Chronicle of Madelyn

IMG_9335

We were excited and ready to get things going!! img_20180722_114229

This was my delivery room… I got the private one! 聽img_20180722_134419

Right through this door is a long hallway with open mini delivery stations… a woman was brought by ambulance already in late active labor and in a matter of 30 minutes we heard the baby’s cries! 聽THAT was a unique experience! 聽When she was brought in, Josh went ahead and closed the door….聽we were “close” enough to the action already. 馃檪

img_20180722_143230

So mean….聽eating the sandwiches we had made and brought when I couldn’t. 聽I wouldn’t let him eat the last sandwich because I was going to eat it once I delivered… I’d just take the meat and cheese off since so much time had gone by… but, guess what was still in my bag wrapped in tinfoil when I came home?!! 聽He’s sporting the scrubs that one is required to purchase at a local apteka聽(pharmacy) and wear in the delivery room. 聽Almost could pass for a doctor!! 馃檪

13 1/2 hours into it, the bottom part of the cervix was still not softening even with all the shots and things they were doing. 聽At 2 am it was determined that I’d need to go in for a c-section. 聽I was ready to just meet her and get on with it. 聽 They were moving so quickly and efficiently that it was hard to believe that at 2:30 am we heard her first cries! 聽 Josh had to wait outside the operating room, but he could easily hear her cries. 聽They then brought him into the room and he got to watch them measure and clean her up and hold her. 聽She weighed in at 5 pounds 9 ounces and 19 inches long!

It was discovered that the umbilical cord was abnormally short, in fact, he couldn’t bring her up to show me her over the surgical blind. 聽The doctor said he discussed it with colleagues and it was probably the reason why I had UGR and affected her growth rate. This is pure speculation, but I wonder if it was a blessing in disguise my cervix wasn’t doing what it was suppose to do and had the c-section. 聽Nothing matters now as she’s with us!!

Sunrise at the hospital

Sunrise on聽Monday, July 23.

Madelyn holding Josh's finger

Madelyn’s assured by Daddy’s presence while I was in recovery.

img_20180723_074320

After two hours in the recovery room, I was brought up and united with Madelyn and Josh. 聽I shared a room with two other moms and their babies.

img_20180725_163956

Food given by the hospital for breakfast and supper was the same: 聽three pieces of (the freshest, yummiest!!) bread, meat or cheese, butter, and typically a piece of lettuce (I declined the radishes…). 聽I failed to take a picture of lunch, but it was always some potatoes, a meat, and soup. Honestly, I found the food to be very delicious!

img_20180726_084329img_20180727_085147Madelyn’s doctor posed with her while she received phototherapy for jaundice. 聽He came by almost every day and we聽were blessed to have had his expert care and concern these last 7 months! 聽img_20180726_125743

She started treatment Thursday early afternoon and through Friday noon. 聽Don’t let this photo fool you… she did NOT like being on the bed and especially having to wear the special sunglasses!

img_20180723_114804

Photo taken on Monday by big sister, Lauren, when she came to visit. She did not have a full bath until Wednesday night.img_20180726_083033

And a picture after bathtime with her hair all nice and clean.

img_20180727_125053

On Wednesday, the gal in the middle got to go home and just two of us remained. 聽Then the third gal (who had arrived after me!) got to go home on Thursday, so I was all alone. 聽I would have to say that I thought it would be really difficult being in a room with other women, but that’s one neat aspect of the Polish culture. They are very communal and not bothered at all in “sharing” space. 聽It turned out to be a neat experience. img_20180726_142713img_20180727_125031

I had gone down the hallway to take a shower and when I returned, Josh informed me that because her bilirubin counts came back good, we had the clearance to leave! 聽So I got her ready to go and she took a nice long nap while paperwork was taken care of.

IMG_9402

Somewhere she’s in there!

IMG_9405Kaylor and Lauren prepared a banner to greet their baby sister.

 

It’s still hard to believe we are now a family of 5!

Beauty in the Details

 

The majority of these pictures are credited to the eye of Lauren. 聽She has that “eye” and somehow manages to capture the beauty in the details. 聽A few of the pictures I took, but between the two of us, I feel like we have been able to capture natural beauty while living in Poland. 聽The pictures span our time here and in no particular order. 聽Some are from when we lived in Tomaszow, out at camp, or around Poland during some excursions.

It gets a little emotional looking back over all our pictures as I was pulling these particular beauties out. 聽All the events and activities we’ve been a part of, the joys and sorrows as we’ve trudged through the cross-cultural waters, and reminders of the nuggets of clarity following times of great uncertainty….聽the array of photos that capture almost two years of hopes and dreams does indeed conjure up many emotions. 聽We’re writing the final chapters of our time in Poland and doing it in a rather unusual way with our family separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

How do you move forward when your heart doesn’t want to let go?

Adversity glows red… 聽hot embers that can quickly escalate into a huge bonfire or a smoldering pile of ashes once put out. 聽I read from a daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, every day and this past week was poignant:

“Our circumstances are the means God uses to exhibit just how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure His Son is. 聽Discovering a new way of manifesting the Son of God should make our heart beat with renewed excitement….聽And if God puts you into adversity, He is adequately sufficient to “supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19).”

