Friday May 17, 2019

Proverbs 9:11 “For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.

Years, eventually yes, but for today we celebrate at least one more of adding to Sara’s.  She refused to write today’s blog because she doesn’t like to write about herself.  That’s fine, we can happily do it for her.  It’s not hard actually because she really does try to be a model of living a Christian life.  She is humble, faithful, giving, and she most often puts others before herself.  We as a family are very appreciative that God has gifted us with such an amazing wife, mother, sister, cousin, daughter, and friend.

As for the day, well that was a bit less remarkable.  The plan was for me to do the hospital shift so that Sara could help the kids pack and then meet me to grab a taxi to pick up a rental car.  We were heading to Bucharest so I could play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament.  Sara and the kids would get to sightsee a bit and maybe catch a game or two.

The plan went accordingly to start.  I met up with my two colleagues for the morning and we handed out diapers for the weekend need.  We then headed to the top floor to look after our charges.  I was surprised to see a familiar face, a baby whom I had cared for a few weeks earlier was back.  While I loved his giant smile (fitting for his somewhat bulbous head) I was sad that he was back.  Such is the case here, bittersweet moments of happiness to see a face you have come to adore but sadness to realize that he or she is back and in need of your care because the parents cannot do it.

My baby today, however, was new to me.  She is probably in the 6-8 month range.  Not verbal yet and not strong enough to stand.  Moreover, she is very needy and sad.  I was told about her from Sara who said that the previous day she basically had cried the entire time they were there.  Clearly she was missing home.  Fortunately she and I hit it off.  She at first was very fussy and cried but after a few minutes she snuggled in and after a few more she was sound asleep.  I felt a bit of encouragement when one of the nurses reported that she was pleased to see her sleeping and that it probably was because of my being a man.  The babies are surrounded by women most of the day as all of the nurses are female and most of the doctors as well.  I have really noticed that the kids have a very different reaction to me, not just because of my beard which they find to be very enticing to play with.  It is not always a positive reaction but for this little girl it worked and it made for a very pleasant stay in the room.

After completing our time on the 4th floor we shifted to the 3rd but we only had two babies needing attending.  I asked my coworkers if they would be okay if I headed off early so we could get started on our trip to Bucharest and they kindly gave me the okay.  After catching up with Sara and the kids we finished our packing and headed off for the car.  As expected, by the time we got to the rental place, signed paperwork, and got loaded up we were heading off just after two.  We had birthday dinner plans for Sara at 6:30 but as the trip began to stretch out with unexpected bathroom breaks, traffic, and some challenging weather, we wisely elected to switch our plans to Saturday.  I felt bad for Sara as her celebration would be put off but as is often the case she simply said it was okay and that she would rather celebrate when everyone was feeling happy and rested.

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We made it to the hotel, got settled in and opted for what turned out to be a less than stellar dinner at the hotel restaurant.  To cap it off, our eldest, who was gung ho to sleep on the couch for the night, suddenly felt it would not be comfortable enough and threw a tantrum.  Net result, she got to sleep in mom and dad’s bed, Luci and David shared a room, and dad took the couch.  While I wouldn’t say this was the best way to celebrate the birthday of such a wonderful person, in a way it kind of was.  It celebrated all the great things about her.  We volunteered helping abandoned or underserved children, we got to go on an adventure to a new city, we dealt with the challenges of parenthood, made the best of an unexpected situation, and through it all we smiled at the end of the night.

God never promised things would be easy, always positive, or be exactly as we want them.  He promises only that He will provide for us and that in the end we will say hello to Him.   And at that end of the long day of life, we will both smile.  In the meantime, I am so thankful I have a wonderful partner on the journey.

Thursday May 16, 2019

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

I took the hospital shift today to give Jeff a bit of a break because he did not sleep well last night. I was so happy to be there today and to snuggle these adorable children, even if we only had a few. Nothing really stands out from the shift today, other than the comfort I feel with being there. I feel confident in my role and thus have a sense of belonging. As I am looking ahead to our required departure date, I am saddened that our time is ending. Despite our best efforts to locate another opportunity elsewhere, we have thus far not found another project that provides the same sense of calling. We are in the process of arranging for a translator to come to the police station with us on Tuesday so we can ask permission to stay for another 25 days, so I am hopeful that part of God’s plan for us to finish this journey here in Brasov with these children.

