Home, but not fully. Familiar, but strange. Comfortable, yet unable to relax. This is our first week back in the States after a 10-month sabbatical. Of course we are thrilled to see family and friends. We have been received with warmth, love and hospitality. Thank you! With gratitude for so many people in our lives, we also acknowledge the difficulties of coming home after an extended international sojourn.
Home is something you build over time. It’s a sense of security, a feeling of belonging. It’s your normal, a place you have sunk some roots and invested yourself. Perhaps a mental challenge to re-entry is assuming that we are returning to “life as we knew it.” The problem arises from the fact that we are not the same people we were. Just as travel entails culture shock, re-entry embodies “reverse culture shock.” It takes time to transition into a different culture (even if familiar), a different pace of life, a new string of decisions. As we begin the process of reconstructing life in Asheville, my mind swirls with the logistics of finding a home, looking for meaningful work and supporting my kids in their re-entry process. At a deeper though subconscious level, I am traveling between here and Ecuador – comparing lifestyles, smiling upon people and customs I appreciate (in both places), and frowning upon the complexities that make each society struggle for quality of life. Like other times I have gone through the re-entry process, in the first phase, my comfort of familiarity disguises my discomfort with American “norms.” But before too long, a magnetic pull in two directions increases, creating a desire to bridge two worlds into a hybrid home. Impossible to truly bridge two worlds, I know that I must be fully home in one place. For this, I ask God’s grace and peace.
Living outside of your own country provides an opportunity to see yourself and your native culture from a different perspective. Unfortunately, the reflection isn’t always perfect. Yet, when you look beyond the surface, with less critical eyes, you see that every place is built upon core human values – giving and receiving, teaching and learning, caring and providing. And while these basic principles of goodness are sometimes overshadowed by less sacred values and priorities, they are in abundance in every society. As we re-enter American culture, I challenge myself and my family to seek goodness while holding true to our personal values which are influenced by many cultures.
This family sabbatical year has surpassed our dreams. Our blog title and travel mission statement, Go, Give, Learn has become a template for our family life. Through our experiences we have learned that:When we Go, we take risks – and discover a world of opportunities. When we Give, we receive – usually far more than we are worthy. When we Learn, we grow – mentally, spiritually, and relationally.
2012 marks a major milestone in our family’s growth, as individuals and as a body. We now look forward to life’s next chapter with renewed energy and focus.