Saturday June 15, 2019

Galatians 6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Today we definitely took an opportunity to do good for all, thought likely not in the manner described in this letter to the Galatians.  We awoke early and headed over to meet up with the Hofmanns.  After spending a few hours Friday evening having some adult beverages both Rene and I were feeling a little tired.  We got to their house a little after 9 to have a quick breakfast and then head to Belantis, an amusement park about two hours from Schonebeck.  Unfortunately, while the weather was flawless it was also very warm.  Despite the heat though we had an amazing time.  There were several good sized coasters which gave the more adventurous of us in the group plenty about which to cheer and enough less thrilling rides for those happy to stay closer to Earth.  The kids had a great time and were amazing despite the heat and lots of walking.

After picking up some souvenirs we headed back to Schonebeck to get some dinner and let the kids have a sleepover.  I offered to drive a car full of kids which gave Sara a chance to just be an adult with Rene and Susi.  I think they all anticipated that my car would be wild and crazy.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Within about five minutes two of the girls were asleep and David and Anjali were basically silent, exhausted from the day.  We got home and whipped up a quick meal for the kids and then ordered pizza for the adults.  The kids popped in a movie and prepped for Emma and Rene to spend the night.  After the long and hot day we were all asleep early and rested well having made the most of our last Saturday abroad.

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Friday June 14, 2019

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.

We took great delight today as we were treated to another day of peace, quiet, and some amazing play amongst our children.  Because we are on vacation Sara and I have let the kids more or less decide how to spend their days.  They have spent countless hours already on the trampoline, playing battleship, and recently they discovered the pool and ping pong tables in Fellowship Hall.  While Sara and I were working on resumes and blogs Anjali and Luci were busily preparing a show.  Anjali wrote out several songs (Mary Had a Little Lamb, Down to the River to Pray, etc) which Luci would sing to us.  The girls put on an excellent display amd we were amazed once again at the talent our kids can show.

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Because Johannes was out of town for a meeting we decided to have dinner at home and then meet up with the Hofmanns and Birgit for an evening swim.  Birgit found a different water hole from our trip last year which was more remote and peaceful.  We were surrounded by a large wheat field which made for some pleasant scenery and an especially wonderful sunset.  The kids (and adults) had an amazing evening just being in the moment and enjoying a nice cool swim.

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Wednesday June 12, 2019

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

What would I do if I did unto others?  I would spend my time and love with them.  So, that’s what we are doing.  Today we made the much anticipated trip from Hamburg to Schonebeck.  First, though, we had to pack up yet again, run our gear to the car and then spend a few short hours in Hamburg.  After getting our luggage in the car we decided to head out for breakfast and a little last minute sightseeing.  We found a nice deli near the Rathaus, had breakfast and then made our way out.

After breakfast we did a quick trip through the Rathaus and then decided that we might as well head out.  The drive was expected to be about three hours and we figured we would need some groceries anyway.  So, anticipating an arrival time of 4pm (we had told everyone we would be in by 5) we headed out.  I drove while Sara studied and the kids played on their tablets.  It was relatively uneventful except for the fact that I was enjoying my first foray into driving on the Autobahn.  For those of you unaware, German highways for the most part do not have a speed limit.  Thus you drive as fast as you feel comfortable.  For me that was 190 km/h at one point (translated to mph that is 118).  At that speed our Opel Astra felt a little loose in the handling department so I decided to back off slightly.  It was still fun to drive at that speed especially aware that I would likely never drive at that rate in the US.

Three hours or so later we arrived in Schonebeck only to learn that Birgit had already done some grocery shopping for us.  Johannes recommended we get to the apartment to see what we had before shopping, though we did stop to make sure we would have some wine and beer for the evening.  We made our way through the familiar streets of Schonebeck happy to be back in this place that had meant so much and made so many memories.  Arriving at our former home away from home we felt great relief and excitement to see our friends.

We actually went to Joannes and Birgit’s home first (instead of the Pilgerherberge) and rang the bell.  With no answer we texted Johannes to let him know we had arrived.  Moments later we could see him walking around the corner at the apartment about 100 hundred yards or so away.  The kids saw him coming and literally sprinted towards him.  I will remember the squeals of joy and the smile on his face as our kids each took turns giving gigantic hugs to this wonderful human being.  We offloaded the car and then headed to Johannes’ house for drinks and a later dinner with our old friends.