Today is also Raymond’s birthday. When we were in India on the mission we were able to fill a gap in their child sponsorship program and were blessed to be named as sponsors for one of the children, Raymond. Our relationship with him is still new, but it was so fun to be able to wish him a happy birthday today via FaceTime. It was disappointing, though not unexpected, that the package we sent did not arrive in time. We were at least to financially help him have a fun birthday party with his family on the mission. He told us all about how he was going to have a movie party in the Strong House backyard and that all of the boys from the Small Boys Hostel will be there to celebrate with him. He was so excited to tell us about his party and it was obvious that he was having a good day with all his brothers.

As I reflect on this scripture today I can see how there are times that I am strong and bold, where I have no fear or dread because I am grounded in my faith that God is with me. But there are other times when I am none of those things and I know it is in these moments when I either forget that God is with me or my faith is wavering. I am reminded of the Footprints poem.

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

These last 2 months have been like a roller coaster for me as it relates to these very things. There are days (or sometimes just moments) when I feel strong, bold, and fearless because I know I am standing firm in the foundation that God is with me and will never forsake me. And then there are the other days, and lately I think they have been more frequent. The days that I feel weak and scared, or bogged down with anxiety and doubt and it makes me wonder where God is or I have forgotten all about Him. Why can I be strong and faithful one day and then weak and doubtful the next? What is different? What changed?

As I ask myself these questions the only answer I come up with is that my faith is not a blind faith, but rather one grounded in understanding and experience as it relates to my relationship with God. This relationship I have with God is continuously growing and changing and this inconsistency is what my faith looks like, right or wrong. I also realize that my relationship with God is not one-sided. I can’t just ask God for strength and boldness, and do nothing but sit around and wait for Him to give it to me (I actually can, but that doesn’t mean that I should). I have to work on this relationship too. I have to challenge myself to step outside my comfort zone and trust in His ways and His truths, (some may call that blind faith), but every time I do this, He is there, fulfilling His promise to me to never leave me or forsake me. This brings me comfort knowing that just because I am not always the person He wants me to be, I can still keep striving to make my relationship better with Him and He WILL always be there. So I guess in the end it is a one-sided relationship, because He is the one who will never fail.

Wednesday May 15, 2019

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.

A busy, but wonderful day today shows just how amazing God is and how much He does in our lives. I went to the hospital today and Jeff stayed with the kids. Our neighbors downstairs don’t get out often just as a couple seeing that they have 4 kids, so we offered to watch their kids. As it turned out, we were able to allow Anjali to “be in charge” of the youngest, Martin, who is just under a year. Both Jeff and I were here during the whole afternoon, but Anjali really was watching and babysitting Martin and she did a great job. She was attentive and acted very responsibly.

I spent a good portion of the day studying for my licensing exam, but had a wonderful coffee break with Amy when they got home from their afternoon date. We have been trying to have coffee for some time, but our schedules seem to be conflicting, so it was nice to sit down and visit.

We still are no closer to answers about our future (what are we doing after June 2, where we will live in August, will we have jobs, etc), but I don’t feel as scared or anxious. We have heard that there is a possibility (though very slim) that we may be able to extend our time in Romania for a few weeks and continue helping here until the end of June. In order to even explore this as an option we need to find a Romanian speaker to join us for a visit to the Head of Police here in Brasov and ask for an extension. We have been searching for another place to serve after our time here ends on June 2, but we truly have not found anything we are feeling called to do. I think our hearts are still here and not wanting to leave. I am sure we are going to be able to find someone to help us with this task and I am praying that God will find a way for us to stay for a bit longer.

I know that God will take care of us and that whatever the outcomes may be, it will be wonderful because, just as the scripture says, For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10)

Tuesday May 14, 2019

Exodus 17:12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set.

I honestly could not think of how to relate this scripture reading to the crazy day that occurred, but as I read the scripture before this passage, I understood immediately. So here it is:

Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword. (Exodus 17:9-13)

Let me start with the day today. I woke up to an email this morning from the apartment complex we were hoping to rent upon our return to Madison apologizing for missing the fact that there were 5 of us (which was clearly listed on the application), but they could not rent to us because we exceeded their occupancy rate. So now we are back to square one. We really wanted to get the kids back into the same school, but honestly after this morning, I am not very confident with this plan. There are very few 3 bedroom apartments in the area and the ones that are there are really expensive, well above our budget. So I reached out to our neighborhood to see if anyone knew of a house for rent starting August 1. I put my phone down and didn’t look at it again for a while.

