Thursday February 14, 2019

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Happy Valentines Day (for those who celebrate–I am not one of them)! Today we spent the day getting organized and packed up to leave. The kids did a bit of school work and then helped me pack up. We ended up going to the beach one last time this afternoon, but only for about an hour. I am so glad we purchased that boogie board, it has given us many hours of fun at the beach. Today, while David was using it he caught a really big wave (the waves today were HUGE) and took the boogie board to his face. Thankfully it was nothing too serious, just a sore nose and a fat lip. He did a great job just shrugging it off, but it did end his desire to use the board any longer.

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After packing everything up we had dinner and a couple games of Mastermind before we sent the kids of to bed. Tomorrow will be a very long day and we start really early. We have a 6:50 am flight, which means that we have to be at the airport by 3:50 at the latest and leaving the house by 3:00 so we have time to return our rental car and still get checked in for our flight. I debated not going to bed at all because by the time I was ready to go to bed it was already midnight. Part of me wanted to just stay up, but I also knew that we had a long day ahead of us and any sleep would be better than none.

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Tuesday February 5, 2019

Psalm 35:5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them on.

Jeff and I woke up to the kids watching TV. They were totally engrossed in it so Jeff and I headed to the supermarket for some breakfast and groceries. We came home to the kids in the exact same place as they were. I wondered if they were still alive, but jumped right up when we got home with food. After a bit of food, we all decided that today we needed to run a few errands before spending the afternoon at the beach. So after a stop at the mall to get some new swimsuits for the kids and a few necessary items at the supermarket, we dropped our stuff off at home, changed into our suits and headed down to Hillary’s Harbor to find a nice boardwalk with shops and restaurants and just across the street a beautiful beach.

After about 2 hours at the beach, I was ready to go and I think everyone else felt the same way. We headed home for dinner. We had such a late breakfast that we skipped lunch and just had an ice cream snack at the harbor. Today really was nice, but the hard part is that we are having a difficult time planning the rest of our time here. After dinner we all discussed the things that we would like to do and the things that made the cut were: Rottnest Island (to see the quokkas), Yanchep National Park (to see the kangaroos and koalas), Serpentine National Park (hiking and natural swimming holes), Swan Valley Wineries, Fremantle (shops and restaurants), and of course as many days at the beach as possible. We went ahead and booked Rottnest Island for Monday and planned to do Swan Valley tomorrow, for the rest we will just wing it!

They plan all sounded great until we began putting the kids to bed. I guess they were just too excited or felt that because we were on vacation they didn’t want to go to bed at a reasonable hour. The problem with this, was that if we didn’t get them the rest they needed there was no way I was going to attempt to enjoy a winery. Both Jeff and I were in agreement that Swan Valley was just not going to be possible, so we went ahead and scrapped that idea. Tomorrow was going to be another beach day.

Sunday January 27, 2019

James 1:17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

We arrived in Singapore early this morning and as soon as we walked outside the first thing out of Anjali’s mouth was “holy cow it is clean here! Even the streets are clean!” It was a nice change to drive in a car without hearing the blaring horns and without seeing tons of motorbikes and cars (granted, it was 7:00 am on a Sunday). This moment of our year marks the halfway point. We have been volunteering for the last 6 months and while we didn’t plan for this long of a vacation, here we are. Just as a recap, our hope was to stay in India until we had to be in Sri Lanka on Feb 17, but we could not get our Visa for more than 60 days. So here we are, ready to enjoy a long vacation. I keep reminding myself that this whole journey is God’s plan, not mine and as much as I would rather be serving and working, this may be what our family needs; a bit of reconnection and focus before we begin the back-end of this year.

Before leaving Germany, when we realized that we were not going to be able to stay in India until Feb 15, we gave the kids a project–plan our vacation. They unanimously decided on Australia (actually New Zealand initially, but we couldn’t make that happen), so we are headed to Perth. But as we were looking at airline tickets we quickly realized that the flights were long, the layovers long, and just all-around not conducive to traveling with kids. So we decided to make use of the layovers and break up the travel to Australia into sections. Singapore is our first stop, with main focus being Universal Studios on Sentosa Island. We are only here for 2 nights; long enough to get some rest before and after Universal Studios and to see a bit of Singapore. While we got rest, we did not get to see much of Singapore since we pretty much stayed on Sentosa Island.

Today we made a grievous error, we broke the number one rule when traveling overnight–do NOT take a nap that first day. You should stay awake and go to bed as close to a reasonable hour as possible in order to help your body adjust. But I guess we were all so tired and needed some rest. After our rest we ventured into Sentosa for some beachside lunch. After eating, the kids played in the surf while Jeff and I enjoyed a drink beachside! It was superb.

