Tuesday April 16, 2019

Ecclesiastes 2:22-25 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

I started today with a hike, after getting the video all set up and ready to go, but as I started my descent down Thunderbird Mountain my ankle decided to completely give out on me when I landed on an unstable rock. I spent a few minutes breathing through the pain of my sprained ankle, but quickly realized that there was too much happening today to sit and wallow in pain. So I continued down the mountain, this time walking, and much to my surprise the pain started to dull and before I knew it was running again. Unfortunately it swelled and bruised pretty quickly, but there was no way this was going to keep me from the day ahead. I have sprained my ankles so many times that I have somehow become accustomed to the pain and discomfort associated with it. I guess this scripture hit the nail on the head in respect to our lives being full of pain, however, this is definitely not vanity–this is the result of years and years of soccer and sprained ankles!

So I powered through the hike. I got home and finished up burning copies of the video for family and then got ready for the service. Once we got to the church I was blessed to see people that I have not seen in years (some more years than I can count) and it was so wonderful to be embraced and loved by people who have supported and followed our journey. It was a wonderful service and a time of shared memories and reflections on the amazing woman who has left this world, leaving us all missing her. I learned so much from my grandmother and cherished every visit I got with her. When we told her about our plans for this year, she was quick to respond that if God was calling us, we needed to follow. I know that she worried and prayed for us, but her faith in God was steady and unwavering. She has always been an example of the saying, “walking by faith” and I loved the conversations we had about God and faith. She never told us we were crazy, but rather assured us that God would always be with us. I learned so much from her and I am so sad that she is gone. I am going to miss her so much; I already do.

It does surprise me though how much comfort you receive by sharing stories and memories, especially those that make you laugh. I am not sure what it is about laughing, but it seems to weaken the hold grief and sadness has on my heart. My grandmother had a beautiful laugh and when she laughed, everyone around her did too. Our world lost a wonderful woman, but she left a legacy with everyone she met and it brought me so much joy to hear about all the people she touched in so many different ways.

After the service we spent the afternoon with family at my parent’s house, but everyone was gone by about 6, which meant that I got to spend this last bit of time I had with my parents and brothers and I loved it. I tried to go to bed early (11 pm), but still couldn’t fall asleep until 2 am. I can just feel how tired I am going to be tomorrow when the alarm goes off at 4:20 am, but all of the exhaustion and jet lag is worth being here with family to celebrate the life of a woman who made such an impact on my life. But I am also so very excited to go home to my family in Romania. I have missed them so very much, and while they are managing without me, there is no place that I’d rather be right now.

A weird snippet of the day: the day started sunny and a beautiful 70 F, but by the time we got to the cemetery at 3:00 pm the winds had picked up and the clouds started to darken. But the sky did not let go until after everyone had left my parents house, which was so amazing to have rain while I was in Arizona. The smell you get from a desert rain is indescribable and the double rainbow left behind was my grandmother’s way of sharing her love with us from heaven.

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Monday April 15, 2019

Revelations 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

I seriously cannot believe that this is the scripture for today. Jeff gave me this recent list of scripture in February/March, when my grandmother was alive and fighting to get healthy. And now, the day before her funeral service this scripture shows up, one that was selected over a month or two ago. I swear these are not planned and I think that is what makes them so powerful. More times than I can count, these scriptures have brought so much clarity and peace to difficult times. Here I am, the day before my grandmother’s memorial, and this is the scripture; God will wipe every tear and death will be no more. I can’t even begin to describe how much comfort and peace this brought me. I am so thankful for His grace and His wisdom to put these words in front of me today. It is amazing how much comfort printed words can bring after a loss of someone so special to you. I was needing the reminder that my grandmother was not dead, but rather alive with her father in heaven; not in pain, but living the life He intended for her. She is with her loved ones that went before her and while we are left here to mourn and grieve, there is definitely a sense of peace in knowing that the pain and discomfort she felt here on earth is no more. Furthermore, I am reminded that God will wipe the tears from my eyes and comfort me during this time of mourning.

Today my mom highlighted my hair, which I haven’t had done in over 3-4 years. I love having the little bits of color in my hair and what’s even better was spending all that time with her. I loved every minute of this time. After hair we did some more shopping and then headed home where we realized that the slideshow remembrance video of grandma was not done very well by the mortuary, so I started from the beginning and made a new one. I spent quite a bit of time working on this and then headed to the airport to pick up my brother. I thought for sure I would be tired by the time we got home at 12:00, but that was not the case, so I worked on finishing up the video. I think I finally fell asleep at 2 am, but hopefully I will actually get some good sleep tonight.

Sunday April 14, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I enjoyed a really nice day with my mom and dad, but the jet lag is just cruel. I woke up this morning after about 4 hours of sleep and headed for a hike with my mom. I really miss the mountains and the hikes here in Arizona, it is a great way to start your day.

