August 12, 2017

An August in Sighisoara

Some of the current reads...and coffee (duh!) on my balcony
So this is my first August spent in Sighisoara. The last two were spent in the States visiting family and friends, raising support, recruiting RSP students, etc. Since I went home in May for my sister's wedding, combined with a handful of other reasons, here I am, in Sighisoara in August.

Veritas, the organization I work closely with, takes a pause from all of it's programs during the month of August. With this, most of the staff save up their vacation days from the year and take August (or most of it, at least) as vacation time. There are one or two people working every day, but the center itself is basically closed. Now even though things are pretty quiet around Veritas, I still have plenty of things to do. A lot of these "things" are things I never got around to doing during my crazy season, which is how I lovingly refer to January-July 2017. All of this to say, yes, I'm still working in August. Granted, I'm able to work from home (in my pajamas with a cup of coffee and a messy top knot!) and at a slower pace on my to-do list that never ends.

A beautiful study on hospitality from She Reads Truth
This slower pace allows me to read, listen, reflect, journal, etc., which is something that I've definitely been putting off for...maybe a year? Yikes.

It's like I'm trying to fit in all of the reading I don't make time for during my "normal" schedule. I have to stop to explain why I put "I don't make time for" in italics. Usually, I would say that "I don't have time", but that's a stupid excuse that I use FAR too often. The truth is that I simply don't make time. I sit and look at my phone for hours, or take really long naps, but I don't make time to read, listen, reflect, journal, etc. Okay, back to the main topic...

I always have really good intentions to read, but I never get around to it. One problem is that during the time of my "normal" schedule, I sit down to read and fall asleep. Every single time, without fail. Even if the book is exciting. Even if I don't feel that tired. Nope, I fall asleep.

One thing I think many of us are working on in the days of "busy" is trying to take time to pause, to breath, to reflect. I'm terrible at this. I feel guilty when I do this. I sometimes don't feel like I deserve to pause, like there's always something else that I actually should be doing. I feel like I wasn't sent to Romania to sit and pause and do something for myself. But then my social worker self smacks me and yells "SELF CARE!" in my face...and I come back to reality. I mean, I teach a whole class to my students on self care and avoiding burnout, and yet, I struggle to put it into practice. But not this August!

Two of the photos I use in my PowerPoint on self care
This August, I am all about the self care. That slower pace, mentioned above, is intentional. Waking up early to enjoy the quiet hours of the morning is intentional (although quite difficult...I love my bed). Working in my pajamas is intentional. Taking the time to make a cup of coffee every day is intentional. Sitting on my balcony every morning is intentional.

I wish I could tell you how many words I have been able to listen to and read over the last week, since returning from my two week Romanian course. Books, articles, interviews, podcasts, lists, etc. A lot of words (and some in Romanian!). I currently have 10 tabs open with articles, online magazines, interviews, etc. If you know me, you know it isn't abnormal for me to have at least 15-20 tabs open at a time. But this time, most of them are for the purpose of self care!

Captured a little bit of the golden hour in my apartment
So maybe you've read this far and realized, or are reminded, that you also need to take time to pause, to breath, to reflect. Stop and take the time. Pick up that book you've been wanting to read. Write a few sentences in your journal. Mail a card to a friend. Make a really good cup of coffee. Go for a walk. Whatever self care means to you, do it. Even if it's just five minutes. Everyone has five minutes to spare. And if you need to get away, I have a guest room and a lovely balcony for you to use :)

August 6, 2017

If we were having coffee...v3

Let's pretend we're having our coffee here, at this dreamy coffee shop in Sibiu.
You know the drill! Grab your favorite mug full of coffee (or tea, if you'd prefer) and let's chat! I'm feeling wordy so prepare yourselves...

