Tuesday June 11, 2019

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

Over this past year people have told us how “brave” Jeff and I was for taking 3 children around the world to volunteer. Most of the time, we have truly enjoyed the experience, even in the struggles with behavior. By the end of the day today, Jeff made the comment that he now understands that very statement. Our children began fighting upon waking up and didn’t stop the rest of the day. We did make it out of the house to see a few sights, including the Speicherstadt (historic red brick warehouse buildings along the Elbe River) and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (a modern concert hall atop a historic red brick warehouse). We enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the Elbe River and had hopes of a nice day exploring this old and historic city.

Speicherstadt (Hamburg, Germany) Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany)

But that didn’t last. Anjali didn’t complain about her foot at all in the morning, but as soon as she heard that we were going to walk for about 15-20 minutes to the next sight, she lost it; her foot was just hurting too bad to do that. Then David wanted to go home, but that made Anjali angry because he was “copying her”. Everything went downhill from there. We decided that we would take the kids home and give them a break (we were even going to give them their screens to play) while Jeff and I explored the city together. But those plans fell through too because the kids could not stop arguing and fighting. It was at this moment that Jeff and I decided to split up. One would go sightseeing and the other would stay home with the kids. Jeff needed a break from the kids, so I opted to stay with them, but the kids then decided they now wanted to explore! I can’t even begin to share with you the level of frustration from both Jeff and I, even Anjali’s foot was now feeling better. I wanted to scream, but since Jeff needed a break, he opted to now stay home and I would take the kids out exploring once again. This is why people tell us that we are “brave” to travel like this with kids!!

So the kids and I took off to see St. Nicholai church and then Rathaus (or city hall). We even took the elevator up to the top of the church and then down in the crypt museum where we learned all about the history of Hamburg and this church. It was incredible and really powerful.

View from the top of the tower at St. Nicholai Memorial Church with St. Michael’s Church in the Happy kids for the moment. An aerial view of the Rathaus from the top of St. Nicholai Rathaus fountain in the courtyard (Anjali didn’t want to be in the photo) David thought this was a cool door and frame. David and Lucia inside the Rathaus (Anjali standing beside me taking the picture) Looking away from the Rathaus in the city center. A group shot (with Anjali) in front of the Rathaus. One silly family.

After an hour or so of exploring the kids were again done, but this time were kind enough to just say so and not completely blow a gasket, so we headed home. Jeff was feeling a bit rested and we both decided that we wanted to go explore more, but this time without the children. They seemed to have calmed down and no one was fighting. So we did a very responsible parenting thing, we gave them their screens, knowing that it would buy us a couple hours of entertainment, and bolted from the apartment.

Jeff and I walked to the Saint Pauli Elbtunnel. This tunnel was built in 4 years to support the mass of harbor workers and took you across the Elbe River. We walked this tunnel both ways and while it was pretty cool to walk under the river, I think we were just enjoying the company of each other without the distractions of children. From here we walked along the Elbe over to St. Nicholai Memorial Church and the Rathaus. It was a very relaxing afternoon, in spite of the stressful and frustrating morning.

One of the many Harbor Bridges near the tunnel. A selfie overlooking the harbor. St. Nicholai Memorial Church

Rathaus

We went home to check on the kids, thankful they were not fighting like cats and dogs. Though shortly after coming home and the turning the screens off, they were at it again. Dinner out was never going to happen, nor were Jeff and I going to leave to watch the soccer game. So we made a decision to make a quick and easy dinner for the children (grilled cheese sandwiches, some fruit and veggies, and Pringles) and we would order to take-away. While I made dinner for the kids, Jeff worked hard to find the US Women’s Soccer match against Thailand. We finally got the kids to sleep and I ran out to grab some food for us and then we sat down to watch the very lopsided match. I think we were both extremely tired and out of patience given the day. We ended up calling it a night, slightly frustrated with each other (though I don’t think either of us knows why).

As I reflect on this stressful day I realize that God absolutely provided to us. While we didn’t get to see all that we (I mean Jeff and I) wanted, I look back at these pictures and realize that we did see Hamburg. God definitely was with us today (or we may have left our children in Hamburg : )) and He poured His love over us, allowing all of us to recover enough to see parts of Hamburg. We were challenged and had a lot of fights and struggles, but in the end, His love gave us the opportunity to enjoy Hamburg and I am grateful for the short glimpses of happiness we had today.

