God’s Grace

“So have no fear, I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. – Genesis 50:21

I can’t believe we have already been back for 8 months. So much has happened and I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming grace and love God has shown us. One of the biggest fears Jeff and I had about our year of service was the return home. We didn’t have worries about the travels or the new places, we worried about the return. We were going to return home jobless and homeless. Could we find a place to live that still provided our children with a good school, moreover, one we could afford and qualify to rent since neither of us had a job? Could we even find a job? I haven’t worked professionally in 12 years, and Jeff just left a job of 20 years. What was this going to look like for our family? Despite these fears, we forged ahead, living on our faith that God would provide.

We had an amazing year volunteering and serving God’s people, animals, and earth. I do believe that we wanted to have the faith that He would not foresake us upon our return, but there a few times we questioned His promise to us. Even though we were volunteering and in most places working almost full-time, coming back was re-entering “real life”. Finding stability for our family was a whole different kind of challenge.

Our pastor spoke of fear a few Sundays ago and it reminded me of the fear we felt before leaving for this year of service and the many conversations Jeff and I had about our return. I am not sure who “pushed us off the diving board” but we did get pushed, and we left, not knowing what it was going to look like on the other side. That worry and fear never dissipated; it would come and go throughout that year and would become ever more prominent as we approached our last few months abroad.

We struggled to find a place to live. We knew we had friends that would house us, if needed, but it that wasn’t what we hoped to do. We were denied multiple times for apartments because neither of us had an income, we had the money, just not the job. I applied for 40-45 jobs, and Jeff the same, but nothing. I worked as a waitress before we left to earn some extra money and thankfully my old manager gave me job, which was something. I was so grateful to my old supervisor for verifying my employment as a waitress/bartender when we were still overseas. His faith in me, and his friendship, allowed us get into a beautiful apartment in a wonderful school district. God’s work already at hand. Plus, I had a job and was so thankful for that.

As I look back over the last 8 months, it could not be more clear that God was at work in our lives, making sure we had what we needed, just as he had done over the previous year. It may have been stressful and a little scary, but Jeff and I continually reminded each other to be patient. Things needed to happen on God’s time, not ours.

This past few months have been so overwhelming. God’s work in our lives is still constant. New jobs, new opportunities, a new house, etc. I found a job (career) working at one of the local hospital as a medical social worker. I could not be more happy in this position. It is one that I never though t I would ever get, as I have no experience in the medical field and I thought for sure that they would look right past me, but they didn’t and I have a job I absolutely love.

We started looking at houses on a whim, just to see what was out there. We were shocked that we found a house that was exactly what we had wanted, small. We fell in love with it, but thought there was no way we would qualify, especially since Jeff didn’t have a full-time job (more on this later). But that was not the case. We qualified and we bought the house. But now we needed to find new tenants for our apartment because our lease was not up until the end of June. After several stressful weeks of thinking that we may have to carry a mortgage and rent (which would have been, let’s say, difficult, on just my income), we found a family needing to rent a place for the short-term while their house was being renovated. Things worked out better than we could have hoped and we closed on our house on Valentine’s Day (maybe that was yet another God showed his love for us?).

Jeff has struggled a bit more with the employment, which was completely baffling to me. He has 20 years of experience in sales/finance/management, how could he not find a job? (Actually, let us clarify..Jeff did find a job working in the Costco deli, for which we are very grateful, it just not a career.) Now, neither of us understood why Jeff was having so much difficulty finding a career, that is until now.

Back in July, shortly after coming home, Jeff decided to through a wild card into the mix by applying to the Madison Police Department. I know that he would make an amazing police officer and that he would absolutely love this job, but he was not very sure of his chances given his limited (or rather non-existent) experience in the field and most other applicants tend to be in their 20’s (there are not many applicants who are 40+). But here we are, almost 8 months after his application was submitted and he has just completed the final step of the process. Now we don’t know if he’ll be hired, but I truly believe that this is God’s path for him. He has been turned down for jobs for which he is either qualified or overqualified and I don’t even know if he could count the number of applications he has submitted with no response at all. But not with the police department. He has been selected to continue through this arduous process at every stage. At this point, he has no other applications out there, he/we are putting our faith in God and so we just wait patiently for God’s timing.

