March 17, 2019

Four Years


Four years ago today, I arrived in Romania. I think I said this when I hit two years as well, but when I left the States to come to Romania, I really had no clue how long I'd be here. I knew it wasn't going to be a short term thing, but I also wasn't entirely sure that it would be a long term thing either. Honestly, at that point, I had stopped trying to predict the future so I can't say that I was thinking too much about the length of my stay.

A lot has happened in these four years. Sometimes I don't feel like four years lends itself to too much change in a person until I think about a freshman versus a senior in high school/college. When I think about it that way, it's almost impossible to overlook the drastic changes that often take place in that span of time.

Raegan and I walking around the airport before saying goodbye on  March 16, 2015.
I also think about how Raegan was 2 years old when I left and now she's 6 years old (and has two younger brothers!). She's changed SO much (physically, emotionally, intellectually) since I first left and sometimes when we're on FaceTime, I can't comprehend that she's reading books or helping Maveric get a snack or trying to calm Holden. She's grown so much in four years, and in so many different ways. Again, drastic changes.

It's also a little crazy to think that when I came to Romania, I was in my 20s and now I'm in my 30s. Granted, I was in my late 20s and now I'm barely in my 30s, but still...that's a fairly big life change. And, as I've said before, this is not at all how I envisioned living my life at 31, but good grief, I couldn't have imagined anything better. And, of course, that doesn't mean that every day is full of sunshine and rainbows...just to be clear.

It continues to feel like such a natural and normal thing for me to live in Romania...a place that I once would've called "a foreign country", but now refer to as home. I often get asked how long I'll live in Romania, and obviously, I have no clue, but for now, it still very much feels like home.

And it is an immense privilege to call it home. It is an immense privilege to do life with the people here. It is an immense privilege to spend time with kiddos in the village and teens in the It Takes Courage programs. It is an immense privilege to help expand the worldview of American university students who come through the Romanian Studies Program. It is an immense privilege to serve the community alongside my Veritas coworkers and foreign volunteers. It is an immense privilege to grow here in Romania.


Before I click "publish", I have to say one more thing...

To every person who has ever said a prayer for me, given a generous financial gift, sent a text or card of encouragement, thank you. Words truly cannot express how grateful I am to have you on this journey with me. My support system is stronger than I ever could have imagined. "My people" are some of the best people, and they (YOU) are a huge reason why I can continue to say that Romania is my home. I came to Romania after I finally stopped being stubborn and started listening to that still, small voice, but I've been able to remain here, and call it my home, because you also listened to that still, small voice.

February 23, 2019

2019 - One Little Word


Well, we have been living in 2019 for almost two months now and I've officially decided on my word for the year. Last year, I chose the word light, which you can read more about here.

Can I be honest and tell you that I wanted a fancier word for the year? I see the words that other people choose like connection, creativity, intentional, gratitude, etc., and I think that they sound so much "cooler". Insert eye roll emoji here as I roll my eyes at myself. Anyways, when the word "grow" kept coming up in my mind and in things I was seeing/reading/hearing...I was a tiny bit disappointed. Grow seems like such a simple word. Now I'd like to insert the crying laughing emoji because growth is anything but simple. Here's a little bit of the backstory in how I ended up choosing GROW...

On my first or second Sunday back in Romania after being in the States for Christmas, I wasn't feeling (read: sleeping) well so instead of going to church, I watched a sermon online. Without giving too many unnecessary details, I ended up choosing a sermon series called "Off the Grid", which didn't give me a lot of information about the sermon's theme. But...would you like to take a wild guess at what the theme was? That's right, growth.

The sermon series focused around Luke 2:52, which says "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." All of that to say, after listening to the first sermon in the series on that Sunday, my word for the year was solidified.

As you may remember, last year I broke "light" down into four parts, which happens to also be how I'm breaking things down this year with "grow". I like to use my word to guide me into some goals and themes throughout the year, but when "grow" initially came to mind I wasn't sure what that was going to look like. However, after listening to the sermon series, it was clear that I would use the four parts of the verse to guide me in my goal setting.

So here are a few examples of how I hope to GROW in 2019...