Monday June 10, 2019

Isaiah 32:18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Our family was not abiding in a peaceful habitation this morning. Our whole morning was fighting, arguing, and yelling. I don’t think there was a single moment of peace in our little apartment this morning. On top of all the fighting and yelling, Anjali was complaining that her ankle was hurting again and that she was not able to walk around. This is quite frustrating because she was totally fine to walk around Malmo yesterday and play laser tag, but now that there is something that Jeff and I want to do, she is magically injured again. I guess I have lost a bit of empathy for her situation, mainly because it seems that she is hurt when it gives her a way out of doing something that doesn’t interest her, but she is totally fine when it is something she deems fun. I want to take the silly crutches and throw them into the Elbe River so she can’t keep using them as a crutch (pun intended)!

I think I had finally had enough of the yelling and screaming, fighting and arguing, complaining, etc. that I told everyone to get in the car and we were driving to Hamburg without seeing any of the sights here in Kolding. I was so angry. We came here to see a few of the highlights of the city, but rather we got to pay a lot of money to sleep in a beautiful apartment and see Kolding by looking out our window. It felt like such a waste, but I eventually calmed down enough to realize that my children were exhausted and that they were just not up for sightseeing. But if you get the chance to explore Kolding, I am sure that you will have a great time. It seems to be a great town with a ton of outdoor activities to do and some really beautiful sights to see.

Our last few trips Jeff has been driving and I have been sitting in the passenger seat helping with navigation when needed, but studying. I have found it to be very difficult to study in the car and today was no different. After about 20-30 minutes of reading in the car, my eyes begin to get heavy and I have a hard time staying awake. I am not even tired, I guess it is just the motion of the car putting me to sleep. But I have powered through and have made significant progress in my studies. My goal is still to take my licensing exam when we get back to Arizona at the end of June.

We arrived in Hamburg, Germany after a fairly uneventful drive. We didn’t do much today as far as sightseeing, but we did manage to stop into an Italian restaurant near our apartment for dinner. Our apartment is in the best possible location, we are right in the middle of everything that we would want to see in Hamburg and I am so excited that we are here for two nights and will actually have time to explore.

One of the many harbors in Hamburg, Germany at night.

After dinner we put the kids to bed and waited until they were mostly asleep before we headed out to find a bar that was showing the Women’s World Cup, which was surprisingly difficult given the fact that almost all the bars/restaurants were closed due to the observance of Pentecost, it is called Weiss Montag. But we did find one and made our way there. As we were walking to the bar, we had to walk past St. Nicholai Church. I had no idea about the history of Hamburg before tonight and it fed my desire to learn more. What I did learn tonight was that St. Nicholai Church was one of the few standing structures remaining after the city of Hamburg was destroyed by a fire that resulted from bombings in WWII. Now I must clarify, the church itself is not fully intact, actually only the spire/tower remains. The knave and sanctuary of the church was completely destroyed by bombs and the subsequent firestorm. As I stood in the remains of what was the sanctuary of this church, I was overcome by a multitude of emotions. I desperately want to come back to the church to learn more and to see this spectacular sight during the day. I am so grateful that the church was never rebuilt and that the history, as terrible as it was, is still intact as a reminder to all of us.

We finally made it to the bar, ordered our beers and settled in to watch the game, only to get several phone calls from the kids about the little one not calming down and going to bed. (she was almost asleep when we left, or so she let us think) After the 3rd or 4th phone call, we decided that we needed to be home and of course when we got home 10 minutes later, they were all awake and we missed watching the second soccer game because our TV was broken in the apartment. UGGHHHHH. I am holding out hope that tomorrow will be better, though I am not that confident since all of the kids didn’t go to sleep until almost 10:30 pm!

 

 

Wednesday October 24, 2018

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today was a Buddhist holiday (I am still trying to figure out exactly what it was and will update the blog as soon as I know), so we all got up early to get dressed up in traditional Thai clothes (see pictures below). We also had the pleasure of getting to visit with Wow (our coordinator) who was here visiting her father, Wat (our host), for his birthday.

