I used to watch those space movies – like Apollo 13 – and be most terrified when the astronauts were finally coming home. Were they going to make it? Were they going to burn up in the atmosphere?

Reentry is full of pressure, heat, the stripping away of protective layers, fear, anticipation, and uncertainty.

I know. Because I’ve been doing it for nearly a year.

This time last year, I was still in China – writing about my fearful anticipation of reentry to the USA (and entry into motherhood). (And my longing to be DONE with pregnancy.) I can look back on those posts now and see that God has met my every need in this transition… That most of my fears went unrealized, and that the ones that were real were manageable when I approached them one day at a time. (Doesn’t He promise to be our daily bread?)

But what I didn’t anticipate was how lost I’d feel. I guess I thought once we got through all the fiery challenges of the outer atmosphere, it’d be smooth sailing. (Excuse my mixed metaphors.) We’d get the place to live, get the job, and settle into a nice little neat life with easy access to Target. (A longtime dream of mine.) Now we’re there – Target is 5 minutes away, Jacob has a great job, and I have a new circle of friends to do life with. But I’m still not sure where I am.

Parts of me were changed and lost and transformed through the process of reentry. And to push the space analogy perhaps a little too far – I feel more like an alien in some ways than ever before.

Reentry hasn’t been all that pretty. Spiritually, if I’m honest, I’m in a funky place. I’ve kind of given up. I look back on my last 4 years of life and wonder, “What was THAT all about.” It seems to have no connection to this new life of playdates and lunches and craft projects. (But seriously, you should SEE some of the stuff I’ve made for Christmas gifts. ADORABLE, I tell you.) I can exist in both worlds fairly well… I’m not some weird ex-missionary who only wears dresses from 1980 and eats bugs for snacks. (Right, Midland friends? I’m not that, am I?!) But it just seems that the two worlds are so distinctly separate that my life in Asia was some weird anomaly. Some strange blip on the radar of my life. It just feels so Other from the life I’m leading now, that it just seems like an odd waste of time in some ways… maybe because I feel like there’s very little “lasting” impact to show from it.

If I have any blog readers left (doubtful, given my utter abandonment of this thing these last few months), I can hear you now. You’ve always been an encouraging bunch – and I know you’d say things like: “Think of the children and people you impacted.” Or, “The seeds you planted will bear a harvest later.” Or, “It may be unseen, but it is no less meaningful.” I know you’d say such encouraging things, because I would too, if the shoe were on the other foot. I don’t really know why this is, but for some reason those platitudes have very little traction in my heart right now.

The reality is, NDFH was doing just fine before me and is doing just fine now. The kids that I was involved with would have gotten their surgeries and healed and been adopted even if I wasn’t there. I’ve always said, and continue to believe, that the greatest impact was on myself. But now that my life is focused on such entirely different things, I’m wondering what kind of impact it really was?

I’ve tried to maintain involvement – helping with various fund-raising drives (WE HAVE ONE GOING ON NOW!!!!) and doing some writing projects for the foster home – but it just feels so trivial in light of the amount of time I spend going to Target or coming up with crafty projects to occupy me during nap time. To be honest, in some ways it feels like the values I’ve said lead my life really do not. And I’ve sort of settled into indifference as a result. (Hence the trips to Target and Hobby Lobby.)

I’m remembering now that some told me reentry would be harder than leaving. It’s true. And so much harder to deal with, because the challenges, differences, and problems aren’t easily identifiable. We’re “supposed” to be able to just jump back into this life where we left off. We’re “supposed” to be grateful to be home. We’re “supposed” to be a lot of things. Lost, confused, disheartened, and undirected isn’t among them…

15 thoughts on “Reentry

  1. I'm still here!
    and if anyone understands blog abandonment, it is me.

    But I can't say I know much about re-entry after living years in China though. I only know about adoption re-entry after a few weeks in China. And I know that alone can be daunting, so I can't imagine the upheaval you have experienced the past year.

    I'm not gonna say all those things you said your blog readers would say, (though I AM thinking them…grins)
    BUT I will say this (that I learned from a book I'm reading to my kiddos called “The Book that Jesus Read”): Think about what really impresses God. It is NOT what we do, where we live, our wealth, power, or lack thereof…

    What is it?