Leaving Tomaszow was like losing the wind for sailing. 聽Life as we knew it stopped. 聽The wind did pick up and we “sailed on”, but it never was the same. 聽It’s been almost 6 months and I’m faced closing out my chapter of living in Poland with such defeat. 聽Our two years of living here have looked so different. 聽It’s as if we have had two different lives. 聽Thankfully camp has always been a place that has stayed the same and it symbolizes so much for me personally. 聽It’s something I feel like I can still feel good about in terms of my role with the ministry.

SO…looking forward to our next steps of reuniting our family (bit by bit!) back Stateside is just another difficult period to imagine as there is nothing solid and concrete to visualize… and I’m (if you haven’t already guessed) a visual learner. 聽So the Scripture from Philippians is what I cling to: 聽He is adequately sufficient to “supply all my need”.

AND the pictures are something I felt the Spirit moved me to share because as I am wrestling with the question “How do I move forward when my heart doesn’t want to let go?” I’m sensing the answers lies embedded between the pictures (the beauty in the details) and the words Oswald Chambers penned in my daily devotional.

Hopefully, 聽by the time I board the plane in September with a newborn in tow, I will have found the answer to this question AND found peace in the closure of this chapter in our lives. 聽And not only that but an excitement for the next chapter.

Yes, Lord, I want to be a vessel and conduit of our love and be joyful in where you are placing us next. But the next chapter can’t begin until this one is fully closed, right? 聽Help me to see the beauty in the details…. the details that already are present and visual to my eye. 聽Because TRUTH teaches me that you WILL meet all of my needs: emotional and physical. 聽Help me to learn how to simultaneously “let go” and “move forward”. 聽Help me to have that “heartbeat of renewed excitement” as you manifest Your Son in my life in only the way You know is best in bringing You glory.

Winter/Spring… which will it be?!

We’ve had a busy, yet fantastic last month as we’ve been involved in many aspects of the ministry here in Poland.

Sure, the weather, much like in the US right now, can’t decide if it will be winter still or spring!!!

Nonetheless, we all continue to do what we need to, right?! 聽I enjoyed the March women’s get together at camp and then the performances for Road to Jerusalem held at the castle in Inow艂贸d偶 the weekend before Easter. 聽The pregnancy kept me from fully being able to participate the entire weekend, but I did manage to do a full performance and then a few of them I welcomed the guests to “Jerusalem” waving palm branches and singing Hosanna. 聽Josh was a disciple, so he was in all of the performances.

Josh and Ann RoJ

Josh and I quickly posed before another performance.

IMG_20180324_133724_1.jpg

Waving the palm branches and singing Hosanna as Jesus and the disciples come into Bethlehem (ask Josh sometime about how cooperative the donkey was for Jesus!).

RtJ snowIt took the prep/tech crew longer to get the castle ready because of a snowstorm that hit a week before! An incredible amount of work is involved weeks prior to the performances. 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 (photo courtesy of Proem)

IMG_20180316_161512.jpg

This snowstorm took everyone by surprise and hinder women from making it to Zako for the March women’s gathering. 聽Road diversions (which was sadly due to a crash that resulted in a fatality) and multiple accidents caused us to creep out to camp slowly. 聽Thankfully we were only coming from Tomaszow where we had just wrapped up our teaching. 聽Doubly thankful we didn’t have to drive back to聽艁贸d偶 that afternoon!Women's Event Tea

There was a relaxing women’s tea with a string quartet playing on Saturday wrapping up our time together. (photo credits to Proem)

Women's Event makeup

A session about the聽application of makeup from a professional was enjoyed by all! 聽It was fun filled “girlie” type of weekend! (Photo credits to Proem)

 

We celebrated Easter with the 艁贸d偶 Tomy Church and then enjoyed a fantastic American style lunch with American teammates. 聽It was fun sharing an American style dinner with our friend who is from Belarus and also away from her family. 聽Her first and she said all (ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, tossed salad, deviled eggs, bread) was delicious!

Easter in Lodz

A quick photo with everyone following the Easter church service. 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽(Photo credits to Proem)

 

Our American teammates are such gracious hosts AND it was such a joy to enjoy it on their newly acquired Polish pottery! (The bottom right picture shows Josh and our friends hard at work just to get some good ‘ol ice!!)

 

As many of you now know, we are beginning the many “lasts” of our time living and serving here. 聽Josh has accepted a position with a fantastic school back in NH and will be leaving in a week. 聽He was able to participate in the “first” Good Friday and Easter service with the聽艁贸d偶 Tomy Church, but that also means it is his last. The girls and I will remain here to finish out the school year and have our baby girl here late July. 聽Josh will fly back for the birth. 聽As bittersweet as it is, we are rejoicing in the time we’ve had in being a part of His Kingdom work here in Poland and finishing the rest of our time here with full hearts. 聽 There’s still much that we get to participate and help with, so blogs will still continue!

