How I started 2018 in Athens

I watched as fireworks exploded over the buildings. Each one was bright and bold and ringing in the new year. Some had begun before midnight but I had expect that. Greek timing is not like American timing. In Greece, close enough was good enough.

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A smile creeps across my face as I remember watching the fireworks on television the year before with my parents. We had laughed and enjoyed the company of one another but soon the concerts began and we each drifted off to our own beds.

The smile grows as the fireworks begin exploding over the Acropolis. Only a few days prior, I had been snapping photos and admiring those ancient ruins.

I thought back to my journey to Athens, Greece and I breathed a happy breath as I remembered…

Once upon a time, in a land called Pennsylvania, a man named Jay and his wife, Stephanie, lived contently with their dog, Luna. Life was not what one would describe as normal but it was close enough. Jay worked the 9-5 during the weekdays while Stephanie attended the gym and sought to achieve dreams. Life was good.

But…

There’s always a but and there it is.

But seriously, it really was good.

Life was good. There was laughter, travel, good times, good friends and thousands of good things. It was also busy, a little boring, and occasionally frustrating – just like anyone else’s life.

Then, at the beginning of 2017, things began to change. New dreams began taking seed and talking included new and different things. Life wasn’t ready for our characters to move but it was coming.

A full changed wasn’t yet ready but a small one was. It was only a few months but that change included Athens, Greece.

Jay was contacted by someone he had worked with previously and that opportunity was seized. The financial aspect a bit daunting but God could provide.

One of the ways that God supplied was through unemployment. Jay works in the green industry full-time and at a church part-time. During winter months, Jay gets a layoff because no one buys lawn care when there is 3 inches of snow on the ground.

Money was saved and every penny watched.

At times, the savings process was overwhelming and discouraging. But the end goal served as encouragement.

In this case, that reward was Athens.

And as we watched the fireworks burst over the ancient city, I knew it was worth every sacrifice.

Seven weeks and four days, that’s how much time we’ll have spent in Athens.

We spend time exploring, working, and volunteering.

The reason we originally came was for a friend. We are doing their work while they return to the States to visit family for the holiday season.

It’s not strenuous work but it’s different. There are moments when we are happy and pleased with the work we are doing and there are moments we really want to be home. But I suppose that’s how anyone would feel living away from their normal.

The volunteering is with an organization that supplies refugees with necessary items — like food and clothing.

The daily living in Athens is different from our life back home. Grocery shopping is it’s own adventure and communication is ever an obstacle.

We’ve tried to blend-in as much as possible and I’ll talk more about that later this week but before I sign off of today, I want to encourage you as you start the new year.

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Doing anything different takes courage. It take tenacity and dedication.

It’s not always easy to remember why you’re doing something, whether it’s eating healthy, paying off debt, building your savings account, or making some other sacrifice.

As we saved for Greece, we would often grow discouraged. Our money was disappearing into things we couldn’t hold or see. Life was happening around us and we felt like we couldn’t fully enjoy it.

But we held the course.

Again, this is not easy. But if it was easy to hold the course then more people would stick to New Year’s Resolutions. More people would have a larger savings account. More people would make healthy choices.

Making sacrifices for your goals isn’t easy. Whoever tells you it is, is lying.

But it is possible to recognize those sacrifices without running back to them.

Your journey is different than mine. But we’re still journeying through this thing called life. We’re both still trying to learn what the balance is.

This year, if you need encouragement, reach out to someone and ask them to help you enjoy the present without sacrificing the goal.

You can do it!

You can watch your own fireworks display over the goal that you’ve set!

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