New Year, New Attitudes

Wow. I’ve missed a lot of major events by not keeping you all updated, so I’ll try to give a brief rundown:

Christmas was fun….highlight was a sleepover with the kiddos, watching Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys (a personal favorite) and drinking hot chocolate. I hardly slept a wink between a mover and a talker, but it was well worth making the memory. 🙂

New Years Eve was less fun….had to take Hudson and another boy home early because they were fighting. Camille had a blast though playing games and watching a movie with the other big kids. There were fireworks in the village for a good 30 minutes at midnight. 🙂

New Years Day Hudson was upset about something (I can’t remember why now)….but it was bad enough that he put his boots and jacket on and told me he was leaving the house. The directors came to get him and he stayed a few days at their home to calm down while we discussed next steps. It wasn’t like we wanted him to leave, but something had to change. THANKFULLY after we came up with a plan, there has been a dramatic shift in his behavior and attitude. Thank you for those of you praying during those days.

Since the new year began, we’ve been battling defiant attitudes and rude behavior in Camille, and other lesser things in Hudson. But it CHANGED when for two days I had a fever and was just plain feeling crummy. The day before I got sick, I’d spent all day in a Biblical Counseling class, and then came home and proceeded to get terribly sick, overwhelmed by unruly kids (who were just really glad to have me home) and I didn’t know what to do. …..someone then just “happened” to send me a “Screwtape Letter” for Moms, and someone else just “happened” to send me a Tozer excerpt on suffering…..then I listened to a sermon about returning to God, and one of the points really struck me.

The pastor talked about how when we see everything with a criticizing eye, and do not see the blessings that God has given us, it’s like we’re turning our back on God……..and then I realized that I’d slipped into a pessimistic pit. Even when the kids were running out the door in socks to greet me because they couldn’t wait for me to get out of the car, all I saw was hyper kids who wouldn’t leave me alone, who were going to get sick, and who wouldn’t listen when I told them to go inside. I did not see the love in their eyes, their overflowing joy, their excitement to show me what they’d done all day while I was gone, and all the rest. Needless to say, Jesus and I had a face to face meeting and I confessed this pessimism and literally almost instantly the fever broke and I felt better. The kids came home shortly after and my perspective was drastically different. God changed my heart. In a big way. He gave me a renewed vision and a clear direction. Thank the Living God in Heaven!!!

……and then I sprained my foot. The next day. :/ Figures. I think God knew I needed some rest, so the doctor prescribed keeping my foot up and off walking for two weeks. It has been a blessing though to see Camille and Hudson jump to the occasion, helping out, saying “okay!” when I ask them to do something instead of complaining, and seeing them learn compassion. It really is a blessing to be here and to be with these kids. Thank you for being with me in prayer. Couldn’t do it alone

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Almost Illegal

This past week has held one of the most unnerving experiences I’ve ever experienced. As I was nearing the end of my first 90 days in Romania (where I didn’t need a visa) and was needing to apply for a visa, I was told to exit the country and then come back to reset my 90 days. Hopefully this makes sense in how I’m explaining it. Anyway, I decided to take advantage of the needed exit and spent a day in my favorite city Budapest!

In one day, I walked about 7 miles back and forth and all around the city. Exploring historical sights, holocaust memorials, Christmas markets, changing of the guard, the Danube, and of course took in some great panoramic views of the city! Also, our President and wife of International Messengers were in Budapest the same time I was, so we were able to meet up for a while to talk. That was a great blessing!

A few years ago, I read a book about the history of Budapest and learned about the Nazi & Soviet occupations of the city, and the executions of many Hungarians and Jews. So this visit to Budapest I looked for a few of the memorials to these people who lost their lives in the war of hatred. There was one particular memorial I wanted to see, called “Shoes on the Danube” where at one point in the war people were lined up here and shot, leaving them to fall into the river below. It was a very quiet place, thinking about what happened on this ground.

The next day I was so rested and refreshed. I was looking forward to getting back home and showing the kids a few of the things I bought for them…one of which is the coolest Advent Calendar that I’ve seen. There is a pop-up tree, presents and Santa, and each day you open there is a new paper ornament to hang on the tree. It’s pretty cool.

Anyway, as we were crossing the border, they waived us over to sit for a while. Not too bad. But then the guards had me and the driver get out of the car while the others waited, and he told me that I had 24 hours to either have a new visa or leave the country for three months….if I didn’t, I would be fined and put on a list to not be allowed back in the country! You can imagine my horror and shock at this news. What did he mean? What was I supposed to do? Needless to say, the rest of the drive home I was praying, asking others to pray and honestly feeling very nervous about the whole thing.

That night, a number of people were praying for me, and we made a plan with the staff here to help me fix the problem. They joked that in Romania it’s not a big deal to be illegal……I wasn’t laughing. It was scary to think of not having the right to be in a country that I currently was in, and what would happen. So the next day we got a few of the papers and exams done (about eight different locations, fees at one, doctors’ visit, etc.) to get a long-term visa, we talked to immigration and they told us if we could submit all the paperwork by the next day it would be ok. The daily verse that was sent to me that day was Psalm 35:22-23

“Lord, You have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.”

