November 15, 2016

If we were having coffee...

Photo by me. Coffee by Adela.
I haven't been as much of an avid blog follower since moving to Romania, but I still read a few of my favorites from time to time. I came across this blog post idea over at My Life as a Teacup and thought it'd be kind of perfect for my blog...and my current situation. I'd love to be able to have coffee with so many of you, my beloved readers, but distance kind of prevents that. So here's an attempt at a long-distance coffee date with all of you! Grab your favorite coffee mug and let's chat...

If we were having coffee...I'd tell you that I haven't been feeling well since Thursday. It started with a sore throat, but it has since turned into a sinus issue. I accidentally took a four hour nap the other day, which apparently my body needed. I barely slept the other night because I couldn't breathe. And I've been looking pretty dang cool walking around my apartment with tissues stuffed up my nose. Yes, it was necessary to share that with you. I finally left the house today (Tuesday) after not going anywhere since Friday. And I was able to walk out in the SNOW! I woke up to snow on Sunday and literally gasped with joy. It was a very Lorelai Gilmore moment, if I do say so myself!

If we were having coffee...I'd tell you how absolutely, insanely, immensely excited I am for the return of Gilmore Girls on November 25th. TEN DAYS, PEOPLE, TEN DAYS. I will cry. I will laugh. I will hide in my house for the weekend and watch it over and over again. It will be a momentous occasion. I am only sad that I won't be able to snack on pop tarts, mini powdered donuts or Sookie's famous dessert sushi while watching.

@jessaconnolly, "Colossians 3: it starts with me. I have the keys to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, UNITY. And so do you."
If we were having coffee...I'm sure the topic of the election would come up. I would sigh, get overwhelmed, and not want to talk about it, but there's actually something I would end up saying about it. I would share the encouraging words that I've seen floating around the Internet since election day. Words like, "Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away." from John Lennon. Words like, "I aspire to be a giver. A giver of love, a giver of good vibes and a giver of strength." Words like, "I believe we can all come together because if you take away the labels, you realize we're far more alike than we are different." from Ellen DeGeneres. And finally, words like, "Ah, kindness. What a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world." That's what it's all about. Kindness and love. 

If we were having coffee...I'd tell you how at home I still feel in Romania. I'd tell you that it's still such a surreal feeling to be here, and to know that this is where I'm truly meant to be. I continue to have these moments when another piece of the puzzle comes together...where something from my past connects with something in my present and reaffirms that this is where I'm supposed to be. I spent many, many years being so unsure about various things, specifically about my "place" in the world, and now, I feel soooo in my "place". And I am so grateful for this place.  

If we were having coffee...I'd tell you that I haven't been taking as many photos lately, and that needs to change. I'd tell you this in an effort to motivate me to take more photos. I'm constantly thinking "oh, that'd be a good photo", but then I don't take the photo. Sometimes it's due to the fact that I don't want to look like a tourist or draw attention to myself, but other times it's just because I don't "have time"...which really means I should stop and take the photo. Note to self...make time and take the photo. Anyways, feel free to keep me accountable with this one.

Romanian homework and The Voice
If we were having coffee...I'd tell you that I'm really trying to improve my Romanian language skills. I've been trying to watch more videos, listen to music, text friends in Romanian, etc. I practice conversations in my head and I do pretty well...but there's a disconnect. When I try to actually say things in Romanian, even after practicing in my head, I get blocked. I can't get the message to go from my brain to my mouth. And it's so frustrating. I will say that I'm pretty darn good at understanding, writing and even translating from Romanian to English, but speaking is just such a struggle for me. I'm pretty comfortable speaking in Kids' Club because that's been one of the most consistent areas as far as vocab and interactions...and the kids are so kind and cute when they correct me. Usually, they giggle about how I said something wrong and then gently correct me. It's quite sweet. I'll just keep plugging away in Romanian class...and keep trying very hard to have the courage to speak in Romanian at every opportunity (and obviously, there are lots of opportunities).

Well, time for bed over here in Romania. Hope you enjoyed our coffee date and my random rambling. I know I did. Until next time...

November 4, 2016

Currently: Romanian Edition Part VI

Hello all! I'm writing this to you after an unusually low-key Friday. These Currently posts are my favorite because I like to think that they help give you a sneak peek into my "normal", every day life. Enjoy!

Reading: Sadly, I have not been reading as much as I would like to be these days. However, the book that I'm slowly working my way through is Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I'm really enjoying the way that Lysa takes her personal stories (specifically, her personal rejections) and turns them into something her readers can learn from. It's quite lovely, and a good example of how powerful our personal stories can be.

I'm also trying to read more in Romanian, which is how I justified buying myself a magazine the other day. It's kind of fun because 1. I love magazines and 2. I'm learning all kinds of new vocabulary that I'll probably rarely use. Either way, it's a fun way to change things up in Romanian!