I am so grateful for God’s love and grace. We trusted in His way, His path, His love and we were not disappointed. He has always provided for what we need and He has never left us. Our faith has been a constant reminder that fear only holds us back from the exceptional life God has planned for us.

I knew God would provide for us, but I had no idea it would be this wonderful. I was ready for God to give us what we needed, not more than we could have ever imagined. For the first time in 9 years, we have a place of our own. A place we know our kids can grown-up without the unknown of “will we have to move next year, and a place Jeff and I can maintain for many years. The location could not be better, tons of kids and walking distance to all the schools/grocery stores/bus stops. I have a job I love and we are hopeful that Jeff will have the job that he has long desired. God’s grace is truly overwhelming if you are able to turn your back and let go of the fear that keeps us from God.

I know there will be hard times in the future, there have already been times of uncertainty since returning, but these times pass as long as we don’t get caught up in the fear.

“So have no fear, I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. – Genesis 50:21

Thursday July 25, 2019

Jeremiah 29:11  For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

When I didn’t know what to write about I did what has always helped, I turned to scripture (and Google). This scripture showed up at the top of the list from my Google search “scripture on finding God’s will” and it could not be more helpful. My biggest struggle right now is knowing and understanding where God wants me to be. What is His plan or path for me? Reading this scripture gives me more comfort than I can express in words. I know that He will guide me and show me the way, I just have to be patient. But the fact that this scripture was at the top of my search list, I internalized it as God’s words to me. He is directly telling me that “I have plans for you”, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope”. It is the affirmation of all that I believe and know to be true; God will always provide for me and for you, and I just needed to hear it. 

While these words do give me immense comfort, it still doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t have a job, I don’t have a direction or purpose right now (or I just don’t know what that is). As I have reflected on my last post, I realize that a big struggle for me is that we went from serving others for a year, and loving every moment of it, to doing nothing. I know there are plenty of opportunities to serve here in Madison and the surrounding areas, but I am hesitant to commit to projects because I do not know what my schedule will be in the future and the last thing I want to do is to commit to a project and then have to back out because of a new work schedule. As I write this though, maybe that is my problem. I have all these contingency plans rather than just doing what brings me joy, which is volunteering.  

Writing can be so enlightening. I feel like I have a direction. Just in writing the previous paragraph I realized my true problem. I need to volunteer and I need to do it now. I am craving that feeling of helping others and am lost without it. I know this won’t resolve the issues I have with the culture shock of being back in the US, but it will definitely help with my lack of purpose (I hope). My new task over the next week is to find an opportunity to serve in Madison. I don’t need to wait until I have a job before committing to a project and if I need to adjust my volunteer commitments because of my job, I can do that too. I don’t know why I felt that volunteering had to come after finding a job, but I did and thankfully in writing I have seen that is just not true!

I am feeling a bit of renewed energy. I actually got so excited that I paused writing this blog to search for volunteer opportunities here in Madison and I requested more information on a couple opportunities. I am already feeling a new spark that has been missing. 