If we were having coffee...I'd probably speak to you in Romanian a little bit because I just spent two weeks away, in the lovely city of Sibiu, taking a rather intense Romanian course. When I first came to Romania, I took Romanian classes with a teacher through Veritas for probably 4-6 months. She ended up moving and I took a break for a little while before taking classes with my pal and coworker, Adela. We used a book and tried to focus more on conversation since speaking has always been my lowest area of language learning. After a few months, we ended up stopping due to schedules, a trip back to the States, etc. All of that to say, I haven't taken classes in awhile and I've had lots of opportunities to speak in English with Romanian Studies Program students, volunteers, teens in the It Takes Courage programs and at English camp, etc. I think you get the idea...I kind of stopped speaking Romanian, although not intentionally, as it just kind of happened that way. 

Anyways, I decided to seek out some type of course since I'd be sticking around for the summer with a less intense schedule. I found a handful of options on the internet, but decided to go with a two week intensive type course in Sibiu, which is about 1.5-2 hours away by car. I became aware of a friend of a friend who was willing to host me, and she was fabulous. So hospitable and generous with her time and resources. I really enjoyed my time in her home, even though I wasn't around very often due to my class schedule and studying habits. She ended up going out of town so I did have to book a room for the last few days, but that worked out fine. I found a cute, traditionally decorated apartment close to the center of town. 


The class was intense, to say the least. After the first day, I wondered if this was such a good idea after all. We started with some serious grammar and I freaked out a bit, but it got better over time. Well, I don't know if it got better so much as that we got used to it. We had class every day from 9:30-12:30, and then twice a week we had a more casual "Immersion Course" from 3:00-5:00. There were about 12 people in my B1 level section, but then there three other sections (A1 with 2 groups, A2 and B2) with about 40 people total I think. On both Wednesday evenings, we had a "social party", which really just meant dinner out together with everyone. Not my favorite type of event, as you know, but I powered through. Thankfully, there was a young woman in my class who I got along with really well so it was a good chance to talk to her a bit more. 

Beforehand, I really didn't know what to expect as far as who else would be taking the class, but let me tell you, it was a diverse group! In my level alone, there were people from Austria (3), Germany (2), France (but living in Belgium), Poland, Brazil, Norway (but mostly living in Kenya), England (3, with one living in Holland)...and I think that's it. See what I mean...diversity! It was really interested to hear what everyone does and why they were learning Romanian. 


If we were having coffee...I'd tell you how much I absolutely loved spending two weeks in Sibiu. I had been there a handful of times in the past, taking students to see the sites and such, but I hadn't spent more than a day there at a time. I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to explore and do more tourist-y types of things, but I tried to take the time to walk around. I would try to walk to/from class a different way, and then I spent most of Saturday roaming around. 


I also visited a number of coffee shops...to study, duh. My two favorites were The Refresh, which I had been to on previous trips, but they have a double caramel cappuccino (with an extra shot) that is soooo good. My other favorite (probably my most favorite) was Hug the Mug. A super cute, yet small, coffee shop along the main street in the center of town. They just had really good coffee, and I visited them specifically for ice coffee. So tasty and refreshing. There were also billions of doors in Sibiu and every single one of them was GORGEOUS. I couldn't have begun to photograph them all. 

Pre-podcasts
If we were having coffee...I'd probably end up talking about podcasts, as I've been listening to them nonstop for awhile now. I had been listening to an audiobook before bed, but once that ended I felt like I needed something else. I wasn't up for another book because it was too hard to figure out where I had drifted off the night before when I went to listen the next day. Jen Hatmaker had started a new podcast so I decided to follow along with hers, and that lead me to Shauna Niequist's podcast...and then to Annie F. Downs' podcast. I'm waiting for Jen's next episode, finished Shauna's 8 episodes from this season, and thankfully Annie has had a podcast since 2014 so I'm set for quite awhile. Thanks to these lovely ladies and their guests, I have new books to read, music to listen to, movies to see, things to think about, etc. So much good stuff. I'd highly recommend each of these podcasts if you're looking for one. And I'm open to podcasts recommendations so let me know what your favorites are!


