The Real and the Ugly

Processing the Real and Ugly

I knew the process of reaching the end of me, processing grief would be hard.

I knew it would be gut level. I knew it would dig deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced before in my life and I knew that moving to Africa would bring me to that place.

But I didn’t know it would get so ugly. so personal. so so real.

I had no idea.

Maybe it is just me, maybe I feel things to close to heart, I don’t know… but I’ve never heard an overseas worker really talk about the inner battle that occurs deep down inside the heart of a person who walks this road. A person who gives up family, home, culture, language, belongings… to go to settle in a new land.

I don’t know if it’s just me or not… but I’m processing the real and the ugly.

Trying to get to the core of what God is trying to show me in this season.

We were sitting at lunch, Jeremy and I. The sun was bright and the trees still in the full bloom of rainy season. Temperatures were sitting right at 100 degrees and the mosquitoes were out in full force.

I sat there, contemplating everything and feeling close to tears. Then, blurting out a question, asking Jeremy, “What is the hardest thing for you right now?”

He commented on a few situations… in a manly, to-the-point way of course.

I, all girly and teary, responded when he returned the same question.

Tears. Big, fat crocodile tears dripping down my sunglasses and onto the table beneath my elbows.

Answering that question was easy. I can list all kinds of things that are hard for me. Things that more than ever before are making me want to go home.

But why?

What is at the core of those hard things?

I just kept talking… poor Jeremy… trying to work out in words… again poor Jeremy… what I was feeling and thinking.

{and now poor you because I’m still trying to work it out in words… this time in print, right here}

Every hard thing I could list boiled down to processing grief, processing the loss of me.

Just when I think I’ve dug deep enough in this season… more layers appear. More dirt falls in the places in my heart I thought well dug. More shovels of feelings that need hefted, sorted and dealt with.

Again, just me? I don’t know.

But, as I talked and cried and reasoned out loud, I felt it truly boiling down to that one word. Grief, pure grief.

Not just the end of me, but MISSING me, and processing grief.

Missing the “capable, independent, fluid, multi-tasking, get it done” me.

Missing the homeschool planner, the teacher, the minivan driver, the coffee date organizer, the Chick-fil-a frequenter, the mall visitor, the Target shopper, the Jeremy helper. Missing the girl with long, blow-dryed hair, a little brush of makeup and cute boots. Missing all that she was in some other place where all of that was possible.

Just plain missing the me I used to be, digging into a deeper layer that I didn’t even know was there and grieving her loss.

Processing Grief – Global Trellis resources for global workers

Who is this girl? What is she becoming? And even deeper, do I even WANT to become her?

The Real and the Ugly

Then, the guilt hits for even thinking such thoughts. Who thinks such things?

And while still talking this out with Jeremy, I heard myself saying, “Jeremy… I’m so tired of trying to become someone that I’m not. Every single day I have to braver than I want to be. I have to be physically and mentally stronger than I am. I have to be more courageous, more street smart, more out there, more out of my comfort zone. Every day I have to push and push. Learn and discover. Try harder than the day before. To live here I have to face fears and jump hurdles and climb mountains. To thrive here I have to get new skills. Nothing that I was before will work here. Nothing that I know how to do already helps me here. The ME that I want to be can’t succeed here. A new me has to be born and I just miss me, the old me. I want ME to be all that’s required for a day. I’m tired of having to be something each day that doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to fight to be brave and courageous. I have to fight to be street smart. I have to fight, look fear in the eyes and climb another mountain and learn a new skill that I have no idea how to do. I want to be free to be me but that doesn’t do me any good here. and I know there is no easy answer. there is no way through but through…”

The words just kept pouring out. Honestly, the words have yet to stop.

I keep turning them over and over, letting the honesty of them bring clarity to my feelings about this place I find myself in.

It takes time. Lots of time. The settling in is more than just putting our clothes on hangers and getting our internet hooked up. Although each of those things took many days…

The settling in is personal. deep. multi-faceted.

