December 30, 2015

Turkey Turkey Turkey Baklava Turkey

Rocks from the beach...and an adult coloring book from the airport in Turkey.

I started this post quite a long time ago and saved it. Care to know what I typed in the text box in order to save it? "Turkey Turkey Turkey Baklava Turkey". So if that tells you anything about what I did while in Turkey...just kidding, kind of. As usual, my posts regarding particular events are delayed. I'm sure you're all used to this by now. Nonetheless, thank you for your patience.

Neither of these photos are very good, but I wanted to show the flags.
They were on almost every building we passed on the way to the resort.
One of the two (terrible) photos I took of the actual conference. 
Breathtaking, to say the least.
I spent the first week of November in Turkey for the Nazarene Eurasia Regional Conference. This conference takes place every four years and gathers missionaries, volunteers, and other various folks from the Eurasia region. This region spans from Portugal to India, which makes it incredibly diverse. We had worship services together twice a day, as well as workshops on various topics. You can read more about the conference here. This description is better than anything I could attempt to write, in regards to the basic details.

The view from the balcony of my hotel room. 

There were about 640 people in attendance. An introvert's worst nightmare. I'll be totally honest...I was nervous about attending. As a nerd, I greatly enjoy conferences, hearing from others, and gaining new information. However, with conferences come social interactions, and I'm not the world's biggest fan of those most of the time. Thankfully, I roomed with someone I know, Roberta (who has been serving in Romania for 18 years), in a very nice room. The hotel resort was insanely beautiful. The staff were so friendly, and definitely had an eye for detail. The food options were endless and delicious. I actually ate a pomegranate for the first time...ever. Apparently I'm sheltered, but I don't even care. Now I know about the deliciousness of pomegranates and I'll never go back. I ate one almost every day for breakfast while I was there. I also ate a lot of baklava, as previously mentioned. They had a dessert area with many options, and there was always a little section with various types of baklava. I mean, I had to find my favorite, which I did, so I tried them all. Okay, enough about the food. I feel like I just wrote a review for this place...oops.

Not bad, not bad at all.
This changed every day...

We arrived the day before the conference began which was quite nice. The weather was fabulous...warm during the day for sitting at the beach and reading a book, but cool enough in the evening to wear a cardigan while sitting on the balcony and drinking a cup of tea. Perfection. I spent a lot of time reading, journaling, reflecting, etc. during my time in Turkey. It was a introvert's dream. Once the conference began, we had worship services twice a day with a time for workshops, small groups, and free time in between. I found the schedule to be quite nice. Enough time for conference-y things, but also enough time to enjoy being in Turkey! And now I'll overload you with a bunch of pictures of the beach and Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Not sorry.

If you look closely, you can see mountains in the distance. 
The beach...full of beautiful rocks and stones, rather than sand.
"She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well." -George R. R. Martin
No words. Just look at it. 

So aside being stunned by the beauty of Turkey, I did actually learn a thing or two from the conference. The theme was Reconciliation, and we read from II Corinthians 5:14-21 at the beginning of every service. One thing that I loved about the services was that a different field was highlighted in one way or another during each service. There were videos for every field, and sometimes someone from that field would pray during the service, sing a special, preach, etc. It was nice to see and hear from so many different people...all doing incredible things in their field. The fields include: C.I.S. (Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova), Central Europe (my field!), Eastern Mediterranean, India, Northern Europe, South Asia, and Western Mediterranean.

I used to be obsessed with these in high school, always photographing them when I saw one.
Apparently, the obsession continues. I was also obsessed with telephone poles...another fun fact you probably didn't know.

As I've already mentioned, there were various workshops offered during the conference. The ones I attended were all very good, and very different. The first one was focused on human trafficking where we heard from three ladies who are working to fight trafficking (both through prevention and aftercare) in their fields. As the topic tends to be heavy, it was a difficult workshop, but also very good. We learned/reviewed facts about trafficking, but like I said, got to hear about what's being done within our region. There is an aftercare center in Bucharest, which I have yet to visit, but I loved hearing the stories from the work happening there. Click here to find out more about this ministry.

The second workshop I attended was related to personnel development on the field. It was informational and enjoyable. It got me thinking about different goals that I want to set for myself and my time in Romania. The third workshop I attended was called, "NCM: Holistic Development", which is something I feel very strongly about. As a social worker, I am a firm believer in empowering and educating people, and holistic development is one of the best ways to do that...Seeing the whole person and meeting them where they are at. Anyways, the man who presented in this workshop is from Bangladesh, which is where the holistic ministry is currently the most successful. He started by reading from Matthew 4:23 where it says that Jesus was preaching, teaching and healing a.k.a. holistic ministry. I could go on and on, but I won't. He talked about the Child Development Center (CDC) model, which focuses on education, nutrition, health, sports, spiritual needs. One of the things I wrote in my notes at the end of the workshop was, "what skills do I have?", which is something that I've really been thinking about. I know that God has brought me here for a reason, and I've been able to offer some of my skills during my time here, but I want to expand on this. I want to be used fully...using all of my skills and abilities to better serve others.