The kids, especially Lucia, got completely soaked playing in the surf. Thankfully it was warm

outside so she was able to dry quickly. They had so much fun playing together and just being kids.

It was a beautiful sight!

Here are some pretty pictures exploring Sentosa Island.

After some exploring we let the kids do some swimming at the hotel before heading out for some dinner and wrapping up our first day here.

It was a great day, though Jeff and I learned that everything on Sentosa Island closes at 9:00 pm. It’s like the whole island shuts down-no bars, no restaurants, and no people. It was almost eerie to be walking around the island with no one else around you.

Sentosa Island is beautiful and clean with tons of shopping opportunities. This place reminds me a lot of Vegas, but the difference is that Vegas doesn’t sleep and Sentosa has a 9:00 bedtime! This place is perfect for the family, just be ready to spend some money-everything is expensive!

Saturday January 26, 2019

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

Vacation started today. Everyone slept in until 9:00 am, which I think we all enjoyed. We quickly got dressed and headed downstairs for the flag raising ceremony for Republic Day and then off to breakfast. The kids got to enjoy the pancakes and waffles they have been craving and missing. We walked around the hotel, I took a nap, Jeff worked out, and then I sat in the steam room for about 20 minutes hoping it would help my cough (it didn’t, but it still felt nice). We ended up having a late lunch in hopes that we could just do a light snack for dinner and the hotel was nice enough to give us a really late check-out so we only ended up sitting in the lobby for about an hour before our car arrived to take us to the airport.

The kids were so excited to be headed for Singapore, but not so thrilled that it was another overnight flight. Though we were holding onto a small surprise, we were flying Singapore airlines on an double decker airplane and we had seats upstairs–they were thrilled. We got to the airport with no problem, got checked-in and found out that I had to meet with a customs agent before going through security. This seemed to really concern the children, though I am not sure why. Everything worked out just fine and we continued on our way.

As we were walking through the Duty Free shops to the gate, we came across a luggage store where he was able to find a bag for all of our electronics that will not make him want to cry. Since we left the states he has been using my old college shoulder bag. This was a good bag, but it was not designed for heavy loads and it was constantly digging into his shoulder. His new bag is a backpack and much more conducive to traveling. The guys at the luggage shop also seemed pretty thrilled to get a new bag, since we left behind his old one after swapping everything into the new one.

I grabbed a quick muffin and drink for everyone and we boarded the double decker plane bound for Singapore. While at the luggage store we grabbed eye masks for all 3 kids and that may have been one of our best investments! All three kids slept for most of the flight, despite the cabin lights being on for most of it!

Goodbye India…Our new Banbasa family has changed us forever. You will forever hold a piece of my heart and I will be back as often as possible. To all at The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, we miss you already and thank you for welcoming us into your family. We will see you soon, but until then know that we connected forever.

Thursday January 24, 2019

Romans 15:1 We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Packing, packing, and more packing along with some last minute laundry and a few final projects that got finished up. I have been attached to Priscilla any time she gets near the kitchen because I am desperate to extract any cooking knowledge out of her! Clifton and his DTour clients got in last night, so we got a small bit of time with them before we all go our separate ways tomorrow.

These final goodbyes are so difficult and even though we’ve done this already several times, it doesn’t seem to get any easier, but it is almost more difficult. I think we are able to connect with people faster because we know we only have a short period of time and I am just heartbroken that we have to say goodbye tomorrow after breakfast. This week Jeff and I have been getting up in the morning to help with breakfast and our kids each took one day this week to also help (I couldn’t do Tuesday and Wednesday because I was not up for it-my asthma and cough is getting worse by the day and I am struggling just to walk up the stairs. I have never experienced this much difficulty breathing with just a cold.)

Jeff and I were able to help Clifton out with his DTour meeting this morning. After hearing all about the plans for their next 8 days on motorbikes into the Himalayas both Jeff and I have an urge to take up riding so we can join another one of his tours. This won’t happen right away because we will need to have a fair amount of experience on a motorcycle before we could do something like this, but I am totally game and think this could be an adventure of a lifetime! If you already ride and are up for a challenging but thrilling ride into the mountains of northern India, check out the DTour website.

I was able to sneak away with a few cookies for a Uncle Malcom and Aunty Sonia. It was so nice to see them again and they promised to come by this evening to say goodbye to all of us because they would not likely see us in the morning before we left.

For tonight’s dinner I didn’t leave Priscilla’s side and also got to try my hand at chutney making again, this time I didn’t over blend it and it turned out amazing. Priscilla was kind enough to make my favorite dinner here, vegetable subji with chipati and chutney!