Eating: Sunflower seeds!!! Even before coming to Romania, I LOVED sunflower seeds. The David seeds are my favorite, in case you were wondering. I tend to eat sunflower seeds until my mouth is raw from all of the salt. THAT'S how much I love sunflower seeds. Upon arriving in Romania, I quickly learned that they also love sunflower seeds. Romania is one of the world's largest sunflower seed exporters, and sunflower seed oil is used a lot in cooking here. Two fun facts for you. Anyways, after a few failed attempts at finding good seeds, a friend told me which brand to buy (Nutline) and I've never looked back! I thought about posting a photo of the bowl of shells sitting next to me, but I figured that's taking things a bit too far. You're welcome.

Thinking about: I've been thinking a lot about the fact that in March, I will have been living in Romania for 2 years, which completely blows my mind. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I can't help it. When I first came to Romania, I had no idea how long #CBtakesRomania would last. I always felt that it was not a short term thing, but obviously I didn't know how it would all work out. I also didn't know how it could possibly be a long-term thing, mostly related to the financial side of things. But here I am, marveling at the fact that God has provided for me for 598 days...and counting. Now, let me be real for a second too though. I have difficult days and weeks, and sometimes I wonder how He can possibly continue to provide for me (again, financially), but I have to trust that since I continue to feel called, He will continue to provide. 

Listening: I almost said nothing because I was thinking specifically about music. I've been in a bit of a music funk lately, as I've gotten a bit bored with I'm open to any and all suggestions. 

However, I have to sneak Gilmore Girls into this post somehow so here it is. I tend to have GG playing in the background when I'm at home working on various tasks on my computer. Whether I'm sending emails to social work students who are coming in January through the Romanian Studies Program or looking up ideas for Kids' Club or blogging, GG is always on in the background. Half of the time, I catch myself with the Netflix tab open...sitting and staring at the screen, quoting every word. Even though I've seen each episode over and over (and over) again, I can't help but get sucked into the lives of "those adorable Gilmore girls"!

Watching: I thought I was going to have to give the same answer that I always give, but I am actually (and currently) watching the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series Parade live feed in Chicago!!!! I am so thankful for the internet during weeks like this one. The day after Game 7, I woke up to post after post after post on Facebook, which I usually HATE! I constantly say that I wish there was a way to hide all sports related posts, BUT on that particular morning, I could not have enjoyed those posts more. 

I love how this win means so much for every Cubs fan. Growing up, I watched games with my dad and/or listened to him hoot and holler at the TV while playing in another room. As I got older, we started going to games at Wrigley each summer. Sappy moment alert...I'm not the biggest sports fan, but I love how sports can bring people together. Whenever I'm at a game, or watching one on TV, I always think about the fact that some of the people would probably not get along under normal circumstances. But there we are, together, putting aside our differences, gathering for one cause, and Hi-5ing each other along the way. It's so lovely.

Loving: Tuesdays and Wednesdays. These are the two days of my week that I still reserve for Kids' Club. I don't lead as many activities as I did in the past, but I'm still very much apart of the program. And while I love the program and being with the staff and ALL of the kids, there is one extra special part of my Tuesdays and Wednesdays. After the lesson/activity of the day, I spend some time with one of the boys in the program. He is 11 years old, and just the sweetest thing ever. For whatever reason, God placed him on my heart very early on and for that, I am so thankful. We do homework together, he teases me when I mispronounce Romanian words, we play games, I show him pictures of my family and friends, we talk about school, etc. I could go on and on about how special this boy is and the fun that we have, but I think you get the point. 

About to get real honest again for a moment, which seems to be my new thing lately. Also, about to cry, which is not a new thing :) Sometimes, I have moments when I feel like I'm not doing enough here in Romania. I feel like you all continue to support and encourage me, and I'm not doing as much as I should be. It's very easy for me to get caught in the comparison trap sometimes. I hear about things that other volunteers or missionary-types are doing, both here in Romania and around the world, and I feel like a failure. 

BUT, then an amazing friend texts me (in a conversation about the 11 year old boy I just mentioned) and says, "You're making such a positive impact on his life...all of the little things add up", which brings me back to reality. She's right! All of the little things do add up, which is something that I've always been a firm believer in, but sometimes forget. The "big things" aren't bad, but they're just not really my style. As an introvert, I've always been more of a behind the scenes kind of person, and I have to remind myself that those people are needed just as much as the front, center stage type of people. 

So while I may not have these riveting, emotion invoking stories to tell you about what I'm doing in Romania, I can tell you about the little things that I am doing and how I've seen positive change because of those little things. Whether it's teaching a lesson on empathy that teenagers continue to talk about almost a year later PLUS seeing a few of them truly implementing empathy in their every day lives...or watching that 11 year old boy develop friendships, which were very rare last year...or seeing a coworker feel and act more empowered after an encouraging conversation...I know that I am making a difference. Even more than that, in those moments, I am humbled by the fact that I'm not really doing anything, but rather, God is doing these things through me. Maybe that was just a little pep talk that I needed to give myself after a challenging week, but I hope you can appreciate it as well. 

