Walking on Jell-0

“Oh, hey! You’re a Hibma, aren’t you? Nice to see you again!” These were the words that welcomed me as I walked into our small public library in northwest Iowa.  During the next 15 minutes, I would encounter three different teachers from my past.  “You were in…wait, don’t tell me…somewhere in Asia, right?”

Last May, my family moved back to the States after a decade of serving across Asia, but mostly Cambodia.  We settled into my parents’ basement with our three little ones, and the last few months have been spent trying to find equilibrium from all of this upheaval.  You know how when you first move overseas and you feel like you’re walking on Jell-O?  Everything is a bit unstable and shaky as you find your footing?  Moving back is the same experience.  It’s strange to be in a place that I have known since my childhood, surrounded by people who knew me as a little girl–but they can’t really connect with or understand the woman I have become.

Coming back to the States, my identity has been rocked. I was the woman who had given up everything to serve in a developing country.  I met my husband overseas and my children called it home.  And here I am, back in the States, feeling like I have lost my sense of purpose.  My identity has been so wrapped up in what we did and where we lived.  How can people truly know me if they don’t know how much the last ten years has truly changed me?  How can they know me if they’ve never let the spices of Khmer cuisine sit on their tongue or sat in the deluge of tuk-tuks, motos and cars on a busy Cambodian road?  Can they know how it felt to sweat through most of my days and wait for the cool breezes and rains of rainy season?  Can they sense my deep desire for community here, things that go beyond the surface?

My legs feel wobbly.  My heart aches many times for our community back in Asia.

In David Benner’s book The Gift of Being Yourself, he writes, “An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.”

Not in our location. Not in our relationship status.  Not in our position.

Our desire to be known by the people around us is not wrong.  We long for connections.  But what happens when you move? Or your friends move?  Or you have a major change in your job?  If your identity is wrapped up in those things, you will be left floundering and unhappy.

We need to move into a deeper knowing of Christ.  His identity was defined by his relationship to his Father.  Everything flowed through the deep knowing of his Father.  Do you think Jesus’ identity was rocked when people didn’t know him completely?  No.  He knew that his Father loved him so intimately that nothing else mattered.

As our family re-learns how to walk here in the States, we feel God calling us to a deeper intimacy with Him.  We truly long to be known in this new community, but everything needs to be born out of an identity completely founded in His love.  At times, we feel stripped bare, but God, the ultimate “Knower”, is with us, and in this major season of change, that’s good to remember.

What’s your soul’s response to being found in His love?

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  1. Kimberly Todd September 30, 2014

    I’m with you. These words touch a deep place in me this evening. Thanks.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 30, 2014

      I know you and your family are in major transition right now as well. Thinking of you guys!

  2. Beth Everett September 30, 2014

    Appreciate these words. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 30, 2014

      Thanks Beth!

  3. mary beth September 30, 2014

    THANK YOU!! love every word, and am learning continually through this transition that who i am is (should be) rooted in Jesus.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 30, 2014

      Transition is hard, isn’t it? Hope you are able to continue walking with Him through it. I’m learning that it’s filled with paradox!

  4. Amanda October 1, 2014

    Mmm, thanks for sharing. I have recently moved again and learning and or re-learning just that, that my identity is rooted in Christ not other defining factors in my life.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      So true, but so hard to live out sometimes, isn’t it?  I pray that you can walk in continued “rootedness” and find your identity completely in Him.

  5. Elizabeth October 1, 2014

    I find that sometimes I live out of the truth of my identity in Christ, and sometimes . . . I don’t! It’s always hard to be reminded when I find I haven’t been.

    The nice thing about being married is that the person who understands me the most and knows me the best, goes along with me, wherever I go. Sometimes I wonder, what would it be like if he died, and that sense of knowing is lost? (Morbid, I know, but both his parents died young, so we think about these things.) In those moments I wonder, would God’s knowing and understanding of me be enough? Really? Because I so value being able to express my feelings in words to another human being who can audibly validate them. I know I’m a better person because of who I’m married to (and I think that’s part of the point of being married), but I also need to know, deep down, that my daughterhood is not changed, no matter who on earth is alive and living with me.

