Monday June 17, 2019

James 5:6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

Jeff and I tried to enjoy our last day here. Jeff did some more work on the church for Johannes, while I packed everything up and ready for the long days of travel lying ahead of us. We had one surprise today. Our friend from Westminster Presbyterian Church arrived today in Schonebeck. Chris was the one responsible for setting up our time here with St. Jakobi and I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was that we were able to spend some time with him here. We ordered a pizza for lunch and enjoyed talking about this past year for all of us. Chris is such a wonderful friend and we are so grateful for his help with arranging our time here in Schonebeck. This is was perfect place to start this year and finish it. Final packing was done by this afternoon and then Emma joined us after she finished school. It was wonderful to have her over and the kids loved playing with her (and Chris, who braved the trampoline). I love hearing the kids laugh and scream in delight outside.

Chris braving the trampoline
A nice family picture with Chris

We had an easy dinner and then everyone came over to say watch a slideshow that Jeff put togther of this past year and to say our final goodbyes. We were able to get some wonderful pictures in front of the church with everyone and I will cherish these pictures forever. The evening was filled with tears of sadness as we knew that it would be a while before we saw each other again. I was taken aback by Anjali’s response to saying goodbye. She was absolutely devastated. Tears were free flowing down everyone’s faces because once the girls started (Anjali, Saskia, and Emma) us adults couldn’t help but join them. I had no idea how difficult this would be for the kids and unfortunately I was completely unprepared. But in the end, we said our final goodbyes and put the kids to bed and Jeff went in to take a nap. We had a long two days of travel to get us back to Arizona and it was all starting at midnight tonight!

Susi, Sara, and Lucia
Steffi, Saski, Susi, Emma, Anjali, Lucia, Sara, and Birgit

My heart aches when I look at these pictures because I am brought right back to the raw emotion and heartache felt when we had to say goodbye.


The progression of these group pictures just makes me smile. We had so much fun and they really capture the wonderful friendshps made in just a short 2 months!


As I write this blog almost a month later, I am going to condense our travels back to the States, our time in Arizona, and our move back to Wisconsin. So bear with me on the lengthiness of this post.

Our plan was to leave Schonebeck at midnight tonight and drive to Copenhagen, Denmark where we were scheduled for a flight to London and then to LA, California. Thankfully we left right on time and pulled away from St. Jakobi with heavy hearts and teary eyes. We made it to the airport on time and the flight to London was fairly uneventful, with only an hour or so of sobbing at the Copenhagen airport because someone wanted waffles and we could not produce them out of thin air. We barely made our connecting flight out of London to LA, but in the end, all was well and we safely made it back to the USA on Wednesday July 19 at 5 pm (only 24 hours after we left Schonebeck). LAX is like its own city, but we managed to navigate all 5 of us, sleepily through passport control and customs quickly thanks to Anjali’s need for crutches! We got our rental car and then headed to see my aunt and uncle who live just outside of LA. They were so kind to welcome us home with some hamburgers and hot dogs (though Lucia never made it, she fell asleep on the hour drive and never woke up). After a short visit, we continued on our way to Arizona by car and arrived at my parents house at 4 am, 34 hours later. The kids did great on this long journey. They walked inside to say their hellos to grandma and grandpa and then went straight to bed!

This is what 30+ hours of travel actually looks like…two kids passed out on mom’s leg in the backseat of the car!
We made it back to the USA
A quick dinner visit with Aunt Beckie and Uncle Trevor!

Everyone slept-in and when we woke up, we quickly realized that we had also bypassed jet lag. I am not sure if it was because we travelled for so long or that we all just got a good night’s sleep, but no one was off schedule and we all just jumped right in to catching up with family. It was so great to see everyone and to spend time visiting and playing in the pool. The kids were in the pool daily for hours and the rest of the time Jeff and I were struggling to find them things to do in the stifling heat of Arizona (bowling made the list of activities and Jeff even wore his saroong from Sri Lanka, or mirt (aka man skirt)). We shuffled the kids around to Gramma and Papa Hayes and to my brother and sister-in-law for sleepovers, which the kids loved, probably because of the alone time with grandparents and cousins/aunts/uncles. We had visits from lots of family and friends, sorted out some of the necessary things now that we were back (new cell service, paying some bills, dealing with issues that came up during our time away). Needless to say, Jeff and I were very busy, not to mention job applications and resume revisions to help the job searches.


