Friday May 17, 2019

Proverbs 9:11 “For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.

Years, eventually yes, but for today we celebrate at least one more of adding to Sara’s.  She refused to write today’s blog because she doesn’t like to write about herself.  That’s fine, we can happily do it for her.  It’s not hard actually because she really does try to be a model of living a Christian life.  She is humble, faithful, giving, and she most often puts others before herself.  We as a family are very appreciative that God has gifted us with such an amazing wife, mother, sister, cousin, daughter, and friend.

As for the day, well that was a bit less remarkable.  The plan was for me to do the hospital shift so that Sara could help the kids pack and then meet me to grab a taxi to pick up a rental car.  We were heading to Bucharest so I could play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament.  Sara and the kids would get to sightsee a bit and maybe catch a game or two.

The plan went accordingly to start.  I met up with my two colleagues for the morning and we handed out diapers for the weekend need.  We then headed to the top floor to look after our charges.  I was surprised to see a familiar face, a baby whom I had cared for a few weeks earlier was back.  While I loved his giant smile (fitting for his somewhat bulbous head) I was sad that he was back.  Such is the case here, bittersweet moments of happiness to see a face you have come to adore but sadness to realize that he or she is back and in need of your care because the parents cannot do it.

My baby today, however, was new to me.  She is probably in the 6-8 month range.  Not verbal yet and not strong enough to stand.  Moreover, she is very needy and sad.  I was told about her from Sara who said that the previous day she basically had cried the entire time they were there.  Clearly she was missing home.  Fortunately she and I hit it off.  She at first was very fussy and cried but after a few minutes she snuggled in and after a few more she was sound asleep.  I felt a bit of encouragement when one of the nurses reported that she was pleased to see her sleeping and that it probably was because of my being a man.  The babies are surrounded by women most of the day as all of the nurses are female and most of the doctors as well.  I have really noticed that the kids have a very different reaction to me, not just because of my beard which they find to be very enticing to play with.  It is not always a positive reaction but for this little girl it worked and it made for a very pleasant stay in the room.

After completing our time on the 4th floor we shifted to the 3rd but we only had two babies needing attending.  I asked my coworkers if they would be okay if I headed off early so we could get started on our trip to Bucharest and they kindly gave me the okay.  After catching up with Sara and the kids we finished our packing and headed off for the car.  As expected, by the time we got to the rental place, signed paperwork, and got loaded up we were heading off just after two.  We had birthday dinner plans for Sara at 6:30 but as the trip began to stretch out with unexpected bathroom breaks, traffic, and some challenging weather, we wisely elected to switch our plans to Saturday.  I felt bad for Sara as her celebration would be put off but as is often the case she simply said it was okay and that she would rather celebrate when everyone was feeling happy and rested.

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We made it to the hotel, got settled in and opted for what turned out to be a less than stellar dinner at the hotel restaurant.  To cap it off, our eldest, who was gung ho to sleep on the couch for the night, suddenly felt it would not be comfortable enough and threw a tantrum.  Net result, she got to sleep in mom and dad’s bed, Luci and David shared a room, and dad took the couch.  While I wouldn’t say this was the best way to celebrate the birthday of such a wonderful person, in a way it kind of was.  It celebrated all the great things about her.  We volunteered helping abandoned or underserved children, we got to go on an adventure to a new city, we dealt with the challenges of parenthood, made the best of an unexpected situation, and through it all we smiled at the end of the night.

God never promised things would be easy, always positive, or be exactly as we want them.  He promises only that He will provide for us and that in the end we will say hello to Him.   And at that end of the long day of life, we will both smile.  In the meantime, I am so thankful I have a wonderful partner on the journey.

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.

Tuesday February 19, 2019

“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever more.”  Psalm 16:11

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Prasantha presents Luci with her Sri Lankan birthday cake

A fitting reading for the day’s events to be sure.  We truly saw the path of life play out in front of us this morning though to be sure the “pleasure” was tough to find at first.  Today was marked first and foremost to us by the celebration, or more to the point, the recognition of Lucia’s 6th birthday.  Since we first discussed our plans for this trip and the locations Luci has been a constant reminder of where we would be on February 19th, right here in Sri Lanka working with baby sea turtles.

