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.

Saturday April 6, 2019

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair

We had a great opportunity to join a “house party” with our neighbors this morning. The house in which we are staying is actually four different apartments. Our neighbors downstairs are a wonderful family with four children with whom our kids have made a quick friendship.  They seemingly have not stopped playing outside since we first arrived. We are in the middle apartment and on the top floor are two one-bedroom apartments for two long-term FFR volunteers, Katie and Calah. So our brunch this morning was truly a “house party”, everyone in the house came together for fellowship and food. What a wonderful start to our day.

Afterwards we walked with the kids to Coresi Mall for some new shoes for David and Lucia. Jeff made the comment during our 40 minute walk that he was really wanting to enjoy the beautiful day by grilling outside and he was hoping to find a small grill at the mall. It was a successful afternoon of shopping; new shoes for David and Lucia and a new grill for dad! Our last stop for the day was to the grocery store for some charcoal and our meat for dinner.

It was such a beautiful day, and not just the amazing weather! Though I am still plowing through this internal struggle for control, I am finding that I am consciously reminding myself to let go. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am hopeful that the constant reminder from scripture, from Jeff, and through prayer I will get there. As Jeff and I were talking (after putting the kids to bed), I read today’s scripture and just had to laugh out loud. Paul is reminding us that by following God we do not eliminate afflictions or trials, but rather that we will not be destroyed by them. This was comical given the fact that Jeff had just made the brilliant point that I am a list maker who desires to be able to check off completed tasks and that most of my frustration/anxiety/fear/uncertainty (call it what you will) is caused by the fact that God hasn’t given me my new “list” yet. This too made me laugh because it could not be more true. I realized that in my head this journey was a 12-month journey and I have checked off August, September, October, November, December, January, February, and March already, but am getting antsy for the new list because all that is left on my first list is April, May, and June! But of course my husband politely and gently reminded me that God did not give us the timeframe of 12 months, we did and for now God still needs us to finish our tasks of April, May, and June before we can move on to the next. I love my husband so much and I am still amazed that there are many times that he knows me better than I do. This was very obvious to him and I am sure he has even said this to me before now, but this time it actually made sense. I love these conversations I get to have with him because he is always challenging me to see things from a different perspective. His faith in God is so amazing and I love that we are on this journey together. I can remember sitting back in our house in Madison, Wisconsin having a similar conversation with him, but that time our roles were reversed! God has brought us together to strengthen each other during the times we are weak and I am amazed how much we are able to balance each other; when one is struggling the other is standing firm in their faith. “Faith and doubt aren’t opposites: they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.” (Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God). So I guess Jeff and I are just dancing our hearts out throughout this journey and I hope and pray that it continues for the rest of our lives.

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13

When you travel for a year with the explicit purpose of bringing glory to God and reflecting His love in the world you sometimes have days that just don’t seem that praiseworthy.  At least, that is, by worldly standards.  Nothing happened today that would make me think, at first glance, we made this huge impactful change in the world by sacrificing our comfort, career, and putting friendships on hold.  Today could easily be thought of as a reason why this trip was purposeless.

But as I reflect on the day’s events I realize that even the smallest actions can have big results and that sometimes just being there is part of the change.  While my day consisted primarily of homeschool work with the kids, Sara was present at the hospital and at the after-hours clothing sale which helped to benefit Firm Foundations.  After spending quality time with the children she worked with the FFR folks to facilitate a clothing sale of sorts for the hospital nurses.  They were able to buy quality new and used clothing which had been donated and the prcoeeds went directly to FFR’s efforts to help the children in the hopstial.  It might not seem like a huge and life changing event but in the grand scheme this “small” effort makes a real difference.  And at the end of the day any difference in the positive is better than no difference at all.

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Sara snuggling a sweet little girl.
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This little one loved her bottle.

This year has really opened my eyes as to the impact we as individuals can have.  I think that we sometimes get caught in the trap of feeling that if we cannot make a monumental impact then it is not worth attempting.  The truth is that all of our efforts should be done to His glory and honor and so every task and event can be done with the utmost grace.  It has taken me many months to even start to realize this and I hope that in the months ahead I will embrace it even further.