All of that to say...Do the little things. They add up.

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

October 16, 2016

Pack. Fly. Romania. Unpack...Pack. Move. Unpack. Breathe.

Do you know how incredibly difficult it is to title these blog posts? It's SO difficult! I've already changed the title three times. Anyways...Guess who's back, back again, Casey's back, tell a friend...! If you know where that's from, you're my best friend.

So yes, I'm back in Romania, for the third time, and I'm happy to report that it still feels like home. It's such an unexplainable feeling, but one that I am thankful for. You may or may not know this, but I kind of had a hard time while I was home in the States. Take out the "kind of". I had a hard time while I was home in the States. Honestly, I can't even pinpoint why it was so hard, but I just know that it was. I wrote a few words about it in my last blog post. I feel a little better now, but I know that I need to work on/through some personal things. I have an unfinished blog post in my drafts that goes into more detail on this, but I'm not quite ready to post it yet.

I wasn't really planning to say all of that, but this is usually what happens when my fingers hit the keyboard. And this is why all of my blog posts are so insanely long.

I just did it again. Back to the topic. The day before I flew to Romania, I received an email from Roberta. She has lived in Romania for just over 20 years working with the Church of the Nazarene, and she is just delightful. She lives in a gorgeous home in the citadel (the old part of town located above the rest of the city) with Dorothy, another woman who has lived in Romania for over 20 years. Both of these women have made such an incredible impact on Sighisoara, and Dorothy is continuing her impact in Greece with the Central European Field's NCM Refugee Response.

All of that to say, Dorothy and Roberta offered to let me live in their house, if I wanted to move. Now, here's the tricky part. I LOVED my old apartment. I lived on the second floor of another gorgeous house, referred to by some as a museum. The house is full of beautiful antique furniture, books and more. My land lady was so unique and interesting, and I hated to leave her. I really loved it there, and I could have been selfish and stayed there. But, I think God had another plan, a better plan.

Side story: I struggled a bit to fundraise while I was home in the States. Now, let me follow that sentence up by saying a humongous THANK YOU to everyone who has continued to support me. I continue to be so insanely humbled by the continuous flow of support that come in, financial gifts, prayers, etc. I would not be able to do any of this without all of you.

With that said, I also have to be honest and say that I have not yet reached my support goal, which causes me, and my human self, some anxiety. If you know me, which I'm assuming you do because you are reading this blog, then you know that I am an introvert. Like a major introvert. So when my life's circumstances require me to reach OUT to people...and ask them for support...I really just want to curl into a ball and cry. But because I know that this is what I'm supposed to be doing and where God wants me, I walk up in front of large groups of people...and still cry! This makes me giggle because, as many of you have witnessed, I cry a lot when I talk about my life's circumstances. It's all so ironic. Good one, God ;)

Back to the moving God had a plan. That offer to move was an answer to prayer, mine and yours. This move saves me some money each month...which means my mission funds last a little bit longer. And I get to live in an absolutely adorable apartment within an insanely gorgeous house. I feel a bit spoiled.

Hopefully now you understand the title of this blog post. I packed to leave America, flew to Romania and unpacked at my old apartment. I knew I would be moving as soon as I read the email with the offer, but I wasn't sure when I'd be moving. And with so many other transitions in my life, I needed to unpack for my own sanity, so I unpacked everything. About a week later, I found myself packing again.

After talking with my land lady (last Saturday) and giving her the customary 30 day notice, I had planned to stay until the end of the month, but plans change. Long story short, we agreed that I would be moving out on Saturday (yesterday), which worked out better for both of us for a number of reasons. So I packed my suitcases again, plus everything I didn't bring back to the States with me, and moved yesterday. And then, of course, I unpacked again. I'm not quite finished, but I'm getting there.

I have a cute little desk with an incredible view, which I was excited to set up. I lined the window sill with all kinds of cute stuff including pictures, art, Romanian pottery, etc. It's my favorite little spot. Potential photo to come.

One issue that I'm having is that I have A LOT of papers, which is kind of annoying. Papers for RSP, papers for Kids' Club, papers for the Nazarene mission world, papers for Romanian class, papers, papers and more papers. I don't really know what to do with them so they are currently in piles on a table...and that's where they'll remain until I find a creative way to house them. I'm open to suggestions.

Before I end this post, I'll briefly attempt to answer the popular question of "what are you doing this time around?", which is a totally legit question to ask. And my answer right now is "Umm...good question". I'm kidding, well, kind of. Long story short...I'm basically doing what I've been doing, which includes working with Kids' Club at Veritas, co-leading It Takes Courage (character development program for teens) with Adela, working A LOT with the Romanian Studies Program (specifically in following up from visits/contacts while I was home PLUS preparing for 4 students coming in January for the spring semester), and other various activities that come my way. Basically, I'm staying busy!

