Friday, November 25, 2016

Why I Got Inked

For those who haven't seen me in the last five months, and have not yet passed out from reading the title of this blog post, let me share a bit with you about why I decided to get a tattoo.

I was NEVER a tattoo person. Ever. I was the girl who hid under the table (probably until junior high....maybe after) when I had to get a shot. I was never against tattoos per se (now, I personally don't think sleeves or head or full body tattoos are particularly attractive), but I was most definitely against needles. I could never imagine myself EVER getting a tattoo.

Hatred of needles + not imaging anything I'd want on my body forever (especially as a saggy grandma) = Amy never getting a tattoo.

Until...

....about a year and a half ago.

I was in Romania, and I saw a good friend of mine, who had spent a lot of time in Romania, with a small "RO" tattoo on his ankle. I loved it. I immediately thought, "Now, that's something I would want on my person for the rest of my life."

The wheels started turning. I started thinking about it quite a bit. I knew I couldn't get a tattoo on my ankle as it was way too close to my CRPSy feet. I knew I didn't want it to be hidden. If I was going to get a tattoo, it was going to be where I could always see it. So, a wrist was the only option left. I continued to ponder...

Romania is obviously insanely important to me, so I wanted to do it there. I knew my next trip (this last summer) would be my tenth journey over to my second home, so it seemed like an appropriate time.   

So, the only question left was what to get--on my person. Forever. And ever. Amen.

Through a lot of thought, and a lot of church bulletin doodling and drawing on my skin, I came to the conclusion that I wanted "mercy" in Romanian on my left wrist. Why "mercy," you ask? Well...

1 Peter 1:3-4:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I could go on and on about the mercies of our Lord, but I think those verses suffice for now.

I knew my wrist would be one of the last things I’d see before turning off the light at night and one of the first things I’d see when I woke up in the morning. In addition to always being reminded of God’s great mercy, I’d be reminded of my sweet friends and kiddos in Romania every single time I saw my wrist.

As I was piecing all of this together, and doodling out the perfect font for my tattoo, another one of my favorite verses continued to stick out to me:

Matthew 10:31:
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Thus, I added a couple little birds to my design.

As you can see, I did not come to this decision lightly. I knew as I headed over to Romania this past June that I’d come back with a permanent reminder of the mercies of my amazing God and the place He has imprinted so deeply on my heart.

With all the decisions made and the appointment at Roxy Tattoo studio set, the only decision left was where on my wrist to get the tattoo. As I worked with the artist on finalizing the design, I asked him if I should get the tattoo on the side of my wrist or underneath my wrist. His response, in his awesome Romanian accent, was, “On the side. Too many people get it underneath.” Done.

All of that conversation took more time than the actual tattoo itself. It was quick and relatively painless, and I loved it right away.

I didn’t tell anyone. I just let people notice, and  I’ve gotten quite a few entertaining reactions, but I figured it was about time to share why I decided to get inked.

I know not everyone agrees with tattoos. I know not everyone likes my tattoo. But, it’s mine, and it’s not going anywhere, so…. There’s not much more to say. :)


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why ME?

One of the people I admire most in this world is Valorie Kondos Field, or Miss Val as she's most commonly known. She is the head coach of the UCLA women's gymnastics team, but that's not the only reason I love her. She puts education and character and life skills ahead of athletics. She loves well. She's compassionate. She's entertaining. She challenges others. She's a risk taker. She's selfless. She loves God. She's fun to be around. She takes the best selfies! I could go on and on.



When Miss Val had breast cancer, she asked perhaps the most common question, "Why me?" But, she asked it with a completely different perspective than most. Instead of asking "Why did I have to get cancer?" she asked, "Why ME? Why do I GET to get chemo? Why do I GET to have great doctors? Why do I GET to live?" Wow. That'll challenge your perspective on life! Watch her share her story below:



In addition, Miss Val has her own website where she posts the occasional "musing." Seems innocent enough, right? Be warned: if you start reading her musings, you'll be challenged--challenged to change your thinking, your attitude, your every day living. She posted one such musing today entitled ACT AS IF. Click here to read it! After reading this latest musing, I was challenged to consider my own "Act As If." I commented with it on Miss Val's post, but I'll also add it below:


As I was pondering my own “Act As If,” a few ‘buttons’ rolled around in my mind—encompassing everything from exercise to my career—but I kept coming back to one particular “Act As If” button: Act As If I’ve Been Chosen. And, wouldn’t you know, Miss Val, you had something to do with this as well. Let me explain. 

My plan after college was to get a job, get married, have kids, and “live happily ever after.” Well, I graduated from college more than seven years ago, and I’m still living at home with my mama with no prospect of things changing anytime soon. Although I know I’ve gotten to do some incredible things in these last seven years, that longing never went away, and I’d often find myself asking God, “Why me? Why haven’t you allowed me to be married with a family? Why haven’t you chosen me for that life when (seemingly) ALL of my friends are married with babies? What’s wrong with me?” Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t crying myself to sleep every night, but there were days when I struggled to be content where God had me. 

Enter: Miss Val. After watching your interview with Danusia about your breast cancer story and learning about your positive twist on the “Why me?” question, I began to pause and reflect on my own “Why me?” question. For the first time, I changed my question from “Why, God, haven’t you chosen me for that life when (seemingly) ALL of my friends are married with babies?” to “Why have you chosen ME to be single for this time when everyone else around me is married?” For the first time, I was able to look at my life quite differently. 

God has CHOSEN me for this time for HIS purposes—teaching and loving my students, traveling to serve in Romania, spoiling my friends’ babies—I may not know exactly why, but He does, and I can rest in that. Whatever He has planned for me right now can only be accomplished as a single woman. He CHOSE me for this. How can I not delight in that? 


That doesn’t mean I don’t still long for a family—I definitely do—but, I can continue to “ACT AS IF I’M CHOSEN” so that I may be content where God has me right now—ready to fulfill His purposes for me each day. 

So, in the spirit of Miss Val, what's YOUR "Act As If" OR how can you change your "Why Me?" Comment below or go to Miss Val's page and leave her some love.

Thanks, Miss Val, for having such a positive impact on my life and therefore impacting those around me. Love you!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

In Memory of Suzy Friesen, I Want to Say "Thank You"

Last week, without warning, we lost a beautiful woman of God, Suzy Friesen. I went to youth group with Suzy's girls, Lindsay and Whitney, and was often the recipient of her incredible joy and love. I can still hear her sweet laugh and see her goofy faces. To learn more about Suzy, read her obituary here. 

This morning, as I sat back in the pew at LBC, listening to Suzy's family and friends share about her life of love and service, with tears streaming down my face, I was hit (overcome really) with the reality of her loss. Although I wasn't really as close to Suzy over the last few years, she was one of the women who made a huge impact on my life during such a formative time. Because of that, I want to say "thank you." Unfortunately, I can't thank Suzy in person anymore (until we meet again in Heaven), but I can take an opportunity to thank the other leaders and parents who made an impact on my life.

During the service, the faces of these servants and leaders scrolled through my mind, and I couldn't even believe that the first of them had gone to be with our Lord and Savior. It's difficult to imagine facing this again... and again... and again. Yet, because of our sweet Savior and His work on the cross, we can grieve with hope. We WILL all be together again one day in Heaven.

In no particular order:

* My Impact (small group) leaders Cathy Birkhauser, Amy Ruff, Cheryl Saiki, and Nicole Parker: 

Cathy was there as I really began to grasp who I was in Christ. She led Mexico trips, shared Jesus with us, and engaged in many laughs and inside jokes.

Amy was not only my impact leader, but my math teacher. She led well at church, in our small group, and in the classroom. She showed integrity, passion, and love. She was there on my good days and bad, and she put up with me EVERY day for a year--an awkward year at that! Oh, and did I mention that she DUCT TAPED my mouth shut one day in class? ;)




Cheryl was the epitome of a humble, gentle leader. She opened her home and heart to us. She cried and prayed with us as well as laughed and danced with us. She was always ready with an encouraging word and a warm hug. I am beyond blessed that I go to church with Cheryl once again and get to receive her amazing hugs and sweet words on the regular once again.

