Wednesday March 6, 2019

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

God has definitely had His hand in this journey, from changing dates to meeting people who point us in a direction we never imagined. I am so grateful for His intervention because without Him none of this would be possible. Our time here is a perfect example. We were not supposed to be here until May/June 2019, but we found out that they needed us sooner and everything worked out beautifully, just the way it was supposed to. They have many different needs which all of us as a family can help accomplish and it is so wonderful to know that we have the opportunity to make an impact on this community and the work this organization is doing here.

Jeff and I decided that I would take the first few shifts at the hospital this week and then he would start next week, so today was my first day. I was a bit overwhelmed by the need Firm Foundation Romania (FFR) is filling. They are working really hard to provide for children in the hospital and to be resource to the hospital staff. My role at the hospital will be to change diapers, hold and love on the babies, and to deliver diapers to all the children in the hospital without a parent there. Here in Romania when children get sick and have to be hospitalized the parents are expected to stay with them and provide the necessary clothes and diapers, as well as continue to care for the basic needs of the child (holding, feeding, diapers, etc). The hospital staff are unable to provide for the emotional connections these babies need because their primary focus is getting them healthy and there is not enough time in the day to be nurse and parent. The problem is that there are many parents who are unable/unwilling to stay to continue caring for their child, so they take them to the hospital when they are sick and then they leave. As a result hese children have no diaper supply, no clothes, and no attention. That is where FFR and its volunteers come in. FFR provides diapers and clothing for all the children whose parents don’t or can’t provide them and the volunteers are there to change diapers, feed them, and hold, snuggle, and love them. So that is just what I got to do today.

However, I will tell you that I never imagined the heartbreak I would feel hearing these children wailing as I put them back in their crib to go to the next room. They just wanted to be loved and held and while I wanted to stay, there were more children who needed the same thing. It was such a dichotomy of emotions. On one hand it was so wonderful to love and snuggles these adorable children, but on the other hand, having to spread the love over 15-20 children was just heartbreaking because I can only hold one at a time. This morning was very rewarding and I am so grateful that we are here to help.

The volunteer supervisor I have been working with today met with me after the shift to discuss the possible options to get the kids involved. I can’t believe all the options available to them. To start with they will be working on creating baby bundles, which is like a gift bag filled with clothing items for the child, and it is given to parents who stay with their child is in the hospital. They are also needing help to sort donations that have come in over the last several months in preparation for another truck load of donations to be delivered next month. So we have a lot of work to do and I am so happy that we were willing to listen and go where God needed us, not just where we wanted to be. We allowed God’s plan to lead us.

A big downside for Anjali is that she really wanted to work directly with the babies at the hospital, but all visitors to the hospital need to be at least 14 years old, so that is out of the question for her. And while she was sad about this, she understood and was glad to be able to help the babies in another way; I am so proud of her. I hope that when she sees the office and the work that needs to be done, she will understand that when we are volunteering and helping others we need to be focused on what they need, not what we want to do.

Jeff stayed home teaching the kids today and they did pretty well, especially since we have not had formal school over the last month. The kids had been getting hands-on and interactive lessons while working with the turtles and helping to lead tours at the sanctuary. Now that we are back to the grind with school work, I am hoping that the kids will get back into a rhythm and routine with getting their work done. It may also help that the family that lives below are expats from the states and they have been homeschooling their children from the beginning. Their children are usually done with their school work by 12 or 2 pm because, as they said themselves, they want to get their school work done as soon as possible so they can be done for the day as early as possible. I am hoping our kids will take a lesson from them, get their work done quick and don’t screw around so you will have the rest of the day to play.

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Wednesday January 16, 2018

Jeff and I got up at 3:45 am to see Lachlan off. He and Clifton had the long drive to Delhi where they were going to explore for a couple days and then Lachlan was headed to Australia and Clifton back home to the mission.

Jeff found a new running partner in one of the girls here on the mission, so they took off on an afternoon run around the mission and they soon had quite a following.