We did have a wonderful day the Saturday before we left. We rented a boat at Lake Pleasant and spent the morning tubing, wake-boarding, and swimming in the lake. We even replicated a picture we had of Anjali and David from 10 years ago, but this time with Lucia in it!



I was blessed to get the opportunity to visit my best friend in Fort Collins, CO for a milestone birthday (don’t worry Kate, I won’t share your age : )). This turned into a wonderful blessing for me to have some peace and quiet to work on my resume, study for my exam, and update my online profiles to help with my job search. Kate was super busy with work, so we basically worked all day and then hung out in the evening; it was perfect for both of us who were feeling overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us. The plan for me was to catch a flight back to Arizona on the 4th of July in time for fireworks with the family; however, Colorado weather had different plans and I got stuck in the airport for several hours, not making it back to AZ until 1 am. So I missed out on the 4th of July celebrations, which included an Anjali original cake!


After a short sleep, we did some final packing and then we were off to Madison. We had arranged for Anjali to have a sleepover with her best friend for 3 nights right away; I think she was surprised. We also managed to schedule a play date for David and his best friend and they had a blast playing in the pool of our hotel. I think they were all happy to be back and with their friends (unfortunately Lucia’s friends were not able to meet up with us, but she didn’t even seem to mind).


Monday morning began the move into the new apartment and I quickly realized what a pain it is to move. We had gotten rid of so much stuff before leaving on this year, but as we were moving boxes after boxes of stuff I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of our belongings. More on this later.

On Thursday I took my licensing exam and was so relieved to have passed. As I was driving home from Milwaukee after the exam, I was reminded of the wonderfully supportive friends that we have here in Madison. My good friend Elizabeth, not only stored our belongings for this past year, but she also loaned us her car for 3 days to help up speed up the moving process. Then when we returned her car, our wonderful friend Sandy offered her car to me so I didn’t have to take the bus to Milwaukee for the test. We are surrounded by amazing people who have always shown us love and support and for this I am forever grateful.


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.


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!

Sunday November 18, 2018

2 Chronicles 7:14-15 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 

The kids were so excited for today. Today we went back to the Nan Seasons Resort to celebrate David’s birthday a day early, with a fun day of swimming and then dinner. The kids also talked Wat into joining us for the day, so we had the blessing of spending the afternoon with him. It was such a beautiful and relaxing day. For the most part, the kids got a long fairly well, with minimal fighting and bickering. We swam and then enjoyed a nice dinner. Wat made this day even more special by picking up a birthday cake and candles for David, he was so excited. I really missed baking a cake for his birthday. I have made handmade cakes for the kids’ birthdays since David turned 1 and it feels so weird to have a purchased cake. This would be one of those things I did not realize I would miss : )

I want to give a huge shout out to the Nan Seasons Boutique Resort, for giving us the opportunity to celebrate David’s birthday swimming. This really made his day!

Thursday September 27, 2018

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The only thing I can think about after reading this passage is the song by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn”. I have heard this song so many times I cannot count and I never knew that this song was scripture. I know, I need to read more scripture, as this was probably common knowledge, but not for me. This song is so touching and incredibly profound as we prepare to leave our first stop in Schönebeck. This has been a wonderful home for us over these last two months and we have been blessed to have made some lifelong friendships that I know will stand the test of time. This song reminds that there is a reason for everything and though things may be difficult, we always have God guiding our path, we just have to trust in His ways and follow.

I was able to snap a pictures of David and Lucia playing at school some of the kids and then of David’s new haircut.

Today we were interviewed by the Volksstimme Newspaper in Schönebeck and they intended to do a write-up on our family: sharing our story, what we are doing here, and what we think of the town. All three kids contributed to the interview and it was a great opportunity to share our story with the people of Schönebeck who have been so kind to us thus far. We would never have been able to share our story with every person we met there, but this provided us the opportunity to share our thanks and our gratitude for all of the kindness and patience shown to us by the wonderful people of Schönebeck . We hope that they are able to understand how much we appreciate all the people we met and who helped us in various ways during our time here.

If you would like to read the article here is it, but I will warn you, it is all in German!