Jeff headed to the hospital while I stayed with the kids and had them complete an assessment to gauge where they were with their common core standards. We all were pleased to see that all 3 children were testing well above their grade level and all had improved from the beginning of this journey. It was definitely a win for everyone, because the homeschooling aspect of this year has been exhausting for all of us! The kids have all agreed to do a small amount of math practice each day, as well as reading (which is never a problem because they all get lost in books easily!). A definite win in my book–official school for the Hayes kids is done!!

Jeff got home from the hospital and I would love to say that we had a pretty mellow afternoon, which everyone did but me. My day was full of ups and then downs and then ups again. It was an exhausting rollercoaster. I completed my yoga practice and while trying to catch my breath again I snuck a peek at my phone and found that I had several comments on my post about an apartment, one that was a listing on Craigslist that would be just what we wanted–a 3 bedroom in our price range and in the same school boundaries! I was thrilled. I messaged him back and after a bit of back and forth, disappointment again….they needed a renter now and can’t wait until an Aug 1 lease. Sigh……Back to the drawing board again.

I am finding it so hard to not get overly excited at each and every opportunity to pin down our future, but I am regularly finding that by doing this I am also experiencing regular disappointment, which is only making the anxiety and uncertainty worse. Thankfully I have Jeff to help keep my arms up and to regularly remind me that God has a plan for us and that this is all part of it. We may not be able to see it now, but He is fighting for us and He is preparing a way, we just have to be patient and trust in Him. I am so grateful for his reminders (and I am needing them much more often recently), but without fail, Jeff is there to prop me up on a rock and hold up my arms. I am not in this journey alone. I have a wonderful husband to help me find my faith in God and show me how to trust in His ways. Just like this scripture, we all need people around us to support us and sometimes hold us up when we are weak, but that is part of being a child of God; we are all in this together and need each other every day as we live out our faith in God.

Monday May 13, 2019

Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’

I think Sara asked me to write today’s blog because she had no idea to what this reading pertains.  Unfortunately I agree with her.  The first part seems fairly straight forward enough but that second part, it’s all a little “Biblical”.

In any case God is our refuge and we try to remember that as often as possible.  After today’s news we are even more hopeful for that to be the case.  We thought that we had found an apartment in Madison for our return which would work, even if it were a bit cramped.  However, when our friend Sandy went to take a look she learned that the representative had not realized that there would be five residents.  Apparently she had ignored our application which clearly referenced not only Sara and me but also our three children.  Needless to say we were not too excited about the prospects of getting that apartment anymore so back to square one.

All that is okay though.  We know that this will all work out in the end.  While I know that my friends and family are starting to panic about our living arrangements I am as calm as ever.  Not that I plan to move in with relatives or friends but I know that there is a place for us, we just don’t know where it is yet.  God is my refuge.  I am just hoping the enemies before me are the absence of affordable and properly sized housing!

As for the day aside from apartment hunts, it was relatively uneventful.  Sara worked the hospital shift, Luci and David enjoyed their first day of no school having completed their coursework for the year, and Anjali continued her commitment to being an early adopter of teenage angst.  We managed the morning well enough and enjoyed a relatively relaxing afternoon.  I think the kids were content to just enjoy being done with school so they played hard with the neighbors and enjoyed the spring air.

 

Thursday May 9, 2019

Psalm 48:14 “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”

“When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Today, Lucia, my littlest child, reminded me of the truth, to be a child to truly appreciate the kingdom of God.  Earlier this week Sara and I watched a film called Courageous.  It was written and directed by a group that has done several Christian themed films, all of which are tremendous.  In this particular movie the emphasis is on fatherhood and how to be a father that would be pleasing to God.  Ever since watching this film I have tried very hard  to recognize times that I can be a better father starting first and foremost with saying yes to my kids when they want to do something with me.  Today, it was Luci’s turn.