This week we also got to celebrate lots of birthdays; I guess with 68 kids in care on the mission, birthdays are a frequent happening here.

The last couple of days I have been working on organizing several cabinets in the office that were full of school and project supplies for the kids, as well as office supplies for the staff. This has been quite an undertaking and I really hope it pays off for Priscilla and Katie who regularly use it to get supplies for the kids’ school projects. There was so much stuff just shoved into these cabinets that there is no way to find anything. The bottom two shelves have come along nicely, but there is still a lot of work to go!

Most people would read about this job and not think much of it, but for those that really know me, you probably understand how much I love this kind of project. I think it is the process of taking everything out and putting it all back in a way that is functional. The reward for the work is instant and I love it!

Wednesday January 9, 2019

Isaiah 41:10 do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

This scripture gives me so much comfort, especially when I start to feel anxious or uneasy about the journey we are on right now. I fall back to this passage often when I begin to question what we have done and what we are doing, and it is then that I feel God’s arms wrap around me and I feel safe. Even in the beginning of this journey God has strengthened both Jeff and me at different times. He continually shows me that He will strengthen and help me through the difficult times and the times that I feel unsure. Time and time again He has carried us and paved the way for us, even changing the plans we made, to complete the work that He has for us.

Still our biggest struggle is homeschooling. It is not that I don’t like teaching my children, it is that they are not wanting me (or Jeff) to teach them and, to be honest, I don’t think they want to work. They are having difficulty remembering that this year is not a vacation or holiday from school, but rather school is incorporated into our service. We assign them work to do for the day and when they complete it they are done, but they take no ownership of their work and then complain when they don’t finish it because they were messing around all day. We usually end up with one who does a great job working and accomplishing their assignments for the day, but there is usually one who wants to throw a wrench into the situation and we then have tantrums all day.

Jeff commented today that he is beginning to question whether he can continue to do this for another 6 months, not the service or the traveling, but the teaching. I really think this is our biggest challenge and it made me wonder if this is one of those moments where God’s blessings are in disguise. Maybe this is what our family needs and His divine plan will bring our family closer together. In my opinion our kids need to learn a bit more obedience and respect for Jeff and me, so maybe this is how God plans to achieve this.

As I am typing this up, I am remembering an old song by Garth Brook (yes, a country song!) called Unanswered Prayers in which he sings:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers; remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs; that just because He doesn’t answer doesnt’ mean He don’t care; some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

I love this song because it is a reminder that I may pray for something, but that just because I don’t get what I want I need to have faith that He will give me what I need.

While I may not know why things are so difficult, stressful, and frustrating, He knows and His divine plan is way better than any of mine. I guess this is one of those things that I need to hand over to God so He can help guide and direct me through this. He can help my children see that being obedient and respectful will actually benefit everyone and allow them more freedom and independence from us. Anjali is constantly fighting with us for more autonomy, but she is failing to show us the obedience and discipline to warrant it. I keep telling her ‘if you don’t listen to me when you are right in front of me, how can I trust that you will be obedient when you are on your own’.

Starting today I will make this a daily prayer and will hand this over to God and be happy and content in His way. I know that He will be there for me and will provide for my family, just as He always has.

A total side note, here is a picture that Jeff took of the bloom of fire that was the result of massive amounts of garbage being tossed into the pit to burn. This is a taste of what the air quality is like here.

Friday December 21, 2018

Acts 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Today we got to celebrate Uncle John Marshall’s birthday with cake and tea before he left to go back to the states. He is such a big part of this mission and his leaving was hard for many of the kids and staff. He brings a fun and energetic life to the mission and easy to see that he will be missed.

After saying goodbye to him, it was back to working on decorations and preparing for Christmas. Jeff and I both helped out in the dining hall by hanging various decoration, though Jeff had to duck out several times for rehearsal at the school with Lachlan. I am so excited to see this program that the kids have worked so hard on preparing.