    BTW I’m so glad you’re still able to write and contribute to VA! I have no idea what this feels like for you — the actual moving back. In my mind I know how I felt as a child and young adult in certain places (Iowa being one of them!). But what would it be like to go back, now, after all these years, with both everyone else and myself having been changed?? Quite unsettling I’m sure. Just know that I love you, Danielle, on Cambodian soil, and American soil, and am glad we can still keep in touch.

    1. Grace L October 1, 2014

      Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing. I too find that my relationship with my husband helps keep me grounded while living in a foreign country. He is the only one that I am really “known” (and likewise, me with him), because we have shared this journey together. We are not able to fully share with the locals and our friends and family back home do not really know us. Being “known”, really known, by one person is enough, along with knowing we are so loved by our God who called us and sent us here.

    2. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      Thanks Elizabeth.  I appreciate your thoughts on marriage and being known best by someone on the field. We never know when something may happen to someone we love, so I pray that God would give me the strength for that moment when it comes.  I have always been encouraged by your love for Jonathan and his for you.  I’m a bit in awe of those who met their spouse so young and have known them for such a long, significant time!

    3. ErinMP October 2, 2014

      Thanks to Danielle, Grace, and Elisabeth for sharing. I am single on the field, and have found great consolation in my friends (both a guy and girls), so I cannot relate–but it gives me hope and joy to hear of such good marriage relationships in the field. I would love to have this one day and am praying for this one day. Thanks!

      1. Grace L October 2, 2014

        Keep on praying for this, Erin. God is a matchmaker and He loves you and knows what is best for you. 14 years ago, while beginning to serve overseas, I prayed that if God could use me better as a single person, I was willing. It was a big surrender. But it seems He knew that He could use me better as a married woman on the field than a single woman. What a joy it has been and continues to be. Ours is a joint ministry, side by side much of the time. Together we can do things that neither one of us could do alone.

        Erin, surrender all this to God and trust Him completely! He loves you for who you are now and who you will be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. And He has a wonderful plan for you! Amen!

        1. ErinMP October 6, 2014

          Aww, thank you so much! This means so much to me! 🙂 I love hearing about that attitude and affects both in your single years and your married years!

          1. Grace L October 6, 2014

            How wonderful it is to keep on trusting Almighty God who loves us so much and knows just what we need. Rest in your heavenly Father, Erin, and keep on following where he will lead you.

  6. Phyllis October 1, 2014

    Amen. Six years ago, I was deported from “my” country. All my life I had dreamed of living in Russia. All of my life was caught up in Russia. The deportation and the whole mess surrounding it was utterly awful. But, as I came through it, someone asked what I thought God was teaching me. And it was that He loves me.

    Your quote is exactly what I was learning then: “An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.”

    1. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      I can only imagine how devastating the deportation was.  To love a place so much and be forced to move must have been extremely hard.  So glad that God was present with His immense love during that time. I’m sure you still feel the effects of that time even now, at times.

  7. Ann van Wijgerden October 1, 2014

    Thank you for writing this! Well written and so real; you’ve obviously lived – and are living – these words!
    I especially loved this: “At times, we feel stripped bare, but God, the ultimate “Knower”, is with us, and in this major season of change, that’s good to remember.”

    20 years ago my husband and I suddenly found ourselves back in the Netherlands (he’s Dutch, I’m English) after 5 pretty intensive years working in the slums of Manila, the Philippines. Late 1994 saw us suddenly, wholly unexpectedly, “stripped bare”. We were back in our home country with ‘nothing to do’, plucked out of a ministry that had become a big chunk of our identity. The reason for “this major season of change” – a severe nervous breakdown. And in the crucible of feeling so mashed down and utterly useless, came the realisation that GOD LOVED US NO LESS. Whether we are running a supersonic successful ministry or are sitting on the floor weeping with despair HE LOVES US NO LESS. 
    That knowledge has become something of a foundation for our lives; the 7 subsequent years of depression in the Netherlands, and the last 6 years without depression back here in the Philippines.