    It is FAITH.

    Moses, David, Abraham–their credentials and their “doings” when they were chosen by God were not spectacular by any means. It was their FAITH in our ALL KNOWING, ALL SOVEREIGN, ALL WONDERFUL GOD.

    You have that same faith, Carrie! And whether you are in Qingyundian or Midland, God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    I read this verse in Exodus 34:11 recently: “Obey what I command you TODAY.”

    Today. Like you said, He is our DAILY bread! Today you are serving a precious daughter and husband. What is He telling you TODAY?

    By the way, I'm preaching to myself, here. I am really struggling with wondering what I'm doing and where I “fit in” (not many places, btw…with a gaggle of kiddos and a heart for China–living in my suburban neighborhood with a clubhouse and a pool and every home all decked out to the hilt for Christmas. I DONT live 5 minutes from Target though. DARNIT! 🙂

    Okey dokey that was the longest comment I've written on anyone's blog in MONTHS. But your post really spoke to some kindred spirit in me that oddly feels many of these same emotions. Thank you for sharing and being so open, Carrie. You and Jacob remain on our prayer board and we will keep ya there….

    Maybe you and your baby girl could go back to Qingyundian soon for a visit. I bet it would do your heart so good. If you go, I'll join you. 'Course, I might have a posse with me….

    Much love…


  2. I'm still here too.

    And I'm still looking for my significance. Cause nearly five years ago God shook my life in a way that I never dreamed when I was handed my first baby girl in a hot room in southern China.

    I've been back three times since. Most recently less than six months ago. And yet, at this point, China feels worlds away.

    I've read Radical, I've seen the faces of some left behind. And I'm ruined as to who I was before all these experiences. But I still don't know exactly what God's will is.

    So I'm with you (though on a much smaller scale ~ because I never lived it) in wondering what it is all about. I'll be praying for you though Carrie. You have had an impact on many that you may never fully know…


  3. @Brian, Yes – we have. And while I now at least will admit there is truth in it (I don't think I did at the time we discussed it), it still fundamentally bothers me. It seems in conflict to the command to love my neighbor as myself. I may have a monkey sphere, but I want it to include more than just those closest to me. It has in the past… the challenge for me now is finding ways to authentically keep it a little larger now that we're back in the american dream.

    @Laine – You always know what to say… thank you. Are you serious about the trip? 'Cuz funny you should mention it… Jacob and I have been talking about that a lot lately. I'm just working up the courage to do that flight alone with a toddler, because he has to work. But if you are serious… 🙂

    @Kristi – I see the difference you're making! Maybe that's it… always easier to see what others are doing. Less easy to see it in ourselves. Thank you for your heart… kindred spirits make it a little easier to not feel so alien-esque. 🙂


  4. I'm posting this from my phone while I wait in the car tag line, so if it turns out screwy then you know why. :). I totally get what you're saying. Two weeks in China forever changed me, and I'm still trying to reconcile the “before” and “after”. I can't even begin to imagine the fiery alienism that 4 years would produce. I know that your time made a difference, and I don't want to fill this with platitudes…BUT you did introduce me to my daughter on your blog and I'll forever be grateful for that!

    Love you!



  5. Oh … how I wish Midland & Middle TN were neighboring communities. You have so beautifully expressed all that is on my heart and yet I have avoided posting on my blog without a pulse.

    On most days, I feel as if I am going thru the motions in the States. Yes, I too find myself “lost” wandering the aisles of Target.

    In many ways re-patriaction from Hong Kong has been similar to a death. A grieving process, I keep telling myself. Closing a chapter that simply cannot be recreated. And yet even worse than that reality are the changes in me.

    “Parts of me were changed and lost and transformed through the process of reentry.”

    That. Is. It.

    Your words cut thru this mess of feelings that I haven't bothered verbalizing since I have no friends that could even relate or comprehend such confusion.

    Thank you for your honesty. Your words minister to me. You are a kindred spirit who shares a piece of all that is on my aching heart!