Just before we started eating, Sonia and Malcom came over and we got all our kids to say our goodbye to these wonderful people. Sonia’s hugs are the best and I am going to miss them. It is just one more reason to come back again soon.

This whoever week we have been receiving multiple cards and friendship bracelets from the kids here and Anjali really wanted to make some for her new friends. She was still up making these bracelets when we got back from dinner and was going to be up all night finishing these if she didn’t get some help. So she and I watched 50 First Dates and made more friendship bracelets than I care to know. We finished the last one about 5 minutes before the movie ended. Thankfully there would be plenty of time to rest and nap during the long car ride to Delhi tomorrow morning.

I did our last bit of packing and took Priscilla, Cathy, and Nancy some items that didn’t make the cut and headed off to bed.

Friday January 11, 2019

Proverbs 3:11-12 My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

We have really been struggling with Anjali’s behavior; it seems that every other day she is aggressive, angry, and just all in all unhappy with life. We can’t seem to figure out why and she won’t talk with us. One of the most difficult things to explain to our children, and to help them understand, is that we discipline them BECAUSE we love them. I am sure it is this way with most children, that they view our discipline as us not loving them, but it is still extremely frustrating and difficult. I am finding myself asking the question, ‘how does one teach the children that discipline comes from a place of love?’ I m sure it comes from the way in which we, as parents, dole out the discipline, but this is still, how do you do it?. I don’t know about you, but our children have not yet figured this out and guess for that matter, neither have I. They still view our discipline as a way for us to control them or to make them do what we want. I have continually tried to tell them that they are loved when they are well-behaved just as they are loved when they are being disciplined. We try our best, but I am afraid that we have not been able to fully demonstrate this message.

Today she was pretty angry when she woke up, but as the morning progressed she came back around, probably because she knew that we had plans to go shopping to Khatima with the ladies on the mission. As much as she didn’t deserve the reward of going, we really needed this time together and it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. We left just after 10 am tea time and all 9 of us piled into a taxi we waved down on the street just outside the mission (we were planning on the bus, but this worked just as well. We actually split into 2 groups and hit the markets of Khatima searching for our treasures and then we all met up for lunch. I have to say, Anjali was so excited that she was able to get some pizza and french fries. We had a really great time, and it was pretty successful. I was able to find a saree and 2 suits (traditional Indian tunic and pants), along with scarves for both Anjali and I, as well as her best friend, Nadia. Plus we had a lot of fun. According to Anjali, the best part of the day was lunch. The restaurant was upstairs from a sweets store. Anjali picked out Sour Skittles and Nutella for her brother and sister.

Today was also the birthday party for one of the girls and the big girls did a beautiful job decorating the rooftop of the Strong House with balloons, birthday cake, music, and of course a fire to keep them warm! I was so happy to be able to stay long enough to sing happy birthday, but then took off to the let the girls have their fun. These kids really know how to through a party and celebrate each other.

This picture of Lachlan and Niyati is too funny to not include.

Thursday January 3, 2019

Psalm 27:4-7

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy. I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!

Today was like a rollercoaster, but as I look back on it (yes, I am writing this blog 5 days later) I realize that God was with me during the difficult times. We are really struggling with disobedience and disrespectful behavior from the kids and I keep searching for creative ways to work through it. I feel like I have tried everything and none of it works, but I have faith that God will help us through this time and help me to find ways to make a difference with my kids. I pray for His guidance and patience every day.

My biggest struggle is with patience and it is where I need the most help from God. As with most children, mine are making the same mistakes and errors over and over again; it is straining my ability to be patient. I know this is an area that I need to work on and I will continue to pray that God will help me to find some reserves! Today He came through for me.

Despite the meltdowns throughout the day, I was able to convince myself to make some long-desired cookies with Anjali. She has been wanting to make these cookies since before Christmas, but we have been unable to find the time to make it happen; today we made the time. I think she really enjoyed it, I know that I did. We made some delicious sugar cookies with frosting and then I made some banana bread for our adventure to the mountains tomorrow. I didn’t get a photo of the cookies or the banana bread, but I had some left over batter and made little banana bread donuts that were amazing!

Spending the time with Anjali today was such a blessing and I am so grateful for the positive interaction with her, I have really missed it. God answered my prayers today and gave me the needed patience. I need to continue to work on this for the days to come, but I will take solace in knowing that He will always be a shelter in times of trouble and I am forever grateful.