And I find myself smack dab in the center of this ugly, real, settling process.

ResourceLooming Transitions by Amy Young

No way through but through…

The Real and the Ugly

I was praying this morning, crying out to God for His help. Knowing if He wants me to live here, He’s going to have to supernaturally birth a new me. Breathing sweet prayers, asking God to make a way through for me.

After a few days of truly just sensing God loving me through the tears, sadness, and grief, I felt prompted to re-read Jeremiah 1, the chapter God used to call both Jeremy and I to overseas work.

So, I did. And, Hmmm… God still, just like the last time I read the passage, had answers for all of Jeremiah’s reasons for not being able to do what God was asking him to do.

As God opened my eyes, I again saw in that story, the end of Jeremiah. The end of who he was and life as he knew it as he took up the call and followed God’s plan.

{It sure wasn’t a pretty plan and I can see why Jeremiah didn’t want it.}

But, he did it anyway. For the love of the nation of Israel, Jeremiah laid his “me” down and picked up the call of God.

That recognition in Jeremiah’s story of the same sacrifice I face – truly we all face, this laying down of ourselves – reminded me of something King David once said. At the end of 2 Samuel 24. Verse 18 begins the story of when David refused to take land and animals for free, wanting to offer God a sacrifice that cost him something.

David said it this way in verse 24, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

But go back just a few verses. Why was David offering this sacrifice anyway?

Because he’d sinned. He’d counted his fighting men. He wanted to make sure his army was strong enough, equipped enough, brave enough, big enough, smart enough to face any enemy. He wanted to be sure they were skilled, ready, and courageous.

He wanted to know all these things were in place before trouble even knocked on the door.

And God didn’t like it.

God didn’t want him counting his fighting men, his strengths, his assets.


Because GOD was ALL David needed.

David didn’t need any of those men, whether he thought he did or not. If God wanted them to win the battle, they would win regardless of numbers.

This is what I need. I need to remember that God is all I need.

I don’t need to be anything but me because God will step in, as promised and make a way for me. He will step in and be everything I am not. He will do what I can not do. He will be all that is needed.

He just wants me to willingly be a part of it.

But that is hard to wrap my brain around when I still have to physically walk these tough days… still grieve.

In the book I’m currently reading, the author says, “I love the fact that God’s plans cannot be thwarted. No matter what battles are raging in your life today, recognize that God is sovereign. His faithfulness will come through for you.”

I’m clinging to that truth today.

Still missing me. Still tired of daily needing to be more than I am. Still knowing that to get through, I must keep moving forward, moving through, learning new skills, putting on my brave face and wearing my big girl shoes.

In that missing of me, I’m trusting that God in His great faithfulness, will work it all out, fight the battles, walk before me, pave the way and guide this new me I’m becoming. Knowing that He is loving the me I am today. He truly is a Good, Good Father.

Like David, I refuse to offer a sacrifice that costs me nothing. I refuse to live this life and reach the end without having ever fought a real battle of faith, without having walked through the fires of life, without reaching for new heights in my relationship with Jesus. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines… I want God to take me all in.

Even when it costs more than I want or feel able to give. I refuse to get to the end and realize that my offered sacrifice really cost me nothing when God freely gave everything.

But the process is real, ugly and painful. 

What process are you going through in your walk overseas?

Have you ever felt this way?

What do you do in processing grief, transition, change and pain of choosing to follow Jesus?


  1. Ugh this today, bringing tears as I sit reading this in my boys room after putting them to bed. Putting words to the inner ache of this season. Thank you for sharing so transparently as always. Your words always remind us that we are not alone in the wrestling of this overseas life.

  2. So often I lean on 1 Corinthians 10:13. The last part of the verse says, but when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can endure it. The Word doesn’t define the word “tempted”, but it says to me when I am tempted to give up He will provide a way to help me stay on course. He asks that I put complete trust in him & when I do that…. I am free to continue the path He has chosen for me. You are such a special lady & I know with out a doubt your journey can & is more difficult than we can imagine. So we pray & ask God to be with you & give you strength for your journey. We love & appreciate you more than we can put in words.. Praying for you always.

