Still. That’s the one word I’d use to describe living in America so far. Still, no movement, and quiet. Like living in a picture hung on the wall. There’s detail and depth. Color and shadows. All around me I see manicured lawns, perfect sidewalks, brightly colored houses. Fences and sidewalks. Blue skies. Perfect. A beautiful scene to behold, but very little movement. It’s almost like it exists in slow motion. . . or even no motion at all. But then a bird will fly by. The wind rustles the leaves in a tree. A car drives by. And then I realize I’m not in a picture anymore. I’m in the real world. This place that looks like a painting is actually real! And here I am, living inside it. How did I get here again?

I haven’t experienced peace and quiet like this in many years. I almost forgot what it sounded like. To be so quiet you can hear the creak in the walls- or pick out a sound in a room on the opposite side of the house. I forgot my ear could do that. My eyes too are taking in new sites. A rich tapestry of design and color. My eyes can’t quite make sense of it all. Everywhere I look is something beautiful and clean, perfect and quiet. How can this be? Does this place even exist? Or am I living in a perpetual picture?

I’m a stranger in a strange and beautiful land. It’s home, but somehow far more picturesque than I ever remembered. I think I’ll stay for awhile.

It feels really great to be back in an office setting again. I have a desk, a little cubicle, a phone, plenty of quiet space to work from, and I’m just lovin’ it. I forgot how productive I can be if given a few hours of uninterrupted time. Simply amazing.

I’ve been needing this for a while. Our ‘work’ has very much evolved over the last several years. We started off doing a lot of ‘field work’- time in the village, time in relationships, time out of our home, making trips and talking to people. We really went deep in culture and relationships. And while that was great for a season we’re excited about this new chapter of more traditional ‘office work’. It sure is a switch from what we’re used to. And we’re excited to use our God-given skills and abilities in some different areas. Kim is picking up art and graphic design again. And I’m having fun with web development. So far full steam ahead.

I don’t think I take anything for granted anymore. We’ve lived pretty simply for the last five years. We’ve learned what it’s like to live without so many things. But now that we’re home it feels right to be here too. Trusting the Lord is always an adventure. Let’s go Lord!

I’ve found that sometimes it’s helpful to think of America as a ‘foreign country’ when dealing with reverse culture shock. It’s helpful to think of it this way when I notice things, or feel stressed out or confused, because you tend to give a little more grace and forgiveness if it’s ‘foreign’.

When we first moved overseas we expected things to be different. We expected to have culture shock and to be confused. And so when we were it was only natural. And it was easy to pinpoint our stress. Just look around. Everything was foreign and new! The people, the sites, the sounds, smells, traffic, animals, hustle and bustle, language, etc. We expected things to be different, and it was.

You experience many of the same feelings and emotions, confusion, anger, bewilderment, etc. as normal culture shock, only you can’t quite pinpoint the source of your stress.

But reverse culture shock isn’t that easy. The hardest part about reverse culture shock is that you don’t expect it! You experience many of the same feelings and emotions, confusion, anger, bewilderment, etc. as normal culture shock, only you can’t quite pinpoint the source of your stress.  Everything ‘looks’ and ‘feels’ normal, predictable, as it should, but for some reason you’re stressed out and you can’t explain it. That’s reverse culture shock. And it sneaks up on you. It doesn’t hit you in the face like traveling to another country where the changes and differences are obvious. But reverse culture shock is subtle and elusive. Everything looks normal, but why doesn’t anybody act or behave the way I expect them to?!

So for me, when going through reverse culture shock it’s sometimes helpful to treat this like I’m visiting a foreign country and not my passport country. That way I expect it to be different. I allow it to be different. This is me. And this is America. We’re different. And that’s okay. Don’t take it personally.

It’s amazing how restorative quietness can be. We’re experiencing new levels of this in our new apartment here in Orlando. I forgot how healing to the mind and spirit peace and quiet can be. My thoughts are more free flowing, and contemplative. There are fewer distractions to disrupt a train of thought.

And now that we’re back I’m finding that we have so much more time on our hands than what we’re used to. This is a fresh start for us. So far we have no obligations, no appointments, no schedule. Think about it. How many times in life do you get to be anonymous? This is a special time that God has given us. I know it doesn’t last long. But for now I want to treat this time as a gift. God knows we’ve been in need of it for a while.

I hope that the peace and quiet of our time here will be restorative to our mind and soul. And we’ll learn how to connect better as a family and connect better with God.

“Lord, fill our time with good things. Fill our time with peace, rest and comfort. May we be restored in You and through You. Be near, oh God. Amen.”

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” -Psalm 73:28

Here we are at the Jakarta international terminal waiting for our first long flight to Tokyo. It’s always a fun and interesting little cultural study to hang out at an international airport. You always see such a wide diversity of people, languages, and clothing styles And it’s so fun to see the way people react and respond to Eli, who is almost a year and a half now. He’s such a little cutie and people from all over the world look at him, smile, wave, make a funny face, whatever. It’s amazing how fast and effective a smile can be. Even from someone who looks so different than me, wearing clothing I would never wear (think Indian Punjabi style with turban), a smile does the job. When someone catches sight of our cute baby all perceived differences melt away and all that’s left is just one human being enjoying another. At the end of the day we’re all just human beings who cross paths from time to time. A smile can cross borders and communicate in an instant. This is what I learned at the international terminal today.