The Familiar

Gina Butz transition 1 Comment

People might guess that our 13 years overseas in various locations means I’m a girl who loves adventure, but this would be an erroneous thought. I like familiarity. I like routine. I like consistency. I eat the same thing every day for breakfast, almost without fail. That’s how I roll.

One of our last weeks in Asia, I was driving a new friend around town, and she said, “I can’t wait until I know this city like you do. You just seem to know how to get anywhere.” Indeed, it was very familiar to me.

So here we are in Orlando this week, our future home, and I find myself longing for that kind of knowledge. I want to sense, as I’m driving down the 417, how much further it is to our exit. I want to have a need for a certain store and know instinctively how far it is from where I am. I want to be able to drive on mental auto-pilot to other parts of town. I want to know this place.

As I was pondering this yesterday, God reminded me that I do already have something constant, something familiar, and it is Him. In every new place, He is there. He is the same here as He was in Asia. His character and His ways toward me are steady and unchanging.

This is where I need to put my focus, my faith. My city view may change, but He remains the same.


Someday I will know my way around this place.

I’ve been there

Gina Butz transition 1 Comment

A man spoke yesterday at church. He was visiting from Africa, where he and his family work at a rural hospital. Listening to him, I felt a strong kinship. I could imagine the hardships he and his wife have to face with their four kids. I’m guessing that the decision to homeschool some and send one to boarding school must have been difficult. I suppose it’s not easy getting the things they need, that they can’t find, in rural Africa. If they’ve been there a long time, probably a lot of things they’ve just learned to live without, but things like homeschool books – what do they do? It’s probably exciting and fun for him to be back here for a short time, but also tiring. I imagine his wife and kids are doing the best they can in his absence. I hope they have good friends there, maybe other Americans, hopefully local friends as well, who can buoy them while he is gone.

I feel that life. I’ve been there. I know mine wasn’t the same as theirs – we all have our unique struggles and circumstances. But I felt blessed to be reminded that our life in Asia will always be a part of us, a part that will connect us to others.

My ET Reaction

Gina Butz transition 2 Comments

You know the part in ET when they go trick or treating and ET gravitates toward the kid who’s dressed like Yoda with his little “Ooooo!” sound? Yeah, that’s me these days. Let me explain.

While I feel like I am adjusting to the States and don’t feel nearly like the alien I anticipated, there’s an involuntary reaction that takes place whenever I am near or see anyone Asian. I call it my ET reaction. I want to move toward them, listening for their language. Often I am disappointed – they are Korean or Japanese (nothing against Korean or Japanese, but I can’t speak their languages). When I do hear Chinese, my heart skips a beat. I want to jump in and be part of their conversation, but it’s usually about something ordinary like the cost of the item on the shelf. I also find that people are weirdly shocked when I speak Chinese with them in America. I imagine they don’t have a category for that.

So I’ll just be content to move closer and smile and let it remind me of a place I love. And I’ll try not to make that noise that ET makes, because that would be creepy.

Project 365 September

Gina Butz photos 2 Comments

rainy days
A fitting last shot of China
Up early with jet lag
And NOT having to fight jet lag anymore
The backyard, instagram style
Evening practice
Most mornings one of them is here
reflection of the house
fog rising off the lake
ripe for harvest
driving the boat
boating at night
I’m in love with Minnesota countryside
Seriously, I am
My first time at IKEA in the States!
hard at work
Loki loves laps
Sibling wrestle time, with a side of dog
He had fun but boy was he cold afterward!
art class
bridge in the woods
I did not enhance the color of sky in this picture
Ethan’s creative shot of Megan
She OWNS that ball
Look familiar? I thought I’d get each season

Feeling the need

Gina Butz faith 0 Comments

Remember that need I was talking about a few posts ago? That “boy I sure hope I don’t forget about God here, I want to feel my need for Him” need?

