection and understanding of each other through a language of transition. Find transferable rhythms, rhythms that are more than place. Reading and tea times, portable traditions, and regular times of remembering are transferable across geographic boundaries.

Build in them a sense of resilience by connecting them to the bigger family story, the bigger spiritual story. The research on resilience being integrally connected to knowing they are part of a bigger story is critically important in this conversation.

Let them know that God is a God of place, creator of space. That through His story is a thread of remembrance and redemption; woven in his word is a story of home and belonging. Give them glimpses of the eternal as they struggle with the fleeting.

And know that it will be okay.

How do I know? Because I now have the privilege of friendships with five adult children spread across four time zones, three states, and two countries. I have listened in wonder as they each articulate their own stories. As we have talked through some of this with them I have marveled at their grace and forgiveness toward two parents who didn’t know, two parents who loved deeply but didn’t have the tools of transition and navigating the third space and defining home. Two parents who continue to find rhythms of transition and figure out this mobile life where place matters.

“At two and a bit, he understood neither distance nor time. What he understood was that we were there, but he was not. For the first time in his short life, he learnt how to say goodbye.”

Danau Tanu author of Growing up in Transit

When Did This Place Become Home?

by Beth

If I am completely honest, I think I spent our first two years in Central Asia longing to go home to our home country (or even to the USA where we had lived for a short while). I would pray: Your will God but deep down I was hoping that His will was that we wouldn’t be here long.

Now that we have lived here for a while, something has changed. I’m not sure what it is. I still have days of high culture stress and I still get frustrated with my poor mastery of the language, but something inside of me has shifted.

My husband visited our landlords who live two doors from us, to pay rent and the conversation they had went something like this:

Landlord: How long have you been living in our house now?

My husband: More than five years.

Landlord: Really? I thought it was only three and a half years! We’ve learnt how to trust each other.

My husband: We so appreciate that we’ve been able to stay so long. Friends of ours have had to move three times in the time we’ve lived in your house because each time their landlords needed the home for themselves or relatives to live in.

Landlords: Yes, that won’t happen with us (they live with their daughter)Although when our grandson gets married, he will need a house (their grandson is ten years old now!). But actually, when he gets married then he and his wife can just move in with your family and his wife will be your kelen  (daughter-in-law who does all the housework and cooking in this culture)!

My husband and I laughed when he told me about this exchange, but there really is a sweetness in all of it. Our landlords are content with us living in their house and they can see us being here for a lot longer. For our family this house is our home. When did that happen? When did this house filled with furniture I didn’t choose (and never would!) – this house painted with whitewash and sparkling, beaded Central Asian style curtains hanging in the windows – start feeling like home?

I was watching my son play in his under 12 basketball game and one boy completely missed a pass. A friend sitting next to me said: “These boys have many years playing together to get this right. By the time they’re in high school they would have been playing basketball with each other for so long that they won’t miss a pass like that.” And in that moment the longing for my son to be able to continue playing basketball for this school was so strong that it felt like an ache and I found myself silently praying: “Lord, please can we stay till our kids finish school here?”

When did this place become home? When did it happen that instead of longing to leave, I have a longing NOT to leave?

We often quote from Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV). This life in Central Asia is very different from the plans I had hoped for, but despite this, my family is not being harmed and God is using it to prosper us. This is so different from what I ever imagined home to be, but it is good because it’s what God has given us; we are part of God’s story.

Once again, I find myself kneeling before God and praying: “Your will God, however long you want us to serve here.” But now, deep down I’m hoping that it will be His will that we stay for many more years. I know that being here is temporary, we are still strangers in a foreign land reliant on visas and the kindness of a foreign government and reliant on the support we receive each month. But ultimately, we’re fully reliant on God, He brought us here and He will keep us here until He calls us elsewhere.

Originally published at OM.

Read Beth’s companion piece here.

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Beth is from the global South, and she loves the ocean and cold Christmas dinner on a hot day around the pool. She is married to an adventurer, and they have three wonderfully unique children.

“Where Are You From?”

by Matilda Steele-Smith

“Where are you from?” The dreaded question is asked all too often as soon as I open my mouth and my Australian-British-South African accent comes out. A question that seems simple yet holds the weight of my being, it is the question of my identity. It is not simply the answer to that question alone which can be a difficult and strange one to have when someone actually doesn’t care about my history — but rather the judgments that are made upon the story that ensues.

When I say I have moved around the world, people’s first comment is mostly “Wow! That’s cool!”, or “Wow! You’re lucky!” and yes, I am. I have had the opportunity to meet many incredible people, to have many weird and wonderful experiences, and to have gained a greater understanding of the world around me. However, after being asked this question at every social gathering, and not at the fault of the one questioning, I have begun to feel a sort of resentment toward the, “So where is home to you?” question.

I do not feel at home where I am today and will probably never feel totally at home wherever I will be in the future. There will always be some aspect of my current culture that I do not have an affinity with or do not particularly enjoy. I have struggled over the past years with cultural differences and language barriers, common courtesies and strange laws. I have eaten traditional British cream tea, and I have eaten ostrich off an open fire after it was killed by an “uncle” I am not related to. This has been my life, and although it has been an adventure, it has been oh so very tiring.

