Thursday, November 19, 2015

Things for Which I Am Thankful

Over the course of this week I had my students compile a list of 100 things for which they are thankful. I decided to do it along with them. It was a stretch at times for many of them, but they were ultimately able to to do it. Should it be difficult to think of 100 things for which we are thankful? Absolutely not. We should be thankful in all things at all times. We should live lives of gratitude toward our Creator and all he does and gives and is. Yet, our focus is so often deterred. In an effort to refocus this week, here is the list I compiled (I'd say in no particular order other than stream of thought):

Things for Which I Am Thankful

The Bible
Living Grace
A Family with a strong faith
Lifetime friends
Children to Love
My students
Amazing co-workers
A Compassionate counselor
Understanding bosses
The moon and stars
The ocean
Christmas morning
Long conversations
Learning new things
Dogs (especially Bella)
Caring doctors
My car
My warm house
A fun sister-in-law
Coloring books
Warm blankets
The ability to travel
Random notes
Random adventures
Being up in the sky
The military
Rainbow sandals
Clean water
Smiling faces
Brandyn’s life
Seeing former students around town
My teachers
 Unexpected text messages
 Meaningful gifts
 Physical therapy
 The ability to walk
 Modern medicine
 My uncle’s gravy
 Christmas carols around the piano
 “Silent Night” around the manger scene
Homemade ice cream
 T-Street Beach
 The Olympics
 Those who choose life
 The ranch
 French braids
 Uninhibited reception dancing
 Long walks at night
 Chai tea
 Silly jokes
 Pei Wei
 Dodger games
 New York City
 Leslie Park
 College Roommates
 Flat irons
 Strangers holding doors open
 Speed boats
V-Neck T-Shirts
Worship in Romanian
Reunions with old friends
Dress up days at work
Discovering new worship songs
The movie War Room
Peace that passes understanding

Can you compile a list of 100 things for which you are thankful? Give it a shot this week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

All Lives Matter.

The argument has been made that it would be better for babies to be aborted than to be born into families that don't want them or cannot properly care for them, in some cases forcing them to be brought up in the foster care system or group homes. I hear you, but please hear this:

Everyday I look out onto a sea of faces, each of whom has a story. Some are in loving homes. Some are in very broken homes. Some have parents who are not providing proper care for them. Some are being raised by extended family members. Some are being raised in "the system".

Every summer I travel to Romania and interact with hundred of orphans and at-risk children, many of whom have been physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused. Many of these children have been neglected, abandoned, and cast off.

No matter their background or story, I have a fierce love for each and every one of them. No matter their story, each and every one of them has impacted and changed my life in some way--and not only my life, but the lives of their other teachers, their peers, and everyone else with whom they come into contact as well.

Their lives matter.

I have had the privilege of teaching many students who have had horrific pasts and who have ended up in "the system". I will refer to one of these as Jane Doe. With quite a tragic back story, Jane ended up in foster care. She could have become jaded, hardened, angry. She could have slipped through the cracks. Yet, every morning Jane came into class with a giant smile on her face. Though the work was not easy, she fought through it and tried with everything she had. She was a friend to her classmates, a support to everyone around her, and a comic-relief when we all needed a laugh. She matured, and she grew. Jane realized her worth. She made goals and stuck to them. She decided that she wanted to be someone when she grew up. She taught us all what it is to be an over-comer. I cannot wait to see what God will do with her precious life. As for me, I know I'll be her biggest cheerleader, for her smile and sweet face are forever burned into my mind.

Her life matters. 

And, take "Little Rabbit" for example. He is a thirteen year old boy I met in a Romanian orphanage this summer. He is the size of a four or five year old. He is crib or wheelchair bound. He cannot take care of himself, and he cannot communicate. At a glance, most would say that his quality of life is nil or none. Yet, after spending just an hour with him, he exuded more joy than I have seen in most people in their entire lives. You see, Little Rabbit had had a stone cold expression most of the week. He had sat expressionless in his wheelchair or with our physical therapist as he worked with him. Yet, as one of my teammates sat and played the guitar one afternoon, I quietly sang to Little Rabbit and began to touch his face and tickle him. Out of this dear child, who seemingly had a terrible quality of life, joy erupted. He laughed and giggled and smiled with one of the greatest smiles I have ever seen. When I looked into his face, I saw my Savior, my God who is bigger than circumstances, my God who is mighty to save. God taught me more about Him in that moment than perhaps he had all week.

His life matters. 

What about the "others" you ask? The ones who aren't in loving foster care homes or classrooms? The ones around the world that don't get the love and attention of organizations like Children to Love? Well, what about them? Who am I to say their lives don't matter just because the "quality" may not live up to my standards? Who am I to decide how our almighty God might use them or their situations?