On to another topic, I have been working hard on revising my resume and have been sending it out with countless applications for positions here in Madison. Up to this point I have not had much response as far as interviews/follow-up, but after talking with a good friend, I was assured that this is not uncommon. I know I have the skills and dedication to make a difference in our community through my work, but I just haven’t figured out how to get my resume noticed. Things have changed quite a bit since the last time I was actively searching for a job, but I am committed to getting back to work and I know that the right job is out there, somewhere. I guess I need to have faith in God’s promise to me, “I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

Monday June 17, 2019

James 5:6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

Jeff and I tried to enjoy our last day here. Jeff did some more work on the church for Johannes, while I packed everything up and ready for the long days of travel lying ahead of us. We had one surprise today. Our friend from Westminster Presbyterian Church arrived today in Schonebeck. Chris was the one responsible for setting up our time here with St. Jakobi and I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was that we were able to spend some time with him here. We ordered a pizza for lunch and enjoyed talking about this past year for all of us. Chris is such a wonderful friend and we are so grateful for his help with arranging our time here in Schonebeck. This is was perfect place to start this year and finish it. Final packing was done by this afternoon and then Emma joined us after she finished school. It was wonderful to have her over and the kids loved playing with her (and Chris, who braved the trampoline). I love hearing the kids laugh and scream in delight outside.

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Chris braving the trampoline

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A nice family picture with Chris

We had an easy dinner and then everyone came over to say watch a slideshow that Jeff put togther of this past year and to say our final goodbyes. We were able to get some wonderful pictures in front of the church with everyone and I will cherish these pictures forever. The evening was filled with tears of sadness as we knew that it would be a while before we saw each other again. I was taken aback by Anjali’s response to saying goodbye. She was absolutely devastated. Tears were free flowing down everyone’s faces because once the girls started (Anjali, Saskia, and Emma) us adults couldn’t help but join them. I had no idea how difficult this would be for the kids and unfortunately I was completely unprepared. But in the end, we said our final goodbyes and put the kids to bed and Jeff went in to take a nap. We had a long two days of travel to get us back to Arizona and it was all starting at midnight tonight!

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Susi, Sara, and Lucia

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Steffi, Saski, Susi, Emma, Anjali, Lucia, Sara, and Birgit

My heart aches when I look at these pictures because I am brought right back to the raw emotion and heartache felt when we had to say goodbye.

 

The progression of these group pictures just makes me smile. We had so much fun and they really capture the wonderful friendshps made in just a short 2 months!

 

As I write this blog almost a month later, I am going to condense our travels back to the States, our time in Arizona, and our move back to Wisconsin. So bear with me on the lengthiness of this post.

Our plan was to leave Schonebeck at midnight tonight and drive to Copenhagen, Denmark where we were scheduled for a flight to London and then to LA, California. Thankfully we left right on time and pulled away from St. Jakobi with heavy hearts and teary eyes. We made it to the airport on time and the flight to London was fairly uneventful, with only an hour or so of sobbing at the Copenhagen airport because someone wanted waffles and we could not produce them out of thin air. We barely made our connecting flight out of London to LA, but in the end, all was well and we safely made it back to the USA on Wednesday July 19 at 5 pm (only 24 hours after we left Schonebeck). LAX is like its own city, but we managed to navigate all 5 of us, sleepily through passport control and customs quickly thanks to Anjali’s need for crutches! We got our rental car and then headed to see my aunt and uncle who live just outside of LA. They were so kind to welcome us home with some hamburgers and hot dogs (though Lucia never made it, she fell asleep on the hour drive and never woke up). After a short visit, we continued on our way to Arizona by car and arrived at my parents house at 4 am, 34 hours later. The kids did great on this long journey. They walked inside to say their hellos to grandma and grandpa and then went straight to bed!

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This is what 30+ hours of travel actually looks like…two kids passed out on mom’s leg in the backseat of the car!

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We made it back to the USA

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A quick dinner visit with Aunt Beckie and Uncle Trevor!

Everyone slept-in and when we woke up, we quickly realized that we had also bypassed jet lag. I am not sure if it was because we travelled for so long or that we all just got a good night’s sleep, but no one was off schedule and we all just jumped right in to catching up with family. It was so great to see everyone and to spend time visiting and playing in the pool. The kids were in the pool daily for hours and the rest of the time Jeff and I were struggling to find them things to do in the stifling heat of Arizona (bowling made the list of activities and Jeff even wore his saroong from Sri Lanka, or mirt (aka man skirt)). We shuffled the kids around to Gramma and Papa Hayes and to my brother and sister-in-law for sleepovers, which the kids loved, probably because of the alone time with grandparents and cousins/aunts/uncles. We had visits from lots of family and friends, sorted out some of the necessary things now that we were back (new cell service, paying some bills, dealing with issues that came up during our time away). Needless to say, Jeff and I were very busy, not to mention job applications and resume revisions to help the job searches.

