Tuesday June 11, 2019

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

Over this past year people have told us how “brave” Jeff and I was for taking 3 children around the world to volunteer. Most of the time, we have truly enjoyed the experience, even in the struggles with behavior. By the end of the day today, Jeff made the comment that he now understands that very statement. Our children began fighting upon waking up and didn’t stop the rest of the day. We did make it out of the house to see a few sights, including the Speicherstadt (historic red brick warehouse buildings along the Elbe River) and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (a modern concert hall atop a historic red brick warehouse). We enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the Elbe River and had hopes of a nice day exploring this old and historic city.

Speicherstadt (Hamburg, Germany) Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany)

But that didn’t last. Anjali didn’t complain about her foot at all in the morning, but as soon as she heard that we were going to walk for about 15-20 minutes to the next sight, she lost it; her foot was just hurting too bad to do that. Then David wanted to go home, but that made Anjali angry because he was “copying her”. Everything went downhill from there. We decided that we would take the kids home and give them a break (we were even going to give them their screens to play) while Jeff and I explored the city together. But those plans fell through too because the kids could not stop arguing and fighting. It was at this moment that Jeff and I decided to split up. One would go sightseeing and the other would stay home with the kids. Jeff needed a break from the kids, so I opted to stay with them, but the kids then decided they now wanted to explore! I can’t even begin to share with you the level of frustration from both Jeff and I, even Anjali’s foot was now feeling better. I wanted to scream, but since Jeff needed a break, he opted to now stay home and I would take the kids out exploring once again. This is why people tell us that we are “brave” to travel like this with kids!!

So the kids and I took off to see St. Nicholai church and then Rathaus (or city hall). We even took the elevator up to the top of the church and then down in the crypt museum where we learned all about the history of Hamburg and this church. It was incredible and really powerful.

View from the top of the tower at St. Nicholai Memorial Church with St. Michael’s Church in the Happy kids for the moment. An aerial view of the Rathaus from the top of St. Nicholai Rathaus fountain in the courtyard (Anjali didn’t want to be in the photo) David thought this was a cool door and frame. David and Lucia inside the Rathaus (Anjali standing beside me taking the picture) Looking away from the Rathaus in the city center. A group shot (with Anjali) in front of the Rathaus. One silly family.

After an hour or so of exploring the kids were again done, but this time were kind enough to just say so and not completely blow a gasket, so we headed home. Jeff was feeling a bit rested and we both decided that we wanted to go explore more, but this time without the children. They seemed to have calmed down and no one was fighting. So we did a very responsible parenting thing, we gave them their screens, knowing that it would buy us a couple hours of entertainment, and bolted from the apartment.

Jeff and I walked to the Saint Pauli Elbtunnel. This tunnel was built in 4 years to support the mass of harbor workers and took you across the Elbe River. We walked this tunnel both ways and while it was pretty cool to walk under the river, I think we were just enjoying the company of each other without the distractions of children. From here we walked along the Elbe over to St. Nicholai Memorial Church and the Rathaus. It was a very relaxing afternoon, in spite of the stressful and frustrating morning.

One of the many Harbor Bridges near the tunnel. A selfie overlooking the harbor. St. Nicholai Memorial Church

Rathaus

We went home to check on the kids, thankful they were not fighting like cats and dogs. Though shortly after coming home and the turning the screens off, they were at it again. Dinner out was never going to happen, nor were Jeff and I going to leave to watch the soccer game. So we made a decision to make a quick and easy dinner for the children (grilled cheese sandwiches, some fruit and veggies, and Pringles) and we would order to take-away. While I made dinner for the kids, Jeff worked hard to find the US Women’s Soccer match against Thailand. We finally got the kids to sleep and I ran out to grab some food for us and then we sat down to watch the very lopsided match. I think we were both extremely tired and out of patience given the day. We ended up calling it a night, slightly frustrated with each other (though I don’t think either of us knows why).

As I reflect on this stressful day I realize that God absolutely provided to us. While we didn’t get to see all that we (I mean Jeff and I) wanted, I look back at these pictures and realize that we did see Hamburg. God definitely was with us today (or we may have left our children in Hamburg : )) and He poured His love over us, allowing all of us to recover enough to see parts of Hamburg. We were challenged and had a lot of fights and struggles, but in the end, His love gave us the opportunity to enjoy Hamburg and I am grateful for the short glimpses of happiness we had today.

Monday May 27, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

It is hard to believe that we will be saying goodbye to Brasov, Romania on Friday. We have loved our time here and today was no different. After our morning shift, Jeff and I headed into town for an afternoon date, bouncing from cafe to cafe enjoying snacks, delicious cocktails, and some beautiful weather. With Anjali on crutches it is just too much for her to walk into town, plus none of the kids actually wanted to go anyway!

