Thursday May 30th, 2019

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

Every place we have served we have seen a rainbow.  If you believe in signs then you no doubt will recognize this one as the sign God gave to Noah following the end of the great flood.  I always thought rainbows were beautiful but since taking on this journey and being blessed with them at every stop I have appreciated their significance that much more.  It also isn’t so much that we have seen rainbows as much as when.  They have typically come toward the end of our service time and while this may simply be coincidence I have long thrown such notions out the window.  So it was that today, the last day of our service in Romania, we had a late afternoon storm which gave us a brief, not terribly vivid, but evident rainbow.

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The day started out like just about every other we have had here.  I did my last shift at the hospital while Sara did some sorting and baby bundles in the support center.  We left the kids at home to enjoy their last day of playing with the Catos.  My shift was rather uneventful, passing out diapers, snuggling with babies, the usual.  I was particularly grateful though that Ann told me to pick whichever babies I wanted since today was my last day.  It isn’t like you have favorites but it was still a nice gesture on her part.

As it turns out my babies were particularly sleepy apparently because both cuddled up and promptly slept when I had them.  I felt really calm and peaceful about that.  This whole time I have been working I have wanted those babies to know they are loved and cared for even when they have been alone and away from their parents.  I felt like they felt comfortable in my arms and that is why they slept.  We didn’t play but I knew they felt my love for them which is why they were okay to simply let go and get a power nap.

I said my goodbyes to the staff and to Ann and Joyce and then picked up Sara.  We made a quick stop by the store for a few items to get us through our last evening and then headed home to pack up.  I ambitiously thought we could get this knocked out in two hours or fewer.  I was incorrect.  On the positive side it was only four or five hours and we only had to panic slightly when we realized that we underestimated the number of bags we would need.  But in the end we took a deep breath, recognized the challenge and overcame.  We got the house more or less straightened away, made especially difficult after realizing the girls had managed to spill an entire tupperware of chutney on the kitchen floor and then used all of our paper towels to clean it up.  We gave the house a good once over and then enjoyed a quick birthday celebration for Martin, our neighbors’ one year old.  Sara and I had a final meal of Dodo’s pizza and then we headed off to enjoy a relaxing night of sleep, prepping for the next day’s travels.

All in all despite a few hiccups the day was very peaceful, calm, and reassuring.  We knew that God had placed the path before us and we needed only follow it.  We had made the most of our opportunities and we felt made a contribution to the mission of FFR.  The rainbow I think was God’s way of reminding us that His covenant remains and is true.  I hope that it was also His way of showing us that the path we have taken is consistent with His plan.  I look forward to the next rainbow, wherever it may be.

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Monday May 27, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

It is hard to believe that we will be saying goodbye to Brasov, Romania on Friday. We have loved our time here and today was no different. After our morning shift, Jeff and I headed into town for an afternoon date, bouncing from cafe to cafe enjoying snacks, delicious cocktails, and some beautiful weather. With Anjali on crutches it is just too much for her to walk into town, plus none of the kids actually wanted to go anyway!

The scripture for today is absolutely perfect, as it describes the love between Jeff and I, as well as our relationship with God. Jeff and I have tried very hard to make sure that every decision or action we do was with God at the center. This is not always easy, because sometimes God’s plan doesn’t follow along with what we want (for example, we wanted to stay in Brasov another month, but that was definitely not in God’s plan). I know that we have not been perfect and I am 100% confident that we have made errors this year in hearing God’s path for us, but I do know that by putting Him at the center of all that we are doing, we do eventually get where He wants us to go and it is usually in that moment that we realize He was directing us there all along, we just didn’t see it. But just as He always is, God has been patient with us, He has loved us, and He has never left our side, even when we didn’t listen. God provides us with the perfect example of love. He is patient, caring, and kind with us, He doesn’t get angry with us when we don’t listen the first time (or the second or third time), but rather He keeps trying to help us to understand.

I guess this is my lesson in parenting for today (for me). I do not always give my children this kind of love. I get frustrated and impatient when they don’t get it right the first time. I have the perfect example right in front of me and I still can’t get it right, why am I so baffled when my kids don’t get it on the first, second, or third try? Being away from my children this afternoon really helped to put things in perspective, plus it was a very relaxing afternoon with no kids. Either way, I know that I need to work on being an example of this kind of love to my children, as well as to those I meet every day. God asks all of us to be stewards of love towards others, and since He gives this to us, I think it is only right that we “pay it forward”.

