Sunday June 16, 2019

Psalm 73:23-28 Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Indeed, those who are far from you will perish; you put an end to those who are false to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works.

We were stirred this morning by the beautiful bells of St. Jakobi Kirche bright and early. I will miss these bells. I am not sure why, but they give me comfort and peace, though I do wish they were a bit later than 6:30 am! We enjoyed a nice breakfast and then made the long 30 second walk down the stairs to church. It was nice to be in this church again, but I am also excited to get back to our church in Madison, where I understand what is going on during the service. Jeff helped Johannes after the service today and then I took all the kids to Susi and Renee. They were gracious enough to have our children over for dinner tonight so Jeff and I could attend a concert at the church without being interrupted by misbehaving kids!

Jeff and I have talked a lot about going back to the States. I will be honest, I have been hoping and wishing and praying for God to lead me down a different path, but He has not yet; as of now, all paths lead to Madison. So that is where we will go. I will say that it is comforting knowing that we now have a place to live when we return, but there is still so much up in the air. Not to mention that pain in my heart knowing that tomorrow we are leaving these wonderful people and this beautiful place that has brought us so much joy. We have one more day to enjoy them and I know that this time goodbye is going to much more difficult.

As I look around at our belongings, I have such a wide range of emotions. I am so relieved that this is all we have because I know I can pack it up in a couple of hours. And yet, I know that by packing everything up we are going to have to say, yet another goodbye. I am not sure who said this to me, but it is very fitting as we close out this year, we have had a year of ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’. God has put people in our lives that have made a lasting impact on us and I am so grateful for the ‘hellos’ to these beautiful people and then the heartbreak of the ‘goodbyes’ is always too soon, but the ‘goodbyes’ always lead to another ‘hello’. It is an amazing cycle that is wonderful and difficult at the same time. Tomorrow we say ‘goodbye’ to Schonebeck’ and then hello to our family in Arizona. For tonight, this will be all. I will do my best to put my faith in God and his way. I will work hard to trust in His path, even if it is not what I would choose.

Sunday May 26, 2019

Isaiah 28:16 “therefore thus says the Lord GodSee, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: “One who trusts will not panic.”

The context of this passage is a bit frightening insofar as it discusses a vision of the Lord beating the people like grain – being threshed until they are once again pure.  This snippet however seems to stand in contrast as a beacon of hope amidst the coming terror.  Basically, the Lord is about to bring furious judgement, but don’t worry because it will all work out.  Mysterious indeed.

As for the day, well that was less mysterious.  Today was our last day of church in Romania.  We gathered ourselves together and made the walk to church though we were slowed a tad by Anjali “Crutches” Hayes.  She was a trooper but had to stop regularly to give her hands and arms a break.  The message from church was spot on for our feelings the last few days.  Both Sara and I remarked about how we both felt that the lesson spoke directly to us and we both felt a bit embarrassed by some of our poor choices and thoughts the previous few days.  I suppose I could chalk it up to the stress of the unknown or trying to make plans but in reality we just weren’t being very good Christians in our thoughts.  Fortunately there had been no damage yet done and we just needed a bit of a reset from the Lord.  We were also given a very unexpected but equally appreciated send off by the congregation and took some extra time after service to say our goodbyes.

 

The plan was then to head to the city square to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon, get some lunch, and just enjoy Brasov.  Unfortunately the aforementioned “Crutches” wasn’t having it.  The pain was too much and we could not find a cab to hail down to take us the rest of the way.  After some tears and aggravation we opted to send Sara, David, and Luci into town and Anjali and I stayed back at the apartment.  When all was said and done we got what we needed.  Sara had some quality time with the younger kids and Anjali and I got to hang out.

We had another restful evening with leftovers for dinner and then I headed out for one final Sunday evening of Ultimate Frisbee.  This group of new friends will be greatly missed.  I was blessed to be invited to play with them and I feel that in a short time we have created some strong bonds.  I had often wanted to play back in Madison but kept making excuses.  Having played these last few months in Brasov I can no longer muster any reasons not to play.  While I will miss the Transylvania Ultimate Frisbee (aka TUF) team, I am looking forward to going home and starting up with a new group.

I don’t think the cornerstone Isaiah references was anything so mundane as playing ultimate frisbee, but I think that God’s cornerstones come in all shapes, sizes, and places.  In looking back at this year I can see many times that a cornerstone was laid for something else down the road, whether it was for a new opportunity to volunteer, a new friendship, or something as yet unknown.  I trust the Lord and therefore will not panic.

Sunday April 21, 2019

Isaiah 25:4 For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.

Christ Has Risen!!! He Has Risen Indeed!!! Amen!!!

I can’t believe today is Easter Sunday. Our time abroad has just flown by and to be honest it wasn’t until just today at church that I felt “church sick” (this is the version of homesickness I created for missing our church service back home). Our church here is great. It is in English with a very welcoming congregation. I am not sure if it was because today in Romania is not Easter, but rather Palm Sunday or if it is because there is no organ or hymns at our church here, but rather a contemporary style worship filled with praise songs. I do enjoy the services here, so please don’t take me as complaining, I guess I am just sharing how much it hit me that I do miss the worship service back in Madison. I miss the hymns, the organ, the sermons, and the fellowship (though we do get a wonderful fellowship opportunity here).