We then spent part of the afternoon running some errands to gather some things requested by kids to bring back for them (ie: sour candy, mac and cheese, and books). This evening we met with Jesse, Tessa, and Annecy for some really good Mexican food where I had a margarita and some spicy food to go along with the fabulous company of family.

I am so glad I was able to make the journey back to my family for my grandmother’s service; it would have been extremely difficult to not be here. I really am trying to take full advantage of my family and the very short time I have with them before heading back to Romania. Being with my parents and siblings has brought me so much peace as we celebrate the life of my grandmother. It was a beautiful time of stories and reflection that I am so grateful to be a part. 

I read this scripture and am reminded that God has provided me with this opportunity to be with my family and to celebrate the life of my grandmother, a woman who was an example of the kind of faith in God that I want to have. But God is also reminding me to enjoy every moment I have with my family. They have supported us so much during this journey and even from across the world, we feel their love. It is not hard to follow the advice of Paul to keep on doing the things that bring us joy and peace because I know God is with me, guiding me through this journey of grief and loss.

I was also able to talk with my kids and my wonderful husband, who is holding down the fort in Romania. I miss them so much it hurts. We have been together non-stop over the last 9 months and not being with them leaves a empty void in my heart. Thankfully Jeff said the kids are doing well and stepping up to help dad as he works through being a single parent to 3 in a foreign country.

Saturday April 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

Friday March 29, 2019

Philippians 1:6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Today’s scripture is a terrific reminder of how God isn’t finished with us yet. He will always finish His work in us and it is yet another way He is affirming to me that I need to be patient. The recent themes of patience, God’s timing, and His plan has been redundant over the last few weeks, but I am pretty confident that is because I have needed the reminders and the affirmation that He does have a plan for me and my family. I do like this idea that He is not done working in me yet, probably because it is so simple. With all of the possibilities that we tossed up in the air recently He has a plan for every piece of it and when He does reveal it, it will be awesome and wonderful and full of blessings.

I stayed back with the kids today to teach while Jeff headed to the hospital for some baby time. Our kids have had a marked change in their efforts with school recently and I have a feeling being around so many other kids that are homeschooled gave them a new perspective and a new energy to finish out this school year strong. They have had their moments, don’t get me wrong, but overall they are doing great and are all set to finish their grade level (well, Lucia actually will be finishing 1st grade since she has already completed Kindergarten) by the end of May, if not sooner. I am so thankful for the homeschooling families around us here because their impact on our kids has been so powerful and positive.

Jeff came home after the morning shift and had lunch with us and then we both headed back up to the hospital to feed the newborns. This was the first time we have worked together and it was so much fun. I love spending time with him, especially when it is just the two of us because I am always laughing and having a great time. We made it home to find all three children buried in their screens, but they were quickly shooed outside to play which led to the screams and laughter of many children until everyone returned home for dinner.

I feel rejuvenated despite the loss of my grandmother, which at first seems very odd, but as I reflect on this scripture I think it is because I know He is not done yet. This is definitely a difficult curve in our path, but there is a comfort in knowing that this is all part of His plan. I also think I am comforted in knowing that His plan for my grandmother was to bring her home to be with Him. Her time here with us was done and He finished His work within her, so she went home. God only fulfilled His promise to her. This a very comforting scripture when I am able to apply it to my life, but it is even more so when I put it in the context of my grandmother’s life. God will never leave us and He will always care for us, until His work in us is done and we go home to be with Him.

Saturday February 23, 2019

Numbers 14:19-21 Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.” Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked; nevertheless—as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord

We enjoyed leisurely getting out of bed and down to breakfast this morning followed by a drive to Mirissa, a bordering beach town where the whale watching is superb. We hired a driver who was more than willing to make a quick pit stop in Galle to check out the old Dutch Fort that overlooked the Indian Ocean. We enjoyed walking around this quaint tourist town, checking out local shops and indulging in some waffles (the kids were in heaven).

We arrived at our hotel in Mirissa and headed straight out to dinner in the sand at a local restaurant. The food here was great and so were the margaritas! This was a wonderful evening watching the kids play in the surf and sand, just like they did last night. I think they are really enjoying the beach lifestyle. I am so thankful to be sitting here surrounded by God’s beautiful creations.

We have to be up very early for our whale watching excursion, so we put the kids to bed and then we headed outside to have some beers by the pool at the hotel. But we ended up sitting down at a table with 2 of the guys that worked at the hotel to drink our beers. We enjoyed some great conversation and laughter. It was a wonderful hour or so getting to know these nice young men. I love that Jeff enjoys this just as much as I do…putting ourselves out there to meet new people and that we are both able to have a conversation and loads of laughter with people we just met. It was a nice ending to our day.

