Friday July 19, 2019

Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

We have now officially moved in and boxes to be unpacked are minimal. I am actually feeling settled into our new apartment. We are in a beautiful area, backing right up to a conservation park with biking and running trails galore; we are in a great school district for our kids to attend excelling schools; and the apartment itself is brand new and surprisingly spacious. With all of these blessings for which I am truly gratueful, I am still feeling completely lost, even a bit sad and down, and because I recognize the overflowing of blessings I can’t help but then feel frustrated that I am struggling so much to find the joy in all of this.

I knew coming back to the US and back to reality of life here was going to be challenging, I just never expected this. I didn’t expect to feel lost, like I am spinning in a circle just trying to find the path that God wants me to travel. I just don’t feel like God has called me here, but then I don’t feel that He has called me to be anywhere else. It’s like I can’t figure out my purpose for being here and it is making this transition very difficult for me.

This past year has been absolutely amazing. I have learned so much and I gave everything I had and truly felt that I had so much more to give, but yet it ended. I guess I just didn’t want this experience to end, but now that it has (at least as it pertains to being abroad) I need to figure out a way to make my life here in Madison that purposeful. Jeff has been wonderful in talking me through this process and listening to me cry, weep, etc. as I try to explain what I am feeling.

One thing is that I am finding these two weeks here to be mundane. I know, what is mundane about moving into a new home? But it’s the mundaneness of unpacking boxes, going to the grocery store, to swim team practice and lessons, buying the things we need for the new place, etc. that is getting to me. I feel like I have lost that fire, that spark that gave me so much joy when we were in Germay, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and Romania. I just can’t seem to find that spark here and I don’t know how to ignite it. I feel like I am getting sucked back into the life of a consumer, back into living a life of privilege when so many go without, back into a life without the “why”. For the last year we moved every 2 months, lived out of a backpack, and left everything comfortable and everyone we loved behind to follow God’s call. So where is His call now? Why can’t I find it? Why can’t I hear it or see it or feel it? I know He is there, but I don’t have the “why” we are here.

I am a big fan of checklists. Make a list of things to do and then when completed, check them off! When we were gone, I still had those checklists, but there was a purpose behind everyone on them. Here, I am just spinning, waiting for the “why”, the purpse, to become more evident, but in the meantime, I am lost. Is this the right path? Or this one? Maybe this one? There are so many to choose from and I can’t discern which is the one He wants me to be on right now. I know that I can do anything He asks of me; I have already proven that to myself over this past year. I believe and have unwavering faith that I can accomplish anything with God’s help. But I don’t know what it is that I am supposed to accomplish here. My checklists have become meaningless. They are just tasks to be marked off each day, with no real joy in completing them. Sure, I get them done (and they need to be done), but why I am doing all of this? I feel like I could be doing so much more. I have more fight in me and yet I am sitting on my balcony surrounded by privilege, idling.

This sounds awful, I know. Complaining about the privilege like it’s a curse. But I loved the life without the privileges and I thrived in those environments because I knew everything we were doing was for Him. He always took care of us and provided us with what we needed; we never went without. It was not easy and there were many challenges along the way, but it was always for Him. I guess I am just missing His direction, His calling, His guidance. I feel like I have so much for to give, but I am just idling. I don’t want to be idle and even worse, I don’t know how to be idle. I am busying myself with to-do lists and checklists to hide from the fact that I don’t have a purpose, or at least I haven’t figured it out just yet. But how do you go from spending an incredible year serving and putting others first to then immediately transitioning yourself to the comfortable and familiar? I am missing the unfamiliar, the challenges, and the uncertainty we faced and I don’t feel them here.

