Saturday August 24, 2019

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

As I was driving to work at the restaurant last night I realized how much I am struggling putting God first; I have gotten too wrapped up in the day to day routines we have created since being home. Let me back track a bit.

I have been working at a restaurant here in Madison about 5 nights a week since moving back to Madison. This has been a wonderful opportunity and is helping us to create a savings again, but it has also been trying on our family and me. I am going to work between 3 and 5 pm and then not getting home until 12-2 am. This means that I am not able to get up for the day until 9 or 10 am. Our schedules are completely off balance and out of sync.

But some great news is that I was offered (and I accepted) a job with one of the hospitals here in Madison as the ER Social Worker. I am so excited about this opportunity to give back to the community using my education, skills, and experience.

We have found a routine amongst all this change. Anjali joined the swim team immediately upon our return and competed in her first meet the Saturday after we got to Madison. Since then she has been practicing every morning and then doing swim lessons with the David and Lucia. So we have been spending our mornings at the pool, which is not a bad place to be, but now swim team and lessons are done and we are shifting gears to prepare for school to begin on September 3rd.

This upcoming week the kids have their back to school nights and Anjali has an assessment to evaluate in which math class she belongs. Mixing this in with David’s Tae Kwon Do classes he resumed last week and my work schedule at night, has left me completing the tasks and planning to make sure everyone can get where they need to go, but forgetting why we are doing all of this, for Him.

It was so easy to keep God at the center of our every move, change, challenge, joy, etc. during our year abroad. He was the reason we were where we were. I am just finding it extremely difficult to do the same thing here. I am getting lost in the routine, which is not a bad thing, because we need that routine. I guess I realized, as I was driving to work last night, that I have not had God at the center of my world. I let myself forget the why behind everything I was doing. I guess it was easy to do it last year while all we were doing was serving His children; it just came so naturally and most of the time I didn’t even have to think about it. I am saddened, but also feel challenged to do this now. I need (and want) to find the ways to put Him first and to make Him the reason I am doing everything. I want remember and live the “why” in all that I do; driving to work, serving folks a meal or a drink, working at the hospital, engaging and parenting my children, and in my relationship with Jeff.

Last year was so amazing and I attribute that to the fact that all that we accomplished and experienced, we did in His name and with God at the center; He was our “why”. I desperately want to figure out how to do that here, where we are challenged by daily routines and busy schedules. I know it is possible, I just have to find what it looks like for me. Which means that I will be doing a lot more praying and building that relationship with God that I have let slip. I will be making an active effort to remind myself that He is the reason for everything; for every blessing, every challenge, every joy, every opportunity, etc.

I think where I am going to start is to write this scripture down and strategically place it in several places I will regularly see, around the house, in my server book, in my wallet, etc. Hopefully this scripture will remind me that when I put God at the center the rest will just fall into place.

Monday July 29, 2019

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Today has been quite exciting, and it is only 11 am. To begin, I had a phone interview that went really well and I am very excited about this opportunity. Then to add to the excitement, I received another email for an interview later this week. It is a wonderful feeling to have things actually starting to happen with the job search.

I am feeling rejuvenated and hopeful that God’s plan is finally starting to be more visible. I feel energized and excited about the employment opportunity in front of me and it is helping me gain some confidence that I am qualified and that I am capable of finding a career in my field again.

I am also really enjoying my new job at the restaurant. My last 2 shifts have been training as a bartender and I am loving the challenge of learning something new and the fast-pace required. I am constantly moving and love that I am doing something different from just waitressing. I know that this is not a career for me, but it is definitely providing me an income, it is just an added bonus that it is challenging and different. I finish my shift feeling tired, mentally and physically, which feels great.

The kids are doing great. We have a meeting at Lucia’s new school with the principal to discuss her upcoming year and her educational needs. She is so excited to see her new school and I am interested in how the school is going to address her advanced knowledge. We are still waiting on getting in touch with the middle school for Anjali and David. I think David is probably the most anxious about school, in large part that the school is very large and I think he is just intimidated and nervous about the size. Once we can get him a tour of the school to learn more about where his classes will be,  I think he will feel better.

