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 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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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!

 

 

Monday April 15, 2019

Revelations 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

I seriously cannot believe that this is the scripture for today. Jeff gave me this recent list of scripture in February/March, when my grandmother was alive and fighting to get healthy. And now, the day before her funeral service this scripture shows up, one that was selected over a month or two ago. I swear these are not planned and I think that is what makes them so powerful. More times than I can count, these scriptures have brought so much clarity and peace to difficult times. Here I am, the day before my grandmother’s memorial, and this is the scripture; God will wipe every tear and death will be no more. I can’t even begin to describe how much comfort and peace this brought me. I am so thankful for His grace and His wisdom to put these words in front of me today. It is amazing how much comfort printed words can bring after a loss of someone so special to you. I was needing the reminder that my grandmother was not dead, but rather alive with her father in heaven; not in pain, but living the life He intended for her. She is with her loved ones that went before her and while we are left here to mourn and grieve, there is definitely a sense of peace in knowing that the pain and discomfort she felt here on earth is no more. Furthermore, I am reminded that God will wipe the tears from my eyes and comfort me during this time of mourning.

Today my mom highlighted my hair, which I haven’t had done in over 3-4 years. I love having the little bits of color in my hair and what’s even better was spending all that time with her. I loved every minute of this time. After hair we did some more shopping and then headed home where we realized that the slideshow remembrance video of grandma was not done very well by the mortuary, so I started from the beginning and made a new one. I spent quite a bit of time working on this and then headed to the airport to pick up my brother. I thought for sure I would be tired by the time we got home at 12:00, but that was not the case, so I worked on finishing up the video. I think I finally fell asleep at 2 am, but hopefully I will actually get some good sleep tonight.

Sunday April 14, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I enjoyed a really nice day with my mom and dad, but the jet lag is just cruel. I woke up this morning after about 4 hours of sleep and headed for a hike with my mom. I really miss the mountains and the hikes here in Arizona, it is a great way to start your day.

We then spent part of the afternoon running some errands to gather some things requested by kids to bring back for them (ie: sour candy, mac and cheese, and books). This evening we met with Jesse, Tessa, and Annecy for some really good Mexican food where I had a margarita and some spicy food to go along with the fabulous company of family.

I am so glad I was able to make the journey back to my family for my grandmother’s service; it would have been extremely difficult to not be here. I really am trying to take full advantage of my family and the very short time I have with them before heading back to Romania. Being with my parents and siblings has brought me so much peace as we celebrate the life of my grandmother. It was a beautiful time of stories and reflection that I am so grateful to be a part. 

I read this scripture and am reminded that God has provided me with this opportunity to be with my family and to celebrate the life of my grandmother, a woman who was an example of the kind of faith in God that I want to have. But God is also reminding me to enjoy every moment I have with my family. They have supported us so much during this journey and even from across the world, we feel their love. It is not hard to follow the advice of Paul to keep on doing the things that bring us joy and peace because I know God is with me, guiding me through this journey of grief and loss.

I was also able to talk with my kids and my wonderful husband, who is holding down the fort in Romania. I miss them so much it hurts. We have been together non-stop over the last 9 months and not being with them leaves a empty void in my heart. Thankfully Jeff said the kids are doing well and stepping up to help dad as he works through being a single parent to 3 in a foreign country.

Friday March 29, 2019

Philippians 1:6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Today’s scripture is a terrific reminder of how God isn’t finished with us yet. He will always finish His work in us and it is yet another way He is affirming to me that I need to be patient. The recent themes of patience, God’s timing, and His plan has been redundant over the last few weeks, but I am pretty confident that is because I have needed the reminders and the affirmation that He does have a plan for me and my family. I do like this idea that He is not done working in me yet, probably because it is so simple. With all of the possibilities that we tossed up in the air recently He has a plan for every piece of it and when He does reveal it, it will be awesome and wonderful and full of blessings.

I stayed back with the kids today to teach while Jeff headed to the hospital for some baby time. Our kids have had a marked change in their efforts with school recently and I have a feeling being around so many other kids that are homeschooled gave them a new perspective and a new energy to finish out this school year strong. They have had their moments, don’t get me wrong, but overall they are doing great and are all set to finish their grade level (well, Lucia actually will be finishing 1st grade since she has already completed Kindergarten) by the end of May, if not sooner. I am so thankful for the homeschooling families around us here because their impact on our kids has been so powerful and positive.

Jeff came home after the morning shift and had lunch with us and then we both headed back up to the hospital to feed the newborns. This was the first time we have worked together and it was so much fun. I love spending time with him, especially when it is just the two of us because I am always laughing and having a great time. We made it home to find all three children buried in their screens, but they were quickly shooed outside to play which led to the screams and laughter of many children until everyone returned home for dinner.

I feel rejuvenated despite the loss of my grandmother, which at first seems very odd, but as I reflect on this scripture I think it is because I know He is not done yet. This is definitely a difficult curve in our path, but there is a comfort in knowing that this is all part of His plan. I also think I am comforted in knowing that His plan for my grandmother was to bring her home to be with Him. Her time here with us was done and He finished His work within her, so she went home. God only fulfilled His promise to her. This a very comforting scripture when I am able to apply it to my life, but it is even more so when I put it in the context of my grandmother’s life. God will never leave us and He will always care for us, until His work in us is done and we go home to be with Him.

Thursday March 28, 2019

Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Today was a difficult day. We got a phone call from my mom early this morning to let us know that my grandmother passed away yesterday. While I knew this was a possibility it is still very difficult to be so far from family when things like this happen. My grandmother was a wonderful person and always made me laugh. She was strong, funny, caring, and giving (just to name a few), and as I read this verse I feel very close to her because this is who she was. She cared for everyone the best she could and would do anything for you. She always made you feel welcome and for me, she was always there to encourage me and to pray for me. She will be very missed, not just by me and my family, but by all those who had the blessing of knowing her.

I was trying to get myself motivated this morning for the hospital shift, but it was just not happening. Jeff gently mentioned that spending the day as a family would be good for all of us. Thankfully we had another volunteer helping Calah this morning, so when I called she assured me that they would be fine without me. We all showered up and went for a walk through Brasov, up to the cable car and then took a short hike to the Brasov sign overlooking the city. It was so peaceful up on top of the hill, above the noise of the city and among God’s creation. The kids wanted to walk to the summit, but I decided to stay back and enjoy some time with God. I found a nice rock where I was able to have a wonderful conversation with God, thanking Him for the time I had with my grandmother. I know she is enjoying heaven and happy to be reunited again with her loved ones who went before her.

Here are some pictures of our day today:

From the top of Tampa Mountain

Lucia took a great picture of Jeff from the summit of Tampa Mountain.

Jeff and I were talking during our walk about how many things we have up in the air right now. It is like we just took our lives, threw up a bunch of possibilities for the future and now we are waiting to see how everything falls. While I was sitting atop Tampa Mountain I asked God for just a little glimpse into our future, just for one of our items to come back down where it belongs. I have written about patience and how difficult it is for me to wait for God’s timing, and I guess with everything going on I just needed a little something, the dust from just one of our many possibilities to settle. As I watched my family walk back down from the summit I was so grateful that Jeff suggested this. I really needed to be with my family today.

We walked through town and found a quiet little restaurant for lunch and I was a bit shocked that God came through so quickly with an answer to my prayer. The answer doesn’t matter as much as God’s quick response to what I needed. He is always there for me when I need Him and is even there when I don’t. He is the perfect example of what it means to care for others and take care of those we love. I felt His love and comfort today when I needed it the most and for that I am very thankful.