Let's take a moment to look back on the trial for which I served as a juror a few years back. The victim was a thirteen year old girl. She was one of eight or nine siblings of her very young mother (and various fathers). I will fairly confidently assert that most, if not all, of those eight or nine children were "not planned". The thirteen year old has been in and out of her home and "the system" throughout her young life. She was a classic example of a "problem child". She had a record. She was in a continuation school. She often ran away from home. In the words of the defense attorney, she was a "throw away kid". Unfortunately, she got herself into a sticky situation one evening when she was hanging out with some older friends, and she ended up in the hotel room of a pimp. Without going into all of the gruesome details, this man attempted to traffic her. Her case was the first one heard in Kern County under the new human trafficking laws. The defendant was found guilty on various charges and sentenced to over thirty years in prison. This young victim's story, our jury, and our judge set a high precedent for future cases around the county and state. Think about that for a moment... Who knows how many lives may be saved because of this "throw away kid's" experience?

Her life matters. 

What if these precious children had been aborted for whatever "valid" reason there may have been? My heart absolutely breaks at that thought. I would not be the woman I am today without them. My classroom, our school, our county, our world would not be the same without them.

Their lives matter. 

I am beyond grateful that God has allowed these three precious lives (and so many others) to cross my path.

These are just three short glimpses into the myriad of lives I have come into contact with who others may have considered "unwanted" at some point in time. I could go on and on, but it's not necessary here. I'm more than willing to share more stories with you in person.

This is what I know to be true:

* All lives matter, regardless of situation or circumstance.
* Everyone can make a difference in someone's life.
* Abortion for any reason is murder.
* Abortion not only kills babies, but it hurts mothers, and my heart absolutely breaks for them.
* My God is sovereign and just and good.
* My God is mighty to save.

I am not willing to enter into a debate or discussion about "everything else" Planned Parenthood does or doesn't do. NONE OF THAT matters to me. What matters is that millions of babies are being killed around the world every year ( and it must be stopped.

In the words of my dear friend Jessica, "If we believe abortion is the unjust killing of an infant, then it is our biggest fish to fry, and it would be hypocritical to act as if this matter didn't deserve some sense of urgency."

I'll leave you with this:

Finish this sentence: It is ok to kill a baby in the womb when... 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It Is Well.

It is Well has always been one of my favorite songs. Recently, I had my Lauren Daigle station playing on Pandora, and It is Well came on, but it was slightly different. First of all, Lauren was singing and her voice is my favorite. Secondly, the refrain was a bit different--and I loved it! Of course, the classic hymn will always be dear to me, but take a moment to listen to this version (the lyrics are below and the changes are in bold). 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well, it is well
Through the storm, I am held
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well, it is well 
God has won; Christ prevailed
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin--Oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!--
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, it is well
Through the storm, I am held
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well, it is well 
God has won; Christ prevailed
It is well, it is well with my soul

And Lord, hast the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, it is well
Through the storm, I am held
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well, it is well 
God has won; Christ prevailed
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is Well. Through the storm, I am held. God has won; Christ prevailed. 

Eleven new words

So powerful.

I have this canvas hanging up by my bed. What a great reminder...

When life becomes overwhelming or confusing or heartbreaking or torrential, how often is our first reaction, it is well? I admit that it's not always my first reaction. Yet, my God promises that through these storms, He will hold me. No matter what I am facing (or not facing), no matter if my heart is broken from my past or at a loss as to my future, I can be assured that my God has won and my Christ has prevailed. He is sovereign and just and good, and I can claim that IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Must Never Forget...

...the way Stefi played with my hair and said my name over and over as I held her on the way to the park and McDonalds.

...Flori's story from the night prior and how very broken my heart was as I heard it. 

...the way Bibi kissed my phone and wouldn't stop giggling as we FaceTimed Brooke. 

...Little Rabbit's belly laugh as I sang to him, tickled him, and "stole" his nose. 

...Stefan's incredibly sweet heart as he held up the music lyrics for me to sing during worship.

...Gabi and Cristina's joy in seeing Mama and me again and finally being able to speak to us in English. Larisa would not leave my side the entire afternoon. 

...Florina's joyful laugh as we played Dutch Blitz with the kids.

...the absolute joy of reconnecting with former CTL staff members and current dear friends. team and the sweet memories we shared--including the rain storm in Sinaia. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Missing Romania

I hate goodbyes. I hate loving so deeply and leaving or being left. Yet, I know and trust that my God is sovereign in the people He brings into my life for a time. Not many people stick around for a lifetime. Most are in our lives for a season--to teach us, challenge us, stretch us, love us, encourage us (and us them). While it's difficult (sometimes seemingly impossible) to move from season to season and in and out of people's lives, I can take heart that I will see my dear brothers and sisters again one day--even if that day is in Heaven where we'll sing and dance and praise our Jesus together.

I particularly struggle with this each year when I go to Romania and further invest in relationships. Yes, I am fairly confident that I'll see the Romanian staff and my dear friends again some day on earth, but  I never really know year to year which kids I'll be able to see again, and that hurts.

Prior to traveling back to my second home this year, Leslie passed on a book to me that Angela had given her--Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis. I read a bit before I left, a bit while in country, and I finished it just this morning. I have to say, Katie can explain my heart better than I can.

