One Year in Bulgaria!
One year! I can't believe it. Honestly... I can't believe it. Some days it has absolutely felt like a year, and other days it feels as if we are still in the midst of settling and learning the ropes. I'm thankful for both types of days.
This morning as I drove Jude to school (Kate had a doctor's appointment and had to stay home), I noticed the gray cloud cover and the fog that took over much of the mountain views. It reminded me of the afternoon when we arrived in Sofia. We had been in Switzerland at the Regional office for about 5 days awaiting our flight and praying there would be no issues. We boarded the plane in Switzerland and I knew when we landed a whole new life was waiting for our family. I was excited to be finally arriving, but also very nervous knowing that we were ultimately on our own when we landed. It was a day full of mixed emotions to say the least.
We flew over Sofia and immediately I noticed the golden dome of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. A place that now a year later we drive past regularly and take trips to that area just to walk around and take in the beauty. I glanced over at Joshua and mouthed the words "We made it." As we waited on the tarmac I remember immediately feeling overwhelmed. Kate and Jude were so small and didn't have any idea what the next year of their lives would look like. They wouldn't understand the miles (and hours) that separated them from family and the life they once knew as normal. I watched their faces as we exited the plane and headed for baggage claim. We were explaining to them that this was Bulgaria and that we had made it to our new home. We collected all 11 suitcases, 1 wagon stroller, 2 rolling carry-ons, 2 backpacks, 2 car seats, a purse and 2 kids with blankets and teddies each and tried to figure out how we would navigate all of this out of the baggage claim area with only 2 adults.
After breaking the rules and running back and forth between the pick up area and that baggage claim we finally exited the crowded airport and began searching the crowd for our friends from Razgrad who would come to pick us up. As we located their smiling faces, Joshua and I almost simultaneously took a deep sigh of relief and began to tear up. The wait was over... We were home!
We loaded all of our belongings into 2 vehicles and made our way through the city to our home. We would not be staying here for a few more weeks as it was unfurnished and still in need of a few projects completed, but it was ours. We unloaded everything that wasn't needed at the house and kept just our carry-on bags for the rental we would be living in for the next 10 days. We piled in the cars and went to the local mall (one that we now frequent every few weeks) to purchase phone and internet plans.
The first 24 hours or so was a complete blur. I remember still being jet lagged the first few days especially and experiencing crazy culture shock. I sat up at the dining room table of our rental apartment until 3 in the morning the first night we arrived and I blogged, sent a newsletter announcing our arrival, posted a few Facebook pictures, and updated our website to say we had made it. Joshua came into the dining area of the apartment we were living in and said "It's three in the morning... are you okay? What are you doing?" I remember looking at him with tears in my eyes and said "I'm just awake... I can't sleep.. .my mind is racing... I'll come to bed soon." I finished up what I was doing and crawled in a bed that wasn't my own, in an apartment that was like something we would have rented for a 10 day vacation anywhere, and stared at the wall trying to decide if we were completely crazy for uprooting our entire lives to move to Bulgaria.
A year later, I can say with confidence that the Lord had ordained this life-altering move for his purpose, and we are living in Sofia "for such a time as this"! Over the last year, I may have struggled to see the ways that God was moving in the moment (I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest at seeing the good in the moment), but as a year has passed and as we have been reflecting, it's crazy just how much God has accomplished and how blessed we have been.
In one year we have made an amazing group of friends. The kids are thriving in school. We have made a broken, empty house a home. We've seen small groups form and a church start. We have witnessed people be willing to have conversations about Christ that we had been told "would probably never be interested". We have adapted to 7 and 8 hour time differences with family and discovered the best times for video chats (thank the Lord for technology). We have discovered our favorite playgrounds. We have had playdates that have lasted all afternoon. We have explored miles of Bulgarian mountains and seen beauty in every season. We have navigated 4 very different seasons (something we had to adjust to from our Tennessee "seasons".) We have found a love for certain Bulgarian dishes and crave "rice, beans, cheese dump, and cracker barrel biscuits" regularly. We have laughed. We have cried. We have rejoiced and lamented. We have lived the last year to the fullest, expecting God to do great things and you know... He's done just that!
My heart bursts with excitement to think of where we will be in another year. If the Lord can use us and we can experience His faithfulness this much in just a year's time... what will the next year even look like?!
As I write this, I am thinking of each of you who will read this post. This probably isn't the first blog post you've read. In fact you have probably been reading our blog posts and receiving our newsletters since before we arrived in Bulgaria a year ago. You are probably one of the thousands of people who were praying for our family to arrive safely. You are probably one of the people who have prayed for us every step of the journey. If that is you, I need to take a minute and just say "THANK YOU". I feel like I could continue to say it until you got tired of hearing it, but Joshua and I truly believe in the power of your prayers. We have felt them. We have seen prayers answered. We have shared needs and saw the needs fulfilled. We have shared struggles and felt strengthened and encouraged by phone calls, messages, emails, and video chats. We feel such a community of supporters around us and our ministry here in Sofia, and we know that without your prayer, love and support we would not be able to accomplish all that God has planned here in Sofia. So, once again, I'll say "THANK YOU!" YOU have been part of something big this year!
We are excited for the coming year and what will come to be!
Thanks for being on the journey!
We are trusting the Lord with what is to come as we continue Serving in Sofia!