If we were having coffee...I'd obviously ask you about your life. So feel free to let me know what you're loving in life right now. Books, movies, podcasts, coffee, super simple recipes...I'm interested in all of it. Email, text, Facebook, old fashioned snail mail, etc. I'd love to hear from you. 

July 20, 2017

Currently: Romanian Edition Part VII

A Saturday morning
In an effort to get back on the (blogging) horse, I've opted to return with a Currently post. I have lots and lots to tell you about, but I'll start with a peek into what life is like these days. Hopefully, I can attempt (yet again) to get some type of blogging schedule put into place, but we shall see.

Anyways, here's what my life "currently" looks like...

Reading: I am currently, and very slowly, working my way through Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. The second part of the title is "How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead". Woah, guys, woah. This book is incredible and very heavy, which is why I'm going through it so slowly. It's a little scary. Vulnerability is a little scary sometimes.

A quote from the book's Amazon description..."Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: 'When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Purpose and meaning...those are the big ones, no? I think she's right on track when she aims to discuss how we can only find that purpose and/or meaning when we open up and connect...and how do we connect? By being vulnerable with others. I'm not always the best at being vulnerable, partially because I like living a quiet, private life, but I can definitely attest to some of my strongest connections coming from times when I was most vulnerable. I could go on and on, but rant over...for now. Anyways, I'm only on the third chapter, but I'd already recommend it...or anything by Brene Brown. She's amazing...oh and she's a social worker so there's that ;)

Kurtoskalacs
Eating: Last weekend, there was a Hungarian festival in town. Traditional dancing, music, handmade items, and FOOD. I realize that you might be confused as to why there is a Hungarian festival in Romania and I'd love to explain, but I suck at history. Long story super short, Transylvania was once ruled by Hungarians so there are lots of Hungarians in this area. One of the things I absolutely love about Transylvania is the diversity...Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons (Germans), Roma (Gypsies), and of course, the foreigners. When I'm in other parts of Romania, I genuinely miss seeing the different people and hearing the different languages.

ANYWAYS, one of my favorite Hungarian treats, that you can't necessarily get all of the time, is kurtoskalacs. Don't ever ask me to pronounce that word. I butcher it every time. But OMG, this is a life changing treat. So dang good. I've posted pics of these before and I'll probably post many more pics in the future. Here's a short video that shows how they make them. The only difference from this video to how I've always seen them made is that they cook them over an open, charcoal type "grill". It's fun to watch the whole process...and then, of course, even more fun to EAT them!

Poppy field in a nearby village
Thinking about: Romanian summer school. On Monday, I will start a two-week Romanian course...as a student. A few people have asked me whether I'm teaching it or taking it, which makes me laugh really hard. To clarify, I am not teaching it. I've definitely come a long way in my Romanian, but to be able to teach a course...NOPE. I can understand a lot, but I continue to majorly struggle with speaking so I'm hoping that this course will help with that.

The course takes place in Sibiu, a city about 1.5 hours southwest of Sighisoara, which I'm excited about. I've been there a handful times, but staying there for two weeks will allow me to become more familiar with it. It will also be a nice change of pace regarding routine and schedule. Aside from studying, I'm hoping to relax a bit, read a lot more, and do some reflecting and planning for the upcoming months/year.

An orchestra from Holland strolled through Sighi recently and decided to play in the citadel square.
Listening: As always, my current playlist is ALL over the place. This song has been on repeat though, I must admit. It's not new, but I just love it. A few other songs on the playlist these days...

Til the End of Time by Cody Carnes ft. Kari Jobe
Feel It Still (Lido remix) by Portugal. the Man
I'll Find You by Lecrae ft. Tori Kelly
Set on Fire by MAGIC GIANT

I've also been listening to some audio books before bed lately...thanks to a generous pal's sharing of an Audible account. I finished Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, which was another incredible and somewhat heavy one. Had I read the physical book, I would have underlined SO much of it. And again, the second part of the title is pretty amazing, "Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy".

