Thursday April 25, 2019

Deuteronomy 33:12 Of Benjamin he said: The beloved of the Lord rests in safety—the High God surrounds him all day long—the beloved rests between his shoulders.

Today was an interesting day. I went up to the support center to help with donation sorting and ended up clearing out and organizing the office in order to stack and put more boxes of donations. Since I love organizing things I had a lot of fun, plus Katie’s company is always a bonus! I was able to finish that up in about an hour and then headed to the store to get everything else I needed for Anjali’s birthday cake. I can’t believe she is going to be 12 years old tomorrow, where does the time go.

I came home just before Jeff had to leave for his afternoon shift at the hospital. The kids were pretty much done with school so I started to make Anjali’s birthday cake for tomorrow, Red Velvet per her request. Unfortunately, I misjudged the quantity of some ingredients and was short on sugar and oil. Fortunately our neighbor downstairs helped with the sugar and I used butter to substitute for the oil. Even with the mishaps and missing ingredients, I was able to make 3 cakes to layer with cream cheese frosting.

When I finished making her cakes it really hit me how incredibly tired I was, actually complete exhaustion is a better description of how I felt. But I managed to muster enough energy to get dinner prepared and ready so we could eat once Jeff got home. I really couldn’t explain why I was so tired, but as I was getting ready for bed I realized that my lymph nodes were swollen behind my ears, I was getting sick. Jeff agreed to take my shift in the morning because if I wasn’t feeling well now, the hospital was not where I should be tomorrow. I needed to be healthy so we could celebrate Anjali’s birthday!

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Wednesday April 24, 2019

Proverbs 4:20-22 My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.

Today was my day at the hospital while Jeff stayed home with the kids. They are so close to being done with school and I can’t wait to do more things around Brasov. There are so many museums and forts/castles to see in this area of Transylvania that we have not yet explored, and once the kids are done with the common core curriculum we can take advantage of the many learning opportunities around us.

Jeff and I had a nice schedule that accommodated the bi-monthly FFR meetings and store for the nurses that Jeff and I are attending/helping, however, with my travels back to Phoenix we have been thrown off our schedule. Because of this, we both totally forgot the staff meeting that was scheduled for today. Thankfully Katie texted me just before the meeting started and I was able to quickly get ready and then race to the support center for the meeting. I made it, but was 25 minutes late. I hate being late and missing things like this. I always end up feeling totally irresponsible. I helped out at the support center sorting through donations before heading to the hospital for my shift.

My shift today was wonderful, but quite boring. We only had a few kids at the hospital and 4 volunteers to do the work; it is such a wonderful blessing, but it makes the shift really long. On the third floor we only had 3 children, but one was sound asleep and the other doesn’t like to be held or touched, so we had one child to entertain and one to snuggle amongst the 4 of us. There were more kids on the other floor, so we each had a baby to snuggle. After the shift I made our daily stop at the grocery store and then home for dinner.

When I was in Phoenix I was able to find a game called Exploding Kittens and the kids just love playing it, so we played for a bit after dinner and before bed. This is definitely a great family game that gets everybody laughing. I think Lucia laughed so hard during this game she wore herself out because she fell asleep pretty quick and by the time I was leaving the kids’ room I found her like this….

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This scripture is so wonderful. It reminds us to keep God’s words within our hearts because that is where we can find Him. If God is in our heart we have nothing to fear and we have a never ending love and eternal life with Him.

Friday April 19, 2019

2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

I finally got a decent night’s sleep despite going to bed quite late (or early depending on your frame of reference). Jeff headed out at 9:15 and I got up shortly thereafter. The kids were kind enough to let me sleep this morning and we just skipped school. Today was a big day for FFR, their yearly shipment of donations arrived from Germany. The donations arrived by semi, but the truck was too big to come into town, so several cars/vans/trucks were arranged to meet the truck outside the city limits, unload and reload to take to various locations in Brasov for storage. Jeff was part of the crew unloading the semi while the kids and I headed up to the support center for unloading. In total we unloaded approximately 250 boxes and stacked them 10 high in the center. My kids were wonderful helpers and I am so proud of their efforts and hard work today. We left the center at about 3:00 in the afternoon and headed home for a quiet evening.