This quote in particular really spoke to my heart today:

Truth. Serious truth.

God doesn't call me to save the world. God doesn't call me to make sure every need of every orphan is met. But, God does call me to love and serve and give of myself where I am--sometimes that means in my classroom, sometimes that means in the grocery store, and sometimes that means in Romania. Although I feel so incredibly inadequate and useless when I'm only able to sit and hold a hand for an hour, I have to remember that God can (and will) use that if it's done in His name. I may never see that sweet little hand this side of Heaven again, but if that child chooses Christ, I know I can hold that hand again in eternity. What is better than that?

It's not about me. It's not about my heart missing the kids or my team or my friends in Romania (or those left "behind" in various stages of life), it's about God knitting our hearts together for a time for HIS PURPOSE and glory.

As I sift through pictures and attempt to transition to life back home, I need to cling to those truths. God has a plan for my life and for my tomorrow. May I seek that out always. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sinaia Saturday and Sad Day Sunday

I'm sitting on the couch in the ministry center with music blaring from my phone in an attempt to fill the deafening silence left by our team (and the staff and kids). We're awaiting our flight to Budapest and feeling quite strange being here alone. This place was made for loud laughter and love... it's a bit too empty right now.

But, enough of that for right now. Let me update you on our goings on yesterday since going to bed at two this morning did not leave much time (or brain power) for blogging. 

We awoke a bit early yesterday to get ourselves ready and down to the train station to catch our train to Sinaia. I ended up sitting with Sara, Heather, and Jamie on our journey. We enjoyed some good stories and the scenery a bit, but eventually Yahtzee took over and we tried to keep our volume down as we attempted to continually roll five dice on a side table the size of a piece of notebook paper. Perhaps my favorite line was when Sara explained that she couldn't go for a Yahtzee anymore because she had "turned it off" (crossed it out). I couldn't stop laughing. It was good for the soul. 

When we got to Sinaia, the weather was cool and gorgeous. As we walked/hiked up toward the castle, we took short breaks every so often to rest and discuss a debrief question. Although this wasn't the usual method of debriefing, it worked quite well, I'd say. I think it gave all of us time to really think through and process all we had learned and experienced. When we got to the castle, Marc went to purchase our tickets, and we stood in the enormous beauty of the courtyard and continued to debrief. And, fortunately, we had a bit more time there than expected because the ticket people had poor Marc on a wild goose chase to get our tickets, the receipt, and correct change. Marc, you're amazing--THANK YOU!

Although I've been in the castle a few times, each time proves to be a new adventure. Upon this particular occasion, the adventure came in the form of a stalker. No joke. Apparently in the five minutes that it took us to begin the tour, a dude from Texas had fallen in love with me. Pe bune? (For real?) I actually found it quite hilarious, as did Waylon who wanted to give him my number. Fortunately, I stuck close by our dudes and wasn't much bothered by it. 

After the tour, we met back up with Marc and the rain that had just begun, and we headed down to lunch. I have to admit that I was a bit frustrated when we couldn't all sit together at lunch as I knew our time to debrief was limited and valuable, but I just had to hand it over to God and trust that he'd provide the right time for us. That he did. As always.

Since our tables were near to each other, we shook off the uncomfortableness of speaking in public and were able to get through a few good questions before our food came. I had Schnitzel and savored every bite. It was seriously AWESOME. Oh, and guess who showed up at the same restaurant for lunch? My new"bff" from Texas. Serious? Haha. 

A bit of souvenir shopping was our next order of business (Sara and Heather, I need pictures when you wear your blouses!) as we did our best to stay sheltered from the rain. Fortunately, the storm held off until we were pretty well finished shopping, but it came on quite strongly as we headed back to the train station. As many of my PA teammates were subtly grumbling under their breaths at the rain, I was like a little kid at Christmas. I giggled with delight at every roar of thunder and flash of lightening. I loved it! I'm fairly certain that Marc and Mama shared in at least a little bit of that sentiment as we're so used to not having weather. We arrived back at the train station sopping wet, but smiling.

On the ride home, our seats were still separated a bit, but we were all in the same area,  basically set off from the near by sections.  Because of that, I spent most of the trip back leaning over my seat or standing up talking to the rest of the team. We shared stories, secret talents, voices, and tons of laughs--we even threw in a few rounds of Two Truths and a Lie and Never Have I Ever. It was all quite enjoyable. I seriously love those non-structured, goofy interactions with my teammates, although they were few and far between this week with all we did.

When we got back to Bucharest, Marc took us back to Old Town to get Shawarma for dinner. Delicious! Oh! And, I ran into Denisa again in Old Town! It was seriously the sweetest surprise (and crazy to think that I could possibly run into someone I know as we're out and about--thank you, Jesus!). On the way back to the ministry center after dinner, we shared some awesome belly laughs (and I really am not even sure about what at the moment, but I'll always look back on that fondly and remember how much joy we were able to share in certain moments). 