I'm currently listening to I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, which I read a year or so ago and absolutely LOVED. I finished it in a couple of days because I just couldn't stop reading. It wasn't what I expected at all, which is nice sometimes. Anyways, it's a little lighter than Option B, which means I can fall asleep without analyzing life, love and other mysteries! Shout out to any old school Point of Grace fans...Christi, Lindsay, Sara...where ya at??

A "new" door in town that I just noticed for the first time
Watching: I've been rotating through three different shows lately. Care to guess the first one...? Gilmore girls, yep. I actually went through a period of time recently where I didn't watch it at all. It was kind of weird and I'm glad that I'm back with my pals...yes, I think they're my friends. It's fine.

Number two is Everwood, which is probably my second favorite show of all time, but one that I don't watch nearly as often. Partially because it's not as easily accessible online and partially because it's just a little heavier than GG. I have the DVDs, but definitely forgot to bring them to Romania. Anyways, it's such a good show and, I think, quite unique in it's storytelling. It's more of a drama, but the storyline is just SO GOOD. I'm still bitter about the fact that it only lasted for four seasons. PS. if you plan to watch it, grab the Kleenex.

I also just started watching Supergirl, which is very unlike me. One, I don't start new shows very often, and two, this is not the type of show I usually choose to watch...or end up enjoying. However, I watched it with some teens the other day and actually found myself getting into it. They were on episode 6 or so and I just kept asking those annoying questions that people ask when they haven't seen previous episodes. "So that's her sister? How old is she? Are they dating? What are they talking about?" Yeah, I was that person. They patiently answered the first few questions, but then just gave me the look of "just watch it from the beginning and hush". So I decided to start from the beginning, and I must say, I don't hate it.

Playing UNO at International Kids' Camp.
Loving: For some reason, this is always the hardest part for me to write. Not that I don't love anything, but I just feel like there are so many things to choose. I tend to be a fan of "the little things" so sometimes the things I love feel too small to write a big paragraph about. I think I'll just list some of things I've been loving lately.

Experimenting with making iced coffee. Wearing Toms every single day. English Camp connections. Playing Uno with kids. Good conversations with teens. Live music in front of the International Cafe. Saying hi to familiar faces as I walk through town. My view from House on the Rock. Starting conversations with English speaking tourists. Coffee. Eating meals outside. FaceTime with my family and friends. Successful Romanian conversations. Listening to really loud music through headphones.

See, it's the simple things. Thanks for reading...until next time.

May 11, 2017

Two Years

None of the photos in this post have anything to do with my two year anniversary in Romania!
Man, oh man...I'm really not succeeding at this whole blogging thing. My blog should probably be called "Better Late than Never" since I never blog about events, or my life, in a timely manner.

ANYWAYS, it's been 733 days since I left for Romania on March 16, 2015. That breaks down to 2 years, 1 month and 26 days...which is absolutely insane. I've been sitting here with this blank page open for a bit now. Actually, I started this post a few months ago, but all I could manage to type was the title. Two years. Two years since I left for Romania...and I have nothing to say. Well, we all know that's not true, it's actually that I have so much that I could say, but I don't know where to begin...

View from the office I get the privilege to use
I can start by saying that while I didn't think I'd still be in Romania after two years, I also totally thought I'd still be in Romania after two years. That probably doesn't make sense to anyone except me, but I'll leave it written there. When I left for Romania, I had no clue how long I'd be there, but I knew it wouldn't be a short term thing. I had absolutely no idea how I could possibly manage to be there longer than 6 months to a year, in regards to finances, but God has done some crazy things to put my doubt in it's place. I still have no clue how long I'll be in Romania, but I'm totally okay with that. In a strange turn of events, I kind of like not knowing. I like not having a "long term plan". It's oddly liberating. And I officially just laughed out loud because pre-Romania Casey would never, never, never have said that! It's funny how things can change in just two years.

