How to Fall in Love with Normal Life Again

I got off the plane and stepped out into the height of rainy season. The hard stuff struck me like the honeymoon glow of language school blowing its first transformer. Mold in full bloom on our car seats and furniture. Trash scattered on the streets. The cramped feel of our house after the heartland’s big wide open. Five years serving in Costa Rica grooved it all normal, but 3 weeks stateside lured me out of sync with pura vida rhythms.

As a missionary, stateside visits are a sprint effort. Work and play full out, all of it different from the routine of life abroad. It doesn’t take long to acclimate to the absence of pre-dawn roosters, childcare by grandparents, or hometown selection and prices.

I thought re-entry stress would dissipate as we became seasoned at life here. It’s always nice to get back into our own space, sleep in our own beds, cook in our own kitchen. Each time the bump of transition greets me with the new ink in my passport, whichever direction I’m going. I no longer see it as an assessment of my functionality at the destination. It’s just an admission that change is always a little difficult, wherever you call home.

How do we smooth the landing, or just shake off the everyday doldrums, and fall in love with normal again? When our nest is cozy, life follows suit, so that’s a great place to start.

img_9082Clean something.

No kidding. The best way to appreciate something is to invest in it. When I feel down on my digs, one solution is to grab a rag and use it. This doesn’t mean clean everything.  Martha Stewart is not the goal; progress is. I cut a deal with myself to dirty one dust rag or wipe one wall. The clean spot usually leads to another, a beneficial momentum. Clear windows aren’t my strong suit, but they do give a better view. Tackling dust bunnies, or let’s be honest–woolly mammoths–helps me feel in control.

I can make this place better. I can make a difference. I can love this again.

Let something go.

A statement I heard years ago stuck with me: what we love about all those Pinterest decor shots is really the lack of clutter. Everything inside our walls costs us physical and emotional space. Suitcases usually return from our passport country laden with goodness.  The abundance is like Christmas, but it all has to fit somewhere.

Use the happy of the new to help release the old.  Send it forward as donations or landfill, and revel in the order and openness. I can’t make my house bigger, but I can reduce the unnecessary and make it feel that way. Last week I went medieval on our storage. I pitched expired meds, outgrown clothes, ratty shoes, and that stuff set aside months ago to see if I would miss it. No surprise–I didn’t.

Side note: do not let “maybe I’ll need this someday” trick you into keeping PVC pipe joints or random extra parts of any sort.  You know your husband will go to the store and buy new things without searching the dusty “miscellaneous” box. Just say goodbye now and live free.

Save a bit of splurge for home.

Often we arrive at our doorstep with a back-to-the-grindstone attitude. The fun shouldn’t end the minute we cross the threshold. As we scrubbed mold and overhauled storage totes, my husband suggested we treat ourselves to lunch out after worship. I was surprised how nice it felt to have something to look forward to.  It reminded me that life in our mission country isn’t all DIY. There is much to be enjoyed alongside the serving. Plan something playful to help your heart transition back.

Knowing is half the battle.  

Expect turbulence in the landing. G.I. Joe had it right. Understanding makes it easier to walk through. Give yourself grace. Don’t pole vault into work the next day, if you can reasonably avoid it. Make time to reconnect. Message your friends on the ground and the ones you just hugged goodbye. Set a date for coffee or Skype. Leave white space to process.

What did you love about your time away? What bumped you about your home culture? What’s the good, bad, and ugly about being back?

Go to your happy place.

Sipping coffee on my balcony or getting creative in the kitchen puts new spring in my step. Getting outside of our walls into the sunshine is good for the soul. Sharing simple eats like popcorn or pancakes fill the house with something better than tasty smells–life.

So put your favorite tunes on, diffuse homey scents, light a candle, laugh together. Take space to be real and love real to see the extraordinary in the everyday again.

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been our home.  Psalm 90: 1a NLT


What are your favorite ways to reacclimate after a time away from normal routines? What makes you grateful to be home again?

Linked this post to VelvetAshes.com in The Grove: Content

Bowls on Shelf Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash


12 comments

  1. Kris, we head back tomorrow from 2-1/2 weeks in the U.S. so your post is very timely Thankfully Quito doesn’t have the mold problems you do and we paid our maid to come in and clean while we were gone, so the house will be way above my normal level of cleanliness. But it is still a jolt to transition back to Ecuador from the U.S. I think the two things I do first is get the suitcases unpacked and our stuff organized (and this often generates a “donate” pile) and go buy some of the tropical fruits we have missed while in the U.S. And before we leave I try to make sure I’ve got something in the freezer to cook the first night that is easy and delicious. For me this is usually some homemade frozen meatballs ready to dump BBQ sauce on and bake. (Jody Arnold)

  2. Well Kris I just love your perspective and you’re absolutely correct even move from here in Texas and visiting Nebraska coming home. The change is in evitable And keeping a positive and grateful heart is what’s really important and you do just that thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts and heart miss you and love you

  3. Kris,
    Once again, you have nailed it. We haven’t been here for 5 years, or even 5 months, but the transition of returning from the States can be stressful. I think the one thing that could be included in your blog is probably the most important of all: having connections in your adopted country. It was great to see all of the friends and family back home, but seeing my friends here, both Tico and Dringo, make it so much easier. I love the time we spend with our LifeGroups. We have made wonderful, life long friends there. And we have some Tico friends that are as close or closer than family. Seeing all of our adopted country friends and sharing our “back home” experiences with them helps to temper the change. I don’t know how some of the folks, the house hermits that only see people in bars, make it. I love doing life with all.

    I am so glad, and blessed, to call the Good News Family my friends. Keep up the good work.

    • We love you, and Dawn too, Glenn. So much fun to have met great folks of all kinds here. Thank you for your thoughts. Having community on the ground is what I had in mind under Knowing is Half the Battle with taking time to connect, send messages or make a coffee date. I’ll make it a little more clear. So appreciate your help and encouragement.

  4. Thanks so much for linking up at Velvet Ashes and sharing this perspective! I’m right there with you with the re-entry after a summer of stateside adventures. What even is normal life for us anyway? Ha!

  5. So good! And very true. I will be going through this whole cycle next month. It never fails – I complain about lack of storage yet I keep. bringing. things. back. from the states. And ohh the mold! 😛

    I’m glad we could connect from Honduras to Costa Rica!


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