So the following day we stood in line for about 2.5 hours to talk to one guy at the immigration office…..which mind you is about the size of your bathroom and very dark. Just before it was our turn, I bowed my head and prayed for God’s provision. This man had the power to tell me I couldn’t have a visa or he could grant me favor. He looked through our folder of documents, seemed pleased. He didn’t even notice that I was one day past my 90 day visitation period. He told us we had to pay a fee for the visa, so we walked about three blocks to a local bank, paid a fee, got a receipt, walked back, showed the receipt and then he looked through all the documents again. He told me to follow him into the back room. I had to do this without the other staff, so that was a little nerve wracking, but I was praying the whole time. He took my photo, my fingerprints and then ripped off a square piece of paper, wrote a phone # on the back and told me to come back in one month to call that # and see if my visa was finished. I was approved!!

Oh my goodness. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was so happy that God once again provided and made a way for me to stay here. This was something we’d been working on for months and in two days it was done. Praise the Lord in Heaven!!! The verse that came to me this day was Psalm 18:17

“He rescued me from my powerful enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.”

Thank you for pleading on my behalf, for praying along side me, and for rejoicing in the victory of our Lord! He has fought the battle and won it for me today. He has won it for all of us! We have many reasons to rejoice, and today this is just one reminder of His faithfulness towards us!

Quick Update and Prayer Needs

I just realized I haven’t blogged in nearly two weeks, and only have a few minutes, so here goes:

It’s full-on fall here, but much wetter than I’m used to in Minnesota. We are planning to have an “American Thanksgiving” here, but there will only be two Americans present and about 30 Romanians and 1 Canadian. It’ll be interesting I’m sure, as the stories I’ve heard from the last attempts they’ve made for Thanksgiving have had live turkeys perched in the kitchen or other similar shenanigans!

I’ve had a struggle with packages, and am learning the hard way how lucky we are in America to have a reliable and not completely corrupt postal system.

The Bible study with the older girls is going well. One of the girls is doing well at memorizing scriptures I give them, and all the girls enjoy the time to talk about the Bible and life….and enjoy the tasty treats I always make too. Whatever brings them, I don’t care, as long as the end result is that they’re in the Word and hopefully it will impact them.

We caught another mouse, and later I saw two more but haven’t heard/seen them since that day, so……..I don’t know where they are. I’m just pretending they left our house when they heard the racket I made seeing the last one. One thing Romania (or at least my area of Romania) doesn’t sell, are mouse traps! It’s the weird little things that you take for granted in the States that I’m missing here. So……..pray for my sanity. 😉

The two kids at my home have had a struggle with their Mom recently, talking to her a few times by telephone. She’s wanting to take them with her for a few weeks over Christmas and there are mixed emotions from both of them. Hudson doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t want to be around the boyfriend, and said “She says he loves me, but just because he buys me things doesn’t mean he loves me.”….pretty insightful for an eight-year-old. Camille told me that she wants to go, but is sad that I would be alone over Christmas. She told me….”If we go, and you can’t see us, can you sleep in my room so you’re not afraid?” That was pretty sweet I thought. Pray for them, for there are some real deep wounds that they carry and this time with their Mom will certainly bring those to the surface.

Another timely request, is that our directors’ Dad just fell and broke his neck. He’s 87. Tomorrow, both of the directors will travel back to the States to help him in his healing/adjusting process and there are some serious family struggles going on as well, so they’ll have to deal with that as well. Pray for their travel safety, for the Dad’s healing, for peace and God’s grace as they enter into this. Pray also for us, as we divide up the responsibilities they carry here, and miss them while they’re away.

Lastly, you don’t know the struggle it took to get the picture below, but I tell you what. I think the end result is great! I’m so thankful and honored to be able to chosen to help guide these children as they grow. There’s real hardship some days, but there is also joy. The Joy of the Lord is my strength!!

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Mice, Peanut Butter and Puppies…..and Grace

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What can I say about the past two weeks?….I’m currently headach-ing so I can’t remember specifics about two weeks ago so pardon me if I meld it in the current week that’s passed.

Our fearless directors visited Israel for 7 days and if you think a lot cannot happen in seven days, you haven’t lived for very long. We also have a week long vacation for kids in the 4th grade and younger….Yay!! :/ Yay!?  (insert fake smile……parents you’ll understand).

Well the week they left actually started alright, things were going ok, but I had some personal conflicts with someone that you can pray about.

I made Peanut butter cookies for a Bible study with the teen girls here, and for the first time in my adult life (that I can remember) I burned two whole pans of cookies. One I was able to partly salvage, the other……not so much.  It was terrible. I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. 😉 Thankfully one pan was perfect. Well….at least I knew I could eat peanut butter cookies while I sorted it all out. The Bible study went well by the way. We are taking the BRAVE album by Moriah Peters, and watching the music/lyric videos, finding scriptures that are about being BRAVE and applying that to our lives. They’ve got to memorize scripture with me too and at the end whoever memorizes the most accurately will receive the album. I’m excited.

