There and back again as they say. We had a wonderful time visiting our family in the states and I find it, as well as the new year, has made me more reflective in 2019 than any other year. But back to that later. First, the excitement!
For all of those that received techy new gadgets and drones this Christmas, we ARE happy for you, however please forgive us if we do cringe at the word ‘drone’ for the immediate future. For it just reminds us of that fateful Gatwick Grinch which delayed our transatlantic flight and cost us, both emotionally (me in tears, Josh was of course stoic, if not very anger) and physically (our pockets are a little lighter after the trip, but well worth it!). Our hearts ached most of all for the passengers that had to be stranded at the airport, both in London and other countries, without any notification of when it might be over. The agony of “the airport will be opening at this time…” getting pushed back further and further was very frustrating.
Though I was convinced it would be taken care of by the time we were ready to leave, the situation did not resolve and we were alerted on Thursday, 21/12, that our flight on the 22nd was indeed cancelled. Thankfully Norwegian has been extremely helpful and was willing to refund or re-book, but seeing as how their next flight to the states was 2 days later, we decided to book with another airline out of Heathrow. We also were not convinced the Gatwick situation would be cleared up by Sunday.
Now this is the part where I have to admit I was absolutely no help in this emotional situation (perhaps a 2019 resolution to work on?). I was overtaken by the fact that we would have less days with my family and an emotional mess, just telling Josh to book the next available flight, no matter that cost, no research needed. Thankfully my wise husband was much more level headed and while I slept, wore out from the emotional ups and downs, he re-booked our flight after thoughtfully checking all the options and took care of changing the rental car and all those things, also communicating to our families about the situation.
So Friday, when we were supposed to fly out, actually ended up being a lovely day of rest at home and being much more organized with our packing than we probably would have normally been. I actually managed to clean the apartment before we left, which was glorious to come home to! Care was taken in packing due to bringing back British treats for our families:
- Crumpets & Jams – essentially much more dense English muffins, but with delightful holes for the jams and cream to melt into
- Cadbury Heroes & Roses
- Christmas Crackers
It was such a joy to share these treats with everyone! And of course then we had plenty of room to bring back our own ‘ American treats’, some of which were requested by my co-workers
- Ranch Dressing
- Graham Crackers
- Fruit strips from Aldi
- Peanut Butter & Pretzel M&Ms – these didn’t make it back to England
- Jelly Belly jelly beans
We ended up flying out on Saturday early morning on Aer Lingus, which was a very nice flight with a layover in Dublin. We actually got to walk out on the tarmac in Dublin and breath the ‘Irish air’. We had a lovely flight, but the last hour did drag on. It was a lovely place to catch up on films we haven’t seen.
Then we landed in Chicago and had the car drive to Springfield. It was a lovely Christmas spending time with family and of course our little nephew. What a joy to see his excitement about everything and we even got to wake up early on Christmas and open presents! This is usually a luxury that does not occur in the Heikes household because we are all impatient and open all the presents on Christmas Eve! So I was glad we waited this year!
After a few days we were driving back to Chicago for a flight to Orlando to celebrate Christmas with the Bockus clan! Thankfully we got to have a quick stop at family in Chicago and see our family that lives there and was visiting, including our new 2nd cousin!
It was a delight to be in the warm Florida weather and stay in a rental house all together with family. The surprise was that Josh’s grandparents didn’t know we were all coming so it was quite fun to surprise them and then spend the rest of the time enjoying activities and fun together in The Villages! This was our second time visiting this giant retirement community in Florida and can I just say it is very tempting to want to live there, it’s like Disney World for adults! And when you actually want to go to Disney World it’s only an hour away!
I’ll talk about this more later, but it was an absolute blessing from the Lord that we were able to have the time with family we did but that when it was time to go we did not have broken hearts. We will miss our family dearly, but I’m so thankful we were looking forward to being back home and it wasn’t an overwhelmingly sad experience to leave. We didn’t really know what to expect after our first trip back to the States and the Lord blessed our hearts in that.
We were able to fly back on Norwegian to Gatwick from Orlando and there was no drones to stop us this time! Then we hopped on the train and were back at our flat in no time, around 1 PM. In adjusting to the jet lag we thought we were being wise by laying down for a nap until 4 PM and then we would get back up and go to bed at a reasonable hour. What we didn’t plan on was the amount of exhaustion that would overtake us and encourage us to not get up when the alarm went off. However, we did eventually get up and have some energy, but then of course we ended up staying up too late! Overall we are getting adjusted to being back and having this last weekend to rest was nice.