  • In wisdom: to read more books (the Bible, in particular) in order to gain wisdom, to pray regularly for God's perspective on life and situations that come my way, to seek out wise people from whom I can learn, to learn more (about social work, Romania, enneagram, etc.)
  • In stature: to work on my overall health (physical, emotional, relational, spiritual)
  • In favor with God: to grow in relationship with God, to focus on the simple act of being with Him rather than doing things for Him (this one's a little hard to explain without writing five more paragraphs and it could honestly be it's own blog post altogether...maybe another day!), to grow where He has placed me 
  • In favor with man: to open my mind, circle and heart to the people around me, to be more aware of how I treat others, to improve my communication skills 
Even as I read back through that list I get a little overwhelmed because it seems like A LOT...and I didn't even share all of it with you! It's a lot to think about, a lot to start doing, a lot to work on...but at the same time, I feel a strange (and yet familiar) peace about all of it. I know that God put the word "grow" on my heart for a reason. I also know that things will change as I grow, which can be really scary...but as I think we can all agree, change can also be really beautiful. 

As I end this post, I hope that you have also chosen a new word for 2019, and if so, I'd love to hear what it is and how you plan to focus on it throughout the year! Feel free to leave a comment on Facebook when I share this post, to send me an email or text message, or to leave a comment on this blog post. 

And finally, I must leave you with this lovely quote that I found as I was searching for "grow" inspiration. For me, this quote relates to those overwhelmed, yet peaceful, feelings that I have. I know that growing isn't going to be easy...but I'm so curious about who I will become as a result of it. 



January 26, 2019

Moments of LIGHT in 2018

My top 9 Instagram posts from 2018
Okay, I'm back to reflect a bit on 2018. IT. WAS. A. YEAR. Am I right?! If you haven't already watched my 2018 1 Second Every Day video, you can find it here. As I said in that post, it continues to be my favorite project, but I know it's hard to fully catch everything when you watch it "as an outsider".

I decided to write this post to give you a little more information on what 2018 looked like for me, but also to personally reflect back on the moments of LIGHT that I found along the way. As you may remember, I chose the word "light" as my word of the year so it felt important for me to think about what that looked like in 2018...


Moments of LIGHT in January: 
  • Hearing the smiles and giggles from the kiddos in the village
  • Drinking coffee, of course
  • Bonding with a super cool gal
  • Discovering beautiful doors
  • Celebrating Maveric's 1st birthday from afar


Moments of LIGHT in February: 
  • Being celebrated on my 30th birthday
  • Celebrating three lovely ladies on their birthdays
  • Drinking more coffee, reading and journaling
  • Discovering yet another door
  • Receiving super cute photos of my super cute nephew and niece


Moments of LIGHT in March:
  • Reuniting with close friends
  • Capturing a cute photo of Jimmy...the dog who lived in the citadel in Sighisoara
  • Eating Chipotle
  • Getting surprised by photos from Raegan's mini-photoshoot with her nesting doll dress 
  • Visiting friends in St. Louis with other friends

Moments of LIGHT in April:
  • Celebrating the beautiful marriage of a close friend
  • Receiving a sweet photo from my It Takes Courage group
  • Spending time with three of my besties
  • Celebrating Easter with my family

Moments of LIGHT in May:
  • Eating ice cream at the good ole Union Dairy
  • Celebrating my mom's birthday with Mexican food
  • Taking neighborhood walks with the family
  • Reading "You are Free" by Rebekah Lyons
  • Stopping to smell the peonies
  • Attending the Reaching Europe's Children conference in Hungary
  • Capturing a door with my favorite door model
  • Celebrating the local high school graduation in Sighisoara

Moments of LIGHT in June:

  • Celebrating the "graduation" of It Takes Courage
  • Posing for a photo with my Romanian Studies Program summer student
  • Stopping to smell (and pick) the wildflowers
  • Reading Katie Davis' book, "Daring to Hope"
  • Creating with kiddos
  • Enjoying a visit from good friends
  • Leading English Camp for the 4th year


    Moments of LIGHT in July:
    • Participating in a service project with It Takes Courage and ITC 2.0
    • Spending time with some beautiful ladies
    • Celebrating little kid birthdays
    • Making cute crafts with the cutest kiddos in the village
    • Finding out the gender of the new Barr baby
    • Inviting a bunch of teenagers over to my house 
    • Admiring Romania's beauty


      Moments of LIGHT in August:
      • Re-reading an incredible book
      • Bringing my two worlds together by hanging out with an American bestie and a Romanian bestie
      • Visiting Belgium with Erica (all four photos in the middle)
      • Enjoying camp in the village with my favorite kiddos