I also got to take three of the boys from the home with Camille and we went to see a bunch of little cuddly puppies. The owner just had a new baby herself and just couldn’t take care of all the new puppies, so she was giving them away for free. It was one of the hardest things to walk away without one. AH. Imagine the scene “It’s so fluffy I wanna die!” (or if you can’t imagine, click here to get an idea….HERE!)

Then, BAM Sunday night, after a great GREAT Sunday, I felt so sick. I warned the kids that if I passed out, not to worry, but to just go get help from the staff next door. My body then decided to vacate everything inside. It was horrible. Six of us got sick. Still not sure what it was, but I’m still recovering…

The kids were sweet and the next day when I was at least to sitting up stage, Camille kept hugging me randomly. I think she was pretty concerned. Hudson too was very sweet, and helped get me water a few times, as well as helped Camille get up in the morning when the best I could do was slump downstairs.

Single-parents……..I’m marveling…..have been for months now. I always did before, but seriously you’ve got WAY more respect from this gal than ever before.

As I was finally feeling good enough to join the rest of the clan at the care home, I happily walked into the bathroom to discover a mouse. Still alive. In my garbage. Yes. I most definitely shuddered and walked as quickly as I could out of the bathroom wondering which of my kids I could bribe to get it out of the house safely and without touching it. Realizing that wasn’t an option I had, I put the lid on and carried it to the dogs outside. Hudson (after telling me we should kill it with a knife) pleaded for it’s life to be spared. I told him I would sacrifice it to the dogs, and if God chose to shut their mouths like the lions in the den, so be it. Not sure what happened to the mouse but…..I found another one in my house later that afternoon that is still on the loose. The one that got away. Not thrilled about this. Hudson more than any of us was so scared about the mouse coming into his room that he had to sleep with the light on for a while. We had to kick and rattle every drawer and closet to see if it was in there just so they would go in their beds. Honestly that part was both fun and terrifying. I’m not certain who would have gotten out of the room first.

Anyway. All this to say, the week is over, our directors are home and safe, and I’m finally able to spend time outside of my bed. Praise the Lord! Despite all the craziness of the week, which I didn’t even START to scratch, I was reminded that God is not surprised by the things we do or the things that happen to us. It says in Psalms that he knows the words of our mouth even before we do. That he knows our thoughts, where we go and where we stay, and that there is no where we can be out of His reach.  This was so comforting, as I laid in bed sick, with kids that mocked me and feeling quite completely alone….He was there with me. He was reminding me of his presence, that He is ultimately the One who watches and cares for the children AND me, and that I need to trust Him. That’s it. Just trust Him.

Hopefully you laughed a little with me through this week and can laugh and pray with me in the coming week. Thanks for journeying with me!

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This week….

This week I’m going to share some big blessings.

For the last 10 days or so, I’ve been battling a cold that is just now finally going away…this is not really one of the blessings, but I think being sick has made some of these blessings even greater!

  1. Hudson at the beginning of last week was being the most aggressive he’s been, and after a few talks with the director, decided that if we did not see his behavior change drastically and soon, we would be forced to put him back into the custody of child protective services. This tore at my heart so much, and we all did a lot of praying over the next few days and DID see a huge turn around. Just the other night, he asked to use my pen and notebook because he wanted to write. So while I put Camille to bed, I let him write. He usually just draHudson's Letter copyws, so it was surprising to see a half page of writing instead of just a random sketch. He was eager to show me and wanted to explain to me what he wrote…..since it was in Romanian. It brought tears to my eyes as he read “Alissa is good, helps be good, not bad with us. Alissa is beautiful and good with us. God is with us every day and every minute and every minute Alissa loves me and ‘Camille’. Alissa helps us be good.  Alissa stays with us in the house every day. God is with me and ‘Camille’. God you are with me, and ‘Camille’ and Alissa.” That night, he would not let me leave his room. He literally hung onto me smiling, and saying “I will never let you go, not until I’m old.” …..yes, it was in part because he really did not want to go to bed, but I’ll take it as heart felt.
  2.  The other blessing, is simply in humor and joy. Camille and I have been singing Edelweiss almost every night, and I thought I’d include her version for you as it makes me laugh every time. “Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me. Soft and white, GREEN and bright, you look happy to meet me. LASSA MA (which means “leave me alone” in Romanian) snow may you BROOM and grow, BROOM and grow forever. Edelweiss, edelweiss, ad;lakjdlkjfd;lkjff forEVVVVVVVERRRRR” I’ll include a video at some point. 🙂
  3. The last thing, is that I got a hug from a new friend on a difficult day. She didn’t know it was a tough day for me, but when she came and saw me, she knew. She gave me a big hug and held on for a while while I cried. I’m so encouraged by people I’m meeting here, and also by you. Thank you greatly for the letters I’ve received and for the emails and notes I get almost daily. It really does mean a lot to know that you’re praying for me and thinking of me! ….I think about you all the time!