On Needing Grace During Transition

We have been back for 10 days and it’s already beginning to feel like Kurdistan was a dream that never really happened. A dream with a few nightmare like qualities, but a dream nevertheless.

The last time we went through a period of transition of this magnitude was when we returned from Egypt with five children, 26 suitcases, and a gorgeous Egyptian Siamese cat called Pharaoh. It was not an easy transition and it was months before we felt settled. I am trying to see this as a different time and situation, but the memories of how incredibly difficult that season of our lives was tend to pop up. I push them down, reminding myself that this is not then, we are not the same people.

Before leaving, we had decided to take July off to debrief and reconnect with family and friends. While it is a good decision, the current reality of no jobs and not knowing where we will be living next is heavy. We live in a culture where your worth is measured against what you do, not who you are. This is an inescapable fact and we have much empathy for those whose circumstances have put them into a place where they are unable to work. Work is a gift, but it should not be an all encompassing identity.

Many people are well meaning but somewhat clueless as to our circumstances. “So glad you are safe!” Said in slightly breathless tones is the default comment. It is kind and it is also somewhat irritating. Particularly because it usually comes from people whose daily lives hardly revolve around our safety. The second comment is “So glad you are home!” Strangely, though in the past this comment would have unnerved me, in this season of transition it feels deeply comforting. Before I left for Kurdistan, I realized that Cambridge had indeed become home and I was grateful. It took such a long time to be willing to attach myself that once I finally let go of my fears and hung my heart in place, a backpack of “where is home” baggage fell off of me and I experienced deep peace.

The back pack is filling once again. Cambridge is no longer home. We packed it up a year ago. Can a place be home when you make a conscious choice to leave it in its entirety? These philosophical questions are hardly useful in the midst of transition, but I ask them anyway.

In all of this I want to beg people to give us grace, to be patient with us during this transition period but I lack the words.

A friend who is transitioning back to the U.S. from Bangladesh recently wrote this and I am grateful to use her words:

It’s the small things about being in America again that feel weird. Enormous stores and all the options in the world.

People saying things like, “it feels like you never left” and feeling totally misunderstood because it feels like a whole new foreign world to you, not like you never left.

There are a ton of little things that give us joy…But there are also just as many things that should feel like home but don’t and that feels disorienting, it hurts.

Please, give grace to the people in your life in transition (of any kind). It feels like living on another planet. We don’t mean to offend or to act strange or cry for no apparent reason. We aren’t sure where the new normal is. But we will get there eventually.” Nicole Walters

Like Nicole, I too ask for grace. We will get there, but we don’t know when.

During this transition time of decisions and indecision, our Rockport cottage is welcoming us with the joy of ocean walks and the beauty of Rockport gardens, to slow days of grandchildren and long evenings of connecting with adult kids.

There is much to decide, and much that needs to happen. We will be in transition mode for a while. After last summer’s major uprooting it will take time to reroot. It will take time to find jobs and a place to live, time to reorient to life on what sometimes feels like a different planet. ⠀

For now, there is the ocean, Rockport, friendship, family, and our marriage. Jobs seem trivial in comparison. We are too fortunate. ⠀

4 thoughts on “On Needing Grace During Transition

  1. My heart goes out to you Marilyn and Cliff, what an amazing couple you are; it has been a privilege to serve with you over the years, God is at work, deep breaths, you will get there by His Grace and in His perfect timing. 18 months ago, the Lord laid it on my heart to move back to the U.K. after 24 years in the US. As you are aware, a lot of planning goes into such a move and I have now been back in the U.K. for 7 months – it has not been an easy transition but God has been with me every step of the way. I am now settled in a small village in the north of England called Oswaldtwistle (been here 4 months). He has brought me to an amazing church, and I have made some incredible friends. He opened all the doors and paved the way. Be kind to yourselves, God has this and I know you will both lean into Him, our source of life As you re-acclimate yourselves to life in the US and process the last 12 months just Hang in there my friends, stand strong. 🙏🙏🙏

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  2. Your very articulate post is so spot on. I remember what we went through. Remember that it takes about two years to adjust to repatriation. There is much written about repatriation and you might find comfort in reading about it. As someone told me when we were repatriating: ‘there’s no place like home’ (from Dorothy in Wizard of Oz).

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  3. Praying for you and hoping that peace will envelop you! There’s a little bit of familiarity in what you write of, Marilyn. Through the many uprootings that we have experienced due to multiple job changes in multiple parts of this country I understand a tiny bit of the unease and of the waiting. It is hard to feel comfortable when you are uncertain of the “next thing”. We too, felt called to a place, only to have that door firmly slammed shut after such a short period of time. The questions abound and it is only in hindsight that we can gain wisdom as to the hows and the whys. I need to remind myself constantly that we may not have answers this side of heaven, and I have to live with that and accept that. May you both experience the joy of being with your children and grandchildren during this waiting period, and I pray contentment fills your heart…

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