Or How to Give Your Returning Ex-Pats a Safe Place to Land
How to Adjust Your Expectations and Extend Grace
In just a few hours, I will board an airplane with my two sleepy children. Unlike many of the other flights we have taken at hours people shouldn’t be expected to function, this will be a one-way flight.
That’s right, my friends, we are coming home!!
But first, a warning (or a cry for help). I was going to send this as an email to my parents and siblings, but thought maybe there’s something in here for others, too, so with trembling hands and an open heart, here are a few things I need you to know.
We are tired
We get picked up at 10pm for a 1am flight. We will spend 19 of the next 25 hours on airplanes. I’m flying with the kids alone while John stays behind to finish up work, so it’s a safe bet to say that while my kids will probably get some sleep, I may not be so lucky. (And, everyone knows airplane sleep doesn’t really count.) We may need several days to get our bodies caught up and adjusted to our new time zone.
Beyond physical exhaustion though, I am dry and weary in all other aspects of life. Three years in a desert will do that to you! I am leaning into Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Please be a safe place for me to do this.
We are grieving
Although we are beyond ready to leave this country, and are excited about what awaits us back in America, we are still very sad to leave our home and friends here. We are so happy to be with you, but goodbyes suck, they just do. Our move is hitting my sweet Ayla especially hard. We came when she was 2, she knows America as a place we visit, but her knowledge of home is this house in this country. Judson knows very little about America, except that Grandma is there and he will get new sunglasses when we get there. We are changing so much about their lives and they don’t get much of a say, which leads me to my next point.
We might throw some fits
And I don’t mean just the kids! When we first moved here, we had so many behavioral issues with Ayla that left us questioning everything we had done as parents. A wise friend and mother of 6 gave me words of life for which I will always be thankful. She said to give Ayla some extra room to breathe, to figure out what it was that her little heart needed and go the extra mile to give it to her. She said that when transition phase was over, we could work back in the structure we needed at a gentle pace and carry on. We did just this and got our sweet girl back.
I’m heading into this transition fully expecting it to be hard on my kids, without their being able to process it like I (supposedly) can. They might do wonderfully, but just in case they’re actually normal humans (they are), I’m prepared to give them abundant grace as we all adjust. So please, don’t be too hard on them or me if we just can’t get our act together or we have bad attitudes. We’re going to do our best, we just need some time and any extra grace you can spare (and lots of mac and cheese).
We are a tribe
Unless you’ve lived with us here (and some of you have), it’s impossible for you to know what we’ve been through here, both good and bad. This goes both ways, of course. You have had your own lives and struggles too. So if we seem to cling a bit to our friends from here and the happenings of those we’ve just spent 3 years with, at what may seem your expense, please understand. It’s not you, it’s us. We’ll get better. Just keep in mind that we were doing this clinging to you not long ago as you loved us from far away on our way here.
For my kids, I am going to be the only constant in their lives for a while, so please don’t take it personally if they don’t bond or click with you right away. They are absolutely my priority and I’ll be dropping some “no” cards to make sure their needs are met. I know you’d do the same if you were in my shoes.
We are homeless
Once we touch down in the States, it will be approximately 2 ½ half months before we move into our next “permanent” house in Arlington, Virginia. That means exactly what you’d expect. Sleeping in unfamiliar rooms, living out of suitcases, being guests (experiencing great grace and hospitality from our hosts), adjusting our eating and sleeping schedules and preferences for the greater good and not having our “own” space as we’re used to. This is absolutely of our choosing and we couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity and time off we have to travel the country and see as many of you as possible. We are going to have an amazing summer, but the novelty of the vacation life might wear off sooner than we’d like it to.
We have lots of people to see
Speaking of travel, we are trying to pack in as many meet-ups and hugs as possible to make up for the past 3 years and I know we won’t even come close. I know you’re going to feel like we aren’t spending enough time with you. We’ll take that as a compliment! It’s also hard on us not to be able to spend quality time with all the people we love and miss, so please know that in this instance time does not equal love.
The bottom line of it all is this.
We are about to end one adventure and start a new one. I’m as giddy as I get for you to get to know my kids, the post-toddler Ayla and the mostly new-to-you Judson. They really are the most amazing people. We just need a safe place to land with people who will take us as we are now, not as perhaps they expect or remember us to be.
All these things, the sad, hard, tired, joyous, reunited, grieving, culture-shocked, road-weary, good, loved and grace-filled bits, are a gift from God and we are grateful.
I can truthfully declare Psalm 126:3 “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!” And I know I will still be able to say this at the end of this summer, thanks to you and your gracious understanding and love. See you soon!