As I leave you I want to you remind you of a hymn that I loved singing in our church in Madison and one that I think truly reflects my feeling as of late.  I think it reflects beautifully the simpleness of what God asks of us.  We don’t know his plans or how He plans to use us so we will do whatever we can whenever we can.  Plus, James says to sing praises if your happy and I could not be happier.  So all of you at home, I want you to belt this one out, or at least in your head.

I’m gonna live so God can use me
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna live so God can use me
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna pray so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna pray so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna work so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna work so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna sing so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.
I’m gonna sing so God can use me…
Anywhere, Lord, anytime.

 

 

Saturday March 2, 2019

“…May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” Genesis 31:49

The context of this reading is an accord between Jacob and Laban, the former feeling a bit scorned by the latter’s less than fair treatment of him.  After Laban is rebuked by God the night before, he agrees to see things a little more in line with Jacob and they agree essentially to become friends.  Laban adds, though, that God will be watching them both so basically they both better not screw up.  The context of this reading isn’t exactly in alignment with our day today, but the whole watching while we are apart sort of is, in a stretchy kind of way.

Our original plan, nay our fourteenth plan on which we finally settled, for our last weekend in Sri Lanka was to head back to Colombo and see the big city.  We would go to a museum, see some temples, and maybe even hit the mall.  That did not happen.  We awoke with great ambition and proceeded to have breakfast.  Our meal gave us opportunity to catch up on the reading of our daily devotionals and then to discuss a plan that Sara and I had hatched while cleaning turtle tanks.  We thought that maybe we could take videos of our service projects to capture not only the service itself but also the ups and downs that go with being away from home, in another country, with three young children….etc.  But, as we have promised our family from day one, we needed to get input from the kids and to make sure that they would be okay with this experiment.

So the conversation went something like this.

Dad:  So guys, I was thinking and mom and I talked a little bit and we even contacted Uncle John (Marshall, whom we knew from his book and then the Farm and who knows people in television..) to get his feedback.

Kids:  (Staring blankly as dad yammers on and interrupts their consumption of sugar covered waffles)

Dad: So we thought that maybe we could video a family doing what we are doing and then maybe do like a podcast/youTube thing, or maybe that even turns into a reality television show.

Kids:  (drool now emanates from their mouths as the sweet aromas of donut, waffles, and juice overwhelm their limbic systems)

Dad: But we would need a test family to kind of be the first ones to try this so we were wondering if you guys….

Anjali: No!

Mom:  Well hold on Anjali, before you say no.  Why would you be opposed?

Anjali: (tears welling) No, I just don’t want to okay?

And so an hour long discussion ensues, occasionally halted for mastication of breakfast confections, about how we should logically think through decisions before rashly answering.  Anjali is not dissuaded from her position that she is utterly and adamantly opposed so we, as a family, agree to hold off on this grand notion from mom and dad.  No hard feelings and Anjali kind of sees the point we wanted to make about how you should think before you answer because fear or lack of understanding of all the facts can lead you to make a poor decision.

Childhood lesson learned or at least discussed, we headed out to sightsee.  We left the confines of the hotel and were immediately greeted by what could best be described as the moist, fiery breath of Satan himself.  It was as though Colombo had been set on fire and simultaneously was spraying us with a hose.  The heat and humidity, robbing us instantly of our breath, worked as a veritable mire intent on preventing our every step.  We slowly meandered in the direction of the mall, our first stop on the tour de Colombo,  all the while fending off offers of rides from eager Tuk Tuk drivers.  What would normally be a five minute walk was slowly dragging out to an interminable trek, each minute making us hotter and wetter.  The impending heat related snippiness was growing closer and closer but the crisis was averted as we finally arrived at the great salvation of air conditioning.

After twenty minutes or so of respite and realizing that we really needed to buy nothing we begrudgingly left the mall and made our way to one of the temples across the street.  We learned that we would need to pay for entry so we took a quick glimpse from afar and moved on.  We had seen a lot of temples in Thailand so wat’s (pun intended) one more?  We strode across a walking bridge to a small island park, did a once around, and then walked back over.  Engaging in a quick family meeting we decided that our sightseeing was now over and that our time was much better spent sitting poolside and relaxing.

