Thursday September

Ephesians 2:20 “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”

We attempted to get up early so we could head to the immigration office and get our Visas extended, but we failed. Everyone was so tired and once we got the kids up and out of bed, it became increasingly difficult to get them ready. We finally got David and Lucia ready, but Anjali was refusing to move. She started in with her ridiculously emotional tantrum, commenting that we could just leave her behind and that she wasn’t going to go to breakfast or the immigration office. We were in such a crappy spot because she was in control. She is too big, and it is not culturally appropriate to drag a screaming 11 year old child through a hotel lobby and the immigration office to get this done; however, if we don’t get this done, our time and commitment in Thailand is totally screwed up. I took David and Lucia down for a wonderful breakfast while Jeff stayed back to try to pull Anjali out of this tantrum. I will say that these tantrums are so emotionally fueled. She doesn’t seem to have much control over herself and it seems that once she gets going, she is not able to  bring herself back to reality for quite some time. It is really frustrating for us as parents, and was even more so this morning because our morning had to go on and we needed to get this done here since we had a flight at 16:30 (4:30 pm) to Chiang Mai where we were to spend 3 nights before heading to our home stay.

Well she did come around, though very begrudgingly, and we took a cab to the immigration office.

Our plan was to get there at 10, but we arrived just before 11 to find a crowded waiting area. It began to look like we were not going to be able to get the immigration stuff done in time to get back to the hotel by 13:00 (1:00) so we could get a ride to the airport and catch our flight at 16:30. Then with only 4 more people to go, 12:00 came and the entire office shut down for lunch until 13:00. That just sealed it. We will be staying in Bangkok another night and are not going to make our flight this afternoon.

Now begins the fun of changing travel plans at the last minute and seeing if there is anything to salvage. As we were texting with our friends back in Germany, Susi was quick to reply that “God has his own plans and that to the best of our ability we should just enjoy Bangkok”. She was right. There was nothing that we could do, so we had a choice, be upset and frustrated by it, or laugh and enjoy the ride. We chose the latter.

So we had to re-booked our hotel (thankful they had availability) and were able to keep the same room, we got our Visas done and we were back at the hotel by 14:00 (2:00 pm). So back at the room we booked new flights (we had gotten the cheapest flights and they were non-refundable and not changeable) for tomorrow and called our hotel in Chiang Mai to let them know that we were not going to be there today, but that we would check in tomorrow afternoon. All was good.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. The kids played in the pool for about 2 hours while Jeff and I just relaxed poolside. We decided to order dinner in and just keep things as simple as possible so we could get the kids to bed early since we had to be up and out of the hotel pretty early to catch our new flight. Unfortunately we had another melt down from Anjali, this time because she wanted to share a bed with David, but that meant that Lucia (the 5 yr old) would have to sleep on the couch. That wasn’t going to happen so we tried to talk with Anjali and tried to get her to cooperate, to no avail. David offered to sleep on the couch again, but neither Jeff or I wanted to have him do that. Anjali should not get her way just because she throws a fit. So David and Lucia quickly fall asleep and Anjali lost her mind, again, with another tantrum. It is exhausting, as I am sure you can imagine. All of this flopping around and wailing and yelling from her resulted in Jeff taking her tablet and computer away from her as a punishment. After about 2 hours of this and us trying to talk some sense into her, she finally came into our room crying because she felt so terrible about how she acted. She apologized and snuggled up with us in bed as Jeff and I watched a movie. Sigh…..parenting is not for the faint at heart.

An update on David: we are still dealing with his forehead and scalp being itchy, red and blotchy and we still do not know what it is. This is very frustrating and confusing.

Tuesday October 2, 2018

2 Timothy 1:14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

This morning we got up and walked over to the cathedral to see the inside of it. Incredible doesn’t even come close to describing this place. It literally took my breath away as we walked inside. I have seen the Notre Dame in Paris and may other churches throughout Europe, but I have never seen anything like this. I am not sure what was so different about this church, but my heart just became so filled joy and peace. I don’t know if I have ever felt such a strong presence of the Holy Spirit. I was able to download an app on my IPhone that took us on a spiritual tour of the cathedral, so maybe that was part of it. But whatever it was, it was amazing. About 15 minutes after entering the cathedral I sat down in one of the pews and just took in the cathedral for all that it was. I couldn’t move my body and I felt so overwhelmed with joy and peace and grace that I wanted to cry. Thankfully, my children were being very well behaved, so I am sure that helped the situation quite a bit! As we walked around this place dedicated to the Lord, I felt a reinvigoration for the calling He has given to us. I was never doubting it or anything, but I just felt a renewed purpose and focus. This was the perfect ending to our Germany station.