After our usual continental meal of bread, jams, and tea we started out for the arduous trek of 50 feet across the road to the sanctuary.  As was the case yesterday, we were not entirely sure what the day had in store for us, only that, according to Lorna and Fanny, we would be doing the unceremonious task of cleaning out old turtle nests.  We were advised in advance of booking this project that there would be jobs that would leave us smelling particularly foul and feeling especially gross.  This was that job.

Cleaning an old nest means excavating the dryish sand and slowly digging down to the depths of the where the eggs had been placed previously.  Assuming the nest has hatched we would expect to encounter old, leathery eggs devoid of their previous occupants but ripe with the sweet aroma of rottenness.  It also meant that we might encounter an egg or two or more that had not hatched and would therefore still hold its now 45+ day old contents.  A 45 day old egg that has been baking in 85 degree sand and is re-exposed to free flowing oxygen is, to say the least, awful.  After burying the new eggs brought in by the local fishermen, we begun our task to clean the old nests.

A group of volunteers hunched over several deepening and widening holes is a sight to be seen, especially as the excavation brings them closer to the treasure of old eggs.  More than one of us gagged at the scent though I, having had my hand at field dressing deer, knew well enough to breath through my mouth or take breaths out of the hole upwind before digging deeper.  As we proceeded from nest to nest the task got no easier until Sara discovered something amazing.  Buried several inches below the sand surface she encountered movement.  Unsure at first she dug gently around and realized she had come across a baby sea turtle, an apparent straggler who had not yet dug her way out of the sandy nest.  Sara gently excavated the turtle’s face and then watched in amazement as the turtle wiggled and worked her way out of the sand and to the surface. What an amazing and unexpected gift, Luci would spend her birthday literally with a baby turtle.  She seemed quite content to share her birthday this way, but the fun was truly just beginning.  As it turns out, this baby turtle was merely the lead digger in what turned out to be a few dozen hatchlings.  We managed to secure a video of the wigglers working their way to the surface as the kids squealed with delight.  The unexpected treasure trove of turtles yielded a mad dash to and from the nesting area to the holding tanks as we carefully made sure that all turtles were accounted for and not stepped on by hurried and excited feet. Check out the video on my Instagram page.

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Sara has a turtle head poking out!

As we finished off our cleaning duties the less than pleasant aroma seemed to subside, or at least became less perceptible, as the excitement and appreciation of witnessing the miracle of birth overwhelmed us.  The rest of our morning was spent cleaning up and doing some beach cleaning as well then off to lunch and our afternoon program.  The plan was to eat and then get cleaned up to do some teaching to the local school children at the Buddhist temple up the road.  Sara and I gathered our kids together and asked Lorna to join along so she could guide us in what she had taught previously.  When we arrived we found that we would not be in the temple this day but rather teaching on the front porch of someone’s house.  We also met the five boys who would be learning with us.  While their skills ranged from total beginner to novice, we found their energy and eagerness to be uplifting.  We practiced some new vocabulary and played a few games and then returned home to the conservancy.  Following another release of baby turtles we retreated to the volunteer house where we sat down for a nice meal, and a nice treat.  Prasantha (Dudley’s lovely wife) had made a special stop to pick up a birthday cake for Luci.  Lucia was thrilled to get the special comfort from home.

While there were no presents in the traditional sense, I think Luci was pretty happy with how her birthday went this year.  She truly got to spend it the way she had envisioned for over 12 months, playing with baby sea turtles.  This was the greatest present, an experience unlike any she had ever had and may not get to have ever again.  God’s gift to her today showed her the path of life in a literal sense of course, but also figuratively.  The path is one of love, new experiences, and an overwhelming sense of joy in the Lord’s presence that leaves you prancing through sand ever mindful of God’s precious turtles scampering below.  For mom and dad, another lesson was evident.  It is with God’s call and encouragement that we were even here.  Thus it is in His presence that we experienced this joyous day of new birth and a reminder of our daughter’s.  With all of our hearts we are thankful for this joy that God brought to us this day.