I am also struggling with the immense oer abundance in our country, the excess and the waste. I walk into a store and am immediately overwhelmed and in a sour mood. As we were moving our belongings from storage to the new apartment I was disgusted with the quantity of boxes we had to move and how most of this stuff I didn’t even miss. I know that we need to have pots an dpans, plates and bowls, cups cutlery, etc., but what about the rest of this stuff? I do understand that over this past year we had all of these necessary items available to us in the places where they were needed and that we now need them here to function, but beyond those items, why do we need all of this? All of our excess is leaving me feeling sick. As I was unpacking our clothes I found myself beyond overwhelmed. I actually wanted to cry one morning becuase there were too many choices of things to wear; I couldn’t handle the quantity of choices so 2 giant garbage bags of clothes were filed and dontated. Additionally, as I went through the 3 tubs of stuffed animals that my kids “can’t live without” I was instantly in a bad mood, getting short and snippy with them because there were just “too many”. As it relates to the “stufies” I quickly realized that these things brought my children comfort in this time of uncertainty, but it still didn’t squelch this knot and pit in my stomach over the sheer abundance. (In the end they kept everything except only a few they could “live without”.) Because they brought the kids comfort, I could not tell them to get rid of them and I also realized that this was my burden to bear, my problem to overcome, not theirs. But I don’t know how. So I say again, I AM LOST.

I don’t have the answers for any of this. Hopefully in sharing and writing I will find comfort and maybe even get a gilimpse of God’s plan for me now. Last night, after another tearful conversation, Jeff asked me to reflect on this scripture, Isaiah 41:13, For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” I know that God is with me. I have never doubted this. My problem is that I can’t hear Him to know where He wants me. I want (and even need) to be where He needs me and since I haven’t heard anything else, here I am. I am back in the Madison area and idling, waiting for Him to speak to me and tell me where to go and what to do next. I want to do His work, but for the first time in years, I don’t know what that is. So I am right back where I started, doing the same things I did before this trip and yet I am not that person anymore, but I don’t know how to incorporate this new person into the old activities of living out God’s word here. I continue to pray, hoping for some discernment. I know it will come, but on His time. I am just lost in the waiting. I found another scripture that is also relevant and so I wll close with this, hoping that it brings that faith I am needing right now…”The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to keep still.” (Exodus 14:14). So here I am standing still, lost and waiting for God to call me and tell me where to go next.

Tuesday May 14, 2019

Exodus 17:12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set.

I honestly could not think of how to relate this scripture reading to the crazy day that occurred, but as I read the scripture before this passage, I understood immediately. So here it is:

Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword. (Exodus 17:9-13)

Let me start with the day today. I woke up to an email this morning from the apartment complex we were hoping to rent upon our return to Madison apologizing for missing the fact that there were 5 of us (which was clearly listed on the application), but they could not rent to us because we exceeded their occupancy rate. So now we are back to square one. We really wanted to get the kids back into the same school, but honestly after this morning, I am not very confident with this plan. There are very few 3 bedroom apartments in the area and the ones that are there are really expensive, well above our budget. So I reached out to our neighborhood to see if anyone knew of a house for rent starting August 1. I put my phone down and didn’t look at it again for a while.

Jeff headed to the hospital while I stayed with the kids and had them complete an assessment to gauge where they were with their common core standards. We all were pleased to see that all 3 children were testing well above their grade level and all had improved from the beginning of this journey. It was definitely a win for everyone, because the homeschooling aspect of this year has been exhausting for all of us! The kids have all agreed to do a small amount of math practice each day, as well as reading (which is never a problem because they all get lost in books easily!). A definite win in my book–official school for the Hayes kids is done!!

Jeff got home from the hospital and I would love to say that we had a pretty mellow afternoon, which everyone did but me. My day was full of ups and then downs and then ups again. It was an exhausting rollercoaster. I completed my yoga practice and while trying to catch my breath again I snuck a peek at my phone and found that I had several comments on my post about an apartment, one that was a listing on Craigslist that would be just what we wanted–a 3 bedroom in our price range and in the same school boundaries! I was thrilled. I messaged him back and after a bit of back and forth, disappointment again….they needed a renter now and can’t wait until an Aug 1 lease. Sigh……Back to the drawing board again.