Wednesday May 22, 2019

2 Samuel 7:29 now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

Today was a bit stressful. Jeff went to the hospital, while I did some yoga and helped the kids with their “summer school”. Then the 4 of us headed to the support center and then took a taxi to the post office. On our way back from Bucharest we stopped at a one of the roadside bodegaS and purchased sheepskin rugs for the kids and one for us. So we packaged them in a box that I carried to the support center and loaded into a cab to send to our friends in WI to hold for us until we get back. Anjali was so excited to be able to pick up her package from Eleanor; it absolutely made her day!

On Monday, Anjali hurt her foot and has been babying it since then, but the pain seems to come and go, which makes it really difficult to assess whether she is really hurt or just seeking attention. Either way, the walk home became unbearable for her, so we took a cab home and she iced her foot and rested the remainder of the day.

I walked up to the grocery store with Lucia to grab a few things for dinner. I am not sure if you read Jeff’s blog a week or so ago, but my experience was just the same. We left the gate to our apartment and she was bounding down the hill and her mouth was going non-stop. I can’t remember exactly what she was saying, but she was so excited. I am so glad I got to have this time with just her; it was so refreshing to experience and feel her energy. We made our way through the store and then home for dinner and then my interview.

Unfortunately, the kids were less than helpful and were actually extremely hyper and unable to control themselves long enough for me to concentrate and mentally prepare for the interview. Jeff’s patience was finally drained and he laid into the kids for their behavior. This seemed to get them back on track long enough for all four of them to be out of the house just in time for the interview. While they were outside Jeff was able to snap a picture of David scaling a pole–this kids is like Spider-Man.

I think the interview went very well and after speaking with the panel I am even more excited about this opportunity. I know that God will put me where I am needed, so I am putting my faith and trust in Him. I feel confident that I did my part, which was to provide the panel with my true self, including how my skills and abilities can benefit this position, and then I will leave the rest up to God.

Tuesday May 21, 2019

Philippians 4:19 And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Today was the day we went to the police station to find out if we could stay. Jeff went to the hospital and I met with a new friend, Jason, to speak with the immigration office about whether we would be able to get permission to stay in Romania another 25 days. Unfortunately, everyone we spoke with said that it was not possible to extend our Visitor Pass and the only other option we would have would be to apply for a Volunteer Visa which lasts for one year, but takes 4-6 weeks to process.

When I talked with Mary she advised me to talk with Caty, the person who helps the FFR volunteers with acquiring their Volunteer Visas. Mary seems to think that she may be able to help us work with the system and find a way to get us permission to stay. I reached out to her and we are hoping that she may be able to find us a way to stay here for another month.

Anjali was very excited today because she got a notice informing her that she has a package for her to pick up at the post office from her friend back in Madison. She wanted to go today, but there was just too much happening, though I told her that tomorrow would be a viable option.

Speaking of packages, we also got a message from our friends in Banbasa, India that they received the package we sent to them. We sent birthday gifts to Raymond and then filled the box with things for the kids on the mission and the Shipway family. I am so glad the box arrived because you can never be sure with the Indian post (or so I have been told because we never had a problem with it). It was so fun to get the message and see some pictures of everyone happy to get a small gift. We so badly miss this wonderful place and I think that we all left a piece of ourselves there when we left. I am just glad that we were able to send them a little something to let them know how much they all mean to us. Here are some of the picture we were sent.

Hopefully this frisbee will last more than an hour

Tonight added a bit of excitement to the day, as I received an email requesting an interview for a position about which I am very excited. The kids went to bed and Jeff really helped me prepare for the interview so I could be sure to be my very best tomorrow.

I am so grateful for these daily scriptures because it provides me an opportunity to hear God’s word every day and it reminds me that He will all take care of my needs. Today’s scripture is no different, it is yet another reminder that as we go through this time of uncertainty He will provide for our needs and make sure that we are fulfilled with His grace.

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.

 

Monday April 8, 2019

Luke 8:49-56 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.

Today was pretty routine: school work with the kids while Jeff volunteered at the hospital. The kids are losing steam with school and to be honest so am I. I don’t know who wants this aspect of our year to end more, me or them. I will say that whenever we are finally done with their curriculum I will feel a huge sigh of relief that we all made it through without strangling each other. There are some amazing homeschooling parents out there and while I have managed for this year, I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that I made the right choice to not pursue teaching.

Jeff reported that the children at the hospital were so much fun today, full of smiles and laughter. These children have such a profound effect on me, their little faces just light up when they see us volunteers walk into their room and then break our hearts with screams and tears when we have to leave.