Blessings!!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating What He IS Doing

When you are in a constant state of change and unknowns, there’s a tendency, at least for myself, to, well, struggle and struggle inwardly. Despite the inward struggle that has encompassed聽pretty much my entire last year and a half of my life, God is vibrantly at work all around me! I’ve always said “We don’t get to dictate how God is going to manifest Himself in our lives” and well, that is ringing pretty loudly in my life once again!

I feel like the blog has more or less showcased my life which highlights personal change, struggle and how I have聽coped with it. 聽What’s difficult for me is reconciling the hopes I had for the blog in detailing all the amazing ways God is using us, our family, and our impact for the global Kingdom here in Poland versus how self-absorbed it actually has become.

Honestly, truly聽in聽all honesty, all that is happening here would be occurring without us.

The “story” is in our personal lives and how we have and still are responding to it all. 聽It’s hard to accept at times and I think that’s where the “struggle” comes into play.

We struggle and resist the “way” He chooses to manifest Himself in our lives because it is contrary to our dreams and expectations of how He would use us. 聽I think this is actually healthy as it eventually places us at the foot of the cross. 聽The ‘getting’ there is entirely individualistic and dependent on us, but make no mistake, we’ll all get there. 聽Either on this side of heaven or before Him face to face.

BUT, I can indeed say with great joy that there are a lot of great things happening within the context of the ministry for ProEm in Tomasz贸w and in 艁贸d偶 despite our personal, on-going craziness!

Not just in these two communities, but all throughout Poland. 聽ProEm’s worship band, Exodus 15, shares how they receive numerous emails detailing testimonial changes as a result of their music. 聽Music is and always has been a聽powerful medium for me, so I’m not surprised this, but it’s always awesome to hear how people are personally touched. 聽They are often in venues all around Poland and this is but one aspect of the ministry I have barely shared how God is working.

Another area is the after-school program at Solna Street in 艁贸d偶. 聽Relationships are being built with the kids and connections are being made with lasting impact among the parents. American teammates of ours are going to open their home Sunday evenings to study the Bible together, but in English, which opens doors for the diverse population here in 艁贸d偶 who may want to either expand their Engish skills or for those who live here like us and don’t speak Polish.

The school continues to thrive in Tomasz贸w.

The church and it’s various ministries are thriving both in Tomasz贸w and 艁贸d偶.

Eyes are set for another city, so I mean, listen, I could go on and on about all the wonderful things happening and lives changing and it’s important for me to share:

That it IS happening!

So this brings me to a personal reflection on the church here in Poland and even Eastern Europe. 聽I’ve been able to see firsthand the collective unity among the Body of Christ all throughout Poland. 聽Poland by name is a Christian country, but, like the USA, there is a brokenness and disconnect between having a relationship with our Creator and the Church as a whole. 聽But I have met people, not only from Poland, but from Eastern Europe who are working so hard in their communities and God is blessing their efforts. 聽I have had an amazing privilege of meeting people on the front-lines and they are NOT Americans. 聽They are Ukrainian nationals, Belarussian nationals and Lithuanian nationals.

I can honor them by praying for them and I mean really praying for them in the battleground for Him. 聽It’s not even praying for more American missionaries to “go” abroad, but praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ in each of their countries to rise up and “share what He has done” to those right there around them… in their own heart language in their own cultural context! 聽It’s happening, I am seeing it happen here in Poland! 聽My life may have been a messy one here, but oh my gosh, the thrill of seeing my Polish brothers and sisters share with their friends, family, colleagues, neighbors is like no other. 聽 To give an example, the women’s ministry team decided to offer another day for the women’s conference next weekend because SO many signed up and many had to be put on a waiting list!

Don’t you see? 聽I’m counseling myself right now as I write these words because we are in the middle of waiting on God’s next steps!聽 The writing on the wall has been there regarding our return to Stateside and it’s been a tremendously difficult thing for me to process. 聽So….

Instead of staying heartbroken in what seems to be our inability to live a healthy and productive life as a family unit here in Poland, I can celebrate all that God IS doing.

Instead of staying heartbroken over the women I have forged relationships with and feel God has used me to touch their lives (as they have most certainly touched mine), I can celebrate that they have been introduced or are connected to many other amazing Polish sisters who love the Lord and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

I leave you with a request to pray about your partnership with Christ. 聽Are you struggling against “how” God is trying to manifest Himself in your life? 聽Are you praying for genuine transparency in allowing God to use you RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE with your family, friends, colleagues? 聽Are you praying our brothers and sisters all around the world, just like you who are living in your home country? 聽Are you praying for the Body to be unified and strive together? 聽Are you praying about participating in a short-term missions trip? 聽Because I see the fruit of when churches partner with existing ministries and the teams actually aid/help/support the ministry, so why not pray about this?

Collectively, in this moment, let’s take a look around and celebrate all that He IS doing!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making new routines…

Well, we are moved in to our new apartment in 艁贸d偶 and have quickly settled. We found homes for a few pieces of furniture that we didn’t need and was able to move everything over in one of ProEm’s vans.