Here are some pictures of today’s workload:

Tomorrow Jeff will run in the Braşov Half-Marathon where he will run Tampa Mountain a total of 3 times, so we had an early night for everyone. He is really excited for this run because he has been raising money for Mission:University, a new mission of The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission in Banbasa, India to send 10 young adults to university. We both are so grateful for the donations and prayers we received during this fundraiser. We will be able to share a total amount raised next week!

I still don’t feel normal yet, but it will happen soon I am sure. The jet lag this go ’round is nothing like my time in Phoenix. I was tired there, but unable to sleep. Now that I am home I am able to catch up and get some rest. It may take a day or so to finally feel rested, but I can see that I’m getting there.

It is so weird being here during this Easter holiday and Holy Week because here in Romania they observe the Orthodox calendar, in which Easter and Holy Week is next week. For us, today is Good Friday and we didn’t attend services or really get to experience any of Holy Week, which was difficult for me though I am hopeful that we will get to celebrate it next week.

Honestly it didn’t feel like Good Friday at all, until Jeff showed me this picture he took on his walk home from the store. I won’t share what I see here, but rather let you decide what you see. I promise no editing has been done to this photo.

Friday April 12, 2019

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us

I had another afternoon shift at the hospital today, so I was able to spend the morning with the kids doing schoolwork. Jeff was there for most of the morning, but he did take off on a long run as he prepares for the half-marathon next weekend. I had to leave the kids before he got home, but thankfully 95% of their schoolwork was done by that point. We also decided that we would go out for dinner tonight. This would be a nice opportunity for some family time before I left for 5 days.

My shift went very well. I am so happy for the opportunity to work with Romanian students both yesterday and today. FFR has gained 4 new volunteers that live in Brasov locally, which is a huge resource. It is so wonderful to see these children respond to them. They are able to talk to the children in their native language, as well as gather information from the nursing staff much easier.

There was a moment of bittersweetness today. Though the children did not scream and cry as they have the last several shifts, I noticed that one of the children no longer had a port for medication, which usually means they will be leaving the hospital soon. My heart is so happy that he is getting healthy and will no longer be in the hospital, but I will be honest, I am worried about where he will go. We are not given a lot of specific information about these children, mainly because we don’t really need to know, but I have been told how much difficulty they have had finding a placement for this little boy who potentially has an infectious illness. My worry is that he will not be going to a home, but rather to another hospital facility where he will not be able to get the love and attention he deserves. I just need to have faith that he is in God’s hands and that he will be safe and loved wherever he goes. He is a little charmer and I have seen first hand how he is able to steal the heart of anyone whom he meets. With all of this, I said my goodbye to him because I don’t know if he will be there when I get back next Friday. It was difficult to say goodbye to all of these children because if all works out, they will get healthy and will not longer need to stay in the hospital, which means they won’t be there when I get return.

After my shift I got home to some very happy children. We walked down to the square where we ate a wonderful dinner at Da Vinci, a nice Italian Restaurant that was highly recommended by every volunteer we have met. The food, wine, and service were spectacular and it was such a wonderful evening with the kids. We all enjoyed a Kurtos on our walk home. It was a beautiful night that ended with a snuggle fest in our bed while we watched Paddington. It was the perfect way to spend an evening with my family. I will miss them so much while I am gone. We have all been together non-stop, 24 hours a day/7 days a week, since we left the US at the end of July 2018. I haven’t even left and I am already missing them. So I just soaked in all that I could from tonight.

We put them to bed and I finished my last minute packing. I fell asleep at 12:30 and Jeff was kind enough to wake me up at 1:10 so I could gather everything up and meet my driver outside at 1:30 am for the 3 hour drive to Bucharest.

Lord give me strength and perseverance as I embark on this long journey back to the US.

