We walked around the busy grocery store, my sister-in-law and I, carefully following our list and eager to escape back to the quiet lake house retreat. She just returned to the US after 2 years uninterrupted overseas. You know why, pandemic.

Grocery stores are among the most overwhelming re-entry experiences. The choices are different, the quantities are measured in different scales, and in America the abundance can be overwhelming. Choices become more difficult. Mentally tallying the dollar signs from the foreign currency taxes the brain. At some point, you just give up and dump it in the cart resolving to care another day.

America is the land of opportunity. The opportunity to have it your way. To customize. To choose. To never see the back of the grocery store shelf. To not have to rework your menu mid shopping trip because multiple things are unavailable. To not experience as many social restrictions or curtailed freedoms.

Except for this past year and a half.

In many ways, 13 years of life overseas prepared me well to encounter a lack of toilet paper, a reworked menu, an acceptance of social restrictions, and jumps through bureaucratic regulations. We signed up for difficulty when we made the decision to live overseas.

We painted a lot of things this last year, including our front door, a portal to a different place…like re-entry!

Life in lock down reminded me of some aspects of life overseas and I relished the time to jump off the treadmill of the busy American lifestyle so many warned us would come when we moved back to America. After 5 years of life on this side of the Pacific, we’d definitely become increasingly busy and committed. And not just us, but our kids had commitments on top of ours.

Jumping off the treadmill was a gift in many ways. I read through the Bible a couple times because I didn’t have to get anyone off to…well…anywhere. We spent a lot of time together as a family, something which I ached for as our kids got older and busier. It felt like a gift.

But we also lost friends, grieved the unfairness of life, felt guilty at times for having enough, wrestled with how to relate to others during a particularly divisive time in a country that we already struggled to fit into after 13 years living away.

Now life is picking up again. We are faced with re-entry in a wholly different form than ever before in our lives. Alongside an entire world, we are all wondering what we are entering.

Because its not really re-entry. Its entry.

I feel this push and pull about what is to come, what we are entering. I don’t want to go back to the insane schedule that challenged us trying to find time together as a family. But it’ back. The school extra curriculars are laying out time intensive schedules.

Everything is starting up and I’m feeling a little like my sister-in-law in the grocery store. Overwhelmed. Stressed. And feeling like I just need to dump some stuff in the cart of life and try to figure it out later.

But this isn’t cereal or potato chips. Its time and energy and cultivating a life in dependence to God in ever changing circumstances.

Re-entry and entry take time…mostly time to think, feel, and align ourselves with what following Jesus looks like in new seasons of life. And besides a world opening up…kind of…I also have a daughter a year away from graduating. That alone is catching my attention and heart.

Another sign that I am entering, not re-entering. My life will change drastically soon.

So maybe you can relate to me on some level with our current times or maybe not. I have a feeling that many of us may need a little more time to do things we once did so effortlessly before a global pandemic.

For those that have not experienced the grocery store scenario of the newly returned expat, let me tell you it’s ok. It’s normal. It will take time. It will make you angry, sad, confused, insecure, and probably many other things to navigate the new world with its new challenges.

But in all that unsettledness, I’ve learned that following Jesus is the surest foothold through rocky life transitions. Something that all that reading the Bible brought into focus this past year.

If you’re looking for a first step, I suggest the Gospel of John and reading about Jesus who pretty much shook up every life He encountered.

As always, thank you for reading my thoughts and musings! I’ve struggled to write this year in the midst of so much…well…just so, so much of everything. I resolved today to write and break the silence and I’m so thankful you got to this point in my ramblings!

Riding Waves

I have no business being on a surfboard. I am not in shape. I’ve never surfed nor participated in a surfing lesson. My bathing suit screams sit and look pretty on the beach. It is not sporty at all.

Yet, there I was on a surfboard in the ocean trying to catch a wave.

Actual surfing was never my goal. My husband’s goal for the day was to ride a few waves in. He was the one trying to surf, not me.

But he tired out. Surfing is hard work, folks! I guess that’s why surfers are in shape. My husband is in shape. I feel like I must add this part since he reads my blog. He runs distances and he runs them fast. He is a tough former Marine. He lasted light years longer than I did.

I felt strangely adventurous. Since my boogie boarding was paying off, I thought I’d try a little long board while he rested.

So, I sat on the surfboard waiting for a wave. Then, I looked down and it didn’t take long for the alarms to go off in my brain. The tip of the surfboard was under water and a big wave was coming.

20 years after high school graduation and physics is still paying off. I calculated and visualized myself in that wave and it wasn’t pretty.

I jumped off in time and didn’t experience that reality and I am so glad! I want to mother my children way into their adulthood whether they like it or not.

That day I managed to ride two waves in on the board on my stomach all the way until we crunched into the sand. I never pictured myself on a surfboard, never in all my life, not even on my belly. I tried a new, daring thing. Way to go me!

We debriefed our life overseas this weekend. We did it by the ocean which is why we rented a surfboard. I watched the sunrise and the sunset. I listened to the ocean and I reflected on our life overseas, the joys, losses, and how it shaped me.

Now we live a much different life. It can seem a bit dull sometimes when everything isn’t a challenging adventure. It’s a weird kind of hard when things feel too easy. This is the new thing we are doing for the first time.IMG_0396.JPG

The guy at the long board shop spoke to a customer. “We want to live the best life we can live.”

He did not speak it to me but I took it in. I, too, want to live the best life I can live for the Lord wherever He plants me.

I want to enjoy the constant breakers of life. The points where I watch, where I wait for the wave, where I try to ride it, where it wipes me out, and where I get up and go back into the surf. Low tide, high tide. I want to live it.

Those are my next steps. I will find real Chinese food like I said under point #1 in the official debrief packet I filled out. But, above and beyond and as the background to all that, I will live life for the Lord.

I also plan to stick with the boogie board. Like I said, I want to live.