Changes in the season leads to the excitement of flower picking in the village of Țigmandru
I'm actually writing this post while on a three week "vacation" to the States. I've done my fair share of work while here, hence the quotation marks around vacation. But I think it's appropriate to be writing this from back home because those previously mentioned changes are a little bit more obvious from this side. Changes in my hometown - I'm writing this post from a new coffee shop in town. Changes in my family - my sister just got married and had another baby...so major changes in this department! Changes in my church - we're about to start the process of looking for a new pastor. Changes in relationships - new and old friendships! Changes in myself - too many things to list ;) Some of these changes have been easier to handle than others, but I think it's safe to say that most of them have been really, really great...

So, two years down...and potentially many more to come. Whether those years are spent in Romania or America, or somewhere else I haven't been clued into yet...I'm up for it! And one last thing, thank you to all of you who have stuck around for these two years. Your support, prayerfully, relationally and financially, does not go unnoticed and I am so incredibly grateful for you, my people!


February 27, 2017

28 Before 29


Last year, I posted my handwritten list of 27 Before 28, which were 27 things I wanted to do before I turned 28 years old. I've made a list like this for most of my twenties, and while I usually don't accomplish everything, it's nice to have some goals for the year. I actually quite prefer this to any type of New Year's resolutions, but that's just me :)

Rather than sharing my handwritten list again this year, I'll share some of the things I accomplished from my 28 Before 29 list. I'm pretty sure I said something just like this last year, but turning twenty-nine isn't a time in my life I ever really thought about. However, so far, so good. I was spoiled on my birthday again this year in Romania. I have such a fabulous inner circle here and I am so insanely grateful for that. They sure know how to make a girl feel special on her birthday! Anyways, enjoy a look back into my 28th year of life...

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Read some books (and keep a list). I go through major reading phases. Sometimes I read a ton of books in a week, and other times I read a handful of books in a year. This year, it was the latter...I didn't read as much as I would have liked, but that's that. A few of the books I read this year include Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis (second time reading this but soooo good), Cross and Crescent by Colin Chapman, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I also partially read a handful of books, which include When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett, Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst, Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) by Brene Brown, etc. Maybe my goal for my 29th year should be to finish all of those books before starting new ones...we shall see.

Athens, Greece
Novi Sad, Serbia
Travel to another European country. I was actually able to travel to a number of European countries in this last year. Some were just driven through, but I did actually set foot in each one...and added the passport stamps to my passport! I traveled to Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. Hoping to add at least two more this coming year...

the Soil & the Sun
Rooftop access at the secret show
Go to at least one concert. While I was in the States over the summer/fall, I was able to attend a secret show of the band the Soil & the Sun. A few members of this band attended Olivet and I've followed them a bit since graduating. The show was in this old warehouse with rooftop access and it was incredible. It didn't hurt that I was able to attend with two of my favorite pals!

Chocolate chip banana bread
Cook 10 new recipes. Although the banana bread is out of focus in the photo, I did make it and it was delicious. Checking this item off of my list was a bit of a stretch, but the main goal was to cook more, which I did...kind of. I think I just need to accept that cooking isn't for me. Can we all agree on that? Great. Thanks.

Blog planning while home in summer 2016
Blog at least once a month. I allllmost completed this one. I still need to work on being more consistent with the blog, which is why I'm copying this goal onto the 29 Before 30 list ;)

Serbia - March 2016
Get out of your comfort zone. Following the call to serve the refugees in Croatia and Serbia in March 2016 was waaaaay outside of my comfort zone. It's funny because it totally was out of my comfort zone at the time, but looking back it doesn't feel like it was that outside of my comfort zone. I'm not sure if that makes sense to anyone but me, but that's that. Insert a visual with "the magic happens outside of your comfort zone" here. 