Wednesday April 10, 2019

Psalm 91 Assurance of God’s Protection

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
    the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
    no scourge come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

Those who love me, I will deliver;
    I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
    I will be with them in trouble,
    I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
    and show them my salvation.

God’s promise to us is real and He will never forsake us. I can’t help but look at this scripture and think of the children in the hospital who are needing so much love and attention; more than I or Jeff can give. This scripture is a reminder that God is always with us and He will protect us forever, and I know that He will do all these things for the beautiful angels here in the Brasov Children’s Hospital. There are a few children that have been in the hospital for some time with no one coming to see them except us. I know that God has put us here for a reason and I truly think that Jeff and I would adopt all of them, if we could, just to be sure that they receive the love and care they deserve. But I also know that God will continue to look after them and provide them the care and love they need. As I read this scripture I am so thankful that we were listening for God’s call and that we were willing to follow when He put the path of Romania in front of us. I still am shocked that I found this opportunity, but I can see that this was His plan for us and we are now acting as His hands to love these children. God is protecting them, comforting them in times of trouble, and showing them love and He is doing His work through us. I am so thankful that He has chosen us to do this because these children deserve every morsel of love I have to give.

I am also amazed with my children and their eagerness to know and hear about these kids in the hospital. Even though they cannot be at the hospital with us, I feel like they know these children and love them just the same. Both Jeff and I talk about them like they are part of our family and our children don’t seemed threatened or jealous in any way, but rather have welcomed them into our family and our hearts.

Today was a pretty good day of school work, not the best, but definitely not the worst. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know that the schoolwork is coming to an end, hopefully sooner than later. I can totally understand the frustration teachers have towards the end of the year and I am acting like a student because I just want it done! But I am also reflecting on what homeschooling has meant for our children. I have seen them all excel in school much more than they ever have. Shoot, Lucia finished her Kindergarten curriculum in October and will be done with First Grade Language Arts/Math and Second Grade Science/Social Studies by the end of April. It is amazing. She has become a proficient reader and the math doesn’t even seem to challenge her any more. I am not sure what we are going to do when she is ready to start public school again. As for Anjali and David, I have been able to see them excel and really learn where their passions are for learning. This is a wonderful insight to have because we now can stoke those interests and help them to grow even more. I am very interested to see how they all adjust back to public school.

Anjali has been trying so hard with her relationship with David and Lucia. Today, while David and Lucia were outside playing, she came in early to make them a bit of a snack. She took some grilled tortillas we had and made some Nutella roll-ups topped with bananas. She put a lot of effort into this snack and created a beautiful treat for her brother and sister, who were very excited and absolutely loved the treat. It is times like this that I can see the benefits of this trip, our kids are starting to look beyond themselves and starting to go out of their way to do things that will make others happy. They are starting to learn that when they contribute to someone’s joy, they in turn experience it too.

Tuesday April 9, 2019

Jeremiah 30:17 For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: “It is Zion; no one cares for her!”

It was my day for the morning shift at the hospital and I totally forgot that in an email to Mary, Jeff and I offered to do a double shift on Tuesdays to ensure that there was someone there in the afternoons. So the plan was to let the kids hang at the house while Jeff and I did the shift from 3-6, but the kids were less than cooperative today and Jeff did not feel comfortable leaving them, so Calah was kind enough to cover for Jeff. This meant that both Calah and I did the morning shift, sorted donations at the support center, and then did the afternoon shift. As a way to say thank you, we asked Calah to join us for dinner and she happily accepted our offer. Jeff prepared a wonderful meal of BBQ chicken with mashed potatoes and a cucumber/tomato salad; it was a wonderful meal.

As for the hospital shifts, they were wonderfully heartbreaking. There are a few kids that have been there for quite some time, two going on about 3 weeks, and since we are there so much we have developed a beautiful bond. While this is so much fun to play and interact with these children, it is also so difficult to leave when they are crying and reaching out for us. One little boy is 3 yrs old and suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, but has one of the most beautiful souls. Today he greeted me with a huge smile and his arms reaching up for me. As soon as I picked him up he put his finger on his cheek for me to kiss and repeated this gesture with the other side. This adorable little gesture just melted my heart and it made me wonder who was caring for whom. My time at the hospital has reminded me how important it is for us to show our love for one another and how much we need that connection. These are the things that make us whole. I hope and pray that our time with the children will bring them the comfort and connection that they are so desperately needing. I am so grateful that we have allowed God to use us here and that we can be a loving friend to these children who are alone and sick.

