My family and I are currently in between lives, the most unsettled we’ve been in… ever. Which is saying something because the life we’re wrapping up is one of extremely high mobility.

In June we went through every single item in our possession and more emotions than we had the capacity for. We took paper links off of a chain that started by brushing the floor and ended by lifting little people to the ceiling. We hugged a lot of necks, or legs for our deeply affectionate 3 and 5 year olds, and wiped a lot of tears in addition to our own.

In July we made trips to visit supporters and friends and family and tell our story, one of being called and called again and the ease and peace with which we have learned to say, “Yes! I’m all in. Let’s do it,” knowing some of what it will cost and fully confident that there is nowhere else we would choose to go.

In August, we are going through every single item that wasn’t in our possession, the ones in boxes and closets and garages at our parents’ and siblings’ homes where they waited for a decade. We’re booking a U-Haul trailer. We’re talking about who we will see and what we will do when we get to Pennsylvania. We’re imagining what it might be like to have a backyard and a grill, a library within biking distance, and to worship in a church with hundreds of fellow believers every Sunday.

But there are deeper things that won’t change for us. Knowledge we gained when we valued it over gold, a view of the world that is fuller and so painful it must be altering, deep and abiding love for Jesus first, Jesus only that spills out and out in tides of goodness and mercy.

None of us gets to know how long we have. We signed on for 2-3 years and it was quickly apparent that we had gotten ourselves into something we would do wholeheartedly until something unsettled us. We had nine, nine hard and holy years. We’ve walked with those who are counting decades rather than years and alongside folks who came in with a long view gone the very next year.

There is wisdom for us all in the words of Jeremiah when God gave him a message for the exiles. It is to trade in our tents for brick and mortar, dig in and set up a home, plant a garden or a window box and enjoy what it produces, and marry the locals. Just kidding, check your organizational policy on that one. Seek the welfare of the city by transacting in integrity rather than exploitation and pray for it. When it thrives, you thrive.

The point isn’t to know what you’re getting into or how long you get to do it. Instead, it’s to forsake all others. At first and at challenging times, your task for the day will be to survive. Sometimes having a place to sleep and food to eat is victory in Jesus. Press on, love, there is a prize ahead. Ponder and settle in your heart that you will forsake all others for the place you are for as long as you are there, and the settling that you do in your foreign land, your new home, will settle the Kingdom deeper in your own heart.

What do you find in your new context that helps you settle?


Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström via Compfight cc


  1. mary beth August 26, 2014

    I love this a lot. Thanks for this. i just moved back to the States after being overseas four years, and it’s been a ROUGH transition, so i cant imagine what you are going through. Thank you for showing that i am not alone.

    Here in my unsettled state, i am learning that it is okay to grieve and mourn the life i left, but i dont have to forget that it happened, nor do i have to say a complete goodbye to those relationships. i am developing photos to hang around my room, and also making a shutterfly book of my China life. (today i worked on happy thailand memories!) It’s a work in progress, this adjusting, but we are not alone.

    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      Mary Beth, thanks for sharing your ache. It is good to know we’re not alone when we’re feeling less like ourselves and wondering if we’ve lost a screw or two. I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by how rough this transition is. I thought I knew what to expect and I’m really excited about this new life so I thought I had my transition insurance. Beware kind welcoming stranger when you ask how it’s going. I hope you are comfortable with my tears. =)

  2. Amy Young August 26, 2014

    What helps me feel settled is finding a gym asap. Years ago when there weren’t really gyms in China, I joined a women’s hip thrusting ballet class. I felt absurd and normal. It’s not what I would have chosen, but it helped me feel settled and I learned how important that was for me … so each new city I move to, I find a gym and get my routine (whatever that may be in that place) going. Even if it’s exercise DVD’s and some friends. There is just something about exercising that reminds me I am still me.

    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      It’s on my list to find a yoga studio in the area, but I haven’t prioritized it. Thanks for the nudge. I know that could make a significant impact on my sense of well-being. Or at least I should unpack my mat…

  3. Laura August 27, 2014

    For me it’s unpacking and finding a place for everything. Even if my emotions and mind are a jumbled mess, at least my things are organized. 🙂

    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      Yes, yes. I am very much looking forward to that state of affairs.

  4. Ann van Wijgerden August 27, 2014

    For me settling back into a country has been helped the moment I take public transport… Moving together as one big glob of humanity has a remarkably settling-soothing-“I’m home!” effect. At least that has been my experience on our return to the Netherlands and then back to the Philippines. (I’m English.)

