Saturday August 24, 2019

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

As I was driving to work at the restaurant last night I realized how much I am struggling putting God first; I have gotten too wrapped up in the day to day routines we have created since being home. Let me back track a bit.

I have been working at a restaurant here in Madison about 5 nights a week since moving back to Madison. This has been a wonderful opportunity and is helping us to create a savings again, but it has also been trying on our family and me. I am going to work between 3 and 5 pm and then not getting home until 12-2 am. This means that I am not able to get up for the day until 9 or 10 am. Our schedules are completely off balance and out of sync.

But some great news is that I was offered (and I accepted) a job with one of the hospitals here in Madison as the ER Social Worker. I am so excited about this opportunity to give back to the community using my education, skills, and experience.

We have found a routine amongst all this change. Anjali joined the swim team immediately upon our return and competed in her first meet the Saturday after we got to Madison. Since then she has been practicing every morning and then doing swim lessons with the David and Lucia. So we have been spending our mornings at the pool, which is not a bad place to be, but now swim team and lessons are done and we are shifting gears to prepare for school to begin on September 3rd.

This upcoming week the kids have their back to school nights and Anjali has an assessment to evaluate in which math class she belongs. Mixing this in with David’s Tae Kwon Do classes he resumed last week and my work schedule at night, has left me completing the tasks and planning to make sure everyone can get where they need to go, but forgetting why we are doing all of this, for Him.

It was so easy to keep God at the center of our every move, change, challenge, joy, etc. during our year abroad. He was the reason we were where we were. I am just finding it extremely difficult to do the same thing here. I am getting lost in the routine, which is not a bad thing, because we need that routine. I guess I realized, as I was driving to work last night, that I have not had God at the center of my world. I let myself forget the why behind everything I was doing. I guess it was easy to do it last year while all we were doing was serving His children; it just came so naturally and most of the time I didn’t even have to think about it. I am saddened, but also feel challenged to do this now. I need (and want) to find the ways to put Him first and to make Him the reason I am doing everything. I want remember and live the “why” in all that I do; driving to work, serving folks a meal or a drink, working at the hospital, engaging and parenting my children, and in my relationship with Jeff.

Last year was so amazing and I attribute that to the fact that all that we accomplished and experienced, we did in His name and with God at the center; He was our “why”. I desperately want to figure out how to do that here, where we are challenged by daily routines and busy schedules. I know it is possible, I just have to find what it looks like for me. Which means that I will be doing a lot more praying and building that relationship with God that I have let slip. I will be making an active effort to remind myself that He is the reason for everything; for every blessing, every challenge, every joy, every opportunity, etc.

I think where I am going to start is to write this scripture down and strategically place it in several places I will regularly see, around the house, in my server book, in my wallet, etc. Hopefully this scripture will remind me that when I put God at the center the rest will just fall into place.

Monday July 29, 2019

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Today has been quite exciting, and it is only 11 am. To begin, I had a phone interview that went really well and I am very excited about this opportunity. Then to add to the excitement, I received another email for an interview later this week. It is a wonderful feeling to have things actually starting to happen with the job search.

I am feeling rejuvenated and hopeful that God’s plan is finally starting to be more visible. I feel energized and excited about the employment opportunity in front of me and it is helping me gain some confidence that I am qualified and that I am capable of finding a career in my field again.

I am also really enjoying my new job at the restaurant. My last 2 shifts have been training as a bartender and I am loving the challenge of learning something new and the fast-pace required. I am constantly moving and love that I am doing something different from just waitressing. I know that this is not a career for me, but it is definitely providing me an income, it is just an added bonus that it is challenging and different. I finish my shift feeling tired, mentally and physically, which feels great.

The kids are doing great. We have a meeting at Lucia’s new school with the principal to discuss her upcoming year and her educational needs. She is so excited to see her new school and I am interested in how the school is going to address her advanced knowledge. We are still waiting on getting in touch with the middle school for Anjali and David. I think David is probably the most anxious about school, in large part that the school is very large and I think he is just intimidated and nervous about the size. Once we can get him a tour of the school to learn more about where his classes will be,  I think he will feel better.

(I realized I forgot to post this last month!)