We met Bogdan for a quick debrief of the week when we got back to the office, and after Bogdan and Marc left, we continued our team debrief. We first discussed re-entry, our futures with CTL, and how to handle all of that. Although it was already late, we then decided to go around and affirm each team member in some way. Whoever's turn it was sat on the hot seat and received affirmation and encouragement from every team member. I have to say, it was good thing we had an entire paper towel roll near by because the tears were certainly flowing. It was a special and powerful time to speak God's truth into each other's lives before leaving this country and each other today. I hated to see it end, even though I was beyond exhausted.

The team packed a bit last night before attempting to get a few hours of sleep. Goodbyes were beyond difficult this morning, but I have to trust that God will allow me to see them again soon. Now I'm praying they can sleep on the plane and be rested and ready as they transition back home. Please pray for them as well! 

Like I mentioned, we're headed to Budapest a bit later today for a few days before returning here on Wednesday and flying home on Thursday.  Be looking for pictures! 

And, although our time of ministry is finished for this year, God is not finished working in and through us yet. Please continue to pray for the team, the Romanian staff, and these precious little ones that have so captured our hearts (again!). I already can't wait to come back!  



Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday and Frozen

How can it be over already? The weeks seem to go faster each year I'm here. I hate goodbyes. I had to do a few too many of those today.

We began today with the Home of Hope girls and some kids from Tei.

Some highlights:

* FaceTiming with Aimee and Brooke so they could see the staff and the kids. Bibi wouldn't stop kissing the phone when we were talking to Brooke. It was the sweetest thing.

* The little kids putting Frozen tattoos all over us. I pretty much never want to scrub them off.

* Taking pictures of the Home of Hope girls in their matching blue dresses.

* Hearing belly laughs from the little ones. Best sound ever! 

After lunch, the kids from the #7 social apartments came to the office. This was the first time we've been with these kids this week, but there were a few of them that I've known from past years, so it was so great to see them. 

Some highlights:

* Playing Around the World with some of the guys out back. 

* See Larisa, Vio, and Carmen again. 

* Performing our skit for the last time. I'm a pretty awesome storm, if I do say so myself. 

* The kids asking some great questions after Brandon's testimony.

* Dutch Blitz with Florina (and the kids, of course, but Florina is the funniest). 

* Painting the fingernails of the girls (although I'm pretty terrible at it). 

After saying our goodbyes (wah!), we headed out with Marc, Delia, and Bogdan to dinner at City Grill. I quite enjoyed the Mici, the laughs, the live (English) music, and the great conversation. I'm seriously going to miss these people. Now we're back at the office enjoying a bit of time before crashing and heading to the mountains tomorrow for some debriefing time.

Thanks for your continued prayers. 


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday and Thrills

It's already Thursday?! Pe bune? How do the weeks here go by so quickly? I can't believe tomorrow is our last day of ministry. As always, I'm  going to miss this place like crazy! 

But, let's back up a bit to today... 

We began by wrapping up our teaching on Galatians--Dana and Kim did a phenomenal job--and some worship (one of the things I'll miss the most).

After our morning gathering, the staff had a meeting, so Brandon and Justin went back to work at Rehab while the rest of us went with Marc to the People's Palace. It's the second largest  building in the world (look it up!). I've been to the Palace a few times, so I wasn't overly excited to see it again, but I was looking forward to some time with the team. I must say, I wasn't disappointed. On our way, we stopped and played at a park for a few minutes because sometimes you just have to act like a kid. Since we were all dressed alike today  (see the pictures on social media), we took our fair share of selfies and really enjoyed just being together as a team. 

After lunch at the office, we headed out to Sf. Iosef, an orphanage that CTL has been working with for about nine months. The walk to the center was gorgeous, and the weather was amazing--thank you, Jesus! At the center, we met the kids, played a few games, sang songs, and then performed our skit about building our houses on the rock. Brandon then shared his testimony, and the once squirrely, talkative kids were glued to him. They asked some awesome questions  afterward, and it was quite encouraging to see just how well they paid attention and understood his story and all God had done for him. After a while, we went outside to play, face paint, and do nails. I ended up playing with Marc and the sweetest little boy ever, Stefan. I pretty much fell in love with him at first sight (when he sat right in front of me during worship and held his lyrics specifically so I could read them, while maintaining the most amazing smile). Monkey in the middle with a Nerf football has never been so fun! I hated to say goodbye to that dear little dude. 

After Sf. Iosef, we rode the metro over to Uniri. I thought we were just going to make a quick stop, but as we came up out of the Metro, Denisa (former CTL staff member and current good friend) was there to surprise me. I pretty much squealed with delight and wouldn't let her go. The team, Nelu and Florina, Denisa, and I spent a bit of time at Starbucks in Old Town so that we could catch up. It was so special to sit and reminisce, ask Denisa about some of my favorite little ones that she now works with, and FaceTime with Bailey. I hated to say goodbye to her after that as well. :(

After dinner, a few of us took a nice walk to the grocery store to pick up a few things to take home. I loved our time of good conversations and hearty laughs. Speaking of laughs, we couldn't really stop laughing after coming home from the store and trying to debrief with the rest of the team. Of course we began our time with as many dumb jokes as we could remember, but still... It is definitely going to be difficult to leave these amazing people in a few  short days. 

