As I watched the ball drop from the comfort of my parents’ home last year (2 days ago) I realized that I don’t think I will ever look at New Year’s the way I used to – the way most people do. For most it’s a chance to choose something to improve on something or to start something new in an effort to make the new year better than the last, at least in a particular area or two.

Two years ago today we certainly started something new. We arrived in Italy to begin our first term there. I can’t say I have a lot of great memories about that day or the New Year’s Day that preceded it. It was a rough start to our adventures in Italy. While there was a lot of opportunity to look forward to in the new year I was pretty deep in grief of what it had left behind and overwhelmed by the trials of such enormous transition.

So, I can’t help but think back on that day and remember. This New Year we gave ourselves a little more buffer between Christmas and our return to the field to avoid repeating the experience. Now we are less than two weeks from our departure date and trying to wrap our heads around the fact that our home service will soon be coming to an end.

It’s always a battle to be intentional about savoring these last moments with family and relishing in the comforts and conveniences of this particular “home” without becoming too concerned about the reason we feel compelled to hold them tight. We are leaving soon. Again. We, and those close to us, have to fight to keep the sadness of that fact from stealing our joy during the time we do have. Yet it’s all important to process.

Also, with the reality of the approaching departure comes the miserable distraction of running errands and packing. You know the errands you run over the course of a couple years; going to the doctor, renewing your driver’s license, getting new glasses, visiting the dentist, updating bank cards, etc? We have to think ahead and try to do them all during the couple months while we are here. Then there is packing: the task where we must once again choose which things are important enough to make the cut and earn their way into the limited luggage space and weight we have to take back with us. Many of the things are important because they are so hard or impossible to find in Italy, others are purely sentimental, and others are worth taking because they are just SO much cheaper to pay to take with us than to buy when we get there.

So here we are again embarking on another transition; a transition from this time of home service to a new one with a new focus, from this American culture to the Italian one, from being near family and friends here to being near our team and friends there, from speaking fluent English to babbling broken Italian, from this time zone to another 6 hours ahead, from living in someone else’s home to living in our own, from our large, contemporary church home to our very small, traditional one, from having extended family surrounding us with support to being on our own again separated by thousands of miles, from exchanging hugs and spending quality time with loved ones to arranging Skype calls and keeping in touch through texting.

Thankfully, this time around should be much easier than two years ago since much of the unknown that weighed us down with anxiety and filled our plates with things to do and learn when we arrived are no longer a mystery and are already done. We already have a home to live in which we love, we have a car to get us where we need to go, we have a team and friends there who are looking forward to our return, we know some of the language, we have a church family we miss, we have new ministries that didn’t exist before, we know our way around town, and the everyday tasks that took us 3x as long as normal (due to the added time and difficulty of doing them in a different culture) won’t take nearly as long as they once did.

Unfortunately, this time around will be more difficult as there will be three of us saying goodbye and three of us our family has to let go. It’s hard enough for me but adding Arianna to the mix multiplies it. I’ve heard that part never gets easier and only gets worse as kids grow older. I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them. For now, I have a hard enough time thinking about how hard it will be to get in the security line at the airport in 13 days holding my 11 month old knowing it will take us away from her grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and others she has grown very attached to.

We are so grateful for family who are supportive though heartbroken every time we go. We are so  grateful for our team of supporters who show us in word and deed that they believe in us and God’s work in and through us on the field. We are so grateful for a God who cares deeply for us and can be trusted through it all. He gives us a fresh start not just every year but every morning as He showers new mercies and extends His unconditional love and acceptance. He knows I’ll need it on the 15th especially!

-Erika

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