Wednesday June 12, 2019

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

What would I do if I did unto others?  I would spend my time and love with them.  So, that’s what we are doing.  Today we made the much anticipated trip from Hamburg to Schonebeck.  First, though, we had to pack up yet again, run our gear to the car and then spend a few short hours in Hamburg.  After getting our luggage in the car we decided to head out for breakfast and a little last minute sightseeing.  We found a nice deli near the Rathaus, had breakfast and then made our way out.

After breakfast we did a quick trip through the Rathaus and then decided that we might as well head out.  The drive was expected to be about three hours and we figured we would need some groceries anyway.  So, anticipating an arrival time of 4pm (we had told everyone we would be in by 5) we headed out.  I drove while Sara studied and the kids played on their tablets.  It was relatively uneventful except for the fact that I was enjoying my first foray into driving on the Autobahn.  For those of you unaware, German highways for the most part do not have a speed limit.  Thus you drive as fast as you feel comfortable.  For me that was 190 km/h at one point (translated to mph that is 118).  At that speed our Opel Astra felt a little loose in the handling department so I decided to back off slightly.  It was still fun to drive at that speed especially aware that I would likely never drive at that rate in the US.

Three hours or so later we arrived in Schonebeck only to learn that Birgit had already done some grocery shopping for us.  Johannes recommended we get to the apartment to see what we had before shopping, though we did stop to make sure we would have some wine and beer for the evening.  We made our way through the familiar streets of Schonebeck happy to be back in this place that had meant so much and made so many memories.  Arriving at our former home away from home we felt great relief and excitement to see our friends.

We actually went to Joannes and Birgit’s home first (instead of the Pilgerherberge) and rang the bell.  With no answer we texted Johannes to let him know we had arrived.  Moments later we could see him walking around the corner at the apartment about 100 hundred yards or so away.  The kids saw him coming and literally sprinted towards him.  I will remember the squeals of joy and the smile on his face as our kids each took turns giving gigantic hugs to this wonderful human being.  We offloaded the car and then headed to Johannes’ house for drinks and a later dinner with our old friends.

Unfortunately Johannes and Birgit had to leave but they kindly opened their home to us for dinner which included our friends Steffi, Steve, Saskia, Rene, Susi, and Emma.  To say that we were overwhelmed by the love we received would be an understatement.  In one sense we were so happy to be home with these people we had not see in almost a year and at the same time we felt like we had never left.  It was just like being home.

I have written previously about the fact that in almost, if not all, places we have been God has given us a rainbow.  He did not fail again.  On a day when the weather forecast had originally called for no rain we received a downpour just before dinner.  Moreover, God gifted us yet another rainbow, reminding us again of His love and that He was with us on these travels.  I also think it was a reminder that we were in the place we were meant to be.  We enjoyed the company of our friends for the evening with a great meal (shout out to Steve and his excellent grilling skills).  After we retreated back to our old and familiar apartment and rested easy knowing we were in a place of great love.

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Tuesday June 4, 2019

Hebrews 4:12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

It was another beautiful and relaxing day in Byxelkrok on Öland Island. We didn’t do much today at all. The kids played on the beach, we completed a round of mini-golf, and then took the kids to Neptuni Akrar, which is a beach filled with smooth rocks and fossils. They had a blast walking around while I found a smooth spot to lay back and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.

During part of their time on the beach in front of our hotel, the kids were able to find some really neat rocks that they collected and then sorted. It was awesome to watch them work together to eliminate the rocks that would not be kept. They worked so well together and it was a wonderful sight. Every once in a while they do get along and I try my best to enjoy every moment.

I also got to play a riveting game of Tic Tac Toe with Lucia. This game board was awesome because it only had 3 pieces for each player, which meant that you had to keep moving your pieces around the board. It was a much more exciting way to play the game!

We ended up having a frozen lasagna for dinner tonight and we all agreed that it was definitely not the worst meal we ever ate! The kids all went to bed and Jeff and I sat on the porch enjoying the long days of Sweden overlooking the Baltic Sea.

During our time on the patio I opened my email to find that I didn’t get the job in Wisconsin I was hoping for. I felt that pang of disappointment and a feeling of having to start back at square one. I tried to not let this get me down and had to remind myself that it just meant that this was not the right job for me, and that God had other plans for me. I then found myself praying before bed, telling God that it is okay that I didn’t get that job because it obviously was not where He needed me, but if He could please share some of His plan to us, I would greatly appreciate it.

I know things will come together, but it is so difficult for me to just sit back and enjoy this part of the ride. We have nothing planned beyond driving back to Hanne and Christian’s tomorrow and then heading to Germany sometime early next week. We have no flights back to the states (we found great flights yesterday and by the time we went to book them this morning the prices had doubled!), no jobs, no house/apartment, etc. Jeff keeps reminding me to stay in the moment and not be overcome with trying to plan everything out, but I am really struggling with this. I have faith that it will work out; it always has. But I feel like I have no direction. I know what I want to do as far as my career goes, but I don’t know how to get there because I am not a great candidate due to the fact that I have been out of the workforce for the last 12 years. This is not easy, and while I never thought it would be, I guess I didn’t really how challenging it would be.

Thursday May 30th, 2019

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

Every place we have served we have seen a rainbow.  If you believe in signs then you no doubt will recognize this one as the sign God gave to Noah following the end of the great flood.  I always thought rainbows were beautiful but since taking on this journey and being blessed with them at every stop I have appreciated their significance that much more.  It also isn’t so much that we have seen rainbows as much as when.  They have typically come toward the end of our service time and while this may simply be coincidence I have long thrown such notions out the window.  So it was that today, the last day of our service in Romania, we had a late afternoon storm which gave us a brief, not terribly vivid, but evident rainbow.

