“That will be $1.70.”
After a split second of embarrassing confusion, I handed over my carefully counted $1.55 and fished for fifteen more cents from my wallet as I remembered (a little too late) that tax is not included in American coffee prices, or any prices for that matter. After four months in Germany where I was used to knowing the exact price and paying with cash, I find this system slightly inconvenient. But on the plus side, a small coffee in America is a full twelve ounces and not half of an eight-ounce cup or whatever the size of the miniscule serving they give you in Europe is.
Transitioning to life back in America hasn’t been too complicated. After all, I’ve spent 21 years of my life here, and it’s pretty normal to come home to my family, hang out with my good friends, and work a few shifts at the candy store. And as I stand there twirling apples in caramel, dipping twinkies in chocolate, and answering the same seven (or so) questions that candy store customers have asked since the beginning of time (or at least since I started working there over five years ago), I wonder if it all actually happened or if it was just a fantastical dream.
But in other ways I notice fairly easily that I have been gone for four months. Although many things are very similar to how I left them, life back in America has moved on. Little changes here and there remind me that summer has been in full swing for a while and it’s almost time to go back to school, even though I just finished.
I was afraid I would feel overwhelmed coming back because (thankfully, but also a little bit dauntingly) all of my projects and activities are right where I left them and ready for me to pick back up again. But before I could get completely settled and start working, I headed off for a week to Romney, West Virginia for Jeremiah Project (JP).
I love JP. I could talk about it for hours; I even wrote a blog post in March on it. And even though it may have been a little crazy to leave for camp five days after I arrived back in the country, I knew it would be good to go. And as we drove into the 4H center, I felt like I was coming home.
The week was wonderful, although definitely challenging. I didn’t have time to think of anything other than JP as I worked with the rest of the staff to balance our various responsibilities to ensure that camp ran as smoothly as possible. Which, despite a few bumps here and there, it all came together quite nicely. Our staff team was outstanding and found humor in every situation. And the campers were very hardworking despite the heat—it might have been the most productive week I’ve been on.
However, I was reminded throughout the week that it isn’t just about the work, but about the relationships that come out of it: the work teams, churches, and the staff form special communities, and the entire camp becomes one big family. JP uses service as a way to interact with the homeowners and build friendships with them. Through their actions, the JP campers demonstrated Jesus to the homeowners, and Friday evening, one of them came to know Christ. For me, JP serves as a big reminder that even when I feel stretched thin, inadequate and very imperfect, God can still work in amazing ways.
Life as a college student means a constant shifting of location. There’s not much that is permanent. I leave next week for senior year, bringing more transitions and a lot of upcoming work. But it also means another year (or at least a semester for some) with the wonderful friends I’ve made over the past three years. Another year of learning and discovery. Another year of new adventures and figuring out where the next one will take me.
“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.” —Kristin Armstrong