Friday June 7, 2019

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

Friday, the last day of our stay in Karlskrona.  Once again we awoke with no significant plans for the day other than to have Mexican food and margaritas.  For Sara and I though this is somewhat of a major plan.  Margaritas to us do not come in cans or mixers, they come from real limes which we juice and then mix with a simple syrup, tequila, and cointreau (or triple sec if our budget is tight).  We had a nice breakfast and hung around the house until Hanne and Sara decided it might be fun to head to the local beach just up the way from their house.  I was not particularly keen on the beach idea and opted instead to handle grocery shopping duties.  This was a major step for me as it meant having to drive the manual transmission car into town, park, then drive home.  Given the fact that I had now had about 10 days of practice there was some trepidation at this idea but I wanted the challenge and encouraged everyone to go and I would handle the “monumental” task ahead.

Turns out it wasn’t so hard to shop but I had fun and as it turned out so did everyone else.  We reconvened at the house and proceeded to get dinner ready which required roasting chiles, juicing lemons, and browning meat for tacos. Dinner was a success and all seemed to enjoy the food. For us adults, the margaritas were a welcome treat for the rest of the night. We enjoyed watching Sweden take on a fierce opponent in a soccer match.  Visited with Hanne and Christian and then retreated to bed for the evening.

While the day was very low key it was once again a pleasant respite.  We have enjoyed just being, not doing, in Sweden, content on spending time with our friends rather than racing around to find the next activity.  We certainly have felt reconciliation with our friends and I know for Sara especially this has been a tremendous gift.  I believe that is what it means to be saved by Jesus’ life, that by living as best we can in His image we will truly live.  Our focus for these last few days of our trip has been to really live in the moment, grateful for the time that we have to visit and rest our bodies and minds.  We know that there will be lots of work ahead for us and most certainly challenges aplenty but we can rest easy knowing that we are in God’s hands and that our worries can wait for another day.  For now we will rest easy and prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies for the road ahead.

These two pictures were taken just after midnight from Hanne and Christian’s dock. As you can see the sun is just finally setting, but will only rest for a few hours before shining bright again on a new day.

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.

 

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 12, 2019

Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

We had all intentions of going to church this morning, but with our late evening last night and I can only imagine the kids’ late night (they were in bed but still awake when we left), no one was up in time. So I took the opportunity to enjoy my coffee and some breakfast without worrying that we didn’t make it to church. I definitely didn’t want fight today to make an effort at getting everyone ready in time.

After a very lazy morning, Jeff and I headed to the store for the necessary items for Subji (a traditional Indian dish), Chipatis, and Chutney. It was a wonderful walk with my husband and then we got to enjoy a nice meal at the mall before heading into the grocery store. I know that on Mother’s Day I am supposed to be enjoying my children, but it was really nice not to listen to the barrage of requests or bickering/fighting amongst them. I am sure that one day in the future I will miss those things, but for right now I will enjoy the break!

Unfortunately the store didn’t have the necessary ingredients for our subji dinner, so we improvised with tradition Romanian meat to grill (Mici and pork chops). Jeff made a wonderful dinner, complete with mashed potatoes and veggies. The kids were happy when we got home and we all enjoyed a pleasant evening before Jeff headed off to play Ultimate Frisbee.

While the day was extremely relaxing, I also didn’t have any opportunity to dwell on anything, and it was wonderful. I felt so at peace with the unknown. I am sure it will change tomorrow, but I take joy in knowing that today He gave me a whole day of peace and rest. I am so grateful for Jeff’s regular reminder to be patient in God’s timing because His timing is always right. I need that reminder regularly, especially as we are facing our future of unknowns. I have faith that things will fall where God wants them to, I am just impatient.

Thursday May 9, 2019

Psalm 48:14 “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”

“When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Today, Lucia, my littlest child, reminded me of the truth, to be a child to truly appreciate the kingdom of God.  Earlier this week Sara and I watched a film called Courageous.  It was written and directed by a group that has done several Christian themed films, all of which are tremendous.  In this particular movie the emphasis is on fatherhood and how to be a father that would be pleasing to God.  Ever since watching this film I have tried very hard  to recognize times that I can be a better father starting first and foremost with saying yes to my kids when they want to do something with me.  Today, it was Luci’s turn.