Nicole was my small group leader my senior year, but has since become a dear friend. She has been there with me through some of my darkest days. She has laughed with me through some of life's greatest joys. I've been able to witness her incredible love story and the two amazing boys she has brought into this world. I have learned so much from her about being a Godly friend, wife, mother, and teacher. I am looking forward to many more years of friendship and life lessons and love.



* Youth Leaders from LBC:

Kerri Hodgson was not only someone who offered a listening ear and an encouraging word during youth group, she was also there for me before my senior formal. She came over to do my hair for the big dance, and I will never forget how comfortable and at ease she made me feel. I remember always looking up to her and thinking she was so great. I wanted to be as bubbly and joyful as Kerri. I now have the incredible joy of having her daughter, Reese, in my class.



Angela Diffee always brightened the room with a smile. She was our youth secretary, but she was far more involved than just that. She was a part of our lives, invested, and interested in making sure that we were seeking and following Christ. She was also there for a good laugh and a good time.



Jana Hillen was our cheerleader, always encouraging and kind. Perhaps the thing that stands out about Jana is that she is still involved in our lives, even though she lives FAR too far away from CA and all of us. Thank goodness for Social Media!

Alan and Sherie Thomas, Doug and Holly Culhane, Scott and Carolyn Pearsey, Ken and Peggy Cross, Ken and Vickie Beggs, and Steve and Grace Cabalka are not only the parents of my friends, but were all sacrificial leaders during my high school years. They not only opened up their hearts and homes, but they demonstrated Godly marriages and parenting. They took us on mission trips and church camps, and played in the mud with us during Mud Bowls. I remember all of them loving me like I was their own, offering a listening ear when I needed one, and offering guidance and encouragement when I needed it (and even when I thought I didn't!). Even all these years later (yes, more than ten now), I hold such fond memories of our times together. But, more than that, I still hold onto (and remember! I have a terrible memory!) some of the precious lessons these amazing leaders taught me about my Jesus. And, I still consider it a HUGE blessing when I am able to see and receive sweet hugs from any of these amazing folks.







So, if I haven't said it yet, THANK YOU! THANK YOU to all of you for loving me, serving me, leading me, and teaching me. Thank you for giving your hearts and minds and time to serve a bunch of crazy high school kids (especially those who weren't your own!). Even though time and distance has separated many of us, you will always be close to my heart. I have been beyond blessed by all of you. I love you!


(...and if I've missed anyone, I'm SO sorry. It has been a long, emotional day...and I do have a terrible memory. True story.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

And Just Like That.... It Was Over.

And Just Like That...

...it was over. The end. La revedere. Even with my extended trip, it went by far too quickly. I don't know exactly at this moment why God had me stay in Romania for eight more days than originally planned, but He has shown me glimpses here and there, and I am beyond grateful for them.

We began Tuesday at the office with the usual morning meeting, except that Bogdan brought pastries so that I "wouldn't be so sad." Opposite effect, Bogdan! Way to make me cry! As we began worship and went on through devotion and prayer, I couldn't hold back the tears. They silently poured out of my eyes as I sat there and tried to focus.

It didn't help any that I went with Bogdan right after that to exchange money and get my passport. As we quickly debriefed a bit of my trip, I had to do so through the cloud of tears. It was just too much.

After I got myself together, the girls and I headed to Home of Hope to spend the morning with the little ones. I was looking forward to their giggles and smiles as I needed a bit of lightheartedness in my morning. They didn't disappoint. We played for a bit at the apartment before heading to the park. Their hugs and laughter and smiles were certainly good for the soul. I'm really going to miss those little ones.

The goodbyes had to continue at lunch as I said "see you later" to Gianni, Ioana, and Simona--my heart growing increasingly heavy with each one.

After lunch we headed over to Chitila. Nelu had Carmen and the girl interns in the car, so we used the opportunity to jam to some T-Swift. Carmen may or may not have gotten some of it on video. All I have to say is that it was quite refreshing to forget about leaving for a few minutes and just sing and dance and laugh.

We had planned on taking some of the girls from Chitila to McDonalds as a change of pace, but there were, of course, a few hiccups in the way as we arrived and tried to gather the girls we planned on taking. After some time, we each grabbed a hand or an arm and headed out on the tram.

It was so nice to be able to sit at McDonalds with the girls and just visit and be. Although my beloved Flori was there (and was the one I was "assigned to" on the way over), I sat with Ioana at lunch and spoke to her in English (with a bit of translation help from Florina). I got to hear more of her heart and learn about some of her future dreams, and I felt immediately drawn to her. She has so much potential, and my heart is so burdened for her. Please join me in praying for her along with the other girls.

As we returned to the center with the girls, little Ana squealed and ran up to me. The little ones had been out somewhere, so they were unable to come with us, but I was so grateful that she was outside at that moment. She hugged and kissed me and told me how much she loved me, and my heart (albeit full) absolutely ripped apart. Here is this young, impressionable, seemingly innocent girl amidst the chaos of the situation and saturated with the influence of the older girls, who themselves have dealt with an abundance of abuse in their lives. I look at Ana right now and think ahead five years. What will her life look like? Will that precious smile still be evident? Will the joy in her heart remain? Or will she become hard and jaded with years of abuse and/or possible trafficking?

God, please protect this precious one! I pray that with the continued support and love of CTL, and the love of Jesus that the staff brings to these kids, that there will be a future for them--a future of hope and potential and success, a future of trusting Jesus, not one of despair and brokenness and whatever else you can imagine.

I can try in words and utterings here, but the story of Chitila, of so many orphanages around Romania is one that is so difficult to tell, so hard to truly convey... But God knows. He knows every inch of every one of those girls, every hair on their heads, every tear they've cried, every desperate plea they've uttered. And, I know that He loves His precious daughters far more than the CTL staff or I ever could. I have to entrust them to Him as I leave and remain faithful in prayer.

After leaving Chitila, Nelu and Florina went with the interns to grab some dinner--my last Shoarma. We enjoyed some good conversation and laughter before I had to say goodbye to Florina (as Nelu would be the one taking me to the airport). As our time together drew to a close, I honestly sat at the table, laughing at something she said, and tears starting pouring down my cheeks. I've never experienced anything quite like it. I've never experienced anyone like Florina before. I love her dearly, and I'm going to miss her like crazy until I see her again.

The interns then headed back to the apartment to hang out for a while as it was our last opportunity to be together. We again put the phones down and enjoyed a few hours of good conversation. I'm really going to miss that. I thank God for those sweet opportunities.

It was late already when we said goodnight, and then our power kept switching off and on (which meant no fan when it was off, and super loud beeping when it would come back on). Because of that, Bailey and I didn't get much sleep. Fortunately for Leanne, I think she slept through all of it.

Nelu picked me up around 4:30 this morning, and we enjoyed a nice ride to the airport. I held it together really well until he hugged me for the last time and I had to walk through security. Again, tears literally  poured out of the eyes. Guys, this is so foreign to me. I don't understand how this water keeps appearing so easily. I guess it just means these people are extra special or that they've touched my heart even more than I can consciously imagine. The last wave goodbye was the worst before I rounded the corner and headed toward my gate.

Now I'm sitting in Amsterdam, ready to board my flight my LAX. Please pray that it all goes smoothly, that I sleep if I need to, and that God would prepare my heart for the transition back. Thanks so much for all your love and support throughout this journey. Love to you all!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Wake Me Up When it's All Over

When I'm wiser and I'm older... Or when this goodbye stuff is finished. I'm over it. It makes my stomach hurt.

Anyway, this morning we headed over to the Home of Hope to spend time with the little girls (since we're at Chitila every afternoon this week, we don't have the normal schedule in the mornings either). We went with the girlies to the park and they certainly wore us out, although we had an absolute blast. There is really nothing sweeter than their giggles or anything more dear than their hugs. And, how sweet was the sound of their little Romanian voices asking if we were going to stay with them as we left the park. Yes, darlings, we have one more hour to play.