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement. Please pray that we'll make the most out of our last day of ministry together. Pray that God will continue to teach us all that he has for us. 

Isus te Iubeste! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday and Worship

The days always begin much nicer after a solid eight hours of sleep. Praise the Lord! 

This morning, we had a wonderful gathering of worship, teaching, and prayer before heading back out (in the rain, I might add) to Rehab. Going into this morning, I was a bit unsure of how everything would unfold and where my place might be. When we were with these kids on Monday, we took them to the park and McDonalds, so I knew exactly what was expected of me. Today, however, we were going to stay at the center and sing, play games, face paint, etc.,  and I wasn't totally sure where I could best be used in that scenario.

Fortunately, God had a plan, and He knew exactly what He was doing. As soon as we arrived, one of the older girls dragged me into one of the bedrooms to see Stefi, the little one I spent the day with on Monday. I can't even tell you how wonderful it was to see her run up to me and hear her say my name. As I scooped her up into my arms and kissed the life out of her sweet little face, she proceeded to babble on about the other children in her room--most of whom were curled up in crib-like beds not moving. This, folks, is my heart when it comes to Rehab or  children with disabilities--the ones that need nothing more than a simple touch, a tickle, a caring hand, and a soft voice to tell them that Jesus loves them.  There isn't much greater joy than watching a little one who hardly moves and has a dead pan look on his face completely light up and start to giggle at the simplicity of human touch.

I knew at that moment that face painting would not be a part of my day today. Instead, I held back and just loved on some of the little ones that Brandon and Jamie have been working with. It was incredible to see what some of these kids could do with a little therapy and a lot of love--going from completely curled up in the fetal position for who knows how long to actually sitting up in a matter of days. There is much work to still be done, but I pray that the physical therapist there now has a few more skills, equipment, and tricks up her sleeve in order to better serve these little ones. 

My absolute favorite moment was when I was hanging out with Marios (Little Rabbit) and holding his arms, helping him clap, tickling his face, etc., and Justin started to play Mighty to Save on the guitar. I sang the song aloud not just to share music with the children, but to share my heart and my prayer and my hope with them. I know that I can do so little in the time that I'm here, yet my God is MIGHTY TO SAVE. He loves these kiddos more than I could ever imagine, and I know that he is with them; He is mighty to save. He alone is what they need. And, I couldn't help but think as I was kissing Little Rabbit's cheeks that I'll be able to see him again in Heaven one day. What utter joy that will be! I hated to leave. Seriously hated it. 

After Rehab, Bogdan and Nelu took us by the land that CTL was able to purchase recently for  their new ministry center. Although it is just an overgrown mass at the moment, I couldn't help but stare out over the land, praise God for all He has done in Romania over the last 20 years, and imagine with hopeful expectancy what God will do within this ministry over the next 20 years. If you'd like to be part of making this hopeful expectancy come to fruition, visit and "give" toward the Romanian ministry center (and everything you give will be MATCHED!). 

This afternoon was spent laughing, playing, singing, and teaching the kids from the counseling center more about what it means to build their houses on the rock of Christ. I skipped out for a short bit to spend some quality time with Delia. I am so grateful for the relationships I have been able to develop here. I am blessed to call some of the most amazingly Godly people on this planet my friends. Speaking of which, I also got to see Eliza (former staff member and current good friend of mine) this afternoon. It warmed my heart to sit in one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people and catch up on life. One afternoon is never enough!

This evening consisted of my favorite food--mici--and worship night. Like I've said before, I absolutely love worshipping in English and Romanian, and it's  even better to share that with the kids. A few of our team members shared their testimonies and completely touched the hearts of the kids and the staff, as evidenced by the fact that the kids did not want to leave when the evening was finished. It's always tough to say goodbye to them, but I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to see them again, Lord willing. 

I can hardly believe that this week is already more than halfway over. My heart is already starting to break at the thought of saying goodbye, but I just can't let myself go there yet. For  now, I'll say thank you for your prayers. Please keep praying for us, the staff, and these precious kids!

Isus te iubeste! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesday and Trials

After quite a challenging evening, we met to begin another full day of ministry. Like I've mentioned before, the enemy is real, the Spiritual battle is real, and we know that Satan would like nothing more than to break us down. Little does he know that cracked jars of clay are able to show the most light. God is showing us over and over that His strength is made perfect in our weakness--and great are our weaknesses. 

Yet, God always provides. This morning it was in the form of some CTL staff members and dear friends who took me aside and encouraged me/laid into me. This evening His provision took the form of one of our teammates asking to pray over us, the leaders--I can't even tell you how much  that was needed. God also provided greatly in the form of encouraging letters from home for each of our team members. (Thank you, Auntie--your words were exactly what I needed this evening). 

