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.

Thursday April 4, 2019

Galatians 6:9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

Today Lucia and I went to Budila to help with the Kid’s Club and After-School Program while Jeff did his shift at the hospital and Anjali and David stayed home doing homework. Lucia had such a great time today and she is so inspirational with her ability to adapt and assimilate to any situation. It is just so amazing to me that she is able to make new friends in any environment and today was no different. During the Kid’s Club, which is basically just a preschool for other kids her age, she jumped right in to playing with other kids and having a ton of fun. When that was done we headed over to the After School Program and she fit right in there making friends and having tickle fights. She was laughing and having such a great time, but by the end of the afternoon she was completely exhausted and almost falling asleep on the way home. I guess it didn’t help that she has been awake for an hour or more the last 4-5 nights for who knows why, but I do know that this lack of sleep (and Jeff has been the one who has been dealing with her) has really put me into a state of exhaustion, so I can only imagine how Jeff is feeling. I will say that I really struggled today because I was so tired. I am pretty sure it was a mixture of the disrupted sleep and then the weight of not knowing our path after the middle of July. But we will continue to care for these wonderful children at the hospital, Kid’s Club and After-School Program in any way that we can and continue to show them that they are loved and worthy because of God’s grace.

When Lucia and I got home, Anjali and David were still doing school work (this was now about 2:30 pm). I have to admit that I was a bit (just a little sarcasm there) frustrated that they were still doing school work and assumed that they did not do the work assigned to them for the day. I felt pretty awful when I found out that Anjali had done really well and that it was David who chose to watch videos about the American Revolution instead of doing his math and language arts. Now as for David he was still learning by watching these videos, but it was not what he was supposed to be doing and Anjali had done her work but was needing some extra help from dad on the math. All in all, it was me that lost it and perpetuated the downward spiral of the entire family. Everyone went from being happy into being rude and upset with each other. Looking back on the day, it all started with me and the projection of my frustrations on my children and family. UGGGHHHHHH.

I definitely grew weary and tired of doing what was right. I lost my head and stopped following God’s path for me because mine allowed me to have a faster answer, though it was most definitely not the better choice. Basically the evening spiraled out of control with Anjali and Jeff while trying to get her to take a break ended up in a battle of wills with our extremely hard-headed daughter. In the end, and after about an hour fight with her, Jeff finally got her to walk with him to the store to get out of the house and some fresh air, which seemed to work like a charm for all of us. By the time she came back I had realized what I had done to perpetuate this problem and was able to quickly apologize for my behavior and my inability to control myself.

It was a long day today and I have prayed a lot tonight for God to take these burdens from me and to help me let go of trying to figure out the future and just trust in His way. This is so hard for me and I honestly can’t figure out why because it was so easy in the beginning of this journey. I was able to just relinquish control and let Him lead the way, but this is different and I don’t know or understand why. But I know it is different because I can’t seem to let go and give the control and power over to the one who really has it; I am still fighting for it.

Saturday March 23, 2019

Acts 14:8-10 In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk.

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Someone lost another tooth!

God’s power to work within us is amazing and incomprehensible, I know this. But days like today make it difficult to see God at work in our lives, even though I know He is there. It wasn’t a terrible day, just a difficult one–particularly as it relates to parenting. I have found that parenting can really suck the life out of me, but then the very next minute make me laugh out loud or leave me standing in awe at God’s ability to work through my children. It’s like a super awesome roller coaster ride that can bring you to tears and make you scream out loud because you’re having so much fun! My kids are great kids, but they are still young and really know how to push our buttons. I tried so hard to be patient today, but honestly I just lacked the energy to stand toe to toe with my eldest. Anjali is getting ready to turn 12 and she is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–one moment she is extremely sweet, kind, and loving towards all of us and then the next moment she becomes this ego-centric, self-centered crazy person. The hardest part about it is that I can see her struggle when she becomes Mr. Hyde and that she doesn’t like it, but feels trapped, like she can’t switch back to Dr. Jekyll. This is what happened today, several times. It is exhausting to parent during these times, though I can guess that this is only the beginning of her teenage years and that we have two more kids to follow her; we are in it for the long haul.