Wednesday March 27, 2019

“The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17

John, chapter 1.  The Gospel’s version of Genesis perhaps.  “In the beginning…”  Beginnings mean hope, optimism, freedom, courage, and opportunity.  This year has been about beginnings every day.  With each new day we have a new opportunity to make an impact, to show God’s love reflected in not just our words but in our actions.  Today was certainly no different.

I had the morning shift at the hospital with Katie and Calah.  We are very fortunate that Calah has come back as we had 9 babies on just one floor alone.  We were also fortunate that the nursing students are on rotation this month as we had another 5 babies on another floor with whom they were able to spend time.

All in all it worked out okay as we rotated nicely through but it reminded me that every day we face uncertainty about what we will find, be it in the hospital or anywhere else.  This uncertainty though is a true blessing because it means that every day we have an opportunity to employ the grace and truth given to us by Jesus.  I came across a post on Facebook about the great Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.  The short video relates that Bear always had a poem in his jacket pocket that he read every day.  One of those poems reads as follows:

poem

Following my shift Sara and I met up in the Support Center where she and the kids were busily making baby bundles.  We wrapped up this week’s requirement and then I walked the kids home.  Sara ended up taking on the newborn feeding shift and then came home late that afternoon.  While we prepped dinner the concept of beginnings took root as we discussed future plans, jobs, locations, family.  What I found most exciting and energizing was that despite all the uncertainty of what tomorrow might look like, we both faced it without fear or apprehension.  I was also so amazed and inspired by my children.  When we talked with them about some of our thoughts they rose to the occasion and recognized that they could make sacrifices too for others and that those sacrifices would be worth every second of hardship for the love that they would reflect.  We all understood that we were well equipped by God’s law, grace, and mercy.

We realized that while the opportunity was great, there would be a cost.  But the price we pay is negligible next to the price paid by Jesus for us.  There is no monetary cost nor inconvenience that I can imagine that could compare.  I am so thankful that the Lord called to Sara and me and asked us to take up this mission.  I am not sure what the results will be but I am certain that I am more prepared than ever in my life to make the most of each and every day and to do it with the grace and truth that Jesus gave to us all.

Tuesday March 26, 2018

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

My hospital shift today was wonderful, exhausting, but wonderful. There were three of us there and it was a good thing too because there a lot of babies needing snuggles and care. I ended up with two little guys that were very angry every time I had to put them down to snuggle another one. I went back and forth between two rooms and three babies for the last hour of the shift and it was exhausting. But I will tell you, as exhausting as the morning was, I had so much fun playing with and loving on these little guys. Their smiles just brighten my day! After the morning shift I headed back to the Support Center to wok on the 25 “baby bundles” we needed to restock and then back to the hospital to help the nurses feed the newborns. This mission project has brought me so much joy. It is so easy to give these children all the love I have during the time that I am with them. And just as it has been with our previous work, I am receiving just as much, if not more, in return. The most difficult part of this mission is saying goodbye to these children who are in desperate need of love and affection. They need a caregiver and we are only able to provide such a small amount of what they are needing. I know that God has a plan for each of these little angels, but it is still very difficult to walk away as they are screaming, wanting you to just pick them up and hold them. I hope and pray that what we are able to give them sustains them through the night until we can hold them again tomorrow.

On a totally different note, our kids have been doing so much better at school lately. There are still tantrums, fights, and times when they don’t want to work, but all in all I can see a shift in their mentality. I am not sure if it is knowing and engaging with other families that homeschool or if it is just finally sinking in with them, but I like the change and it is reassuring that we can finish out this year of homeschooling strong.