Here are some pictures around and inside the Cathedral.

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After a 20 minute walk in the rain to the train station, we hopped on our train to the airport to catch our plane to Bangkok. This was going to be interesting and we sure were going to need God’s help on this almost 11 hour flight with three kids. But they all did great and there are only two things that were quite out of the ordinary for this flight.

The first was during the boarding process. Now being that we have three children and we all have carry-on luggage, we tend to wait towards the end of the boarding process in hopes that we don’t hold people up too much as we get situated as a family. We do this as a way to be respectful and kind to others, though I guess not everyone sees it that way. As we filed down the aisle of the airplane as a family and I get the kids to file into our seats (we are all in one row, 4 in the middle and one seat across the aisle), I quickly started putting the few pieces of luggage overhead when a man behind me piped off that I needed to hurry up and that I wasn’t the only one on the plane. I turned and as politely as I could, said that I would only be a moment and that I was doing the best I could to be quick seeing that I have three children to also help. Now this answer didn’t seem to make him any less rude, and he continued to basically scold and yell at me to the point of even telling me to be quiet and stop talking. Now my husband is standing between myself and this man and is not too pleased about all of this (that’s a bit of an understatement). Also, the gentleman behind him was trying to calm him down saying that it was clear that I was almost done and that I hadn’t actually taken that much time. All in all, I stashed my last bag and stepped out of the way so this impatient person could carry on his way. I am very grateful that Jeff didn’t respond the way that I know he wanted to because I don’t think we would have left Germany! I also took this moment to teach my children about the way we are told to treat others. All three children noticed how rude this man was to me and all three of them apologized that it happened (though they did nothing wrong). But I was very quick to point out that even though this man was extremely rude to me, I still treated him with respect and did not treat him the way he treated me, I treated him the way I wanted to be treated, which was respectfully. Thankfully that was the last time we had to interact with this person and it was an otherwise good flight. I can only pray that he finds peace.

The second thing is that David started itching his forehead, scalp, and back of his neck about mid-way during this flight. I checked him over quite well (because the first thing that came to mind was lice), but there was nothing there, though he was starting to get red where he was itching.

Monday October 1, 2018

2 Chronicles 15:7 But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.

As we finished the last-minute packing at 5:30 this morning to make our 7:30 train, I was again taken aback by how hard it was to leave. We have only been here for two months, but we have already been blessed with lifelong friendships. This process of leaving Schönebeck was much more difficult and emotional than I could ever have imagined. Birgit and Johannes had us over for breakfast and Birgit gave us beaded angels she had made. We had a wonderful breakfast with sausages, marmalade, bread, coffee, etc. and then we took one final picture and we were off with Johannes to the train station. I felt like I was leaving my home again, yet we were only there for two months—how is it possible to feel at home in a place after such a short period of time? I am definitely relying on the Lord this morning, my heart is aching and I can’t believe how much I am going to miss these wonderful people and this beautiful city.

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On the short train ride from Schönebeck to Magdeburg, with Lucia on my lap, I noticed the beautiful sunrise and commented to Lucia that the sun is rising on a new adventure for us. We are beginning our journey towards Thailand and teaching English in the village in the north, but not before a quick stop in Köln.

Our train ride was fairly uneventful and we got to our hotel with no problem at all. It was a quaint hotel lobby and once we got all set, we took a 2-3 minute walk through buildings to our apartment/hotel room. We actually had 2 bedrooms and 3 beds. We were all hungry so we basically dropped the luggage and headed out for lunch. Our hotel happened to be in a very central location in Old Town Köln, so it was quite easy to find something. After lunch we took a quick walk to the Lindt Chocolate Museum This was a perfect outing for the kids. They got to try tons of chocolate and we used it as a teaching opportunity, as there exhibits that went through the entire process of making chocolate beginning with where the cocoa beans are grown and how they are harvested. It was a very interesting process to learn and experience.

