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When you run into problems...

You will find it very easy to fall into old habits after you return home. You may
wonder whether or not you're really growing - emotionally, professionally and/or
spiritually.  After the significant growth that came while living overseas, this can
prove especially difficult.

If you lived, studied and/or worked in a country where the dominant language
differed from your native tongue(s), most likely you faced regular challenges in the
language-learning process. As a beginner, those challenges loomed large. Just buying
things at the store may have been a difficult process; or figuring out how to get from
one place to another; or phone conversations. As time passed, it got easier, but you
definitely felt stretched. Even if you already knew the language pretty well when
you arrived, you probably still experienced moments of confusion, whether
linguistic, cultural, or a combination of both.

Regardless of linguistic and cultural fluency, no doubt the new people, things and
situations constantly coming at you kept living abroad an interesting experience,
even in the toughest of times. Now that you have come home, you might feel that life
has gotten boring. You may begin to question whether you changed at all. Perhaps
you see no end to the way your life is now, and you wonder whether you will get
stuck doing the same thing forever.

Connecting with people who have experienced these same feelings can prove vital
during this time in your life. One of the most important things you can do for
yourself is to find a spiritual mentor. This will help you not only as you readjust, but
also in the long term as you seek to grow. Look for people you can easily access, that
you admire, and ask yourself if they might become good role models. Don't hesitate
to ask for their help; many will eagerly share from their own experiences.

Falling into old habits might be the most common obstacle you face as you seek to
grow, but many other roadblocks can come up as well. Some of the most common
include making a poor choice or getting overwhelmed and losing your vision. Let's
take a moment to look at each of these.

Making a Poor Choice

We could also call this problem getting off track, or making a wrong turn. You
suddenly discover yourself headed in a direction that you didn't really want to go;
whether professionally, emotionally (in terms of relationships), or even spiritually.

For example a professional "wrong turn" might occur because you thought life as an
accountant would satisfy you not only financially, but personally too. You felt sure of
it as you pushed through all those challenging courses to complete your degree. But
when you got that first job back home, you discovered that you don't really like what
you trained to do. Or, maybe you like the work, but you hate the environment or the
company you work with.  Now what?

You would need to evaluate the positives and negatives of your situation before
taking action, because jumping from job to job can have negative consequences on
your career in the long run. No one except you can determine the final answers to
these questions - to change or not change, and how - but getting an experienced,
balanced perspective on the situation from a mentor can definitely benefit you as
you think through the situation.

In emotional relationships, especially close ones, one key question to ask yourself is,
"Can I see a future with this person?" Answer honestly, even if only to yourself. If
you honestly answer "no," seek others who can give you a wider perspective on the
situation. Once you have gathered the information and prayed about the situation,
make your decision.

Getting Overwhelmed with Life
This particular roadblock can occur at any time, whether at home or abroad. After
you've lived abroad, however, you now have an entire other "world" of friends -
literally all over the world - to whom you continue to relate. As time moves on, you
make more and more friends, expanding your contacts, so the possibility of getting
overwhelmed just keeping up with friends, not to mention all the other demands on
your life, can sometimes lead to feeling overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed can either paralyze or motivate you, and sometimes it can
even do both! You would probably prefer a more productive experience, but how
can you control this? Often, you can't, but you can learn to recognize the warning
signs and take steps to avoid falling into that pit.

Learn to read your body. Do you get regular exercise? Are you eating only junk food,
or not eating at all? Do you get sick regularly? Do you often feel anti-social? Do little
things irritate you? Do you cry a lot? Do you sleep too little or too much? Listen to
your body and your heart!

But don't just listen, act! Take a day or two off. Visit with an old friend. Talk to your
mentor. Find ways to relax. Physical exercise, looking for new ways to enjoy
yourself, spending time with a God who knows and cares - all these things will help
heal your heart and mind!

Losing your Vision
Losing your vision extends beyond simply taking a wrong turn or getting off track.
Losing your vision doesn't mean you have changed your vision, but rather it means
you have lost heart; or feel like you have lost the purpose in your life; you feel empty
and without direction in life. This can produce a sense of panic and despair.

You must realize that life is not static, but full of ups and downs. Many people expect
to reach the "mountaintop" - whatever it is - and stay there. God did not design life
that way. God designed life so that we don't feel too comfortable for too long-it leads
to unhappiness and ineffectiveness, which threatens our passion and vision for life.

Instead, God has designed an adventure - whether we acknowledge him or not - he
wants us to discover all he has for us. When vision has slipped or seems totally lost,
ask yourself this one question, "Whose vision have I actually lost?" Is it your vision
for your life, or is it God's plan for your life? As you seek the answer to that question,
you will likely discover a renewal of vision much greater than the one you had
before.

If you choose to follow Jesus and have him direct your daily living, take heart in the
following verses. Even if you don't consider yourself a Christ-follower, these
encouragements from the Bible might cause you to consider the claim that God loves
you and indeed wants the very best for your life.

  • "God is mighty, but despises no one; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose."
    (Job 36:5)

  • "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is God's purpose that prevails."
    (Proverbs 19:21)

  • "For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13)          



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