Newspaper Article

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the kids and I. And true to form, Anjali had a wonderful idea to bake some traditional chocolate chip cookies for each of their classes. So today, we made cookies and packaged them all up (I finished at 11 pm, but they are done and I was able to squeak out just enough for all three classes though my kids won’t be able to have any!) This idea of Anjali’s was a giant pain in the backside, as we are trying to pack and get ready to leave, but I am so glad Jeff was the calming voice in my chaotic brain (again) to remind me that this will all work out just fine. And of course, he was right (DAR—aka:Dad’s Always Right—this is saying that Jeff started, which he thinks is always fitting : )). The cookies got finish, albeit late, but still finish and the kids were so happy to be able to share them with their classes.

My girls making the cookies!

Johannes also stopped by this evening to say hello and we just happened to be trying to put the kids to bed. He must have a magic “grandpa” touch because he kneeled down next to Lucia’s bed and he proceeded to stroke her head until she was fast asleep! It was absolutely precious.

Johannes using his special “grandpa” touch to help Lucia fall asleep.


Sunday September 9, 2018

Luke 6:38 …give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

It was an early morning for us to finish the peach turnovers before church, but it was done and they turned out great!


After church we had a nice lunch in the apartment and then joined others for stories in the Bell Tower of St. Jakobi by both Birgit and Johannes. (But not before my children could play outside for a bit—a little throwback kids game!)


Both stories were awesome and a lot of fun, even though we couldn’t understand much because it was all in German. It was really fun to climb to the top of the Bell Tower and look out over Schönebeck (though not as much for me because I am not a big fan of really steep stairs that go really high up when I can see the bottom).

Here is a picture from the top of the Bell Tower.


Susi and René brought over a traditional German dinner for us and Johannes and Birgit, which included a homemade stew and Gehachtes (which is raw seasoned pork that you spread on bread). The kids played and the adults had wine and beer. It was a lot of fun and I am starting to realize how quickly the time here is passing and how much I am going to miss these wonderful people. 

After dinner, Anjali, David and Lucia wanted to take Emma up to the top of the Bell Tower, so Rene agreed to take all the kids for a tour! It was really run to be able to take a picture of them while they were up there!

Friday September 7, 2018

1 Peter 3:9-11 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

After school, I spent the day making these turnovers. They turned out amazing and it was even better that Jeff got in on the action. This was our afternoon and evening and it was so much fun to work together in this small kitchen with a bottle of wine!


Wednesday September 5, 2018

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…

Today was a much better day for me. For whatever reason, I was really struggling the last two days. It was very refreshing to wake up to a new day (albeit tired from staying up way too late and visiting with Johannes!). School was good for me, but I have an affirmation that my calling is not to work with children when we get home from this year. I love children, I love my children, and I love working at the school helping; however, I am sure that my calling is not to do this as a career. I have a great appreciation for those that teach, I just know that is not for me. With that being said, I am really amazed at how much I am able to understand. I feel like I am getting most of what Ines is teaching in class now, though I still can’t speak to my student and provide any verbal support. This does make it difficult because he does not like my help in any way and is constantly pushing my hands away and hiding his work from me. Thankfully, Ines just tells me not to worry about it; he will do what he wants to do and there is not much that even she can do about it. This passage is perfect for today. It is a reminder to keep love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness at the forefront of our lives because that is how we become fruits of the spirit. Today I found myself much less frustrated and irritate with the constant slapping and pushing of my hands from my student. All I can do for him is continue to try to help, but I can’t force him to accept it. My job is to be loving, patient, and kind in everything I do and the Lord will do the rest.

After school I blanched, peeled, pitted, and sliced an entire box of peaches. I ended up making 5 bags of 4 cups each! I had a plan to make peach pie for Sunday which is Monument Day (Monument Day is a day in Germany where all of the national monuments are free to enter and most provide extra activities. Here at St. Jakobi people will come through and look at the church, but it is also an opportunity for Bell Tower Tours and for stories inside the Bell Tower, next to the bells). But we can’t find pie pans or crusts anywhere and the ones that I can find on Amazon can’t get here in time. So we needed a new plan and we decided we would instead make turnovers using Puff Pastry. So I spent a good portion of the afternoon and evening making an effort at turnovers. This first batch turned out very tasty, but not very pretty. So I will need to revisit the process and try to improve it!