Ok, rewind a bit--being that is was Tuesday, we got to go to Tei today (a center for little ones from extremely poor families). This is always one of my favorite places to go, so I was quite excited to go and see some of the dear little ones that I've fallen in love with over the last few years. On the way, the skies (and our stomachs) opened, so we had to stop for a moment and eat soft pretzels in the rain--so amazing! When we got to Tei, I was a bit disappointed because "my kids" weren't there. They were out for some reason, so we worked with the even younger ones. My disappointment didn't last long as the dear little ones clamored  to sit on my lap, be held, be tickled--simply be loved. And, about halfway through the morning, one of the little girls I've known and loved for the last few years came by the center after a doctor's appointment. Although I was quite sad that she wasn't well, I was incredibly happy to be able to see her. Please pray that sweet Bibi gets well soon!

As the team worked at Tei, Jamie and Brandon went back to the center for children with disabilities to work more with the physical therapist there and assess and meet some of the needs of the children. From what I hear from them, they had another amazing day there and are looking forward to going back more to work with these precious ones. 

When we got back to the office, some of the kids from the counseling center were already here. As I was looking at pictures on Nelu's computer, Florina came over, covered my eyes, and spun me around. As I opened my eyes, I saw Cristina, a girl that I fell completely in love with a few years ago. I couldn't grab her quickly enough, and I seriously did not want to let her go. I just kept giggling and squeezing the life out of her. I had much the same reaction when her little sister Gabi came in later.  Those girls are simply amazing. We all had a great time singing, sharing our lesson, and playing games. Fortunately, we'll get to see them all again tomorrow, so I'm quite excited about that! 

During the afternoon as we worked with these kiddos, Sara was able to go with Nelu to Ana's kindergarten graduation to take pictures. She's the oldest girl in the Home of Hope, and is the kid that Sara has been specifically praying for since our training. It was quite memorable for Sara, and I don't imagine Ana will soon forget about it either.   

After the kiddos left, we had dinner and met as a team. Now we're all getting ready for tomorrow and hopefully heading to bed early. Please keep praying for sleep, strength, and God's provision and direction. 

Thanks for all your support and encouragement thus far!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Must Mondays Always be Overwhelming?

I am beyond exhausted, so I'll try to make this quick. :)

Today was wonderful, heart-warming, encouraging, challenging, heart-breaking, and discouraging all in one. 

To go from holding a little girl from Rehab all the way to the park and McDonalds as she giggled, played with my hair, and said my name over and over, to getting caught in a rain storm, to learning the dark reality of what some of the older girls experienced just last night is just too overwhelming to process and try to share right now. 

These kids are receiving an incredible amount of love from the CTL staff (and we've loved being a small part of that), but what meets them after the staff leaves is dark and evil and ugly. Please keep praying for these precious ones. 

Please also pray for rest and strength for us as we're continuing our long days with little sleep. May we be open to all that God has for us and continue to be his hands and feet in Romania. 

I'll try to be a bit more thorough tomorrow. Noapte buna!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday and Standing in Awe

Sunday, hallelujah! What a true statement that is. As we met to debrief tonight, one of the questions we talked about was "Where have you seen God today?"

More often than not, the answer was some form of, "Where have I not seen God?"

The examples ranged from worship in two languages during church this morning, to God speaking specifically to others, to missionaries we had never met having lunch with us and speaking into our lives, to the belly laugh of a girl from the Home of Hope this afternoon at the park. I could go on and on...

God is definitely with us and going before us, and we feel your prayers!

That being said, the Spiritual battle is also quite real and is trying to take us down--from physical ailments, to no sleep, to anxiety. The enemy is using whatever he can to thwart God's plans for us and those we are serving. But, we are confident in our God, and we KNOW that he has the victory in the end. What Satan plans for harm, we KNOW God will use for good. 

As our team met this evening and opened up about this very real battle, it gave us an opportunity to really come together, rally around each other, and kneel before our Father as we placed hands on each other and prayed. Through tears, we gave our time here to the One who has had our days planned before even one of them came to be. How GREAT is our GOD! 

We trust that he will do far more abundantly than all we could ask or imagine. As a few of our team members teach and share their testimonies tomorrow, will you please pray specifically that God will not only speak through them, but that through them and their stories, He will drastically and miraculously change lives? Please pray with us that He'll do far more abundantly than all we could ask or imagine. 

Oh, and did I mention that as I read a note to the team tonight from their pastor, he included that very verse from Ephesians that speaks about God doing abundantly more than all we could ask or imagine? Oh, and following that, we pulled out another card that had the Matthew 7 verses about building our houses on the rock--which just happens to be what our skit and lesson are on this week. 

Talk about God showing up! He is amazing...

Thanks for your continued prayers as we serve here in this beautiful place. We could not do it without you. 

Isus te Iubeste  si Te Iubesc!

