Monday June 17, 2019

James 5:6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

Jeff and I tried to enjoy our last day here. Jeff did some more work on the church for Johannes, while I packed everything up and ready for the long days of travel lying ahead of us. We had one surprise today. Our friend from Westminster Presbyterian Church arrived today in Schonebeck. Chris was the one responsible for setting up our time here with St. Jakobi and I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was that we were able to spend some time with him here. We ordered a pizza for lunch and enjoyed talking about this past year for all of us. Chris is such a wonderful friend and we are so grateful for his help with arranging our time here in Schonebeck. This is was perfect place to start this year and finish it. Final packing was done by this afternoon and then Emma joined us after she finished school. It was wonderful to have her over and the kids loved playing with her (and Chris, who braved the trampoline). I love hearing the kids laugh and scream in delight outside.

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Chris braving the trampoline
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A nice family picture with Chris

We had an easy dinner and then everyone came over to say watch a slideshow that Jeff put togther of this past year and to say our final goodbyes. We were able to get some wonderful pictures in front of the church with everyone and I will cherish these pictures forever. The evening was filled with tears of sadness as we knew that it would be a while before we saw each other again. I was taken aback by Anjali’s response to saying goodbye. She was absolutely devastated. Tears were free flowing down everyone’s faces because once the girls started (Anjali, Saskia, and Emma) us adults couldn’t help but join them. I had no idea how difficult this would be for the kids and unfortunately I was completely unprepared. But in the end, we said our final goodbyes and put the kids to bed and Jeff went in to take a nap. We had a long two days of travel to get us back to Arizona and it was all starting at midnight tonight!

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Susi, Sara, and Lucia
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Steffi, Saski, Susi, Emma, Anjali, Lucia, Sara, and Birgit

My heart aches when I look at these pictures because I am brought right back to the raw emotion and heartache felt when we had to say goodbye.

 

The progression of these group pictures just makes me smile. We had so much fun and they really capture the wonderful friendshps made in just a short 2 months!

 

As I write this blog almost a month later, I am going to condense our travels back to the States, our time in Arizona, and our move back to Wisconsin. So bear with me on the lengthiness of this post.

Our plan was to leave Schonebeck at midnight tonight and drive to Copenhagen, Denmark where we were scheduled for a flight to London and then to LA, California. Thankfully we left right on time and pulled away from St. Jakobi with heavy hearts and teary eyes. We made it to the airport on time and the flight to London was fairly uneventful, with only an hour or so of sobbing at the Copenhagen airport because someone wanted waffles and we could not produce them out of thin air. We barely made our connecting flight out of London to LA, but in the end, all was well and we safely made it back to the USA on Wednesday July 19 at 5 pm (only 24 hours after we left Schonebeck). LAX is like its own city, but we managed to navigate all 5 of us, sleepily through passport control and customs quickly thanks to Anjali’s need for crutches! We got our rental car and then headed to see my aunt and uncle who live just outside of LA. They were so kind to welcome us home with some hamburgers and hot dogs (though Lucia never made it, she fell asleep on the hour drive and never woke up). After a short visit, we continued on our way to Arizona by car and arrived at my parents house at 4 am, 34 hours later. The kids did great on this long journey. They walked inside to say their hellos to grandma and grandpa and then went straight to bed!

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This is what 30+ hours of travel actually looks like…two kids passed out on mom’s leg in the backseat of the car!
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We made it back to the USA
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A quick dinner visit with Aunt Beckie and Uncle Trevor!

Everyone slept-in and when we woke up, we quickly realized that we had also bypassed jet lag. I am not sure if it was because we travelled for so long or that we all just got a good night’s sleep, but no one was off schedule and we all just jumped right in to catching up with family. It was so great to see everyone and to spend time visiting and playing in the pool. The kids were in the pool daily for hours and the rest of the time Jeff and I were struggling to find them things to do in the stifling heat of Arizona (bowling made the list of activities and Jeff even wore his saroong from Sri Lanka, or mirt (aka man skirt)). We shuffled the kids around to Gramma and Papa Hayes and to my brother and sister-in-law for sleepovers, which the kids loved, probably because of the alone time with grandparents and cousins/aunts/uncles. We had visits from lots of family and friends, sorted out some of the necessary things now that we were back (new cell service, paying some bills, dealing with issues that came up during our time away). Needless to say, Jeff and I were very busy, not to mention job applications and resume revisions to help the job searches.