Wednesday February 13, 2019

Matthew 26:6-13 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Happy early birthday to Lucia! We had another easy start to the day. We had lunch and then headed to the beach for some boogie boarding and playing in the sand. We had so much fun until the kids got a little too excited (I asked them at least 4 times to not throw sand at each other, but they kept on doing it), so we left. Both Jeff and I were pretty frustrated and the kids were angry that we left, but we all came around and enjoyed Lucia’s birthday party. We had hot dogs and chicken with Kraft Mac and Cheese for dinner. We ordered an ice cream cake to celebrate and David and I found a couple small gifts for her to open. Our decision to celebrate early was because we didn’t know what to expect in Sri Lanka. We all had a lot of fun at the party and we all played a fun game called Mastermind before the kids went to bed without much fuss; I think they are all pretty tired.

 

Jeff and I stayed up quite a while and enjoyed some adult time with wine and great conversation. We have been talking a lot about what we want to do when we are done with this year. I feel quite lost, not knowing what I want and it felt good to hear that Jeff was feeling the same way. We prayed and put this in God’s hands. He will continue to be our guide and we will put our faith and trust in Him. He has never failed us and I know that He won’t start now. This is not the first time having this conversation, nor will it be the last. While we still have another 6 months to go, we only have 6 months to go and there are occasional moments when I start to feel overwhelmed at the thought of what to do next. I love these conversations with Jeff because we end up discussing that we need to continue to be in the moment. Looking for jobs right now isn’t a viable option anyway because we can’t start working for another 6 months, so looking now doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, I want to make sure I listen attentively to His word and be open to going wherever it is I am called.

Monday January 14, 2019

Colossians 4:5-6 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Happy Birthday, Dad! This is one of the difficult things about doing this journey away from family and missing events like this, but we were able to do a FaceTime with my dad and wish him a happy birthday from India.

We ended up having a fair amount of pancake mix leftover from our breakfast feast yesterday so we were able to help the girls make a pancake snack for all of the school kids. This meant that I spent another 2 hours making pancakes over the fire. And while this task was smokey, it was a lot of fun to hang out and laugh with all of the big girls. We had a lot of fun and I am really going to miss this time with them. These girls work so hard cooking all the food their brothers and sisters, as well for us volunteers. Jeff and I have really enjoyed helping them in the mornings, learning how to cook the porridge and Chai tea, as well as helping wash the dishes after the meals. This time with them also included laughter and silliness while getting the work done, because let’s face it, work is so much better when you are having fun!

Our kids did a pretty good job with school work today. It is so hit and miss with them, and while 2 may be doing well there is usually one who doesn’t want to do the work. It is really frustrating, but this is just how it goes.

Thursday January 10, 2019

John 9:5-11 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

[A]nd his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

The John verse for today brought these other two scriptures to mind and I just could not help but to include them. I love the reminder that Jesus will always take care of us and that there is nothing that He cannot accomplish. When we live and walk alongside Him anything is possible and this fact is incredibly reassuring in this crazy world; I may not have any control, but He does, and what’s even better is that He also knows what I need.

I guess today we needed a break. Eugene and Phyllis (Filly) invited us, along with Gail (a GSAM alum), Lachlan, John and Sara, and Frank and Rosie, to spend the day at the Jim Corbett National Park in Ramnagar. This place was amazing. We all piled into 2 cars and then headed off into the jungle. As we were driving through the jungle we stopped along the side of the road to grab some firewood so Eugene and John could cook us lunch over the fire. Our drive through the jungle and over the dried up riverbed, up to Jim Corbett’s cabin was absolutely beautiful. Trees formed a canopy over the dirt road and we were all on alert hoping to see an elephant, but that didn’t happen.