This next week is a busy one for Josh with his exams from the first term. But then the following week he will have off with no responsibility, so prayers would be appreciated that he can study hard and then equally rest hard! We are so thankful for the words of encouragement via online or in letters from friends and family as well! Thanks for your prayers!
Which leads me perfectly into what I’ve been reflecting on over the past few days! Yesterday we were walking home from church and Josh made the statement that about a year ago from that day was when he found out he was accepted to the University while he was on a work trip in China. We’ve reflected on the Lord’s goodness so much over the last four months, but this was another opportunity to do so. So we reflected on all the mercies and grace God has bestowed on us in this whole adventure. There’s no way to look at it without seeing his hand in it all.
This mixed with the beautiful message we heard at church from Ant on Sunday and a few helpful links from friends I’ve posted below have led me into a very reflective mood for 2019.
“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14
So far in this adventure God has provided:
- Guidance in the decision for Josh to apply, bringing us together as a couple and helping us a realize a dream of living in Europe we didn’t think would happen so soon.
- Josh’s acceptance.
- A great organization, Across the Pond, which aided in the applications to all the universities and the visa process.
- Our visas being taken care of quickly and without delay – putting those documents in the mail was one of the most surreal moments of the adventure
- The guidance in a decision to go which we did not take lightly.
- Our house being rented quickly
- Dear friends nearby that look after our house
- Being able to sell our one car while providing the ability to keep one with our family
- Our flights being covered to go to England, by Josh’s points he had earned from all the work trips
- Our Airbnb we initially stayed in and a hotel for a week being great accommodations with great hosts, which made house searching less stressful
- Finding a flat fully furnished for the price we needed and in an ideal location next to a grocery store and within walking distance to work (which we didn’t even know I would have)
- This has so many mini blessings in it as well, from being stressed about opening a bank account, getting new phones and transferring money, the Lord worked the timing out exactly when we needed it.
- Finding a new job at a church so quickly and within a 15 minute walk from our flat and with familiar responsibilities, but also new ones to stretch me and with wonderful, caring co-workers
- Finding a church and getting plugged in so quickly with a small group and meeting other American friends we could connect with and made us feel home
- The ability to get to see family at Christmas, even after the crazy airport situation. God is good!
- The ability to travel to Paris and be protected from any riots (they started the weekend we were there, but they caused no safety issues or disruptions for us)
- And overall just the love and support from family and friends have been amazing and your willingness to keep in touch and be excited about this adventure with us!
I don’t write out these things to brag about all these things we’ve gotten to do, but instead to declare the sheer awesomeness that the Lord provided so well for us and to give thanks. Moment after moment we are reminded of the blessing of this trip and just feel that we are here ‘for such a time as this’. We felt this in prayer when deciding whether or not to do this adventure and hope that he will do whatever he wants to do through us during this time.
Keeping this in mind, going into 2019 it is important to rejoice and also appreciate a new start. Both of these shared links below are from friends and I love their advice for the new year. Here are a few paraphrased thoughts I came up with from them:
We can get caught up in the dream of change, especially at the start of a new year. We enjoy the opportunity to reconsider and think about all the changes we could make. This is good, not bad. But in one month we forget. And how much time do we take to consider whether our resolution is the right one for us at this time? I find myself getting caught up in all sorts of projects and ideas for the new year but distracted from maybe what I should truly be working on.
We must recall the Lord’s faithfulness and have that same faithfulness to make new habits. Most of the time our habits are formed by technology or how we best want to spend out time, shaped by companies wanting to sell us things, without our best interest. Sometimes taking time in the moment, being bombarded from all around, to do nothing is actually quite extraordinary. Being thoughtful in love before habits is love of grace.
The guide below is what I used to be reflect about 2018, going into 2019. It was really helpful in organizing thoughts. My favorite part is at the end when it says “If you were to choose one word to summarize your goals for 2019, it would be:”. Looking at my habits or resolutions at first it seemed daunting, but then I just started writing words and I found one! My word is thoughtful. Thoughtful of my own emotions, thoughtful about my actions, thoughtful of others and putting them first, and thoughtful towards Heaven and our real home. Feel free to keep me accountable in this and I pray that I remember and am faithful in these promises I am making today and they don’t leave me in a month!
Hopefully this long post didn’t overwhelm you! Josh and I are praying this new year of 2019 brings you your own joy and rejoicing as well as reflection. Cheers!