Yeah, I’m feeling it. I know I didn’t really have a hope that I wouldn’t. God doesn’t let opportunities like that pass.

In the last few years, we’ve noticed some struggles Ethan is having with school. He often has difficulty recalling facts and information, even things he’s studied over and over. This, from the kid who can recall entire stories and movie plots in detail after one exposure. He second-guesses himself and loses confidence frequently. We have days where he insists his “brain isn’t working” that generally end in tears all around and me wondering how quickly I can pass him off to someone who knows how to teach him better.

This week it seems like all this has been more overwhelming than usual. Of course Erik being on the tail end of a 12 day trip, coupled with all of us hitting new waves of transition loneliness just adds to the emotional upheaval. I have often felt helpless, clueless, like a failure. In short, it’s been a rough week.

One night after praying with Ethan about that day, I sat down and began reading through scripture. As I did, I was overwhelmed by the thought of putting my hope in God. The more I thought about it, the more peace and assurance I felt. He has brought us to this place of need and He will lead us through it with His resources. Why was I trying so hard to scrounge up my feeble ones?

We don’t like to feel our need for things, but it is in feeling our need and expressing it to God that we see His character – His power, love, wisdom, strength, and glory, which is more than sufficient for our needs.

I Miss My Friends

Gina Butz grief 2 Comments

For the first week that I was in the States, I literally did not want to talk to anyone. I had used up all my words, all my social capacity, in the weeks prior to leaving. The introvert in me was crying, “Uncle!” and I couldn’t imagine a day when I would actually want, let alone need, to interact with people again.

Ok, so now I can.

I am immensely grateful that we are here staying with family. Right now that also includes my brother and sister-in-law who make life fun and meaningful. I’ve missed them terribly. My oldest, dearest friend Laura lives just minutes away and that too is very good. I love that I can text and call my stateside friends now (although I keep thinking about the time difference before I call, which is unnecessary).

But I still miss my friends. I am reading Addiction and Grace, and I wish I could talk to Karen about it because she read it too. I know that my friend Sung is moving and I wish I could be there to help her pack and watch her kids and consult with her on how to cover the landlord’s left behind furniture. My friend Tammy’s family had yet another trip to the hospital (they should really open a new wing in their name) and I wish I could be there to process it with her. I want to hear about Martha’s trip to Thailand in person. And on and on it goes.

I am thankful that God is surrounding us here with people we love. I am confident that in Orlando we will find new friends. But I can’t help feeling that I don’t just want new friends – I want my old ones here! This is when I start praying that they will all feel strongly led to move to Orlando. 🙂


My beautiful friends!

A New Normal

Gina Butz third culture kids, transition 0 Comments

An angry outburst. Wild energy. Quick words to cut down a sibling. Yet another crazy game sure to end with tears or yelling.

They might all seem like normal child behavior, but I have no gauge for normal these days. We have no normal right now.

So I remind myself to stop and ponder what lies beneath the behavior. I wonder what emotions are tucked away in a corner of their hearts, needing to bring drawn out in more positive ways. I remember that without other playmates as outlets, they have only each other for entertainment. It can’t be easy, and it can’t feel right. I know I need to step in more as buffer, comforter, companion. I try to weave these things together into a basket of grace for the kids and me, to help us as we try to define a new normal.


These children seem perfectly normal to me.


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Reverse Culture Shock

Gina Butz transition 0 Comments

Every good expat has heard of the dreaded Reverse Culture Shock. That’s where you go back to your home country and think, “This is weird! I don’t get it! I feel like an idiot!” and other unpleasant things like that.

I came back to the States fully expecting that at some point we would have this. I’ve had it before – those moments where I was paralyzed in the bread/toothpaste/deodorant aisle incapable of making a decision because there were so many choices. The awkward times when I hand the clerk my credit card and then am informed that I can (and should) do it myself. I still forget that, and for the record, I don’t like it.

