Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal {31 Days of Re-Entry}

We like to say life is “seasonal,” but sometimes I wonder if this is an accurate description.  Much of the world has four seasons, though some places have only one or two, but I think we can all agree that these seasons repeat.  In life, our seasons will never repeat themselves.  We have one chance at the season we are in before the next one begins, never to be repeated again.

Life is more like a book with chapters, complete with plot twists and complex characters, though it may have repeating themes and recurring symbols.

I am currently in a chapter I’d title “The Narrowing.”  When we first got married, my husband and I coined this term because we suddenly had less than half the amount of time we used to have for personal pursuits and other relationships.  We felt squeezed.  And then we had kids.  Now we wonder who we are and if we’ll ever see our old selves again.  Life in this chapter can feel like an open pasture that is suddenly fenced.  Beautiful and green at times, but limited. 

When I returned from China, I had every intention of “using my Chinese” and staying in close contact with Chinese friends, but as I practically crash landed while hitting the pavement running on re-entry, those desires and expectations just became places of immense guilt and regret. 

I have already written about feeling like I have latent gifts, but I do wonder sometimes if China was just a stand-alone chapter.  Was it like the older TV shows that wrapped up neatly in every episode, or was it a show with a long story arc, spanning multiple episodes?  Will I see the character of China again (or perhaps just eavesdrop on her doppleganger in America?)? 

I had never lived in the mountains until six months ago, though it was always my dream.  In Florida where I grew up, and Chicago where I lived as an adult, I would sometimes pretend the clouds on the low horizon were mountains in the distance.  Now I am blessed to see mountains as I leave the grocery store.  As novice mountain dwellers, we made the mistake of thinking we needed to live as close to the mountains as possible.  I love knowing they’re there, but am overwhelmed with awe when we drive several miles away and look back at the majestic horizon. 

I look forward to the day when I am not so close to the mountains in my story.  One day I will have perspective.  One day I will flip back through the story of my life and muse over the recurring themes and characters and perhaps be able to answer some of the “why’s and what?!’s” that I have scribbled in the margins.

When I decided to leave China, I had a conversation with a leader in our organization, Amy Young.  I apologetically told her about my decision to return to America and that I was most likely going to get married.  Expecting to hear disappointment in her response, she surprised me with, “Life is long.”  God willing, life is long.  I will have other chances to go.  “In sha allah,” as my Saudi Arabian friend says, “As God wills.”

My husband and I went back to China after I had been in the states for a year to lead a summer trip for college students to teach English.  On the trip, we met an American couple in their 70’s that was leading a separate trip for adults.  They had been travelling to China every summer for 20 years.  I was relieved to discover that they hadn’t even begun serving the Lord overseas until they were in their 50’s.  It gave me hope that China might be a recurring character in my story.    

As I begin to advance into the “not as young” group of life-livers, I am grateful for stories of goers who go much later in life.  Young people have such a hard time imagining themselves past age 30 or 40, so it can be shocking when you realize that there can be so many more chapters yet to be written. 

The following quote is my life motto of sorts.  It gets recopied into my journals each time I get a new one and it helps me to center my prayers as I approach Jesus.  It reminds me to live in my chapter and trust that God will begin the next one in His perfect timing.  I hope it can lead you to the throne today as well:

“To follow the Lord to the cross means this:
Every day you must surrender yourself–body and soul–and obediently do the work of your Father.
Wherever He leads you and whatever it costs you. 
I am speaking of the surrender to God of your whole life, each day, from now on. 
And each day God will lay out the work you must do. 
That is His part. 
Your part is to forsake the life you would choose for yourself and follow him to do what He shows you to do.” 
(Bernard of Clairvaux, Your Angels Guard My Steps, p. 16)


If you are over the age of 50 and reading this, what have you been able to accomplish or experience in your 50’s and beyond that you never would have imaged while you were younger?  If you are in the “younger” camp, which themes and characters do you hope you will see again in a later chapter?

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This post is day 20 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)

Find many other great 31 day blogs here!

Photo:  www.canva.com


Linking up with Velvet Ashes


Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas

7 Replies to “Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal {31 Days of Re-Entry}”

  1. I am amazed at the 'wiser group' of people also. I remember running in a triathlon in my 30's, where we all had our ages written in black sharpie on our calves, when a women with the number 72 passed me. I thought 'good for her', and decided she had had a lot of years to practice her running and I was just getting started. Lol! I am also amazed when I see the over 65 crowd singing and clapping to our very loud, contemporary music at church. I hope I am as adaptable and flexible as I get older.

  2. I was amazed at the women in a Zumba class I took recently–they must have been in their 60's and they were amazing! I couldn't keep up with them! It gives me hope:-) Thanks for stopping by and leaving some words!

  3. Loved this post! I am almost fifty – and I tell people that life is just getting started: there's so much to do! I love how you described the early married and young children years : "Life in this chapter can feel like an open pasture that is suddenly fenced. Beautiful and green at times, but limited. " It's so true that we have less time for a lot of the investments in life that we used to make – a different chapter, a different investment …for a time. You begin to find balance, and the kids get older, and the chapter changes again…

    and Go Amy! Such a wise response to your decision! "life is long" – we're so used to hearing life is short – but it's so true! Who knows what opportunities there will be for you in your fifties.

    I'll be fifty in a few years – and I'm excited about what's ahead. 🙂

  4. Leslie, I love this post! Thanks for sharing with Velvet Ashes!

    I am in the middle of my 50's and experiencing a different – and sweet – kind of narrowing. I feel less compelled to do everything and have an increased desire to narrow my focus on those things that are unique to who I am. I am grateful for the decision I made while I was younger to pursue wisdom through the Word and soak in the truth of the Word to saturate my thoughts, attitudes, decisions, interactions. And I'm grateful for the chapters I failed in that pursuit and learned that God pursues me!

    I've also learned that narrowing is a very good thing – it forces us to really think about our values which in turn instructs us on where to invest our time, talents, and energies. In my 50's my focus is less on accomplishing and more on investing.

  5. Michele, Thanks for reading! I really enjoyed your post as well! And I'm glad I asked about the photo–loved your symbolism;-) And I'm glad you could identify with this a bit. There's something so freeing to know that we are living in one chapter instead of thinking that aspects of live with ALWAYS be like this. So good to hear that you're loving your 40's and are excited about what's to come!

  6. Patty, Thanks so much for reading! I've been so thankful for the Velvet Ashes community and have appreciated your words of wisdom as you speak into the lives of so many women. Thank you for your perspective on "the narrowing"–and for giving it permission to be a good thing! That's so helpful. It is definitely causing me to consider my priorities in this chapter of my life.

  7. Leslie, I have been reading through your re-entry posts. What a gift you are giving to the global community of cross cultural workers!!! Not only do you write with clarity and honesty, you engage the reader in your story in such a warm and inviting way. I am definitely adding your series to our list of member care transition resources. Thank you!

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