Tea parties, handstands, pictures, and puppet shows all made the hour pass by far too quickly. I'm so grateful to be able to spend tomorrow morning with our precious little girls as well, but I'm really going to hate saying goodbye to them.

Nelu picked us up midday, and we headed over to Chitila. The song mentioned in the title of the post was on in the car during our drive, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

It was so wonderful to be able to drive up to Chitila today and see the faces that I've grown to absolutely adore--faces that will forever be burned into my memory. After hanging out and singing a bit (and a added bit of chaos as is common these days), Leanne shared her story. The girls were attentive and truly listening. Afterward, one of the girls said she wanted to share about what was going on--miracle of miracles (they don't share in groups, unless you're Michelle Combs). 😊

Through tears she shared what was happening at the center and her fears and frustrations surrounding that. A few other girls piped in after that and also shared through tears, while one girl completely lost it. We paused and prayed at that point--for God's peace, comfort, and direction, that the girls would look to Him in their hurt and loneliness, and that they would make wise decisions amidst the chaos surrounding them. Will you please join us in praying for these things?

We played a few low key games after that and made a popsicle stick frame with Ephesians 4:13 written inside of it. I'm praying that the girls will look to that and remember who they are in Christ. Although I always hate to leave Chitila, I was glad to be able to tell the girls I'd see them tomorrow.

After Chitila, Nelu dropped us off at the mall, and Florina and I finally got to spend a good chunk of time together visiting and talking about life--more than we're able to on a normal day. I love that lady more than I can say, and I'm going to miss her more than I can stand.

Lili also joined us after a while, and it was SO good to finally see her and spend some time catching up.

This evening I tried to pack so that I won't have to worry about it tomorrow, but I pretty much hated it. Every minute of it. I hate packing in the first place, but having to pack to leave is even worse. I just pray my suitcase makes weight!

Alright, it's already super late, and I must be up and ready for my last day tomorrow. Thanks for your continued prayers. Noapte Buna!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Adventures in Paulis with my Chickens


European night train: check. It was actually much more comfortable than I imagined, and I was able to sleep quite well, considering I was on a super slim mattress in a compartment with three other people on a train. The rocking and continual noise helped out quite a bit.

I can't even put into words how good it was to see and spend time with the Coman family after TEN years. It was like no time had passed at all. Our hearts were still connected, and we laughed--boy how we laughed.

On Friday we went on a journey with  Yannis to a castle like building that I'd seen before (many, many years ago), and it was so great to just be outside in the county with the beautiful green everything. Since it was a bit warm (read: HOT) outside, a massive water fight ensued afterward, and I loved every minute of it.

Friday evening when the family came home and Yannis went to play soccer, we enjoyed some amazing sarmale for dinner and then went to visit some old fortress ruins and a monastery. This country never ceases to amaze me with its beauty. I could have stood there for hours in complete awe.

On Saturday we enjoyed a leisurely day around the house reading, playing, attempting Kendama (sp?), laughing, and visiting. The boys went swimming at the lake for a bit while we girls had some girl talk and watched a few good YouTube videos (and laughed our heads off). In the evening we headed into Arad for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and then we enjoyed a nice stroll in the park (complete with selfies and laughter and good conversation). We got gelato for dessert, and again enjoyed a nice slow walk around town--such a change from the fast pace of Bucharest that we've been experiencing lately.

When we returned home, a bit of hilarity ensued. I'm sworn to secrecy on this one, but I will say that it had to do with Frozen and a music video of some sort. At that point, the Disney bug had bitten us, so Tania and I spent who knows how long watching YouTube videos and singing Disney songs at the top of our lungs (while the boys tried to watch soccer). There may have even been a DubSmash or two in there, but I'll leave that to your imagination for now. I will say we laughed and laughed and laughed. We also convinced Tania to play for us at this point, so she (a bit reluctantly) got her violin while Stelu got the guitar, and they played while we sang familiar songs. That's a moment I don't ever want to forget. It was absolutely beautiful. It was so good for the soul and heart and everything else.

As the evening too rapidly came to a close, it was so hard to believe that our time together was just about over. It always goes by far too quickly, but especially so when we only have a weekend to spare. I hated to go to bed because I knew that signaled the end of our time together.

This morning we had to say our goodbyes, and I had to hold back my tears. I'm going to miss my chickens (that's what Stelu calls all of us and so we call the family that as well) more than I can say. I just pray that ten years won't pass before I see them again. They are and forever will be a huge part of my heart.

I love you, Chickens!!! Missing you so much already!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Little Rabbit = #ripmyheartout

This morning began at the office with worship and devotion as usual, except it was the team's last morning with us. They'll fly back home early tomorrow morning, so be praying for them if you think about it.

We headed to Rehab after our morning meeting. I was quite anxious to see my Little Rabbit again (Marius) and a few of the other kiddos I've come to truly adore (like Stefi). Speaking of Stefi, who was there to greet us with a bright smile and an adorable giggle when we arrived? You guessed it. I'll never get enough of that precious face. We were all outside to begin with, so after playing on the swing a bit, Stefi grabbed my hand and dragged me in circles all over the yard. We really had no purpose in where we were going, but it didn't matter a bit. The cutie patootie sat on my lap while the team did their skit and sang, and then I helped her make her whale craft. It was all quite adorable. I'm certainly going to miss that one!

But, after spending quite a bit of time with Stefi, I was ready to head inside to see my little dude. The workers told us not to pick the kids up today (there were men all around the center replacing windows, so it was a bit chaotic), so I lowered the side of Little Rabbit's crib and sat with him while Micah played the guitar and we all sang. It's not an easy feat to get any sort of reaction out of that little man, but I did manage to make him smile a time or two. Of course, I was not ready to leave when our time was up, but I knew I had to, so I kissed Little Rabbit, hugged him, told him I loved him, and that I would miss him. As I put the side of his crib back into place, he started shaking so violently that it looked like he was having a seizure. I immediately went right back to him and realized it wasn't a seizure (thank you, Jesus), he was just that upset that we were leaving. Talk about rip my heart out. I pray that I'll be able to see my dear Little Rabbit this side of Heaven, but if not, I'm confident we'll be singing and dancing one day in the presence of our Savior.

After an amazing lunch (as usual!) at the office, the kids from Pinnochio came over for the afternoon. Since they had already seen the Jonah skit, AJ reviewed the story with them and shared his testimony--relating it back to Jonah. The kids also did a different craft, and we sang and played games. I think this was the last time I'll see those kiddos, so it was a bit different saying goodbye to them this time. Lord willing, I'll see them again next year.

Since the team is leaving in the morning, we had to say farewell to them next. I'm really not a fan of goodbyes (who is?!), and I didn't like having to start them already. There will be far too many in my near future.

When we got home, I gathered things and packed for the weekend--I'm heading to Arad tonight to see Stelu and Florentina, who I haven't seen in 10 years, and I'm SO EXCITED! I probably won't update much over the weekend, but stay tuned for the last few updates early next week.

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement. A huge answer to prayer is that we'll get to spend Monday and Tuesday afternoons at Chitila (well, the staff will be there each afternoon tomorrow and next week, but I'll only be around for those two days). I'm beyond relieved to be able to see the girls again. Please continue praying for them as well! La revedere for now!

Storms and Stories

Wednesday began at the office with kids from the families (minus a few who were taking their school exams). It was quite fun to see them again, play games, reconnect, and love on them. I'm really going to miss the few I've gotten close to over the last few years.

We had an early lunch so that we could make the long journey over to Chitila by 1:30. The program was a bit different because of all the chaos and upheaval going on at Chitila. (You can ask my mom about it if you see her or anyone else connected to CTL about the situation. Otherwise, I'll fill you in in person when I see you.)

I was overjoyed when I walked up to the gate at Chitila and saw Flori there waiting for us. She grabbed me and kissed me through the bars of the gate as we waited for the security guard to unlock it. It was so great to see so many of the girls and be able to love on them again.