This time I feel like all those potentially odd things that are different from Asia, to this point, don’t strike me as anything but quite pleasant. I like that there are lots of choices. I like that driving doesn’t feel like a test of my survival skills. I like that there is no one else on the streets in the morning when I exercise. I could get used to all these things.

But yesterday I hit my biggest moment of reverse culture shock. I went to IKEA.

I have never been to IKEA in America, only in Asia. So I was quite frankly weirded out by seeing prices in US dollars. It felt eerily empty. At no point did I feel like I was swimming against traffic. There wasn’t a single Asian person anywhere. I kept thinking, “Look at this – it’s all the same stuff. They brought it all from China.” (Yes, I realize this is not true). Actually, it felt like I was still in China and just happened to go to IKEA on Foreigner Day.

Megan’s cluing in to the reverse culture shock as well. In the bathroom the other day she said, “Mom, this toilet is really small. The toilets at Nonna and Babba’s are really small too. Wait – maybe ALL the toilets in America are small compared to China!” and continued on in this vein for awhile, supposing that people would think she was weird because she’s been using big toilets.

So we realize things are different, but so far we’re generally of the opinion that they’re good. I just don’t think I’ll go back to IKEA yet. That was weird.

Land of Sky Blue Waters

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

Did you know that Minnesota means “Land of Sky Blue Waters?” Actually, I think the original Native Americans meant it more like “cloudy waters” but we like to ignore the cloud part and just focus on the awesome blue skies. Minnesotans are positive that way.

When most people think of Minnesota, they think things like, “Why would anyone want to live there? Doesn’t it snow most of the year? Isn’t that in Canada? Is that even a state? Where is Minnesota?” All valid questions. Sure, the winters here last about 5 months and they can get so cold your nose hairs freeze together, but the rest of the year makes up for it, and that’s what we get to enjoy right now.

And enjoy it we are! I’m not an outdoor girl. Honestly, I could live in a bunker and it wouldn’t affect me much as long as I had enough room to run around. But there’s something about Minnesota in the fall that does a soul good.

The mornings here are cool – this morning I could see my breath at 7 am. The days are temperate and sunny, you can smell fall in the air, the leaves are changing. The pace of life here is slower, people you don’t know wave at you from the other side of the road or greet you as you pass by. When shopkeepers tell you to have a nice day, they actually sound like they mean it. And look at this picture, taken while visiting some friends who have a cabin near our cabin. This is a picture of the pond in front of the lake where their cabin is. This is their view, and what a lovely view it is.

All of this restores my soul, as it says in Psalm 23. God is using Minnesota to re-stock my soul with life-giving things.

God knew He was making a good thing when He made the land of sky blue waters.

The Homeschool View

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

One of the most frequent questions I have heard throughout our transition is, “Are you going to homeschool in America?” On the one hand, the thought of homeschooling in America sounds SO much easier than doing it in China, so why not? Hello libraries! Hello fast internet! Hello Amazon Prime that comes to my door in two days! Hello even more people who homeschool! Wow – that looks like I’m really excited, and also, quite friendly.

On the other hand, there are schools here. Schools that don’t ask me to decide between sending my child to 5th grade or her freshman year of college for tuition. Schools where our kids could learn things I don’t teach them, where they could have experiences they don’t get at home.

I’ve never been a hard core homeschool mom. Our decision to homeschool was more out of necessity than choice. That said, I don’t regret doing it; I see only good things that have come from it.

But as we look to Orlando, we’re considering the options. Florida itself is not known for its stellar education system (#48 out of 50?!?) but there are other choices besides public schools (and even those we haven’t ruled out). When we head down there in a few weeks, I hope to look at one of them in particular. I had previously written it off, but it’s run by someone we know and our dear friends’ kids go there, so our kids are all for it.

For now, we have three baskets full of books, binders and curriculum in the kids’ bedrooms. They mostly work at the desks in their rooms or on their beds. So far so good, but who knows how much longer we’ll have this view?