I’ll backtrack a bit. We got up the morning and had some homemade banana bread that was slightly burnt (our oven doesn’t have any number to indicate the temperature, you just have to guess and I guessed a temperature that was too high). The kids opened their gifts left behind by the Easter Bunny and then searched for the eggs outside. Everyone had a lot of fun and then we headed off to church, realizing that today was only Palm Sunday for our church here in Romania and not Easter Sunday.

Being that it was Easter for us I really like this scripture reading for today. It is a wonderful reminder that God is always looking out for us and always keeping us close to His heart. That He will provide me refuge and protection during the trials and tribulations of my life. I am so grateful for His love and His care for me and my family that it can be overwhelming at times.

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After a quick run to the store for a few things we forgot yesterday we were home for lunch. The kids wanted to play on their tablets, so Jeff and I visited while preparing dinner. I was missing my church music so much that I found a YouTube playlist from King’s College in Cambridge, England. It was wonderful to hear the organ and traditional hymns, even though some were Christmas songs! We had a great dinner of BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tomato/cucumber salad.

I love catching my kids hanging out together and seemingly enjoying each other’s company.

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Once dinner was done it was finally late enough to call our families and wish them all a Happy Easter. It was so nice for the kids to see their grandparents and to share about their day and what the Easter Bunny brought to them. The kids were very excited about the things waiting for them this morning. It was a fun 30 minutes of conversation. I am not sure how the grandparents felt about the conversation, but the kids sure had a good time. 

Jeff headed out for Ultimate Frisbee and I hung out on the couch to watch the show Reign while finishing my bottle of wine. I am really enjoying these Sunday nights because the kids are asleep and I am able to watch a show that Jeff would not enjoy watching with me.

Tuesday April 16, 2019

Ecclesiastes 2:22-25 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

I started today with a hike, after getting the video all set up and ready to go, but as I started my descent down Thunderbird Mountain my ankle decided to completely give out on me when I landed on an unstable rock. I spent a few minutes breathing through the pain of my sprained ankle, but quickly realized that there was too much happening today to sit and wallow in pain. So I continued down the mountain, this time walking, and much to my surprise the pain started to dull and before I knew it was running again. Unfortunately it swelled and bruised pretty quickly, but there was no way this was going to keep me from the day ahead. I have sprained my ankles so many times that I have somehow become accustomed to the pain and discomfort associated with it. I guess this scripture hit the nail on the head in respect to our lives being full of pain, however, this is definitely not vanity–this is the result of years and years of soccer and sprained ankles!

So I powered through the hike. I got home and finished up burning copies of the video for family and then got ready for the service. Once we got to the church I was blessed to see people that I have not seen in years (some more years than I can count) and it was so wonderful to be embraced and loved by people who have supported and followed our journey. It was a wonderful service and a time of shared memories and reflections on the amazing woman who has left this world, leaving us all missing her. I learned so much from my grandmother and cherished every visit I got with her. When we told her about our plans for this year, she was quick to respond that if God was calling us, we needed to follow. I know that she worried and prayed for us, but her faith in God was steady and unwavering. She has always been an example of the saying, “walking by faith” and I loved the conversations we had about God and faith. She never told us we were crazy, but rather assured us that God would always be with us. I learned so much from her and I am so sad that she is gone. I am going to miss her so much; I already do.

It does surprise me though how much comfort you receive by sharing stories and memories, especially those that make you laugh. I am not sure what it is about laughing, but it seems to weaken the hold grief and sadness has on my heart. My grandmother had a beautiful laugh and when she laughed, everyone around her did too. Our world lost a wonderful woman, but she left a legacy with everyone she met and it brought me so much joy to hear about all the people she touched in so many different ways.

After the service we spent the afternoon with family at my parent’s house, but everyone was gone by about 6, which meant that I got to spend this last bit of time I had with my parents and brothers and I loved it. I tried to go to bed early (11 pm), but still couldn’t fall asleep until 2 am. I can just feel how tired I am going to be tomorrow when the alarm goes off at 4:20 am, but all of the exhaustion and jet lag is worth being here with family to celebrate the life of a woman who made such an impact on my life. But I am also so very excited to go home to my family in Romania. I have missed them so very much, and while they are managing without me, there is no place that I’d rather be right now.

A weird snippet of the day: the day started sunny and a beautiful 70 F, but by the time we got to the cemetery at 3:00 pm the winds had picked up and the clouds started to darken. But the sky did not let go until after everyone had left my parents house, which was so amazing to have rain while I was in Arizona. The smell you get from a desert rain is indescribable and the double rainbow left behind was my grandmother’s way of sharing her love with us from heaven.

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Sunday April 14, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I enjoyed a really nice day with my mom and dad, but the jet lag is just cruel. I woke up this morning after about 4 hours of sleep and headed for a hike with my mom. I really miss the mountains and the hikes here in Arizona, it is a great way to start your day.