This has nothing to do with anything. Just a Turkish can of Sprite. 

Upon returning from Turkey, those of us from the Sighisoara Nazarene church were asked to speak about our time at the conference. Not my favorite pastime, as you know. I struggled to find something to share because I had SO MANY THINGS that I wanted to share. Seriously, what has happened to me? Most of my life, I've been at a loss for words, but since coming here it's been the opposite. Verbally, still a struggle, but sit me down in front of my journal or the computer and I could go on and on forever. I'm not complaining, just continuing to adjust. Annnnnyways, back to the point. I'll end this post with the two things that impacted me the most.

1. At the closing ceremony of the conference, we sang "Sing Alleluia to the Lord" in all of our various languages. I wish I could tell you how many languages were represented at the conference, but I do not know. Regardless, it was so incredible. So powerful. I feel like I got a tiny preview of what Heaven will be like. So many different people, languages, cultures, experiences, etc. coming together for worship. I had the goosebumps and spent most of the song just listening because it was just so magnificent. On the third day of the conference, we also sang "How Great Is Our God", which is a song that I greatly enjoy. We sang it in English, Russian, Italian, Arabic, German and French. Another incredible experience.

2. Just. Walk. Across. The. Room. For the first sermon, to introduce the topic of reconciliation, the speaker told the story of the Prodigal Son. He used the phrase "just walk across the room" to illustrate part of the message, specifically in Luke 15:20. The verse reads, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." The point is, Jesus does this. He reconciles...while we are "still a long way off". He comes to us, meets us where we are, and embraces us.

At first, I didn't know why this message was sticking with me throughout the week of the conference. But after reflecting on it a bit, it started to make more sense. The thought of being a "missionary" kind of freaks me out. It's hard for me to even use that word to describe myself and what I do in Romania. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel like I'm not doing enough in my current position, but the thought of doing and being more...freaks me out. BUT! I can just walk across the room. I can reach out to people I know and show Jesus to them in our friendship. I can walk across the room to acquaintances and build better relationships to show them Jesus. I can approach people I don't know and meet them where they're at to show them Jesus. I can just walk across the room. It doesn't take much. It's a small step. And yeah, it might become a bigger step later, but I can start the process by just walking across the room. I can do this, missionary or not. (And so can you.)

In another service, a man who works with youth said the following, "Accept young people for who they are, not who we want them to be...and let God do the work". This hit me too. Related to walking across the room, and in other ways. I think it's very true for young people, but I also think it applies to everyone. To make the connection for you...I might walk across the room (to someone I know or someone new), show someone Jesus, and then realize that I can't be what this person needs (materially, health related, emotional, spiritual, etc). But that's the point, I'm not the person that he/she needs. I don't need to do the work...God will do the work. Maybe God will provide me with what they need (materially or otherwise), but initially, it doesn't need to concern me. I need to follow the promptings that I feel whether that be to smile at someone, start a conversation, volunteer to help at an event, learn a new skill to better serve others, etc. I need to listen, follow where I'm lead, and let God do the rest/work.

And before I go, here are two more photos for your viewing pleasure.

Apparently, this is how you spell my Turkish name. Airport coffee for the win!
This was not taken in Turkey. This is what I did as soon as I returned home to a much chillier Sighisoara. 

December 26, 2015

Currently: Romanian Edition Part IV

The morning of Christmas Eve...drinking coffee and re-reading an incredible book
Reading: I just started re-reading Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption after my visit to two orphanages last week. Much like Jen Hatmaker's books, I have been underlining line after line. It's so interesting for me to be reading this book again after being in Romania. Although Katie's story is very different from mine, there are so many things that I can relate to. To very, very briefly summarize, Katie traveled to Uganda in December 2006 when she was 18 years old for a few weeks, and returned in the summer of 2007. She continues to live there (she's 26 now) with her 13 adopted daughters and helps to run a nonprofit organization, Amazima Ministries, that she started in 2008. For more details about her story and Amazima, I would strongly encourage you to click HERE.

In re-reading the book, here are a few parts that have really struck me. Lucky for you, I'm only a few chapters in to re-reading...

"Sometimes working in a Third World country makes me feel like I am emptying the ocean with an eyedropper...I have learned to be okay with this feeling because I have learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person."

"Through the frustrations, God taught me to laugh at myself, my ways of doing things, and what used to be important to me. He taught me that when doing my best was still not enough, that was when He took over; and because of His great grace and love, even in the frustrating moments I was filled with an inexplicable happiness and peace, my daily proof that I was living my purpose."