I also heard that my grandmother is not doing well and had to go back to the hospital again today. I would greatly appreciate any prayers for her comfort and God’s grace. It is so hard to be away from family at times like this and I just don’t want her to be in pain.

Thank you to all that read these daily blogs. This has been such a wonderful way for me to stay connected to the true purpose of this year, showing others the love that Christ has for them. This scripture speaks to that very thing “little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action”–1 John 3:18.

Monday, March 25th, 2019

2 Corinthians 16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

We are guaranteed, it seems, momentary troubles every day. Today was no different. I played ultimate frisbee last night with a group of Romanians and Americans until 11pm which meant that by the time my body calmed down and was ready for sleep it was 2am. The good news was that I had a great time, albeit I was very sore. The bad news was that I was due to be working the volunteer shift today which meant an early wake up and a day on my feet rocking babies, changing diapers, and generally being unable to recover. Yeah, I know, woe is me. It must be hard to snuggle babies all day but all you parents know that it can be harder than it looks. However, I hardly think that that these are the types of troubles Paul had in mind but they certainly are momentary and light.

As I settled in to my shift I could feel my body aching but happy to have been challenged by the previous night’s activity. Moreover, I was overwhelmed by the peace I felt as I brought some joy to the babies on the 4th floor of the Brasov Children’s hospital. I had woken up dreading having to go to “work” today because I was tired and sore but it took all of about a second to forget all of that when I saw the babies greeting us with huge smiles and coos of excitement. I know that this is the “seen”, but I also feel like the effort the folks at FFR put forth is part of the unseen. We have no idea what the long run, the unseen future, for these babies will be, but I am quite hopeful that their lives will be at least a little better because of the love and care that they receive from the volunteers and the wonderful nurses every day. I cannot even imagine the feelings these little ones have with not seeing their family every day but I know that they feel loved, even for a short time, and sometimes that is enough.

This passage from Paul also reminds me then ultimately of love. This was the most fundamental and important guideline for being one with Jesus, with God. Rule one, love God above all else. Rule two, love each other as much as you love yourself, if not more. Love is the ultimate unseen. Heck, even the Beatles got in on the idea writing a song espousing the fact that love cannot be acquired, no matter the cost. Love is unseen but unforgettable and, when truly and deeply felt, unending.

I am so thankful I looked past my fatigue and soreness and did not ask Sara to take my place today at the hospital. I know that she would have gladly gone and ultimately those children would have gotten just as much or even more from her. But I would have missed out on the opportunity to reaffirm my love for them, and for God. I was blessed to have fixed my eyes on what was truy important and I felt truly nourished by the smiles, the snuggles, and even the stinky diapers that greeted me.

To God be the glory.

Thursday March 21, 2019

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 2:11-13 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Happy Spring! Today marks the first day of spring, hence the beautiful reading from the Song of Songs. Winter is gone and now begins new life to the earth. I do love spring for this very reason, all of the trees and flowers that were dormant are starting to look alive again and there is a promise of more to come. With each new bud there is a new hope for tomorrow, something to look forward to in the coming days. As a family we have a lot of new opportunities ahead of us, we just don’t know what they are yet! We have seen a few new buds with the possibility of new careers, but I am sure that there are more to come.

The kids must have known the Bible verse for today because they were amazing today. Anjali got invited to help out with the Kid’s Club program that FFR facilitates in Budila (about 30 minutes from Braşov) with Steffi. Jeff went to the hospital and I stayed back to teach David and Lucia. With all of us going our separate ways today I realized how much I am going to miss our family being together all the time. Yes, there have been many times that I want to strangle my children and I am sure they feel the same too, but I am really going to miss how much we get to be together. I get to experience their silly voices and games, their obscure thoughts, and their love and joy for life because I am with them all day, every day. When this year is done and they go back to school I will only see them before and after school and when they don’t have activities in the evenings. I know that we will all be ready for our own space and our time away from each other, but this year was such a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with my kids, as a family, before they grow up and really go their separate ways. I am so thankful for this opportunity and the strength that God gave to both Jeff and me to follow through on His calling.