Thursday July 25, 2019

Jeremiah 29:11  For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

When I didn’t know what to write about I did what has always helped, I turned to scripture (and Google). This scripture showed up at the top of the list from my Google search “scripture on finding God’s will” and it could not be more helpful. My biggest struggle right now is knowing and understanding where God wants me to be. What is His plan or path for me? Reading this scripture gives me more comfort than I can express in words. I know that He will guide me and show me the way, I just have to be patient. But the fact that this scripture was at the top of my search list, I internalized it as God’s words to me. He is directly telling me that “I have plans for you”, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope”. It is the affirmation of all that I believe and know to be true; God will always provide for me and for you, and I just needed to hear it. 

While these words do give me immense comfort, it still doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t have a job, I don’t have a direction or purpose right now (or I just don’t know what that is). As I have reflected on my last post, I realize that a big struggle for me is that we went from serving others for a year, and loving every moment of it, to doing nothing. I know there are plenty of opportunities to serve here in Madison and the surrounding areas, but I am hesitant to commit to projects because I do not know what my schedule will be in the future and the last thing I want to do is to commit to a project and then have to back out because of a new work schedule. As I write this though, maybe that is my problem. I have all these contingency plans rather than just doing what brings me joy, which is volunteering.  

Writing can be so enlightening. I feel like I have a direction. Just in writing the previous paragraph I realized my true problem. I need to volunteer and I need to do it now. I am craving that feeling of helping others and am lost without it. I know this won’t resolve the issues I have with the culture shock of being back in the US, but it will definitely help with my lack of purpose (I hope). My new task over the next week is to find an opportunity to serve in Madison. I don’t need to wait until I have a job before committing to a project and if I need to adjust my volunteer commitments because of my job, I can do that too. I don’t know why I felt that volunteering had to come after finding a job, but I did and thankfully in writing I have seen that is just not true!

I am feeling a bit of renewed energy. I actually got so excited that I paused writing this blog to search for volunteer opportunities here in Madison and I requested more information on a couple opportunities. I am already feeling a new spark that has been missing. 

On to another topic, I have been working hard on revising my resume and have been sending it out with countless applications for positions here in Madison. Up to this point I have not had much response as far as interviews/follow-up, but after talking with a good friend, I was assured that this is not uncommon. I know I have the skills and dedication to make a difference in our community through my work, but I just haven’t figured out how to get my resume noticed. Things have changed quite a bit since the last time I was actively searching for a job, but I am committed to getting back to work and I know that the right job is out there, somewhere. I guess I need to have faith in God’s promise to me, “I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

Friday July 19, 2019

Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

We have now officially moved in and boxes to be unpacked are minimal. I am actually feeling settled into our new apartment. We are in a beautiful area, backing right up to a conservation park with biking and running trails galore; we are in a great school district for our kids to attend excelling schools; and the apartment itself is brand new and surprisingly spacious. With all of these blessings for which I am truly gratueful, I am still feeling completely lost, even a bit sad and down, and because I recognize the overflowing of blessings I can’t help but then feel frustrated that I am struggling so much to find the joy in all of this.

I knew coming back to the US and back to reality of life here was going to be challenging, I just never expected this. I didn’t expect to feel lost, like I am spinning in a circle just trying to find the path that God wants me to travel. I just don’t feel like God has called me here, but then I don’t feel that He has called me to be anywhere else. It’s like I can’t figure out my purpose for being here and it is making this transition very difficult for me.

This past year has been absolutely amazing. I have learned so much and I gave everything I had and truly felt that I had so much more to give, but yet it ended. I guess I just didn’t want this experience to end, but now that it has (at least as it pertains to being abroad) I need to figure out a way to make my life here in Madison that purposeful. Jeff has been wonderful in talking me through this process and listening to me cry, weep, etc. as I try to explain what I am feeling.

One thing is that I am finding these two weeks here to be mundane. I know, what is mundane about moving into a new home? But it’s the mundaneness of unpacking boxes, going to the grocery store, to swim team practice and lessons, buying the things we need for the new place, etc. that is getting to me. I feel like I have lost that fire, that spark that gave me so much joy when we were in Germay, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and Romania. I just can’t seem to find that spark here and I don’t know how to ignite it. I feel like I am getting sucked back into the life of a consumer, back into living a life of privilege when so many go without, back into a life without the “why”. For the last year we moved every 2 months, lived out of a backpack, and left everything comfortable and everyone we loved behind to follow God’s call. So where is His call now? Why can’t I find it? Why can’t I hear it or see it or feel it? I know He is there, but I don’t have the “why” we are here.

