February 20, 2014

decisions, decisions...

The last couple months have been full of changes for Daniel and I: We visited my parents during Christmas and had a great time, but it also made us think about where we want to settle down eventually. It has never been our intention to move our future kids from country to country and school to school, so we decided a long time ago to try to pick a place and stick with it when the time came. That's a lot easier said than done. 

The latter half of 2013 found me nervously dwelling on the "big decision" that I inevitably had to make and constantly weighing the pros and cons of life here versus life in the States. In a nutshell, the two of us find the lifestyle in Europe significantly better than in the US. From food to healthcare to government and nearly everything in between, Germany beats America hands down. However, there are most definitely aspects that our current location lacks in. For Daniel and I the biggest one is church. Although Europe is the motherlode of religious architecture, history, writing, etc. it is actually quite spiritually malnourished. The majority of people I talk to see established religion as a comfy (or annoying) old tradition that they adhere to on major holidays and appreciate on all of the holidays in between. (Germany and other European countries still follow the Catholic calendar, which means a lot of "Feiertage," or free days, throughout the year.) We've tried out a few Free Churches (non-denominational) over the last two years, but none have really stuck. I can't deny that it's mostly me that has problems - fluency wise I might be somewhat capable in small talk and my part time job, but when it comes down to it I don't get a whole lot out of the German sermons. One church we went to for a while was actually dual language, but that meant that the messages were around 2 hours long. Bottom line, the church situation isn't great here, at least in terms of really connecting with other Christians and finding weekly opportunities for fellowship. This doesn't mean that I don't constantly beat myself up for not trying hard enough or maintaining motivation, but in the end we feel church should be a place of spiritual rest and not a dreaded event each week.

Of course church isn't the only thing we miss. Visiting my family sporadically through the year makes me realize how much I miss them each time Daniel and I make the long flight back. Every trip seems to be getting a little harder, and this last one was no exception. Blame it on nesting instincts on my part, or small-town syndrome (everyone comes back sometime?) or even that my parents did WAY too good of a job at making me like them, but at the end of the day I'm homesick and Daniel knows it. He's always known it somehow; even before we got married he used to promise that we'd move back as soon as it got too hard for me. And I, in my super wise, always humble way, would laugh in his face and claim "I'm never going back to that place!" Proof that husbands know us better than we know ourselves. The family part extends to more than just missing actual people, though. Germany has notoriously dropped in both birth and marriage rates during the last 10 years, and it's unfortunately becoming the norm to move in together, buy a car, buy a house, have a kid and THEN tie the knot. Just last night we were talking about people we know here who are having their first children, and about 95% of them are already in their mid thirties. This, of course, leads to smaller households, since after one or two kids the parents are in their forties and ready to wrap it up. I know America is headed down this road, we can see it approaching every day, but the difference is that the US will always hold onto its prudishness to a certain extent, and for Daniel and I that's a blessing. From what we've gathered (having lived in both situations) it's still slightly shock worthy in the States when you hear of a young couple moving in together and getting pregnant without being married. Over here, it's quite the opposite. Our German friends and colleagues find it shock worthy that we're already married in our twenties, let alone thinking about having kids soon! Even within my work colleagues (who range from early twenties to early fifties) only one other woman besides myself is married. She is probably around 50 years old and has one daughter. The degree of difference is astounding, and I suppose you could categorize it as a "cultural" reason that we want to be back in the US someday.

This hasn't been an easy thought process, as I hope you've gathered! From my previous posts on German lifestyle and healthcare it's probably clear that I prefer the day to day way of living over here to back in America. But days add up to years, and years add up to a lifetime, and a lifetime without a close walk with God and a supportive family unit will be ultimately more detrimental than not being able to find raw milk around every corner. Daniel is keeping his eyes peeled for job opportunities, so please keep us in your prayers as we navigate this particularly tricky part of our lives!