We started with a lazy morning listening to Anjali and Lucia play together while Anjali played “mother hen” to her. She made breakfast, helped Lucia shower and wash her hair, they played and laughed–it was such a beautiful opportunity for me to lay in bed and listen. We ventured out into town for lunch with the hope of riding the cable car up Tampa Mountain to the Brasov sign, but we caught our first detour of the day…lunch, where to eat? Maybe it is because there were too many choices, maybe no one but Jeff and me were hungry enough to care, but whatever the reason there was no deciding on what or where to eat. We walked around the square, passing every single restaurant and looking at the menu only to hear “no, I don’t want that, I don’t want Italian food” from Anjali. First of all, who in their right mind doesn’t like Italian food, I mean pizza and pasta is every kids’ favorite right? So we carried on until finally Jeff made the final call and we ate at an Irish Pub. It ended up being the perfect place for us and after a short time I could feel my frustration fading away as I sipped on my lunchtime cocktail. Everyone was able to get just what they wanted, David a sandwich, Lucia a salad, Anjali chicken wings, etc. We had a peaceful lunch and then began walking up to the cable cars, but just as I got into line to buy our tickets I heard the snide remark from Anjali, “I don’t want to ride the cable cars, I want to walk up the mountain”. Now any of you that have a daughter about this age or if you have had a daughter at this age, I am sure you can just hear the tone of this remark. It is not a sweet plea for a different route, but a harsh comment that is filled with contempt and tells you that she will go through with the plan but everyone is going to be miserable because of it! Mr. Hyde is back….This is what continued for the entirety of the day and it was exhausting to keep up. We still have to parent Mr. Hyde, but it isn’t easy because (s)he is irrational and emotional, which means you can’t have conversations about the problem. You just have to wait for Dr. Jekyll to come back and then talk through it, which (s)he does come back eventually.

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David and Lucia were very well behaved today, so we continued on to run a few errands while Jeff and Anjali went home.

I don’t feel that I was as patient as I could have been. I know that if this is difficult for me, it is absolutely hard for her and probably really confusing and frustrating too. Many times I am able to help her work through this, but honestly today I just didn’t have the energy, which is why it probably continued for the day. I am grateful that I have God to help both of us through these times, but I did not ask him for help today. As I look back on the day, I wish I had asked him for help and shown Anjali how to do the same. He can always change our circumstances and after reading this passage, I know that God can use any of us to help another person, just as God used Paul to help the crippled man. I just need to ask God to help my family through these difficult hormone-infused situations in a way that doesn’t leave us all in tears!

Tuesday March 19, 2019

Matthew 26:41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Today started with a bit of excitement. I got a text from our neighbor downstairs informing me that our water was going to be turned off this morning for most of the day. Once I saw the message I jumped out of bed and into the shower. Jeff quickly followed suit once I was done. Since we were going to have no water at the apartment, I decided to have the children do their schoolwork at the FFR Support Center which also allowed me to sort through donations, but as soon as we walked in the door and Jeff left for his hospital shift, I started to hear the complaining. It is like a light switch–they were all in good moods on the walk there but as soon as it was time to work, they went off!

Anjali (sporting her new scrubs) and David walking cheerfully to the hospital before they flipped the switch.

As I read through this scripture reading, I had to refresh myself on the context, so bear with me. Jesus says this to Peter after finding him asleep when Jesus asked him to stay awake to pray with him. Jesus was grieving about His impending betrayal by Judas and His crucifixion and wanted the support of his closest friends. I really had to read through this many times to get a full grasp on what Jesus meant by this and what I came up with was that Jesus understood and lived with the weakness of the flesh, our human shortcomings, but He overcame it by praying to God And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Matthew 26:39. Jesus understands that we are going to make many mistakes and that we are going to fail to call upon Him in our time of trial because “the flesh is weak”, but that doesn’t mean that we should not still try. It is not easy to be attentive to God’s word and His ways. I imagine that we miss of lot of what He tries to say to us because we are asleep, just like the disciples.