I am finding it so hard to not get overly excited at each and every opportunity to pin down our future, but I am regularly finding that by doing this I am also experiencing regular disappointment, which is only making the anxiety and uncertainty worse. Thankfully I have Jeff to help keep my arms up and to regularly remind me that God has a plan for us and that this is all part of it. We may not be able to see it now, but He is fighting for us and He is preparing a way, we just have to be patient and trust in Him. I am so grateful for his reminders (and I am needing them much more often recently), but without fail, Jeff is there to prop me up on a rock and hold up my arms. I am not in this journey alone. I have a wonderful husband to help me find my faith in God and show me how to trust in His ways. Just like this scripture, we all need people around us to support us and sometimes hold us up when we are weak, but that is part of being a child of God; we are all in this together and need each other every day as we live out our faith in God.

Sunday May 12, 2019

Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

We had all intentions of going to church this morning, but with our late evening last night and I can only imagine the kids’ late night (they were in bed but still awake when we left), no one was up in time. So I took the opportunity to enjoy my coffee and some breakfast without worrying that we didn’t make it to church. I definitely didn’t want fight today to make an effort at getting everyone ready in time.

After a very lazy morning, Jeff and I headed to the store for the necessary items for Subji (a traditional Indian dish), Chipatis, and Chutney. It was a wonderful walk with my husband and then we got to enjoy a nice meal at the mall before heading into the grocery store. I know that on Mother’s Day I am supposed to be enjoying my children, but it was really nice not to listen to the barrage of requests or bickering/fighting amongst them. I am sure that one day in the future I will miss those things, but for right now I will enjoy the break!

Unfortunately the store didn’t have the necessary ingredients for our subji dinner, so we improvised with tradition Romanian meat to grill (Mici and pork chops). Jeff made a wonderful dinner, complete with mashed potatoes and veggies. The kids were happy when we got home and we all enjoyed a pleasant evening before Jeff headed off to play Ultimate Frisbee.

While the day was extremely relaxing, I also didn’t have any opportunity to dwell on anything, and it was wonderful. I felt so at peace with the unknown. I am sure it will change tomorrow, but I take joy in knowing that today He gave me a whole day of peace and rest. I am so grateful for Jeff’s regular reminder to be patient in God’s timing because His timing is always right. I need that reminder regularly, especially as we are facing our future of unknowns. I have faith that things will fall where God wants them to, I am just impatient.

Saturday May 11, 2019

Deuteronomy 12:10 “When you cross over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and when he gives you rest from your enemies all around so that you live in safety

God blessed us with a beautiful day today and allowed us to enjoy Brasov by seeing some of the historical sights, though we were a man down. Anjali asked to stay home and enjoy some alone time and peace and quiet while the rest of headed out on the town. We made our way to the White and Black Tower, which were part of the original fortress of the city. While we couldn’t go inside the buildings, the views were stunning and it was so refreshing to be doing some light hiking and being out in nature.

Time almost seemed to stand still for me. This was such a peaceful afternoon and I think it was because this was the first day in a while that we haven’t had rain so we actually got to enjoy being outside. While I don’t feel like I have any enemies per se, I think God gave me rest from myself today. None of my regular worries or concerns even crossed my mind, and I was able to spend my afternoon in the moment. It was wonderful.

I seem to be my own worst enemy because I tend to dwell and focus on a certain thing, unable to see beyond the immediate problem. I’ll give you an example…I have committed to acquiring my license to practice Social Work at a Masters Level. This of course requires taking a board exam, to which I have no materials with me to study because they are all boxed up in Madison. I of course got very worried and couldn’t keep my mind focused on the moment. My focus on my lack of resources to prepare for this exam even prevented me from completing my yoga practice today because I was so focused on my lack of resources, I began searching the internet for things to help with this “problem”, instead of completing my practice. Thankfully, Jeff reminds me to be in the moment and to not let these things overwhelm me. I do try, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t.

