Trying to Fit in at Home

I’m going to cut to the chase.

I’ve never been good at flowery language, anyway.

But as a woman who walks the nitty-gritty day in and day out, I find myself more direct than I used to be.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Us gals in the trenches, we are not the same people we were when we left our hometowns, our families, our last jobs.

We aren’t the same people that boarded a plane with a one-way ticket abroad.

We are in no way the same people we once were. Living as a foreigner in a faraway land has a way of stripping us, I guess.

And stripped we have been.

Stripped of everything we once understood about the world.
Stripped of our own power and ability.
Stripped of our identity, and often our confidence.

If we want to survive in a culture that is so vastly different from our normal, we have to abandon some absolutes. We have to embrace some gray areas.

It’s adjust or bust over here.

But you know the flipside of all that stripping? We’ve been R E M A D E.

Remade with a broader worldview.
Remade to depend on the power and ability of the Father.
Remade into His identity, finding our confidence in His perfect design for us.

It’s impossible to go through all the stripping and the being remade and still be the same person.

And as painful as all the inner transformation is, I think most of us would say that on the other side of each shaping moment is a better self that we have come to love.

The difficult part is that this remaking business is all taking place apart from home. Apart from our families and closest friends we’ve left behind.

The daily processing and stretching and undoing and rebuilding—it’s mostly happening outside the visible realm of those we hold really close. And this is what makes it so hard to fit in at home.

No one has stopped loving us. No one has stopped welcoming us. No one even knows that we sometimes feel out of place.

But in our minds, we know. We know that we have changed, and that there aren’t enough words in the world to catch everyone up to speed on the things we’ve seen, the pain we’ve felt, or the joy we’ve experienced abroad.

And so, we do our best to fit in. We are gracious with our words, and try and mold back into our home culture just like we try and mold into our host culture. And it freaks us out that home can never be a place anymore.

Never again. Home can never be a place. Something happened to us and now we’re triangles stuck between the squares there at home and the circles here at home.

Home? It’s just a word that brings up all kinds of complicated emotions.

There’s solace, though, in home being a state of mind. We can take that safety with us wherever we go, whatever we do.

What does HOME mean, anyway? It’s the place where we don’t ever feel like we have to try and fit in.

It’s within us, our new home. It’s our peace of mind in knowing we’ve surrendered, God has been faithful, and we are better forms of ourselves because of it.

Have you struggled to feel like yourself at home? What kinds of feelings does the word ‘home’ stir up in you? How do you practice feeling a sense of safety and belonging?

26 Comments

  1. Laura January 20, 2016

    Lauren, thank you for your words today! You did an amazing job of describing the change we experience while away from “home,” which makes it hard to fit in at “home” when we return. Loved this post!!!

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 24, 2016

      Thanks, Laura! I enjoyed reading the words from  your heart this week, too. : )

  2. Elizabeth January 20, 2016

    Yessssssssssssss. It’s crazy how much you change overseas, then going back “home” can feel really foreign. (I’ve just experienced that, along with you.)

    And agree, I like who I am now so much better than before I moved overseas. And I know God just has more and more in store for me, and for all of us seeking Him. We’re being REMADE. Hallelujah! The prayer I’ve been praying this week is similar: I want to be conformed to the image of the Son. I want my darkness changed to light.

    So God, remake us. Remake us all, whether we’re in our passport countries or not. Remake us, whether we’re young or old in You. Remake us in the image of Your Son. And let us always, ever, find our true Home in You.

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 24, 2016

      I love that prayer, Elizabeth. And when you say you’ve been praying it, I know that is truth. Thanks for praying it over all of us!

      Loved watching your home assignment, by the way. : ) Stay warm in SE Asia this week!

  3. Dorette January 20, 2016

    We’ll be going back ‘home’ for the first time in three years this coming April – and this post is the exact feeling put into words 😉 Thank you!

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 24, 2016

      First time in three years! Wow — that is quite a lot of time for things to change in your family, in your life, and in your heart. I pray you find a welcoming party that is empathetic, kind, and gracious as you process the transition and the time you have there!

  4. Michele Call January 20, 2016

    “Home? It’s just a word that brings up all kinds of complicated emotions.” This statement describes the word home so well. I think it is a word I’ve avoided and I have been enjoying exploring it this week–thinking of having a second home, thinking of how I make my new home feel like home, and now looking at how home is within us as we surrender to the Lord. Thank you for your insights Lauren. 

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 24, 2016

      I love to read the processing we are all doing on this site together. I’m so thankful I had people to walk me through our first trip ‘home.’ Not an expert by any means (we’ve only been abroad about two years), but this community has so much collective knowledge, hey?

  5. KIM January 20, 2016

    Yes to everything above! We moved back “home” a few months ago after 5 years in India. The struggle is real. We’ve done all these things that no one knows about or cares about, yet, they’ve made us into new vessels, though everyone else still sees us the same way. I never thought overseas living would have increased my confidence or could have made me even more no-nonsense, but alas. It was the hardest five years of my life, but the best thing for me and our family for oh so many reasons.