 

We did have a wonderful day the Saturday before we left. We rented a boat at Lake Pleasant and spent the morning tubing, wake-boarding, and swimming in the lake. We even replicated a picture we had of Anjali and David from 10 years ago, but this time with Lucia in it!

 

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I was blessed to get the opportunity to visit my best friend in Fort Collins, CO for a milestone birthday (don’t worry Kate, I won’t share your age : )). This turned into a wonderful blessing for me to have some peace and quiet to work on my resume, study for my exam, and update my online profiles to help with my job search. Kate was super busy with work, so we basically worked all day and then hung out in the evening; it was perfect for both of us who were feeling overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us. The plan for me was to catch a flight back to Arizona on the 4th of July in time for fireworks with the family; however, Colorado weather had different plans and I got stuck in the airport for several hours, not making it back to AZ until 1 am. So I missed out on the 4th of July celebrations, which included an Anjali original cake!

 

After a short sleep, we did some final packing and then we were off to Madison. We had arranged for Anjali to have a sleepover with her best friend for 3 nights right away; I think she was surprised. We also managed to schedule a play date for David and his best friend and they had a blast playing in the pool of our hotel. I think they were all happy to be back and with their friends (unfortunately Lucia’s friends were not able to meet up with us, but she didn’t even seem to mind).

 

Monday morning began the move into the new apartment and I quickly realized what a pain it is to move. We had gotten rid of so much stuff before leaving on this year, but as we were moving boxes after boxes of stuff I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of our belongings. More on this later.

On Thursday I took my licensing exam and was so relieved to have passed. As I was driving home from Milwaukee after the exam, I was reminded of the wonderfully supportive friends that we have here in Madison. My good friend Elizabeth, not only stored our belongings for this past year, but she also loaned us her car for 3 days to help up speed up the moving process. Then when we returned her car, our wonderful friend Sandy offered her car to me so I didn’t have to take the bus to Milwaukee for the test. We are surrounded by amazing people who have always shown us love and support and for this I am forever grateful.

Sunday June 16, 2019

Psalm 73:23-28 Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Indeed, those who are far from you will perish; you put an end to those who are false to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works.

We were stirred this morning by the beautiful bells of St. Jakobi Kirche bright and early. I will miss these bells. I am not sure why, but they give me comfort and peace, though I do wish they were a bit later than 6:30 am! We enjoyed a nice breakfast and then made the long 30 second walk down the stairs to church. It was nice to be in this church again, but I am also excited to get back to our church in Madison, where I understand what is going on during the service. Jeff helped Johannes after the service today and then I took all the kids to Susi and Renee. They were gracious enough to have our children over for dinner tonight so Jeff and I could attend a concert at the church without being interrupted by misbehaving kids!

Jeff and I have talked a lot about going back to the States. I will be honest, I have been hoping and wishing and praying for God to lead me down a different path, but He has not yet; as of now, all paths lead to Madison. So that is where we will go. I will say that it is comforting knowing that we now have a place to live when we return, but there is still so much up in the air. Not to mention that pain in my heart knowing that tomorrow we are leaving these wonderful people and this beautiful place that has brought us so much joy. We have one more day to enjoy them and I know that this time goodbye is going to much more difficult.