I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to have our own place again!!

It’s a lovely apartment with two bedrooms and walking distance to their school. 聽The girls aren’t thrilled about sharing a bed, but they are learning to make it work. 聽I think the fact that the bathroom is the largest we’ve ever had makes the bed sharing more manageable!

We have quick and easy access to the buses and trams, so we’re becoming well versed in big city transportation! 聽We have many shops if we need something quickly and only a 4 minute drive to the nearest Auchan (think Super Walmart). 聽Location fits our needs very well! 聽One of Kaylor’s closest friends doesn’t live that far away, so they’ve taken advantage of spending extra time together. 聽Ahhh… it’s just nice to be settled once again!

Lauren is now attending the same school as Kaylor and is making new friends. 聽This came as a result of the British International School asking me to come teach and help at their school. 聽After receiving the green light from ProEm, I am now teaching there three days a week. 聽The school has grown by 30% just this past year. 聽They have 22 different nationalities! 聽I’m enjoying getting to know the teachers there and have such lovely students as well. 聽Because the school is growing so much, they are requesting Josh to come in and help, so perhaps after the start of the new year, Josh will be able to help out there, too! 聽Never in a million years could we have imagined our lives to change in this way! 聽But being part of the 艁贸d偶 team now and living here, we hope that our presence in the school will aid in God’s purposes for this community.

Josh returned to the school in Tomaszow before I did (I wanted to get settled in to our new apartment and get a week under by belt at the British school), but we have really enjoyed reuniting with the students there as well. 聽 I won’t be teaching the primary level, but I did get to substitute for one of the 3rd grade classes and that was really fun to have that opportunity. 聽I’m teaching grades 6,7,9 and 10. 聽I am also taking 1/2 of grade 5 and 4 when they meet, but I don’t have to plan the lessons. 聽They have realized the need for smaller class sizes when trying to teach speaking and listening skills, so I’m happy to be able to help in this way.

Winter is a busy time of year in the life and ministry of ProEm. 聽We are full throttle with the Journey to Bethlehem outreach out at the camp and this year the 艁贸d偶 team has been busy helping the Gingerbread House at the center of the mall at Manufaktura 10-8 every day. 聽Josh has been the one working shifts there and providing much needed help.

image005

Helping at the Gingerbread House!

image006

The first weekend of Journey to Bethlehem we hosted a women’s event at camp as well. 聽I was in charge of cookies as we had three stations for women to do things. My station was where women could roll and cut-out cookies and decorate them. 聽I prepared 6 batches of sugar cookie dough ahead of time and managed keeping up with frosting! 聽I invited my good friend who teaches English in 艁贸d偶 to come and we made some great memories together that Friday night and Saturday! 聽This was her first time to camp and meeting all these crazy women! 聽Needless to say, she’s ready for the next one!

I’m writing this post as most people are busy making last minute trips to the stores for Christmas or on the roads traveling to be with family. There’s always a sadness during the holidays, particularly Christmas, when we are not with family, but we can skype and be included in the family festivities afar. 聽My parents are alone for Christmas for the first time in 44 years as well, so I’ve got nothing to complain about!! 聽 聽We hope to make the drive to Tomaszow to attend Christmas Eve service, but Lauren has been sick with this virus that is going around. 聽I haven’t felt great either, so we shall see. 聽Otherwise, our plan is to have an evening of Christmas movies and a choice of soup. 聽Christmas Day we will head over to one our teammate’s apartment and celebrate together as they are also without family from the States.

Merry Christmas!

BISUL Christmas Event Kaylor

Kaylor’s back is to us, but she is going out for her tap dance performance for the school’s Christmas event. 聽(pictures of the Christmas Event courtesy of someone from BISUL)BISUL Christmas Event Lauren

You can’t see Kaylor in the back, but Lauren is in the front row and these are year 7,8 and 9 students.BISUL Christmas Event Primary

I had to include a snapshot of this crew… they are the primary students (Year 3-6) and all whom I teach! Their performace was a song that was hilarious!

IMG_20171221_115022.jpg

We were all excited the other day for the snow at BISUL (the international school)! 聽Sadly, it melted by the evening as it turned to rain, but in the moment it felt like a Christmas wonderland!IMG_20171220_174855.jpgOur Christmas tree that we finally bought and got decorated only a few days ago. 聽Guess a year of living in Poland has rubbed off on us as this is the time most Poles go out and buy theirs! 聽IMG_20171208_231305.jpg

This is at the women’s event on Friday night… lots of crazy activities and my friend is in the hat!

25352149_567022613648674_4690731129769243813_o

My friend and I just having some fun! She’s such an inspiring person!
25311114_567024963648439_2899381582479804803_o

We had a special treat… American pancakes! 聽The men from two teams from the States (Mosaic Christian Church in Baltimore and Southeast Christian Church in Louisville) treated us women to pancakes Saturday morning!