"The contradiction comes when I realize that all these experiences and emotions were real. The happiness that gave me chill bumps was as deep as my loneliness. My sense of certainty about being exactly where God wanted me was solid, but just as firm was the fact that I wondered at times what on earth I was doing here. The frustration that threatened to overtake me on some occasions was just as deep and true as the unbounded joy I felt at other times. I loved my new life; I truly loved it. But compared to the life I have been living, it was hard...Despite the obstacles, I felt a surprising level of comfort living in Uganda most of the time. I felt I was born to be there, and in many ways, living there seemed more natural than living in my native country. I had the unexplainable feeling, a settled knowing, that I was where I was made to be. I knew deep in my soul that I was home." 

GOOD stuff.

Eating: Clementines and oranges. I cannot get enough. Clementines are the best because they're little and easy to eat as a quick snack. However, I've started eating more oranges than I probably ever have. I always forget how much I love them. The messiness of oranges has always deterred me from eating them regularly. OCD alert ;) 

Also, I have been eating cozonac, which is a traditional Romanian sweet bread. Everyone here makes it for Christmas, as well as some other holidays. It is delicious! At the Veritas Kids' Club Christmas program, each of the families were given a loaf of cozonac and there were extras so I got to take one home! I was thinking about buying some at the store the other day, but I decided not to. I guess that was why! Anyways, I do not have a photo of cozonac so I got this one from Google...sorry!

Thinking about: What is in store for the new year. I can hardly believe that it's almost January 2016! I'm not one to make these grand New Year's resolutions, but I do like the idea of a fresh start (kind of like the beginning of a school year). I am going to try to set a few small goals, but nothing major...goals like trying to cook more often, possibly learning to play the piano, and making more time for reading and art journaling. I've also been thinking about how crazy it is that I'm almost halfway through this second round of #CBtakesRomania. While on FaceTime yesterday, my mom asked if it's harder being here longer this time, and it's really not. I had a small rough patch a few weeks ago, but things are going well. I continue to feel at home here in Sighisoara. I've made some incredible friends, LOVE the kids and teens I work with, and enjoy the other miscellaneous tasks I've picked up along the way.  

Listening: Christmas music! Spotify has some amazing Christmas playlists! I've been stuck on Folksy Christmas, A Classic Christmas, and even Christmas Pop...for the classics like "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah and "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by NSYNC.

Aside from Christmas music, I've been listening to Adele's 25 pretty consistently, as well as One Direction's new album, Made in the A.M. Yes, I am still a teenage girl sometimes. Take me or leave me! Spotify also has a Discover Weekly playlist, which updates every Monday morning. This playlist is based on what I have been listening too, as well as what similar fans are listening to. It's pretty amazing. My first playlist wasn't the greatest, but it's been improving. It's a fun way to discover new music, which I always love. 

Watching: As always, Gilmore Girls, but also, Christmas movies! I've decided to watch one Christmas movie every day this week. So far, I've watched The Holiday, The Family Stone, and Love, Actually. I watched Elf a few weeks ago. Some others on the list include Stepmom (a depressing Christmas movie, but one of my favs!), Home Alone, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, This Christmas, and a few others. We'll see what I have time for! 

Loving: Thinking about the crazy as that may sound. I feel like God might be working on something for me, and I'm anxious and excited to see what happens with it. We shall see! 

Merry Christmas! Crăciun fericit!

I first saw the "Currently" feature on Sometimes Sweet, which is one my absolute favorite blogs. Just giving credit where credit is due. 

December 6, 2015


One of my absolute favorite photos from her trip...Perfectly describes our friendship.

This is so delayed, but I’m excited to finally share it with you. Jessica came to visit me…in October. Very delayed, but I still open my planner to July because that’s where my mind is in regards to time…if that tells you anything. Also, how is it already December?! How?! Anyways, this will most likely be a long and photo heavy post so don’t say I didn’t warn you! Jessica and I get a little photo crazy when we're of my favorite things about our friendship. 

Top left: one of our first photos together; Top middle: Halloween 2009; Top right: Olivet graduation;
Bottom left: New Year's Eve 2011; Bottom middle: Chicago trip 2013; Bottom left: Denver trip 2013

Before I begin, let me virtually introduce you to Jessica. She has been one of my closest friends since 2007. We went to Olivet together, but didn’t become friends until our sophomore year. 8 years ago…again, time!!! Jessica was a social work major, but we actually met in our Christian Scriptures class. I have the worst memory, but basically, she came into that class and chose to sit by me...and the rest is history. We actually became much closer after college, which I think is pretty awesome. We had to make more of an effort since we didn't live across campus anymore, and I think that made (and continues to make) our friendship grow by leaps and bounds. 