Back to today, my patience with my children was definitely tried today. It started when we did school somewhere other than home and it continued as we went for lunch and some shopping. Anjali actually skipped lunch entirely because she was so upset by the fact that we ate at an Italian restaurant (I mean in tears upset and angry at all of us–she didn’t want to eat here, so how dare we select this place). I tried for an hour to get her to calm down, not be angry, etc. and she finally came around back to her normal happy self. But I tell you, I was definitely exhausted after that. I find it so difficult to stay calm and patient when my children are so irrational, and to be honest there are many times I fail completely at this. Thankfully today I was able to maintain, for the most part, and I am so grateful for the grace God gave to me. I was able to remain calm, encouraging, and patient with Anjali long enough for her to come out of her funk, but this is not always the case. There are many times that I just don’t have the patience for my children being children. It is these times that I can relate to this scripture, I fall asleep and do not keep watch or pray for God to help, my human weakness takes over and I don’t feel the strength of the Spirit.

I guess I take comfort knowing that Jesus understood the shortcomings and failings of His most trusted disciples, so I am confident that He also knows mine. When I am awake and praying I can feel the power of the Spirit, I guess I just need to remember to pay attention to my own “weakness of flesh” and ask God to strengthen me during those times.

Saturday March 9, 2019

Philippians 2:4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

Flashback – Friday night I am getting ready to head off for bed.  Sara and I discuss the plan for Saturday and I express MY (hint: foreshadowing) desire to get up, get some breakfast for the kids at the local bakery, head to the park in the city square, take everyone out to lunch, maybe do some hiking, and then do a nice dinner out.  Basically just enjoy our first Saturday in Brasov with no responsibilities and to get to really savor the people, the city, and the food.  Sara likes this idea and we agree to proceed, after sleeping of course.

Back to real time now – nope, my plans will not happen.  To be sure, I did get up and Luci and I took a nice stroll down Strada Lungi to look into the bakery.  It was not yet open so we continued on a ways and got to check out some other sights before we made the u-turn back.  As usual Luci was her chipper self.  Her energy is infectious and hard to match but worth the effort.  We got back to the shop only to find the closed sign still hung in the door despite it being after 8.  I encouraged Luci to give the door a try, after all who says no to an adorable 6 year old, and sure enough the proprietor came hurriedly over to ensure entry.

As has been the case all along here we were greeted first with Romanian.  I smiled and said “Good Morning” as clear as possible and then asked if she spoke English.  Alina, as it turns out, did.  She immediately took a liking to Lucia as we ordered our breakfast rations of chocolate and vanilla cakes, an eclair, and a cream cheese danish.  Not exactly the breakfast I had in mind but I thought the kids wouldn’t mind having dessert for breakfast.  A few double espressos for Sara and me and then we were off for home.

Breakfast went as planned though I was a little surprised at the lack of enthusiasm over having dessert.  Are my children really becoming that responsible that they were disappointed to not get yogurt and muesli?  Oh well, we ate up and then I headed into the other room to await our departure for fun and frolic in Brasov.

Then it happened.  My children looked at their own interests and not the interests of others, namely me and Sara.  Sara had asked them to turn off their tablets and to get ready to head out.  This happened on four occasions and each time I could hear her getting more and more aggravated as the kids continued to ignore her request and to play.  Finally she became irate at their lack of listening and respect and grounded them for the day to their rooms.  After a very upsetting Friday they were once again being disrespectful and not listening.  This punishment was swift and significant.  And it also meant no more park time, leisurely lunch, and no delicious meal out.

As I sit here typing this, after we had a very nice homemade meal (Mexican food by the way, or at least a Romanian approximation), I realize that I put myself before them this morning.  My plan was to take everyone out for a nice day to play etc but I realize that I never asked them if that is what they needed.  All along Sara and I have tried to remind our kids that our service is to provide others what they need, not what we want to give them.  As such, I realize that my plan for the day may have been nice in my opinion, but may not have been what the kids wanted or needed.  Moreover, I put Sara in a terrible spot having to enforce my desires.  In retrospect I wanted to go out as much or more than I thought the kids would.  I should have taken the time to ask them if that would work for them and perhaps, if it wasn’t, a compromise could have been met to ensure we all got what we needed for the day.  Instead we had undue suffering, frustration, and a missed opportunity.