It Takes Courage - June 2016
My three weirdos
Invest in at least one Romanian teen. Checking this one off of my list makes me smile...partially because I feel like I was able to exceed my goal and partially because I just love the teens that I was able to invest in. Co-leading It Takes Courage and ITC 2.0, helping lead the volunteers at the Veritas Kids' Club, English camp and other opportunities have allowed me to invest in multiple Romanian teens...and I love it! I hope (and know) that this will continue into the 29th year!

Celebrating Kids' Club birthdays - February 2017
Photos given to the kids before I left for the States in July 2016
Invest in at least one Romanian child. Don't even get me started on this one. I think I've made it fairly obvious how much I absolutely love my sweet Romanian kiddos. They bring so much joy to my life, and the more Romanian I learn, the more I can really communicate and understand them and it's just so lovely. Run-on sentence, but I'll sacrifice grammar for the sake of expressing my love for them :) There is one kiddo that I've been able to really build a relationship with and I just love every minute we get to spend together. God has already taught me so much through my investment in him, which I really should state as God's investment in him through me. Again, I hope (and know) that this will continue into the 29th year, and for that I am forever thankful. 

Ice skating in December 2016
Conquer a fear. Boy, oh boy, did I conquer a fear! I know it seems silly, but ice skating has always been a huge fear of mine. I'm so afraid that I'll fall and someone will skate over my hand, slicing my fingers off. Crazy and seemingly irrational, but also totally NOT irrational at the same time. Anyways, I did it. I ice skated. And I did not fall once. I was majorly encouraged by my ITC teens. I couldn't have (and wouldn't have) done it without them. 

Once a pretzel, always a pretzel.
Attend my 10 year high school reunion. I still can't believe that I'm old enough to have a 10 year high school reunion. Nor can I believe the fact that I attended my 10 year reunion. High school was definitely not an enjoyable time for me and therefore, I had no plans to attend my reunion. And seeing that I live kiiinda far away from home, I didn't think I'd even be in town (or in the country) for it. But I was...and it was alright. I went with two of my besties so being with them for the night was the best part. I was able to catch up with one classmate which was nice, and then made small talk with a handful of others. It wasn't as bad as I thought...but it also wasn't that exciting. 

My only proof of a photo book. Bottom left.
Make a photo book. I loooove photo books. I have a lot of plans for photo books, but not a lot of money to actually make them. The only photo book that I made this year ended up being filled with photos from my time in Croatia and Serbia in March 2016. It's one of my favorite things and sadly I ended up leaving it back home in the States. 

Bonus photos of a much younger me
Well, that's that! My 28th year in a blog post. It was a year full of unexpected adventures and opportunities. It was a year full of love, hope, courage, empathy, and so much more. I can only hope that my 29th year continues to be full of all of these things and maybe a few surprises along the way. Wait...who am I?! Anyways, here's to 29!


February 19, 2017

If we were having coffee...v2


I've found that it's much easier for me to blog when I have a bit of a guide. Hence, the Currently series and now the second version of "If we were having coffee..." Hope you don't mind, dear readers! So grab your favorite coffee mug and let's chat...

If we were having coffee...I'd tell you that life has been CRAZY over here for the last few weeks. I wish I could show you my schedule from the last month. I printed out a schedule for the new students who arrived in mid-January (more on this in my next point), but it has been overtaken by blue ink as I've crossed out, written in, circled, noted, etc. ALL OVER IT. It's actually quite pretty in a neurotic type of way.

This is NOT the calendar mentioned above. This is a calendar photographed on January 1st...before the madness began.
If we were having coffee...I'd tell you about the four American university students who are completing social work practicums under my supervision until mid-April. I'd tell you that it's been an enjoyable challenge from which I've already learned a lot. I've only supervised one student at a time (one in the fall of 2015 and the other in the summer of 2016), with the exception of a three-week group of 5 students in May 2015 Let's just say that there is a big difference between supervising one student and supervising four students, as if that's not fairly obvious. And like I said, it's been challenging, but I've come to this interesting place in my life where I've come to appreciate challenges. I understand now that being stretched and challenged isn't all bad. Yes, sometimes it feels like too much and I do get overwhelmed, but I've also learned (and continue to learn) how to keep going...