        Moments of LIGHT in September:
        • Celebrating 25 years since Dorothy came to Romania with a vision to impact the community
        • Attending Veritas' annual open house where Adela always displays her face painting talent
        • Celebrating Adela's birthday
        • Attending the Central Europe Field Conference in Albania
        • Discovering some beauty at a nearby castle 
        • Loving the cute little faces of the kiddos in the village

        Moments of LIGHT in October:

        • Meeting new teens in Sighisoara and helping them to build their character
        • Starting a new year of It Takes Courage with our biggest group ever!
        • Drinking more coffee
        • Enjoying the annual Veritas staff retreat in the mountains
        • Observing sibling love in the village
        • Attending a week of training at the Nazarene Global Ministry Center in Kansas



          Moments of LIGHT in November:
          • Spending a few days at home to visit friends and family
          • Visiting a cultural center in a nearby town in Romania
          • Taking a cute pic with Adela
          • Celebrating the birth of Holden James Barr!
          • Taking the It Takes Courage teens to serve the kiddos in the village
          • Attending the church's district assembly 
          • Celebrating Thanksgiving with some other Americans in Sighisoara


            Moments of LIGHT in December:
            • Enjoying a mini "field trip" with the It Takes Courage 2.0
            • Saying goodbye to my Romanian Studies Program fall student
            • Celebrating a birthday of the sweetest little boy with one of the most amazing families (top middle photo)
            • Being reminded to be the LIGHT at the children's Christmas program in the village (bottom middle photo)
            • Flying home and seeing the beauty of Chicago from above
            • Surprising Raegan on her SIXTH birthday
            • Enjoying a last-minute visit from a close friend
            • Spending time with baby Holden
            • Celebrating Christmas with my family for the first time since 2014
            So there you have it. 2018 was truly a year full of light. I was constantly amazed at how much light I found simply because I was looking for it. Now, of course there were dark moments as well, but finding the light had become such a habit that I could more easily get myself out of the dark than before. Even though we're almost one month into 2019, I'm still continuing to see the light...and I think the word "light" will not just be a 2018 thing, but more like a lifetime thing. 

            I'll leave you with this super cute photo of Raegan and Maveric enjoying the last few moments of 2018. 

            January 4, 2019

            One Second Everyday in 2018



            I have to admit that towards the end of 2018 I was kind of wishing the days away just so I could finally watch my 2018 1 Second Everyday video! This "project" continues to be my favorite way to document, not just life in Romania, but life in general. I've always loved taking photos and documenting life through scrapbooks, photo books and art journals, but this takes it up a notch and I continue to love it.

            I also wanted to include a brief summary of the year...and to pull out a few special moments in 2018. However, you'll have to wait a little longer for that one. I'm planning to write a blog post about "light", my word for 2018, and how that manifested itself throughout the year. So you'll see that soon.

            So for now, enjoy a look back at 2018 with my one second videos :)

            August 20, 2018

            A story of impact and kindness


            A screenshot from a very special video. Scroll down to view...after you read my post, of course!
            This post is a long time coming, as you'll understand in a minute. I don't know why I haven't posted it until now...other than life just being busy and distracting and what not. But last night, I dreamt that I posted it and it feels like maybe now is the time.

            As many of you know, I was in the States this past spring to see family and friends, share about Romania in various places, recruit students for internships, and so much more. On my second Sunday back at my home church, they announced that they had a video to show, which I was eager to see because they're usually related to missions or hearing about someone's story. Well, guess what...the video was about about a piece of my story in missions!

            Before I give you any other information, let's back up a few weeks. Before I left Romania to spend a few months in the States, one of the teens in the It Takes Courage 2.0 program asked me what I say when I talk about Romania. I told her that I try to talk about all of the different programs I'm involved in like It Takes Courage, the children's program in Tigmandru, the Romanian Studies Program, etc. I also try to share about the beauty and diversity of Romania and it's people and culture, among other things.

            After saying all of that, she asked me a question that left me kind of stunned. She asked, "But don't you tell you them about the impact that you've had on us (and others)?" and honestly, I didn't really know what to say to that. I think I said something to the effect of, "Well, I mean, yeah...I think that kind of comes out when I'm describing the different things that I do." We said a few other things, and that was the end of the conversation...or so I thought.

            Now, let's fast forward back to that Sunday morning at my home church. The video began, and I knew instantly what it was. It was full of kind words shared by some of my closest people in Romania. I was surprised, humbled, encouraged...and about a billion other things. A few of the teens in the 2.0 program had secretly worked on this video right after I left in order to finish it time for me to use it as I shared about what I do in Romania.