While my life has been full of getting to know and then leaving people, I have watched others grow up in situations of familiarity: childhood friends who shared their ice-creams become love interests, rivals at swimming carnivals become prom dates. Sometimes I wish to have grown up in the same place, where the lady who seemed to be a hundred and one years old next door has to be three hundred by the time I leave home. Where the hole in my back fence has never been fixed, and the swing I once played on in the park became the place I had my first kiss.

And yet that will never be. And I have to be okay with that. I have to come to grips with the fact that there are only really two things in my life that are constant. The first is change, and that means I will embrace change with my every fibre of my being. Because if I don’t, then this adventure won’t be nearly half as fun. And the second is who my Father in Heaven is, he whose promises never fail, whose mercies are new every morning. Whether I am in Europe or Africa, Australia or the absolute middle of nowhere, He remains constant, ever-present, unchanging.

Therefore, I have adopted a new identity: Citizen of Heaven. As my identity is found in him, and as my eternity will be found there also, I rest in the assurance that I do have a home. That home is wherever I am in his presence, wherever I remember his all-encompassing and never-ending love. So, to all those who may not have a home, who feel a sense of desire for something that seems unattainable, rest in the assurance that you are not alone. You are not the only one. But also remember that you have a God in heaven, whose Holy Spirit will fill every crack and crevice of your life, whose presence will become your home. That same Holy Spirit is able to teach all of us that our citizenship is indeed in Heaven.

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Matilda Steele-Smith is a 17 year old from Sydney, Australia who has spent the last 13 years in the UK and South Africa. After completing high school, she hopes to return ‘home’ to pursue a career in journalism. Passionate about social justice and all things creative, she loves writing and singing.

Looking for a Place to Land

by Kate Motaung

I was a few weeks shy of twenty-one, and my plan was to stay in South Africa for five months. But just as my childhood stay in a renovated pump house stretched into a decade, what I thought would be a few months overseas morphed into ten and a half years. God’s plan kept me there and stained my heart with Rooibos tea and red African soil.

Over ten years, I moved ten times, bookended by my initial move to South Africa, and then back again to West Michigan. Time and time again with each new rental apartment, each borrowed house, I desperately tried to convince myself that I was content. But the truth was, when I was here, I wanted to be there, and when I was there, I wanted to be here.

At first, all I wanted was to hang pictures on the walls without fear of our landlord inspecting the drywall at the end of our lease. To pound a nail into fresh paint and transform a bland house into my signature flavor. But after a chain of rented apartments and long-term house-sitting stints, I lost interest in making any effort. Knowing we’d be moving again soon stifled my desire to settle. Sometimes I didn’t even bother to unwrap the scented candles from their swaths of newspaper. In the last few rentals, I even left the framed family photos tucked away in their Bubble Wrap, knowing that I would just have to rewrap them soon anyway. As we packed suitcases and boxes for the umpteenth time, I felt the burden of exile. The weight of my wandering.

Then finally, I understood. This whole life is a rental. This whole body of mine is a borrowed house. And sometimes it’s a good thing to be discontent with where we are, because this is not it. It’s a good thing to feel like we’re not at home and to long for another, for permanence, for stability, because we’re not home yet. Having been washed by the astounding grace of the cross, praise God, my citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

My life sprawled out between the parentheses of two continents. This is living in the “in between”—between the fall and redemption, the already and the not yet, between hope’s longing and fulfillment. Where time passes with the click of a mouse and drags like a whiny toddler down a grocery store aisle. Where graves are dug and happiness buried. Where bees and words sting, and hopes are ripped off like stubborn bandages. Where victory has been accomplished, but Christ has not yet returned.

God took my definition of home, tore it up, and tossed it out the passenger seat window, where it caught the southeaster, never to be seen again. He opened to that chapter of my soul where the ink is faded, the yellowed pages transparent from vigorous scribbles and constant erasing. For years, I obsessed over the pursuit of home. It always felt just out of reach. Visible, but unattainable. Now I see I had it all wrong. Home in its truest sense—my eternal home—is exactly the opposite. It’s attainable but not visible. Attainable only because of Christ’s work on the cross and His gift of faith to me. Invisible for a little while longer, “for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). It took me decades to figure out that home is partly about where I’m from, yes—but home is far more about where I’m heading.

Home is more than just a place—it’s a promise.

God took the tug-of-war that waged in my soul, the thick rope that spanned across the ocean, and yanked from both sides. He cut it clean through the middle, somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic. And He made me look up. To see that the greatest and strongest pull is neither east nor west, neither here nor there. It’s the heavenward pull.

It’s the pull toward home.

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Author’s note: This post was an excerpt from my memoir, A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging. It appears near the end, as I reflect on the consequences of my decision to spend the final semester of my cross-cultural missions degree in Cape Town, South Africa. I ended up meeting and marrying a South African man, and we now have three children.