Sunday December 30, 2018

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

I woke up this morning plagued by a nasty cold, which would normally not effect me much, but combine with my asthma it really was giving me a lot of trouble, so in bed I stayed. I had a really hard time breathing all day today, but I did manage to make it down for meals, though nothing else, not even church. I hate missing church, but there was no way I was going to be able to make it through the service without coughing and disrupting the service.

As Jeff was leaving for church he mentioned that he wanted to take some time to be with God today and that he would be doing that later today. Then when he got back from worship he said that in church today they talked about how it is important to spend time with God every day and it was as though God was speaking directly to him. So almost immediately after church he headed out to the jungle with the Bible and some snacks. He spent a good portion of the afternoon out there, just reading and praying and enjoying God’s gift of this place. He also took some really amazing pictures.

I spent my day with God between my patio and my bed sleeping. Despite being sick, I have been feeling very close to God recently and have especially felt his presence over the last 2 days as He has modified our plans for our last 5 months abroad and we were willing to happily follow.

As I spent a good portion of the afternoon praying and connecting with God, I also spent some of the afternoon fighting and arguing with Anjali. She and I have been struggling. She is trying to spread her wings of independence and therefore is having difficulty respecting the boundaries and rules that I set. I am also running on fumes trying to constantly find new ways to regain her respect (though I don’t know how I lost it in the first place). Things have gotten to the point that even when I ask her to help me with something or ask her to do a chore I am getting a sassy and disrespectful response, and today was no different. I just can’t win and today I felt like a total failure as a parent because she continues to be rude and disrespectful, even to the point of being verbally abusive at times. I started asking myself where I went wrong. I am constantly trying to search for the reasons why she is acting this way to no avail. A big part of me believes that this is just a normal stage in our relationship, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I know this time in her life is quite difficult and confusing (she is 11 1/2 and the hormones have started to peak through the sand), which is why I am trying really hard to find ways to support and encourage her, but when I do this she seems to get even more upset with me. I know this will pass, as most things do, I just pray that I can find a way to express to her that she is loved more than she could ever imagine and that all I do (especially the discipline) is done because I love her and only want the best for her. I also will continue to ask God for guidance, wisdom, and patience as I walk this path. I know He is with me and that He will guid me through this, I just need to trust in His way.

Friday December 28, 2018

Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do.

While I was washing breakfast dishes with the girls, Jeff informed me that we will be joining the older boys on an adventure to Bhimtal and another mountain town in northern India about 3 hours away from here. We all layered up our clothes and piled into a taxi. Our group consisted of 6 motorbikes (each with 2 people) and then 2 taxis full (some would say overfull!) We started off on the drive out of Banbasa, through Khatima and onwards towards the mountains.

Driving in India is absolutely crazy, though I have to be honest, I am starting to get used to it!

After a couple of stops for tea and snacks, we were back on our way, but this time starting up the winding roads through the mountains. These narrow mountain roads are quite different from the local city roads, but even with the tight squeezes I only had that unnerving feeling a few times. This was such a beautiful and peaceful day. The kids were all in good moods and we just enjoyed ourselves, eating wonderful food from street vendors and drinking tea at little shops along the road.

The 1st tea break
Tea break #2

Lucia made a new best friend, Jackie. Lucia would not let him out of her sight!

We arrived in Bhimtal about 3 hours after leaving Banbasa, and boy was the drive worth it. This little resort town is nestled between the mountains with a beautiful blue lake in the middle. Some boys even rented a boat to fully enjoy the lake!

I noticed that this resort town didn’t have nearly the amount of rubbish on the ground as the other parts of India that I have seen. We walked around this quaint little town, noshing on dumplings and other little snacks we found. The air was much cleaner up here and my lungs were very grateful for the bit of fresh air we found in the mountains. We really just spent the day walking around and enjoying the beautiful towns. We ended up visiting another town, but I don’t know the name, that was also situated amongst the mountains with a beautiful lake in the middle. This time was were able to walk on a nice little path along the riverside. The day was so peaceful and serene, even amidst boys being boys!

Here are some pictures of Bhimtal.

The boy’s and their shenanigans

On the drive home we stopped at this great restaurant overlooking the little towns below on mountainside; it was a gorgeous sight at night with all of the lights. And to top it all off, the food was fantastic. The kids had pizza and some pasta, which was a nice treat for them.

This day really was amazing and today’s scripture could not be any more perfect…we definitely took a break today to enjoy a different part of India and it was wonderful. God truly blessed us today. We all returned home around 10:30 with some very tired children.