As I look around at our belongings, I have such a wide range of emotions. I am so relieved that this is all we have because I know I can pack it up in a couple of hours. And yet, I know that by packing everything up we are going to have to say, yet another goodbye. I am not sure who said this to me, but it is very fitting as we close out this year, we have had a year of ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’. God has put people in our lives that have made a lasting impact on us and I am so grateful for the ‘hellos’ to these beautiful people and then the heartbreak of the ‘goodbyes’ is always too soon, but the ‘goodbyes’ always lead to another ‘hello’. It is an amazing cycle that is wonderful and difficult at the same time. Tomorrow we say ‘goodbye’ to Schonebeck’ and then hello to our family in Arizona. For tonight, this will be all. I will do my best to put my faith in God and his way. I will work hard to trust in His path, even if it is not what I would choose.

Saturday June 15, 2019

Galatians 6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Today we definitely took an opportunity to do good for all, thought likely not in the manner described in this letter to the Galatians.  We awoke early and headed over to meet up with the Hofmanns.  After spending a few hours Friday evening having some adult beverages both Rene and I were feeling a little tired.  We got to their house a little after 9 to have a quick breakfast and then head to Belantis, an amusement park about two hours from Schonebeck.  Unfortunately, while the weather was flawless it was also very warm.  Despite the heat though we had an amazing time.  There were several good sized coasters which gave the more adventurous of us in the group plenty about which to cheer and enough less thrilling rides for those happy to stay closer to Earth.  The kids had a great time and were amazing despite the heat and lots of walking.

After picking up some souvenirs we headed back to Schonebeck to get some dinner and let the kids have a sleepover.  I offered to drive a car full of kids which gave Sara a chance to just be an adult with Rene and Susi.  I think they all anticipated that my car would be wild and crazy.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Within about five minutes two of the girls were asleep and David and Anjali were basically silent, exhausted from the day.  We got home and whipped up a quick meal for the kids and then ordered pizza for the adults.  The kids popped in a movie and prepped for Emma and Rene to spend the night.  After the long and hot day we were all asleep early and rested well having made the most of our last Saturday abroad.

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Friday June 14, 2019

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.

We took great delight today as we were treated to another day of peace, quiet, and some amazing play amongst our children.  Because we are on vacation Sara and I have let the kids more or less decide how to spend their days.  They have spent countless hours already on the trampoline, playing battleship, and recently they discovered the pool and ping pong tables in Fellowship Hall.  While Sara and I were working on resumes and blogs Anjali and Luci were busily preparing a show.  Anjali wrote out several songs (Mary Had a Little Lamb, Down to the River to Pray, etc) which Luci would sing to us.  The girls put on an excellent display amd we were amazed once again at the talent our kids can show.

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Because Johannes was out of town for a meeting we decided to have dinner at home and then meet up with the Hofmanns and Birgit for an evening swim.  Birgit found a different water hole from our trip last year which was more remote and peaceful.  We were surrounded by a large wheat field which made for some pleasant scenery and an especially wonderful sunset.  The kids (and adults) had an amazing evening just being in the moment and enjoying a nice cool swim.

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Thursday June 13, 2019

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.

Our first full day back in Schonebeck was relatively peaceful.  In many ways it was just like every other day we spent the previous summer.  We awoke, ate a light breakfast, and then headed out for errands.  We decided today that we should make our way to Magdeburg to find some summer clothes for Luci and Anjali who were down to minimal options to say the least.  We also thought we might make our way to the Dom de Magdeburg, the church in the city center, to see if we could get a better picture in the sunlight (our first photo occurred during a deluge).

While shopping went well we encountered some challenges during lunch.  This was brought about in large part because of me.  David has been excelling in Tae Kwon Do but Sara and I both believe that it is important for kids to branch out into other areas which would include team activities.  Anjali had brought up her desire to get back to swim team and David remarked that he no longer wanted to be on the team.  I casually remarked that he was fine to not be on swim team but that at some time he would need to join a team sport.  What ensued could best be described as torture.  He became frustrated and angry at the idea and threatened that he wouldn’t do anything at all which caused me to get fired up and threaten to force him.  Needless to say this did not make for the best lunch and the walk to the church and subsequent photo were not ideal.