Today was also the last day of school for our kids and I think we are all relieved. I can totally understand how teachers feel when these breaks are approaching; it was very difficult to get the kids to focus today. I think they were just ready to be done, but we were so busy helping to get things done that we just kind of let them go. We did however have them take an assessment on the IXL program and we found that all the kids are actually performing above grade level already, so the stress of making sure they are on track has diminished quite a bit. We seem to be doing okay with their schooling and now we have an opportunity to work with them on getting ahead and focusing our efforts on them learning how to be responsible for their own work and asking for help when they need it. I would love for them to have a bit more independence, autonomy, and self-motivation in regards to their schoolwork.

I was able to find a bit of time today to just sit on my patio and do a bit of quite work on my blog while enjoying a carton of coffee. I really am missing good French Press coffee.

This has been our coffee since getting to Thailand

Later in the afternoon, Cathy and Pricilla taught me how to make an amazing Chickpea Salad with tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and seasonings. This salad is so fresh and tastes absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to make it back at home!

After all of the hard work that Uncle Rick has put into getting the pumps for the water tanks fixed, they broke again today and he is not sure when he will be able to get the parts needed to fix it. The parts are in Delhi and the driver that took Uncle John there was not able to get to the shop before they closed. The mission was faced with very little water pressure out of the few spigots that worked. After dinner Jeff and I filled up a bucket of water to take back to the room so we had a small supply for teeth brushing and flushing the toilet. What is so amazing to me is that prior to this trip this situation would have been enough to make me panic and stress-out, but after dealing with this very issue in Thailand already, I have learned to just roll with it. God places many challenges in front of us each day, but allowing anxiety and fear to take control only makes matters worse. When we are able to just sit back and enjoy the ride, it is amazing how easy it is to just take each challenge one step at a time and taking comfort in knowing that God will provide for our needs. I am confident that this situation is no different.

Thursday December 20, 2018

Exodus 4:11 Then the Lord said to him, “who has made man’s mouth? What makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

After yesterday’s festivities everyone on the mission was a bit tired, though there is no rest for the weary. For the past week Uncle Rick and Uncle John have been diligently working on one of the faulty water pumps that supplies the well water to the mission. They have been fixing the problem only have it break again within 12-24 hours. It has been very frustrating for them and for us, that means either no water at all or very little water pressure at times. Today they were up early in the morning and they got the water up and running again. I think our time in Thailand was a wonderful preparation for this because during our time in there we never knew when there would be no water (they were doing work on the water main in front of our host’s house). Though it never was for more than 12 hours at a time, you just always had to be prepared for no water! And while this is a unique situation here on the mission, it is one now and you just have to roll with it; there is plenty to drink and to accommodate the necessities (teeth and face washing), but doesn’t account for full showers and you need to conserve all that you can.

Todays focus was on decorating the dining hall with the paper snowflakes that have been made over the last few days, putting up the Christmas tree, having the silhouette nativities painted, and many other decorations. The dining hall looked absolutely amazing and I was astonished how quickly things got put together to bring Christmas into the room.

We also mixed in the homeschooling for our kids and Anjali found a nice spot on the playground to do her work. The approach we are taking with the kids is so much more relaxing for everyone and to my surprise they are still getting the work done.

My kids all have a different approach to learning and we just have to figure it out in order to make this homeschooling work for all of us. We are all excited because tomorrow will be the last day of school and the first day Christmas break for our kids and the mission kids. I think we are all ready for a break from school work and that routine!

As usual, the kids ate dinner at 6 pm with the mission kids, we washed them and put them to bed before Jeff and I headed off to dinner in Uncle Rick’s room. We had a really fun night of laughing and stories, even a few bits of food flying through the room (Clifton and Lachlan were throwing orange peels at each other and I somehow got mixed up with their shenanigans and ended up with an orange peel to the forehead!) It was a really fun evening of laughing and goofing around with friends that I met only 1 month ago. Again, I am surprised at how quickly friendships can grow. The Lord’s amazing powers to make things from nothing is just mind-blowing and I am thankful every day to see His awesome works.

Tuesday December 18, 2018

Amos 8:1-2 This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.

