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 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.

 

Friday April 5, 2019

1 Timothy 1:12-17 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The peace I felt today was overwhelming. Maybe it was the many prayers over the last week or it was an actually good night sleep because Lucia did not come wake us up. But whatever the reason I was forever grateful at the peace and calm feeling I had when I woke up this morning. I felt rested and content. I got up, did some yoga, made my smoothie and headed off to the hospital enjoying my peaceful walk through the city of Brasov. Despite the difficulty of this shift (lots of crying, some even screaming and jumping up and down in their beds, when we left their rooms) I felt rejuvenated in what God wants me to do. He wants me to be in the present and give all that I have to these beautiful children in the hospital and at home. I had a strong need to spend some fun time with my children this afternoon, so I asked if they would please be done with their schoolwork by the time I got home. Unfortunately this didn’t happen, but my mood was not wavering. I was able to hang out at the house while the kids played outside. And though I wanted to spend time with them, they were so happy to be with their friends that I didn’t want to disrupt their enjoyment. Anjali was invited to the Youth Group at the church we have been attending and was given a ride to and from the meeting tonight. We had a plan of hamburgers for dinner, but our meat had gone bad during the course of the week. So once Anjali left for her youth group we all made the long walk down to The Addiction, a restaurant right at the bottom of our stairs, for dinner.

Our dinner, while I really missed Anjali, was wonderful. The food was so good and the company of David and Lucia was so fun. The food and the service was spectacular and we all thoroughly enjoyed our respective evenings. We got home just in time for Anjali and then everyone went to bed, even Jeff and I (we both have been so tired and I think we really needed the extra sleep).

I am so grateful for the peace and contentment given to me today by God grace. He has continued to provide for me at every step of the way, I just can’t understand why it is so hard for my heart to let go of this desire to control our future plans. But for today I will enjoy and relish in the peace given to me and continue to pray for it every day moving forward.

Wednesday April 3, 2019

Genesis 33:1-13 Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. 

For the life of me I can’t figure out how this scripture relates to today, which is why I am not publishing it until now. I will skip over the scripture part for now and share a little bit about today. I worked at the hospital while Jeff stayed home with the kids to work on school; if they work hard enough they will be done by the time we leave Romania which would be wonderful to have that task off our plate during our time in Kenya. I really hope that they will work hard over the coming weeks and finish up the little bit they have left. Thus far they have not been very productive this week.

We had a nice treat tonight. Jeff worked all day preparing a wonderful Indian feast of Briyani, chipati, and chutney. But the real treat was the company, both Katie and Calah (the long-term volunteers for FFR that live in the apartments above us) joined us for dinner. It was so much fun to spend some quality time with these wonderful ladies who are giving so much for the children here in Brasov. We had an evening filled with conversation, laughter, and wine! We all had a lot of fun and the kids even put themselves to bed while we continued to visit with Katie and Calah.

I have really thought about this scripture and I realized that this scripture is actually very fitting for me. As I was walking home from the hospital on Friday I realized that this is just another way God is telling me to let go and give control to Him. In so many ways I have no problem with giving God control, but there are other ways that are not quite so easy. We are facing a lot of uncertainty right now, with potential jobs, where we are going to live, what will our lives look like when we get done with this year, will we have jobs, etc. and I have been struggling to gain some control over something. In my heart I know I need to give the control to God, but there is this Type A part of me that is saying that if I do it I will have the answers sooner and faster! But when I read this scripture of Jacob giving everything over to God, trusting Him to work everything out between he and Esau, it made me realize that this is exactly what I need to do myself. I need to give my life over to Him completely, in all aspects of my life, because He will fight for me if I just stand still. (This is what Moses says to the Israelites as they are fleeing the Egyptians across the Red Sea. Exodus 14:14). God knows me so well and He knows how much I have been struggling. I have lacked patience with my children and have felt completely overwhelmed this past week (I am sure that my grandmother’s passing and trying to find flights back to the states didn’t help matters.). I am so glad I waited on writing this blog because if I have tried to get it done on Wednesday I would have missed out on the insight I gained from thoughtfully praying on it. I guess the hardest part of this process is for me to let go and give God control in all aspects of my life and wait patiently for His timing to show me the path I am meant to walk.

Sunday March 31, 2019

“Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22

Apparently Romania observes daylight savings time which resulted in our losing an hour unexpectedly overnight.  Rather than getting to “sleep in” until 8 and then get ready for church, Sara and I “overslept” until 9.  We both realized our mistake right away but fortunately the kids were in good spirits which made a more rapid preparation for the day possible.  Those that wanted to and could do so quickly showered and then we headed out for service.  We are fortunate that even here in the middle of Romania there is a church which offers a service in Romanian and English.  While that means that services run a little longer than our usual 1 hour, we at least get to sing along with most songs and understand the sermon.

After finishing church I walked the kids home along with Anjali’s new friend Rebecca. The girls had made plans to bake a cake following church and then we invited Rebecca’s family, our new friends from New Zealand, over for dinner.  The girls learned, and more importantly were open to, the concept of many advisors.  Anjali has, in the past, been known to attempt to do things on her own without instruction because, as she puts it, she wants to be independent.  Her belief is that independence means capable of doing things on your own with no assistance whatsoever.  Without counsel, plans go wrong.  Unfortunately she has had to learn this lesson often and at most times with great distress as she is also very headstrong.  But in this case, and perhaps because her friend was present, she was more willing to consult a recipe as well as be open to counsel from Sara, our resident baking expert.  As a result, the cake and icing turned out beautifully, a real treat for the 6 kids and 4 adults.  Better yet, Anjali had a great time with baking and spending time with her friend.  I hope that this lesson will reinforce the notion that independence does not mean ignoring good counsel but rather knowing how to use the good counsel around her.