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Well,  as you've probably already gathered, we all made it to Romania safely. All of our bags even decided to join us--praise Jesus!

The flights actually went on without incident (albeit long), and we arrived without being too out of our minds. I can't even tell you how exciting it was to run up to my people in the Istanbul airport and give them real hugs for the first time since our training--I have seriously missed these folks. 

Last night we enjoyed a short briefing and dinner prior to getting ready for bed. What we thought would be a "quick to bed" evening actually turned into quite the team building activity as we (mainly the guys) tried to get a team member out of a bathroom that she had precariously locked herself into. We blame the door, not the team member. Through much trial and error (and I have to add, calm and patient men), our dear team member was set free--a night sleeping in the tub was just not part of God's will for her (for which we are quite grateful!). 

After about four hours of sleep (more or less for some folks), we gathered downstairs this morning to meet Marc (CTL intern from Bakersfield) and head out for a city tour of Bucharest. Though the sun was a bit scorching when the bus was stopped, we did enjoy the nice breeze and beautiful sights of the city as we ventured around this morning. 

This afternoon held a bit of free time (read: DUTCH BLITZ!) before we met up with our six little darlings from the Home of Hope apartment. We got to say a brief hello to the girls before Kim, Brandon, and I went with Bogdan, Delia, and Simona to check out the apartment and evaluate some of the current needs. 

While the rest of the team played with, sang with, and loved on the girls, we headed to IKEA to purchase some items that will prayerfully and hopefully aid in the functioning of the apartment. I particularly enjoyed catching up with Delia while meandering through the behemoth of a store. 

Upon returning from IKEA, we enjoyed some amazing food and a bit of team time. Now, we are all ready to crash--and by all, I'm fairly certain that about ten out of the twelve of us are already long gone. 

PLEASE pray that we can all sleep well tonight (now!) and wake up in His strength. I'm SUPER excited to head to church in the morning--one of my favorite things to do in Romania. 

Thanks for all your prayers so far! Please continue to pray especially that we'll see God's hand in all we do and we'll listen and be obedient to His voice. 

Te iubesc si Isus te Iubeste! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Anticipation and The Big Dipper

As I went to take the trash out tonight, I couldn't help but look up at the night sky for a moment and admire the stars. My eyes immediately searched for the Big Dipper--as they do automatically wherever I am.

Why the Big Dipper? It's a constant reminder of how great and vast and mighty my God is, how small and insignificant I am, and how truly connected we are here on earth (although it seems far larger than we can fathom).

I remember making a deal with one of my closest friends in high school to look up at the Big Dipper every night at a set time while I was in Romania, knowing that that particular friend would be in another part of Europe doing the same thing at the same time. It was a reminder to pray for each other, a reminder of how much we cared about each other, a reminder that we were not alone--our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ were always with us. I remember feeling so comforted and so close to God each time I'd look up and spot that one tiny (yet incredible!) aspect of His vast creation.

All these years later, the Big Dipper still evokes a sense of awe and wonder in me. As I gaze at it, I can't help but ponder who else in the world is glancing up at the very same stars at the very same moment I am. Who else at that same second is in awe of the greatness of our God?

I am also comforted in knowing that my team (my family) in Pennsylvania can see "my" Big Dipper. It makes my heart slightly giddy to know that my kiddos and my dear friends in Romania can see these very same stars. We are thousands of miles apart, yet we will always be connected.

When I'm home sick for Romania, I often look up at the night sky and remember that I'm really not that far away. When I'm in Romania, I look up at the night sky and can't help but giggle when I see the very same stars I admire from my front yard. Isn't that just beyond incredible?

So, tonight I look at the Big Dipper with GREAT anticipation, for I know that in a few short days, I'll be looking at the same set of stars from a different perspective halfway around the world.

When you look up at the night sky during the next few weeks, will you spot the Big Dipper and remember to pray for us halfway around the world in Romania? I'll be sure to do the same and thank God for the amazing support and encouragement of my family and friends back home. 

Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from Heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Romania and Jack Jack

I know I haven't written much on here lately, but my hope is to keep you all updated on our Romania adventures via the blog--adventures which will begin in FOUR (almost THREE) short days!

Those who have known me for any amount of time, know that Romania holds such a dear part of my heart. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through my Timehop app (it's awesome--go get it!), I came across this post from three years ago:

Who knew clipping fingernails could make such a difference... 

Three years ago, yesterday, I was in Rehab (an orphanage for disabled children), and I spent the day with a little boy that I fell completely in love with. His name is Valentin, but we fondly refer to him as Jack Jack (because he resembles the mouse from Cinderella). As my team took the rest of the kids from Rehab to the park, I stayed at the orphanage with Jack--holding him, loving him, trying to move and exercise his stiff arms and legs, feeding him, and clipping his fingernails. You see, the poor baby had cuts all over his face and neck from scratching himself with his long, jagged fingernails. A task that took less than a few minutes made all the difference to that sweet boy. I remember holding him and being so angry that he didn't have a mother to clip his fingernails, being so confused that someone could give this sweet boy away, yet trusting that our God loved him more than I could ever imagine. I had to trust that God would continue to take care of him, even after I left.

