Sunday May 19, 2019

Ecclesiastes 5:19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God.

We all got up early this morning and made our way to breakfast and then the field for another game. Today’s games were double elimination (though we thought they were single elimination). Their team was the newest team in the tournament and while they held their own, they did not win any games yesterday. This morning, however, they won! Which meant they had one more game to play. Since we were never going to make our check-out time, the kids and I piled into the car and headed back to the hotel so we could check-out and then stop by the store for baby wipes (Jeff wasn’t going to have access to a shower) and some gatorades for the team. We got back to the field just as they were finishing up their game, but Lucia has time to trip and fall, which landed her in the first aid tent. (OK let’s be honest here…this was definitely not a serious injury, but in the mind of a 6 year old, she was desperately needed this attention for the first aid crew and boy did she soak it all in!)

It took a while to leave the field, between Lucia requiring first aid and Jeff requiring a baby wipe bath! But we did manage to gather everything up and make our way to the Circus Pub where we had an amazing lunch. Jeff said that this was the best burger ever. Once we finished lunch it was almost 4 pm, so we decided that our best bet would be to drive by the Palace of Parliament. We realized that our time for sightseeing was over for the weekend and really did do much. So during lunch we discussed the possibility of coming back to Bucharest on our way out of the country, but after seeing the parliament building (which was beautiful and huge), both Jeff and I agreed that we didn’t feel the need to come back. The city was beautiful, but it was still just a city. We agreed that there was more to see and experience in Brasov and the surrounding areas, rather than come to a congested and crowded city. I guess this year has really shown us the kind of traveling we prefer doing, and I can say with absolute certainty that I do not enjoy traveling in the big cities!

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Saturday May 18, 2019

Psalm 12:5 “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord; “I will place them in the safety for which they long.”

This morning was wonderful and peaceful in so many ways. Jeff and I got up and had breakfast just the two of us since he had to be at the field for the tournament early. I dropped him off at the field and then headed back to the hotel to take the kids to their breakfast and then to the pool (they swam and I did yoga). The kids really were awesome this morning and it was the first time I felt that I was able to relax since we left Brasov. We had a less than peaceful drive to Bucharest and then trying to navigate this new place with fast and aggressive drivers, relaxation was not the feeling that comes to mind. But this morning, the kids played and got along with each other, they were even aware and respectful of the gentleman swimming laps in the pool without my intervention; it was beautiful. I enjoyed my yoga vitality practice. Unfortunately, the peace was fleeting, but here are some pictures of the blissful parts.

I finished my yoga and the kids were done swimming at almost the exact same time, which I thought was perfect. I didn’t even have to drag them out of the pool. We got upstairs and I shooed two of the kids into the showers so we could go and watch Jeff’s final game. But our lack of conditioner caused a bit of drama, so I hurried to the store for some better hair products and all was well. Everyone got cleaned and fed with the leftovers from last night (only a mild tantrum about not wanting their leftovers, but that was side-stepped nicely with the help of Lucia). I felt like at any moment a bomb was going to go off right next to me, but it didn’t. We got to enjoy one of Jeff’s games and then learned that he still had one more. The kids were never going to make it, so I drove them back to the hotel to watch TV while I went back to the field to watch the final game (3 total round trips from the hotel to the field).

All this driving back and forth is like a double-edged sword. I am reminded of my dislike for big cities with lots of traffic but I am loving driving a manual transmission. I drove a stick for so long and it makes driving so much more enjoyable. I made it back to the field in time for his last game of the day. I will admit I was not 100% present in the moment. As I was waiting for the game to start and the teams to warm-up I decided to get a bit of studying/reading done, but I had a hard time putting it down when the game did start. I would go back and forth between reading and watching the game, but it was very relaxing to do this without any kids around interrupting me. After the game, we headed home and then out to dinner.

We ate at Hanu’ lui Manuc, which served traditional Romanian food in an open-air courtyard. The ambiance was so fun, but the company of my children was not the greatest. They were tired and it was getting late (we didn’t get there until 7:00 and by the time we finally were able to pay and leave it was close to 9:30).