Luci has been on repeat lately asking to help with dinner preparations.  At six years old she is not terribly helpful in too many ways but what she lacks in skills, size, usefulness, knowledge, and safety she makes up for, and in spades, with enthusiasm.  And so it was that when I remarked to the kids that I had to go grocery shopping for dinner that Luci was all on board about going.  First she grabbed her pink backpack which she had seen mom use on more than one occasion because of its ability to handle a sizable amount of goods.  Then she proceeded to stuff it full with her water bottle, blanket, stuffed animal, and pez dispenser.  I reminded her gently that we would need some of that space for groceries so she reluctantly put the blanket and “neigh neigh” back.  She announced to all who would listen that she and I were heading out and off we went.

If you have ever gone anywhere with a 6 year old you will know what befell me over the next fifteen minutes.  She was a tornado of movement and a nonstop blur of speech.  The topics ranged beyond my recollection and certainly my ability to keep pace.  But in it all she was simply thrilled.  On such a mediocre journey as grocery shopping you would have thought that she was on her way to the moon.  Skipping, laughing, jumping, and smiling the whole way.  Luci reminded me to take the joy in every moment we have, no matter how “mundane” it may seem.  As we neared the halfway point it dawned on me how much I could learn from her exuberance and so we discussed plans for Mother’s Day dinner.  She was simply thrilled that she was included in the plans and, although her culinary knowledge is lacking, her suggestions were nevertheless enjoyable to hear.

As I reflect now on this time I realize that I must seem a bit like Luci to me as I am to God.  Sadly there are too many times that instead of skipping and laughing I am hanging my head in despair or grief.  But in all times I imagine I am like Luci offering suggestions for ingredients for Indian food (marshmallows and ice cream as it turns out are not traditional sub-jee items).  Here I was thinking I know the answers, the ingredients for a good life, when in reality God knows them far better than I.  I foolishly say my peace but in the end God guides me and we have a fantastic meal together and all the while I am happier.  I just feel blessed to be going on the journey with Him, just like Luci just loved saying she was part of the adventure.

I am happy to be included on the walk, happy that He listens to my crazy ideas about how ice cream will really finish the sauce nicely, and happy that He lets me enjoy the meal when He is finished.  It is hard to humbly admit that my 6 year-old gets it better than I do, but I am sure glad she was there to remind me today.

 

 

Sunday April 7, 2019

Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused.

Today we skipped church so we could spend the afternoon at Bran Castle. We walked down to the bus station to find out the we missed the bus by 1 minute, but we were saved from an hour long wait with three kids by a very nice taxi driver who offered to drive us to Bran and back. As much as I wanted the adventure of taking the bus, waiting for an hour until the next departure with three kids sounded like a bad idea. So we hopped into the taxi with Eugene and were at the castle in about 30 minutes with a private tour guide to show us the best places to get traditional Romanian treats like Kurtos and Langos (Hungarian fried flat break topped with jam).

Kurtos (pronounced Kurtosh) covered in cinnamon

We all had a great time learning about the history of the castle and the story behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When we were buying our tickets both Anjali and David were very interested in the seeing the torture exhibit, so we made our way through that portion of the castle towards the end of our tour. This ended up being a bit more than I was wanting them to see, especially Lucia, and as we walked viewed the various torture mechanisms I could see their interest slowly fade, so we made a fairly rapid exit and headed to our driver. Here are a few pictures from the castle.

A secret staircase that was not discovered until the 1900’s

We ended up having a great afternoon with no real tantrums or fights, even though, despite our best efforts, David didn’t eat much food at all. On a positive note he did prove to us that he has control over his behavior with no food, which is a nice change of pace! We made it home, ordered some pizza, sent the kids to bed and Jeff took off for his ultimate frisbee game while I stayed back and enjoyed some TV and wine! This was a wonderful family day and am so grateful that everyone was in a good mood so we all could enjoy the experience of Dracula’s Castle!