So, to summarize, I'm back, I moved, I'm getting settled. Prayers appreciated as I continue to settle back into life here. And if you feel led to support me financially, contact me :) Right now, I'll be honest and tell you that my greatest financial need would be my student loan payments. I'm (slowly) working on contacting the various loan folks to see what my options are, but until then, I need to keep plugging away. PayPal is the best way to give towards my personal fund, again, if you feel led to do so.

Thank you to those of you who read allll the way to the end. You're the best. As a gift to you, here's a photos of me and Raegan enjoying our horchata at my unofficial going-away dinner. I miss her...and Mexican food.

September 14, 2016

#CBtakesRomania: Round THREE

Background art: Annie Shaughnessy; Design: Me

I feel like I start every blog post by saying something like "'s been awhile" followed by "I'm going to try to blog more". I don't know why I pretend like that'll happen. I want to (I always say that too.), but then life happens.

As most of you know, I've been home (in America) since July 10th...and it's been a wild ride, to say the least. I came home a little earlier than planned for a conference. I briefly mentioned this in my last post and I still haven't processed through all of the information that I gained there. Someday.

During this time at home, I feel like I have taken in A LOT of information. Good information, but overwhelming information. Conference workshops, books (like this one, that totally wrecked me), sermons, podcasts, conversations with friends, etc. It's been h a r d...and I haven't necessarily been coping very well with all of it. Information related to effective service and how we can truly help people without hurting them, following one's call in life, being present (rather than perfect), etc. Not to mention the fact that I'm still dealing with all of my thoughts and feelings related to my time in Serbia, Croatia and Greece with the refugees. PLUS missing Romania. As I've said before, there's a lot that goes on in this mind of mine.

All of that to say, if I haven't connected with you or texted you as much as I usually do or seemed super excited about things...that's why. I don't want that to seem like an excuse, but it's the reality. I feel like I'm at a very messy point in my life, and that's not a bad thing. I think it's good to examine things in one's life and ask the hard questions, but again, it's h a r d.

Are you still with me? I got a little deeper than I had intended to with all of that honesty and messiness talk, but I think it's important to be real.

I'm assuming you know this, but I am returning to Romania. On October 4th, to be exact...assuming I can raise enough support. The funds are coming in...sloooowly. Honestly, it's been very difficult to feel like this is going to happen. I'm conflicted because I still feel very called to serve in Romania, but obviously it's hard to feel affirmed when the funds aren't coming in. Hence, the quote at the top.

A few people have been asking about the best ways to support me. I wanted to try to simplify the ways you can support me. So here you go...

1. Global Mission fund: Go to THIS WEBSITE. Opt for a recurring gift, if you'd like (this option helps me out a lot). Tax-deductible. Done and done! These funds cover my living and ministry expenses.

Side note: If you attend my/a Nazarene church, you can write a check to the church with "Bloom Deputation" in the memo field. The treasurer will submit it through the appropriate system.

2. My Personal fund: Go to my PAYPAL link and support me :) These funds cover my monthly student loan payments, toiletries, food, etc. You can also write me a personal check, but I won't put my home address on here so just email me ( if you'd like to mail me something.

3. Saving the biggest and best way for last...Pray. Pray that I can raise the support I need since I still feel very called to Romania. Pray for peace, ministry effectiveness, relationship building, etc. Pray for me as I work through this messy time in my life.

Questions? Email me. Text me. Call me. Stop me when you see me. Oh, and thank you.

July 20, 2016

Currently: American Edition Part V

So I've had a lot to say for awhile, but every time I open my blog to write something...everything freezes (referring to me, not the computer...thankfully). I want to blog more. I want to share more about what's going on with my life. I want to write. But I get so stuck. Maybe now that I'm home for a bit, I'll have a little more time to process and think through all of these things that I want to share. To ease back into the blogosphere, I'll give you yet another Currently post. Enjoy.  

Reading: What am I NOT reading? That'd be a better question. Sunday morning, Jessica and I spent a few hours at Barnes and Noble in Bourbonnais (I was there for the Compassion Conference, which I need to blog about too!). Let me tell you, I had forgotten how much I LOVE bookstores. I could spend hours and hours looking around and perusing through each section. I definitely need a few more bookstore visits before I return to Romania. 

As you'll see in the photo, I collected a nice stack of books while at Barnes. I started reading a few that I've had my eye on for awhile...and I was hooked. Now, this is troublesome because books are flippin' expensive. When I got home, I ended up looking a bunch of these titles up on my library's website. I have six books on hold! Update: four of them have arrived! I know you care about these small details :) 

A few that I'd like to highlight...