We began our time together with some singing, which is always quite calming. Then we did the M&M activity where depending on the color of candy you get, you have to answer a different question (i.e. What do you worry about? What do you like? What are you afraid of?). The girls were pretty open and honest, and it was good to hear their hearts and their fears. I shared my story next. At that point it was storming outside, and when I neared the end of my testimony, and the storm I'm currently facing, the rain poured outside harder than I've ever seen it pour. It was a great opportunity to discuss how we can remain faithful to God and trust in His unfailing love even in the midst of our storms. A few of the girls, including my beloved Flori, had tears cascading down their faces as I shared. As much as my heart was broken for them, I was grateful that God used even a bit of my story to touch their hearts.

Following that, we made rainbows with characteristics the girls desire to be one day written on the colored strips, such as respectful, loving, polite, etc. At this point, I was able to sit down with Flori and Florina and hear more about Flori's struggles and her heart. Remember my post from last week about Chitila being harder every time I go? That truth still remains. My heart ripped into pieces as I heard her talk, and I know I haven't even heard it all yet.

Bailey also shared her story while we were there, and we could tell the girls were interested and could relate.

We relaxed a bit and painted their nails after that. A couple of the team members sat and sang to a few of the girls at this point, and you could see the Spirit physically calming them down. Music truly is a gift from God.

I was quite sad as our afternoon wrapped up, thinking I may not have the opportunity to see these girls again. I gave many hugs and kisses as I left, praying that God would continue to protect his precious daughters. He knows each one. He made each one. He loves each one far more than I ever could.

After Chitila, the interns grabbed dinner together and headed back to the apartment to hang out for the evening. We put our phones in the middle of the coffee table and enjoyed a few hours of good conversation--everything from elementary school stories to deep theological topics. It was great. Evenings like this should definitely happen more often. God did create us to be in community, after all.

But alas, because of this, the blog post didn't exist until today. My apologies. I hope it gave you some ideas of how to be praying. I can hardly believe I'll be gone in less than a week. Please also pray for the transition home. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tei, Pinnochio, and Worship Night!

This morning at Tei we were met with a gaggle of giggles and an abundance of hugs. These kids seriously melt my heart. Have you seen the pictures I've posted from today yet? If not, please take a moment and refer back to my FB/Insta for a moment. How can those faces NOT melt your heart!?

Other than hugs and kisses and giggles and heart melting, we spent the morning playing on the inflatable slide, face painting, singing, watching the Jonah skit, and making adorable little whales with clothespins. The kiddos were loving it. Unfortunately, a few of us had to do a bit of face washing before we left since they couldn't put the kids down for naps with face paint, but it was all fun regardless. I'm seriously going to hate saying goodbye to those little ones next week.

This afternoon (after some private lessons from Florina during the journey back from Tei) we headed over to Pinnochio and did much the same program with them, but amped up a bit as many of them are older. They seemed to really enjoy it, but they especially enjoyed the team singing. I'm sure the kids are going to really miss that!

When we returned from Pinnochio, we were greeted by kids from the families' program and our dear friends Denisa and Eliza (former CTL staff members). I was beyond delighted to see them and get in some much needed hugs and love and encouragement.

Worship night was great as always. We sang and Ana, Bogdan, and a few of the team members shared. It's always encouraging to hear how God has transformed lives. We're all so very different, yet He cares about each one of us and each one of our stories so intimately. He truly is an awesome God!

Tomorrow we'll work with the Rehab kids in the morning and head to Chitila in the afternoon. PLEASE be praying for our afternoon tomorrow especially--these girls are in a delicate state right now and we want to love them well.

Thanks for your encouragement, support, and prayers! Noapte buna!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bucharest + June = Water Fight!

Today we had the kiddos from #7 with us at the office all day today. It was great to be able to spend a good amount of time just hanging out with them and relaxing with them without having a strict schedule. It was also great to be able to spend time with kids we really know at this point. I'm certainly going to miss them...

The morning consisted of a lot of Dutch Blitz, Tenzi, and other games while in the afternoon we sang, learned about Jonah (from a pretty entertaining team skit), and painted nails (while the boys played outside).

Shortly thereafter, Nelu beckoned us all outside for a few games. Outside + Bucharest + June = WATER. We most certainly spent the afternoon playing a series of water games before erupting into a water fight of epic proportions. It. Was. A. Blast. We laughed and ran around and threw water at each other and laughed some more. I loved it--not to mention that it felt GREAT on a hot afternoon. Riding home on the metro and going to the store afterward wasn't the most fun in wet-ish clothing, but sometimes it's all about sacrifices, right? :)

The roomies and I actually spent a good amount of the evening writing out our testimonies because we are going to have the opportunity to share our stories with the girls at Chitila on Wednesday. There has been a lot of upheaval there in the past week, so PLEASE continue to pray for the girls there and for us as we share our hearts. May God use us however He plans to reach out and touch His children.

Tomorrow we'll head back to Tei in the morning. In the afternoon, we'll have the kiddos from Pinocchio and some of the families at the office for the usual program and they'll stay into the evening for a BBQ and worship night. Please also be praying for our time together tomorrow.

Sorry for the short update, but that's all for now! Thanks for all your prayers. Te iubesc!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday FUNday!


Sunday morning began with a journey to Uniri to meet up with the team, Ioana and Marc, and some kiddos to head to church. It was so fun to start the morning with those smiling faces and sweet hugs.

Since this particular church was only in Romanian, we sat in the back with Delia and Florina so that they could translate for us. The Home of Hope girls were there, which was wonderful, but it was even more delightful to see Ilincuta and Elena who are now living with families hoping to adopt them. It seriously warmed my heart!

Bogdan and Daniel were able to share about CTL after the sermon and show a short video that Nelu made. It's our prayer that more churches here will embrace CTL and the orphaned and abandoned kids in Romania.

After church, we headed with Nelu, Florina, and Ioana to the mall for lunch with the kiddos and the team. Shortly after lunch, the kiddos and team left and the interns stayed for quite a while to hang out with the Stoicas. We really enjoy each other quite a bit, and it was so nice to just sit back in the cool air and chat.

This afternoon, the interns decided to wander around and keep hanging out. I'd say we got our "steps" in, but they were equaled with good conversation, so we quite enjoyed it--not to mention that we learned a thing or two about each other.

Bailey and I ended the evening with peanut butter toast and flat peaches for dinner while Leanne ate cornflakes with yogurt. We eat super well around these parts... Actually it was around 8pm, so we certainly didn't want to cook anything. Yah, we'll go with that.

Alrighty. Back into the swing of things tomorrow. Must. Get. Rest. Thanks for all your prayers! Noapte Buna!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sunny Saturday in Sinaia

The alarm went off far too early this Saturday morning, but I knew Sinaia would be worth it.

We met the team at the train station at around 7:45 and waited to hear from which platform we'd be leaving. A few minutes later, platform ten flashed up on the board, so we headed that way. However, when we arrived at our train, our tickets said "Car 21" and there were only five cars there. Period. Pe bune?

We figured that maybe it meant car one or two, so we hopped on and hoped to find our seats. After a bit of hunting, we walked  toward the front of the train, past first class, and into cars beyond car five. What!? You added cars on us? Apparently so, because we happened upon "Car 21" and settled into our seats. Now, there weren't anywhere near 21 cars on the train, so I still have no idea why we were assigned to "Car 21," but we figured it out regardless.

Austin, Bailey, Leanne, and I ended up in a booth together, so we played a few rousing rounds of Uno. Actually, we played one "boring" round of regular Uno before switching over to Speed Uno. Far more fun!

When we arrived in Sinaia, the sky was blue, the sun was bright, and the air had a nice crisp breeze. We were beyond delighted! It is absolutely gorgeous up there, and it was delightful to be among the trees.

We journeyed up to the castle, only to happen upon a car show. At. The. Castle. Pe bune? Yah, the cars were cool and all, but there were So. Many. People. We (Marc) figured out where the tour line was since everything we knew was blocked off, and we got the team on their way to the castle tour.

Since we've both seen the castle a number of times, Marc and I decided to sit down in the shade and read--well, a bit of reading. A lot of people watching.

