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? 

Lest you forget

Gina Butz faith 2 Comments

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers . . . with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord.” Deuteronomy 6:10-12

The first time these verses struck me (as Christians why are we always being “struck” by scripture? It seems so violent) was our 5th year overseas. I was in a great place. My mojo was strong – the kids were getting out of the tough toddler stage, my language skills were decent, I was able to use my gifts in fulfilling ways; in short, I loved my life. So I knew it was going to change.

I knew it, not because I think God is out to spoil my fun, but because of these verses which I had been studying at the time. I knew I was in a place where I was really comfortable. I didn’t feel like I needed God. I was in danger of forgetting Him. So God saw fit to move us, four months later, to Singapore, where . . . well, let’s say I felt my need.

But that was then. In reading this again now, I think of our current situation. This is the land o’ plenty, and I feel like I could get pretty used to it. I like showers with consistent water temperature and washing machines large enough to hold a person. I like blue skies and non-threatening traffic. I like speaking English. I like friendly Minnesotans.

So how do I not forget God here? How do I stay aware that even in the seemingly best, most comfortable, most easy places I am in desperate need for Him? I don’t have the answer to that yet; it’s what I’m pondering this morning. I just know that He is God here as much as He was there, and I need Him.

Who will you be?

Gina Butz faith, transition 1 Comment

will you put your hope in the Lord?

Prior to moving back to America, I read the story of Moses sending the spies ahead into Canaan.

All but two of them came back with a report that, although the land was flowing with milk and honey, the people there were strong and the cities fortified and large. These latter things were unappealing to them.

But then Caleb stepped up and said, basically, “We can do this.”

Joshua seconded that with, “If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us . . . the Lord is with us.”

I read this story around the time when our son seemed to be struggling the most with our future life in America. He’s a realist, like me (it sounds so much better than pessimist), and he was seeing the difficulties of transitioning to new friends, new places.

So I shared that story with him because when I read it, I felt clearly that God was saying, “Who will you be like Gina?

“Will you look ahead and only see the obstacles, or will you look ahead with faith and hope because you believe that I am leading you to this place?”

It’s hard to go into an unknown place after one you’ve loved so well. But this morning as I sat on the deck, warm sun on my face, I was encouraged by recalling this story. I’m not saying Orlando is the promised land 🙂 but it is the place to which He is leading us, and we will trust in His goodness as we anticipate life there.


If They Only Knew

Gina Butz transition 3 Comments

This morning I was just another runner in a race on a typical Minnesota fall day.

I was just another mom watching her kid play soccer.

In both, I felt a little like the secret weirdo.

I mean I was the only person who didn’t blink an eye when I saw that the three stalls in the women’s bathroom didn’t have doors. I was probably the only one who was breathing a lot easier during that 5K, or noticed that people were cheering in English.

During the game, I have to say I was pretty proud of Megan, who despite her only experience in soccer being bi-lingual coaching from a Swiss German with dredlocks alongside a gang of Chinese boys, seems to be one of the most skilled on her team. If not, then at least the fiercest and most determined. I didn’t feel like explaining all that to any of the other moms.

Let them all think this is as normal for me as it is for them. They don’t need to know how many times I’ve used bathrooms in the full presence of strangers, how I’m used to people staring at me like I’m insane when I run. They don’t know that we’ve never seen this many American kids playing soccer in the same place before, or that Megan’s not used to her teammates calling her name.

If they only knew.

Tap water and other novelties

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

America is novel to me right now.

This morning I watched a line of 5 cars creeping along behind a truck on a quiet road. The road was wide enough for three cars, and I thought, “In China, all of those cars would have gone around him, even if there had been oncoming traffic.”

Last night I threw a melatonin pill in my mouth and immediately realized it was not the kind you suck. Ack! Ack! What to do? And then I realized – I can drink this tap water. I have to say it wasn’t the best tasting water seeing as it was in the bathroom, but people, it was tap water. I walked around feeling weird about that for a little while.

Did you know that they make peanut butter Cheerios? And vanilla nut? Or something like that. I feel a little badly for regular Cheerios, like they aren’t good enough.

They have Crystal Light single packets that come in mixed drink flavors now like margarita, because nothing says, “Soccer mom who’d rather be at happy hour” like fake alcohol in your water bottle.

The grapes are big but there are no seeds, and the skins don’t feel like something you need to cut through with a knife!

America really knows how to do paper products. I feel like I’m wiping my nose with a blanket.

The internet is crazy fast here!

Yeah, I’m enjoying it all.