Who knew homework could be so cute?
If we were having coffee...I'd probably talk, for a good hour or so, about my kiddos at the Veritas Kids' Club. I haven't been able to be there nearly as much as I'd like to be since the students arrived and I MISS THEM SO MUCH. I've been able to go about once a week, but it's just not enough. I miss so much and they're getting so big and I just want to be with them all of the time. From the start, I knew that Kids' Club wouldn't always be the main focus (of my work in Romania), but transitioning out of it has been harder than expected. I don't know if a group of children has ever captured me like these children have. I cannot get enough of them and their darling little faces, hearts, souls, etc. Insert the heart eyes emoji here.

Fresh baby Maveric
If we were having coffee...I'd definitely tell you about my NEW NEPHEW!!! Is he not the cutest little thing?! So dang sweet. I cannot wait to snuggle him! My sister and I FaceTime A LOT these days just so I can "be there". He's sleeping the majority of the time when we FaceTime, but no complaints here. He's a cute sleeper. I'm working on arranging a short trip back to the States in the near future to see him...and the rest of my family :)

video

If we were having coffee...I'd tell you about my 2017 project. There's an app out there called 1 Second Everyday, which is a simple and fun app for documenting life. As you can gather from the name, it serves as a video diary of 1 second videos, which "stitches videos (and photos, if you prefer) together to document your life's journey". I stole that line from their website. Anyways, I tried to use this app last year, but I wasn't consistent and then kind of gave up. I decided to try again this year and I am LOVING it. I've only had one week where I was so busy that I forgot to record videos, but other than that, I've enjoyed finding little moments in my day to capture for this project. The video above is the complication of my videos from January. My goal is to share my monthly videos on the blog, but we shall see if I can blog often enough to do that ;)

Like last time, I've enjoyed our coffee date. Until next time...

January 2, 2017

Another Romanian Christmas

Christmas decor around the house
Another Christmas in Romania. I think I might have said this in another blog post, but it's so interesting to celebrate holidays for a second time in Romania. I knew that coming here wasn't going to be a short-term thing for me, but I never thought about how long I'd actually be here. And I didn't think about the fact that I'd be celebrating holidays over and over again. While it doesn't get any easier being away from home, I do have FaceTime to thank for allowing me to be with my family and friends during these holidays.

Ecumenical Concert - Nativity story at Kids' Club - Veritas Christmas Staff Day
December is a very busy time for Veritas, and for the community of Sighisoara in general. For the last 16 years (I think), Veritas has hosted an Ecumenical Concert where local choirs all gather together to sing songs related to celebrating Jesus' birth at Christmas. I didn't get to attend last year for some reason, but I really enjoyed it this year. There were also other concerts, high school Christmas shows and lots of coffee this Christmas season.

Concert - Coffee - Local high school Christmas show
Veritas also hosts the Candlewalk, which is another lovely community event. It takes place in the citadel with stops at the Monastery Church, town hall, one of the high schools and the Church on the Hill. At each stop, we pray and sing a Christmas song, and we end the evening at the House on the Rock for tea and cookies. My favorite part takes place at the very beginning, the opening per se, when Matthew 5:14-16 is read in Romanian, Hungarian, Țiganește (the gypsy language), German and English by various community members. It's so simple. Just five people reading three verses, and yet I find it so incredibly powerful. I love that the event begins this way to encourage each person who attends to be a light in our community of Sighisoara.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Kids' Club Christmas program - Shoebox gifts - It Takes Courage party
And of course, the various Veritas programs have Christmas celebrations. We had our Kids' Club Christmas program on the 15th, and it was so lovely. For as long as I can remember, children's Christmas programs have always turned me into such a sap. I'm not exactly sure why, but good grief, I cannot handle it. Anyways, my kids put on a fabulous Christmas program with memorized lines, songs, and Christmas cheer for their families and friends. The children, families and Veritas staff also enjoyed viewing a slideshow of photos that I put together of Kids' Club activities from September to December. I loved how much they loved looking at all of the photos. These simple things make my heart happy. 