    Love & Blessings,


  6. Carrie,

    My heart just HURTS for you. I don't understand, but I DO know that you are so responsive to God's will for you that it WILL be revealed. I do know that this is a time in your life (young motherhood) that God wants you to enjoy. And to worship Him through. And you can do that in Midland.

    Your heart is so grieved for the fatherless of the world that I think you are exactly where God wants you. Aware. Vulnerable. Questioning. Praying. Seeking. Living. Loving.

    I'm in for Qingyundian. And that's saying a lot since i just got off the plane a week ago. With a toddler 🙂 It will be awesome.




  7. Oh Carrie! First off I felt like shouting out, “but you did make a difference! We wouldn't have our Samuel without you!!!” Because it's true, ya know.

    I don't have all the answers and I certainly haven't btdt, but I do know that each trip changed me and God dug a deeper and deeper place in my soul for His people there. Don't laugh, but just today Stephen was showing me a new app on his phone (a map one) and we scrolled over to China and I actually had to walk away for a time because of the lump in my throat. I know God wants me to be about His plan for me today, but the thing is realizing that for me at least, my today is so much about folks not in my obvious daily life. It's so much broader now. And that has changed everything. I don't know how many times I've said to Steve that I think I need to get on a plane back to China this next year. Sounds like I'm not the only one.

    Sorry this is muddled, typing in a dark hotel room while the girls sleep. Visiting friends out of town.



  8. We are still here too. We are so thankful for the time you spent at New Day. Every day we see the smile of a little girl that benefited directly from your prayers, hugs and love.

    We are very thankful for the time you spend in China and for the knowledge that you were there for our little girl long before we even knew who she was. I am sure there are many others that would say the same thing.

    It is hard to understand some of the changes that God has us go through in our lives and we too often do not see the big picture from His perspective. He used the time there in a great way and is using you now in a different way but all the same still using you.

    On behalf of our family and Maria, thank you for what you have done and for what you are doing and for how God will use you in the future.

    Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year.

    Forrest Robina and family


  9. I think our job in life is two-fold:
    1. To go and do and say what God wants us to do, to the best of our understanding and discernment of what that is, using prayer, Bible, Godly advice, discernment.
    2. To be content and allow God's joy to fill us in each moment when we are where we are. To trust that God is working. To be thankful (rejoice) in all of it. To be grateful for the part we have, however small, in making his will done.
    Number two can be a lot harder than it seems. I think that is what Philipians 4 is all about.

    When you have a one year old you are mostly doing physical things with/for them. As they get older, the amount of training you do becomes greater and I think as a parent you feel your purpose more strongly. However, it is during those willful moments as a toddler that you set the stage for everything else. Hang in there. Virginia Kearney


  10. Oh Carrie~ You have had such a year of changes. And not just little changes, but very large changes! Know that you are loved and you are prayed for. I think about you often and wonder how you, Jacob, and Cora are doing. I can't imagine adapting to life back in the states. However, someday I will probably be in your shoes. You have been such an inspiration and a blesisng to. Not only when I was in China but even after when I continued to follow your blog. And now that I prepare to move to China in the next few months for an indefinite length of time, I look up to you and know that I can do it. Definately not on my own, God is the one who goes before us in whatever situation we are in. Praise God for that!

    Thank you for being such a blessing to me and so many other people. One thing God has really taught me this year, is how He uses us where we are. You don't have to be on the mission field to be used by Him. I entered a job last year that I honestly didn't think I could do much but boy did God prove me wrong. He has given me SO many opportunities to share His love with others who are hurting and in need of Him. He's used me in ways that I never could have imagined!

    I am praying for you lots and know that you are loved by us but more importantly by our Lord and Savior. And He has a plan for your life. Wait in expectation of what He is going to do and how He is going to use you.

    Oh and I'm most likely going to Beijing for a few days before I head south so if you are up for a trip early March, let me know. 🙂

    Blessings to you dear friend!

    Much Love,


  11. OH…..I've never lived this, but I can imagine I'd be feeling the EXACT same way. AND…I'm reading “Kisses form Katie” and she talks about it in her book, and I get it then too.