It took me a while to figure out this passage and why this might be important to me at this moment. I had to read the previous scripture passages and got a little help from Jeff and David (my 10 year old son). I came to understand that this scripture is a warning from God. We never know when He is coming again so we need to be prepared and live the life He meant for us. Amos was shown a basket of summer fruit and as I now see it, that was God’s way of showing him that He will harvest those that were “ripe”. David pointed out that maybe that was God’s way to telling us to make sure that we were the “ripe” fruit when He comes again. I am sitting up on our balcony overlooking the mission here in India and I realized that this mission is helping to ripen us into what God wants from us and it is our responsibility to take an active role in making sure that happens.

Today I was again taught a lesson in appreciation. Since being here on the mission I have been hand washing our clothes in buckets in our shower. We do have access to the industrial washer, but we have to time our wash in between the cycles and the mounds of kids clothing. Also, I have a hard time having the girls here do our laundry when they have enough to do. I had to learn how to do this because I have never done laundry this way before, but I am getting the hang of it. I do 2 washes and 2-3 rinses before wringing the clothes out and hanging them on the line to dry. A Facebook friend said it best after I posted this…”washing machines are an under-appreciated appliance” and I could not agree more. I have never been without one and I never fully appreciated the one that I had, but I am looking forward to having one again soon (okay, in 8 months).

As for Christmas preparations, I was able to get more wrapping done, as well as draw some decorations on plywood; the first is a silhouette manger scene and the second are the letters “L O V E” to be painted and added to the already hanging Hope, Joy, and Peace. The wrapping seems to take up most of the day, but my girls have helped out a bit, which was really fun to spend time with them.

My silhouette manger drawing
Uncle John’s drawing (just a bit more detailed than mine)!

One of the other things that I have really enjoyed here are the breaks for tea and a chance to catch up with everyone. It really is a time to catch up on the happenings around the mission and areas that we can help. After tea today, I did some more wrapping (it is almost done) and then spent some time in the dining hall helping with decorations for Christmas.

Today was a very nice day and a great opportunity to open myself up so God can use me in ways He needed.

Monday December 17, 2018

Matthew 5:42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

Homeschooling was much more peaceful for Jeff and I, but the kids got very little work done. I am counting this as a great teaching moment; they were left to make their own choices today about school, we gave them their assignments and kept them on track with the time, but they were responsible to do the work and ask for help when they needed it. Today, they chose to relax and just sit around doing not much of anything. Later in the afternoon, Jeff and I had a talk with them and shared that if they didn’t want to do school, we would spend the day tomorrow helping to clean up the mission (now that Clifton was back he was able to share with us what he wanted us to do). This wasn’t a threat, but rather another option for them. They can’t just sit around and do nothing, so they have to make a choice: go to school and learn or get some work done around the mission.

I think this was a productive conversation and they seemed to actually internalize some of it. We are going to try school again tomorrow, but instead of study time at 4:30 we are going to work as a family on cleaning up the part of the mission Clifton requested. This will be a project that we will work on over the next week or so and I am so excited to get the kids doing some actual work here. We believe that their work here is mostly to play and engage with the kids, which they have all done beautifully! I think for a while I might have lost sight of that.

Jeff has been working with Lachlan at the school helping with choir rehearsal for the concert on Saturday while I have been busy with decorations in the dining hall and wrapping gifts. I have been bouncing back and forth between helping on the mission and teaching the kids. Jeff and I seem to have a nice system worked out by switching the teaching role throughout the day–it keeps the kids guessing and it gives them a new person teaching them.

Choir Rehearsal

Uncle John captivating the kids with a story of some kind!

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.

