I think this picture is fitting for us as we head into our second year of ministry here in Poland. ALL the paths point “ahead” or “this way”… there’s no sign for “going back”!
This picture was taken in July when we were able to steal a few days away and go camping in New Hampshire with good friends. We went hiking and Josh snapped this picture. Little did I know how symbolic this picture will be for us this year!
First, our 6 weeks back in the States was NOT a 6 week vacation. So let go of any “envy” anyone might have in hearing that. There definitely were days and moments here and there that resembled a vacation, but I’ve come to learn that returning to the States will not be the time of “refueling and refreshing” in the sense I thought it would be. It was non-stop and it felt non-stop!!
First we visited family in WI, then family in IL, then drove out to NH and back after two weeks, and wrapped up another week with my family coming down to IL. We had back to back days that were literally packed with places to go and people to see. Don’t get me wrong, we have been craving it; we cherished it in the moment, and we LOVED it; NEEDED it; but all at the same time dying because of it! It’s the double edged sword! We now know and we can make adjustments and changes based on this first year’s experience.
We have so many people to thank, but a special thank you to both our sets of parents for hosting us in their homes, to our friends Chris and Judy for hosting us in their home in NH and allowing us the freedom to truly come and go as we needed and use their washer and dryer! Additionally, a special thank you to River of Life for having us speak from our hearts. No updates needed…. just the good, the bad, and the ugly and how God redeems that in our lives! AND finally, to all our friends in NH who we got to see, but not nearly or long enough. You allowed us the freedom to not feel bad if we couldn’t work out one more opportunity to get together. It just will never be “easy”!
What did we enjoy the most being back in the States? Well, I am not sure how to express it without it coming across that the Polish culture is wrong or bad. So may I preface everything with what I’ve always told my own students who were adjusting to American culture and life. IT’S NOT BAD OR WRONG…. it’s just DIFFERENT.
- smiling and greeting people as you walk by
- smiling and telling the toll worker to “have a great day!”
- smiling and saying “thank you” to the check out worker
- not feeling like the new circus show in town at the grocery store and having people stare and wonder “What are they thinking of me? Am I too loud? Am I smiling too much? etc, etc, etc… your mind rapidly fires off thoughts the other people are more than likely NOT even thinking about you!!
- standing in a line and not having anxiety about people cutting in front or how to “hold my own” in a line! All I had to do in a line was wait my turn!
- washing and drying laundry quickly
- Watchamacallit (yep, those delicious chocolate,caramel rice crispy candy bars I can only ever find at Walmart or 5 Below!)
- daydreaming while driving (you have to be constantly alert here… fast drivers, slow drivers, bicyclists, but interstate driving in the States allows me time to think and daydream while driving!)
- walking around a store and not having to “think” while looking at the price tags or signs!
- hearing English and participating in conversations easily
All of these may seem trivial and even silly, but many are underlying culture norms that can quickly and without warning become a huge heavy load of bricks on the heart, soul, and mind! So the return to our home and native culture in of itself IS refreshing, no matter how busy the time in the day may be!
BUT… let’s shift now to the picture. All the signs point in one direction. There’s no path going in another direction. There’s no going backwards. We have regained our sense of footing, purpose, and optimism. Was our first year messy? Hard? Filled with many feelings of failure? Absolutely. You don’t have to live in another country to feel or experience those things, so I don’t necessarily feel like we have something special going on. The circumstances for all of us are unique.
So let’s face our next steps together. I’m not sure which direction your sign is pointing, but for us, I’m confidant in this popular, yet poignant, verse of Scripture found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”