The scripture for today is absolutely perfect, as it describes the love between Jeff and I, as well as our relationship with God. Jeff and I have tried very hard to make sure that every decision or action we do was with God at the center. This is not always easy, because sometimes God’s plan doesn’t follow along with what we want (for example, we wanted to stay in Brasov another month, but that was definitely not in God’s plan). I know that we have not been perfect and I am 100% confident that we have made errors this year in hearing God’s path for us, but I do know that by putting Him at the center of all that we are doing, we do eventually get where He wants us to go and it is usually in that moment that we realize He was directing us there all along, we just didn’t see it. But just as He always is, God has been patient with us, He has loved us, and He has never left our side, even when we didn’t listen. God provides us with the perfect example of love. He is patient, caring, and kind with us, He doesn’t get angry with us when we don’t listen the first time (or the second or third time), but rather He keeps trying to help us to understand.

I guess this is my lesson in parenting for today (for me). I do not always give my children this kind of love. I get frustrated and impatient when they don’t get it right the first time. I have the perfect example right in front of me and I still can’t get it right, why am I so baffled when my kids don’t get it on the first, second, or third try? Being away from my children this afternoon really helped to put things in perspective, plus it was a very relaxing afternoon with no kids. Either way, I know that I need to work on being an example of this kind of love to my children, as well as to those I meet every day. God asks all of us to be stewards of love towards others, and since He gives this to us, I think it is only right that we “pay it forward”.

Tuesday May 7, 2019

Joel 2:23 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.

As I read this scripture, all I can think about is our hope and promise for the future that God will provide.

Today Jeff and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. It often seems surreal that we are spending our anniversary in Brasov, Romania after traveling the last 10 months volunteering and serving God’s children around the world. Jeff took the morning shift at the hospital while I stayed back with the kids and to finish my yoga. My anniversary gift to Jeff was to go and see the new Avengers:End Game movie at the theater with the kids. We decided that if the kids were going to enjoy the movie and understand what was happening, they would need to watch the previous Avengers movie, so they did that this morning while I did my yoga practice. We met Jeff at the hospital and headed to the mall for lunch and a movie.

The movie was wonderful and I think the kids enjoyed it, as did Jeff. We got the kids home and had plans of getting them settled with dinner and then the two of us heading out to dinner alone. However, we decided to go to dinner tomorrow night because things were going to be so rushed and we had to get started so late into the evening. Boy was this a good idea.

Anjali has been losing the battle with her allergies lately and for whatever reason, she got very angry and upset when we asked her to eat her dinner. Unfortunately, she has not quite learned the beauty of good communication. Well, she got angry, Jeff got angry, and before I knew what was happening World War III occurred inside our small little apartment. Things escalated and everyone was upset; the whole night went down the drain.

Jeff went for a walk to calm down, no doubt completely frustrated by Anjali’s attitude and snarky mouth, Anjali was upset because she was not feeling like she was being listened to and wanted to make her own decisions, and I was going back and forth completely lost and understanding both sides. Anjali has quite a mouth on her and very often puts herself first and tells the rest of us to take a hike because she can care less what we think or feel, and Jeff (just as I am) is sick of it–she doesn’t get to treat others (especially her parents) this way with no consequence.

This is such a hard situation. But as I sat up unable to sleep tonight, I realized that Anjali is still very much a child who is only starting to look like a young adult. She is still learning how to handle the complex emotions coursing through her and she needs us to guide her, even if she says she doesn’t (she is regularly telling us that she doesn’t need our help). I can remember being her age and that feeling of just being lost. You so desperately want to grow up, but there are so many times that you act like a silly little child and when you do, it frustrates the hell out of you! She is totally caught in the middle of the pendulum between a child and teenager, and it sucks for all of us. But I keep thinking that there has to be a way for all of us to embrace these emotions, own them, name them, and learn to respect and handle them. I don’t know how yet, other than being the calm voice of reason when she flies off the handle.

Anjali sat up with me for a bit and we had a nice talk about how she needs to work on communicating better with Jeff and I about what she is needing and feeling, and I will work on staying calm and being a better example to her of how to handle emotions. Jeff may have been the one who lost his temper this time, but I have had my fair share of moments where I was the one who went berserk. Parenting during this time is quite challenging, but I know with God’s help and grace we will all make it through it successfully and without killing each other!

Here are a few pictures of our free noon date on Saturday!

Sunday May 5, 2019

John 2:23-25 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!

Today we split up as a family, Jeff took the younger two kids down to the school for Junii, which is another celebration of Easter here in Romania, complete with a horse parade, while Anjali and I headed to church. Here is a snippet of the parade:

We all met up together at the house for lunch and then a quiet evening at home with the hope of having Mexican food and margaritas to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but those plans fell through. The kids had something easy for dinner, while Jeff and I had a quick ravioli toss after the kids went to bed.