We got through it all with some open and honest communication and in the end, as it often does, time heals all.  We made our way back to the train station and headed back to Schonebeck.  The kids have always enjoyed riding the trains and this time was no different.  We arrived in one piece and then decided to go get some gelato in the main square.  The kids had made friends with the women who ran the shop and the ladies were very surprised and happy to see us back again. One of them literally did a double take on seeing us.

Later this evening we met up with friends for a nice meal and some conversation.  These were never in short supply in Germany and we were thankful as always for it.  Sara and I remarked to one another on the drive home how much we appreciated this year of giving and receiving.  We truly owe God the greatest debt of gratitude.

Wednesday June 12, 2019

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

What would I do if I did unto others?  I would spend my time and love with them.  So, that’s what we are doing.  Today we made the much anticipated trip from Hamburg to Schonebeck.  First, though, we had to pack up yet again, run our gear to the car and then spend a few short hours in Hamburg.  After getting our luggage in the car we decided to head out for breakfast and a little last minute sightseeing.  We found a nice deli near the Rathaus, had breakfast and then made our way out.

After breakfast we did a quick trip through the Rathaus and then decided that we might as well head out.  The drive was expected to be about three hours and we figured we would need some groceries anyway.  So, anticipating an arrival time of 4pm (we had told everyone we would be in by 5) we headed out.  I drove while Sara studied and the kids played on their tablets.  It was relatively uneventful except for the fact that I was enjoying my first foray into driving on the Autobahn.  For those of you unaware, German highways for the most part do not have a speed limit.  Thus you drive as fast as you feel comfortable.  For me that was 190 km/h at one point (translated to mph that is 118).  At that speed our Opel Astra felt a little loose in the handling department so I decided to back off slightly.  It was still fun to drive at that speed especially aware that I would likely never drive at that rate in the US.

Three hours or so later we arrived in Schonebeck only to learn that Birgit had already done some grocery shopping for us.  Johannes recommended we get to the apartment to see what we had before shopping, though we did stop to make sure we would have some wine and beer for the evening.  We made our way through the familiar streets of Schonebeck happy to be back in this place that had meant so much and made so many memories.  Arriving at our former home away from home we felt great relief and excitement to see our friends.

We actually went to Joannes and Birgit’s home first (instead of the Pilgerherberge) and rang the bell.  With no answer we texted Johannes to let him know we had arrived.  Moments later we could see him walking around the corner at the apartment about 100 hundred yards or so away.  The kids saw him coming and literally sprinted towards him.  I will remember the squeals of joy and the smile on his face as our kids each took turns giving gigantic hugs to this wonderful human being.  We offloaded the car and then headed to Johannes’ house for drinks and a later dinner with our old friends.

Unfortunately Johannes and Birgit had to leave but they kindly opened their home to us for dinner which included our friends Steffi, Steve, Saskia, Rene, Susi, and Emma.  To say that we were overwhelmed by the love we received would be an understatement.  In one sense we were so happy to be home with these people we had not see in almost a year and at the same time we felt like we had never left.  It was just like being home.

I have written previously about the fact that in almost, if not all, places we have been God has given us a rainbow.  He did not fail again.  On a day when the weather forecast had originally called for no rain we received a downpour just before dinner.  Moreover, God gifted us yet another rainbow, reminding us again of His love and that He was with us on these travels.  I also think it was a reminder that we were in the place we were meant to be.  We enjoyed the company of our friends for the evening with a great meal (shout out to Steve and his excellent grilling skills).  After we retreated back to our old and familiar apartment and rested easy knowing we were in a place of great love.