From my understanding, this holiday is about alms giving to the monks at the temple as a way to remembering those who have passed and to earn good merit/luck for your family presently. Wat and his mother had prepared 20 baskets filled with rice, snacks (and other food items), paper, pencils, soap, shampoo, and other various sundries. Basically the baskets contained all that one would need, including a stick that had money tied to it. This tradition is like nothing I have ever seen before in my life. When we pulled up to the temple and found the family spot, which they reserve each and every year) we unloaded the baskets and I was in awe at the vast number of families who also brought 20+ baskets of their own. The entire inside and outside courtyard was filled with people, families, and baskets.

A prayer done over the loud-speaker so everyone could hear and then the monks began walking around the temple grounds. People would invite a monk (whether it was their favorite monk, a revered monk, an old monk, a poor monk, etc) to their table. The basket would be placed in a chair next to the monk who would then say a prayer over the basket and for the family/person, water from a bottle is poured onto the ground, and then the monk takes the basket and the money stick.

This morning was a beautiful display of kindness and generosity and goes right along with our experiences here thus far. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity, for myself and my family, to experience this wonderful tradition. Our host family also provided us the opportunity to not just be a spectator today, but also a participant. They gave one of the baskets to us and I made the money stick (with a lot of help and guidance from grandma and Wat). Wat then wrote down, what I understood as a prayer request for safety and protection. When we invited a monk to sit down with us, he read from the note card, I poured the water on the ground, as he continued with his prayer, we bowed and thanked the monk, he took the basket and disappeared into the crowd.

As we sat as a family and listened to the monk pray over this basket and our family, I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace and grace, something that I could only describe by the Holy Spirit. I am so grateful for God’s plan and the strength He has given to our family to follow His path. Even in this completely different culture, amongst people who believe and follow a very different religion than me, I don’t feel anything other than peace. My family has been welcomed by these wonderful people and God has continually provided for our needs during the last 3 months and I am amazed that we have already completed 1/4 of our time-serving others abroad.

Another neat thing happened yesterday, as we were visiting with the family members at our table, we were approached by two people that we found out were American Peace Corps Volunteers. I felt a little bit of home talking with these folks and it was wonderful to hear about their programs and what they are doing here in Thailand. One was working at the government office helping with youth leadership skills and the other was teaching English.

Today was a beautiful day for our family. We were able to experience an important Thai Buddhist tradition and I pray that our children were able to soak in a bit of this beautiful culture.

 

Tuesday October 23, 2018

Psalm 47:1  Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.

This blog post was written by my wonderful husband, Jeff. : )

October 23rd is the Thai celebration of King Chulalongkorn.  He was the fifth king of Siam and is celebrated because of his significant reforms made to society during his reign.  The king took the throne at the age of 15 and was exposed to Western culture and language.  You may recognize his story,  less from the impact he made on the lives of the slaves he set free or the social reforms for equality he enacted, and more from the Broadway musical and movie adaptations of the book, Anna and the King of Siam.

Although we are in a land known for its adoration of Buddha and his teachings, and less so for their recognition of the Abrahamic God, I can’t help but recognize the joy in their shouts today as they celebrate the goodness, love, and humility shown by their former king.  We witnessed this celebration firsthand as we milled through the markets set up alongside the Nan River and as we watched and listened to the Long Boat races.  Though we could not understand the language, we were certain there was joy, as smiles abounded and laughter filled the air.  Really that is all that this scripture reading asks us to do, celebrate the world which God has so willingly and graciously given to us.

Although the Thai people do not share the same Christian faith that I have, I can state unequivocally that they share, and perhaps exceed, my appreciation for the world.  The Thai people express gratitude, humility, and friendliness that I have rarely come to encounter, and they do so with no expectation of a returned favor.  I feel very fortunate to understand that a belief in the same God is not required to live like God wants us to live and I realize that the many teachings of Buddhism align very well with those of Jesus.  Perhaps we have a lot more in common than we have in disagreement.  For that I shout to God with loud songs of Joy.

Thursday October 18, 2018

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

While we were not scheduled to teach at the schools on Thursdays or Fridays, we now are able to teach for the rest of the month because we won’t be teaching the monks. However, the primary school was not prepared for this and the kids won’t be there this week, so it will just be the little ones for Thursday and Friday.