I also had the privilege of sharing the Nativity story with my kiddos at Kids' Club. I asked one of the boys, who is an excellent reader, to read the story out of a children's Bible while I showed some photos as the visual. He did a fabulous job and I was so proud of him. The kids applauded him when he was done and I only wish I had a photo of his face in that moment. I also celebrated Christmas with Adela and our new It Takes Courage group. Our Christmas party fell during a very, very busy week for the teens so only a few showed up, but we still had a good time. 

It Takes Courage 2.0 - Sibiu Christmas Market - Ice skating aka facing fears
We also took our other It Takes Courage group, now called 2.0, to Sibiu. We went ice skating, which is/was one of my biggest fears. I've always had an irrational fear that I'm going to fall and someone is going to skate over my fingers and slice them off ... not so irrational, but I've obsessed over that thought for years! Anyways, I ice skated and DIDN'T FALL ONCE! It was a Christmas miracle. After ice skating, we went to the Sibiu Christmas market, which was so beautiful. We walked around, looking at all of the little booths, and enjoying the Christmas atmosphere.

My stocking was laying under the tree because it was SO heavy ;) - Christmas morning with kids
I spent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after Christmas with my friends, Tim, Caroline and their kids (the same family I spent Christmas with last year). There's nothing better than being in a cozy home full of kids on Christmas. AND they just had a sweet baby boy at the beginning of December to add to their growing bunch, which meant lots of baby cuddles in cute Christmas pajamas! We had lots of fun and unforgettable moments, some of which made it on to the video camera's recording to be preserved for years to come. Or to be used as blackmail later in life...either way!

On Saturday, I snuck out to attend our Christmas Eve service at church, which was quite lovely. I invited one of the boys from Kids' Club to come along, and he did. It was so special to be able to sit with him and listen to the true Christmas story being told, with lots of Christmas songs in between. After taking the boy home, I returned to the family's house for our Christmas dinner and a viewing of The Nativity Story. Once the kids went to bed, I helped Tim and Caroline wrap the remaining Christmas gifts, which is always exciting. We had an enjoyable, and surprisingly not too chaotic, Christmas morning full of special gifts for all.

I received a number of practical and fun items, but there was one gift that topped them all. I opened a card that said a donation was made to European Refugee Relief in my honor, along with a sweet, sweet message from this family. Of course, there were tears, and they came for multiple reasons. In short, I think the tears came because I am so grateful to have met such caring friends in Romania who know me well enough to even think of giving a gift such as this. A gift to me, but also a gift to a people group that is so near and dear to my heart ... a people group that I cannot be with at this time in my life because of my work in Romania. And now I'm crying again, but that's okay :)

Anyways, back to the Christmas Day activities. After our Christmas morning, we ate cinnamon rolls and sausage for breakfast, followed by their tradition of cinnamon rolls IN chili for lunch. Yes, you read that right ... and it is DELICIOUS. Just drop a cinnamon roll in your bowl of chili and you're good to go! This family attends another church in town, where a few of my other friends go as well, so I tagged along for the Christmas day service at 5pm. After church, we went back home and celebrated Tim's birthday, as he is a Christmas baby. And then, the day after Christmas was spent relaxing, playing with new toys and games, and just spending time together.


Even though it was a busy December, I enjoyed participating in all of it. From buying small gifts for my Secret Angel at Veritas, to eating cozonac and lots of clementines, to walking around in a beautiful and snowy Sighisoara ... this Romanian Christmas was one for the books. Or should I say, "one for the blogs" now?