Living the Life we Lost

Living the Life we Lost | The Open Home

It’s been over two years since we lost the international life we had longed for in Malawi. After years of planning and four trips to the southern African country, the call we had felt throughout our entire five years of marriage and the dreams we had built together were coming to an abrupt end. We had come so far in our journey, but the door was closing and we knew it was time to stop pushing.

For the past five years life in Africa was all we had dreamed of. We felt called to full-time service and had felt sure Malawi was the place for us to be. We could almost taste our lives in this vibrant culture, our family living on less but gaining so much more.

Instead we were left with the option of raising our family in Britain, something we had never pictured. We dreaded having to be ‘normal’, living a hectic life fuelled by the societal expectations and consumerism that leaves people always wanting more.

We felt lost and bereft and few understood our pain. Where did we go from here?

Notes from a Blue Bike Promotional

In Search of Simple

Over the year that followed as I grieved for the expat life I had come so close to having, I realised that a major aspect of my grief was in connection to the slower pace of life that I desperately craved for my family. This lifestyle felt so far from reach in the affluent, British island on which we live.

I knew we were called to live more simply, to walk humbly with God and to make a quiet life our ambition, but I felt alone in my quest and did not know where to start. My search for kindred spirits led me to The Art of Simple, where I discovered I was not alone. Tsh Oxenreider, the founder and main voice of the site, along with the other contributors and community, spoke words to my heart that gave me hope.

A few years on and I am still being inspired by the words of Tsh. These past couple of weeks I have been reading through her new book, Notes from a Blue Bike and the first few chapters alone resonate so deeply with me.

With honesty and humour, Tsh tells the story of her family’s transition back to life in the US after working for a non-profit organisation in Turkey. It has made for rather therapeutic reading as I processed through some of the pain and confusion I have felt over this past year in losing the expat life we’d hoped for.

I have come to realise that I once naively thought that life in Malawi would instantly give me the lifestyle I so desired. Yes, it may have come more easily within this context, but simple living doesn’t just simply happen. A slower life is not dependent on a specific location, it requires hard work and a conscious effort no matter where you live.

Notes from a Blue Bike Promotional

Redefining Simple

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t live the life I would have lived in Malawi here, some cultural aspects just can’t translate over, but like Tsh, I find myself wanting to “import some of [the] practices from life abroad and remold them to our life here.” 

Over the last few years and with the help of this book, I’ve been able to redefine that life and dream into a lifestyle that will work for our family wherever we may go. A simpler, yet more intentional lifestyle that enables us to hold on to our convictions and live a slower pace of life that better fits in with our values.

As Tsh explains, “living slower requires living with intention. And to live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our soul – that makes sense deep in our being and ring true.” 

Our current situation may not allow me to keep bees and chickens, cultivate a veggie patch or compost. Nor does our island home provide us with an environment where we can spend family time together hiking mountains, camping in forests and going on road trips.

This is part of the dream and maybe one day along our journey this will come to be, but for now I have to ask myself, what am I able to do to live more simply today?

I am able to start urban farming on a small-scale, growing a few veggies and herbs in pots by my front door. I am able to take steps towards greener living by making homemade cleaning products and shopping both locally and ethically. And Guernsey may not have mountains or the open road, but what it does have is glorious beaches and ample coastal paths, perfect for spending quality family time together outdoors right where we are.

It’s taken a few years to slowly piece back together dreams for our family, and once again we feel we have a sense of direction, of purpose as we live the slower pace of life we thought we had once lost.

I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy, in fact it can be tiring at times to live a lifestyle that Western culture deems unconventional. I feel like we have been swimming up stream for many years now, but at last thanks to Tsh, The Art of Simple and Notes from a Blue Bike, I know that we are no longer swimming alone.

What choices have you made to start living simply?

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour.  To find out more head here.

Notes from a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. Grab your copy of the book here.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

10 thoughts on “Living the Life we Lost

  1. Heather January 31, 2014 / 14:34

    Excellent words! I have never lived in another country, but definitely feel the pull to slow down. I realize that it is actively making those small choices every day to savor every aspect of life. It is nice to know that I am not alone, that others feel the same pull to slow down like I do!


    • theopenhome January 31, 2014 / 22:49

      That’s so great, Heather! Like Tsh says, those small choices really do add up. For a long time I felt that it was all or nothing and my dream of a simple life felt so out of reach. However, I now take joy in each small choice and simple step that helps me to slow down.


  2. Breanne :: This Vintage Moment January 31, 2014 / 18:43

    Beautiful, Jessica. I felt the wave of emotions in your writing and I know a little bit of the grief process. We spent six months overseas right after our marriage and loved it. We are ‘wrecked’ for normal living and can’t wait to travel again. It’s been five years since we left the continent and finding kindred spirits is key to making the journey well.


    • theopenhome January 31, 2014 / 23:09

      Thank you, Breanne. I think travel really does ‘wreck’ us for normal living! Kindred spirits have been so crucial to us over these last few years, dear friends who just ‘get you’ and share you global perspective really do make a difference. How exciting that you travelled right after your marriage though! We too are keen to get travelling again, this time with our little girl!


  3. mcmeeshi February 1, 2014 / 19:51

    Yes, we are swimming with you and it is so good to know we’re not alone! Now that we will soon return home from two years living in Jamaica, we need to find new ways to keep life simple and intentional amidst a culture that values other things.


    • theopenhome February 3, 2014 / 10:25

      So pleased to hear you’re swimming with us. What an exciting adventure you are on, returning home after life in Jamaica. I’d recommend ‘Notes from a Blue Bike’ to you, it’s being suggested to people returning from overseas as it explores redefining your lifestyle and staying true to your values when living a counter-cultural life at home. It may be of help. I wish you all the best for your move back home, I hope all goes smoothly, both logistically and emotionally.


  4. Annie Hindman February 3, 2014 / 15:51

    I have a secret Peace Corps dream that my family will take off and do something great in another country, but I think I spend too much time dreaming that and little time serving right here where I am. I hope to open up to the work God has for us here. I’m happy to find you and so many others because of Tsh and her blog, and I’m excited to learn from everyone. Living with intention is hard work and it’s nice to have support of others!


    • theopenhome February 3, 2014 / 21:01

      That is so great Annie, to serve God right now where you are, whilst still holding on to your dreams. Faithfulness in the little things! It’s so wonderful to be part of a growing community thanks to Tsh, isn’t it? I’m so pleased you are on a similar journey and so enthusiastic to live life with intention! I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing your story unfold.


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