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The day started out like just about every other we have had here.  I did my last shift at the hospital while Sara did some sorting and baby bundles in the support center.  We left the kids at home to enjoy their last day of playing with the Catos.  My shift was rather uneventful, passing out diapers, snuggling with babies, the usual.  I was particularly grateful though that Ann told me to pick whichever babies I wanted since today was my last day.  It isn’t like you have favorites but it was still a nice gesture on her part.

As it turns out my babies were particularly sleepy apparently because both cuddled up and promptly slept when I had them.  I felt really calm and peaceful about that.  This whole time I have been working I have wanted those babies to know they are loved and cared for even when they have been alone and away from their parents.  I felt like they felt comfortable in my arms and that is why they slept.  We didn’t play but I knew they felt my love for them which is why they were okay to simply let go and get a power nap.

I said my goodbyes to the staff and to Ann and Joyce and then picked up Sara.  We made a quick stop by the store for a few items to get us through our last evening and then headed home to pack up.  I ambitiously thought we could get this knocked out in two hours or fewer.  I was incorrect.  On the positive side it was only four or five hours and we only had to panic slightly when we realized that we underestimated the number of bags we would need.  But in the end we took a deep breath, recognized the challenge and overcame.  We got the house more or less straightened away, made especially difficult after realizing the girls had managed to spill an entire tupperware of chutney on the kitchen floor and then used all of our paper towels to clean it up.  We gave the house a good once over and then enjoyed a quick birthday celebration for Martin, our neighbors’ one year old.  Sara and I had a final meal of Dodo’s pizza and then we headed off to enjoy a relaxing night of sleep, prepping for the next day’s travels.

All in all despite a few hiccups the day was very peaceful, calm, and reassuring.  We knew that God had placed the path before us and we needed only follow it.  We had made the most of our opportunities and we felt made a contribution to the mission of FFR.  The rainbow I think was God’s way of reminding us that His covenant remains and is true.  I hope that it was also His way of showing us that the path we have taken is consistent with His plan.  I look forward to the next rainbow, wherever it may be.

Saturday May 25, 2019

1 Peter 1:8-9 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We woke this morning with a sense of peace with the decision to leave Braşov on Friday. As it has been in the past, as soon as we made this decision (or finally decide to follow God’s path), everything falls into place. Even though it is not ideal, we now have a plan and I feel a sense of relief. We booked our flights to Copenhagen and made the necessary arrangements to make it to Karlskrona, Sweden to visit a college friend of mine. I am beyond excited to see her and spend some time with her. And even though our change of plans will reduce our time together, I am grateful they were able to work with us on this change, and I will be happy with whatever time we do get! From Sweden we will head to Germany to visit our friends in Schonebeck and then back to the States (AZ first and then WI). In all we should be back in the US around the 20th of June.

It is hard to think that we will be home a month early, and to be honest it makes me a bit sad. I think this is what made this decision so difficult; we felt that we had to finish this year because that is what we set out to do. But every door we encountered was closed and I think we finally realized that God was just telling us that our time was done. I don’t know why yet, but I am sure He will reveal His plan to us in due time.

As I read this scripture I do feel an “indescribably and glorious joy”, in part because even though it is difficult at times, both Jeff and I have always tried to be open to where God is leading us. And though it may take us a while to understand and see it, He continually reaffirms our faith by being patient with us and then opening the doors to the path He wants us to walk. My faith and relationship with God has grown so much over this year. All of the times I felt stressed or overwhelmed, He was always the foundation for why we were doing this, and with God at the center, everything we did had purpose and filled us with this indescribable and glorious joy to which Peter is referring. I am so thankful that God provided us with the courage and the fortitude to complete this journey, even if it wasn’t the full year we set out to do, both Jeff and I feel that we have honored God in everything and pray that this is not the end, but only the beginning of many journeys yet to come.

On a totally different note, tonight we had dinner with Katie and Calah (our rescheduled dinner from Thursday). Jeff and I worked together to make one of our favorite meals from India, Chicken Korma with chipatis and chutney. This dinner was definitely our best effort thus far, it turned out so amazing. On top of that, we got to spend the evening with Katie who was leaving Romania on Tuesday and with Calah as we leave on Friday. We felt very blessed to have worked alongside Katie for the last 3 months and Calah for the last 2 months. They have both been so kind and welcoming to our family and we are going to miss them both, though hopefully our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

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.

Monday May 13, 2019

Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’

I think Sara asked me to write today’s blog because she had no idea to what this reading pertains.  Unfortunately I agree with her.  The first part seems fairly straight forward enough but that second part, it’s all a little “Biblical”.

In any case God is our refuge and we try to remember that as often as possible.  After today’s news we are even more hopeful for that to be the case.  We thought that we had found an apartment in Madison for our return which would work, even if it were a bit cramped.  However, when our friend Sandy went to take a look she learned that the representative had not realized that there would be five residents.  Apparently she had ignored our application which clearly referenced not only Sara and me but also our three children.  Needless to say we were not too excited about the prospects of getting that apartment anymore so back to square one.

All that is okay though.  We know that this will all work out in the end.  While I know that my friends and family are starting to panic about our living arrangements I am as calm as ever.  Not that I plan to move in with relatives or friends but I know that there is a place for us, we just don’t know where it is yet.  God is my refuge.  I am just hoping the enemies before me are the absence of affordable and properly sized housing!

As for the day aside from apartment hunts, it was relatively uneventful.  Sara worked the hospital shift, Luci and David enjoyed their first day of no school having completed their coursework for the year, and Anjali continued her commitment to being an early adopter of teenage angst.  We managed the morning well enough and enjoyed a relatively relaxing afternoon.  I think the kids were content to just enjoy being done with school so they played hard with the neighbors and enjoyed the spring air.

 

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.