1. When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself by Steve Corbett
Steve was supposed to be one of the speakers at the Compassion Conference, but he ended up not being able to attend due to health issues. However, the person who spoke in his place was delightful, and shared so much good info related to this topic, all while referencing the book of course. I ended up going to both of his sessions and scribbling down lots and lots and lots of notes. I haven't finished the book yet, but here is one of the quotes that really grabs me...
By showing low-income people through our words, our actions, and most importantly our ears that they are people with unique gifts and abilities, we can be part of helping them to recover their sense of dignity, even as we recover from our sense of pride. 
2. Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie Downs 
I've been familiar with Annie's writing for awhile, but never picked up one of her books. Let me tell ya, I should've picked one up sooner. I started reading this one at Barnes and knew I had to buy it (on Amazon though...much cheaper). It's one of those books where I find myself nodding and saying "yes, that's it!" while I read. I try to avoid buying books these days, but when I can't resist the urge to underline, then I know I have to buy it. A quote about the book from Goodreads...
In Looking for Lovely, Annie F. Downs shares personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday—whether that be nature, friends, or the face they see in the mirror.
3. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
This one was recommended during another session at the Compassion Conference. I seriously need to blog about this conference. Anyways, I started reading this one while I was at Barnes too, and it is SO DANG GOOD. Like Annie Downs, I've been familiar with Brené Brown for awhile and read some of her stuff (none of her books though). I've always enjoyed her insight, but when I found out that she's a social worker (from reading the intro of this book), I almost died. It all makes sense now. But seriously, even not having finished this book, I recommend it already. I'm not far enough in to give you a quote so I'm going to use another Goodreads line...
Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. 
Get out of here. Too good.

Chicken burrito bowl. White rice. Black beans. Mild and corn salsa. Guac. YES!
Eating: American food. I had Chipotle for the first time in 10.5 months and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. I can't begin to explain my deep, deep love for I'll stop there. I also made a Greek salad for lunch today, with spices from Greece (that I bought for my mom), and it was DIVINE. All of the veggies came from the farmer's market and it just tasted so dang fresh. I plan on having it for dinner tonight's that good. Oh, and I can't cook so that's why I'm bragging so much about this salad. I'm proud of myself. Yes, I realize that all I had to do was cut the veggies and add some spices, but you seriously don't know how bad I am at cooking/preparing food. 

Thinking about: Oh man...I should just show you a photo of my to-do list. I'm thinking about A LOT of things. Here's a sneak peek...

  • All of the incredible information that I gained at the Compassion Conference (yes, mentioning it again)
  • Arranging times to spend with family and friends while I'm home
  • ROMANIA. My kids at Veritas. The teens from It Takes Courage and English Camp. My friends and coworkers. The scenery. 
  • Raising support for my return to Romania in the fall (yes, I'm going back...duh!)
  • The refugee situation, my experiences, my new friends...this one has been difficult to think about and process ever since I returned from my second trip to Greece

Seriously, this is a majorly abbreviated list, but these are the things taking up the most space in my brain these days. 

Listening: Lots of different things, as usual. Most days, my taste in music is all over the place. Acoustic, singer-songwriter stuff...pop hits...rap and hip-hop...worship really depends on my mood. I will share one artist that I stumbled upon a few months ago. His name is Dermot Kennedy and his voice is absolutely incredible. He doesn't have a ton of music out there (YET, I hope), but I love love love what he does have out. I'm one of those people who finds a song and listens to it over and over and over again. I've done that with almost all of his songs. I'll share two of my favorites with you, a cover and an original. Enjoy.

Watching: I should just remove this one. You know the answer. Gilmore Girls. I just sat here trying to make up something else that I've been watching, but I literally haven't watched anything. Granted, I don't watch Gilmore Girls that often, but if and when I watch something, that's what I choose. I guess I've been watching The Today Show, despite the fact that it drives me crazy. 

LovingThe opportunities that life brings. I'm constantly amazed by various people and experiences that come my way. I don't always understand why things happen the way that they do, but I've come to realize that that's okay. I've become more of a "live in the moment" type of person (at least I like to think), which is kind of a big deal for a chronic over-analyzer :)

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

June 9, 2016

Falling in love...

Craft from a lesson in one of the camps in Greece
I just walked back up the stairs to my apartment after talking to my land lady for about an hour. Before I left for Serbia in March, she said she wanted a full report upon my return. So when I returned from Serbia, I visited with her (along with Dorothy), showing pictures and sharing stories about my experience with the refugees. She asked such detailed questions and listened so intently. She has lived through many different eras in her life, and has such a curious spirit about her. She's a fascinating lady.

When I told her I'd be going to Greece to do more work with the refugees, she said she wanted another report when I got back. The two weeks between my Greece trips were packed so I didn't get a chance to tell her anything after my first return, which is probably for the best now that I think about it. Anyways, I had some free time this afternoon and decided to knock on her door. I brought her back a little box of baklava, which she was extremely surprised and happy about. She invited me in and we got right to it. She wanted to know how it was compared to Serbia. Similarities, differences, how Greece is handling things, etc. So I told her.