25188726_567025570315045_9186264045800840361_o

Even Lauren joined my friend for the cookie fun!IMG_20171209_101343.jpgThese are two of the cookie helpers! 聽Genesis, in the peach sweater, is one of my teammates here in聽艁贸d偶 and we’ll be spending Christmas Day with her family.

24774706_10204065379151624_8387015945040862874_n24775075_10204065379631636_3810151903547782341_n

The above two photos were taken a day before my friend came to our women’s event. This is her classroom and shows how we ended up meeting! 聽She participates in a program where she has her Polish students video conference another school from around the world. 聽Prior to our moving to Poland, my colleague from Nashua had joined the same program and our two schools were randomly chosen! 聽This is the most recent video conference and you can see the students from my old school! 聽I always am invited and get to say “hi” at the end, which is really fun to do! 聽How cool is that?!

IMG_20171201_085553.jpgThis is the front of our building. 聽We are in the “orange” apartment complex, but our flat is in the back. 聽I still need to take pictures inside, though!

 

Never Lose Hope

 

images.jpeg

I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile, but not sure how to best articulate all that 聽has been inside of me for the last 2 1/2 months. 聽I don’t want to spend much time on this as I’ve been wrestling with the monster called “disappointment” for far too long and I’m ready to move beyond it, but to not address it and not speak of it would be hiding behind a facade. 聽When you are a “missionary” living abroad, there are a lot of spoken and unspoken expectations placed on you. 聽Wrestling with disappointment can be tricky business. 聽Your life is on showcase whether you like it or not.

I have come to learn that we all create a lot of expectations about our lives, no matter where we live, but when our expectations are shattered, what happens?

Well, I can only speak for myself… and this is my story: 聽When my family and I moved abroad to be a part of God’s story here in Poland, 聽I brought with me wonderful, really good spiritual aspirations, you know? 聽They were packaged in beautifully wrapped expectations, too.

But I quickly discovered that those beautifully wrapped expectations would never be quite as beautiful as I thought. In fact, many expectations turned into disappointments and those are the kinds of gifts no one wants to receive. 聽Mainly because they hurt so darn bad and you don’t have a choice in receiving it.

The choice rests in how you handle it.

So, what does an optimist like myself do? 聽I repackage a new set of expectations with hope that things will be different. 聽 AND things WOULD indeed turn out to be different, but not in the way I was expecting and well, the weight of it all was too much to carry and I broke down. 聽But in my bitter disappointment, I have learned a great deal and will forever be changed because of it.

 

What I’ve learned is that it’s nearly impossible to opearate and function well from a place of hurt. So being around people was really hard for me, and I basically holed up. I feel I have reached a new level of empathy for people who are in an intense place of hurt and feel more compassionate for the hurting.

I also learned that I had to face all my disappointments and that the life I had envisioned here in Poland was not going to be what I had expected. 聽I had to face them head on. 聽I had to process a gamet of emtions such as anger, shame, and grief and I’m incredibly thankful for some recommended authors and books to read as they have been great therapy for me!

Also, I have had an incredibly rich time with God this past month in my brokeness and what I’m discovering is this:

Perhaps… just perhaps what God had envisioned was something entirely different than my really wonderful and good spiritual aspirations and being broken meant He can now do something infinitely greater?

I am typically a happy, energetic optimist. 聽I’m a risk taker (with limits), but I don’t shirk away from adventure. 聽I’m organized, a planner and like order and I’m definitely appreciating more simplicity. 聽I guess I could honestly say this season of brokenness is good for the soul, but I’m ready to move on with life.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes, just as Martin Luther King Jr. has said:

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

 

 

 

 

Say What?!?

House Flood stairs

If you look closely, you can see the bubbling of the wall due to the water.

This past weekend, our lives have taken an unexpected change. 聽We no longer have the home we’ve loved living in due to a water hose breaking. 聽I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty scary arriving home to water dripping down the walls and ceiling in our front door entrance. 聽Upon further investigation, there was almost ankle deep water in our kitchen with water in every room of our second floor home. 聽We made frantic calls and tried to reach our landlord who had been staying at his parents home to take care of the animals while they were on vacation. 聽Josh managed to shut off the water valve at the kitchen sink which was the location of where the water was spewing out of, but sadly, extensive damage had already been done.

In a moment of opening our front door, daily life is now chaotic with a slew of unknowns. 聽We are approaching almost a week and we still don’t have answers. 聽Insurance and procedures just work a lot slower here and we’re at the mercy of others informing us and taking care of us.

We try to be optimistic and positive for sure, but it’s unrealistic to think tension in a changed life’s situation won’t creep in and try to settle. 聽The effects of this change have created more challenges and obstacles and frankly, there are times it’s quite overwhelming.

Here’s what sustains us through this :

We serve a God who knows, who cares, and is relentless in pursing our hearts.

We fully know God will meet all of our needs and it’s not even about us, truly. 聽Most importantly, it’s about Him taking this situation and using it for His glory! 聽We are praying that God will use this in an amazing way in our landlord’s life, in his girlfriend’s life, in his family’s life. 聽We have group of guys from the Tomy Chuch “biting at the bit” to get in there and help him in any way they can. 聽The church has rallied as they should.