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Tuesday June 11, 2019

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

Over this past year people have told us how “brave” Jeff and I was for taking 3 children around the world to volunteer. Most of the time, we have truly enjoyed the experience, even in the struggles with behavior. By the end of the day today, Jeff made the comment that he now understands that very statement. Our children began fighting upon waking up and didn’t stop the rest of the day. We did make it out of the house to see a few sights, including the Speicherstadt (historic red brick warehouse buildings along the Elbe River) and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (a modern concert hall atop a historic red brick warehouse). We enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the Elbe River and had hopes of a nice day exploring this old and historic city.

Speicherstadt (Hamburg, Germany) Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany)

But that didn’t last. Anjali didn’t complain about her foot at all in the morning, but as soon as she heard that we were going to walk for about 15-20 minutes to the next sight, she lost it; her foot was just hurting too bad to do that. Then David wanted to go home, but that made Anjali angry because he was “copying her”. Everything went downhill from there. We decided that we would take the kids home and give them a break (we were even going to give them their screens to play) while Jeff and I explored the city together. But those plans fell through too because the kids could not stop arguing and fighting. It was at this moment that Jeff and I decided to split up. One would go sightseeing and the other would stay home with the kids. Jeff needed a break from the kids, so I opted to stay with them, but the kids then decided they now wanted to explore! I can’t even begin to share with you the level of frustration from both Jeff and I, even Anjali’s foot was now feeling better. I wanted to scream, but since Jeff needed a break, he opted to now stay home and I would take the kids out exploring once again. This is why people tell us that we are “brave” to travel like this with kids!!

So the kids and I took off to see St. Nicholai church and then Rathaus (or city hall). We even took the elevator up to the top of the church and then down in the crypt museum where we learned all about the history of Hamburg and this church. It was incredible and really powerful.

View from the top of the tower at St. Nicholai Memorial Church with St. Michael’s Church in the Happy kids for the moment. An aerial view of the Rathaus from the top of St. Nicholai Rathaus fountain in the courtyard (Anjali didn’t want to be in the photo) David thought this was a cool door and frame. David and Lucia inside the Rathaus (Anjali standing beside me taking the picture) Looking away from the Rathaus in the city center. A group shot (with Anjali) in front of the Rathaus. One silly family.

After an hour or so of exploring the kids were again done, but this time were kind enough to just say so and not completely blow a gasket, so we headed home. Jeff was feeling a bit rested and we both decided that we wanted to go explore more, but this time without the children. They seemed to have calmed down and no one was fighting. So we did a very responsible parenting thing, we gave them their screens, knowing that it would buy us a couple hours of entertainment, and bolted from the apartment.

Jeff and I walked to the Saint Pauli Elbtunnel. This tunnel was built in 4 years to support the mass of harbor workers and took you across the Elbe River. We walked this tunnel both ways and while it was pretty cool to walk under the river, I think we were just enjoying the company of each other without the distractions of children. From here we walked along the Elbe over to St. Nicholai Memorial Church and the Rathaus. It was a very relaxing afternoon, in spite of the stressful and frustrating morning.

One of the many Harbor Bridges near the tunnel. A selfie overlooking the harbor. St. Nicholai Memorial Church

Rathaus

We went home to check on the kids, thankful they were not fighting like cats and dogs. Though shortly after coming home and the turning the screens off, they were at it again. Dinner out was never going to happen, nor were Jeff and I going to leave to watch the soccer game. So we made a decision to make a quick and easy dinner for the children (grilled cheese sandwiches, some fruit and veggies, and Pringles) and we would order to take-away. While I made dinner for the kids, Jeff worked hard to find the US Women’s Soccer match against Thailand. We finally got the kids to sleep and I ran out to grab some food for us and then we sat down to watch the very lopsided match. I think we were both extremely tired and out of patience given the day. We ended up calling it a night, slightly frustrated with each other (though I don’t think either of us knows why).

As I reflect on this stressful day I realize that God absolutely provided to us. While we didn’t get to see all that we (I mean Jeff and I) wanted, I look back at these pictures and realize that we did see Hamburg. God definitely was with us today (or we may have left our children in Hamburg : )) and He poured His love over us, allowing all of us to recover enough to see parts of Hamburg. We were challenged and had a lot of fights and struggles, but in the end, His love gave us the opportunity to enjoy Hamburg and I am grateful for the short glimpses of happiness we had today.

