Rethinking Excited

“Are you excited about leaving soon?”

It seems to be the instinctive question in response to the news that we are (hopefully) moving soon. Let’s rethink this question, shall we? I appreciate the heart behind it, (I am not offended by it) but I never know how to answer it.

A more open-ended, “How are you feeling about leaving soon?” Is perhaps more accessible, but the answer is so complex.

A question like, “Are you excited about leaving?” often feels like the expectation is excitement and that not being excited is a problem to be fixed.

When you ask, “How are you feeling….?”, allowing safe space for the cross-cultural worker in your life to honestly express, “Today, I am terrified,” or “Today, I am feeling so discouraged,” will minister in deep ways. Resist the urge to fix the emotions. A simple, “Tell me more about that….” is often a profound help.

Some General Thoughts On Feelings….

Just what does a cross-cultural worker feel as they prepare to go? You could ask that to a dozen people and get a dozen answers. We all live in complex, dynamic contexts that add a variety of factors into the mix.

None of us exercise just one emotion (ie, “excited”) that we either turn off or on, depending on the day. In his excellent book Untangling Emotions, Groves uses the analogy of a paint bucket being mixed at the store. To create a unique color, a machine pours in a precise mix of various base colors that mix together to make something much more complex and beautiful. So it is with our emotions. We never are experiencing just one thing, but rather, we are always responding to a diverse range of emotions, circumstances, and reactions.

My emotional paint bucket is quite mixed. Vibrant joyful emotions mix with somber hues, all of which are normal outflows of the barrage of hellos and goodbyes, of transitions and new opportunities.

Some things I am feeling

As I prepare to depart on yet another international move, here are some of the things I feel:

  • Scared-cited – My husband loves to use this combination of scared and excited. In a recent podcast, Laura Wilkinson was talking about the feeling of stepping onto the 10 meter diving platform for the first time. You can’t just dip your toe in or go slowly. You either jump with both feet or you don’t go. This analogy describes pretty accurately how I feel. I am terrified of the unknown, yet I have that giddy excitement that comes before you compete or perform or try something new.
  • Grief – Going somewhere new requires leaving something behind. For our family, we aren’t just leaving family (including our aging parents) and places and people we love, but we are still missing what we had a year ago. No matter how sure I am we are making a good decision and are glad to be going, some days the pain of missing our home of 10+ years is searingly deep. The presence of crocodile tears doesn’t mean we don’t want to go, but I have found that the goodbyes get harder, not easier as time moves on. This stint in the States has been the longest our kids have ever know, and they have put down some unexpected roots with new friends and communities that they now have to leave.
  • Thankful – The faithfulness of the steadfast love of God has been a constant companion through some really hard seasons in the past few decades. At church last week, we sang, “All my life you have been faithful, all my life you have been so, so good.” I feel thankful for all he has done, and this stability that comes with remembering is a powerful ballast that anchors in the ups and the downs.
  • Expectant – Although I don’t know what the future will look like, I am anticipating the Father will work and do good things. I am hopeful that good, productive things lay on the horizon.
  • Anxious – Along with all the questions, I feel anxiety and fear and worry. Will I disappoint everyone who is watching me? Will my kids make friends? What if I hate it? Will we make it? Can I really learn another language?
  • Curious – It has been 18 years since I moved to a part of the world I’ve never been to. I don’t really know the culture, and I definitely don’t know the language (yet). I have so many questions about what reality will look like. What will our house look like? Who will we meet? What will business and family life look like in a few years? What unexpected opportunities remain to be seen?
  • And all the things I can’t put a word on…. some colors are easy to label. Red. Blue. Fuschia. Sometimes you can’t tell if a color is more blue-green or green-blue….and is that a hint of purple? So is my heart. Some days I feel mostly one thing, but often the mix is hard to distinguish.

Emotions don’t define us. But they are a vital part of who God created us to be as people made in his image.

I’m learning (and I hope you are too) that each of these emotions give me opportunities to interact with my heavenly Father in tangible ways. My grief causes me to draw near to the suffering servant who understands. It makes me long for a day when grief is gone. My anxiety forces me to work hard to trust and remember his promises. My gratitude gives me reasons to stop and pray prayers of thanks.

So many of you do ask questions and listen well. You are a gift to us. We are all learning how to walk better with one another, and I pray he continues to equip you as you encourage others in the journey.

3 thoughts on “Rethinking Excited

  1. I’m so thankful for you taking the time to explain the complexity of what you are feeling in this transition. I’m also so thankful that we have a Father who sees and knows all the various nooks and crannies of our hearts and He meets us there and calls us to move forward with whatever swirl of emotions we feel at any given second of the day. I love how tender He is as He leads us onward. May you feel his tender love towards you as you bring your family (with each of their own swirls of emotions) to a new place and give you wisdom as you care for each other.

  2. Thank you for sharing so thoroughly and helping us understand as well as how best to help you and all those who are going.
    I received your prayer cards, thank you! I like that I got a special one for your oldest. I feel a connection to him as he has been compared to our son❤. Also, he especially is at a tough age right now to be making such a big change. We came back to the States when I was 13. Puberty and culture shock is not a good combination. I will be praying for him to keep his identity solidly in Christ. This is something that I lacked — so he has an advantage already! And part of me believes it’s easier as a boy too. I hope this is true😉.
    As a former TCK myself, I feel I can speak into your concerns for your children. Take comfort — they are resilient! My siblings and I all agree that we would not trade in all the angst for the awesome experience of living overseas and how it has molded us.
    My heart goes out to you as a mother, now… praying for your courage and strength in handling transitions for your children. Lord willing, I expect to be seeing all of you soon and look forward to getting to know your children a little.

    I have a strong affinity for analogies, and love the idea of an emotional paint mix!. I also love to paint ( not pictures but transforming things with paint) and I love mixing colors together. I have recently noticed how black makes my favorite bright colors pop.
    S, may your “darkest feelings” only serve to illuminate the bright ones and help you see more clearly the beautiful picture that God is painting in your life . 😘 Romans 8:14-39 reflects this for me ( and no, I did not have that verse reference on the tip of my tongue — just the remembrance of ” promised hope” in Romans and I had to look it up. )


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