My hope is tomorrow that I will awake reminded that I want to put the interests of others first but more importantly to ask them what those interests are.  In the end I might have learned that what my kids really wanted and needed all along was not a nice meal out but rather just a heartfelt attempt at Mexican cuisine.

Friday March 1, 2019

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Today was an interesting day to say the least. Similar to last Friday, today we were inundated with school field trips, which meant countless children (and adults) failing to follow the rules of keeping their hands out of the tanks, but also a bit of inappropriate and rude catcalls from some older boys. Since we were leaving this afternoon, we decided that only one of us would dig holes in the sand as to keep the dirty laundry to a minimum and I was happy to do the work. So as I am on my hands and knees digging holes the length of my arm, these boys seemed to enjoy the show and were happy to let me know. It was pretty easy at first to ignore them and just chalk it up to boys being boys, but after a while I had had enough. I think what bothered me more than anything was that the chaperones didn’t seem to think this was a problem and this was all done in front of my 11 year old daughter. I attempted to ask them to leave using exaggerated gestures but it seemed to get lost in translation (or they just didn’t care). I tried to ask Madu, the staff person, to help remove the boys from the area, but the language barrier proved to be a problem (I am confident that he just didn’t know what I was saying or asking him to do). So plan B, I had David get Jeff so he could stand in front of me to block their view. I was not about to leave my job unfinished because of these kids, but I was also getting sick of listening to them.

Nonetheless, it was also a great opportunity to rise above the disrespect and rudeness of these kids to finish the job that Christ led me to complete. I was able to talk with Anjali about how inappropriate their actions were and that it was okay to ask for help, just as I did by having Jeff come stand between me and the culprits. Anjali tried to play it off like it was no big deal, which in reality it wasn’t, but I wanted her to see that it is okay to stand up for yourself and it is important to ask for help when you need it. I needed Jeff there to shield me because I had work to finish and couldn’t abandon my responsibilities. Once I finished clearing the nests, all was well and that group of kids left and was replaced by younger and more respectful children.

I definitely did not appreciate the behavior of these boys, but I will say that because of Christ they are not condemned, rather, they have just been misguided, but as with all sin they will also be forgiven, by me and more importantly by Christ. They are still my brothers in Christ and just like any good family, we all get pissed at each from time to time and make mistakes. I am definitely not perfect in my life and definitely have my fair share of sin, but Christ made it possible for me to be forgiven and I know they will be too. I am so grateful and thankful for the sacrifices that God has made on my behalf, as well as the rest of my family. I am grateful that this journey has shown me that my family is more than just my husband, kids, parents, etc. but rather my family is everyone I meet; we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we are all saved through Him.

After lunch we said our goodbyes to all creatures, turtles and humans, and headed for Colombo.

 

Once we got to the hotel, the kids got settled watching movies while Jeff and I headed to grab some wine and a few snacks. After the kids went to bed, Jeff and I enjoyed a nice meal “out” (aka: downstairs in the lobby), but it was so nice to have a bit of a date night.

Tuesday January 15, 2019

Proverbs 16:32 One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.

We had two special events today…Lucia lost her first tooth! She was so excited and very ready for the tooth fairy to pay her a visit in India.

And then we had to say goodbye to our good friend Lachlan, who was headed back to Australia early tomorrow morning. Anjali was especially sad to see him go and she wanted to make him a special cake to say goodbye, so she and I spent the afternoon baking and decorating the cake(s) for his goodbye party at dinner (it was supposed to happen at 4 pm tea time, but it didn’t). Anjali seemed happy with the results and so did Lachlan. To be honest, I am not sure that the cake was specifically for Lachlan, but rather his leaving was a good reason for her to bake and decorate a cake.

Lachlan, it was no nice to spend the last two months with you. We wish you the very best in all that you do and look forward to our paths crossing again in the future. You will be very missed!