    I'm the children's director at our church. People tell me all the time how many kids/families I am impacting by doing what I do. But, I long to do more. Something “bigger”. But, you know, what would that be? I long to move to China, but I can see that moving back would present me with exactly the same dilemma you have: “What was THAT all about?”. How the heck do you make sense of life in the US after THAT? I hear people have reentry issues after short-term (like two week) missions trips (like two weeks). I felt something similar after coming home from China.

    There is something REALLY hard, I think about living in the US. You can try to live by faith, but in all honesty….how often do we depend on faith alone for our every day lives? I mean for food? Or rent” or, you know, the things that we need to survive.

    I can imagine what you are going through is very hard, and to find a meaningful ministry where you feel God can use you and also to make sense of why you were there, and why now, you are back here……all I can say is, I'll be praying for you!!! I'm sure God has an amazing plan…don't you wish you knew what it was? Probably, you'll only see it in hindsight!


  12. Can I say one more thing….I think the fact that your reentry coincides with your first year of Motherhood has something to do with it. When I has Sawyer, so much of who I was was wrapped up in teaching and the community of staff/parents/students I had there. When i left it, I KNEW it was what I wanted to do and what God was calling me to do, but that first year with Sawyer- and without teaching was HARD. Really hard. I struggled to rediscover who I was and where I fit in a non-teaching world. I had few, if any friends, who had kids my age, and motherhood was so much harder than I imagined! And, also kind of (if I'm bring honest here) mindnumbingly boring). Sure, it was joyous at the dame time, but being stuck at home all day with a not-yet-one-year-old who can't talk and barely interacts with you….it's boring, and you CERTAINLY don't feel like you are doing anything “important”, except that , of course, from where I sit now, it looks OH SO IMPORTANT! And, the impact is more than you can imagine! 🙂 And, (here comes a cliche….) you'll miss these days. You really will!!

    But, seriously, I think the transition to new motherhood combined with other major life transitions (like moving and a job change- both of which you experienced, as did I when Sawyer was 4 weeks old, albeit not across the world) sort of leaves one feeling lost. So…..part of what you are going through is completely normal. And, about 4 years after God removed me from teaching, he gave me another ministry I couldn't imagine, and is allowing me to be part of His story in ways I didn't even know existed. So….there will be another season for you too! So….try to enjoy this season while it lasts. It is totally normal, but likely made worse by the complete polar extremes of your transition! 🙂

    And…I'm IN for a trip to China. OH, how I would love that!!!!!


  13. Dear Carrie, I'm living the life you left. I don't know if that gives me the right to comment, but here goes. I think you are asking the right questions, but about the wrong things.
    ” 'What was THAT all about.' It seems to have no connection to this new life of playdates and lunches and craft projects.”
    Seeing what you saw and knowing what you know, the question isn't “what was THAT all about?”. It's “what is THIS all about?” I hear your dissatisfaction, but I think it's not with what was, but what is…how do you return to your former life and go on as though nothing has happened. You can't, and I can't believe that God CALLED you back to the US to just rewind to 4 years ago! You are not the same, and your world is not the same. I am glad you don't wear 1980s dresses and eat bugs (neither do I) but I am sad if you are trying to REmake yourself into who you were before. God worked really hard with you in those years, do you want to throw that back at Him? I think the problem with RE-entry is the idea that it is about going back, I hope it isn't, I hope it is going forward, creating a new way to live, a new life, a new way to minister. I hope there is something so different about you, your passions and your past-times that you don't need to wear 80s dresses for the whole world to know that you are different.
    As for whether being at NDFH for 4 years made a difference? That is the deceiver talking to you. Of course, it did! You think nothing would have been different if you had not gone? If you weren't there, Jacob wouldn't have been there…would that have changed anything? What if NO ONE went. What would be different if every person said, “I won't really make a difference, there are others to do that.” That's the paralysis of the American church…everyone praying for God to send laborers, but no one praying for God to send them! Thank you for listening, for going, but God's mission for you doesn't stop on re-entry. There is no RE-entry, it's about asking God everyday, “What is THIS about? What am I HERE to do?”
    Looking forward to more blog posts on what your new mission is!


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