  3. Jennilee, thanks for this sacred invitation into your wrestling with what feels like the death of yourself and trying to discover what God is doing in the bigger picture.

    I love the way that you said, He loves the you right now. There can be peace there, in knowing that and in trusting Him as your Good, good Father.

    Your words made me think of the book God Among the Ruins, by a dear friend of mine Mags Duggan. It’s centered around the book of Habakkuk as it unpacks Mags’ grief and anger toward God over her niece’s battle with cancer At one point, she cries out in desperation, “God, I need you to be more.” He responds with gentleness, “More I can do.”

    May you also find God to be more for you than you’ve experienced before. He is for you. And there is Hope.

  4. Thanks for sharing Jenilee. God is so patient with us isn’t he. I’m so glad his grace extends way further than we know! Even into the places that we didn’t know about. I know the Holy Spirit has been praying for you when you didn’t know how to pray and now the break through for the growth to happen is here. Praise the Lord! He goes with you right where you need to go! Also, we are reading the same book! How fun to know we are both spending time with the same words! Love you sister! Praying for you!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, Jenilee. Lately, I’ve felt called to something different. Life has gotten comfortable and I know this is not the place God wants me but I’m scared to step out in trust. Thank you for reminding me that God wants all of us and that is not something to be avoided but to welcome, even though it may be painful. And now I’m going to read Jeremiah with new eyes. Praying for you!

  6. Thanks for sharing, I understand how you really enjoyed who you were and where you were, but felt the Lord calling you to somewhere and to be someone beyond yourself (the self you really like!)
    Thank you for sharing your heart a bit, I’m (God willing) about to start this journey soon with my husband and the Lord is working with me through these things now, your perspective was very relatable for me!

  7. It is really heartbreaking to read about all this pain and confusion you suffer from! A move to Africa is definitely a big step to a place completely different and it isn’t easy to adjust! People who move abroad often fight depression and homesickness for months or even years… I wish that you get better and find the answers of your questions in your heart. Thanks for sharing!

    1. God is so faithful! Even since writing this, God is speaking and helping and guiding me through. I am thankful to be on this journey with Him. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done yet it is also the most amazing!

  8. Nope, it is definitely not just you! You describe it so powerfully. It’s not just the sacrifices and inconveniences. It’s that those things strip you of yourself, of who you’ve always known yourself to be. And the redefining of self is a scary, messy, holy process. Thank you for opening up in the rawness of it all.

  9. Amazing how women in different age groups, different areas of the world and in different vocations can be mourning the same thing. Yet there is anticipation for the new and strength given for each day to hang on and persevere. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable. My strength verse is Nahum 1:7…praying it gives you courage today. I will be praying for you each day at 10 PM Ohio time…that is my promise to you.

  10. Reading your blog today felt like reading my own words…put more eloquently. I have been going through this same exact process. We moved to Asia about 16 months ago and I feel like everything about me has been stripped away leaving me feeling very vulnerable. Like you, the old me is not useful in this context. There is so much grief associated with dying to self. But I keep looking to Him to make me a new creation here that can be a useful tool once again.
    Thank you for being real and honest. You are not alone in this process.

  11. A couple of years ago I fell in love with the prophet Jeremiah. Wow. Talk about a crazy life he lived and you hit the nail on the head when you said he had to give up himself to take on God’s call of who he should be. I’m sure in his flesh he would have wanted things differently, but it wasn’t about his flesh, it was about God’s story and Jeremiah’s role in it. May we keep that at the forefront of our mind. It’s about an eternal story, not our story here on a temporary place.

  12. wow…i really need to hear the truth of it today. changes in me are different that yours, but so much the same. i appreciate the thoughts of letting of the end of me. praying with you for God’s comfort as you move through your comfort zone. miss you all. lv

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