This… THIS is what I’m reminded of when I want to feel sorry for myself!

So for now… we wait.

We have the things that we “need” and at least have the assurance in knowing the rest of our stuff sits at the house unaffected by the water. 聽Because we live on the second floor, only items touching the floor were affected. We have damage to some personal furniture, but not to the extent we can’t still use them (as far as we know!).

BUT… it’s all material things anyways, so we focus on what’s most important and that’s relationships. 聽 聽 It’s now only showing love to our landlord through “help, but it’s showing greater love and grace to one another as well. 聽馃檪

 

House Flood firetruck

Firemen are pumping out the knee deep water out of the basement.

House Flood chair

A chair in the living room which has soaked up so much water…. you can somewhat see water through the window’s reflection. 聽The area rugs were so saturated.

House Flood Artur's living room

This is our landlord’s living room, which was not even the worst room in terms of damage. 聽Imagine opening his doors and seeing this! 聽 馃槮 聽

House Flood balcony

We even pulled our curtains down in order to use them to “soak” up water, although I quickly found they were not conducive to absorbing the water. 聽

 

 

God’s Messengers

We are a few days away from a significant change in our lives… our oldest daughter starts high school. 聽We went over last week to practice the walk to and from our friends’ apartment where she’ll stay a few nights a week. 聽I was a little shocked at how long it actually took us to walk from their apartment to the school: 聽a good 30 minutes. 聽艁贸d偶 is a very large city with well over a 1/2 million people. 聽We are grateful our friends actually live that close to her school.

A few things happened that I want to quickly share. 聽First, I was not weirded out by my 14 year old daughter walking 30 minutes alone in the huge city. 聽Of course there are the safety phrases of :聽“Stick to the busy streets” and be “constantly aware of your surroundings.” 聽Her school is located on the campus of the University of 艁贸d偶 near the University Hospital where I had my back surgery 5 years ago! 聽How ironic that she’ll be walking past it every day! 聽Needless to say, there are a lot of people in that particular area who can speak English should she ever need help. 聽 聽(We also, much to her happiness, finally got a SIM card for her phone with a phone number!)

My daughter isn’t a little girl anymore. Now I don’t necessarily get to say that she’s a “freshman in high school” as that’s not a phrase that is easily or automatically understood. Polish high school starts at grade 10 and they don’t use phrases like “sophomore, junior, senior.” 聽The British International school 聽doesn’t use those phrases either. 聽She’s in Year 10 (but not equatable to being a sophomore), so it’s a little weird to get used to this new verbiage. Nonetheless, that day walking to her school, past the brand new train station, next to a beautiful government building with a water fountain, and through the beautiful gardens on campus, I saw her growing up. 聽AND I was at peace.

The second thing that happened was the experience of “God’s Messengers”. 聽We (K, I and our friend who walked with us from her apartment) decided that since it was a good 30 minute walk, it would be useful to learn how to use the tram. 聽Our friend had yet to use it on her own herself, so I really encouraged us to “learn it together”. 聽There’s less fear in numbers! 聽I hate standing out as the obvious foreigner/tourist, but you have to suck it up from time to time to be able to move from that status to the one who knows what they’re doing. 聽Well, we definitely didn’t know what we were doing, but as I told K (while trying to figure out exactly which tram to take, from which platform and from which side of the street), God always sends His Messengers to help! 聽And, He did!

After determining the correct tram to take, we got on. 聽We were armed with the correct change, but after looking and looking, we could not figure out where or how to deposit the change! 聽We were CLEARLY “not from around here”. 聽Do we get off? 聽Do we stay? 聽What DO we do?! 聽I quickly glanced around and saw a guy in his 20’s. 聽I stepped up to him and asked him if he spoke English and if he could help us. 聽Jack pot! 聽He spoke English and he showed us the sticker on the machine that basically said that this tram does not take money.聽 We had to either pay by debit card or have the tram ticket already purchased. 聽Bummer. 聽Neither of us brought our wallet as we were just doing a practice “run” for K… no purses…no wallets! 聽K just happened to have enough change in her iPhone case that we could use to take the tram back, which is why we could even entertain the idea.

All of a sudden, an older Polish lady stood up from her seat and offered her debit card and offered to pay for our tickets. 聽A few side notes from what I’ve learned having shared this experience with others. 聽First… many people get on trams and don’t even pay. 聽There’s always a possibility of getting caught, apparently, as it just depends if there’s someone on board to catch people doing something of this nature. 聽The guy helping us? 聽He didn’t pay. 聽He was just riding it. 聽Not paying and riding the tram is pretty common, which is why my second note is even more poignant! 聽Second, an offer to help is HIGHLY uncommon. 聽It’s the mantra of ” You’re on your own kid. 聽Good luck!” 聽 聽Yet here was this woman who offered to pay for all three of our tickets! 聽While the transaction was taking place, K and I looked at each other and smiled. 聽See?! 聽See?! 聽God sent a Messenger to help! 聽**

For me, to experience that with my daughter was pretty darn special. 聽I find I’m having to reflect on that more this week as the days get closer to when I’m actually going to be dropping her off and not be there at her side. My heart flutters a little more with anxiety about her truly being “on her own” with no Mom or Dad by her side.