Luci has been on repeat lately asking to help with dinner preparations.  At six years old she is not terribly helpful in too many ways but what she lacks in skills, size, usefulness, knowledge, and safety she makes up for, and in spades, with enthusiasm.  And so it was that when I remarked to the kids that I had to go grocery shopping for dinner that Luci was all on board about going.  First she grabbed her pink backpack which she had seen mom use on more than one occasion because of its ability to handle a sizable amount of goods.  Then she proceeded to stuff it full with her water bottle, blanket, stuffed animal, and pez dispenser.  I reminded her gently that we would need some of that space for groceries so she reluctantly put the blanket and “neigh neigh” back.  She announced to all who would listen that she and I were heading out and off we went.

If you have ever gone anywhere with a 6 year old you will know what befell me over the next fifteen minutes.  She was a tornado of movement and a nonstop blur of speech.  The topics ranged beyond my recollection and certainly my ability to keep pace.  But in it all she was simply thrilled.  On such a mediocre journey as grocery shopping you would have thought that she was on her way to the moon.  Skipping, laughing, jumping, and smiling the whole way.  Luci reminded me to take the joy in every moment we have, no matter how “mundane” it may seem.  As we neared the halfway point it dawned on me how much I could learn from her exuberance and so we discussed plans for Mother’s Day dinner.  She was simply thrilled that she was included in the plans and, although her culinary knowledge is lacking, her suggestions were nevertheless enjoyable to hear.

As I reflect now on this time I realize that I must seem a bit like Luci to me as I am to God.  Sadly there are too many times that instead of skipping and laughing I am hanging my head in despair or grief.  But in all times I imagine I am like Luci offering suggestions for ingredients for Indian food (marshmallows and ice cream as it turns out are not traditional sub-jee items).  Here I was thinking I know the answers, the ingredients for a good life, when in reality God knows them far better than I.  I foolishly say my peace but in the end God guides me and we have a fantastic meal together and all the while I am happier.  I just feel blessed to be going on the journey with Him, just like Luci just loved saying she was part of the adventure.

I am happy to be included on the walk, happy that He listens to my crazy ideas about how ice cream will really finish the sauce nicely, and happy that He lets me enjoy the meal when He is finished.  It is hard to humbly admit that my 6 year-old gets it better than I do, but I am sure glad she was there to remind me today.

 

 

Monday May 6, 2019

Psalm 119:169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word.

I had the hospital shift today and there were 5 of us for 2 children on one floor and 3 children on the other. So we divided ourselves up amongst the two floors. It was a very quiet shift, but still very rewarding, as it usually is. I mean really, snuggling babies is such a wonderful way to spend a morning.

Today was also the first day of my 108 day yoga challenge. I started this particular yoga program (The Ultimate Yogi) several years ago and have continued my practice through the years, though not as consistent as I would have liked. I was so excited to hear that there was a challenge that starts today and so I joined up on Facebook. This is a way to keep me accountable in making sure I get my yoga and meditation in every day. I am ready for the challenge. I started my day today with the ab workout and then did the flow practice when I got home from the hospital.

After that was done Jeff and I headed out to mail a package to our family back in India on the mission. We sponsor a child there and his birthday is next week. I really wish we could have sent this off sooner to ensure it gets there by his birthday, but it just didn’t happen. I really enjoyed this walk with Jeff, just the two of us. I feel that we have had a shift in our relationship, we now have more time to just be together without the children. Our kids have gotten to the age that we are able to leave them alone for an hour or two, which affords us the chance to just be together and have adult conversations without the input from little ones. I am cherishing these moments because it almost feels like we are dating again. I guess I am just realizing that we are entering a new chapter in our relationship and in our family. I know there will be a time when I miss my children being around, but for the moment I am enjoying the times that they aren’t!

I still haven’t heard anything on any of the various jobs I have applied to, which is a bit discouraging, but I guess this is where today’s scripture comes into play. Without even knowing it, this has been my prayer for a while now, asking God to give me “understanding according to His word”. He has a plan, I just don’t know what it is yet. But after this weekend and the conversations that Jeff and I have had (alone!) we have decided that it would be beneficial for me to acquire my license to practice social work in Wisconsin. So I was able to get my application submitted and the process started today. I am hopeful that within the next 3 months or so I will be a licensed social worker, which will open up many more job opportunities to me.