January 31, 2016

Rubber bands

Pre-Romania Casey...and some of the best pals!

I had no clue what photo to choose for this post because I don't exactly have a bunch of photos of rubber bands in my photo library. And to be clear...yes, this is a post about rubber bands. It'll make sense in a moment, I hope. I chose this photo for a few reasons. 1. This pre-Romania Casey hadn't the slightest clue what was in store for her. 2. We're stretching to point to Romania. Again, this will make more sense in a moment. 

On Friday (01.15.16), I led the staff devotion time at Veritas. Yes, you read that right. On Tuesday, Petra (executive director of Veritas) asked if I would be willing to lead devotions on Friday. Of course, my mind is said "no, no no", but what came out of my mouth..."sure!". Why does this happen? I literally opened my mouth to say "no", but instead, a "yes" came out. And then the freak out began...what on earth will I talk about?! I led the devotion time when I was here before, but it was a little easier. I just talked about how I came to be in Romania, which was a story that not all of the staff knew. But now what? What else do I have to talk about? I wanted it to be interactive so I wouldn't be doing all of the talking. I also wanted it to be personal. I wanted to challenge people. I wanted it to be somewhat original and creative rather than some random topic pulled off the internet. 

I decided to start by thinking of what I’ve been learning lately...and googled a few interactive devo ideas. As to be expected, most of the interactive ideas were geared toward youth with crazy games and such. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind for the Veritas staff. Not that they don't enjoy being silly (because they definitely do), but this wasn't the time. After skimming through some of the crazy games, I found a devotional on rubber bands. It seemed kind of odd, but it also seemed pretty perfect. It applied to me and I was hopeful that others would connect with it as well. 

To begin, I passed around a bag of rubber bands and asked everyone to take one. I announced that I was going to give a devotion on the topic of rubber bands. Much like I warned you at the beginning, I stated that I hope they would connect the dots as I spoke. I opened with the question, "what are rubber bands used for?. Obvious answers were given...they stretch to wrap around items, they expand to hold things, etc. Then I asked, "why are rubber bands good for such tasks?" More obvious answers...they are stretchy, flexible, strong, etc. Exactly. Rubber bands were meant to be stretched. That is how they reach their full potential. They are aren't very useful if they sit in a bag in the junk drawer. Do you see where I'm going with this?

I equated us, as people/Christians, to rubber bands. Sometimes, we are stretched. Being stretched usually comes with feelings of stress, tension, pressure, discomfort, etc., and yet, often times, positives come out of these stretching experiences. Dare I say that when God stretches us we are being used to our full potential...? When God stretches us, He is stretching us to be the person He created us to be. Much like rubber bands, we aren't very useful if we're living these cute and comfortable little lives, not allowing ourselves to be challenged. It can be hard to reflect or analyze (with a positive mindset) the ways in which we are being stretched in the present. However, it's easier to reflect back on ways in which we have been stretched in the past. 

Since I was giving this devotion at the beginning of January, I asked everyone to think about how God stretched them in 2015. I told them that I would be asking them to share, but first, I wanted to share about my own experience. Obviously, leaving my safe and comfortable home to come to Romania was the major stretch of 2015 in my life. I had a perfectly nice life before coming to Romania...no major complaints. I had (read: have) the best support system of family and friends. I had a full-time job using my college degrees. Life was good. However, I feel much more useful in Romania. I feel like I'm closer to reaching my full potential here...despite not entirely knowing what that full potential is. I feel like I'm being used in the way that God created me to be used. It is NOT all sunshine and rainbows. I am stretched on a daily basis, but I am becoming more flexible, versatile, efficient, strong, etc. 

To further illustrate the idea, I also used the example of a muscle. When a muscle is not stretched, it becomes inflexible, limited, ineffective, weak, atrophied, etc. These are not words that I want to describe my life, and especially not my spiritual life. I can honestly say that some of these words did describe my life/spiritual life before coming to Romania. I was often inflexible. My spiritual life was rather weak. Thankfully, the challenges that I've faced have helped me to grow.

I'm not sure how obvious the changes are to everyone else, but I see major changes. When I was home for 6 weeks this past summer, one of my friends commented on how much more laid-back I was compared to before leaving for Romania. For those who truly know me, "laid-back" is not one of the words that was next to my name in the dictionary prior to coming to Romania. I'd say that I was pretty uptight, and easily bent out of shape in various situations. Obviously, I'm not fully cured of that ailment, but I see major improvements. I've also been forced to deal with questions regarding my faith and what I truly believe. I'm asking questions that I wasn't asking before. I'm thinking about things differently. Again, not sunshine and rainbows, but I'm so very thankful for these thought provoking experiences.

I haven't the slightest clue what my life holds, especially in the next few years, but I am ready to continue to be stretched. I hope and pray that I can become more flexible, versatile, efficient, strong, etc. I want to be used in the way that God created me to be used. I want to fulfill my purpose in life, whatever that may be.

Thankfully, the somewhat silly rubber band topic, and maybe a little bit of what I shared about my own life, resonated with people. Quite a few people shared about how they feel they were stretched in 2015. Some were able to see the positive results of those stretching moments, while others are still in the middle of being stretched. Tears were shed. Smiles were shared. Encouraging words were spoken. It was quite lovely. 2015 has been a stretching and challenging for Veritas, but I am optimistic that greater things are yet to come. God is stretching us, as a staff, to bring us to our full potential.

I shared a number of verses throughout the devotional, but the one that has stuck in my mind is Matthew 12:13. It says, "Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as the other." When we allow ourselves to be stretched, to become stressed and uncomfortable, God will restore us. 

January 17, 2016


from 2015 Best Nine on Instagram

Leave it to me to wait until mid-January to write a New Year's post. Typical. Well, Happy New Year! La mulți ani! My New Year's Eve was pretty low-key, but that's how I like it. At home, my favorite thing to do on NYE is to flip between the various TV specials. Turns out, Romania also has TV specials on NYE! I was a happy camper! I wrapped myself in a blanket on the couch and drank a cup of tea. It was splendid.

Fireworks are a big thing here on NYE. The city sets off fireworks up in the citadel, but there were multiple displays this year. And I could see a lot of them from my window! I opened the window and quietly watched for about 5 minutes. It was lovely. I don't usually do this, but I'm going to share something that I wrote in my journal on New Year's Day. Enjoy!

2016. A new year. A fresh start of sorts. As I stood at my window at midnight, watching the fireworks and hearing the bells, I felt truly happy. I caught myself smiling in that moment. Sure, I was alone, but I was not lonely. God is with me. I have made some incredible friends. My coworkers are so wonderful. I love the kids and teens that I work with. I have my family, my core group of friends, my #CBtakesRomania supporters. Standing at the window, I felt such a peace about where I am in life. I am where I am supposed to be. I think this is probably the first New Year when I'm not setting big goals to really change my life...because I don't really need to. Obviously, goal-setting is important, but I don't feel like that needs to be the focus of the New Year. I'm thankful. I want to focus on that. I want to set small goals that will improve where I am in life instead of things that will change where I'm at. I have no clue what 2016 will bring, and that's okay. I'm thankful for where I am and ready to see where He leads me. Here's to you, 2016!

From the YouVersion Bible app