We then spent part of the afternoon running some errands to gather some things requested by kids to bring back for them (ie: sour candy, mac and cheese, and books). This evening we met with Jesse, Tessa, and Annecy for some really good Mexican food where I had a margarita and some spicy food to go along with the fabulous company of family.

I am so glad I was able to make the journey back to my family for my grandmother’s service; it would have been extremely difficult to not be here. I really am trying to take full advantage of my family and the very short time I have with them before heading back to Romania. Being with my parents and siblings has brought me so much peace as we celebrate the life of my grandmother. It was a beautiful time of stories and reflection that I am so grateful to be a part. 

I read this scripture and am reminded that God has provided me with this opportunity to be with my family and to celebrate the life of my grandmother, a woman who was an example of the kind of faith in God that I want to have. But God is also reminding me to enjoy every moment I have with my family. They have supported us so much during this journey and even from across the world, we feel their love. It is not hard to follow the advice of Paul to keep on doing the things that bring us joy and peace because I know God is with me, guiding me through this journey of grief and loss.

I was also able to talk with my kids and my wonderful husband, who is holding down the fort in Romania. I miss them so much it hurts. We have been together non-stop over the last 9 months and not being with them leaves a empty void in my heart. Thankfully Jeff said the kids are doing well and stepping up to help dad as he works through being a single parent to 3 in a foreign country.

Sunday March 31, 2019

“Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22

Apparently Romania observes daylight savings time which resulted in our losing an hour unexpectedly overnight.  Rather than getting to “sleep in” until 8 and then get ready for church, Sara and I “overslept” until 9.  We both realized our mistake right away but fortunately the kids were in good spirits which made a more rapid preparation for the day possible.  Those that wanted to and could do so quickly showered and then we headed out for service.  We are fortunate that even here in the middle of Romania there is a church which offers a service in Romanian and English.  While that means that services run a little longer than our usual 1 hour, we at least get to sing along with most songs and understand the sermon.

After finishing church I walked the kids home along with Anjali’s new friend Rebecca. The girls had made plans to bake a cake following church and then we invited Rebecca’s family, our new friends from New Zealand, over for dinner.  The girls learned, and more importantly were open to, the concept of many advisors.  Anjali has, in the past, been known to attempt to do things on her own without instruction because, as she puts it, she wants to be independent.  Her belief is that independence means capable of doing things on your own with no assistance whatsoever.  Without counsel, plans go wrong.  Unfortunately she has had to learn this lesson often and at most times with great distress as she is also very headstrong.  But in this case, and perhaps because her friend was present, she was more willing to consult a recipe as well as be open to counsel from Sara, our resident baking expert.  As a result, the cake and icing turned out beautifully, a real treat for the 6 kids and 4 adults.  Better yet, Anjali had a great time with baking and spending time with her friend.  I hope that this lesson will reinforce the notion that independence does not mean ignoring good counsel but rather knowing how to use the good counsel around her.

While the girls baked, Sara and I got to spend some time together doing yoga, something we both enjoy but rarely get to do together.  Our detox practice was refreshing and invigorating helping to loosen our bodies and our minds.  I find these hour long practices to be the perfect opportunity to not only feel healthier but to clear my mind of all the clutter that I allow to enter and remain.  I find it is good to clear my thoughts so that I can better allow the good counsel of others to enter, whether it be the quiet voice from God or the more overt voices of my friends, spouse, and children.

 

Sunday March 24, 2019

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.

What a fitting reading for today because it goes right along with the sermon at church this morning which was that we need to lift up our prayers to God who waits for us with arms open affirming that He will never leave or forsake us. Towards the end of the sermon the pastor was very clear in his profession that “God’s timing is always perfect” and that we need to be patient for Him. God will always be there for us and though we may not see His actions when we want, He will respond, which is why we need to be steadfast in prayer and not grow weary (aka: we need to be patient). This part of the sermon was so impactful for me because I know that God was speaking to me through our pastor. He obviously knows that I am needing a constant reminder of this and that is what He is doing. I think I have seen “God’s timing is always perfect” at least 5 times in the last couple of days. God knows me better than I do because I am definitely needing this constant reminder to wait for God to reveal His plan for after our time in Kenya is finished. I know this in my heart, but it is so difficult for me to wrap my head around it. I want the answers and the path now so I can plan and know what is in store for us, but this is not the right time. I guess I need to follow Paul’s instruction and lift these things to God and ask Him for more patience.

As for the day today, I was able to find some daily affirmations to do with the kids and as we left church we recited them together. I don’t think they enjoy or appreciate these as much as I do, but I really don’t care. These affirmations are also a prayer to God. Here is the affirmation we read today:

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If I can get my kids to see the benefits to saying this every day it would eventually be a wonderful start to their day. I think these are all the things that God wants us to accomplish each and every day, and when we actively remind ourselves it will eventually become second-nature and we won’t even need to think about it. I found this verse to be a wonderful reminder:

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31