I really have no idea how to relate this scripture to today, so I am not going to try. What I will say is that Bucharest is a really beautiful city, rich in history, plentiful parks and green space, and lots to see and do, but I realized today that this is not what I love about traveling. I love meeting the people and living amongst them. I also know, with absolute certainty, that I am not relaxed in a big city. We have only been gone for 24 hours and I am already missing Brasov; it is so quite and calm in comparison to Bucharest. I don’t like feeling this stressed and overwhelmed with the sheer number of people crammed into such a confined space. So again, God has provided me with a wonderful lesson, I don’t need to see the beautiful touristy sights around the world, actually I am rarely happy and relaxed in these environments, but rather the best part about our travels is living and becoming part of these communities; it is the people not the places that I want to experience.

Tuesday April 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday April 15, 2019

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

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

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

Sunday April 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday April 13, 2019

Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

So my car arrived right on time, 1:30 am for the 3 hours drive to Bucharest Airport. After 3 plane changes and layovers, I arrived in Phoenix at 3:30 pm local time (which will be 1:30 am my time). By the time I finished this 24 hours of traveling, I was completely wiped, but truly I don’t feel as bad as I probably should. I had wonderful flights, with only a few minor irritations, that have to be expected. I am really excited to see my family, I have really missed them over the last year. I am looking forward to some quality time. I unfortunately will not be able to see many friends during this trip, which is a bummer, but it will be good to spend some quality time with my family as we celebrate the life of my wonderful grandmother.

Friday April 12, 2019

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us

I had another afternoon shift at the hospital today, so I was able to spend the morning with the kids doing schoolwork. Jeff was there for most of the morning, but he did take off on a long run as he prepares for the half-marathon next weekend. I had to leave the kids before he got home, but thankfully 95% of their schoolwork was done by that point. We also decided that we would go out for dinner tonight. This would be a nice opportunity for some family time before I left for 5 days.

My shift went very well. I am so happy for the opportunity to work with Romanian students both yesterday and today. FFR has gained 4 new volunteers that live in Brasov locally, which is a huge resource. It is so wonderful to see these children respond to them. They are able to talk to the children in their native language, as well as gather information from the nursing staff much easier.

There was a moment of bittersweetness today. Though the children did not scream and cry as they have the last several shifts, I noticed that one of the children no longer had a port for medication, which usually means they will be leaving the hospital soon. My heart is so happy that he is getting healthy and will no longer be in the hospital, but I will be honest, I am worried about where he will go. We are not given a lot of specific information about these children, mainly because we don’t really need to know, but I have been told how much difficulty they have had finding a placement for this little boy who potentially has an infectious illness. My worry is that he will not be going to a home, but rather to another hospital facility where he will not be able to get the love and attention he deserves. I just need to have faith that he is in God’s hands and that he will be safe and loved wherever he goes. He is a little charmer and I have seen first hand how he is able to steal the heart of anyone whom he meets. With all of this, I said my goodbye to him because I don’t know if he will be there when I get back next Friday. It was difficult to say goodbye to all of these children because if all works out, they will get healthy and will not longer need to stay in the hospital, which means they won’t be there when I get return.

After my shift I got home to some very happy children. We walked down to the square where we ate a wonderful dinner at Da Vinci, a nice Italian Restaurant that was highly recommended by every volunteer we have met. The food, wine, and service were spectacular and it was such a wonderful evening with the kids. We all enjoyed a Kurtos on our walk home. It was a beautiful night that ended with a snuggle fest in our bed while we watched Paddington. It was the perfect way to spend an evening with my family. I will miss them so much while I am gone. We have all been together non-stop, 24 hours a day/7 days a week, since we left the US at the end of July 2018. I haven’t even left and I am already missing them. So I just soaked in all that I could from tonight.

We put them to bed and I finished my last minute packing. I fell asleep at 12:30 and Jeff was kind enough to wake me up at 1:10 so I could gather everything up and meet my driver outside at 1:30 am for the 3 hour drive to Bucharest.

Lord give me strength and perseverance as I embark on this long journey back to the US.

Friday March 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday March 28, 2019

Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Today was a difficult day. We got a phone call from my mom early this morning to let us know that my grandmother passed away yesterday. While I knew this was a possibility it is still very difficult to be so far from family when things like this happen. My grandmother was a wonderful person and always made me laugh. She was strong, funny, caring, and giving (just to name a few), and as I read this verse I feel very close to her because this is who she was. She cared for everyone the best she could and would do anything for you. She always made you feel welcome and for me, she was always there to encourage me and to pray for me. She will be very missed, not just by me and my family, but by all those who had the blessing of knowing her.