Now, this is where the whole watching while we are away from each other comes back in.  On our way up to the hotel Sara got a text message from a stranger.  She had seen our post on Facebook about saying goodbye to the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project and was interested in our story.  After seeing our family’s journey, she reached out to learn more about COG.  Sara and she traded messages and agreed to re-engage after we had gotten settled in Romania and after she had returned from travels to visit her daughter.  After donning our relaxation clothes and grabbing the next available elevator we encountered a man on his way down.  We exchanged pleasantries and learned that he was originally from New York, now living in Colombo.  No big deal there.  What was very interesting though was that he had started his own company.  What kind?  Television and film production services.  Sara and I said nothing, just shared a humored glance, but just as we were about to leave the elevator he offered us his business card and bid us farewell.

These two encounters prompted an immediate conversation with the kids about how maybe God did have a plan for this after all.  We expressed to Anjali, and to David and Luci for that matter, how we saw this as a sign or at the very least a nudge.  We had given up on our plans that morning and simply turned the idea over to God, basically saying that if this project was meant to be then it would find another way to manifest itself.  We needed our family to be in a good place first and foremost to fulfill our primary obligation of this service trip, the video idea was secondary and maybe wasn’t even that good of an idea.  I am not sure what caused the change of heart but Anjali was suddenly on board with the idea of our family making a podcast.  We figured it would be a great way if nothing else for us to share with our friends and family more than just words about what we were doing.  And if enough people cared and shared then maybe it could inspire others to do the same and join in the fun of service.

I am not sure how the video will go.  This might just be another instance of thinking we have the answers and trying to pork barrel our way on God’s plan.  But with the nudge we got on Facebook and in the elevator we are going to give it a go.  If it is meant to be then with God’s help it will be.  If it isn’t, well then we just spent a hundred bucks on a selfie-stick (I cringe as I write that) and a memory expansion drive for the phone.  But we will have some fun videos, and probably a few that are less fun, for everyone to get a better idea of what our lives are like.  I cannot promise Emmy award winning television-though if we get one it will be to God’s honor not ours.  But the tears, of laughter or sadness, are real and heartfelt and we have enjoyed every one of them.

 

Thursday February 7, 2019

1 Peter 5:2-5 to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.  In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

We made an awesome purchase today. As we were walking around the mall picking up a few items that we needed and we wondered into a surf shop searching for a large-brimmed hat for David. (David had gotten a sunburn on his face during the fishing trip in Bali and sunblock was very uncomfortable to apply.) We ended up finding a hat for him, but also a boogie board. The kids were so excited to try out this new beach toy. We quickly made a run to Target to gather some swim shirts for everyone and after a quick bite to eat at home, we were beach bound for the afternoon. I didn’t get many pictures because I too was enjoying our new toy, plus bringing the phones out to the beach just seems like a bad idea.

Everyone had an absolute blast playing at the beach with the boogie board and playing in the sand. All three kids built sand castles while we took turns boogie boarding. Jeff even got into the fun by completely burying Lucia in the sand.

So far this vacation has been a total beach vacation, which has been great. We have been waking up and doing a small bit of school work before having lunch and then heading off to the beach. It really has been relaxing, but for the most part, at least one of the kids ends up off their rocker each day. It would just be really nice to have all them happy one day. But I will take what I can get. Anjali has been doing a great job going to bed and not getting involved in altercations with David and Lucia. She has been working so hard on improving her attitude and behavior and it is such a wonderful sight.

This evening Jeff and I also got to message back and forth with Cathy from the Farm, which was a lot of fun and we scheduled to call everyone this weekend. I am so excited to hear their voices again. We all miss them so very much.