Monday June 10, 2019

Isaiah 32:18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Our family was not abiding in a peaceful habitation this morning. Our whole morning was fighting, arguing, and yelling. I don’t think there was a single moment of peace in our little apartment this morning. On top of all the fighting and yelling, Anjali was complaining that her ankle was hurting again and that she was not able to walk around. This is quite frustrating because she was totally fine to walk around Malmo yesterday and play laser tag, but now that there is something that Jeff and I want to do, she is magically injured again. I guess I have lost a bit of empathy for her situation, mainly because it seems that she is hurt when it gives her a way out of doing something that doesn’t interest her, but she is totally fine when it is something she deems fun. I want to take the silly crutches and throw them into the Elbe River so she can’t keep using them as a crutch (pun intended)!

I think I had finally had enough of the yelling and screaming, fighting and arguing, complaining, etc. that I told everyone to get in the car and we were driving to Hamburg without seeing any of the sights here in Kolding. I was so angry. We came here to see a few of the highlights of the city, but rather we got to pay a lot of money to sleep in a beautiful apartment and see Kolding by looking out our window. It felt like such a waste, but I eventually calmed down enough to realize that my children were exhausted and that they were just not up for sightseeing. But if you get the chance to explore Kolding, I am sure that you will have a great time. It seems to be a great town with a ton of outdoor activities to do and some really beautiful sights to see.

Our last few trips Jeff has been driving and I have been sitting in the passenger seat helping with navigation when needed, but studying. I have found it to be very difficult to study in the car and today was no different. After about 20-30 minutes of reading in the car, my eyes begin to get heavy and I have a hard time staying awake. I am not even tired, I guess it is just the motion of the car putting me to sleep. But I have powered through and have made significant progress in my studies. My goal is still to take my licensing exam when we get back to Arizona at the end of June.

We arrived in Hamburg, Germany after a fairly uneventful drive. We didn’t do much today as far as sightseeing, but we did manage to stop into an Italian restaurant near our apartment for dinner. Our apartment is in the best possible location, we are right in the middle of everything that we would want to see in Hamburg and I am so excited that we are here for two nights and will actually have time to explore.

One of the many harbors in Hamburg, Germany at night.

After dinner we put the kids to bed and waited until they were mostly asleep before we headed out to find a bar that was showing the Women’s World Cup, which was surprisingly difficult given the fact that almost all the bars/restaurants were closed due to the observance of Pentecost, it is called Weiss Montag. But we did find one and made our way there. As we were walking to the bar, we had to walk past St. Nicholai Church. I had no idea about the history of Hamburg before tonight and it fed my desire to learn more. What I did learn tonight was that St. Nicholai Church was one of the few standing structures remaining after the city of Hamburg was destroyed by a fire that resulted from bombings in WWII. Now I must clarify, the church itself is not fully intact, actually only the spire/tower remains. The knave and sanctuary of the church was completely destroyed by bombs and the subsequent firestorm. As I stood in the remains of what was the sanctuary of this church, I was overcome by a multitude of emotions. I desperately want to come back to the church to learn more and to see this spectacular sight during the day. I am so grateful that the church was never rebuilt and that the history, as terrible as it was, is still intact as a reminder to all of us.

We finally made it to the bar, ordered our beers and settled in to watch the game, only to get several phone calls from the kids about the little one not calming down and going to bed. (she was almost asleep when we left, or so she let us think) After the 3rd or 4th phone call, we decided that we needed to be home and of course when we got home 10 minutes later, they were all awake and we missed watching the second soccer game because our TV was broken in the apartment. UGGHHHHH. I am holding out hope that tomorrow will be better, though I am not that confident since all of the kids didn’t go to sleep until almost 10:30 pm!