We’ve had some pretty memorable adventures. Since we haven’t lived in the same state since graduating from Olivet, there have been many trips between Illinois and Indiana. Sometimes we would meet in the middle and reunite at our social work professor’s house in Bourbonnais. It’s always fun to be back at Olivet together, our old stomping ground. (Side note, we’re old. Young people don’t say things like that.) We’re also birthday month buddies so we always try to get together in February to celebrate together. We’ve traveled to Chicago, Madison, Denver, etc…I’m telling you, we’ve had some awesome adventures. She even took the time to come visit me when I was home for six weeks this summer, which was such a blast. I am so insanely grateful for her friendship...I'll stop gushing now and get on to her visit! 

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, it was my/our social work professor at Olivet who introduced me to the work being done in Romania. Therefore, Jessica has been familiar with Romania for as long as I have, which made her visit even more special (I assume). She has heard about Sighișoara and Veritas for years, especially from me in recent months. Jessica and I communicate almost daily in one form or another (texting, Instagram, Snapchat, etc). It’s pretty fabulous.

Bucharest: Seeing the sights, eating the food, taking the naps...

Jessica arrived in Bucharest on Saturday, October 18th. Sighișoara is in the middle of Romania, and many people fly into Bucharest which is about 5 hours south. After taking a bus to the Bucharest airport, I not-so-patiently waited in the arrivals area for her to walk through the doors…it was kind of surreal to see someone that I know from home walk through there. Surreal and completely awesome. We decided to stay in Bucharest for the night in order to see some of the sights. We checked out a famous bookstore, saw the palace, enjoyed traditional Romanian and Hungarian food for dinner, and so much more. It was a great start to #jkvisitsromania. 

Enjoying the view in Sighișoara

Seeing the citadel!

She's so classy...I'm soooo not. 

On Sunday afternoon, we returned to Sighisoara. I cannot tell you how excited I was to show Jessica around my new home! She tagged along throughout the week as I went about my normal routine at Veritas, Monday Night Supper, etc. It was great to bring her along and introduce her to everyone. We made time for her to really see Sighișoara and all that is has to offer. After a week in Sighișoara, we headed off on an adventure to see another part of Romania...Constanța! 

Our first trip down to the beach of the Black Sea...

I had never been to Constanța, but I have a two friends who lived there for 3 1/2 years and another friend who's very familiar with the area. It was soooo fabulous to have them as our unofficial guides in planning the adventure. We were able to stay at the YWAM base there thanks to those connections, which was such a huge blessing. We met so many cool people during our stay there, and it was nice to see what God is doing in other parts of Romania. A brief history of Constanț is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania founded in 600 B.C. The Port of Constanța is the largest port on the Black Sea and one of the largest ports in Europe. Constanța has an interesting demographic with Tatars and Turkish, along with Romanians. It's a beautiful and culturally diverse area.

The whole trip was so laid back and full of peace and was refreshing. Jessica is a huge fan of the water...and I quickly jumped on board. I like water, but this trip increased that liking times a million. We went to the beach every day and a spent a good amount of time just sitting and enjoying the view. I found a quote after this trip that really describes how I feel about the water...

"She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well." 
- George R. R. Martin

Jessica and I were able to spend time in deep conversations, getting up at the crack of down to see the sunrise over the Black Sea, walking around town, laughing til we cry, dancing on the beach at sunset, and so much more. I'm about to drop a ton of photos because it was too hard to narrow it down...

Black Sea; Casino along the Black Sea; The old city viewed from the minaret of a mosque.
Just being ourselves and enjoying the simple things like coffee, tea, and cute plates.
Couldn't get enough of that casino; Found some street art full of poppies; She's a ray of sunshine
How Jessica felt about getting up for the sunrise...and how I felt. 
Mirror selfies and tiramisu!
Our last, and EPIC, night on the beach...complete with a dance party in the dark.

On our way back to Sighișoara from Constanța, we stopped in Brașov for one night. I've been to Brașov a handful of times and I really, really love it there. I couldn't wait to show the cute little city to Jessica. Again, many photos were taken and encouraging conversations were had...I love our adventures! Here come the photos...

Beautiful Brașov
"Angels". She pulls it off better than I ever could...
Love love love having tea time with Jessica...especially at cute places like this.
Our last moments in Brașov 

Upon returning from Brașov, we had one night left to spend back in Sighișoara. We had a final meal of traditional Romanian food and did our packing. She was going to head back to America and I was off to Turkey for a conference. It was nice to be able to travel to the airport together and reflect on our incredible Romanian adventure together. There was laughing and crying and getting stuck in an elevator, a day to remember. 

Our "stuck in the elevator" photo is pretty darn great. 

Until next time, my friend.'re one of my favorite people to ever walk the planet. I am forever grateful for the time spent with you here. Come back soon. And for everyone else, I'll leave you with this photo of my acting a fool. 

Just being my dorky self.