After getting the kids to bed, I had to get on the phone with the insurance company again to deal with our claims issues. I will make a really long and ridiculously frustrating story short. After being on hold for about an hour, I got an answer that made no sense. I was to submit an appeal and they would respond via written correspondence to our old address in Madison. However, neither I nor the insurance company was able to update our address and when I brought this fact to the reps attention, his response was “sorry”. No solutions, just sorry. I asked to speak with his supervisor and once I explained the situation, and after her quick review of the claims, she put me on hold again to speak with the medical review team. When she came back she told me that none of it made any sense and that all the claims would be covered at 100%. The claims should be processed and payments made to UW within the next 2 weeks. This may have taken a total of 4 hours of our time here in India, but I am hopeful that it is resolved the way it should be. God has a hand in everything and after this relaxing day and dealing with this situation until 1:30 in the morning, He resolved this situation for us. I am so relieved and incredibly thankful for His hand in my life and for this peaceful day that prepared me for dealing with this insurance situation with a calm and relaxed attitude.

On a totally different note, we have been trying to finalize our plans for after Sri Lanka in March 2019, but we have been struggling. We planned to head to Kenya and work with a girls school in Kibera, but we learned that the girls were on vacation from school the last 3 weeks of April. Our struggle was trying to discern whether to find another organization to work with during that 3 weeks or to cut our time in Kenya short and head to Romania early.

As we were driving back I received an email from the organization in Romania wanting to know if we would be able to switch our time with them in May and June to March and April. We are definitely going to have pray on this to really discern where God is wanting us to be. It seems to point to Romania, but that is going to require more traveling than originally planned. We would be going from Sri Lanka to Romania to Kenya and then back to Europe for our final holiday. Logistically, it would make more sense to do Kenya first and then head to Romania and finish with our vacation in Europe, but that is not what the organization in Romania needs. This will require prayer and discernment, as well as keeping the purpose of our mission in focus. Again, God demonstrated His control in our lives, now it was up to us to decide to follow or not.

Saturday December 15, 2018

Luke 21:1-4 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Jeff taught music to our kids this morning while I did the laundry. I have been doing all of our laundry by hand in our shower. This takes about an hour or so in total, to wash, rinse, and then hang to dry. The spinner here on the mission works wonders to get the water out of the clothes, but it is currently broken so the clothes take a bit long to dry, usually about 2 days.

After breakfast walked over the school with Uncle John and Lachlan to watch the morning assembly. It was really neat to see how the kids start their school day each morning. The assembly includes prayers, lessons to be found in scripture, and today it included a new song and some physical training. This was really neat.

On the walk home, Lucia attached herself to Uncle John and Lachlan.

As I am sure you have figured out from my previous blog posts, homeschooling our children has been a bit challenging. Actually, it has been the only thing where we feel truly challenged. This journey, while there have been challenges along the way, both Jeff and I feel at peace with the challenges. We don’t find ourselves getting frustrated or irritated with anything other than the homeschooling. We had a realization today (actually Jeff did, but he shared it with me). We have allowed God to plan and led us on this journey of service and we have been at peace with everything, even in the midst of a challenge. Homeschooling, however, we have not let God led the way. We have continually planned this aspect ourselves and it has been a constant struggle, leaving us feeling exhausted, frustrated, and even angry. We have decided that this is where we have gone wrong; we didn’t let God lead the way.

So we are giving homeschooling over to God. Obviously our kids need schooling and education, and so we will continue to teach them. But we have noticed that we have not allowed God to do His work. From this moment forward, we are going to lift every school lesson and day up to God for his guidance. What get’s done, get’s done. Our kids are very good students and we believe that we have put the emphasis on the wrong aspect of their education, completing IXL assignments (this is like an on-line school that aligns with the Common Core Standards). There is going to be a lot more prayer and asking for God’s help and direction from us and the kids. There will be less pressure from us for the kids to complete a certain amount of schooling in a day. We need to encourage more conversation with them and them with each other.

We have been missing so much of where we are and losing sight of what we were called to do. Here we are on a Christian orphanage at the base of the Himalayas and we are sticking ourselves in a cafeteria to teach the children. This is not working and no one is winning with this system! I can already feel a huge stressor being lifted off of our shoulders and I am relieved.

At tea this morning Uncle Rick mentioned that he could use Jeff and I’s help with the roof of the Big Boy’s Hostel to which we were so happy to oblige. Katie was able to enlist our kids with setting up the Christmas tree in the Nursery Hostel while we worked on the roof.

This was a great opportunity for both of us to finally do some hard work here on the mission and it was wonderful. We helped move sheet metal from the ground to the roof and then into place on the roof while Uncle Rick and Sunny bolted them into place. We were able to get about 3/4 of the roof completed until we ran out of sheet metal. This was such a great experience and we both enjoyed it a lot. We are looking forward to helping finish off the roof on Monday.