Fast forward three years: Jack Jack is now in a private-run orphanage with workers that love and adore him. He is sitting up, laughing, and moving. I praise God for the progress this dear little one has made. I praise God for taking care of this baby that I hated to leave. I'm not sure if I'll get to see Jack Jack on this trip, but I can rest in the assurance that he's being loved and cared for.

And, I look forward with great anticipation to all the sweet little (and big) ones that I'll get to see and love on in a few short days. Please be praying for all of us during this journey. I've been posting quotes from Bob Goff's book, Love Does on my Instagram and Facebook along with a list of prayer requests. Please check them out if you haven't already.

Thanks for going on this journey with us. We couldn't do it without the love and support from all of you!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We're Heading Back!.... to Romania that is!

With the summer shaping up to be even crazier than normal, it seemed (not too many months ago) that Romania was not going to be a possibility this summer. I had resigned my heart to that fact... knowing that I'd be back again soon.

Or, at least I thought my heart had resigned...


Aimee Bradshaw went to Romania and had the audacity to FaceTime me. I got to see the ministry center, the staff that is now like family, and even a few of the kids during our sweet conversations.

And I. Just. Couldn't. Let. Go.

So, a while back, my madre and I went to have lunch with John Penrose. We were pulling at straws, trying anything we could think of to make our schedules work to fit Romania in--even if it meant just the two of us heading over right before school started (although that was far from ideal).

As we sat and ate some delicious Thai food, John rambled on about the summer schedule. I'm pretty sure I tuned out as soon as he said something to the effect of "There's a team going from Pennsylvania that has never been to Romania before. In fact, their church hasn't ever sent an overseas mission team anywhere. I'll probably have to go with them."

Uhhh....what? They're going in June (our only free month, but one that is already packed with teams in RO), and they need someone to go with them?! ME! ME! ME! Pick ME! Actually, I think it went more along the lines of...

John: I'll probably have to go with them.

Me: Unless you let me go with them.

John: Hmm, that could work.


Are you kidding me? Mom and I were seriously longing to go back to Romania, pulling at straws to find a time that would work, and now you're telling me that there's a team going (in our exact time frame) that could possibly use someone to go with them and lead?

God, you are WAY COOL! I LOVE how you worked that out and put that together for all of us.

We're IN!

So, we're headed back... in June... with a team from Pennsylvania (not before a training retreat and Skype meetings, of course).

I couldn't be more excited!

However, we can't do this alone! Scroll down for more information about how YOU can become involved!

 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.  -Psalm 82:3-4

Dear Friends and Family,

            This summer we plan on doing that once more—defending, rescuing, delivering. We are excited to have the opportunity to travel back to Romania with Children to Love International (CTL) to serve and help meet the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of orphaned and abandoned children living in Romanian government orphanages and those at risk of entering them. Our trip is scheduled for June 11-21, 2015; however, it is unlike any other team we have been on before. This time, we will be leading a team of people from Halifax, Pennsylvania who have never served in Romania before! During this time, our team will travel to Bucharest, Romania to help CTL share the gospel with hundreds of orphans and to support and encourage the CTL national staff.

Amy: I cannot even express how excited I am to be going back to Romania this summer alongside a team from across the country. I know this trip will be filled with challenges and triumphs. I trust that our God will do far more abundantly than all we could ask or imagine in and through our team! I also can’t wait to reconnect with the CTL staff and the orphans that I have fallen in love with over the last few years. Is it June yet?! 

Schelly: I am overjoyed to be a part of this new and exciting team to Romania. Since going for the first time two years ago (and again last year!), I have been longing to go back. I cannot wait to see all that God has in store for us, this team, and the Romanian children and staff. I am also looking forward to taking on more of a leadership role alongside Amy.

As thrilled as we are to be able to serve God and the people of Romania once again this summer, we definitely cannot do it alone. We are asking you to prayerfully consider being a part of our support team. We will need you behind us in prayer and financial support to make this trip possible. We need to raise $5,600 to cover the costs of travel, lodging, food, housing, ministry expenses, and health insurance in Romania for both of us. Our deadline for raising support is May 28th, but we need to bring in some support soon to cover the cost of flights.  We are asking you for the gift of your prayers and whatever financial support you are able to share. We greatly appreciate your support (and of course, all of your financial gifts are tax deductible!).

            Please partner with us as we serve this country that is so near and dear to our hearts. If you choose to be a part of our support team, please make a check out to Children to Love (mail it to the address below) or give online by visiting, selecting “give” and then selecting “give to send a team member” (please designate “Amy Erickson/Schelly Thompson’s trip to Romania” on the check memo or online).

Thank you for your consideration in joining our team and touching and changing the lives of children and the staff in Romania.

Amy Erickson & Schelly Thompson

Children to Love International ~ P.O. Box 9575 ~ Bakersfield, CA 93389