            So...as I spoke in churches, I made sure to honor them (and their hard work) by showing this video. And, even though it's almost 6 months later, I want to share it with all of you.


            I'd also like to take this opportunity to give you the opportunity to support (or continue to support) my work in Romania. I still feel very strongly that this is the place that I'm meant to be...and I continue to see the ways that God has equipped me for the work that I do here.

            There are a few different ways that you can support me, if you feel led to do so...

            Mission support: You can click here to give through the Church of the Nazarene for living and ministry expenses. One of the best ways to support me in this way is to select the monthly giving option as it allows me to plan better for the long term of my ministry here in Romania.

            Personal support: Another way that you can support me is by giving to me personally via PayPal, which covers expenses such as food, toiletries, student loan payments, etc. As many of you know, I came onto the mission field with student loan debt, and God continues to provide for me...through your generosity...so that I can make those payments.

            Prayer support: One of the biggest ways that you can support me is through prayer. As we all know, fall is a time of new beginnings, and here in Romania, it's no different. Please pray for a smooth start/transition back into a "new year" of ministries, programs, students, etc. Pray that I'll be able to find a new routine and rhythm that includes both service and rest.

            A few more things before I end this post...

            Timea - I cannot thank you enough for the kindness you've shown me in creating this video. I still get teary-eyed every single time I watch it. It truly was (and is) one of the best gifts I've ever been given.

            Adela, Larisa, Caroline, Emi, Sheri, Raul, Roberta, Betina - Even though I've already talked to each of you, I have to thank you, yet again, for your kind words. You'll never know just how much they mean to me.

            YOU: Go tell someone about the impact that they've had on your life today. Send a text message, write a letter, make a phone call, invite someone out for a coffee...or whatever way is most comfortable to you. But just go and do it...spread some kindness. You'll both feel better because of it.


            May 6, 2018

            If we were having coffee...v4


            I miss my "usual" coffee order at the International Cafe at home (my Romanian home).

            You know what to do...grab your favorite mug full of coffee (or tea, if you'd prefer) and let's chat!

            If we were having coffee...I'd probably talk the whole time because I have SO much to say. I've actually been avoiding blogging for awhile because I've been so full of thoughts lately and I don't know what to share! Not only have the last few months been a bit of a whirlwind, but I also feel like I've been learning so much and taking in so much information (books, podcasts, music, conversations, etc).

            As you all know, the last two months, specifically, were a bit more than a whirlwind. While I thoroughly enjoyed being home, I felt like I was all over the place (physically and mentally). I traveled to Grand Rapids, Kansas City (MO), Lenexa (KS), Indianapolis and St. Louis. In Illinois, I made my way to Lewistown, Smithfield, Galesburg, Bourbonnais, Rosemont, Lena, Ashton, Shannon, Dakota, Rockford, Madison (WI)...and I'm sure a few other places that I can't remember at this moment.

            I spent quality time with family and friends, met lots of new people and even reconnected with a few people I haven't seen in years! Overall, it was a very successful and enjoyable visit but if I'm honest, it's no surprise that this introverted homebody is ready to be back in her apartment with her "normal" routine. For those of you who have been following #CBtakesRomania for three years now, you know that I tend to put normal in quotes because even my "normal" routine is far from normal!

            If we were having coffee...You might like to know that I'm not back to my apartment in Sighisoara just yet. I arrived back in Romania yesterday (Saturday) evening, but I'm staying in Bucharest until tomorrow morning. I'm going to a conference in Hungary for a week so rather than taking a 5 hour bus ride from Bucharest to Sighisoara twice in 24 hours, it worked out for me to stay in Bucharest.

            The conference that I'm going to is called Reaching Europe's Children so although I'll be a bit tired, I'm looking forward to it! I'm a bit of a conference/workshop nerd. I love taking notes and observing people so I'm usually pretty content at conferences!