Wednesday February 13, 2019

Matthew 26:6-13 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Happy early birthday to Lucia! We had another easy start to the day. We had lunch and then headed to the beach for some boogie boarding and playing in the sand. We had so much fun until the kids got a little too excited (I asked them at least 4 times to not throw sand at each other, but they kept on doing it), so we left. Both Jeff and I were pretty frustrated and the kids were angry that we left, but we all came around and enjoyed Lucia’s birthday party. We had hot dogs and chicken with Kraft Mac and Cheese for dinner. We ordered an ice cream cake to celebrate and David and I found a couple small gifts for her to open. Our decision to celebrate early was because we didn’t know what to expect in Sri Lanka. We all had a lot of fun at the party and we all played a fun game called Mastermind before the kids went to bed without much fuss; I think they are all pretty tired.

 

Jeff and I stayed up quite a while and enjoyed some adult time with wine and great conversation. We have been talking a lot about what we want to do when we are done with this year. I feel quite lost, not knowing what I want and it felt good to hear that Jeff was feeling the same way. We prayed and put this in God’s hands. He will continue to be our guide and we will put our faith and trust in Him. He has never failed us and I know that He won’t start now. This is not the first time having this conversation, nor will it be the last. While we still have another 6 months to go, we only have 6 months to go and there are occasional moments when I start to feel overwhelmed at the thought of what to do next. I love these conversations with Jeff because we end up discussing that we need to continue to be in the moment. Looking for jobs right now isn’t a viable option anyway because we can’t start working for another 6 months, so looking now doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, I want to make sure I listen attentively to His word and be open to going wherever it is I am called.

Thursday February 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday February 3, 2019

1 Peter 2:1-3 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Today was our last day in Bali and we took full advantage with a tour guide headed inland to see some traditional Balinese artistic trades and a spectacular view from atop a volcano. The first couple of stops were a Balinese traditional play depicting good and evil spirits. The play was incredible and the costumes were so detailed and intricate.

Following the hour show, we headed to a silver factory where they made all the silver jewelry by hand using no machines, then a painter, and to see traditional batik fabric painting. The demonstration of each of these trades was amazing to watch and left me in awe that things are still produced in this fashion today.

Our last stop before lunch was to a wood carving shop. It was incredible to watch these artists create the most intricate carvings our of nothing.

Then we headed up to the volcano; however, as we made our assent up the skies opened and the rain started pouring. By the time we got to the top of the volcano it was raining so hard that we could barely see out the window of the car. Unfortunately, because of the rain we had no view of the valley below, but it still was pretty neat to be amidst this torrential rain and barely be able to hear each other during our lunch.

We headed down the mountain after lunch and stopped off at a coffee and tea plantation to try some Lewak Coffee. This is a very rare coffee that goes through quite a weird process. It starts with an animal called the luak (or Asian civet) who eats the coffee cherries and expels the beans, which are collected, cleaned, and roasted before they are ground into coffee. I have to admit, despite the rarity of this coffee treat, I was still a bit weirded out by this practice. However, after being told what a delicacy this is and how rare is (it is mainly found on the Indonesian Islands–specifically, Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi, though it can also be found in the Philippines and in East Timor.), Jeff and I decided to throw caution to the wind. We ended up sampling all of the different teas and coffees available, including the Lewak coffee. Being completely honest, we tried all the teas first and then moved on to the coffees, and they all were wonderful. The regular coffee was spectacular and I began to wonder if this Lewak coffee could actually live up to the hype. But it did! We tried the regular coffee, then the Lewak and then back to the regular. I can’t even begin to describe how different they were and how much better the Lewak coffee actually was. So yes, both Jeff and I had “poop coffee” and it was the best coffee I have ever had, hands down.

After a full day of sightseeing and traveling, we headed home for a quick dinner and bed. Jeff and I sat out on the patio enjoying a bottle of wine while the kids slept. It was a full day, but a lot of fun. We all seemed to enjoy seeing the traditional Balinese artistic trades, but we all were tired. It was the perfect end to our Bali vacation and tomorrow we head a bit further south to Perth, Australia.

Saturday February 2, 2019

Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Today we all went our separate ways, boys and girls. Jeff and David went on a fishing adventure. While I wasn’t there, he shared his photos with me. They had a really good time and David was very excited to catch so many fish!

While the boys played out at sea, us girls took to the spa for the morning. Anjali had a facial and a manicure, while Lucia opted for a massage and a pedicure. I enjoyed watching the girls get pampered, just as I did yesterday, and couldn’t resist a pedicure for myself! Then to sit poolside while we waited for our boys to return from fishing.

We all had a great day. We tried to top it off with a dinner at a pizza place just across the street from the resort, but David and Lucia were just too tired, so Jeff took them back for room service while Anjali and I enjoyed a girls night with good conversation. It was so nice to sit and talk with Anjali like a big kid, discussing adult topics that I would not otherwise be able to with David and Lucia. I think Anjali really enjoyed this extra attention too.