Unfortunately Johannes and Birgit had to leave but they kindly opened their home to us for dinner which included our friends Steffi, Steve, Saskia, Rene, Susi, and Emma.  To say that we were overwhelmed by the love we received would be an understatement.  In one sense we were so happy to be home with these people we had not see in almost a year and at the same time we felt like we had never left.  It was just like being home.

I have written previously about the fact that in almost, if not all, places we have been God has given us a rainbow.  He did not fail again.  On a day when the weather forecast had originally called for no rain we received a downpour just before dinner.  Moreover, God gifted us yet another rainbow, reminding us again of His love and that He was with us on these travels.  I also think it was a reminder that we were in the place we were meant to be.  We enjoyed the company of our friends for the evening with a great meal (shout out to Steve and his excellent grilling skills).  After we retreated back to our old and familiar apartment and rested easy knowing we were in a place of great love.

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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 June 10, 2019

Isaiah 32:18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Our family was not abiding in a peaceful habitation this morning. Our whole morning was fighting, arguing, and yelling. I don’t think there was a single moment of peace in our little apartment this morning. On top of all the fighting and yelling, Anjali was complaining that her ankle was hurting again and that she was not able to walk around. This is quite frustrating because she was totally fine to walk around Malmo yesterday and play laser tag, but now that there is something that Jeff and I want to do, she is magically injured again. I guess I have lost a bit of empathy for her situation, mainly because it seems that she is hurt when it gives her a way out of doing something that doesn’t interest her, but she is totally fine when it is something she deems fun. I want to take the silly crutches and throw them into the Elbe River so she can’t keep using them as a crutch (pun intended)!

I think I had finally had enough of the yelling and screaming, fighting and arguing, complaining, etc. that I told everyone to get in the car and we were driving to Hamburg without seeing any of the sights here in Kolding. I was so angry. We came here to see a few of the highlights of the city, but rather we got to pay a lot of money to sleep in a beautiful apartment and see Kolding by looking out our window. It felt like such a waste, but I eventually calmed down enough to realize that my children were exhausted and that they were just not up for sightseeing. But if you get the chance to explore Kolding, I am sure that you will have a great time. It seems to be a great town with a ton of outdoor activities to do and some really beautiful sights to see.

Our last few trips Jeff has been driving and I have been sitting in the passenger seat helping with navigation when needed, but studying. I have found it to be very difficult to study in the car and today was no different. After about 20-30 minutes of reading in the car, my eyes begin to get heavy and I have a hard time staying awake. I am not even tired, I guess it is just the motion of the car putting me to sleep. But I have powered through and have made significant progress in my studies. My goal is still to take my licensing exam when we get back to Arizona at the end of June.

We arrived in Hamburg, Germany after a fairly uneventful drive. We didn’t do much today as far as sightseeing, but we did manage to stop into an Italian restaurant near our apartment for dinner. Our apartment is in the best possible location, we are right in the middle of everything that we would want to see in Hamburg and I am so excited that we are here for two nights and will actually have time to explore.

One of the many harbors in Hamburg, Germany at night.

After dinner we put the kids to bed and waited until they were mostly asleep before we headed out to find a bar that was showing the Women’s World Cup, which was surprisingly difficult given the fact that almost all the bars/restaurants were closed due to the observance of Pentecost, it is called Weiss Montag. But we did find one and made our way there. As we were walking to the bar, we had to walk past St. Nicholai Church. I had no idea about the history of Hamburg before tonight and it fed my desire to learn more. What I did learn tonight was that St. Nicholai Church was one of the few standing structures remaining after the city of Hamburg was destroyed by a fire that resulted from bombings in WWII. Now I must clarify, the church itself is not fully intact, actually only the spire/tower remains. The knave and sanctuary of the church was completely destroyed by bombs and the subsequent firestorm. As I stood in the remains of what was the sanctuary of this church, I was overcome by a multitude of emotions. I desperately want to come back to the church to learn more and to see this spectacular sight during the day. I am so grateful that the church was never rebuilt and that the history, as terrible as it was, is still intact as a reminder to all of us.