(I realized I forgot to post this last month!)

Tuesday April 9, 2019

Jeremiah 30:17 For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: “It is Zion; no one cares for her!”

It was my day for the morning shift at the hospital and I totally forgot that in an email to Mary, Jeff and I offered to do a double shift on Tuesdays to ensure that there was someone there in the afternoons. So the plan was to let the kids hang at the house while Jeff and I did the shift from 3-6, but the kids were less than cooperative today and Jeff did not feel comfortable leaving them, so Calah was kind enough to cover for Jeff. This meant that both Calah and I did the morning shift, sorted donations at the support center, and then did the afternoon shift. As a way to say thank you, we asked Calah to join us for dinner and she happily accepted our offer. Jeff prepared a wonderful meal of BBQ chicken with mashed potatoes and a cucumber/tomato salad; it was a wonderful meal.

As for the hospital shifts, they were wonderfully heartbreaking. There are a few kids that have been there for quite some time, two going on about 3 weeks, and since we are there so much we have developed a beautiful bond. While this is so much fun to play and interact with these children, it is also so difficult to leave when they are crying and reaching out for us. One little boy is 3 yrs old and suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, but has one of the most beautiful souls. Today he greeted me with a huge smile and his arms reaching up for me. As soon as I picked him up he put his finger on his cheek for me to kiss and repeated this gesture with the other side. This adorable little gesture just melted my heart and it made me wonder who was caring for whom. My time at the hospital has reminded me how important it is for us to show our love for one another and how much we need that connection. These are the things that make us whole. I hope and pray that our time with the children will bring them the comfort and connection that they are so desperately needing. I am so grateful that we have allowed God to use us here and that we can be a loving friend to these children who are alone and sick.

Wednesday March 27, 2019

“The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17

John, chapter 1.  The Gospel’s version of Genesis perhaps.  “In the beginning…”  Beginnings mean hope, optimism, freedom, courage, and opportunity.  This year has been about beginnings every day.  With each new day we have a new opportunity to make an impact, to show God’s love reflected in not just our words but in our actions.  Today was certainly no different.

I had the morning shift at the hospital with Katie and Calah.  We are very fortunate that Calah has come back as we had 9 babies on just one floor alone.  We were also fortunate that the nursing students are on rotation this month as we had another 5 babies on another floor with whom they were able to spend time.

All in all it worked out okay as we rotated nicely through but it reminded me that every day we face uncertainty about what we will find, be it in the hospital or anywhere else.  This uncertainty though is a true blessing because it means that every day we have an opportunity to employ the grace and truth given to us by Jesus.  I came across a post on Facebook about the great Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.  The short video relates that Bear always had a poem in his jacket pocket that he read every day.  One of those poems reads as follows:

poem

Following my shift Sara and I met up in the Support Center where she and the kids were busily making baby bundles.  We wrapped up this week’s requirement and then I walked the kids home.  Sara ended up taking on the newborn feeding shift and then came home late that afternoon.  While we prepped dinner the concept of beginnings took root as we discussed future plans, jobs, locations, family.  What I found most exciting and energizing was that despite all the uncertainty of what tomorrow might look like, we both faced it without fear or apprehension.  I was also so amazed and inspired by my children.  When we talked with them about some of our thoughts they rose to the occasion and recognized that they could make sacrifices too for others and that those sacrifices would be worth every second of hardship for the love that they would reflect.  We all understood that we were well equipped by God’s law, grace, and mercy.

We realized that while the opportunity was great, there would be a cost.  But the price we pay is negligible next to the price paid by Jesus for us.  There is no monetary cost nor inconvenience that I can imagine that could compare.  I am so thankful that the Lord called to Sara and me and asked us to take up this mission.  I am not sure what the results will be but I am certain that I am more prepared than ever in my life to make the most of each and every day and to do it with the grace and truth that Jesus gave to us all.