Wednesday December 12, 2018

Numbers 23:19 God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

We had a very nice day today, though it was a bit colder than it has been. Rocky has been a lot to handle–he barks all day long. Jeff has been trying to walk him during the day, but he really just never stops and it is very trying to hear him bark nonstop. The kids had school today while Jeff hung up Christmas lights with Lachlan and Uncle John. They have a lot more to do, but what they got done looks great! I was teaching the kids all day today, which made for a long day. I really love teaching Lucia because she is engaged and desires to learn. But to be honest, David is pretty hit or miss, some times he is fun to teach and other time he fights us on everything. Unfortunately, more often than not, Anjali does not want us to teach her, so it is usually a battle with her. We did, however, get a bit of recognition from her today that she is behind and that she is very overwhelmed with how to get caught back up with everything. She is fully capable of not only getting caught up, but actually being ahead of schedule with her academics, she just needs to apply herself, which she is not currently doing. I really believe that she is looking at the forest and not seeing the trees, meaning she is seeing the big picture of how much she has to do and not able to see that if she takes each lesson one at a time, she would be done before she knows it. Hopefully she will learn this soon–we are trying to show her and tell her, but we don’t know anything and she knows everything. Ughhhh, pre-teens! As with everything, it will pass soon enough and we will be on to another challenge.

I just had to include this picture of Lucia waiting for breakfast to start. She has the perfect expression on her face and pretty much shows how the kids are feeling about getting up at 6:45 every day!

A really crappy thing happened though, I ended up catching whatever Anjali had yesterday. Shortly after our afternoon tea time I started to get real cold, so I headed up to our room and climbed into our bed to sleep. I proceeded to get colder and colder, so I was in there for the night, except for dinner. I don’t know if I have ever been so cold, and it wasn’t even that cold outside. I was definitely ill.

As Jeff and I were walking over to dinner we heard singing and music happening from over by Uncle Rick’s room where we eat dinner. When we got closer we found some carolers singing Hindi Christmas music. The kids were singing along and dancing. It was so neat to experience, I just wish I wasn’t feeling so crummy.

I shared some videos are my Instagram page @sarassimplelife if you want to experience a bit of this for yourself.

Tuesday December 11, 2018

Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out

Usually at 6:45 am when we get the kids out of bed for breakfast at 7:00 we hear the complaints of “I’m tired”, “I don’t feel good”, etc. and today was no different. We recently have taken a different approach to the morning, if the kids don’t want breakfast that is fine, so we wake them up and if they don’t come down for breakfast it’s their loss. But I have to be honest, I was quite irritated and upset that Anjali did just that; she stayed in bed during breakfast because she “didn’t feel well”. I know that I may sound mean and heartless, but I really thought her complaints this morning had to do with her just being tired or not wanting to get out of bed. I checked on her throughout the morning and she was either asleep or laying in bed curled up under the covers. By lunch time, I felt absolutely awful. I didn’t believe her this morning and was actually upset that she was “acting this way”, but when she didn’t show up for lunch and was still in bed when I checked on her I realized that she really was ill.

This whole situation reminds me of the story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and my kids do this a lot, especially in the morning when they are needing to get out of bed. As a result when they say the “don’t feel good” it is hard to know whether or not they are being honest or just trying to get out of getting up. But this time, she was honest and she was sick. She ended up sleeping all day so I made her some ramen noodle soup for dinner and then she was back to sleep. I always feel terrible when this happens (this isn’t the first time) and I just wish that I could believe them when they said they didn’t feel well, but if I did they would never get out of bed for school or breakfast or do any chores. I pray that I can find some happy middle ground with this situation some day.

Otherwise, today was not very eventful. David and Lucia completed school, Jeff took Rocky on several walks, and we ended up picking up some garbage around the mission. I have also been helping in the office by sending thank you emails to people who donated to the Christmas campaign, a fundraiser that will financially support the mission’s goal of providing a memorable Christmas celebration to the children who call this place home, as well as for those who grew up on the mission and come back to celebrate the holidays. It was a huge blessing to learn that the campaign was successful and they were able to raise the money needed. This was a huge relief for the staff, knowing that their greater community of supporters were able to band together so those who call GSAM “home” will be able to have a great Christmas. God always provides and today was just further proof of that.

I don’t have any pictures from today. I need to work on taking more photos. We are just enjoying the moments so much that we are forgetting to take pictures to capture them. Oh, well. Here is a picture of our Christmas tree that now has a few gifts under it for our family!