We returned home back to the apartment to get ready for dinner and learned (or at least we should have) that our children are not good for that much activity in one day. Lucia started to lose her mind. She was everywhere. One moment she was happy and the next she was a disaster. She was bouncing off walls and then crying because she was so tired. It was hard to keep up with her emotions. Then after dinner came the fights from the girls about the beds…who got to sleep in a room by themselves? David, being the rock star and mediator that he is, agreed to sleep with Lucia since he didn’t want Anjali to be upset. This kid has surprised Jeff and I beyond our imagination. The girls have been all over the place with their emotions and fighting/bickering with each other, while David just sits back, follows directions, and tries to keep the peace. We keep trying to find ways to praise him for being so steady and consistent, but it just doesn’t seem like enough! He has been such a treat to take traveling, as he is so stable and consistent with his behavior. We can expect that David will just go with the flow while the girls seem to be ticking tome bombs just waiting to go off at any moment.

Here is a picture near our hotel in Old City Köln.

Once the kids were finally asleep, Jeff and I took the 6 minute walk to the Köln Cathedral. This cathedral was breathtaking and I just stood there in awe (only to find out the next morning that we never actually walked to the front of the cathedral, just to the side).

Sunday September 30, 2018

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Another busy day for us as we get ready to leave our first stop. Our first stop was to church this morning for a kids service where Lucia sang in the children choir and Johannes did a wonderful blessing for us during the service. Today we celebrated Ernterdank (or thanksgiving) with a wonderful soup lunch and some fellowship.

Jeff and I then headed off to pack for our departure tomorrow, though I still can’t believe we are leaving already. We have a few hours to pack and then we began making a “sort of” traditional American Thanksgiving dinner; we had to adjust the menu a bit to account for the fact that we can’t find some of the necessary items : ) Our menu tonight…roasted duck with stuffing (with homemade breadcrumbs), mashed potatoes with hard-boiled eggs (a Wood family tradition), candied yams (mom’s recipe), Brötchen, and Napoleon pastry for dessert with lots of wine, beer, and cordials. Jeff and I divided up the menu items and took turns in our very small kitchen.

Tonight we cooked and served dinner to Johannes and Birgit and to the Hoffman’s (René, Susi, and Emma). Dinner turned out amazing (homemade stuffing and roasted duck are the way to go—it was amazing!), but the company of our friends was more than I could have ever imagined. These people mean so much to me and this is much harder than I expected. I had no idea that we would feel so attached to a place that we were only in for two months. I don’t want to speak for Anjali, but based on her reaction and emotions after dinner, she is also really going to miss the people here. She and Emma got very close and this goodbye was very difficult. As she put it, “it reminded me of having to say goodbye to Nadia all over again”.

Here are some pictures of dinner.

Here are some pictures from after dinner and just visiting with these wonderful people.

Anjali and Emma stayed up very late to take advantage of every moment they have together.

Tonight we all shed tears, and for me it was almost surreal—I felt like I was leaving home, but it just didn’t seem possible to feel this way after only such a short time. These people have welcomed us as family and have given us the wonderful blessing of friendship. I look back and am so grateful for the time that we had and the opportunities we took advantage of,  I look forward to the future and the new adventures and people that await us, but in this moment I feel sadness to leave it all.

Saturday September 29, 2018

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

Today we woke up a little later than normal, I think for us adults we were nursing a bit of a hangover, but the kids sprung out of bed at 7:00, waaaaayyyyy too early given they went to bed at midnight. This was going to be a long day, especially since we were needing to continue with packing and cleaning the house. Later in the afternoon we met up with Susi, René, and Emma for a tour of Solpark, the salt factory, where Susi works, that has been a part of the town’s history since the 1500’s. This was a very fun day.

Then back home to help Birgit, and other folks from the church, make the soup for tomorrow’s Ernterdankfest after church (Johannes’ pumpkin soup). Then dinner with the Hoffman’s to an amazing, little restaurant near their home for some traditional German food; it was incredible!

 

I still can’t believe our time here is ending—it just seems like yesterday that we were meandering around the town trying to figure out what was happening!

In addition to all of this, we are also preparing for our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night at Birgit and Johnannes’ house. Our plan was to cook a turkey, but since we couldn’t find a turkey, we are roasting a duck. We have several sides to go with it: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and stuffing made from fresh bread. This was quite a feat since we will still need to finish packing and then get ready for our early train ride on Monday morning.

This passage reminds me why we are here and how much more we still need to do on our journey. God has not only called us to Schönebeck, but He has also called us to Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Romania, so we must be diligent and continue on this journey and find ways to embrace the sadness that comes when you leave people you love because this journey has a purpose, His purpose.

