Sunday, May 15, 2011

Looking Back

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of leaving America and moving to Ukraine.  Maybe you are not nostalgic, but on certain anniversaries, I find myself reminiscing about events of that past.  Sometimes the memories bring sorrow, like the anniversary of the death of a loved one.  Sometimes the memories bring great joy, like the celebration of a birthday or a wedding.

As I look back one year, I remember how stressful, how busy, how full, and how challenging life was during our last month in America.  The days were exciting, as we looked to what lay ahead of us, and sad, as we said good-bye to our family and friends.  There was so much change taking place in a very short amount of time that we were unable to process all of it.  We just went through it, almost in a daze sometimes.  Maybe that was a good thing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 was my last day of work at Federated Insurance in Owatonna, MN.  I had been employed as a computer programmer there since November 20, 1996.  The years there were good (yes, there were some bad days), but I loved working there.  It was the best place I ever worked.  Not only did my job there provide for my family, but it also gave me a great sense of satisfaction.  I met and worked with a lot of great people over the years.  At the beginning of January 2009, I had shared that "someday" I would be leaving to start our adventure in Ukraine.  Now my time there was over and my coworkers could miss me.  (One of them would tell me that we cannot miss you until you leave.  Later he did send a note and admitted that he missed me.)

Just two days later, we closed on the sale of our home - the 3300+ square foot house that we bought in 2005 to be our retirement home.  In my mind, I planned to retire from Federated and we would live in this house "happily everafter."  Those who know us will tell you that we had plenty of "stuff" in that house.  The sale of our home was the main thing that kept us in America for longer than we would have planned.  But, in the end, God's timing is always better than ours.  Even though we had been preparing for leaving the house for a long time, there was still much that needed to be taken care of in the end.  Thankfully, some other homeschool Mom's came and helped us clean the house.  That meant so much to us, as we would not have had enough time to do everything we did and that to.

Even before our organization approved our application, we had started the process to get rid of our things.  As time went on, that task became easier.  They were only things, after all.  We had many garage sales so we could make some money on the saleable items - and we had those sales in three different cities.  Yes, garage sales are a lot of work, but when you are raising money, every penny helps get you closer to your goal of moving to the field.  Thankfully, our house was a great location for garage sales.  The last few days before we moved out, we were trying to give away things that anyone might be able to use.  People from our church came and hauled away more than a pickup truck loaded with more things for a church garage sale, most of which had not tried to sell already (anything leftover normally went to Salvation Army after the sale).  Words cannot express what it meant to have people in our lives willing to help us out.
In all our years of marriage, we had lived in Owatonna longer than anywhere else during our married life. We moved there just before Laura turned 3 and that is all Hope knew growing up. Laura had gone to school with the same friends since Kindergarten. (Both Denise and I moved during our childhood and had to reestablish friendships in a new town.) It had become home for us. We liked it there. We were comfortable.  Change was on the way...

My first trip to Ukraine in 2006 was great. After returning home, I became quite certain that things were going to be changing in our world. Even though I loved my job, during that trip something came alive in me that I had never experienced before. I knew that if we stayed where we were, in the end I would be miserable and unhappy. Returning to Ukraine in 2007 only confirmed that. Denise joined me for the 2008 trip. While we were here, I kept asking her if she could live in Ukraine. (Her answer was always the same - yes!) We were well on our way to moving here when I came back in 2009. With each return trip, I noticed changes in myself. The changes were in preparation for this major change. With any major change, we all know that there is a lot of work involved!  Sometimes those changes are inside of us.

Do I miss our house?  Sometimes I do miss all the space.  But not the house itself.  We are currently living in what would be considered a cozy two-bedroom apartment (the second bedroom is very small) with a small living room and a small eat-in kitchen.  We have,been successful in downsizing greatly and we have survived to tell about it!  Yes, it has been a time of adjustment.  But even with all the changes and all of us being together nearly all of the time, we are managing just fine.  And I believe that we are stronger people because of it.  (I seem to recall someone saying that what doesn't kill you will make you a stronger person, or something along those lines.)

Looking back, I am 100% confident that moving to Owatonna in 1996 to work at Federated was the right thing to do. I am also 100% confident that moving to Ukraine last June was the right thing to do. I have no regrets. Zero. I loved my job then. I love what I do now even more than that. Yes, I do miss some of the people back home - especially family, good friends, and some of my coworkers. I am so grateful that we live in the age of technology so that we can keep in touch with people back home so easily. E-mail, Facebook, and Skype are a huge blessing!

In the end, my prayer is that more people will live "happily ever after" because we were willing to step out and move to Ukraine.  That is the heartbeat of God - going to those who need Him!  I can look back without regret.  I can look ahead without fear, even without knowing the things that are ahead of us.  After all, we have faced many challenges and have persevered.  I can face each new day knowing that my heavenly Father has a special plan and purpose for me - and I am fulfilling it at this time and in this place.

What about you?  Do you live with regrets over past decisions - whether made by choice or by default?  Are you doing (or working towards doing) something you have always wanted to do?

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