Monday January 21, 2019

Exodus 15:26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Our kids were off school today for the MLK holiday, so we took advantage of a free day to explore and head to the Nepal border. We thought it would be a fairly easy walk, but it ended up being almost 5 miles one way. The kids did great and though we didn’t cross the border (mainly because it was going to cost $120 just for the day) we still had a fantastic time. We decided to take a horse-drawn carriage home, which was crowded but definitely a new experience. Part of the trip there and back is crossing over a large dam and walking alongside the river. It was really nice to be just the five of us, but I was also acutely aware of how much I was going to miss my wonderful new family on the mission and I just can’t believe that we are leaving this place in a week.

Unfortunately my lungs and sinuses are not doing so well and are looking forward to some cleaner air. I was happy that my body help out long enough for this excursion. I would’ve been so sad to miss it.

On our way back through Banbasa, we stopped to pick up my Saree and suits. Thankfully all was ready and we had finally had money to pay for it! We were also able to stop at my new favorite street vendor for “tiki” and “gol gapas”. Tiki is a crispy potato pancake topped with garbanzo beans, fresh onions, sweet red sauce and sour green sauce, a dollop of yogurt and finally some crunchy gol gapa. This is such a yummy treat and very easily lunch. After eating the tiki, I introduced Jeff to gol gapas. It is basically a hollow fried flour ball that they smash a hole in it to fill with a few garbanzo beans and then the sweet and sour sauces. You put the whole thing in your mouth and it is a liquid explosion of flavor in your mouth. It is messy but absolutely amazing and I could sit here all day and eat them!

We got back to the mission in time to for dinner. The kids got washed up and we headed over to the Strong House for our group meal. I actually made the chutney tonight (with the help of Nancy), though I guess she wasn’t watching me close enough because I over blended the chutney and it came out more like a sauce then chutney. It still tasted good, just the wrong texture; beginner mistake I guess! The food here is so flavorful that I am really concerned that all other food is going to taste so bland.

We also came home to find that Priscilla and Sarah had brought out a 5,000 piece puzzle and set it up in the Strong House for everyone. So we all took some time to work on this before and after dinner.

Friday January 11, 2019

Proverbs 3:11-12 My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

We have really been struggling with Anjali’s behavior; it seems that every other day she is aggressive, angry, and just all in all unhappy with life. We can’t seem to figure out why and she won’t talk with us. One of the most difficult things to explain to our children, and to help them understand, is that we discipline them BECAUSE we love them. I am sure it is this way with most children, that they view our discipline as us not loving them, but it is still extremely frustrating and difficult. I am finding myself asking the question, ‘how does one teach the children that discipline comes from a place of love?’ I m sure it comes from the way in which we, as parents, dole out the discipline, but this is still, how do you do it?. I don’t know about you, but our children have not yet figured this out and guess for that matter, neither have I. They still view our discipline as a way for us to control them or to make them do what we want. I have continually tried to tell them that they are loved when they are well-behaved just as they are loved when they are being disciplined. We try our best, but I am afraid that we have not been able to fully demonstrate this message.

Today she was pretty angry when she woke up, but as the morning progressed she came back around, probably because she knew that we had plans to go shopping to Khatima with the ladies on the mission. As much as she didn’t deserve the reward of going, we really needed this time together and it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. We left just after 10 am tea time and all 9 of us piled into a taxi we waved down on the street just outside the mission (we were planning on the bus, but this worked just as well. We actually split into 2 groups and hit the markets of Khatima searching for our treasures and then we all met up for lunch. I have to say, Anjali was so excited that she was able to get some pizza and french fries. We had a really great time, and it was pretty successful. I was able to find a saree and 2 suits (traditional Indian tunic and pants), along with scarves for both Anjali and I, as well as her best friend, Nadia. Plus we had a lot of fun. According to Anjali, the best part of the day was lunch. The restaurant was upstairs from a sweets store. Anjali picked out Sour Skittles and Nutella for her brother and sister.

Today was also the birthday party for one of the girls and the big girls did a beautiful job decorating the rooftop of the Strong House with balloons, birthday cake, music, and of course a fire to keep them warm! I was so happy to be able to stay long enough to sing happy birthday, but then took off to the let the girls have their fun. These kids really know how to through a party and celebrate each other.

This picture of Lachlan and Niyati is too funny to not include.