 

We did have a wonderful day the Saturday before we left. We rented a boat at Lake Pleasant and spent the morning tubing, wake-boarding, and swimming in the lake. We even replicated a picture we had of Anjali and David from 10 years ago, but this time with Lucia in it!

 

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I was blessed to get the opportunity to visit my best friend in Fort Collins, CO for a milestone birthday (don’t worry Kate, I won’t share your age : )). This turned into a wonderful blessing for me to have some peace and quiet to work on my resume, study for my exam, and update my online profiles to help with my job search. Kate was super busy with work, so we basically worked all day and then hung out in the evening; it was perfect for both of us who were feeling overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us. The plan for me was to catch a flight back to Arizona on the 4th of July in time for fireworks with the family; however, Colorado weather had different plans and I got stuck in the airport for several hours, not making it back to AZ until 1 am. So I missed out on the 4th of July celebrations, which included an Anjali original cake!

 

After a short sleep, we did some final packing and then we were off to Madison. We had arranged for Anjali to have a sleepover with her best friend for 3 nights right away; I think she was surprised. We also managed to schedule a play date for David and his best friend and they had a blast playing in the pool of our hotel. I think they were all happy to be back and with their friends (unfortunately Lucia’s friends were not able to meet up with us, but she didn’t even seem to mind).

 

Monday morning began the move into the new apartment and I quickly realized what a pain it is to move. We had gotten rid of so much stuff before leaving on this year, but as we were moving boxes after boxes of stuff I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of our belongings. More on this later.

On Thursday I took my licensing exam and was so relieved to have passed. As I was driving home from Milwaukee after the exam, I was reminded of the wonderfully supportive friends that we have here in Madison. My good friend Elizabeth, not only stored our belongings for this past year, but she also loaned us her car for 3 days to help up speed up the moving process. Then when we returned her car, our wonderful friend Sandy offered her car to me so I didn’t have to take the bus to Milwaukee for the test. We are surrounded by amazing people who have always shown us love and support and for this I am forever grateful.

Wednesday May 29, 2019

Hebrews 3:4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.

I didn’t sleep well last night because for whatever reason I ended up with a little one in my twin bed with me. I wasn’t too happy with the lack of sleep and how incredibly uncomfortable it is to have her in the bed with me, but when I woke up I couldn’t be angry any longer; she was so adorable and it melted my heart.

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Lucia enjoying the comforts of “moms” bed.

Jeff has made sure that I enjoyed my last few days here in Brasov by reminding me not to start packing. I am a planner and once I knew that we were leaving on Friday, I instinctively went into planning mode. But thankfully I have Jeff to ground me, but it is very difficult for me to look around this apartment and see stuff everywhere. I very quickly get overwhelmed, but know that if I start packing things up now, I will just end up having to pull something out and repack, hence wasting time that could be spent enjoying Brasov.

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Well, I kind of got to enjoy Brasov today. I had the hospital shift this morning and Jeff brought David and Lucia with him to the support center to make some baby bundles. I met back up with everyone at the apartment, grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went into town with Jeff and Lucia on a search for crutches and a thumb drive to back up our computer and pictures. As we got into town, we quickly found the thumb drive and decided that while we waited for the shop to open to get the crutches, we would enjoy some ice cream and cocktails. Lucia was on cloud nine and seemed so happy to be spending time with just mom and dad. We were on a bit of a time crunch because the girls from FFR were meeting us at the house at 4 for some drinks and by this time it was already 2:45. So we finished up our little snack, found some under the arm crutches and headed home. Thankfully we made it back by 3:30, which gave me a few minutes to clean up before everyone arrived.

