Day 5: I Never Expected…{31 Days of Re-Entry}

The following journal entries are of the cyclical (or “spaghetti brain,” as my husband calls it) variety that I warned you of earlier, but I think even that is a testament to the nature of re-entry.  Questions of identity, grief, doubt and confusion will circle back around daily at first, then weekly and eventually you will be so in the thick of life back “home,” that they will only occasionally tap at your heart. 

My personal struggle came from a place of slowly accepting that my “call to missions” and my call to marriage would have to be a mutually exclusive one. 

This first journal entry was written the week after I flew back to the states, and 4 days after I got engaged.

July 22, 2010
“It feels surreal to be here [in Chicago] and yet so natural at the same time.  I think I just feel like I’m on vacation, though in some ways I do feel like I’m suspended in air and homeless.  God-willing, I’ll be married on January 15, about 6 months from now.  This is amazing and wonderful, but also so much harder than I thought. 

I never expected to have to give up missions. 

I never expected that I would marry someone who wasn’t in ministry. 

I never expected to be living in Chicago again. 

I love this city–the lake, gardens, quaint neighborhoods, diversity, culture and quirks–but I just don’t feel at home here anymore. 

It’s kind of like having an old coat that you loved and wore for years, but eventually decided to give to Goodwill.  You finally allowed yourself to part with it and invest in a new coat, but one day the coat is returned to you and the giver expects you to wear it with the same level of affection you had when it was new.  It is difficult to love a place when your heart has already moved on to somewhere else. 

Jesus, you are my Rock.  People, places and life circumstances may change, but You never do.  You are the same here that you were in China. 

Lord God, thank you for your abundant blessings.  Please forgive me for being like the Israelites, who begged to be delivered out of Egypt, only to spend the next 40 years complaining about the manna and the wandering.  Forgive me Lord, for I’ve been begging for a life partner for half my life and now all I can do is see what I’m giving up.  Please transform my attitude. 

Lord Jesus,
You are my life. 
You give my life meaning and purpose. 
You are my joy, hope and peace. 
You provide for all my needs. 
You never leave, fail or forsake me. 
You cleanse me and forgive my sins. 
You fill all my empty places and give me a firm place to stand. 

Not Adam. 
Not China. 
Not being a teacher or missionary or student.
   
You are my identity and that will never change.”

Feb. 3, 2011 (I was married Jan. 15, 2011)
“My life is so different than what I thought it would be, but it feels so right and good.  I love being married and have no doubt that this is your will.  I’m just not sure how the past 15 years relate to now

Please help me to keep moving forward, keep listening, keep growing.”


Acknowledgement of expectations, acceptance of God’s will, reorienting yourself to the cross and moving forward are all healthy ways to cope with the pain and confusion you may feel in re-entry.  But don’t be surprised if you find yourself journaling about the same struggles again, and again, and again…


How has your life been different from the way you expected?  Was leaving the field confusing to you because you thought that you had been called there for life?  How did you cope with this transition?


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This post is day 5 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)

4 Replies to “Day 5: I Never Expected…{31 Days of Re-Entry}”

  1. Thanks for your blog, Leslie. I can certainly relate to wondering how our time in Asia relates to life now! Even after being 'home' for four years, we find ourselves saying, "What was our time in Asia all about?" Looking forward to reading the rest of your blogs!

  2. So great to hear from you, Marylou! My dad used to tell me that I didn't HAVE to find a lesson in EVERY SINGLE EXPERIENCE. Maybe he was right? But the Lord certainly knows why He leads us down certain roads and not others, so it's comforting to know that He has his reasons. Hope you guys are doing well! Leslie

  3. I actually thought that marrying my husband meant saying goodbye to the world outside America. And I thought I'd be okay with it. After marriage though, my heart still longed for the other side of the world–and I told God, "Hey, if that's really where you'd have me be, you have to call my husband. I'd go in a heartbeat, but I have to stick with him now, so you deal with him if this is what you want." And now we're 14 months into overseas life together. Not what I expected at all, but oh, so good. I'm grateful, so grateful. I didn't know when I got married how hard it would be to say goodbye to this side of the world. But God knew what he was doing all along.

  4. Rachel, Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. It was the first thing I read this morning and it brought tears to my eyes. We'll see what God has in mind for us…part of me is actually afraid to pray that God would call my husband because I'm not 100% sure I even want to go back. But we're only in our 30's, so who knows what God has planned for us 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from now (God willing)! Blessings on you and your husband as you have the privilege of serving Him elsewhere! Leslie

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