We finally made it to the bar, ordered our beers and settled in to watch the game, only to get several phone calls from the kids about the little one not calming down and going to bed. (she was almost asleep when we left, or so she let us think) After the 3rd or 4th phone call, we decided that we needed to be home and of course when we got home 10 minutes later, they were all awake and we missed watching the second soccer game because our TV was broken in the apartment. UGGHHHHH. I am holding out hope that tomorrow will be better, though I am not that confident since all of the kids didn’t go to sleep until almost 10:30 pm!

 

 

Sunday June 9, 2019

Psalm 34:10 The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

We got up this morning and headed off to explore Malmo, Sweden…okay not really explore, but rather go to the mall where the kids could play some laser tag after lunch. We didn’t really get to see Malmo at all, but we had such fun (and lacked for nothing) spending time together. The kids have all played so well together and it is wonderful see friendships forming. After lunch and laser tag, we headed for a coffee shop for Fika (Swedish tea time). Again, we just visited and laughed for an hour and then realized that we all needed to leave.

I am not a fan of goodbyes, especially this one. I have missed Hanne and our friendship, but I do take comfort in knowing that we will find our way back together again. I am so grateful for every moment that we got to spend together. It was an emotional goodbye, but Anjali was so thoughtful and took 2 pictures of Hanne and I with her Polaroid camera (one for me and one for Hanne). I was so moved by her kindness to use her film so we each had an actually photo of our time together, not just a digital one. I will cherish this picture forever, not just because it is of Hanne and I, but also because my eldest daughter was so generous and aware of my difficulty in saying goodbye to my friend. Her heart is so big and this picture will always remind me of that.

After are hard goodbyes, we got our cars and drove opposite ways, Hanne back to Karlskrona and us to Kolding, Denmark for a night. We got into Kolding just before dinner, but quickly realized that the town was basically dead. No stores were open and only a few restaurants were serving food. Fortunately I found a grocery store that was open and was able to pick up some food and wine for dinner. Saying our children were tired would be an understatement. The fighting and arguing was almost unbearable for Jeff and I, so we quickly put them to bed. Jeff and I spent the evening talking.

A couple views of Kolding, Denmark from our apartment.

We learned that there is so much to do in Kolding and I do wish we were here longer. You can use free paddle boats for the river, there is the castle, and many neat areas to explore in this small little town. But we were leaving tomorrow, so our hope was to make the most of our time and hit the highlights in the morning before driving to Hamburg, Germany.

Thursday June 6, 2019

2 Corinthians 13:11-12 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

“Boat drink, boys in the band ordered boat drinks, visitors scored on the home rink, everything seems to be wrong…”

Or incredibly right.  What a wonderful and peaceful day.  We awoke with no plans whatsoever.  Thursday is Sweden Day, and as our lovely hosts admitted they had no idea what that is.  As it turns out Sweden Day is a day to celebrate more or less the fact that Sweden has never been conquered.  As a result they don’t bother with an independence day like in the US, they don’t need one.  But everyone likes a day off I guess, so hence, Sweden Day.

As everything is basically closed for Sweden Day we simply hung around the house.  Hanne and Christian kindly pulled out their kayaks and stand up paddle boards which all the kids immediately gravitated towards.  I went for a run through the local park, and Sara did some yoga.  We were also treated to an Air Force helicopter flying the Swedish flag over the house.

After lunch we decided to take the boat into Karlskrona and go get ice cream.  Our kids were excited beyond the pale to get to ride in a boat again and so we hopped aboard and took to the high seas, or at least the calm and serene bays.  We docked in the city and then traversed our way through the Sweden Day celebrations occurring around us.   Most notably was a biker group that drove through downtown and then parked in front of the main city square.  The kids all got ice cream and then decided to go to a cemetery, or more aptly stated a graveyard, nearby at one of the churches.  There they played zombie tag and had fun.

 

Lucia showing how happy she is to be on the boat.

Following our short foray into town we hopped back aboard the boat and while Hanne, Sara, Jonathan, and I played cards, the other kids took turns driving the boat.  Despite our captains’ youth we made it home safely and proceeded to enjoy a quiet evening with dinner, wine, and good conversation.

I know that not everyone shares our same faith but I am feel so blessed that everyone on this journey has shared our same love for each other.  Paul no doubt was speaking of the God of Christ in his letter but in this closing he simply says “agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”  The God of love and peace was most certainly with us today and we are grateful.