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.
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.
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).
James 5:6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.
Jeff and I tried to enjoy our last day here. Jeff did some more work on the church for Johannes, while I packed everything up and ready for the long days of travel lying ahead of us. We had one surprise today. Our friend from Westminster Presbyterian Church arrived today in Schonebeck. Chris was the one responsible for setting up our time here with St. Jakobi and I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was that we were able to spend some time with him here. We ordered a pizza for lunch and enjoyed talking about this past year for all of us. Chris is such a wonderful friend and we are so grateful for his help with arranging our time here in Schonebeck. This is was perfect place to start this year and finish it. Final packing was done by this afternoon and then Emma joined us after she finished school. It was wonderful to have her over and the kids loved playing with her (and Chris, who braved the trampoline). I love hearing the kids laugh and scream in delight outside.
We had an easy dinner and then everyone came over to say watch a slideshow that Jeff put togther of this past year and to say our final goodbyes. We were able to get some wonderful pictures in front of the church with everyone and I will cherish these pictures forever. The evening was filled with tears of sadness as we knew that it would be a while before we saw each other again. I was taken aback by Anjali’s response to saying goodbye. She was absolutely devastated. Tears were free flowing down everyone’s faces because once the girls started (Anjali, Saskia, and Emma) us adults couldn’t help but join them. I had no idea how difficult this would be for the kids and unfortunately I was completely unprepared. But in the end, we said our final goodbyes and put the kids to bed and Jeff went in to take a nap. We had a long two days of travel to get us back to Arizona and it was all starting at midnight tonight!
My heart aches when I look at these pictures because I am brought right back to the raw emotion and heartache felt when we had to say goodbye.
The progression of these group pictures just makes me smile. We had so much fun and they really capture the wonderful friendshps made in just a short 2 months!
As I write this blog almost a month later, I am going to condense our travels back to the States, our time in Arizona, and our move back to Wisconsin. So bear with me on the lengthiness of this post.
Our plan was to leave Schonebeck at midnight tonight and drive to Copenhagen, Denmark where we were scheduled for a flight to London and then to LA, California. Thankfully we left right on time and pulled away from St. Jakobi with heavy hearts and teary eyes. We made it to the airport on time and the flight to London was fairly uneventful, with only an hour or so of sobbing at the Copenhagen airport because someone wanted waffles and we could not produce them out of thin air. We barely made our connecting flight out of London to LA, but in the end, all was well and we safely made it back to the USA on Wednesday July 19 at 5 pm (only 24 hours after we left Schonebeck). LAX is like its own city, but we managed to navigate all 5 of us, sleepily through passport control and customs quickly thanks to Anjali’s need for crutches! We got our rental car and then headed to see my aunt and uncle who live just outside of LA. They were so kind to welcome us home with some hamburgers and hot dogs (though Lucia never made it, she fell asleep on the hour drive and never woke up). After a short visit, we continued on our way to Arizona by car and arrived at my parents house at 4 am, 34 hours later. The kids did great on this long journey. They walked inside to say their hellos to grandma and grandpa and then went straight to bed!
Everyone slept-in and when we woke up, we quickly realized that we had also bypassed jet lag. I am not sure if it was because we travelled for so long or that we all just got a good night’s sleep, but no one was off schedule and we all just jumped right in to catching up with family. It was so great to see everyone and to spend time visiting and playing in the pool. The kids were in the pool daily for hours and the rest of the time Jeff and I were struggling to find them things to do in the stifling heat of Arizona (bowling made the list of activities and Jeff even wore his saroong from Sri Lanka, or mirt (aka man skirt)). We shuffled the kids around to Gramma and Papa Hayes and to my brother and sister-in-law for sleepovers, which the kids loved, probably because of the alone time with grandparents and cousins/aunts/uncles. We had visits from lots of family and friends, sorted out some of the necessary things now that we were back (new cell service, paying some bills, dealing with issues that came up during our time away). Needless to say, Jeff and I were very busy, not to mention job applications and resume revisions to help the job searches.
We did have a wonderful day the Saturday before we left. We rented a boat at Lake Pleasant and spent the morning tubing, wake-boarding, and swimming in the lake. We even replicated a picture we had of Anjali and David from 10 years ago, but this time with Lucia in it!
I was blessed to get the opportunity to visit my best friend in Fort Collins, CO for a milestone birthday (don’t worry Kate, I won’t share your age : )). This turned into a wonderful blessing for me to have some peace and quiet to work on my resume, study for my exam, and update my online profiles to help with my job search. Kate was super busy with work, so we basically worked all day and then hung out in the evening; it was perfect for both of us who were feeling overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us. The plan for me was to catch a flight back to Arizona on the 4th of July in time for fireworks with the family; however, Colorado weather had different plans and I got stuck in the airport for several hours, not making it back to AZ until 1 am. So I missed out on the 4th of July celebrations, which included an Anjali original cake!
After a short sleep, we did some final packing and then we were off to Madison. We had arranged for Anjali to have a sleepover with her best friend for 3 nights right away; I think she was surprised. We also managed to schedule a play date for David and his best friend and they had a blast playing in the pool of our hotel. I think they were all happy to be back and with their friends (unfortunately Lucia’s friends were not able to meet up with us, but she didn’t even seem to mind).
Monday morning began the move into the new apartment and I quickly realized what a pain it is to move. We had gotten rid of so much stuff before leaving on this year, but as we were moving boxes after boxes of stuff I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of our belongings. More on this later.
On Thursday I took my licensing exam and was so relieved to have passed. As I was driving home from Milwaukee after the exam, I was reminded of the wonderfully supportive friends that we have here in Madison. My good friend Elizabeth, not only stored our belongings for this past year, but she also loaned us her car for 3 days to help up speed up the moving process. Then when we returned her car, our wonderful friend Sandy offered her car to me so I didn’t have to take the bus to Milwaukee for the test. We are surrounded by amazing people who have always shown us love and support and for this I am forever grateful.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
We took great delight today as we were treated to another day of peace, quiet, and some amazing play amongst our children. Because we are on vacation Sara and I have let the kids more or less decide how to spend their days. They have spent countless hours already on the trampoline, playing battleship, and recently they discovered the pool and ping pong tables in Fellowship Hall. While Sara and I were working on resumes and blogs Anjali and Luci were busily preparing a show. Anjali wrote out several songs (Mary Had a Little Lamb, Down to the River to Pray, etc) which Luci would sing to us. The girls put on an excellent display amd we were amazed once again at the talent our kids can show.
Because Johannes was out of town for a meeting we decided to have dinner at home and then meet up with the Hofmanns and Birgit for an evening swim. Birgit found a different water hole from our trip last year which was more remote and peaceful. We were surrounded by a large wheat field which made for some pleasant scenery and an especially wonderful sunset. The kids (and adults) had an amazing evening just being in the moment and enjoying a nice cool swim.