While the girls baked, Sara and I got to spend some time together doing yoga, something we both enjoy but rarely get to do together.  Our detox practice was refreshing and invigorating helping to loosen our bodies and our minds.  I find these hour long practices to be the perfect opportunity to not only feel healthier but to clear my mind of all the clutter that I allow to enter and remain.  I find it is good to clear my thoughts so that I can better allow the good counsel of others to enter, whether it be the quiet voice from God or the more overt voices of my friends, spouse, and children.

 

Wednesday March 20, 2019

Proverbs 10:8 The wise of heart will heed commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.

I love this verse because it is not only a wonderful reminder of what God expects of us, but it is also a recipe for success and it could not be any more clear…listen. Over the last several years I have tried really hard to get better at this, but I can tell you it requires constant effort. It is really hard to listen to others, but the more I practice it, the more I see the truth behind these words.

Today I actually found myself listening even though my instincts wanted to be a “babbling fool”. I was helping out with the afternoon shift at the hospital with Katie because there were 8 children in the neonatal unit and the nurses needed help feeding them. After 3 children of my own combined with many more years of nannying I really feel competent at feeding a newborn. However, when I was feeding a second baby one of the nurses came over to adjust the bottle for me and tell me something in Romanian. I will be completely honest, my first response was to get very defensive–“I know how to feed a baby!” However, these nurses know these babies way better than I do because they spend their days caring for them, just as I knew my babies better than anyone else. I am so glad I held my tongue because the nurse was actually sharing with me why the baby was eating so slow and also was giving me a heads up that he vomits when he is done eating. And although she was adjusting the bottle while I was trying to feed the baby I realized very quickly that she knew what was going on more so than me; my years of experience as a mom and nanny was helpful in many ways just not this one. This nurse was much more knowledgeable than I was and I was happy to listen to her orders.

In situations like this it can be very difficult to accept the direction of another, especially those times that you feel you don’t need direction. I can’t help but think of the quote by Epictetus “we have two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak”. I really believe that listening is one of the hardest things God asks us to do because it completely goes against our self-serving ego and our nature to put ourselves first. Instinctively we think that we know we we are doing and that we have all the answers. I also believe that this is why following Jesus and giving our lives to God is so difficult to do because we have to admit that we are not in control and that there is someone else who knows what we need better than we do. What I find so incredible about this is that while handing our lives over to God is probably one of the hardest things to do, once we do it we find that everything in our life is easier to do! Our egos get in the way of a fulfilling life and quickly turn us into babbling fools.

I’m stepping down from my soapbox now and I will share a little bit more about our day today. Today was my day for the hospital shifts and I was so happy to be able to help with the newborns this afternoon. We also got packages from home today and we all were thrilled to see what our families sent us. My parents sent a box for the kids filled with candy, even Toxic Waste–Anjali’s request since we left the states which is basically flavored citric acid. Our church family in Madison also sent a box filled with wonderful cards for all of us and a bit of candy. Needless to say my kids are not needing any more sugar anytime soon. It is always so wonderful to get these gifts of love from our many families back home.

Check out the video of the kids opening the box from our church! We did a FaceTime with Grandma and Grandpa so unfortunately we only have 1 video.

We all have really been missing our time in India so we made one of the meals we frequently had during our time there, Chicken Curry with chapati and chutney. Oh my, it was so good. We even enjoyed the company of Katie, one of FFR’s long-term volunteers. And while we weren’t with our Banbasa family, they all were close to our hearts as we enjoyed this meal and got to share our experiences in India with Katie. It was a beautiful day and I am so grateful for God’s blessings.

Step 1: Chutney—cook the peppers
Step 2: Chutney—Add the tomatoes
Step 3: Chutney—Blend the goodness together!
Anjali helping to make chapatis. First you quickly cook them on each side in a pan and then set them over the flame
Chicken Curry in honor of our friends back in Banbasa.
Enjoying the company of a new friend.

Wednesday February 13, 2019

Matthew 26:6-13 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Happy early birthday to Lucia! We had another easy start to the day. We had lunch and then headed to the beach for some boogie boarding and playing in the sand. We had so much fun until the kids got a little too excited (I asked them at least 4 times to not throw sand at each other, but they kept on doing it), so we left. Both Jeff and I were pretty frustrated and the kids were angry that we left, but we all came around and enjoyed Lucia’s birthday party. We had hot dogs and chicken with Kraft Mac and Cheese for dinner. We ordered an ice cream cake to celebrate and David and I found a couple small gifts for her to open. Our decision to celebrate early was because we didn’t know what to expect in Sri Lanka. We all had a lot of fun at the party and we all played a fun game called Mastermind before the kids went to bed without much fuss; I think they are all pretty tired.

 

Jeff and I stayed up quite a while and enjoyed some adult time with wine and great conversation. We have been talking a lot about what we want to do when we are done with this year. I feel quite lost, not knowing what I want and it felt good to hear that Jeff was feeling the same way. We prayed and put this in God’s hands. He will continue to be our guide and we will put our faith and trust in Him. He has never failed us and I know that He won’t start now. This is not the first time having this conversation, nor will it be the last. While we still have another 6 months to go, we only have 6 months to go and there are occasional moments when I start to feel overwhelmed at the thought of what to do next. I love these conversations with Jeff because we end up discussing that we need to continue to be in the moment. Looking for jobs right now isn’t a viable option anyway because we can’t start working for another 6 months, so looking now doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, I want to make sure I listen attentively to His word and be open to going wherever it is I am called.