    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      Yes! Though the public transportation value is hard to replicate here, biking for transportation has the same settling-soothing effect for me. I’m so thankful that we will be in a town where it works to bike.

  5. Sally Todd August 27, 2014

    Following advice I heard from you:  finding the ways to make  my home a place of refuge, recovery.  My kitchen has the little hanging plate with texas bluebonnets that says “oma’s kitchen”, the bedroom has the look of the room I loved in florida because the walls are painted the same color and the same painting hangs over the bed.  Finally, my space for time talking to God holds my small items that make it my place to nestle in for prayer.  Once these things are in place, I am home…

    So blessed by your words this morning!


    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      That is good hand-me-down advice. I got it from a friend who settled in India before I left for China. Thanks for passing it back here. Your home sounds lovely.

  6. Brittany August 27, 2014

    I haven’t figured out how to settle yet.  Oh how my heart yearns for it, though!  In the 6+ years we’ve been married, we’ve never lived in our own place.  We’ve moved 6 times and we’re about to move again.  And we know that this move won’t be our last because in another year, we will be moving to our place.  A house that is being built for us in the village we will be ministering, hopefully for the next several years.  In my mind, it seems like until we are in that home, it’s impossible to settle and that once we do get there, settling will be easy!  I know that’s not true, but I feel it is.  I’ve struggled so much with settling in because I know that where we are is temporary.

    We’ve been here for almost 11 months and I still find myself thinking of what we left behind.  I’m fiercely homesick.  It seems impossible to settle.  But your words have challenged me.  I know settling is what I *need* to do.  I’m just not sure how it looks for me yet.

    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      Thanks for sharing this piece of your struggle and desire, Brittany. Here’s a hug to go with that challenge. Peace be with you as you sort out what settling looks like for you.

  7. Kristen August 27, 2014

    So timely for me… We are seven months into life on the island and it has been very hard for me. We find ourselves in the midst of uncertainty, and I had just been praying, “Lord, I just want to know how long! How long will we be doing this?”, and then I scroll through twitter and read, “None of us get to know how long we have”. Oh my, the Lord is faithful. Over and over, He’s spoken the same thing to me– be present where I’m present. However long we have, be here until we are not. I’m trying, wrestling, fighting for it, and have seen much growth in it, but it’s a struggle. How wise, to trade in the tent for brick and mortar, plant a garden, make HOME where we are. Thank you for your very timely, very appropriate, just-what-I-needed words!

    Anyway, the things that HAVE helped: I painted our living area the same color as it was in our last home. I hung many of the same wall decor items, and brought several of the candles I always used to burn. Whenever I light them, the kiddos tell me that ‘it smells like home,’ and so I try to do it frequently. I didn’t drive the first several months we were here, and finally being able to venture out on my own has helped. Finding friends and things for the kids to plug into has been huge, as well- for them to feel more settled and at home.

    I’m loving the dialogue here! So thankful for this community!

  8. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

    Oh, it fills me up to know that this met the moment for you. Deep calls to deep, and I’m happy to meet you here today, Kristen, fighting the good fight.

  9. Ruth August 27, 2014

    Always happy to hear from you, Kim, especially since I don’t get to every day any more! I hope you can get more permanently settled soon (does that actually happen?) and that in the meantime you can get lots of enjoyment from that fabulous backyard!

    1. Kimberly Todd August 27, 2014

      It is a fabulous backyard. We are so grateful for the space and the green green grass, the tall corn, a creek, a swing, and nearby pond with a kayak to paddle. I couldn’t ask for a nicer place to cry my eyes out. =) I miss you, too.

  10. laura September 1, 2014

    Last year our house in North America did not sell.  We weren’t too happy about that.  Now, I am settling back into our ‘wee’ home and I am thankful for a familiar place.  The past years of transition have clearly been marked by his leading but, oh, they have tired me out.  It’s so good to be able to settle into something so familiar.

    That said, I’ve had to really be intentional on giving myself breathing space to feel, grieve and mourn for what was and what will not be…. to give myself space to be unsure of where I am going and to allow myself the time to settle my heart.  To not get caught up taking hold of every opportunity that presents itself, to not over indulge in those things that I once longed for, to not get too hurried in this new life.   Can anyone else relate?

    1. Kimberly Todd September 3, 2014

      Laura, I can so relate. I just finished reading Tsh Oxenreider’s book, “Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.” I felt like I could have written it, not because I’m awesome like that, but because she put into sentences and chapters the experiences and values we came to treasure as expats and the encouragement to adjust them to fit this new life though it may take some swimming upstream.

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