43 days in Europe

An impending cross-continent move serves as a reminder of the blessings we often fail to notice.

Katherine L. Martin

A moving date had been set and the daunting to-do list threatened to overwhelm me. In an attempt to organize the chaos, I printed out two calendar months, circled the moving date in red, and counted backwards. The number 43 stared back at me from the box containing today’s date. Forty-three days left in Europe. In 43 days, we would be leaving our lives and friends in Europe behind. My family and I vowed to make them count.

When I first arrived in Germany eight years ago, I can recall the excitement of discovering my new surroundings. I was in love with the picturesque half-timbered medieval villages, beautiful cathedrals, and the nuances of a culture different from my own.

But then reality set in. Life got busy. Instead of soaking up all of Europe’s beauty, I spent car and plane rides with my face buried in a book and almost resorted to a “seen one castle, seen them all” mentality. It took the prospect of leaving to make me appreciate the beauty God had put right in front of me.

How often is that a reoccurring theme in all our earthly lives? So often, we don’t appreciate what we have until we don’t have it anymore. We live in the indescribable beauty of God’s grace, yet, too often, our schedules become so busy that we scarcely notice it.

The psalmist reminds us to glorify God for the bounty of his blessings: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5). God has prepared a buffet of blessings that is always set before us, even when we fail to notice it. Even when confronted by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, God’s table is prepared for us. His table is set with the boundless grace, peace, and forgiveness that we have in Jesus. Even better than the peace and forgiveness we feast on in this life is the promise of eternal life. When our short walk on this earth is over, we will live with Jesus forever.

In addition to the distraction of busy schedules, the devil tries another trick to remove us from God’s table. He fools us into believing that we will always have more time. We’ll do that Bible study or worship regularly when the kids get older, when the sports’ season is over, or when the chaos at work calms down. We act as if there will always be tomorrow, pushing away God’s goodness for the pursuits of this life and neglecting our spiritual lives altogether.

As Christians however, we strive to live as if each day were our last, longing for the day when we will see our Savior. Luke writes: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning” (12:35). We keep our lamps burning for Christ by staying connected to him in his Word. Each day is an opportunity to grow in grace and serve others with no guarantee of tomorrow.

Our 43 days in Europe have since come and gone. Even though our good German wurst and schnitzel have been replaced with American hot dogs and burgers, one thing has not changed. No matter what transition or hardship we may face, God’s blessings remain before us for the taking.

God is good, his grace and mercy never fail.

Katie Martin is a member at St. John, Jefferson, Wisconsin. She and her husband, Josh, just returned from Germany where Josh served as civilian chaplain.


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Author: Katherine L. Martin
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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