We talked for about an hour, which might actually be the longest conversation we've ever had, but it was so enjoyable. At one point in the conversation, she asked if I would be going back to Greece. I told her that I probably will, but not before I go back to the States for a little while this summer/fall. She then looked a tiny bit surprised and proceeded to say, "I have a feeling that you fell in love in Greece", which of course made me burst out in laughter. I assured her that I did not fall in love in Greece, but she would not believe me. (For the record, I really did not fall in love in Greece.) She went on to say, "but there's something in your eyes...something is different about you..." and she would not be convinced otherwise. She finally said, "well I could be wrong, but I don't think I am", and then I knew what my reply would be. I said, "Well actually, I have fallen in love, but it all started in Serbia...I have fallen in love with a group of people...", which is 100% true. She paused for a moment and kind of accepted this answer, although I know she's not fully convinced.

While I am handling my transition back into Romania (from Greece) much better than when I returned from Serbia, I'm still finding it difficult to process through everything. My two experiences, in Serbia and Greece, could not be more different. My time in Greece was obviously much shorter, and the overall situation was much different there than in Serbia. Like I said, I still don't have a lot of words, but maybe soon. Until then, allow me to close this post by sharing a few lines from the book I just finished (again), Kisses from Katie, along with a few photos from my time(s) in Greece.
"But why? Why am I constantly falling in love with people I cannot help, 
people who are taken out of my life so quickly?"

"We aren't really called to save the world, not even to save one person; Jesus does that. We are just called to love with abandoned. We are called to enter into our neighbors' sufferings and love them right there."

"The number of days or weeks we are together isn't important; what really matters is the way God knits our hearts together during the time He chooses for us to be in one another's lives." 

Despite having read this book before, these three quotes are in the part of the book that I just read again today. Coincidence? I think not. That last quote hit me hard, and it is part of what helps me to keep going...

A lesson on kindness.
A sign outside of one of the camps
Poppies, always poppies.

April 16, 2016

Random Reflections

For the month of April, I decided to reflect every single day on one moment from my experience meeting and serving some of the most beautiful people. The small, daily reflections have made it easier for me to share pieces of my experience with others, but also to allow myself to process through things. I have been posting these reflections on one of my social media accounts, but I've decided to share some of them on here too. There is no flow from day to day, and typically that would bother me, but I think it's better that way. So without further ado, here are those random reflections...

I'll never forget the pride in her eyes each time she learned a new hand game. [04.04.16]

In March, my emotions were all over the place, with extreme joy and extreme frustration as the primary ones. I feel privileged to have been able to share in some of the joys and frustrations of the beautiful people I formed relationships with. [04.05.16]

A typical sight at the camp...a table of kids and me. Even though only two of these kids remain at the camp, I'm constantly thinking, "Who is playing Uno with them, who is paying attention to them, who is listening to them...?" I'm not there, but He is. God is there with them whether they know/believe/understand it or not. This reminder is the only way I can sleep at night. [04.06.16]

One day, I asked a young man, who I had started to build a relationship with, to tell me about his journey. He showed me video footage on his phone of his boat ride from Turkey to Greece. 

I had this feeling while watching, but I couldn't recognize it at first. Then, I realized that it was guilt. I felt guilty for watching something so intense and so seemingly personal, despite the fact that he shared it freely. 

I have no idea what these lovely people have been through, and I don't think I'll ever fully understand all of it. But I'm realizing that that's okay. What I can do is share their stories and my experience, like he shared his with me. And I will do just that. [04.07.16]

Not the most flattering photo, but I don't even care. These are two of "my boys" who made me smile every single day. 

It's so incredible to me how such a bond can be formed between people who don't share a language. Just the effort to communicate can go along way, even if it's not very successful. 

Smiles, hugs, hi-fives, endless games of Uno, watching soccer games...that's what I could do so that's what I did. [04.08.16]

Like coming to Romania, I felt such a peace about going to work with the refugees. I'd never met a refugee/person in this type of situation before. I don't think I'd ever sat down and talked with a Muslim. I had no "training" per se. 

And yet, it all felt so natural. It felt like something I was always meant to be doing. That doesn't mean it wasn't hard. It was. It still is. There were days when I went into the supply closet and cried. There are days now when I just sit on my bed and cry.

But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I will do it again in some capacity...already planning. [04.09.16]

I think about this young man every day. He is one of "my boys" that I mentioned the other day. He is kind, mature, a good friend, and caring towards others, but especially his family. He was one of the first faces I saw each morning as he came to get the food bags for his family. 

One morning, he wasn't acting like his usual self. I asked him if he was leaving that day, and he said yes. This usually confident and mature young man suddenly looked a lot younger. I can only imagine what was going through his mind as they prepared to continue on their journey.

His departure was hard. We hugged. I told him I'd miss him. The look in his eyes is one I'll never forget. I said goodbye to the rest of his family and watched as they walked towards the taxis parked at the gas station. And then I went into the supply closet and cried. I miss this boy and his sweet, smiling face so, so much. [04.10.16]

I almost made it through the day without crying, and then someone says a prayer for the refugees and I can't handle it. 

