God’s Grace

“So have no fear, I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. – Genesis 50:21

I can’t believe we have already been back for 8 months. So much has happened and I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming grace and love God has shown us. One of the biggest fears Jeff and I had about our year of service was the return home. We didn’t have worries about the travels or the new places, we worried about the return. We were going to return home jobless and homeless. Could we find a place to live that still provided our children with a good school, moreover, one we could afford and qualify to rent since neither of us had a job? Could we even find a job? I haven’t worked professionally in 12 years, and Jeff just left a job of 20 years. What was this going to look like for our family? Despite these fears, we forged ahead, living on our faith that God would provide.

We had an amazing year volunteering and serving God’s people, animals, and earth. I do believe that we wanted to have the faith that He would not foresake us upon our return, but there a few times we questioned His promise to us. Even though we were volunteering and in most places working almost full-time, coming back was re-entering “real life”. Finding stability for our family was a whole different kind of challenge.

Our pastor spoke of fear a few Sundays ago and it reminded me of the fear we felt before leaving for this year of service and the many conversations Jeff and I had about our return. I am not sure who “pushed us off the diving board” but we did get pushed, and we left, not knowing what it was going to look like on the other side. That worry and fear never dissipated; it would come and go throughout that year and would become ever more prominent as we approached our last few months abroad.

We struggled to find a place to live. We knew we had friends that would house us, if needed, but it that wasn’t what we hoped to do. We were denied multiple times for apartments because neither of us had an income, we had the money, just not the job. I applied for 40-45 jobs, and Jeff the same, but nothing. I worked as a waitress before we left to earn some extra money and thankfully my old manager gave me job, which was something. I was so grateful to my old supervisor for verifying my employment as a waitress/bartender when we were still overseas. His faith in me, and his friendship, allowed us get into a beautiful apartment in a wonderful school district. God’s work already at hand. Plus, I had a job and was so thankful for that.

As I look back over the last 8 months, it could not be more clear that God was at work in our lives, making sure we had what we needed, just as he had done over the previous year. It may have been stressful and a little scary, but Jeff and I continually reminded each other to be patient. Things needed to happen on God’s time, not ours.

This past few months have been so overwhelming. God’s work in our lives is still constant. New jobs, new opportunities, a new house, etc. I found a job (career) working at one of the local hospital as a medical social worker. I could not be more happy in this position. It is one that I never though t I would ever get, as I have no experience in the medical field and I thought for sure that they would look right past me, but they didn’t and I have a job I absolutely love.

We started looking at houses on a whim, just to see what was out there. We were shocked that we found a house that was exactly what we had wanted, small. We fell in love with it, but thought there was no way we would qualify, especially since Jeff didn’t have a full-time job (more on this later). But that was not the case. We qualified and we bought the house. But now we needed to find new tenants for our apartment because our lease was not up until the end of June. After several stressful weeks of thinking that we may have to carry a mortgage and rent (which would have been, let’s say, difficult, on just my income), we found a family needing to rent a place for the short-term while their house was being renovated. Things worked out better than we could have hoped and we closed on our house on Valentine’s Day (maybe that was yet another God showed his love for us?).

Jeff has struggled a bit more with the employment, which was completely baffling to me. He has 20 years of experience in sales/finance/management, how could he not find a job? (Actually, let us clarify..Jeff did find a job working in the Costco deli, for which we are very grateful, it just not a career.) Now, neither of us understood why Jeff was having so much difficulty finding a career, that is until now.

Back in July, shortly after coming home, Jeff decided to through a wild card into the mix by applying to the Madison Police Department. I know that he would make an amazing police officer and that he would absolutely love this job, but he was not very sure of his chances given his limited (or rather non-existent) experience in the field and most other applicants tend to be in their 20’s (there are not many applicants who are 40+). But here we are, almost 8 months after his application was submitted and he has just completed the final step of the process. Now we don’t know if he’ll be hired, but I truly believe that this is God’s path for him. He has been turned down for jobs for which he is either qualified or overqualified and I don’t even know if he could count the number of applications he has submitted with no response at all. But not with the police department. He has been selected to continue through this arduous process at every stage. At this point, he has no other applications out there, he/we are putting our faith in God and so we just wait patiently for God’s timing.

I am so grateful for God’s love and grace. We trusted in His way, His path, His love and we were not disappointed. He has always provided for what we need and He has never left us. Our faith has been a constant reminder that fear only holds us back from the exceptional life God has planned for us.

I knew God would provide for us, but I had no idea it would be this wonderful. I was ready for God to give us what we needed, not more than we could have ever imagined. For the first time in 9 years, we have a place of our own. A place we know our kids can grown-up without the unknown of “will we have to move next year, and a place Jeff and I can maintain for many years. The location could not be better, tons of kids and walking distance to all the schools/grocery stores/bus stops. I have a job I love and we are hopeful that Jeff will have the job that he has long desired. God’s grace is truly overwhelming if you are able to turn your back and let go of the fear that keeps us from God.

I know there will be hard times in the future, there have already been times of uncertainty since returning, but these times pass as long as we don’t get caught up in the fear.

“So have no fear, I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. – Genesis 50:21

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).

 

Wednesday May 22, 2019

2 Samuel 7:29 now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

Today was a bit stressful. Jeff went to the hospital, while I did some yoga and helped the kids with their “summer school”. Then the 4 of us headed to the support center and then took a taxi to the post office. On our way back from Bucharest we stopped at a one of the roadside bodegaS and purchased sheepskin rugs for the kids and one for us. So we packaged them in a box that I carried to the support center and loaded into a cab to send to our friends in WI to hold for us until we get back. Anjali was so excited to be able to pick up her package from Eleanor; it absolutely made her day!

On Monday, Anjali hurt her foot and has been babying it since then, but the pain seems to come and go, which makes it really difficult to assess whether she is really hurt or just seeking attention. Either way, the walk home became unbearable for her, so we took a cab home and she iced her foot and rested the remainder of the day.

I walked up to the grocery store with Lucia to grab a few things for dinner. I am not sure if you read Jeff’s blog a week or so ago, but my experience was just the same. We left the gate to our apartment and she was bounding down the hill and her mouth was going non-stop. I can’t remember exactly what she was saying, but she was so excited. I am so glad I got to have this time with just her; it was so refreshing to experience and feel her energy. We made our way through the store and then home for dinner and then my interview.

Unfortunately, the kids were less than helpful and were actually extremely hyper and unable to control themselves long enough for me to concentrate and mentally prepare for the interview. Jeff’s patience was finally drained and he laid into the kids for their behavior. This seemed to get them back on track long enough for all four of them to be out of the house just in time for the interview. While they were outside Jeff was able to snap a picture of David scaling a pole–this kids is like Spider-Man.

I think the interview went very well and after speaking with the panel I am even more excited about this opportunity. I know that God will put me where I am needed, so I am putting my faith and trust in Him. I feel confident that I did my part, which was to provide the panel with my true self, including how my skills and abilities can benefit this position, and then I will leave the rest up to God.