            If we were having coffee...I'd definitely be recommending the last few books and podcasts that I've
            been reading and listening to lately. So here's your list...
            - 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs...I started this devotional at the beginning of the year and finished around mid-April. And let me tell ya, it's literally the best. It serves as an encouragement, but it also comes with lots of practical challenges. The subtitle is "Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self", which I think we all need. I want to start it over already, but I'm going to lend it to others first because it needs to be shared!
            - Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis...If you're not already on this train, get on it. The subtitle for this one is "Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Are Meant to Be", which is spot on. It's a quick read, and yet you'll want to read it slowly to really take it all in! Sadly, this book didn't make the cut when I was packing so if anyone at home (America) wants to borrow it, it's on my shelf. But, just as a warning, I underlined A LOT of stuff so if that type of thing distracts you then you might want to check it out at your local library :)
            - For the Love podcast with Jen Hatmaker - Never Leave the Gospel Behind: Lisa Sharon Harper...I don't even know where to begin with this one. This is the first episode of Jen's new series called For the Love of Exploring our Faith, which follows another great series called For the Love of Women Who Built It. Anyways, this episode talks about race, the gospel, and so so so much more. Honestly, if you only take one thing away from this blog post, let it be this podcast episode! 
            If we were having coffee...I'd probably stop while I was ahead because neither of us currently have time for me to go on and on. And I might stop because I have to get up at 6:00 am to catch my flight to Budapest. So, until next time...enjoy your coffee :)

            February 25, 2018

            A letter to my 15 year old self

            Little baby Casey
            Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are. I am 30 years old. Yep, 30....even though everyone always thinks I'm anywhere from 18 to 25 years old! I'll appreciate looking younger than I am when I'm 50 and everyone thinks I'm 40 :) Anyways...

            I've been thinking about writing a big "30" blog post for awhile, but I haven't been able to decide how to write it. I thought about sharing another list like I did with 27 Before 28 and 28 Before 29, which I might still do a little later. I thought about writing out 30 things I've learned in my first 30 years, which again I still might do at some point. But what I've decided to do is to write a letter to my 15 year old self. And good grief, it's going to be interesting...

            Also, I've also decided to give you the immense privilege of seeing Casey over the years. I hope you'll enjoy the old photos of me as a child and teen, and also photos of all my birthdays in my twenties. Prepare yourselves!

            Yes, I did play baby Jesus in my first Christmas program.
            Dear 15 year old Casey, 

            Take a deep breath because you are never going to believe what I am going to tell you. You are turning 30 years old in Romania. Right?! I knew you wouldn't believe it. You're probably wondering what the heck you are doing in Romania, which is a country you know almost nothing about. 

            Well, you finally decided to stop being stubborn. You finally decided to listen to God and His still, small voice as He called you into missions. You have been living and serving in Romania for almost three years now, and it's been a wilder and more incredible ride than you ever could have imagined.  

            I know you've only just now begun to think about missions, and I know that you're afraid to even really admit that to yourself. I know that your heart beats fast whenever someone talks about missions or when missionaries come visit at church. I know that you shut down and don't allow yourself to take even the slightest interest in the topic. I know that you don't dream very big dreams, whether they're related to missions or not. And I know why...

            15 year old Casey is on the top left.
            I know that you don't think much of yourself these days. And I know that you will roll your eyes when you read that. (You're very good at rolling your eyes...even now, at 30 years old.) I know that you have a very low self-esteem...and I know that you don't really understand why that is since you come from a loving family...you have a solid education...you have an incredible group of friends...etc. And yet, there you are...not believing that you're capable of doing anything great. 

            I know that you don't think that you're brave, which is actually the meaning of your name. You don't think that you're courageous or funny or smart or kind or beautiful. But let me tell you something. You are all of these things and so much more. 

            Ugh, I want to reach through that photo of you in the red shirt to both whisper and yell all of these things to you. But I also know that doing so won't make you believe me. You need time. And you'll get there, even if it takes another 10-15 years. 

            (Not to disappoint you, but it's still a work in progress as you turn 30 years old :) But guess what, that's okay!)

            I know that your family and friends are telling you all of these things about yourself, and I also know that you don't believe them. But do me a favor, when they tell you these things about yourself, just say thank you. Just listen. Don't argue. Don't roll your eyes. Just accept that they see these things in you. Accept that God sees these things in you. 

            Spend more time with your family. Don't be so mean to your little sister. Work on your attitude with your parents. Try to talk to your parents instead of saying "I know" and rolling your eyes. Don't slam your bedroom door so often. Take more pictures with your friends, family and of your bedroom walls full of pictures, posters and art. Take more selfies...oh wait, you don't know what that is yet...take more pictures of yourself. Journal more. Use your creativity.

            Thank your friends for being your friends. Tell them how much they mean to you. I know you like to write notes and give gifts so do those things as often as you possibly can. Again, take more pictures...and try to organize them. You'll thank me later. Try to be a friend to people who need a friend. I know you don't think that you have much to offer, but you do. You are a good listener and a loyal friend.