Yesterday, the police used tear gas on the refugees at the Greece-Macedonia border. This immediately makes me think of a group I refer to as my "tea party ladies". I helped bring tea to their room one time and ended up being invited in to drink tea and talk, but most listen, for about an hour. I had two tea parties while I was at the camp. 

One of the times, they told me about their journeys and how they too had experienced the tear gas at that same border. These women were so lovely and welcoming and kind...inviting me into their world so willingly. I can only hope that they are treated with dignity and respect as they continue on their journey. [04.11.16]

Today, I told my Romanian kids about my Syrian kids. My two worlds collided. Most of my Romanian kids listened intently as I told them about the refugees, and some asked questions about their homes, schools, journeys, etc. 

I can only hope that a seed was planted in their hearts to always see the best in others and to show love in all situations. [04.12.16]

Bleak, dreary, dismal, hopeless. This is how I would describe the camp as an outsider looking in. 

Hopeful, encouraging, beautiful, friendship. This is what I saw and felt as an insider in the camp. [04.13.16]

I watch this video every single day. These two boys hold such a special place in my heart, and were part of "my family" at the camp. 

The one of the left is hilarious and helpful. The one on the right is sweet, kind, and independent. 

They send me voice messages almost every day and it makes my heart burst. [04.14.16]

At the halfway point of these reflections, I'd like to share something extra special. This is my second favorite photo from my time in Serbia. 

These two are the other half of the children in "my family". She is as sweet as can be, and the best older sister to her baby brother. He is also the sweetest thing with such a calm and easygoing temperament. 

This family remains in Serbia, as one of the last families at the camp. I hope and pray that they are moved to a more stable environment as soon as possible. [04.15.16]

- - - - -

And there you have it. Half of the month's reflections. It's funny because no matter how much I share, I feel like I'll never even scratch the surface of truly saying how much this experience impacted me. 

April 7, 2016 was it?

Camp in Croatia
Sitting here...with this blog post open...not knowing exactly what to write. How do I share such a life-changing, eye-opening, earth-shattering experience in a blog post? I think the answer that I need to accept is "I cannot". I'll write some thoughts now...and some thoughts later...and probably some thoughts in another year. That's what I can do.

My oh-so-patient Arabic teacher, and friend.
On Monday evenings, a bunch of ex-pats gather for what we call Monday Night Supper (MNS). I know I've blogged about this event before so I won't explain much further. This past Monday was my first full day back and my first MNS since we returned to Romania on Sunday evening. I was nervous about going and having to answer the overwhelming question of " was it?" I shouldn't have been so nervous because this is a group of people who truly care and understand this type of work. I actually ended up being nervous because I knew I was being listened to so intently. It was silent around the table as I shared parts of my experience. I am thankful to have had MNS as my first experience of answering that overwhelming question.

These boys sat and talked about these drawings for at least a half hour.
This artwork hangs in the tent where we served tea and soup all day.
So how did I answer that overwhelming question...? Good question. I wish I had recorded myself because I answered it pretty well...and now I can't remember what I said. Typical. I know I used all of the cliche words like life-changing, eye-opening, challenging, amazing, frustrating, lovely, etc. Cliche or not, these are the words that I had/have at the moment.

As many of you know, I was sick with various ailments (bronchitis, pink eye, flu, cold, etc.) during our time in Croatia and Serbia. There were a lot of days when I went to the camp, came home, napped, ate supper, went to bed, woke up...repeat, which didn't allow me to process everything that I was experiencing. I was aware of this as I returned to Romania, but that hasn't made it any easier. I've already had some difficult moments since returning.

I think about the refugees, who I now call my friends, all day long. I miss them so much, so deeply, so unlike anything I've ever experienced before. These beautiful people gave me so much and taught me more about life, God, serving others, myself...than I ever expected.

Teaching the cup rhythm thing to two boys from "my family"
There are so many moments...faces...stories...conversations. I want to process them and share them you, but it's going to take time. I appreciate your patience. Please feel free to ask questions or email me or whatever. I want to talk about it. I love talking about it even though it's hard. Just know that I met some of the most beautiful, kind, resilient, courageous people. I served in the simplest ways at times, whether serving tea or sweeping crumbs off of the floor, but it was in those moments that I learned a lot.

Leading a train of kids around the camp on one of our first nice, spring days
I'm thankful to have found articles and quotes from others who have been able to put their thoughts and feelings into words. I hope their words will help you to get a better idea of how I feel since I don't have my own words just yet.

First and foremost, please watch THE VIDEO below. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries released it about a week ago. All of the images are from the two camps I worked at in Croatia and Serbia. It is so incredibly well done.

One of the two men who worked on that video also wrote a five-part photo essay, which is incredible. Again, all of the images and stories come from the two camps I worked at in Croatia and Serbia. Read each part here: PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5. As I posted these articles on Facebook, I shared some of the quotes that really moved me. Here is one more that I think is worth highlighting...