    1. Elizabeth January 20, 2016

      “They’ve made us into new vessels, though everyone else still sees us the same way.” Ouch! But true, I think, and something Lauren’s alluding to here, too.

      I’m wondering, do you think over time people come to know and accept the “new you”? 

      1. Kim January 21, 2016

        It’s interesting, I think it’s really hard for family to make the shift to seeing us in a new way, at least that’s how it has been for both of ours. However, I think that over time, yes, anything is possible. And hopefully, we’re better versions of what we were because Jesus is the one making us over, so that’s what shines through. I’m still fresh off the field, so definitely still processing, grieving and trying to figure out how to live this new life as a “triangle.”

        1. Elizabeth January 21, 2016

          Yes, Jesus is the One making you over! Don’t doubt that!  Perhaps it’s a little like new wine in old wineskins? The new you doesn’t fit into their old conception of you.

          Many many blessings on you as you continue to repatriate. Did you go (or are you going) to a formal debriefing? Prayers for you and your triangle (and star) family in this season of fresh grief. <3

          1. Lauren Pinkston January 25, 2016

            Jumping in on this conversation. It’s great! I didn’t realize you guys had transitioned out of India, Kim. I can’t imagine all the emotions you must be wrestling with. You were part of a hard and beautiful work there. I’m still following it, as I’m several steps behind you in doing something similar.

            I know Amy Young’s book just came out, and it talks a lot about this stuff (thus the title, Looming Transitions). I’m also thinking about your kids. Do you know about the children’s book Swirly? It’s my absolute favorite TCK book, and I love to tell people about it. It’s currently sold out on Amazon, but if you don’t know about it and would like a copy, I can try and get in touch with the author. I think I have her email address.

            Let me know! I join Elizabeth in praying for your repatriation. So many feels…so many feels.

  6. Kara Pyo January 21, 2016

    Love this. My husband is not American, and my kids have never lived in the US, so going “home” is a really strange thing for me. My daughter is only three, but as she gets older it feels even more bizarre. It’s odd to be the only one in my little family returning to familiarity and comforts. I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be the last time we were there. I felt even more isolated and uncomfortable in the States than usual. It was humbling and encouraging to recognize the ways I’ve changed and the ways I need to. It’s a lot easier to have an eternal mindset when “home” is not a place. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 25, 2016

      I love your family’s story, Kara. You all are such a melting pot of cultures! You know, I felt some of these same things after I was married even before we moved abroad. My family and my husband’s family are quite different, and the two of us molded our family cultures to create what we wanted in our own home. It was an adjustment for our families as they saw us changing and becoming what the two of us would be together. This has only continued to evolve as we’ve lived overseas. So while I don’t completely understand the dynamics you’re dealing with, I join you in finding hope in an eternal mindset where ‘home’ is not a place. <3

  7. Danielle B. January 21, 2016

    this describes how I feel so well! Thanks for sharing! I struggle with the word “home”. Not knowing what it means anymore. At new home I obviously don’t fit, I stick out, I’m a foreigner. But at old home I look like I should fit and everyone thinks I do, but I don’t. I’m definitely a triangle now. 😊

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 25, 2016

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to that blog post I linked here, Danielle! You’re in good company.

  8. Anna January 22, 2016

    Such a good description.  We’ve been stripped and remade.  I’m going to remember that. 🙂

    1. Lauren Pinkston January 25, 2016

      Yes, Anna. I just read your latest update. Thinking of you in your big move! My husband and I were planning on going to the CMDA conference in Greece this year, but we may just wait and go to the one in CM again next year. We should totally meet up there one day! My hubs is a family doc and I’ve done some research with some of the CMDA board members. What a great family to be a part of. 🙂

      1. Anna January 25, 2016

        Yes, one day. 🙂  That would be cool!

  9. Lynn Bonsey January 25, 2016

    We are just very nervously preparing to go ‘home’ for our first trip back. I think I need to keep in mind the triangles and remade phrase too. Am partly dreading the trip and transitioning our nearly 4 year in and out of her birth culture is already stressing me. Who said going home was restful!!!!

  10. Kim January 25, 2016

    For some reason I couldn’t reply to the comment you left on my first comment, but I wanted to say thanks for the prayers and book info! Part of leaving was so we could do more on this side of things with AshaBelle, so I’m excited to hear more about your new endeavors empowering women… it’s my favorite 🙂 

  11. Maura Cook February 9, 2016

    I missed this article a few weeks ago and cannot believe the perfect timing reading it today, after a night and morning crying many tears about not fitting into my family. We have been away for three years, back 5 months and about to go away for another 3 years. I misinterpret everything my family says about leaving and returning and the changed people we are. I seem to be a horrible person when I’m around my close family who I’ve missed the last few years. Your post has given me starting points for some self examination, so thank you. Sometimes I don’t know who I am anymore.

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