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13

When you travel for a year with the explicit purpose of bringing glory to God and reflecting His love in the world you sometimes have days that just don’t seem that praiseworthy.  At least, that is, by worldly standards.  Nothing happened today that would make me think, at first glance, we made this huge impactful change in the world by sacrificing our comfort, career, and putting friendships on hold.  Today could easily be thought of as a reason why this trip was purposeless.

But as I reflect on the day’s events I realize that even the smallest actions can have big results and that sometimes just being there is part of the change.  While my day consisted primarily of homeschool work with the kids, Sara was present at the hospital and at the after-hours clothing sale which helped to benefit Firm Foundations.  After spending quality time with the children she worked with the FFR folks to facilitate a clothing sale of sorts for the hospital nurses.  They were able to buy quality new and used clothing which had been donated and the prcoeeds went directly to FFR’s efforts to help the children in the hopstial.  It might not seem like a huge and life changing event but in the grand scheme this “small” effort makes a real difference.  And at the end of the day any difference in the positive is better than no difference at all.

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Sara snuggling a sweet little girl.
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This little one loved her bottle.

This year has really opened my eyes as to the impact we as individuals can have.  I think that we sometimes get caught in the trap of feeling that if we cannot make a monumental impact then it is not worth attempting.  The truth is that all of our efforts should be done to His glory and honor and so every task and event can be done with the utmost grace.  It has taken me many months to even start to realize this and I hope that in the months ahead I will embrace it even further.

As I leave you I want to you remind you of a hymn that I loved singing in our church in Madison and one that I think truly reflects my feeling as of late.  I think it reflects beautifully the simpleness of what God asks of us.  We don’t know his plans or how He plans to use us so we will do whatever we can whenever we can.  Plus, James says to sing praises if your happy and I could not be happier.  So all of you at home, I want you to belt this one out, or at least in your head.

I’m gonna live so God can use me
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna live so God can use me
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna pray so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna pray so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna work so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna work so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna sing so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna sing so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.

 

 

Sunday March 17, 2019

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

After our long night with David, Jeff decided to stay home with him for some Father/Son bonding at the grocery store while the girls and I headed for church. Anjali found her new friend immediately and Lucia snuggled up with me during the worship time of singing in both English and Romanian. When it was time for the sermon the kids took off and I was able to sit back and enjoy the message, which was the power of love (nothing like a good Back to the Future and Huey Lewis and the News plug). The message today at church fits right in with my scripture lesson for the day (God sure does know how to drive His point home). Love is the path to true happiness in this life and the only permanent and unending love I know is in God. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul was telling the Romans that the kingdom of God is found in love, not in the food and drink they consume. Agape love, the unconditional and sacrificial love of God for us, was mentioned during the sermon and it made me think of a previous post about filling the invisible buckets of others. God regularly asks us to be humble in our ways, take care of brothers and sisters, lift them up when they stumble, and to love them as we love ourselves. These are not always easy tasks to do and sometimes they even come at a cost to us, but isn’t it what Christ has asked of us; to love others the way He loves us. God made us in His image so we are able to give love and receive it, just as He does. And He showed us His love for us with the ultimate sacrifice, His son. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.

It was a nice service, though I experienced a bit of tension between the girls on the walk home which no doubt was the direct result of their refusal to go to bed on time last night and their now lack of sleep. Lucia went off the deep end for a bit (I actually had to carry her) and Anjali was happy to just sulk and throw in snide comments here and there. It was such fun. But after we met up with boys back at the house and had some lunch, we headed out for a walk in the beautiful sunshine and everyone seem to be in tolerable moods. It was such a gorgeous day outside and there was no way I could be kept indoors. We explored the Black Church here in Brasov, a church that began back in the mid-1300’s. There was so much history to take in, which was especially difficult to do over our girls finding every way to irritate each other. Afterwards we just walked around the Counsil Square, enjoyed some gelato, did a Facetime with some friends back in Madison, and headed to the playground. I would love to say that the kids had a great time, but I am not sure if they did or not. No one was in a particularly good mood, but besides the girls there wasn’t much fighting either. I enjoyed being in the sunshine and beautiful blue sky, so I will call the day a success.

