“Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
Apparently Romania observes daylight savings time which resulted in our losing an hour unexpectedly overnight. Rather than getting to “sleep in” until 8 and then get ready for church, Sara and I “overslept” until 9. We both realized our mistake right away but fortunately the kids were in good spirits which made a more rapid preparation for the day possible. Those that wanted to and could do so quickly showered and then we headed out for service. We are fortunate that even here in the middle of Romania there is a church which offers a service in Romanian and English. While that means that services run a little longer than our usual 1 hour, we at least get to sing along with most songs and understand the sermon.
After finishing church I walked the kids home along with Anjali’s new friend Rebecca. The girls had made plans to bake a cake following church and then we invited Rebecca’s family, our new friends from New Zealand, over for dinner. The girls learned, and more importantly were open to, the concept of many advisors. Anjali has, in the past, been known to attempt to do things on her own without instruction because, as she puts it, she wants to be independent. Her belief is that independence means capable of doing things on your own with no assistance whatsoever. Without counsel, plans go wrong. Unfortunately she has had to learn this lesson often and at most times with great distress as she is also very headstrong. But in this case, and perhaps because her friend was present, she was more willing to consult a recipe as well as be open to counsel from Sara, our resident baking expert. As a result, the cake and icing turned out beautifully, a real treat for the 6 kids and 4 adults. Better yet, Anjali had a great time with baking and spending time with her friend. I hope that this lesson will reinforce the notion that independence does not mean ignoring good counsel but rather knowing how to use the good counsel around her.
While the girls baked, Sara and I got to spend some time together doing yoga, something we both enjoy but rarely get to do together. Our detox practice was refreshing and invigorating helping to loosen our bodies and our minds. I find these hour long practices to be the perfect opportunity to not only feel healthier but to clear my mind of all the clutter that I allow to enter and remain. I find it is good to clear my thoughts so that I can better allow the good counsel of others to enter, whether it be the quiet voice from God or the more overt voices of my friends, spouse, and children.
Psalm 19:12 So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
We all were invited to a birthday party for one of the kids downstairs, so we made a quick trip this morning in search of a gift and in the process we picked up a few toys for our kids as well as some journals. I am not sure why the sudden urge has hit them to keep a journal, but as soon as they mentioned it, I immediately wanted to get them started so to make sure I didn’t miss the opportunity. Getting our kids to keep a journal has been next to impossible to accomplish thus far, so we stopped trying. Plus the only good journal will be one that they put a true effort into completing. I really hope this takes off for them and that they buy into the gift of journaling. I pray for them to have a story from their perspective and not just mine. I would love for them to have something to look back on that would remind them of their ups, downs, joys, sorrows, frustrations, etc. We have done, seen, and experienced so much over the last 7 months and thus far all we have is a journal from my point of view.
I pray our children will internalize this scripture reading. So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. I pray they decide that a journal would serve them well and that they dive in head first to this challenge to start a new habit. A habit of capturing each day, each achievement and struggle, each hardship and joyful event in a way that provides them a window into this journey for them now and when they grow older.
As I look back on the last 7 months that have passed us by, I am so grateful for this daily journal I have kept. There have been times I have gotten behind, but I continue to make this a priority and to be true to our daily happenings. The scripture readings Jeff prepared for me ahead of time provides me with an opportunity for reflection and to see God’s hands in all that we do. I will always have this documented memory of everything that happened during the year we up and left our family, friends, and lives behind to follow God’s calling. My journal may also provide some insight for my children when they get older, and hopefully it will serve as a spark to remember their journey.
This journal provides me the opportunity to share all the ups and downs we face as a family currently living a very unusual life. I have really enjoyed sharing my emotions with all of you, but my initial reason for doing this was to always have a way to look back on this time. The side benefit is to show others that we are a real family experiencing real life, and that this is possible for any family willing to try. Trust me, if I can do it so can you. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this year is that if you are willing to be open to God’s call, He will bless you every step of the way and He will provide you with everything that you may need. My faith has grown stronger because of this journey and I am so thankful that we are doing this as a family and that I have been able to capture most of it in this journal.
Back to the day. We all really enjoyed the party. The kids played with the 10 kids there while Jeff and I enjoyed some good conversation with the adults. I am surprised how after just two weeks of being in Brasov, Romania we have connected with several American families (and a family from New Zealand) doing mission work here, who are also homeschooling. These families have been a huge resource for us as we continue to navigate through this year. As I am sure most of you know by now, homeschooling our children has by far been the most challenging and frustrating part of this whole journey. It hasn’t been the language barriers, the long and grueling travel days, the relocation every two months, or the volunteer work, but hands down it has been trying to teach our children and keep them current with their education. I give some huge props to homeschooling families. Our time here in Brasov has been a wonderful opportunity for Jeff and I to get some pointers from homeschooling veterans. Plus, all of us are getting to converse with people in our own language was a huge blessing today. Here are some pictures of the party and my kids completely engaged with kids they met within the last 2 weeks!
We had a very relaxed afternoon today after the party. We all read and hung out here at the apartment. As a family we agreed that the Europe sightseeing vacation we planned after Kenya was not what anyone really wanted or looking forward to, so we scrapped it. (This was a huge weight and I really don’t know why we were planning this in the first place. This year was never about vacations and sightseeing, so why were trying to fit this in at the very end of our trip?) We are still planning to visit with our friends in Germany and Sweden, but after that we will head back to the states (or at least that is the plan at this time, but I am very aware how quickly things can change). As I am sure most of you have read, I have applied for a job that has opened up a new career path for me. I know nothing about whether it is actually an option (I haven’t officially worked in almost 12 years), but I do have a more clear path for what I would like to do. I have really struggled with this part of our impending return to normal life, but with God placing this job in front of me I have a better sense of where I feel I am being called; it may not be this job and that’s okay because His plan will be wonderful and filled with blessings. I still continue to hope that this job is part of His plan, but I am not praying that it is, rather I am saying a prayer of gratitude that God has given me the direction for which I have prayed for so long.