Today was another day of teaching that went very well. We seem to be finding our groove and a nice rhythm that works with the classes that we are teaching. We are all having a really good time teaching, some more than others. As I have mentioned before, Lucia has been given A LOT of attention here and she seems to think very highly of herself, even to the point of trying to teach over me! While this may sound really cute, it makes it really difficult to teach while there’s another little voice continually trying to talk over you. Jeff had to pull her aside to let her know that she was there to help, not to be the only teacher. This made her very angry and we had a sulking Lucia the rest of the day. I love her confidence, but she could really use a lesson in humility—all the attention has gone to her head!

After we taught the younger kids, we were done for the day. We went home, the kids finished their homework that didn’t get completed, we had dinner and then we went the boat racing fair. There is a big boat race next Tuesday and so there is a fair/carnival down by the Nan River. It was so much fun–Giant Hamster Balls for the kids to play in, tons of food and clothing vendors, and tons to see! We all had a blast, but I think we kept the kids up too late.

Putting them to bed tonight was quite difficult, and again we had some tantrums and fights from the girls. And like usual, David did great!

Friday October 12, 2018

Matthew 10:8 “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

Today we woke up to find that David was having difficulty walking because he now has hives on the bottoms of his feet and on his hands. His feet and hands are incredibly swollen, so we headed straight for the clinic again this morning. Jeff took Lucia to school with him and Anjali stayed home because she seems to have been affected by the same stomach problem that Jeff and Lucia has yesterday, and to add on to everything, so do I. I almost wanted to laugh, but there was no time for that.

I took David to the doctor, only to be told that he was having an allergic reaction to something and that we needed to figure out what it was. Neither Jeff or I are convinced that this is an allergic reaction, but we figured we would rule out a food allergy. David ate nothing today except a Nutella sandwich and Annie’s Mac and Cheese (our wonderful friends at church sent a box of goodies and who knew this would come in so handy!) We read up on food allergy hives that they only last for up to 6-8 hours after the food is consumed, so if he ate nothing but food that we knew he wasn’t allergic to and if he still had hives in the morning, we would know that they were not caused by food.

On the plus side, Jeff and Lucia seem to be doing better. So after taking David to the clinic and getting he and Anjali set up with some homework for the day, I headed off to the temple to teach the second half of the day. Teaching today was fairly uneventful, but still the same—a few monks seem interested in learning the language, but others are falling asleep and don’t seem to care. I have resolved to teaching those that want to learn and if some want to sleep during the lesson, so be it. The ones that actually want to learn are doing well and seem to enjoy the lessons.

On our way home from the temple, Jeff, Lucia, and I stopped off at the pharmacy and picked up some ice packs for David’s feet and hands, as well as some more of the oil we’ve been using to help with the hives and Aloe Vera gel to help sooth some of the tenderness. At this point I want to do anything I can to help ease some of his discomfort. Once I got every set, Jeff insisted that I go and lay down to rest, since I was no affected (though not as severe as Jeff) by the same stomach problem he and Lucia had (and Anjali currently has). This is just getting overwhelming.

The only pictures I have from today are the ones that our friend Katie sent of Anjali’s hamster, Gumdrop. So here you go…

Wednesday October 10, 2018

John 17:18-23 “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

We went to the temple again today to teach, but we only taught for the morning. In the afternoon, we went with Wat to the immigration office (yes, we didn’t actually need to go to the immigration office in Bangkok and we didn’t need to change our plans because we could have done it all here. Sigh….) to let them know that we would be staying in this area for the next two months with Wat.

Afterwards, Wat took us through Nan to see his latest construction site and then to Wat Phuket in the mountains. This temple was absolutely stunning and serene. We were at the temple for about 2 hours and walked around to enjoyed the views of the mountains and rice paddies until the rain came, forcing us to leave.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

As we were driving away from the Wat (temple) we were able to drive right past water buffalo and get some great pictures of them up close.

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We then went to dinner at an “all you can eat seafood” restaurant. Now I will admit, I was a bit hesitant about this because my thought of all you can eat was American style, all you can eat buffet of pre-cooked food, and one of these with seafood just didn’t sound that great. But holy cow, this place was amazing. It was called The Port and while it was an “all you can eat” buffet, none of the food was actually cooked. It was all cooked at the table on a grill, right in front of us. The food was absolutely amazing.

David seems to feel just fine, but the hives are still all over him and is just very tired. I feel so bad for him and he has been such a trooper through all of this. He rarely complains until he starts to get overly tired, but otherwise he just goes along for the ride and tries to enjoy it the best he can.