If you've ever had God throw a huge detour sign in your path that caused a bit of whiplash and confusion, please take the time to read this. Carrie and her family lived in China for 6 years when their world seemed to come crashing down before them. Journey with her as she agreed to open her closet and let us take a peek inside. Some of the clothes are strewn across the floor, others folded neatly, and yet a few are tattered and torn beyond recognition.
1. Give us a brief description of how you ended up back in the States.
Wow, where do I begin and how do I make it brief!? The simple answer is that we knew God was leading us back to the states. We were shocked by it, especially my husband, who later told me that he thought he would be buried in Asia. We spent a total of 6 years and 2 months in Asia in the same city, and saw some amazing things while there. But, the last 2 years we were in Asia were incredibly tense and stressful on many different levels. By the end, we could see that, as painful as it was, God was shutting the door to that chapter of our lives and that the work we had done was at a point where it was okay to leave. This was definitely the hardest choice that we have ever made. It terrified us because we knew that it would completely change our lives from that point on, and we wanted to make sure it was the right choice. But, when it came down to it, my daughter and I were not handling living there well, my son’s health was struggling, and a change needed to happen for other reasons as well.
My daughter had two different personalities—one for inside the house where she felt safe and one for outside where she was in an almost constant state of debilitating fear. I was still grieving a baby we lost through miscarriage and many other hurts that I had not dealt with over the last few years, so I was not in a good place to help her overcome the immense difficulty she was having living there. Although we (me and Eliana) were not the only deciding factors in our choice to come home, we knew as we were preparing to leave the last two months there that Eliana was one of the main reasons God had led us to come home. Titus has also been able to get the healthcare that he needed, which has been a huge blessing. We knew that God wanted us to be in a healthy place, and unfortunately, we weren’t getting there in the isolated location we were living in. We needed a support system around us.
2. What was the most difficult part of the transition?
The thing about this transition that we are finding the most difficult is that it is not over yet. When you make this type of big move at this stage of your life, you find yourself in a very unique situation, which isolates you from most peers around you. We are not the same people we were when we left, and even though we are in our thirties with three kids, we often feel like we are in our twenties and just starting out. We moved overseas 3 years after we were married, so we mostly learned all about being “adults” while living in Asia. Since our return, we bought our first car, delivered our first baby in America, started to keep a tighter budget (third world living is much cheaper!), and have begun the search for our first house. When we explain this to others, we often get puzzled looks. We’ve also found that there are different times where it hits us that we are not going back. Around the 1 month mark, which is usually when we would be heading back after a vacation, and then again around the 6 month mark, which is when we moved back after the last time we lived in the states. When I wasn’t packing up our bags to travel to another country to deliver Moriah, it hit me too, since my other two were both delivered in Thailand away from our Asian home. So, I guess we are finding that the transition is a unique process that is apparently very long and we aren’t finished with yet! Maybe I should answer these questions again in 6 months to see if any of the answers have changed!
3. How have you seen fingerprints of God in all of this?
He’s been all over the place, which has been amazing and so comforting. He really has been our anchor through this stormy journey. The first fingerprint we saw was not long after we made the decision to move back home. We did not have any job possibilities for Vip and didn’t know what he would do exactly. We had been praying about it and continued to do so, and soon after the decision was made he was offered a job. A home was provided for us to rent at a greatly reduced rate for the first year. We were able to find 2 cars under the budget we had set. (it was easy to stay under budget when one of them was given to us!) We have also seen God move in the life of our oldest daughter specifically. The first few months were really difficult for Eliana. A friend even remarked to me that she almost seemed to be traumatized.
This momma definitely spent a lot of time in prayer for her little girl! I wondered if we would ever be able to leave her in childcare or put her in school when the time came, but we are now at the point that she looks forward to going to church and playing with other children at the playground, even when it is crowded. We still have some progress to make, but this is such a huge answer to prayer. We have also felt God’s presence as we have been able to worship with other believers in our own heart language again.
4. What has been the most difficult part?
We miss our friends, local and foreign, who are still over there. You form pretty close bonds with those you are around when you live overseas. They were our other family for the 6 years we lived in Asia, and leaving that fellowship, even though most of us lived in different cities, was the hardest part. We are still working on meeting people and making friends here, so there is a void. The long transition is a weary process as well.
5. What would you tell others as they watch their world get turned upside down?
Hold on. Don’t be afraid to let God do what He needs to do to heal you. Hebrews 12:12-13 was the passage God gave me that released me to come home. “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Somewhere along the way, Vip and I had believed the lie that it was holier to stay where we were than to actually do what God was telling us to do. We had to open ourselves up to the idea that He might have only led us to Asia for a season, not our whole lives. We learned that performing righteous acts that we choose does not make it okay to ignore what God is asking you to do.
I think I began to see that the story God was writing for us didn’t have a period at the end but rather a comma. We came to embrace the truth we found in Hebrews 12 that God wants us healthy and able bodied so that He can use us. If we are hurt, He wants us to come to a place where we can heal. This will look different for different people and situations. It might be that they need to just start praying and reading their Bibles again. It might mean that they need to seek out a friend or mentor they can talk to. Or, it might mean making a big change like we did. But, the bottom line is that you have to seek God, the ultimate source for all healing, comfort, peace, direction, and blessing. Do not rush yourself either. As I said earlier, this transition has been a long process that we aren’t even out of completely even though we are 7 months into it. I find myself just getting depressed and frustrated when I look at how much farther I have to go and think about how I thought I would be farther along by now.
God has the timetable, so don’t worry about setting one for yourself. Your life’s story won’t be punctuated with a period until you are with God in Heaven. One other thing that I would share is that if you are married, the struggle of one belongs to both of you. I have no shame (now!) in saying that the struggles were mainly mine, but my husband took these struggles on himself too. He did not tell me to suck it up and deal with it so he could stay and do what he wanted to do. He took on my burdens and his children’s burdens, sought Father as to how they needed to be dealt with, and then lead us through it all. I am so thankful for His support and compassion for us. If he hadn’t done that, I don’t know where we would be, but I know it would not be a pretty place.
And, because I like practical advice, here are few tangible things that helped us as we were going through the beginning stages of this journey.
· Whenever possible, I have praise music playing. I made playlists that reminded me of God’s nearness, sovereignty, peace, and love, and we listened to them A LOT. This just served as a tangible and constant reminder that God was still there and at work.
· Keep a thankful list. We actually began this when we moved to Asia and were in the throes of culture shock. When I get lazy and don’t keep it up, I can tell the habit of complaining and giving in to depression and self pity is so much easier! Look for the blessings all around you and record them. Do it with your children and your husband too. It’s been a huge blessing to us. We even had a list hanging on the wall in our apartment and I have a small notebook I often carry around with me.
· Don’t be ashamed. I didn’t pour out my heart to everyone around me, but I did have two sweet friends as well as my husband that I was able to share with. They were safe to talk to, prayed with me and for me, cried with me, and are still a tremendous blessing in my life.
· It will be tempting to numb yourself to the pain (my two standard techniques are too much entertainment or food, but it could be a host of other things as well). Don’t give in to that temptation. Do the hard work of working through whatever is going on and don’t ignore it. The problems will just get worse if you ignore them.