    1. ErinMP October 1, 2014

      If this were facebook or I actually had one of those internet thingys, I would *like* this comment. Thank you for sharing.

    2. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      Wow!  Such encouraging words Ann!  Thank you so much for sharing.  We left under similar circumstances and when we left someone said, “This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over for you here. It just means you need to get healed and step back from life here.” At the time, I couldn’t imagine going back, but now, my prayer is that some years down the road (only God can know how long we need), that we will find ourselves back overseas.  “God loves us no less!”

      1. Ann van Wijgerden October 1, 2014

        Dear Danielle, sounds like our stories may indeed have similar chapters… I tell you, the  “finding ourselves back overseas” chapter – is ALL GRACE!  🙂

        (I shared my story more fully here: http://inamirrordimly.com/2013/04/23/doing-justice-surprised-by-joy/comment-page-1/#comment-19246 )

        Please don’t hesitate to email me if you want to e.g. ‘compare notes’!

        Love & greetings from Manila

  8. paula miller October 1, 2014

    This met me right where I am. Thank you!  We left Sierra Leone and are not sure when we will be able to go back.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      I’m so glad, Paula.  The “not knowing” can be so hard.  I hope you’ve been able to find a place to debrief about your experience and the resulting feelings about not being sure about being able to go back. My husband and I found our debriefing experience to be very helpful.

  9. Brittany October 1, 2014

    Oh, how great the love of God!  So true!!!  This first year in the field, the theme has been over and over again, just bask in my lavish love.  Everything has changed — I feel like an infant.  I have no idea what I’m doing, still even after a year, and I can easily get caught up in the depression of not knowing anything (or BEING anything) anymore.  But that’s a lie because I know the most important thing:  God knows me and loves me.  That truth helps me be.

    1. ErinMP October 1, 2014

      Amen to ALL of that Brittany! So comforting to hear of your struggles and revelations.

    2. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      Yes! Such lavish love He pours upon us when we are infant-like in the life we are living overseas.  The first year is so tough and I hope that your second year brings much joy.

  10. ErinMP October 1, 2014

    *Thank you, so true. I really needed that reminder, and I’m blessed God used this site to give it to me!

    *Thanks to to you, and others, for reminding me that it is hard to find ‘beyond the surface,’ deep connections in both my passport country and my current overseas field… and every time God provides a deeper fellowship or connection it is beautiful, whether or not the person is someone I expect, have known a long or a short amount of time, and whether or not they come from the “same” culture or language. Christ can unify that….and without a connection nothing else in common will force a connection.

    *Most importantly, though, I need to find my heart’s home in Him. May He always remind me and comfort me in this!

    *The C.S. Lewis quote can apply not just to novels, but to the Bible as well!

    <3 Thank you

    1. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      Thank you, Erin.  I love thinking of the Lewis quote in regards to the Bible!  So many have gone before us, as well as the ones who walk with us right now.

      1. ErinMP October 2, 2014

        Amen! 🙂

  11. Amy Young October 1, 2014

    Danielle is my connection group we mentioned this article and the idea of being known. I really enjoyed hearing parts of us that are not known right now for each of us. While I would imagine there is even more “unknowns” than you shared (of course there are!), know this too … we at VA are enriched by every post you write. You take us deeper and farther and to the Heart of the Father.

    1. Amy Young October 1, 2014

      IN not IS … oh the difference one letter can make 🙂

    2. Danielle Krouch October 1, 2014

      Thanks, Amy! I hope that the connection groups continue to help women be known in very important ways and to point each other to His heart.

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