I was trying to get myself motivated this morning for the hospital shift, but it was just not happening. Jeff gently mentioned that spending the day as a family would be good for all of us. Thankfully we had another volunteer helping Calah this morning, so when I called she assured me that they would be fine without me. We all showered up and went for a walk through Brasov, up to the cable car and then took a short hike to the Brasov sign overlooking the city. It was so peaceful up on top of the hill, above the noise of the city and among God’s creation. The kids wanted to walk to the summit, but I decided to stay back and enjoy some time with God. I found a nice rock where I was able to have a wonderful conversation with God, thanking Him for the time I had with my grandmother. I know she is enjoying heaven and happy to be reunited again with her loved ones who went before her.

Here are some pictures of our day today:

From the top of Tampa Mountain

Lucia took a great picture of Jeff from the summit of Tampa Mountain.

Jeff and I were talking during our walk about how many things we have up in the air right now. It is like we just took our lives, threw up a bunch of possibilities for the future and now we are waiting to see how everything falls. While I was sitting atop Tampa Mountain I asked God for just a little glimpse into our future, just for one of our items to come back down where it belongs. I have written about patience and how difficult it is for me to wait for God’s timing, and I guess with everything going on I just needed a little something, the dust from just one of our many possibilities to settle. As I watched my family walk back down from the summit I was so grateful that Jeff suggested this. I really needed to be with my family today.

We walked through town and found a quiet little restaurant for lunch and I was a bit shocked that God came through so quickly with an answer to my prayer. The answer doesn’t matter as much as God’s quick response to what I needed. He is always there for me when I need Him and is even there when I don’t. He is the perfect example of what it means to care for others and take care of those we love. I felt His love and comfort today when I needed it the most and for that I am very thankful.

Friday January 25, 2019

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

Even though goodbyes are becoming part of our life now, they don’t get any easier. We got up early and showered (actually I took a bucket shower because there was no water pressure), got the kids up and ready, finished the last bit of packing, and headed downstairs for our last breakfast on the mission. Clifton led a wonderful prayer and all these goodbyes brought tears to my eyes and overwhelmed my heart with a mixture of joy and sadness. Anjali was able to hand out her friendship bracelets we made last night and we all were bombarded with hugs and friendship bracelets from everyone.

The mission kids had school today and I am so grateful they did because I don’t know how we would have ever gotten out of there. They all leave for school at 7:45, right when our car pulled up. We did the final goodbye hugs and the older kids headed off to school. The little ones were still there because they don’t start until 9:00, so I was finally able to capture Ruhani’s infectious laugh on video. Check it out on my Instagram page @sarassimplelife. As we drove away from our home over the last 2 months, we were comforted by letters and cards made by the kids. It was such a wonderful gift from them and we read some during our drive.

After a group prayer we piled in the car before the tears could begin and we were off of our 375 km/12 hour trip to Delhi. This drive was similar to every other drive we have done in India, complete with crazy driving and weird traffic situations. At one point, as we neared the suburbs of Delhi we encountered some construction in which we went from 3 designated lanes (which actually means 5-6 lanes of cars) down to one designated lane (which meant 2-3 lanes of cars). This experience was so crazy. I have never felt so trapped while in a car as I did then. I don’t think we were even able to open the car doors to get out, not that we would, but there were cars and motorbikes everywhere!

But we finally made it to our hotel near the airport. We checked in and dropped our luggage off in the room before heading to dinner. The food here was good, but everything we ate reminded us of our Banbasa home we just left. Nothing tasted nearly as good,probably because we were really missing the company.j

I was really not feeling well at all, the air quality here in Delhi was worse than in Banbasa and I was extremely grateful that Aunty Rosie was kind enough to give me a couple masks to wear; they helped a ton. Pretty much after dinner I headed to bed. We had a long day ahead of us, since our flight was not until 9:45 pm tomorrow night. But I will say that we made the right decision to drive to Delhi today rather than tomorrow on Republic Day. The hotel was crazy busy and so were the roads, tomorrow would be so much worse.