When the rest of the folk finished the castle meandering, we all did a bit of souvenir shopping before finding a quaint little Indian cafe for lunch. It was actually really delicious!

Fortunately, the train ride back was void of any hitches. I'm fairly certain most of us fell asleep. A nap around here is always welcome!

The heat and humidity hit us as we detrained, and I seriously wished we were back in the mountains. But, my people are in Bucharest, and I love my people. I'm so glad I have the opportunity to be here for a  week longer than planned. I can't even imagine going home this week.

Tomorrow is church and grocery shopping and laundry and rest (hopefully!).

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

Loads of Laughter

Friday morning we headed back to Tei--of course we were quite excited. Because of school ending, a few of the CTL staff members were at end of the year parties with their own children. Thus, we didn't have a vehicle available and we had to haul our stuff over to Tei--added adventure. 😊

Again, when we arrived, we were met with the joyous sound of little giggles and hellos. I was so excited to see the little ones, but I was overjoyed when I spotted Bianca. I've watched her grow up for the past four years, and I haven't been able to see her yet this summer because she has been in school. When I called her name and she realized who I was, she ran over and jumped into my arms. After a quick hello, she immediately asked about Brooke Brown (who has been on the BCHS team the last couple of years). Last year, I was able to FaceTime Brooke when Bianca was at the office, but I didn't have internet at Tei, so I had to settle for letting Bianca know I'd tell Brooke hi for her. Little Bibi is one special kid, and Brooke and I obviously adore her. Be sure to check out her age progression picture on FB.

The team sang and taught the story of Joseph, so our craft was an adorable little multi-colored coat with torn pieces of colored paper. It was so fun to watch how each child took it and made it their own in their own creative way.

We also had quite a few mamas outside with their babies, so a few of us had babies in our arms all morning. I'd never argue with that!

In the afternoon the kids from #7 came to the ministry center. The most entertaining part of the afternoon was breaking up the story of Ester into four parts and having different groups of kids act out a scene. We certainly had a few laughs.

After the kids left, we bid farewell to the team, and the interns (including Marc) went back to our apartment. Nelu and Florina came over a bit later and Florina (with the help of four sous chefs) cooked Fajitas for dinner. We FaceTimed my mama and Marc's mama while Florina yelled at us and ordered us around (all in love, of course). At one point, Marc and I were even messaging Aimee in India--talk about a gathering of cultures. We pretty much enjoyed every moment of the evening. The food was amazing, and the company was even better. I seriously love those people. Evenings like that are good for the soul.

After an emotionally exhausting week, a lighter day like this with tons of laughter truly was a blessing to my heart. The conditions aren't any better, the kids are still in desperate need, the situations are dire; but, amongst the pain, we can find joy and laughter.

Thanks for your continued prayers. Please pray for moments of rest this weekend as we gear up for another busy week. We're headed to the mountains early Saturday morning, and I'm quite excited for a beautiful day.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Little Rabbit Made My Day

Rehab was in the works this morning, but the plan was to stay there, not go to McDonald's (again!). The kids were obviously overjoyed when we arrived. Hugs, kisses, and screams abounded.

There's something so incredible about the kids recognizing you and coming up to say hi to YOU, not just some new person. We go to love them, and they end up sharing so much love with us.

After some singing outside, Micah (and the guitar) and I went inside the orphanage to the rooms with the kids that are immobile--my favorite! I was praying I'd be able to see my little rabbit (Marius), a sweet boy that I hung out with quite a bit last year. He wasn't in the room we went into, but I asked one of the ladies, and she pointed me toward him. I asked if I could pick him up and take him into the room with the guitar and she gave me permission. I was overjoyed. I sat on sweet Elena's bed (Elena who is constantly giggling, smiling, and squealing) with Marius. To say Elena was excited that we were there and with a guitar non the less is the understatement of the century. She scooted as close to me as possible, and  couldn't contain her joy. To be with her for only a moment is good for one's soul.

As I sat there with 14 year old Marius in my arms, part of me started to be overcome with grief and despair at the conditions around me, at the fact that these teenagers who are the size of a two to four year old are stuck in cribs and not held or touched, at the fact that there is seemingly no hope for these kids.

Yet, my amazing God reminded me that He is their hope. Of course He is. There is nothing other than that for them. As I held Marius and tried to get him to relax and laugh, I pictured him in Heaven--full and whole and healthy--running around with his incredible laugh. That's the hope these kids have. They may have nothing in this life, but by the grace of God, they will have everything in eternal life. It'll all be worth it. And, what's more, I'll be able to be there with them! I am so anxious for the day that I'll meet Marius in Heaven and reminisce about the days we spent in his orphanage, singing and laughing together. How sweet the sound will his laugh be in Heaven. How unimaginable that day will be.

How amazing is our God's overwhelming grace.

After Rehab, as we were waiting for our bus, I was able to debrief the morning a bit with one of the UCB team members, Camryn. I listened to her experience and how her heart was feeling and shared a bit about what I wrote above. We pretty much had a soul connection at that moment (and our good conversations lasted on and off throughout the day). I'm fairly certain we'll be friends even after this trip--like it or not, Camryn!

This afternoon we headed back to St. Joseph (check out last Thursday's post if you want to know more about the center and the kids). It was different and exciting to be there with the team today since there were more bodies to spread love around, more people to play games with, and a new (to this group of kids!) program. As always, these kiddos loved the team's singing. It was so mesmerizing that even I started to doze off--ok, ok, let's be real. I'm tired! After the program and singing, we played a few organized games with the kids. At this point, one of the teachers brought in a little three year old, who had just woken up from her nap, and basically handed her off to me. Sweet! I'll take that any day. Her little sassy self ordered me around and told me what to play with--amazing how young these little ones learn survival skills. Before I knew it, however, it was time to say "see you later." As rough as these kids can be, I'm glad I'll get to see them next week.

Dinner at City Grill with the team and Costel was on tap next, so we headed over to Uniri. I ate Mici, of course, as did a few of the team members, and I savored every bite. Papanas for dessert brought many a smile to our faces--sorry, Brian, I wish I could bring some back for you!

I headed back to the ministry center for a bit after dinner to get a craft ready for Tei tomorrow. Although I'm exhausted, I'm beyond excited to see those sweet little faces again so soon.

Fortunately we have this team for another week. I was a bit anxious about their longer stint at first since teams can sometimes be exhausting, but I'm quite enjoying getting to know these goobers. I'm sure I'll have many more stories to tell in the near future.

But, with that, I must bid you "pa pa" for now. I'm wiped. Thanks for your continued encouragement and prayers! Noapte Buna!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gut-Wrenching Wednesday


Since we have a team with us (and therefore more bodies), we were able to take a new set of kids from Rehab to McDonalds this morning. As I walked through the gate and said my good mornings at the Rehab center, I was praying that little Stefi would be able to come today. She was my buddy last year on our McDonalds outing, and I pretty much fell in love with her sweet smile. Much to my delight, one of the staff members brought her out shortly after we arrived, and she was all dressed up and ready to go. I semi-smothered her with hugs and kisses and warmed my heart with her little giggle.

We had a great time on the tram taking pictures alongside Bailey and our little dude from last week (whose name I still can't quite understand). When we got to McDonalds, we got to go into the special birthday room, and it was like Disneyland for these kiddos.  Can you even imagine McDonalds being the highlight of your month? Your year? Just something to ponder...

After lunch we headed to Chitila (an all girls' orphanage with girls between the ages of 9 and 22). One of the girls on the team asked me at one point today which group of kids is my favorite to work with. I couldn't give a definite answer as I like different groups for different reasons, but Chitila is definitely at the top of the list (along with Tei). Because so much changes in Romania, and so many of the kids and centers are different year in and year out, it is pretty amazing to me that I've been able to visit Chitila for over ten years. Although most of the girls are different at this point, it still holds a very special place in my heart.

We began with singing with Ana, which the kids always love to do. I was sitting next to another Ana, and she was insistent that I be able to see the song lyrics. Small gestures speak volumes. The team sang after that, and they began with "After All." Here is the chorus (I suggest you look up the entire song if you don't already know it).

After all, You are constant
After all, You are only good
After all, You are sovereign
Not for a moment,
Will you forsake me
Not for a moment
Will you forsake me

As I sat on the edge of the room and allowed the music and lyrics to wash over me, I couldn't help but look out at the girls and be utterly overcome. I had to fight back tears. For those who know me well, tears don't come very easily to me. I looked out at those faces and my heart broke more and more.

The abuse--verbal, physical, sexual. The trafficking. The prostitution. The pregnancies. The babies given to orphanages. The girls who run away. The endless cycle. It's just too much...

As I listened to the lyrics of the song and saw the girls' stories in their faces, I deeply struggled to reconcile the two. Our God is good, constant, sovereign. Our God will never forsake us. I know this is the truth with all of my being, and yet... What these girls go through every day... How is it possible? Where is the good in that? Where is God's sovereignty in that?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not doubting God for a moment. I know He is good and sovereign. I know He can and DOES work miracles. My humanity says these girls are destined to a life of abuse and trafficking. My faith in Christ says there's another way. It's just SO HARD to see these girls each week, hear their stories, and trust that God can bring good from them.

Then I think about Ester, the story the team shared today. Ester was an orphan with a seemingly bleak future, yet God used her in a mighty way to save her people. My prayer is not only that God will protect these precious girls TONIGHT and tomorrow and the next day, but that God would work miracles in their lives. I pray that one of them may be the next "Ester."

I have a love/hate relationship with Chitila. I love it because I adore those precious girls. I hate it because I get to know them more each week...and I hear more of their stories each week.... and my heart breaks a little more each week...

It's harder every time. Every. Single. Time. Yet, my heart longs to go back there right now... I don't know how the staff does it. They are beyond incredible people.

As I left Chitila today, Flori, a girl I've known for a few years stood there and hugged me. Last week the girls said she ran away, so we were praying that she'd be back today. I was overjoyed to see her. I asked her if I'd see her next week and she said she'd be there. However, as we were standing there, Florina told me her background story (in English) and I honestly had to fight to not cry and throw up at the same time. I don't even want to write it down, but I'll tell you when I see you if you're interested.

Please pray for Flori. Pray for all these girls. They have no future without Christ. No hope without his love. Pray that we may make even a small impact in their lives and that they CTL staff (with the power of God) may continue to do a MIGHTY work in their lives.

Our day wrapped up with a dinner at a former Home of Hope Mama's house for those of us who knew her. It was great to see her again and be able to decompress a bit. I was also able to spend a bit of time with David (Delia and Bogdan's baby boy) this evening and he sure kept me laughing. It was good for the soul.

Thanks for sticking with me through this gut wrenching (at least for me!) post. Thanks for your continued prayers. We all need them more than I can say, especially the kids and the staff. The iubesc si noapte buna!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tei Tuesday (aka: Melt My Heart)

Tei Tuesday = melt my heart into a million pieces day. Seriously. I can't get enough of those precious little ones.

This is now the third time (this trip) that I've seen many of them, so it was beyond exciting to walk into the room and have them run up to me-- not because I'm new and exciting, but because they knew me. There's really nothing in the world like the sound of their gleeful giggles.

And these little ones that have giant smiles on their faces and pure joy in their hearts come from NOTHING. And when I say "nothing" I mean often no electricity, no running water, sometimes no floor under their feet or roof above their heads. The conditions these kids live in is really beyond our comprehension. However, these kiddos are still with their families (many times just one parent). The goal of this center is to prevent child abandonment. During the day, the kids are dropped off at Tei (often quite dirty and run down), and they are bathed, clothed, and fed three good meals. When the CTL staff is there they are given loads of attention, loved on, taught about Jesus, taught everyday life skills, and allowed to go outside to play and just be kids.

To think even for a moment about what these precious ones live with every day and then to hear their joyous giggles and see their amazing smiles, one can't help but see Jesus and the joy that can only come through Him. I praise the Lord that although these kids have seemingly nothing, they are being taught by CTL about the gift of grace and love that is far more valuable than anything they'll ever have in this life.

Today after playing for a little while, I yelled over to one particularly adorable little boy, Mario (who happens to have the cutest dimples on the face of the planet). Right after I called his name, he slapped his hand to his forehead in a "her again?" kind of way. It was so quick and so stinking cute that Florina about doubled over laughing. She then proceeded to ask him in Romanian if he liked me, and he immediately covered his eyes and most of his face with his hands. I died. It was seriously adorable. Florina then tried to film him doing it, and it was still cute and funny, but no where near as adorable as the first time. (Check out my FB to see a quick portion of one of the videos.)

After playing and story time, the team that's here sang a couple songs for the kids. And when I say "sang," I don't mean sang some kids songs with a silly tone. I mean they SANG like choir people about to win an award. No joke. The kids were mesmerized. It was so neat to watch them watch the team. I'm telling you--it's going to be like that in Heaven!

After they told the story of Ester, the team had the kids make crowns. Talk about adorable. Not only were they cute,  but most of the boys then proceeded to show their "guns" and talk about how they were "regele" (king). Ahhh! I couldn't get enough of them today.

Unfortunately, we had to leave, but I'm so excited I'll be able to see them at least a couple more times before I go home.

This afternoon we had some kids from the family program as well as some kids from Pinocchio over to the ministry center. I played spoons with Nelu and a group of kids, and it was a blast! These kiddos (although they are older) also enjoyed Ester and were mesmerized by the team's singing. I'm going to miss that when they leave--good thing I recorded it! :) Carmen, one of our beautiful ballerinas also danced for us this afternoon. She's amazingly talented, and we pray that ballet will take her far in life.

We walked the kids back to the Pinocchio orphanage at the end of the day (making it three trips total for a few of us today--car there to get the kids, walking back with them, walking them back home, and then walking home ourselves). It's not far by Romanian standards, but it's times like today that I wish I had my Fitbit, merely out of curiosity. Not to mention that it was in the high 90s with about 90% humidity. ;) Not to worry, y'all, it builds character--so they say.

Once we got back to the ministry center, we did a quick few minutes of debriefing with the team while we ate some pork chops (not porc limba, Bogdan!), and then headed off to the store and finally home. It was another long, but great day!

For those who have been faithfully praying, here are some requests:

1. Continued health, endurance, and strength--especially in the heat.
2. That God would do a mighty work IN and THROUGH all of us--staff, interns, and team.
3. That relationship that are built or nurtured on this trip would be long lasting and fruitful.
4. For healing--whatever that may mean for each person serving here.
5. Wisdom and direction for the staff as they serve these kids day in and day out.

THANK YOU FOR PRAYING! Te iubesc!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trains and Blitz and Ester, Oh My!

Our morning began a bit strangely as our metro train pulled into the station, stopped for a few minutes, didn't open its doors, and then proceeded to exit backward for no apparent reason. Pe bune? Fortunately, another train arrived a few minutes later and we were able to get on with our day.

Today we had kids from the Family Program and Pinocchio over to the ministry center. Most of them were there all day since today is a holiday in Romania and there was no school. I got to see my Gabi already yesterday (yes, Mom, she's mine when you're not here), so I was delighted to see my sweet Cristina today. I've known these girls for years now, and it has been such a blessing to watch them grow up and mature in their faith and in life. Unfortunately, Cristina recently broke her ankle, so she is in a cast and quite limited in what she can do. Please be praying for her! Gabi also has a few major exams coming up in order to enter high school, so please be praying for her as well. For those of you who don't know these girls, you can find their picture on my FB.

Today consisted of countless games of Dutch Blitz, Tenzi, Spoons, LCR....I could go on and on. As we were playing at one point (probably when I was losing at Dutch Blitz), I just sat and thought about what an amazing thing it is that these kids have a SAFE place to just come PLAY and be KIDS--not to mention learn about Christ. I would have loved to have a place when I was there age where I could go and just play with other kid and be loved on by trustworthy adults, and I didn't face anything CLOSE to what these kids face on a daily basis. Of course they love coming to the ministry center and being fed by CTL (mentally, spiritually, and physically!). What this Romanian staff does on a daily basis is beyond incredible and selfless.

The team that is here did the program for the day--a story, lesson, and some games about Ester. The kids seemed to really enjoy it. The team, however, only told the first part of the story, so hopefully the kids will want to come back for more!

After the kids left today, I headed downtown to meet my dear friend Delia (who just happens to be Bogdan's wife) for dinner. We had a great time of fellowship and catching up. She has always been a great encouragement and support to me, and I was so blessed by our time together.

I'm praying for more opportunities with more friends while I'm here. Keeping these relationships going is so important to me. It's not only about serving the kids, but also serving those who serve the kids on a daily basis. They are the ones we need to truly pour into.

Again, thanks for your encouragement, support, and prayers--not only for me, but for this incredible ministry. Noapte buna!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Scavenger Hunt Sunday

Thank you, Lili, for making sleep possible last night. It's quite imperative here, I must say.

This morning we met Bogdan, Marc, and the team at Obor, a giant indoor/outdoor marketplace, for a scavenger hunt. Bogdan split us up into two teams, gave each team some money, and showed us a bunch of random items to buy--everything from a sink part to pork tongue. Marc, AJ, and I went along with the teams, but we weren't allowed to speak Romanian or help them with what to say. It was quite entertaining to watch our team figure things out. Fortunately, one of our girls did some studying ahead of time and knew how to say "how much?" in Romanian. Good girl! Our team also found a stall owner who spoke English, so they asked him how to say a few things. Smart girls! The scavenger hunt ended in a tie, but it was quite fun and a good experience for the team.

Lunch at McDonalds followed before the girl interns split from Marc and the team to go back to our apartment for a bit. Since Obor is so far away from our apartment, I was able to listen to two sermons this morning. Thank you, iTunesU! If you don't have it, go get it! I'm seriously enjoying all the sermons and talks I downloaded prior to the trip (as we don't have Internet when we're traveling to and from places).

We got a bit of rest in the afternoon--reading, fighting off sleep, the usual. I think I did manage a quick twenty minute power nap before we headed back to the ministry center to gather the team for church.

A couple girls, Gabi and Georgiana, met us at the ministry center to join us for church, and it was SO good to see them! I had a great chat with Gabi on the way to church, and I can't wait to spend some more time with her. We met Delia and Bogdan at their church and enjoyed a few hours of learning and worshipping (and laughing) together. Again, being in the midst of passionate worshippers of Christ always makes me think about and get excited for Heaven. I may never see many of those people here again on earth, but I'm confident that we'll be worshipping Jesus together one day in Heaven. How sweet the sound!

After church, we parted ways with the team and came back to the apartment. We had a great day, but I am completely wiped out. Hopefully sleep will come easily tonight as we hit the ground running once again tomorrow. Noapte buna!

Thank you for your faithful encouragement and prayers!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Simple Saturday

Sleeping in is pretty much my favorite. I'm fairly certain today was the only opportunity for that--too bad I was struggling to breathe. Thankfully, Lili is coming to the rescue this evening with some medicine! Thank you, Jesus (and Lili!).

I was able to relax at least this morning as we didn't leave the apartment until after one or so. The moment we did, however, we were hit with quite a heat slap--exactly what it felt like. We headed over to the ministry center to meet the team from Cal Baptist and help them with some planning. We worked on some stories, crafts, and games, and then they practiced some songs they had been working on. Man! It was enough to make me long for Heaven just a bit more so I can hear (and participate in!) that kind of singing and praise for all of eternity.

This evening we headed to Old Town, met up with our newest intern, Leanne, walked around a bit, sweated out every ounce of extra water in our bodies, and ate dinner at KFC. Although it was quite hot, I did enjoy getting to know the team a bit.

After dinner we headed back to the ministry center and cooled off for a quick minute before heading back home. Tomorrow we'll take the team to do a scavenger hunt at Obor (a giant indoor/outdoor market) and go to church in the evening.

Thanks for your continued prayers. If you'd like a specific list, check out yesterday's post. Te iubesc and noapte buna!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fri-Yay!

Week one of ministry is now complete. It was great to work so closely with the staff this week. A team arrives tomorrow (well, at midnight tonight), so things will be a bit different the next two weeks--the adventures never cease!

This morning we took three of the girls from Home of Hope (Ana was at school) and some of the kids from Tei to the park. They rollerbladed, went on the swings, scootered around, chased each other and us, climbed all up and down the equipment, and played a bit of futbol. Although it was quite warm (read: hot and sweaty), I had a blast playing with them and sitting back at times to watch them play. Their little giggles and their purely joyful smiles absolutely warmed my heart. As we were walking out of the park, Daniel started yelling "Romania" with a beat type chant afterward. All of the little ones started chanting along with him, and it was seriously hilarious. Even the passers by chucked at their ridiculous cuteness. If you haven't already, check out the few pictures I posted from this morning.

After lunch, Bailey and I went with Nelu to take the girls back to the apartment. I'm fairly certain I laughed more in those few minutes than I have in quite some time. Nelu played a few English songs that the girls knew and we sang and danced and laughed hysterically. I loved every minute of it. I'm quite excited to see them again.

This afternoon, the kids from the #7 Social Apartments came to the ministry center. For those who are unaware, #7 used to be an orphanage, but when it was closed down, the kids were split up into smaller groups and placed in apartments. One of girls that I've known for a few years recently broke her elbow, so she showed up in a giant cast. Hopefully she'll be able to get it off in a few weeks seeing as how she's a ballerina and really needs the use of her arm. She wasn't able to play Dutch Blitz (or many of the other games), but she could play Tenzi, so we had a lot of fun with that. If you've never played it, look it up on Amazon. It's a blast! After some singing with Ana and a lesson with Nelu, we played a few games outside involving water, and you can only imagine what happened when we were finished with the games. ☺️ However, being splashed felt quite good, so I didn't mind it a bit.

After saying goodbye to the kids and staff, Bailey and I headed home--but not before stopping by the meat market by our apartment for some chicken. Grilled chicken and a side of grilled (Romanian!) cheese made for a great dinner. And,  season 1 of Seinfeld made for some great entertainment while we ate. There's nothing quite like a good old (yes, it does seem "old" at this point--crazy!) sitcom.

Thanks again for keeping up with the posts and praying. Here are a few requests as we go into the weekend:

1. Good rest and health--a few of us are battling sore throats and stuffy noses.
2. Easy transition for the team and for the staff as we all begin to work with each other.
3. That God would continue to do a mighty work IN and through me.
4. That the children we work with would come to know the love peace of Christ more and more every day.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

McDonalds and Blitz and Shoarma, Oh My!

It's hard to believe we've already been here almost a week. But, the good news is I extended by trip by 8 days, so I'll be here for almost a month total. Thank you, Jesus, for working that out and allowing me this opportunity. (And, thanks to Victor for figuring out the details.)

This morning we took the older kids from Rehab (an orphanage for children with disabilities-although there's not actually much or any rehab that occurs) to McDonalds and the park. Needless to say, they loved it. They don't get out of the orphanage unless the CTL staff takes them, so it's always an exciting time for them when they get to go. They devoured their food, we participated in a few rounds of arm wrestling, and we capped it off with ice cream cones.

After McDonalds, we walked to the park. I absolutely love the parks here as they are generally covered in trees and have beautiful fountains scattered around. The older kids played soccer and basketball, while Bailey and I hung out with the youngest little dude on the playground. You've probably seen his picture by now on FB or Instagram, but if not, go check it out. His smile will seriously brighten your day. However, when he wasn't in the air swinging and smiling, his face was basically enough to crush you. Just thinking about what he lives with on a daily basis and all he has gone through in his short life absolutely breaks my heart.

These kids are living in impossible conditions, yet they somehow manage to continue on. It can be absolutely overwhelming, depressing, and crushing to carry the entire burden of what we can't do to help them, but we must continue to love them as well as we can, pray for them earnestly, and entrust them to our Heavenly Father who loves them far more than we ever could.

After lunch we headed to St. Joseph, an orphanage with boys and girls of all ages. I was so excited to go because I pretty much fell head over heals for a sweet little boy there last year, Stefan. Just thinking about his sweet smile is enough to melt my heart. However, when we got to St. Joseph, we found out that he is no longer there. His dad recently took him back. Incredible news for him, but sad for us at the same time (especially Marc who Stefan ADORED last year when he was here). You just never know. Like I wrote in the paragraph prior, we just have to pour all of our love into these kids and entrust them to God. Sometimes that means we won't get to see them again, and that has to be ok, although it hurts.

Even though Stefan wasn't there, we had a good time at St. Joseph. We sang a bit with Ana, Marc gave a great lesson on respect and love, and we played some games (including 5,278 rounds of Dutch Blitz). These kids are definitely the most challenging that we work with, so we pray that some of the lessons and things we teach are getting through.

After our program, the staff and interns parted ways, and Marc, Bailey, and I headed to Old Town for some Shoarma and adventures. I love the culture of walking around in a downtown, sitting outside a cafe to eat, and people watching for any given period of time. It's just so very different here than back at home. Not necessarily better or worse--just different. :)

Thank you for your continued prayers. Tomorrow we'll work with the little girls from the Home of Hope as well as the kids from Tei in the morning while in the afternoon we'll be with the kids from the #7 apartments. In the middle of the night tomorrow night, our first team arrives, so please be praying for that as well. I'm sure there will be many more adventures to follow...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Storms and Rainbows


Today we were supposed to get away as a staff for the day for some bonding and such, but since the rain has decided to make itself prevalent in the evenings, the grass would be too wet where we were supposed to go. Thus, we retreated to Plan B--a morning of planning and an afternoon at Chitila. As much as I was looking forward to a day with the staff, I was also quite excited to be able to see the girls today.

Yesterday Bailey and I were asked to prepare the games and lesson for today (with the suggestion of life's storms and God's promises), so on the long car ride back from Tei yesterday, I gathered some thoughts that I wanted to share with the girls. I'll attach my lesson at the end of this post.

It was great to see the girls again today. One immediately took the ponytail out of my hair and French braided it--so sweet. They seemed to pay attention to the lesson quite well and they really enjoyed the craft (a rainbow craft that the CTL staff already had prepared). We also all enjoyed a few games afterward, although the hardwood floor was a bit much for the knees of those of us who are getting a bit older.

After Chitila, Bailey and I went to meet Eliza (my dear, dear friend and a former CTL staff member). She had a baby boy about six months ago, so I was beyond excited to see her again and meet her son. He is such a doll! It was seriously so great to just sit and chat and catch up--one of the greatest benefits of being here "on my own" or as an "intern" this time around. I love bringing teams, but it was definitely time to reconnect with my people here and maintain my dear friendships in this way. I really look forward to being able to see Eliza again before I leave.

Tomorrow is going to be another full day, so I must go get some rest, but I'll leave you with my lesson from today (I added a bit as I spoke, but here are the bones):

Rainbows and Storms

Has anyone ever experienced a storm or a problem in life? We all have. When we're in the middle of a storm, it looks dark all around. The clouds are thick above us. The rain is often pouring down. We don't know when the storm will end. And, we're often wet and cold and scared. In the same way, as we go through storms or problems or struggles in life, we are often scared and angry and hurt. We don't know when they will end. Sometimes we feel like they will never end.

But let's think for a minute about what happens when a storm stops. The rain isn't as heavy and then comes to a stop. The ground begins to dry up. The lightening and thunder are gone. The clouds thin out a bit and then the sun breaks through. At first it's just a tiny little ray of light, but eventually the clouds get farther and farther apart and the sun gets brighter and brighter. When that happens, what do we often see in the sky? A rainbow. Something beautiful after the storm. Soon, there is no evidence that a storm was ever there. All that is remaining are the flowers that were watered by the rain, the sign of new life.

In the same way, when we come out of a time of trial or struggle in our lives, the clouds begin to part, the sun begins to shine, and we can see a rainbow, even if it's just a small one far away in the sky. A rainbow is God's promise to us. After God flooded the earth and saved Noah and his family and the animals in the ark, He gave Noah a rainbow in the sky. He told Noah that it was a sign of His promise that He would never flood the earth again. God promised to take care of Noah, provide for him, and love him.

Genesis 9:13--I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

That same promise is true for us today. God promised to NEVER flood the earth again. That means that whatever storms we face in this life will NOT destroy us. They may be painful and difficult, but they will pass. There will be an end to them. At the end of every storm in our lives, there will be a rainbow. God promises YOU that he will take care of you and that he will love you. He will provide you with peace in every storm and trial.

 If I look back on my life, I see many many storms. I can see dark times where I was sad and angry and scared. Sometimes those storms seemed like they would never end. But, they ALWAYS do. God always takes care of me and clears the storms in my life in his timing. Sometimes storms last for a few weeks, and sometimes they last for a few years. I'm in the middle of a big storm right now. But, God always provides a rainbow of hope and peace for me. He asks me to trust in Him, and I do, even when I don't understand what He's doing.

Just because we trust in God and love Him, doesn't mean we will have easy perfect lives. Most of the people in the Bible had really difficult lives. I know most of us have difficult lives. God doesn't promise that following Him will be easy, but He promises that He will always be with us. He promises that He will take care of us and love us.

So, if you're going through a storm right now, remember that it will come to an end. Your rainbow is coming. Keep trusting in God and loving Him. He will help you through it.

And, if you're not in a storm right now, if your life is going well right now, remember that it won't always be like that. Storms will come. They always do. We will go through times with storms and times with clear beautiful skies, but God is there through all of it. Life is a series of storms followed by rainbows and clear skies. The good news is that God never leaves us. The God of Noah and the Ark is the same God that woke you up this morning, the same God that gives you breath, and He has a plan for your life! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hold on to His promises. Rest in His love.

Hebrews 13:9 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Thanks for keeping up with the blog and thanks for praying! The iubesc! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Tidings

Today began with the usual morning worship, prayer, and devotion. I shared a bit about forgiveness--as much for myself as for anyone else. I won't share my entire devotion here, but the point that most of us need to be reminded of often is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We didn't apologize first. We didn't repent and fall on our faces in front of Him. He died while we were still sinning, knowing full well that we would CONTINUE to sin against Him. God commands us to do the same--forgive others, regardless of whether or not they are repentant (or even aware of how they've hurt us), knowing full well that we'll probably be hurt again (and again!). Forgiveness isn't just a one time event, it is also a process--one that is only possible with the grace of God.

This morning we went to Tei, and I was quite excited to see the little ones. To say they were also excited is a bit of an understatement. Let's just say that Bailey, Marc, and I became human jungle gyms. No joke. Dr. Perry, I'm pretty sure the kids helped make my neck curvature more pronounced. Despite the head butts and thrashing, hearing those giggles and feelings those arms around me was basically pure joy. We taught the story of Noah and the Ark and God's promises, did a craft, and played some games. Toward the end, I was working on a puzzle with sweet Bianca, and Florina taught her to say, "Bravo Amy" after I put every piece in, although it came out more like, "Bavo Ah-me!" Be still my heart. I'm pretty jazzed that I could say "see you later" to those kiddos today and not "goodbye" quite yet.

This afternoon the same kids from yesterday came to the ministry center, and it was great to see them again. We, of course, played a few rousing rounds of Dutch Blitz. Brian Murphy, I'm getting rusty. We need to practice when I get home!! Daniel taught a great lesson about sin and its effects on all of us and the world. We played a few games, sang with Ana, and ended with more Blitz. I did manage to win a few rounds with the help of a partner, but I seriously need some more practice. #forshame

After a bit of basketball and bidding everyone farewell, Baily and I headed home. We creatively made dinner, watched a bit more Brian Regan, and topped off the evening with some Joes--perfect way to end a great, exhausting day.

Tomorrow we'll do a bit of planning and go to Chitila. I'm quite excited to see the girls and share a bit about life's storms and God's promises with them. Please be praying for our time there tomorrow!!

Thanks so much to all of you who have been praying! Please don't stop!