After a nice afternoon outside and then a disrupted yoga practice, Jeff and I put the kids to bed and headed out for our anniversary celebration. As usual, we had a wonderful time. It felt like we were on a date, which we were, and it was great. We had a pre-dinner drink, dinner, and then headed to the local piano bar for some live jazz music. It ended up being a late night, but absolutely worth it. We enjoyed a fabulous anniversary celebration in Braşov , Romania. (I never imagined that sentence would ever come out of my mouth–honestly, I didn’t even know that Braşov existed until we were called on this mission.)

I am so thankful that God has called us on this mission and He has put us here in Braşov. We took the day to enjoy the land that God has allotted to us and I am glad that God gave me some reprieve from myself (my own worst enemy).

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!

Monday May 6, 2019

Psalm 119:169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word.

I had the hospital shift today and there were 5 of us for 2 children on one floor and 3 children on the other. So we divided ourselves up amongst the two floors. It was a very quiet shift, but still very rewarding, as it usually is. I mean really, snuggling babies is such a wonderful way to spend a morning.

Today was also the first day of my 108 day yoga challenge. I started this particular yoga program (The Ultimate Yogi) several years ago and have continued my practice through the years, though not as consistent as I would have liked. I was so excited to hear that there was a challenge that starts today and so I joined up on Facebook. This is a way to keep me accountable in making sure I get my yoga and meditation in every day. I am ready for the challenge. I started my day today with the ab workout and then did the flow practice when I got home from the hospital.

After that was done Jeff and I headed out to mail a package to our family back in India on the mission. We sponsor a child there and his birthday is next week. I really wish we could have sent this off sooner to ensure it gets there by his birthday, but it just didn’t happen. I really enjoyed this walk with Jeff, just the two of us. I feel that we have had a shift in our relationship, we now have more time to just be together without the children. Our kids have gotten to the age that we are able to leave them alone for an hour or two, which affords us the chance to just be together and have adult conversations without the input from little ones. I am cherishing these moments because it almost feels like we are dating again. I guess I am just realizing that we are entering a new chapter in our relationship and in our family. I know there will be a time when I miss my children being around, but for the moment I am enjoying the times that they aren’t!

I still haven’t heard anything on any of the various jobs I have applied to, which is a bit discouraging, but I guess this is where today’s scripture comes into play. Without even knowing it, this has been my prayer for a while now, asking God to give me “understanding according to His word”. He has a plan, I just don’t know what it is yet. But after this weekend and the conversations that Jeff and I have had (alone!) we have decided that it would be beneficial for me to acquire my license to practice social work in Wisconsin. So I was able to get my application submitted and the process started today. I am hopeful that within the next 3 months or so I will be a licensed social worker, which will open up many more job opportunities to me.

Friday April 26, 2019

Psalm 20:4 May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.

Happy Birthday to my sweet Anjali! 12 years ago you blessed us and made us a family. I am so grateful that God chose me as your mom, you challenge me every day and I love watching you grow into the young lady you are becoming. One of the most important things I want you to know is that as long as you trust in God, He will always provide for you, and just like in this Psalm, “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”

Unfortunately I woke up this morning and felt so incredibly awful. I have never felt so exhausted, absolutely unable to get out of bed. I had a really hard time sleeping last night because my body and my joints hurt so bad. This has to be one of the weirdest illnesses I have ever had. I was in bed until about 3 pm when I woke up after my fever broke and finally felt somewhat normal again.

I felt so bad that I was so sick all day and unable to celebrate Anjali’s birthday, but she was such a good sport. She understood and was so helpful by getting me water, an ice pack, etc. I managed enough energy to take Anjali out to dinner, but Jeff was the real hero today. While I was miserable in bed, he did the shift at the hospital, went to the grocery store, iced the cake, and then managed the kids while I tossed and turned in bed all day long. Thankfully, God relieved my symptoms enough to enjoy a wonderful dinner celebration with the family.