Friday September 28, 2018

Romans 1:10 …always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

Today was a long, but fun day, filled with emotional ups and downs. The kids had their last day of school today, I had my last day of work at the school, and since Jeff finished yesterday he spent the day cleaning the house and getting the packing started and laundry done. School for me was fun, but emotional too. The class bombarded me with hugs and well wishes and the child I worked with during this time gave me such a big hug and my heart was filled with so much joy. Today just confirmed for me that God’s will allowed me to succeed at being helpful to a student that needed assistance even if I didn’t speak the same language. This was truly touching and moving in ways beyond my imagination.

David commented how much he is going to miss school and his new friends. Now the funny part about this statement is that David hasn’t complained much during our stay here and has pretty much just gone with the flow, but the few times he did complain, it was about getting up and going to school because it was boring—so when he mentioned how much he is going to miss it, Jeff and I were a bit shocked. All of the kids received parting gifts from classmates, hugs, and well wishes. Anjali received gifts of lotion, stationary, and sweets, in addition to email addresses from the students in her class.

Anjali and David’s presentation/project was due today. They provided us with a great presentation, though there were areas that needed to be worked for the next one. They seemed to have really put effort and time into this project, and best of all I think they have a greater appreciation for all that goes into planning a trip and how quickly money is spent. This was a great project for them to work on together and it gave them a chance to impart to us things that they were interested in doing during this year.

A few errands were needed today, including sending a box of souvenirs back to the states and a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up the last few items that we will need for the weekend. We got home, made a quick pizza dinner for everyone, and cleaned up for Octoberfest in Schönebeck with René, Susi, Johannes and Birgit.

We started with a bottle of champagne outside the apartment and then set off on foot to the party! It was such a fun night, best of all was spending time with great people. We drank Liters of Beer, listened to really loud music, danced on benches, laughed, danced and laughed some more. It was a fun night that ended with a conversation between Jeff and René and the mayor of Schönebeck, Bürgermeister Knoblauch.

The only disappointment tonight was coming home at midnight to find all three of our children awake and waiting for us. We left them home by themselves and while they were all safe and didn’t burn down the apartment, they were still awake and were going to be very tired in the morning.

Thursday September 27, 2018

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The only thing I can think about after reading this passage is the song by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn”. I have heard this song so many times I cannot count and I never knew that this song was scripture. I know, I need to read more scripture, as this was probably common knowledge, but not for me. This song is so touching and incredibly profound as we prepare to leave our first stop in Schönebeck. This has been a wonderful home for us over these last two months and we have been blessed to have made some lifelong friendships that I know will stand the test of time. This song reminds that there is a reason for everything and though things may be difficult, we always have God guiding our path, we just have to trust in His ways and follow.

I was able to snap a pictures of David and Lucia playing at school some of the kids and then of David’s new haircut.

Today we were interviewed by the Volksstimme Newspaper in Schönebeck and they intended to do a write-up on our family: sharing our story, what we are doing here, and what we think of the town. All three kids contributed to the interview and it was a great opportunity to share our story with the people of Schönebeck who have been so kind to us thus far. We would never have been able to share our story with every person we met there, but this provided us the opportunity to share our thanks and our gratitude for all of the kindness and patience shown to us by the wonderful people of Schönebeck . We hope that they are able to understand how much we appreciate all the people we met and who helped us in various ways during our time here.

If you would like to read the article here is it, but I will warn you, it is all in German!

Newspaper Article

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the kids and I. And true to form, Anjali had a wonderful idea to bake some traditional chocolate chip cookies for each of their classes. So today, we made cookies and packaged them all up (I finished at 11 pm, but they are done and I was able to squeak out just enough for all three classes though my kids won’t be able to have any!) This idea of Anjali’s was a giant pain in the backside, as we are trying to pack and get ready to leave, but I am so glad Jeff was the calming voice in my chaotic brain (again) to remind me that this will all work out just fine. And of course, he was right (DAR—aka:Dad’s Always Right—this is saying that Jeff started, which he thinks is always fitting : )). The cookies got finish, albeit late, but still finish and the kids were so happy to be able to share them with their classes.

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My girls making the cookies!

Johannes also stopped by this evening to say hello and we just happened to be trying to put the kids to bed. He must have a magic “grandpa” touch because he kneeled down next to Lucia’s bed and he proceeded to stroke her head until she was fast asleep! It was absolutely precious.

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Johannes using his special “grandpa” touch to help Lucia fall asleep.