This afternoon was such a blessing. This was the first time we really got to spend some quality time with Eugene and Filly. The adults sat together overlooking the dried up riverbed while the kids ran around the property. Eugene and Filly brought 3 of their kids, so ours had a ton of fun with them. It was so relaxing and wonderful to share stories and to get to know one another. Eugene and John cooked us an amazing meal of chicken and rice, also known as Biryana, and of course some homemade chutney. After we all had our fill of the food, Filly was kind enough to share a secret with me…chutney with some fresh squeezed lime juice and raw onion made for a wonderful, but really spicy treat. The two us just continued to take chutney/lime shots until there was no more lime; it was awesome! Of course our meal would not be complete if it wasn’t followed by some spiced chai. We got home right about 4 pm, just in time for another round of Chai tea.

I had no idea I was needing a break, and maybe I really didn’t need it, but today was just perfect. I am so grateful for God’s grace in making this happen. We all had a wonderful time. We laughed and joked while we got to know each other better, all while the kids ran and explored. Lucia seemed to have a really fun time with her new friend Jeffrey!

David, taking full advantage of his longer hair.
Here is the view from the property.

Our adventurous kiddos!

Anjali is sneaking around the corner.
The dried up riverbed! During the monsoons, this river can be uncrossable!

Once we arrived back home Jeff and I were asked to help make Dylan’s birthday cake for tonight. For a last minute cake, I’d say this dinosaur turned our pretty good!

Happy Birthday Dylan!

Friday December 21, 2018

Acts 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Today we got to celebrate Uncle John Marshall’s birthday with cake and tea before he left to go back to the states. He is such a big part of this mission and his leaving was hard for many of the kids and staff. He brings a fun and energetic life to the mission and easy to see that he will be missed.

After saying goodbye to him, it was back to working on decorations and preparing for Christmas. Jeff and I both helped out in the dining hall by hanging various decoration, though Jeff had to duck out several times for rehearsal at the school with Lachlan. I am so excited to see this program that the kids have worked so hard on preparing.

Today was also the last day of school for our kids and I think we are all relieved. I can totally understand how teachers feel when these breaks are approaching; it was very difficult to get the kids to focus today. I think they were just ready to be done, but we were so busy helping to get things done that we just kind of let them go. We did however have them take an assessment on the IXL program and we found that all the kids are actually performing above grade level already, so the stress of making sure they are on track has diminished quite a bit. We seem to be doing okay with their schooling and now we have an opportunity to work with them on getting ahead and focusing our efforts on them learning how to be responsible for their own work and asking for help when they need it. I would love for them to have a bit more independence, autonomy, and self-motivation in regards to their schoolwork.

I was able to find a bit of time today to just sit on my patio and do a bit of quite work on my blog while enjoying a carton of coffee. I really am missing good French Press coffee.

This has been our coffee since getting to Thailand

Later in the afternoon, Cathy and Pricilla taught me how to make an amazing Chickpea Salad with tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and seasonings. This salad is so fresh and tastes absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to make it back at home!

After all of the hard work that Uncle Rick has put into getting the pumps for the water tanks fixed, they broke again today and he is not sure when he will be able to get the parts needed to fix it. The parts are in Delhi and the driver that took Uncle John there was not able to get to the shop before they closed. The mission was faced with very little water pressure out of the few spigots that worked. After dinner Jeff and I filled up a bucket of water to take back to the room so we had a small supply for teeth brushing and flushing the toilet. What is so amazing to me is that prior to this trip this situation would have been enough to make me panic and stress-out, but after dealing with this very issue in Thailand already, I have learned to just roll with it. God places many challenges in front of us each day, but allowing anxiety and fear to take control only makes matters worse. When we are able to just sit back and enjoy the ride, it is amazing how easy it is to just take each challenge one step at a time and taking comfort in knowing that God will provide for our needs. I am confident that this situation is no different.