Jeff and I talked a bit this past weekend and we realized that while we are looking forward to Kenya, we are not feeling that pull to go just yet. We have been dragging our feet with purchasing our tickets for our planned departure of early May. Yesterday I sent a quick email to Mary with FFR to see how they were doing with volunteers for the month of May. Come to find out they have been very concerned about how they were going to manage hospital shifts because several supervisors are heading to Germany for some fundraising during the middle of May. When I asked her if it would help for us to stay, she emphatically said “yes” (in an email that is). During a quick texting conversation with Jeff we both agreed to stay in Romania a bit longer, as long as KGSA in Kenya was not in dire need of our help. A quick message and an immediate response that we should stay in Romania where we are needed, but they were still looking forward to our help in June. So there you have it…we are staying in Romania to snuggle and love these little angels through the end of May. Between this and the purchase of my tickets to the US for my grandmother’s funeral, I finally feel a bit of direction has been graciously given to us. It may not be the answers to everything we are waiting to learn, but it’s a start and it helps me have a more concrete plan through May. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest and I feel much calmer knowing where we will be for April and May.

Today after the kids finished school I was able to start packing for my trip back to the States next Saturday. We have decided to lighten our load significantly and I will be traveling back with Jeff and David’s backpacks filled with clothes and souvenirs that we will leave at my parents house. This will help our travels significantly, as we won’t have to lug around as many bags. We will be down to just two checked bags and then everyone will have a carry-on. I can’t believe how much easier this will make traveling. I wish I could take more, but the bag is packed to the limit.

With everything that has happened between this weekend and today, I feel rejuvenated and ready to continue on this faith journey for the rest of my life. I realized that this journey does not stop when our 12 months is up, but rather this was just the beginning of a new life with God as our captain.

Saturday March 30, 2019

Isaiah 43:18-19 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it. I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

This made me laugh out loud. I actually asked Jeff when he picked these scriptures, just because it just seemed too perfect of timing and just as I had guessed, he did these back in December. So just another affirmation that God is using this daily scripture as a way to speak to me and of course His timing is ALWAYS perfect.

When I read this scripture all I could hear in my head was the part where God says “do you not perceive it?”. Let’s see if I can explain what I heard…Do you hear it? It’s coming. Do you hear it? Come on, you know you hear it. Here it is. Just around the corner. It’s happening. Very soon. Here it comes……The voice I heard when I read this scripture was so encouraging and playful, almost teasing. But it was also very reassuring because I have really struggled with being patient for God’s timing and this scripture is telling me that the answers are just around the corner. As I read the previous verses of this chapter God is telling Isaiah that He is always there for us “because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4). God has staked claim to our lives, as long as we are willing to give it to Him. He tells us “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43: 1-2) Two different times in this chapter God tells us “Do not fear” because He is with us, He will not forsake us, but rather protect and lead us. This chapter is so touching. God is clearly acting as a parent trying to convince his child of his unconditional and unending love, as well as the lengths he will go to protect his offspring. He loves us unconditionally and He will do anything to protect us, He will forget all our transgressions for His sake and only asks us to love Him in return.

I love that God chose this chapter to speak to me because it is exactly what I needed. I have been very anxious over all the opportunities and paths that lie before us; I just can’t see the outcome of anything. I know that God’s plans are perfect and that He is working on my behalf and I just love that He is not just asking me to be patient anymore, He is providing me with the anticipation of what is to come, almost like Christmas. I may not know what the gift is, but I very quickly realized that the anticipation of said gift is actually part of it. This is exactly what God is saying to me in this scripture reading, I have something new for you, something that will be fulfilling and bring you many blessings (because that is how much He loves me and all of His children), and it is just around the corner. He is even asking me if I can perceive it because it is that close. I can’t wait to see what He has in store and just like that my anxiety has been transformed into anticipation and excitement.

We had a slow start to our day with some fun plans of an adventure park (aka: a rope course), but the delay of getting to the mall for some new gear for Jeff’s marathon in a couple weeks didn’t allow us enough time to fully enjoy the rope course. So after a quick impromptu family meeting, we all decided to postpone that to another day when we were guaranteed more time there by an earlier start to the day. So we made the 45 minute walk back to the apartment with a short stop at the grocery store. Unfortunately this stop quickly turned our pleasant and happy day into fighting and arguing over who got to carry the paper towels home (silly, right?).  This is one of those parenting moments that you just look at your children is dismay. Why are you fighting over something so stupid? Our walk home from the store carried the same frustration, but once we got home the kids were all quick to recover and were soon outside running, playing, and screaming together.

In the end, God always comes through with changing the tides and guiding us through the storms of our lives, as long as we are willing to listen and follow His call. His plans will bring us more blessings than we could ever conjure up ourselves. He does this because He is our father, always looking out for our best interest because He loves us unconditionally as His children.

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.