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Kate Motaung is the author of A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and BelongingA Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief, and co-author of Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me). She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing, editing, and digital marketing services. Kate blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Oops, I went home for Christmas — How to readjust to life abroad after a quick trip “home”

This post is specifically for the masses who have been transitioning to a new life abroad and are thinking that a quick trip home for the holidays might be exactly what they need to crush their culture shock and get rid of that pesky homesickness.

You’ll see them around just after Christmas.

Fetal position.

More homesick than ever.

Pricing airfare again.

I used to say don’t do it — EVER — don’t go home in the first year.  Give yourself a chance to work through the mess and the bumbling of learning how to be a foreigner before you run back to everything familiar.

I stopped saying that for two reasons:

ONE: No one listened.  A bit of advice (no matter how spot on) always loses miserably to Nana’s pumpkin pie.  Hands down.  I get it.

TWO: Some people do it really well.  They go.  They come back.  They re-engage and it’s good.  I won’t argue with that.

However, it is a harsh reality that a quick trip home in the middle of a cultural transition CAN be more painful than you expected.

 

Maybe you’ve seen something similar to the diagram below.

It’s the standard culture shock continuum that charts how we process things that are “DIFFERENT” (namely everything) when we move abroad.  It happens to most of us although it takes on a million different forms since . . . you know . . . we’re all different.

Point is . . . transition is a process.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-9-59-20-am

So it makes sense right?  If you’re at the bottom of the curve and everything is stupid, you need a break.

A fast infusion of familiarity would do the trick.

A hug from mom.

A night out with old friends.

A Ribeye.  Medium Well.  With a loaded baked potato.

What were we talking about?

Oh yeah . . . a quick trip home.

That’ll fix it.

In our heads it looks like this.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-54-32-am

It will be a nice little taste of the well known in the middle of the dip so I can recharge and come back refreshed . . .  ready to move forward.

But home doesn’t live in the dip.

Going home (especially for the holidays) can be more of a super spike of hyper-charged emotions . . . on crack . . . and steroids . . . and Red Bull . . . and Nana’s pumpkin pie.

It actually looks more like this.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-9-30-29-am

Think about it.

Detaching from all of the sources of your greatest frustration and plugging in to all of the sources of your greatest joy ONLY to reverse that moments after you get over jet lag is not a sustainable solution to the frustration.

Au contraire (pardon my French).

 

Here’s the thing — this scenario doesn’t apply to everyone but the principal probably does:

  • For some people going home IS the pain.
  • For other people the holidays are the pain.
  • Some people don’t go home but they go somewhere warmer, or nicer, or more exciting or just less frustrating.
  • Some people do this in May or September.
  • Some people don’t even leave but they still detach.

The point is that you can’t FIX transition by stepping away from it.  It’s a process.  You’ve got to go through it.

That said — don’t despair if you’ve already made that choice.  It doesn’t need to be a bad thing.

 

Here are some quick thoughts on moving forward:

 

ONE:  Don’t blame your host country for not being your home

That’s not fair and all of the facts aren’t in yet.  You knew it would be different when you came.  Now you know “how” it is different.  Keep learning.

 

TWO:  Don’t compare the end of THAT with the beginning of THIS

It took you years to build the great relationships that you are mourning as you adjust.  It makes sense if you don’t have deep roots yet.  Give it time.  Give it a chance.

 

THREE:  Focus on how far you’ve come

Especially if this is your first year abroad . . . think about it . . . the last time you took that flight you had NO IDEA what to expect.  You didn’t know the people, the places, the customs, anything.  You’ve actually come a long way in a short time.  Keep moving forward.

 

FOUR:  Compartmentalize

It’s ok for your trip home to be wonderful.  It’s supposed to be.  It’s also ok for your time abroad to be tough.  It’s supposed to be.  You don’t have to feel guilty for either one of those and they can actually exist perfectly in tandem.  Trust me, in time they can do a complete 180.

 

FIVE:  Engage even if you don’t feel like it

You can’t kick your roller coaster emotions out of the car . . . but you don’t have to let them drive.  Do something, eat something, learn something you don’t necessarily want to right now.

 

SIX:  You are not alone

Really.  You are not.  I’ve had this conversation at least 30 times this year.  You are not the only one who feels like this right now and there have been millions before you.  Myself included.

 

SEVEN:  Accept the truth and move ahead

If you go home for Christmas (or otherwise detach) it COULD do something like this to your transition.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-46-22-am

So what?

Detaching momentarily doesn’t come without a price.  There is a good chance it’s going to take you a little longer to work through the transition process and feel at home in your new normal.

Ok.

But you had a great Christmas.

You made some great memories.

If you’re in this for the long haul then accept the penalty and move on.

 

There is nothing like the experience of living abroad.  There are great things waiting of the other side of the dip.  In fact, there are probably some pretty great things all along the way.

Don’t miss them just because they’re not as good as Nana’s pumpkin pie.

Nothing is.

 

originally posted on The Culture Blend