Faith: Renewing your mind after an international move


"I desperately need renewal because I feel so lost."

Those are literal words from my journal.
I jotted them down one week after our move back to the Netherlands (July 2022).
—I tell you, reverse culture shock is a real thing…

Big changes in life come with an impact. In my case, I had underestimated the impact of moving back to my home country after living almost 4,5 years in a country that I had started to love, Canada.

It wasn't just the country that I loved. It was the life as well: the people we were surrounded with, the church we went to (shout out to C3 Toronto!!!), the warm summers and snowy winters, the lattes for take out, the nature, our Jeep Grand Cherokee, I could go on…

Leaving such a life behind to return to family made me crash to the floor.

The question I was asking myself was: How did I end up here, completely deflated and defeated, while I know for sure God wanted us to move back?

Let me take you through the process that started on the day I asked myself that question.

Why I came to peace with the decision to move

My hubby and I had made the decision a couple of months before we moved. I had a hard time after our first baby was born—in the middle of covid, with country borders closed. That, and the combination of the wish to be closer to family while our kid was growing up, made us decide to move back.

But of course, I wanted confirmation from God.

Did He want us to leave my beloved Canada?

It was the Hillsong original through which God spoke when I asked Him for the answer.
There is a promised land waiting for me,
sometimes there's an ocean, that lies in between

Alright, it was confirmed.
But as the day of our move was getting closer, I was getting more anxious and unsure.

God, do You really want us to go?

I like it here.

Do I need to leave this life behind?

It was yet another song that God used to answer me. This time it was C3's original Instant.

You're the Messiah,
there is no other name
Where you go I follow,
I am not afraid
You laid your life down,
now I will do the same
My life on your altar,
I'm forever changed

Oh yeah, I needed to lay my life down as Jesus asks me to do.
Laying down your life doesn't just happen when you are saved, it appears.
It happens over and over and over again.

Where it went wrong when I was back in the Netherlands

So, God asked me to lay down my life in Toronto.

Fair enough, I obeyed.

While sobbing my eyes out in the taxi from our home to Toronto airport—consciously breathing in the last breath of our life-in-Toronto-air before I stepped into the departure hall—I surrendered to the command.

We landed 8 hours later and were greeted by the most loving family in the world.

Of course, they were happy.
Even I felt a little bit of happiness for holding them again.

We were taken to their homes.
We ate together.
We even stayed at their places while they resided somewhere else for a while.
We were welcomed back with an abundance of love and kindness.

And I appreciated it all, regardless of knowing it would be in-between phases before we would have our own place to stay and a starting point to rebuild our lives in the Netherlands.

After a while, those highs fade away and everybody goes back to doing their own thing in the Netherlands. The summer turns into fall and there I was, having my life laid down but not picking up the new one.

It appears, there's a difference between acting on the command and actually living it out.

After almost two weeks of being back in the Netherlands, I noticed I was yearning for my "old life" in Toronto, denying the "new life" I was asked to live.

Doing so meant I was disobeying God. After all, He told me to move and now I was refusing to accept and begin building a life here.

That's when I prayed things needed to change.

The change

2 Corinthians 4:16 and Ephesians 4:22-24 came on my path and have been my go-to verses for a long time.

After reading those, I began to pray for the renewal of my mind. It was with a torn heart because I still wanted to take the first plane back to Toronto. But the verses started to speak more and more and suddenly, it made sense what they meant in my specific situation—embracing the new life.

God gave me new perspectives and hope.
He provided a great place for us to live, a fantastic daycare for Judah, and a beautiful summer vacation—all practical things which were helpful. But on top of that, and perhaps even more important, He gave me rest and peace about the decision.

It's no surprise that the renewing of my mind, or rather the changing of my thinking, was a process.
It's not a light switch, it is two steps forward, one step back.

While making progress, I learned there's still space for mourning.

Of course, I still had days when I was super sad about not living in Canada anymore.

—Not being part of my church any longer.

—Not being able to go on a weekend retreat with the Born to Fly ladies.

And oh, *sigh*, nature, the lakes, perfect summers…

Then I remembered:

Jesus cries with me, and He walks with me. He makes my path straight and goes before me. That comforted me.

Closing prayer

Perhaps things in your life require a renewal of the mind too because they're occupying your brain and preventing you from moving forward.

Then pray this prayer with me:

Lord, I want to submit my life, my problems, my everything to you.
Even though I mourn for things I had to let go that were good, there is joy in the new.
Lord, renew my mind.
Come to me and fill me with Your thoughts.