Transitioning Back to the USA (For the Rest of My Life)


This post originally published on a previously-owned blog and was imported here to simplify my life. Please excuse any confusion due to this merge. I hope you enjoy the content!

This isn't just for overseas workers! It's vital for the other side to understand as well -- read all about this family's transition to the USA and how we can support overseas workers just by empathy. || sydneyelizabeth. blogIf I give a little jerk when I greet you lately, it’s because I’m stopping myself from kissing your cheek…

If I seem a little spacey when you’re talking to me, it’s because my brain is exploding trying to make sure I’m acting American…

If you also have been baffled as to why I (or others who have returned from another country) behave a certain way, read on..

Transitioning to the USA (for the rest of my life)

A couple years ago, my co-worker missionary friends shared this article around – particularly to a few who were returning to the USA after serving with us in South America. I’m now reading it with new eyes.

I really would encourage you to read the whole thing (it’s not that long), but the premise is about when a person moves from their home country (call it the Circle Country) and integrates into a new country (call it Square Society). You make enough adaptations to be immersed, comfortable and somewhat accepted by locals, but you never truly will become that nationality. It’s impossible. But then you fly back home to Circle Country and realize things are different. Not necessarily them but you. You’ve officially become a Triangle.

Read the full article where the writer explains it more in depth. She goes on to link to her mom’s blog post that goes into even more detail. Both are well-written and coming from overseas-experienced people.

Some days I feel like I’m going to be a very peculiar person indeed…for the rest of my life. And perhaps that’s true. Other days, I almost pump my fist up in the air and think, “YES. I did that {insert normal American action} right!”

It’s been a little over a month and we realize that’s not long. We have lots of time to integrate again, to reconnect with the culture and our friends, to re-plug in to local serving teams and church small groups. So I am seeing the bigger picture. But today is today and I can’t ignore what’s on my plate.

We landed back in the Oregon town that holds both our immediate families, our previous church and many friends. And although these friends and family members are dear to us, some very close to my heart, I feel at a loss to be able to talk all this through. They are wonderful people but just have different experiences.

So I’m just going to keep typing here and see where we land…

Before I finished fully drafting this post, I was bouncing around a site I have always enjoyed following – particularly when we lived overseas. I happened upon a couple different articles related to what I’m trying to articulate here:

  1. The Silver Lining of Frequent Moves – this writer describes her family’s multiple moves and how it gives them a chance to re-evaluate or “re-invent” various aspects of their lives – relationships, goals, etc. I talk more about this one below.
  2. Two Different Versions of Me – this writer shares her experience of living overseas and gives great visuals for living fully both in her overseas country and her passport country. It’s also fun to read this one because Peru was one of our homes for a while. Though I’m sure this is an encouragement for those still overseas, it’s good for those back home to read as well. (The main places she writes is here and I’ve enjoyed that blog, too.)

The first of those two articles had one particular section that I’ll admit to you we are struggling with. God clearly landed us back in our home town for a reason and most people think that’s cool. I agree! It certainly is nice to be near the family and friends we always wished we could see more often.

But over the last few years away, our lives have so significantly changed that the “re-invention” that can be a great aspect of moving isn’t there. We aren’t (as easily) able to start new habits or traditions, set up our living spaces differently, be interested in new things or even be taken seriously sometimes.

I don’t want to sound complaining here (because I’m not). I’m just trying really, really hard to explain the muddy mess my brain is right now. We are so happy and so blessed and so thrilled to be starting a new chapter. God keeps bringing me to tears with gratitude for all He’s doing in helping us get set up and through this transition.

But we’re not the same people anymore. Our experiences have changed us.

The word “respite” is defined as: a delay or cessation for a time, especially of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief. We are looking forward to a small amount of this and then I’m really excited to get plugged in. Like I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I always muse about ideas for ministry and enjoy seeing some become reality. We can’t wait to be able to minister, make new friends and strengthen old ones. Just please be patient with us.

We’ve had these enormous experiences that can’t be put into words. And when potential loneliness creeps in or even the rushing feeling of occasional culture shock, we need to take a breather. We aren’t holing up in our new house to avoid people but more so to rest.

Here’s my favorite part of this whole thing:

As this post’s title indicates, I think there will always be some transitioning going on. No matter how long we stay in our new city or how cozy we create our home, we’re not going to belong. And that’s actually pretty neat. It keeps us with a broader view – a way to stay “on the edge” with perhaps a more extended view of how God is calling my family and me to live by Biblical obedience.

I feel like He used these years abroad to refine me. Unquestionably, I have matured in my faith from when we first moved to South America seven years ago and am so appreciative of the in-the-moment very difficult times we’ve gone through as a couple overseas. The Lord has given us new eyes for how we are called to live in the States and I hope and pray that our family and friends can see it, too. I’m really excited getting this all typed out. I already have new energy knowing that people in my life will read these words. I hope it makes sense!

This was good for me to write, but it’s hard to know if it will be good for those reading. If you are one welcoming an overseas worker back home, did this help you understand a snippet more of this crazy lifestyle? If you’ve had overseas experience, do you jive with my own feelings and emotions? Please share with me – it will make my day (actually probably my week).

Blessings and thanks for reading this today.

More resources for the missionary or overseas worker:

Disclaimer: Any time I link to another website, I am not declaring my support of everything that writer has ever shared or the way he or she lives. I just simply link to it to help support my own topics and give credit where credit is due.

Hebrews 13:14
For this world is not our permanent home;
we are looking forward to a home yet to come. (NLT)

2 thoughts on “Transitioning Back to the USA (For the Rest of My Life)

  1. Hi, Sydney, thanks for sharing your thoughts and the challenges of transitioning back to your passport country (and thanks for the link to my post!). I think you are right – it’s not as easy to “re-invent” yourself when you’re going to a place where everyone already knows you, even if you’re not the same person you were before. I hope you find friends and family who can listen, support you, and walk with you as you find a new rhythm of life in the States.


    1. Thank you for the message, Emily! Great encouragement to wake up to this morning. 🙂


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