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Counsel Square
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Lucia playing at the playground
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David and Anjali looking miserable…How could we even think of taking them to a playground?

Lucia didn’t tolerate her tiredness very well and when we got home she went downhill fast, so she was in bed and asleep (after a very long and loud tantrum) by 6:45 tonight and David followed (though with no tantrum) at 7:30. Jeff was invited to play Ultimate Frisbee with one of the dad’s he met yesterday at the birthday party, so he took off at 8:30 and was gone for a couple hours. I missed him a lot and I realized that we haven’t spent much time apart in the evenings and I find that when we do, I really miss his company. We always have so much fun, but I am hopeful he has found an opportunity for some alone time while we are here, a time to make some friends and have some fun!

Thursday March 14, 2019

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.

I can’t help but think of the children at the hospital we are caring for here in Romania. These children (actually, most of them are babies) have no one to love them, hold them, read to them, play with them, etc. during their stay in the hospital. Now please don’t get the wrong idea, there are a lot of factors that lead to these children not having a caretaker. Most of these children have a family who are unable to care for them while they are hospitalized; a family they will go home to when they are released. I learned today that there are no other children’s hospital in this area, which means that families may have to come from many miles to get their child the care they need. This also means that they may be limited in their ability to get to the hospital regularly to visit, this could be because of a job or other children at home. This is where Firm Foundations Romania (FFR) comes in to play. They are filing a very necessary gap in the care of these children and in a very real way are providing these children with someone to rely on every day they are at the hospital. The children are given diapers, clothing, love, and attention. As a volunteer we are afforded the great responsibility to connect with these children so they are not alone and we can lift them up when they fall and show them the reward of human connection; we are showing them that “two are better than one”.

The difference we can have on the lives of others is incomprehensible and when you experience exactly how much of an impact you can have on just one person, you will be completely humbled. I have been blessed by this feeling only a handful of times in my life, professionally, as a volunteer, as a friend, and as a stranger. Our hearts and minds crave that human connection and we are lost without it.

I can’t help but think of the children’s book How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. In this book they use the analogy of an invisible bucket above our heads that when full we are happy, but when its empty we are angry, irritable, rude, etc. I have read this book with my kids many times with the hope of them seeing the “buckets” around them and to remind myself to look for them. This is how we find and fill the emptiness of people around us.

What would our world look like if when we saw someone who needed to be lifted and supported, we just did it and didn’t worry about all of the baggage the keeps us idle?

This concept is just what this year is about for us, but through the lens of Christ. We asked God to put us where He needed us, with those who needed their buckets filled, and He has done just that in ways that have hit me to the core. He has continually put us in places we were able to use the gifts He gave us to lift someone up or be their support. I felt this in every place we have been thus far, Germany, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and now in Romania. I know that God would have found ways to helps those who needed it without us doing this, but I do believe with everything in my heart that my impact was special in its own unique way, just as Jeff’s was unique, as well as my children’s. We are all different people, with different gifts from God, which means our impact will also be different and unique. We are like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, each one of us is a little piece of God and when we are all connected together, we make up the beautiful masterpiece that is God Himself.

Do you feel your heart leading to help or support someone? Is there a way for you to use one of your gifts to help someone else? Your impact doesn’t have to take you around the world, yours may be in the friend you meet for coffee on a last minute request or the person at the supermarket that you let go ahead of you because they seem rushed. There are so many ways we can be there for others and an easy place to start is to start seeing everyone’s buckets and work hard to help fill them up because what you will find is that when you fill theirs you also fill yours!

Our kids and their friends from downstairs thought they could play Trivial Pursuit 90’s edition.