I was able to do get the process of obtaining my license all figured out and should be able to submit everything on Monday. I even started the readings that I will need to. I am so happy to be doing this because the types of jobs that I will now be qualified will be much more prolific. We also started looking at apartments in the same area where we were before and have at least narrowed our search down to a few.

The peace and calmness I have experience today is so wonderful. God knew that I needed this direction and because He knows me better than I do, knew just how to present it to us so we would understand. What is so funny is that this path has been here all along, we just were not following it.

Thursday May 2, 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Today we were scheduled for two shifts at the hospital, morning and afternoon. Jeff did the morning shift today and I took the afternoon so he and Anjali could go play Ultimate Frisbee (adults vs kids). The hospital shifts went well for both of us and they had a great time playing ultimate frisbee. I got to meet Ann, another volunteer who comes twice a year for 3 months. We had a great time talking and getting to know one another. But in the process of sharing about some of the places we have been, I found myself really missing GSAM in India. So much so that I rushed home to make breakfast for dinner and some Chai. Though I will say I was quite disappointed because the Chai just doesn’t taste the same.

But our family in India must have known how much I was missing them because I got some messages from Cathy. She sent me several pictures of her with various people/kids. I love getting these pictures because it makes me feel like I am back there. So in order to share the feeling, I sent some pictures of our family.

Today was a good day. No fighting and bickering amongst the children, a wonderful hospital shift, and then a relaxing evening of Uno and family fun. Days like this are easy for me to praise God and thank Him for all that we have as a family. The harder thing to do is to praise God and to be thankful when things don’t go the way we want them to. This takes courage, patience, faith, and grace.

Saturday April 27, 2019

John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

We all woke up this morning excited to celebrate Anjali’s birthday with friends at the Adventure Park here in Brasov. This place was awesome. There were so many different courses for our various levels. They had a small kids course for the little ones, which was perfect–it was challenging enough to be fun for them, it even had zip lines at the end of each course! All of the kids and even the adults had a great time. Between my ankle and still not feeling 100%, I decided to stay on the ground and enjoy watching the happy faces of everyone else. Anjali was so excited to be here for her birthday and being able to do a course that was for those 12 years and up. Jeff spent time with the kids and then within about an hour or so everyone seemed to go their separate ways using the buddy system, which is when Jeff opted to try one of the black courses. I got some great pictures of everyone having fun and enjoying being outside, even with the thunder and darkening skies.

Lucia enjoying the younger kids’ courses Lewis, obviously having a blast! Can you find Lucia? Jeff making his way through one of the beginner courses. Jason having fun and working hard, or maybe just having fun! Lucia and Elena doing what they do best, being silly and having fun! The birthday girl in her element! Jeff working hard on the black course and surveying what lies before him David and Coen enjoying the buddy system. Jeff was pretty wiped after climbing the wobbly ladder, but he is not even close to being done. Where’s Jeff?

After a quick lunch of hot dogs at the park, we all scurried out into the rain. Our family walked to the closest taxi stand to make our way to the shopping mall. Anjali and I made quick work of our needed shopping items and then a stop in the grocery store before catching a cab home and ordering pizza. All in all, it was a very successful and fun day, but I was wiped.

I am so grateful that God has healed me enough to enjoy this time with my family and celebrate the birth of our eldest child. I could have easily seen myself still in bed, sick and unable to be here, but He provided again. I may not have gotten to do the courses with them, but I absolutely enjoyed my time with friends and family, and this was definitely a gift from God.

Thursday April 25, 2019

Deuteronomy 33:12 Of Benjamin he said: The beloved of the Lord rests in safety—the High God surrounds him all day long—the beloved rests between his shoulders.

Today was an interesting day. I went up to the support center to help with donation sorting and ended up clearing out and organizing the office in order to stack and put more boxes of donations. Since I love organizing things I had a lot of fun, plus Katie’s company is always a bonus! I was able to finish that up in about an hour and then headed to the store to get everything else I needed for Anjali’s birthday cake. I can’t believe she is going to be 12 years old tomorrow, where does the time go.

I came home just before Jeff had to leave for his afternoon shift at the hospital. The kids were pretty much done with school so I started to make Anjali’s birthday cake for tomorrow, Red Velvet per her request. Unfortunately, I misjudged the quantity of some ingredients and was short on sugar and oil. Fortunately our neighbor downstairs helped with the sugar and I used butter to substitute for the oil. Even with the mishaps and missing ingredients, I was able to make 3 cakes to layer with cream cheese frosting.

When I finished making her cakes it really hit me how incredibly tired I was, actually complete exhaustion is a better description of how I felt. But I managed to muster enough energy to get dinner prepared and ready so we could eat once Jeff got home. I really couldn’t explain why I was so tired, but as I was getting ready for bed I realized that my lymph nodes were swollen behind my ears, I was getting sick. Jeff agreed to take my shift in the morning because if I wasn’t feeling well now, the hospital was not where I should be tomorrow. I needed to be healthy so we could celebrate Anjali’s birthday!