"I'm watching a group of people who, five years ago, lived much the same as we do in the west. A group of people who, five years ago, had careers, homes, bank accounts, hobbies, and plans for the weekend. A group of people with dreams for their future, and desires for their children's.

I think it's easy to separate ourselves from what's happening out here.

'They' are them and 'we' are us, and it's none of our business to redefine associations. But in all reality, we are human. We all have the same fears, and we all have the same insecurities, and we all have the same ability to feel anxious and feel pride, and elation, and bitterness, and inspiration, and loneliness, and we all get excited, and we all have beating hearts that require blood to move throughout our bodies. There's not a difference here.

So let's start seeing it as such.

And let's start responding as such."


"Hope is hope when it seems impossible, when it takes a bit of faith to believe it's possible...

I'm beginning to think that, like hope, all virtues are true virtues only when they are really difficult. Hospitality is only truly hospitality when it's inconvenient. Courage is only courage when there is real fear involved. And love is truly love when it's hard...

And yet, from refugee to worker, and worker to refugee, there is love present. A hard love, a jagged love, one that shows its wear. It's why the embraces are so powerful and the tears so heavy. The chests heave with emotion, and the arms hold tighter than you would expect from a stranger.

Hospitality. Courage. Love.

They've been hard fought for here. And I'm understanding them better because of it."

The perfect day for jumping rope

February 25, 2016


Twenty-eight years old. Woah. When I was a teenager, my 28th birthday seemed like light years away. Actually, I know I never thought specifically about turning 28 when I was a teenager. I'm sure I thought about being 20, 25, 30, etc., but not 28. Either way, I know that teenage Casey had a totally different picture in her mind when she thought about being 28/almost 30. I can assure you that it involved a lot of stability...having a secure, well-paying job with a husband and a handful of kids. I used to want 12 kids. I still kind of do, but that's another story. Anyways, teenage Casey never could have imagined what was in store for her at 28 years old. Even if you told her what was in store, she never, never, ever would have believed you...and I think that's kind of lovely.

I think I mentioned this when I wrote my New Year's post, but I don't really do New Year's resolutions. Instead, I like to do a birthday list that I came across on a blog a few years ago. This blogger made a list of 22 things she wanted to do before she turned 23, or however old she was turning that year. The list had a few big goals/things to accomplish, but it consisted mostly of small goals, which is what I loved. I decided to give it a try and I've been doing it for probably 4-5 years now. I don't always accomplish everything on my list, but whatever I don't accomplish, I just add to the next year. I actually kind of forgot to write one last year. Well, I might have written one, but it must be at home somewhere. When I started to write my new one (28 before 29), I decided to back track a bit. I wrote one retrospectively for 27 before 28 and I am going to share it with you. I have this fun notebook (that I actually received on my 25th birthday) that allows me to create a digital copy of what I handwrite. It's pretty cool. So here's the list...

Did you think I was going to end it there?! No way! That would be like my shortest blog post ever. I will now highlight a few of these fun items...

1. It seems a little silly, but the donut ice cream sandwich was JUST SO GOOD. In celebration of a friend's birthday (Hi Erica!) a year ago, we took a trip to Chicago. We had heard about this donut ice cream sandwich phenomenon and it did not disappoint.

3. OBVIOUSLY, pursuing missions fully was a huge step in the right direction for me.  I cannot even begin to list all of the times when I feel like God has confirmed that this was the best choice.

4. I am so thankful for the time spent with my mom while I was home. Specifically, our pizza picnic in the car one evening. We got pizza, did some thrifting, and probably ended the night watching some episodes of Gilmore Girls.

9. Although learning a new language (Romanian) has been an immense challenge, I feel like it has really helped me to grow in unexpected ways. I have gained an ability and desire to share more with others, mostly in writing through my blog. I've also been able to connect with people in a different English and Romanian, verbally and nonverbally, which is a pretty huge deal for me.

13. Standing in a field of sunflowers was something I had never thought I would do, or something I had even ever thought about. However, this was one of those moments where I felt such a peace about being in Romania. It was a moment I will never forget it.

18. When I was home for six weeks in summer 2015, I had a massive garage sale. It was soooo much work, but also an amazing display of my supporters...MY PEOPLE! I was able to sell some handmade Romanian items, spend time with family and friends, share my adventure with strangers, and so much more.

22. Flying back to Romania was so incredible. When I left, I knew I would return, but I had no idea how natural it would feel. My return felt like coming home, and I am so thankful for that feeling. Obviously, it's hard to be away from my original home, but Romania is definitely a second home.

26. I feel like I say this all of the time, but I love the Romanian children that I work with. I always enjoy the kids I work with, but these kids have totally and completely captured my heart in a way I could never have imagined.

27. Last, but not least, the peace. The infamous peace has made all of the difference in this adventure, but also in my 27th year of life.

Starting my 28th year in a foreign (well, not-so-foreign) country is something I truly could never have imagined. I am so excited to see where year 28 takes me. Here's to 28!