We had a great time visiting with the FFR girls and I am so grateful that we were finally able to find a time for all of us to get together. This has been a very tricky thing because we have all been busy and our schedules just didn’t seem to connect, but they did today and it was wonderful. We enjoyed good conversation, laughter, stories, etc. and then had to say our final goodbyes.

We had a short turn-around to feed the kids some dinner and get them ready (and in bed) before Jeff and I headed out for some drinks on the square with Jeff’s Ultimate Frisbee team. We had a lot of fun and again had more laughs, stories, and wonderful conversation (and of course an Irish Car Bomb since we were at an Irish Pub). For those of you that don’t know that that is, you have a glass of Guiness with a side shot of Irish Whiskey and Baileys that you drop into the Guiness and drink! They are so tasty!

Jeff and I enjoyed a nice walk back to the apartment and I became acutely aware of all the blessings God has bestowed upon us over the last 10 months. He has placed so many wonderful people in our lives, people that we would have never met without this journey, people that have changed our lives. God is absolutely the builder of all things, and He has built the foundation for these wonderful friendships that will forever remain in my heart, even when we are thousands of miles away!

As I look forward to our next stop in Sweden, I am reminded again of God’s hand in our lives. 17 years ago I left Arizona to participate in an Exchange Program with ASU and headed to Vancouver, BC Canada for six months. Once I arrived in my dorm, I met Hanne and Melissa (she is now living outside of Vancouver with her husband and kids). Hanne was our adopted roommate (she didn’t technically live with us, but may as well had). Hanne (and Melissa) were in our wedding, and though we rarely see each other (this is the 4th time in 17 years), I hold so much love for this person. She will always be a part of my life and I know that God brought us together 17 years ago, just as He is going to bring us together again on Friday in Sweden. I am beyond excited and I think the anticipation of seeing her is helping with the sadness of our year coming to an end.

Tuesday May 28th, 2019

Proverbs 24:3-4  By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

We had a very nice day, and a busy one to boot.  Anjali’s foot was not looking any better since we saw the doctor last week so we decided to see about getting an x-ray done to rule out a break.  Fortunately one of the therapists at the hospital was willing to help us out so Sara and Anjali awoke early and made the long walk to the hospital.  I stayed back with David and Luci to get them somewhat ready for the day as well as myself since I was scheduled to work the morning baby shift. It is a great relief to know that I can leave my 10 and 6 year old at home to fend for themselves.  I knew they would likely be glued to the screen while Sara and I were gone but at least they would be safe.  As I headed out the door I got the text from Sara that Anjali was unbroken and that they would be staying at the support center to do some sorting until Anjali left for Budila for the after school program and Sara left for a massage.

The shift was fairly normal.  We had four volunteers working so we quickly knocked out the diaper run and then moved on to snuggling.  “Unfortunately” we only had three babies on each floor so we had to set up a baby snuggling rotation.  With the volunteer saturation and limited baby resources I volunteered to end my shift a little early as my standing around and not holding a baby was pretty much useless.  I ran into Anjali as she was heading off to Budila, helped move a few boxes, and then made my way home to check on the younger kids.  As expected they had set up shop in our room with a makeshift bed on the floor and their faces pressed to the computer screen watching cartoons.  I let them finish the episode and then kicked them off so they could interact with the real world again.  They did a great job transitioning to lunch and outside play which can be a real feat sometimes.  Sara and I later met up for grocery shopping for our dinner plans with our downstairs neighbors and then it was time to host the meal.

We have really enjoyed our neighbors and both Sara and I wished we could have spent more time with them.  With busy schedules on both sides that always made it tough but we enjoyed the few times we all got together and today was no exception.  The kids played outside after a good meal and the adults got to visit over some wine.  All in all a very relaxing and pleasant evening which was capped off by some very loud and energetic overnight thunderstorms.

 

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.