I am a big fan of checklists. Make a list of things to do and then when completed, check them off! When we were gone, I still had those checklists, but there was a purpose behind everyone on them. Here, I am just spinning, waiting for the “why”, the purpse, to become more evident, but in the meantime, I am lost. Is this the right path? Or this one? Maybe this one? There are so many to choose from and I can’t discern which is the one He wants me to be on right now. I know that I can do anything He asks of me; I have already proven that to myself over this past year. I believe and have unwavering faith that I can accomplish anything with God’s help. But I don’t know what it is that I am supposed to accomplish here. My checklists have become meaningless. They are just tasks to be marked off each day, with no real joy in completing them. Sure, I get them done (and they need to be done), but why I am doing all of this? I feel like I could be doing so much more. I have more fight in me and yet I am sitting on my balcony surrounded by privilege, idling.

This sounds awful, I know. Complaining about the privilege like it’s a curse. But I loved the life without the privileges and I thrived in those environments because I knew everything we were doing was for Him. He always took care of us and provided us with what we needed; we never went without. It was not easy and there were many challenges along the way, but it was always for Him. I guess I am just missing His direction, His calling, His guidance. I feel like I have so much for to give, but I am just idling. I don’t want to be idle and even worse, I don’t know how to be idle. I am busying myself with to-do lists and checklists to hide from the fact that I don’t have a purpose, or at least I haven’t figured it out just yet. But how do you go from spending an incredible year serving and putting others first to then immediately transitioning yourself to the comfortable and familiar? I am missing the unfamiliar, the challenges, and the uncertainty we faced and I don’t feel them here.

I am also struggling with the immense oer abundance in our country, the excess and the waste. I walk into a store and am immediately overwhelmed and in a sour mood. As we were moving our belongings from storage to the new apartment I was disgusted with the quantity of boxes we had to move and how most of this stuff I didn’t even miss. I know that we need to have pots an dpans, plates and bowls, cups cutlery, etc., but what about the rest of this stuff? I do understand that over this past year we had all of these necessary items available to us in the places where they were needed and that we now need them here to function, but beyond those items, why do we need all of this? All of our excess is leaving me feeling sick. As I was unpacking our clothes I found myself beyond overwhelmed. I actually wanted to cry one morning becuase there were too many choices of things to wear; I couldn’t handle the quantity of choices so 2 giant garbage bags of clothes were filed and dontated. Additionally, as I went through the 3 tubs of stuffed animals that my kids “can’t live without” I was instantly in a bad mood, getting short and snippy with them because there were just “too many”. As it relates to the “stufies” I quickly realized that these things brought my children comfort in this time of uncertainty, but it still didn’t squelch this knot and pit in my stomach over the sheer abundance. (In the end they kept everything except only a few they could “live without”.) Because they brought the kids comfort, I could not tell them to get rid of them and I also realized that this was my burden to bear, my problem to overcome, not theirs. But I don’t know how. So I say again, I AM LOST.

I don’t have the answers for any of this. Hopefully in sharing and writing I will find comfort and maybe even get a gilimpse of God’s plan for me now. Last night, after another tearful conversation, Jeff asked me to reflect on this scripture, Isaiah 41:13, For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” I know that God is with me. I have never doubted this. My problem is that I can’t hear Him to know where He wants me. I want (and even need) to be where He needs me and since I haven’t heard anything else, here I am. I am back in the Madison area and idling, waiting for Him to speak to me and tell me where to go and what to do next. I want to do His work, but for the first time in years, I don’t know what that is. So I am right back where I started, doing the same things I did before this trip and yet I am not that person anymore, but I don’t know how to incorporate this new person into the old activities of living out God’s word here. I continue to pray, hoping for some discernment. I know it will come, but on His time. I am just lost in the waiting. I found another scripture that is also relevant and so I wll close with this, hoping that it brings that faith I am needing right now…”The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to keep still.” (Exodus 14:14). So here I am standing still, lost and waiting for God to call me and tell me where to go next.