When ‘Doing Well’ Means Looking Messy

by Gina Butz

My husband and I are no strangers to new homes. When we move to a new place, we unpack and settle in like we are gunning for a new HGTV show, Instant House. When people share that they still have boxes unpacked after years of living somewhere, I am baffled. Do you not need that stuff? Usually within a week of moving, we’re 90 percent unpacked. That’s just how we roll.

And when people visit, they take a look around and say, “Wow, you’re doing so well!

It is a phrase people throw around a lot, “doing well.” It feels like the finish line we are all racing toward in transition. I want to be the one to get there first. I’ll run across, triumphant, hang my gold medal around my neck, and others can look at me and say, “Wow, look at her. She’s doing so well.” 

But maybe an instant house or a jump back into productivity are not what denotes “doing well” in transition.

When we moved back to the U.S. after 13 years overseas, I joined a process group with about 10 other women. Most of them had lived overseas, so they understood at least on some level the disruption I was experiencing.

As the new kid on the block, I hoped I might find friendship in this group. At the least, I wanted them to think well of me. The challenge was that I was a hot mess. Every week something seemed to surface tears for me. Invariably, I found myself on the receiving end of empathy-a place that is a gift, but one I wasn’t accustomed to needing. 

If anyone asked us, I imagine we’d all say we want to bring our authentic selves to others while we’re in transition. But if you’re like me, you want your authentic self to be cool and put together. I was anything but put together that spring and it terrified me. I was sure no one wanted my messy self.

Yet all that crying and processing with those women was healthy. It did forge new friendships with women who saw my true, undone self and loved it. My vulnerability drew them to me, rather than drive them away. All the grief and loss I felt found a place to be held, which was exactly what I needed. 

What if doing well in transition means we look messy? What if it means the boxes stay unpacked for a while because instead we’re doing soul work? What if it’s needing to stop regularly just to have a good cry? What if it means we do less but feel more? What if it looks like us not being ourselves because we’ve lost part of who we were and we’re willing to grieve the loss before we scramble back to creating identity?

We don’t have to buy the world’s idea that doing well looks like an ordered life. Doing well is owning our current reality and living it truthfully, trusting that God will give us the grace we need to walk it well. 

So leave the boxes unpacked if you need to. Do one less thing if it means you let your soul rest for a bit. Give your grief the space it deserves. Let others step in and love your undone transition self right where it is. Our hearts are on their own timelines in transition-let them take the time they need, even if in the meantime we look a little messier. 

This blog post is an excerpt from Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace, by Gina Brenna Butz, releasing February 4th, 2020 from Our Daily Bread Publishing. 


Gina Butz and her husband, Erik, have served in full time ministry for 25 years, 13 of them in East Asia. They are currently raising their two third culture kids and an imported dog in Orlando, Florida, where Gina serves in global leadership development at Cru headquarters. Her first book, Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace, releases in February. She blogs at www.ginabutz.com and loves to connect on Twitter and Facebook.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Published by


A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

Discover more from A Life Overseas |

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading