Wednesday, July 6, 2016

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

And Just Like That... 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!