            I don't necessarily want to tell you to put yourself out there more or to be something that you're not. But what I will tell you is to try. Try new things. And if you don't like something, that's fine...but at least try. I know you're afraid...afraid to fail, afraid to stand out, afraid to be noticed. But trust me, it's not nearly as scary as you think it is (to fail, stand out, or be noticed). You might be surprised at what can happen when you embrace those things. 

            Okay...I know that I've given you a lot of information...and a lot of "commands". I'm still pretty bossy. Don't roll your eyes...you know you're kind of bossy. 

            I'll leave you with these last words, 15 year old Casey. Love Jesus. Love people. Be kind...to yourself and to others. Don't be afraid to let other people see who you are...even if who you are is messy and insecure. Embrace those parts of yourself. Spend more time with your family and friends because one day you'll live thousands of miles away from them and wish you had spent more time with them when you had the chance...even though you know you are where you are supposed to be, in Romania. 

            Remember that you are loved...by Jesus, by your family and friends, and by me - your 30 year old self. 

            Love,
            30 year old Casey

            Switching it up with photos from birthdays in my twenties
            It's funny because as I re-read what I wrote to my 15 year old self, a lot of it still applies to my 30 year old self. But I think that's okay. I don't think we ever reach a point where we have everything figured out. Life would actually be quite boring if that was the case.

            Obviously, I've learned a lot in the last 15 years, and it actually feels like I've learned just as much in the last 2-3 years as I have in the last 15 years. But I think that's just what happens naturally when you're approaching a milestone age like 30. You start to look back to reflect while also looking forward.


            And I've been asking myself a few questions lately as I approach this milestone birthday. What have you done in the last 15 years that you want to do more of in the next 15 years? What have you done in the last 15 years that you want to do less of? Here's just a sneak peek at two of my answers to these questions...

            I want to love more. I want to love Jesus more because that's where true love comes from in the first place. I want to continue to learn to love myself. I want to love others, both "my people" as in my family and friends, but also people I may not know.

            And I don't just want to love people. I want to recklessly love people. I've been listening to Cory Asbury's Reckless Love album and there's such an amazing story behind the song Reckless Love. If you haven't heard the song or album, I would strongly encourage you to do so. In the video I just linked, he starts telling the story at 5:35, but I'd like to share a few of his words about reckless love...
            "When I use the phrase 'the reckless love of God'...we're not saying that God himself is reckless. We are, however, saying that the way He loves is, in many regards, quite so...He's utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions, with regard to His own safety, comfort and well-being...(His love) is quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love doesn't consider Himself first. It isn't selfish or self-serving. He doesn't wonder what He'll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line. He simply puts himself out there, on the off chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return...His love isn't cautious...There's no Plan B with the love of God."
             So yeah, I don't think I need to say much else on that topic. Here's to that reckless love!

            I couldn't decide between the photos of my 27th birthday so I put both. This is my blog and I can do what I want.
            What do I want to do less of in the next 15 years? Well, I think the main answer would be that I want to be less afraid...less afraid of failing, of standing out, of being noticed, of being messy, of being unsure, etc. I don't want to be 45 years old and writing a letter to my 30 year self saying the same things that I just wrote to my 15 year old self.

            I have to constantly remind myself that it's completely normal and natural to fail. I'm well aware that I learn so much every time I fail...and yet, too often, I let fear win. I let fear stop me from even trying something that could result in failure. I let fear tell me that I'm too messy and too insecure and too unsure, and that I should just keep that all to myself.

            I definitely know that it won't be easy to overcome these fears, or fear in general, but I at least want to make more of a solid effort in these next 15 years.

            My first birthday spent in Romania
            I have no idea where the next 15 years will take me. Heck, I don't even know where the next year will take me...and not in the sense of physical location. Obviously, I hope that I'm still doing my thing in Romania. However, I also know that God's plan is the best plan and if that means I'm doing something else, then that's that!

            Last year's birthday fun
            If you're still reading at this point, I should be giving you a gift. Oh wait, I have one more set of little Casey photos that I think you'll enjoy. That shall be my gift to you!

            But first, I want to say thank you. This feels a bit like an award speech, but I'm going to go with it. I truly would not be the person that I am today without each and every one of you who are reading this blog post. My 15 year old self might have taken you for granted, and for that, I am sorry. But let me tell you, my 30 year old self is beyond thankful for this community of people who I endearingly refer to as "my people".