She will be on her own…. but not really.

God’s with her. 聽He’s been with her this past year when she struggled with her life turning upside down. 聽He is with her now as she processes new emotions in prepping for yet another totally new experience, and He will be with her聽when she is no longer in our watchful eye and care. 聽He’s got this. 聽Perhaps He needed to show me that more than He needed to show K!

Yes… yes, I think so…. just when I think a lesson in God’s provision and love is for someone else, He shows me just how loving and caring He is towards me!

 

** Before leaving the apartment, I had grabbed a 10 zloty bill out of my wallet and stuck it in my back pocket…. for “just in case” we got hungry and wanted to grab a pastry! 聽Thankfully, I was able to pay the lady with the bill, rather than the loose change K had on her! Also, once we got off the tram at our stop, we found a ticket booth that takes change. 聽This is where we can get tickets for each week and all she has to do is have it validated once on the tram!

 

Moving Forward

IMG_8209

I think this picture is fitting for us as we head into our second year of ministry here in Poland. 聽ALL the paths point “ahead” or “this way”… there’s no sign for “going back”!

This picture was taken in July when we were able to steal a few days away and go camping in New Hampshire with good friends. 聽We went hiking and Josh snapped this picture. 聽Little did I know how symbolic this picture will be for us this year!

First, our 6 weeks back in the States was NOT a 6 week vacation. So let go of any “envy” anyone might have in hearing that. 聽There definitelywere days and moments here and there that resembled a vacation, but I’ve come to learn that returning to the States will not be the time of “refueling and refreshing” in the sense I thought it would be. 聽It was non-stop and it felt non-stop!!

First we visited family in WI, then family in IL, then drove out to NH and back after two weeks, and wrapped up another week with my family coming down to IL. 聽We had back to back days that were literally packed with places to go and people to see.聽Don’t get me wrong, we have been craving it; we cherished it in the moment, and we LOVED it; NEEDED it; but all at the same time dying because of it! It’s the double edged sword!聽 We now know and we can make adjustments and changes based on this first year’s experience.

We have so many people to thank, but a special thank you to both our sets of parents for hosting us in their homes, to our friends Chris and Judy for hosting us in their home in NH and allowing us the freedom to truly come and go as we needed and use their washer and dryer! 聽Additionally, a special thank you to River of Life for having us speak from our hearts. 聽No updates needed…. just the good, the bad, and the ugly and how God redeems that in our lives! 聽AND finally, to all our friends in NH who we got to see, but not nearly or long enough. 聽You allowed us the freedom to not feel bad if we couldn’t work out one more opportunity to get together. 聽It just will never be “easy”!

What did we enjoy the most being back in the States? 聽Well, I am not sure how to express it without it coming across that the Polish culture is wrong or bad. 聽So may I preface everything with what I’ve always told my own students who were adjusting to American culture and life. 聽IT’S NOT BAD OR WRONG…. it’s just DIFFERENT. 聽

I 聽enjoyed:

  • smiling and greeting people as you walk by
  • smiling and telling the toll worker to “have a great day!”
  • smiling and saying “thank you” to the check out worker
  • not feeling like the new circus show in town at the grocery store and having people stare and wonder “What are they thinking of me? 聽Am I too loud? 聽Am I smiling too much? etc, etc, etc… your mind rapidly fires off thoughts the other people are more than likely NOT even thinking about you!!
  • standing in a line and not having anxiety about people cutting in front or how to “hold my own” in a line! 聽All I had to do in a line was wait my turn!
  • washing and drying laundry quickly
  • Watchamacallit (yep, those delicious chocolate,caramel rice crispy candy bars I can only ever find at Walmart or 5 Below!)
  • daydreaming while driving (you have to be constantly alert here… fast drivers, slow drivers, bicyclists, but interstate driving in the States allows me time to think and daydream while driving!)
  • walking around a store and not having to “think” while looking at the price tags or signs!
  • hearing English and participating in conversations easily

All of these may seem trivial and even silly, but many are underlying culture norms that can quickly and without warning become a huge heavy load of bricks on the heart, soul, and mind! 聽So the return to our home and native culture in of itself IS refreshing, no matter how busy the time in the day may be!

BUT… let’s shift now to the picture. 聽IMG_8209All the signs point in one direction. 聽There’s no path going in another direction. 聽There’s no going backwards. 聽We have regained our sense of footing, purpose, and optimism. 聽Was our first year messy? 聽Hard? 聽Filled with many feelings of failure? 聽Absolutely. 聽You don’t have to live in another country to feel or experience those things, so I don’t necessarily feel like we have something special going on. 聽The circumstances for all of us are unique.

So let’s face our next steps together. I’m not sure which direction your sign is pointing, but for us, I’m confidant in this popular, yet poignant, verse of Scripture found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

 

 

The Wrap up

We are wrapping up the end of our first school year with Proem EDU at the school. 聽 We’ve discovered that the end of the year in Poland is quite similar to the end of the year in the USA. 聽The kids are restless! 聽The teachers are exhausted!