Unfortunately the evening took a turn for the worse when the kids were not doing as they were asked I had to raise my voice. This caused David to spiral into one of his self-defeating moods which progressed quite rapidly. He ended up spending most of the evening up with us as we tried to get him to calm down and to help him realize that mistakes are what make us grow. He chooses to self-punish when he makes a poor choice rather than realize his choice, change his behavior and move on with his life. Instead he chooses to sulk. This happens over the silliest of stuff, like bumping into someone on the street because he wasn’t paying attention (every kid does this!), but he gets so angry at himself and becomes emotionally shut down. Now this isn’t every day, so don’t worry too much about him, but I realized yesterday that we need to work on some self-affirmations that include: mistakes help me grow, I am loved, I am worthy, I am a child of God, I will try my best, failure is an opportunity to try again, etc. So in addition to our daily devotionals (which we have been okayabout doing), we will add on a morning affirmation (because when you struggle doing just one thing, why not add another). I will be working hard to lead my children by example and be consistent with our devotional and our now self-affirmations.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2
I cheated. Today’s reading was only supposed to be verse two. But context is so important in so many cases and I did not think that only seeing verse two did justice for this reading. The very namesake of our non-profit, Casting Off, was predicated on this notion of throwing off all that hinders: material wealth, possessions, predispositions, and fear. Moreover, the great cloud of witnesses has been so instrumental in our mission. Without their support we might never have gone this far. So I feel it paramount that this portion of the Hebrews text be included in today’s reading. Jesus endured terrible hardship, pain, embarrassment, and ultimate human suffering for “the joy set before Him.” My hardships along my way then seem quite trivial by comparison. But they have not come without the one thing which is necessary as the ultimate guidepost, “fixing our eyes on Jesus.”
Tonight we spent an evening with some new friends whom we met this last weekend at church, our first service here in Romania. They are from New Zealand and like us felt called to leave their home and relocate. In their case this was more permanent in fashion in that they have been in Romania for three years now and their next stops will take them even farther from New Zealand. What I have enjoyed about their company is that they have been willing to share their ups and downs, challenges and successes, and most importantly have reaffirmed my faith. They did not question my feeling that we were called for this mission trip, instead they embraced it and shared their own similar experiences. When Sara and I spoke of the signs we saw, heard, or felt that prompted us in one direction or another they did not question our sanity or try to dismiss them as coincidence. Instead, they have acted as part of that great cloud of witnesses, like so many of our friends and family who have supported us from day one and sometimes later, realizing that keeping our eyes focused on the ultimate joy would bring us along God’s path.
Looking back on our travels I have seen so many instances of Jesus’ guidance in the strangest of ways. From the initial call to our recent change in plans which sent us to Romania in spring and then to Kenya later which ultimately was much better for the volunteer programs we were serving, we have seen God’s hand at play. As we spoke with our New Zealand friends about their experience and as I thought about my own I imagined that some people could and will simply dismiss this notion as us simply finding God, not the other way around. In other words, there were no signs or calling from God, we just saw a coincidence and assigned it to God to justify our desires.
Jesus was notorious for speaking in parables and was pretty good at it, I am no Jesus. But I will share what I think to be an apt way to think about these signs that we have seen. Imagine being on freighter on the Great Lakes, it is late fall or early winter, the gales are howling and the water is tumultuous. Feel free to throw on your tape of Gordon LIghtfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” if it helps. You have lost your ability to navigate through radar and maps so your only means of recognizing your heading and location is by way of lighthouses. You stare intently into the pitch black looking for the faintest glimmer of light and watch as the winds whip the water around you. You sense fear as your ship lurches to and fro and you wonder if you will make it home. As water breaks over the railings and the hatchways are in danger of giving way you catch the glimpse of a harbor light, a beacon of hope that promises safety and peace. Is that light a coincidence because you found it while looking for it? Or is it rather an opportunity for salvation? Better yet, does it matter why you saw it? The world is tempestuous place, to me it only seems natural to seek a light which will lead the way to safety and salvation. I don’t care how I found it or if it found me, I am just so thankful it is there and that it will guide me home.
Numbers 14:19-21 Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.” Then theLordsaid, “I do forgive, just as you have asked;nevertheless—as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of theLord—
We enjoyed leisurely getting out of bed and down to breakfast this morning followed by a drive to Mirissa, a bordering beach town where the whale watching is superb. We hired a driver who was more than willing to make a quick pit stop in Galle to check out the old Dutch Fort that overlooked the Indian Ocean. We enjoyed walking around this quaint tourist town, checking out local shops and indulging in some waffles (the kids were in heaven).
We arrived at our hotel in Mirissa and headed straight out to dinner in the sand at a local restaurant. The food here was great and so were the margaritas! This was a wonderful evening watching the kids play in the surf and sand, just like they did last night. I think they are really enjoying the beach lifestyle. I am so thankful to be sitting here surrounded by God’s beautiful creations.
We have to be up very early for our whale watching excursion, so we put the kids to bed and then we headed outside to have some beers by the pool at the hotel. But we ended up sitting down at a table with 2 of the guys that worked at the hotel to drink our beers. We enjoyed some great conversation and laughter. It was a wonderful hour or so getting to know these nice young men. I love that Jeff enjoys this just as much as I do…putting ourselves out there to meet new people and that we are both able to have a conversation and loads of laughter with people we just met. It was a nice ending to our day.