One big difference and it’s unique to our school here, is that they have these amazing end of year programs for the parents. 聽Teachers create the programs and the students started practicing and rehearsing last week. 聽This week they spend a huge block of time each day at the Tomy church where the performances will be held (another big reason we need the gymnasium built!!). 聽SO, this means last Wednesday (there was a holiday in Poland last Thursday, so no school Th & F), we had our last day of “lessons”. 聽There was such a surge of excitement in the school last Wednesday being the “last day” coupled with the fact that it was going to 聽be a 4-day holiday weekend!

So this week we have not really known what classes we’ll actually have to teach. 聽Oh, and if we do have class, it’s not a “lesson”… it’s fun time… game time! 聽Yeah, it’s more like herding cats. 聽馃檪 聽End of the year school life.

The homeroom teachers for each grade have much more on their plate than Josh and I, so we’ve tried to be extra encouraging. 聽You can feel the stress and exhaustion in the air, especially in the teachers’ room. 聽The teachers’ social room is empty… no one has time to sit for tea or coffee and relax now. 聽Grades have been finalized (They actually have a teacher meeting where each teacher announces the final marks for each student. 聽It’s a very communal atmosphere!). 聽So we feel we shouldn’t complain too much about going into school and then sitting there half the day not knowing if our classes will be there or not. 聽We also had a 4 hour end of year teacher’s meeting last night! 聽WOW!

Wrapping up also means no more visitors (at least for a while!) as we’ll be leaving for a visit back to the States. 聽May and June consisted of Ann’s father and Josh’s mother and nephew coming for a visit. 聽It was tricky with the girls still needing to do their school work and us having to go to school to teach, but we capitalized on any day off and the weekends! 聽Ann and her father enjoyed a 4-day road trip together to southern Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Germany since the students were all dispersed throughout Poland on an extended field trip. 聽(This is described next)

 

 

Greens Schools are field trips, except in Poland, they often include overnights… even up to a full week! 聽Grades 1-3 traveled somewhere together. 聽Grades 4-6 traveled together and then grades 7-9 traveled together. 聽Josh was needed as a male chaperone and enjoyed his time with the students from grades 7-9. 聽They traveled north and visited some pretty great places. 聽He got to see the place where WWII started in Poland, the largest brick castle in Europe (Malbork), and took a ride on an old ship in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea, just to name a few.

 

Green Schools are fascinating to us, but so much work for the teachers as they begin the planning of “where” back in the fall. 聽Then they have a parent meeting and present three different options of where and what to do. 聽The parents collectively decide and then the teachers have to firm up all the details and make all the reservations, etc. 聽Green Schools also can be 1 day field trips and they often take the students places (museums, cinema, theater plays, kayaking, etc.). 聽So this past year we’d get to school only to discover that a class or a few together would be leaving and we’d have no class that period. 聽Thankfully we don’t mind surprises like that, but we’ve had to get used to this type of communication to say the least!

The girls are still knee deep in their online school. 聽Some subjects are wrapped up now, but for both, they’ll be working through the summer. 聽Both grandparents, while they visited, kept the girls focused and working. 聽Sometimes they took a break and walked down to the neighborhood store for some ice cream. 聽This means the girls were not able to go to Green School and in fact, they haven’t been physically at the school for about a month. 聽There were too many interruptions and noise where they would typically sit to do their work, so it’s just been easier to stay at home. 聽Also, having family visiting made more sense for them to be home and doing work.IMG_7812

The girls with their cousin in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia… a weekend away from doing school work… the girls were thrilled!

This past Sunday was the church‘s annual picnic held at the camp in Zakosciele. 聽People from both churches in Tomy and Lodz came together on Saturday to fellowship and hang out. 聽Most stayed overnight and we collectively worshipped together there on Sunday. 聽Following the service, there were baptisms in the river, which is always a time of celebration. 聽One can only imagine the thoughts of kayakers passing by on the Pilica River! !Baptisms

Summer weather is here, which means more sun and warmth than days of rain and coolness. 聽People are out and about and traveling. 聽Us included! 聽This past holiday weekend Josh and I had the opportunity to join our friends and visit Lublin where they met during their university days. 聽It’s also the area where our friend, Alicja, grew up. 聽After the three hour trip to the eastern side of Poland, they played tour guide. 聽We stayed in Old Town Lublin which is considerably smaller than any other Old Town center we’ve been at in Poland, but it is incredibly beautiful and full of excitement with the shops and restaurants. 聽 We had a wonderful three days with them and appreciate all they showed and shared with us!

Lublin with friendsLublin Palace

So, this wraps up pretty much our life here in the last three months since the last blog. 聽School, teaching, and touring! 聽Now we return to the States to visit with family, friends, and churches! 聽It will be non-stop most of the time, but we snuck in a camping trip in NH just to get away! 聽We will return in early August and get ready for year #2!