December 28, 2017

Currently: Romanian Edition Part VIII

An extra delicious gingerbread cookie
I feel like I always start my blog posts by apologizing for not blogging regularly, but I won't do that this time. Instead, I'd like to give a little insight as to why I haven't been blogging, posting or communicating very much lately.

In the last few months, I've been majorly lacking in inspiration and motivation...for many reasons and then also for what seems like no reason at all. Some days, I know I feel like this because work is super stressful and I'm not resting enough...or getting enough introvert time :) Other days, I can't necessarily attribute it to anything. I work long hours and then when I get home, all I can do is sit on the couch. I want to blog, write cards to people, call/text people, and post regularly on Facebook, but I just can't.

I still absolutely love living and serving in Romania, but things have just been quite challenging lately...which is why you haven't heard much from me. But here's a little update with what my life "currently" looks like...

Go find this book.
Reading: If I'm being completely honest, I haven't been reading much of anything lately. From time to time, I still find myself picking up Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as I still haven't finished it. As I've previously mentioned, it's full of heavy stuff about shame and vulnerability, but it. is. incredible.

I also recently purchased The Atlas of Beauty, which is literally one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen. The Romanian photographer (!!!) travels around the world photographing women. There's a little blurb with each photo that gives a little background information. I think everyone should own this book...or at least look through it at some point.

Eating: At this very moment, I'm eating these fancy chocolate covered almonds that I got in my Christmas stocking! I have far too many goodies and treats in my house right now...cozonac (traditional Romanian sweet bread that's very popular at Christmas), gingerbread cookies, apple bread and lots of candy! Romanians are very generous, and give lots of goodies during the holidays!

I've also been eating lots of oranges, clementines and mandarins. Tis the citrus season! As you'll see in the photo, I received one orange at the Tigmandru Christmas celebration. One of my favorite parts of the Tigmandru Christmas service is when we talk about darkness and light. This particular orange represents the world. The candle represents the light that Jesus brought to us. He brought light to us, and we are to then be His light. Once everyone in the congregation receives their orange, the pastor lights one and then we all share our light until the dark room is full of light. It's so lovely.

One of my favorite photos from recent weeks
And this season, it meant a bit more out in Tigmandru, with the children in the background. While things have been difficult lately, the two afternoons a week that I spend in Tigmandru continue to remind me why God sent me to Romania in the first place. To show his light and love to others. In this case, the "others" happen to be some of the cutest and sweetest children in this small village. Whether it's chatting with them before the program starts or helping glue a craft together, I am constantly reminded of the love and light that I have the immense privilege of sharing with them.

This picture has nothing to do with anything. It's just pretty :)
Thinking about: Lots and lots and lots of things. Shall I make a list? I shall!

- I have two students coming for three weeks in January. I feel a tad bit unprepared for them, but I'm sure everything will come together. They'll be working with Veritas' social and educational programs, as well as in the village of Tigmandru with the church's children and teen programs.

- My trip to the States in the spring. This might be news to many of you, but I'm planning to come home for about 8 weeks sometime during March, April and May. I haven't bought my ticket yet, which is why this is something I'm "thinking about". During this visit, I will be spending time with family and friends, speaking at churches (Does your church want to hear from someone living and serving overseas? Let me know!), and recruiting university students for the Romanian Studies Program. It will be a very, very busy eight weeks so I'm trying to figure out how to make it all work in a way that doesn't overwhelm me!

- Obviously, as 2017 comes to end, I'm thinking about everything that has happened over the year, as well as what I want 2018 to look like. I'm not big on setting New Year's resolutions per se, but I like the idea of setting a few goals. I tend to set more goals related to my birthday, which you can read about here and here, but I might try to choose One Little Word that I want to represent my year. I'll try to keep you updated on if/what I choose.

Go listen to this song. Now.
Listening: As to be expected, I've been listening to a lot of Christmas music in recent weeks. Spotify has some really great Christmas playlists so I rotate between those...from Christmas Classics to Pop to Folk...I love the holiday tunes.

Other than that, I've been loving Kristene DiMarco's newest album, Where His Light Was. "Take Courage" and "I Am No Victim" have been my favorites for awhile now, but "Jesus is Willing" is making it's way to the top. The lyrics are a little too relevant these days, in a good way.

Some of my other favorites lately have included the following...

You are the Reason by Calum Scott
- I Won't Let You Go by Switchfoot feat. Lauren Daigle
- Girl Crush by Harry Styles
- Moments Passed by Dermot Kennedy

I'm pretty sure Hallmark could film a Christmas movie at the Bucharest Christmas market.
Watching: Don't hate me, but I have to write what I'm actually watching. I'll just mention it real quick...Gilmore Girls. I just finished all seven seasons plus the new Netflix ones...again.

Okay, other than that, I've been watching lots and lots of Hallmark (and Netflix) Christmas movies. I used to make fun of my mom and sister for loving these cheesy movies, but there's just something about them! I think the fact that they are so simple and happy (no offense, Hallmark and Netflix) makes them enjoyable for me. They're pretty mindless, which is what I need after most work days. Some of my favorites include Merry Kissmas, The MistleToe Inn, A Very Merry Mix-Up and A Christmas Prince (filmed in Romania!).

My super simple Christmas decor.
Loving: I have been loving my super simple Christmas decorations. I wasn't going to decorate for Christmas, but then I was going to have my It Takes Courage 2.0 teens over for a Christmas party and I knew I had to do something. I made a Christmas tree out of washi tape and cut snowflakes out of coffee filters to put in my windows. Super simple, but super cute. I bought one string of lights, and those little lights have really brightened the atmosphere of my apartment.

Sometimes I feel guilty for buying something like a string of Christmas lights because I know how much that small amount of money could help someone else. But then I'm reminded (usually by someone else who thinks I overanalyze everything) that I need to help myself before I can help others (like the airplane oxygen mask). If buying those lights makes me happier and healthier at home, then I can be that much more helpful to others outside of my home. That might seem like a stretch, but hopefully you can understand what I mean.

Hope you've enjoyed yet another edition of Currently. I always enjoy writing these posts :) And of course, Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

October 16, 2017

Roma - Amor - Love

Roma Boots
Today was a very special day. It was one of those days where my two worlds collided. My pre-Romania world collided with my current Romania world, and it's always such an incredible feeling. Allow me to give you some background info...

For as long as I can remember, I have loved giving gifts. It's probably one of my top love languages. Anyways, in the last ten-ish years, I have tried to seek out gifts that give back, which gets easier as that concept gets more popular. In one of my Google searches about 5 or so years ago, I stumbled upon a company called Roma Boots, which has a "buy one, give one" business model. They sell rain boots (really cute rain boots) and with every sale, they give a pair to a child in need. Now, while I've never bought a pair, this company has been on my radar for awhile...specifically pre-Romania as I mentioned before. I'd strongly encourage you to learn more about this incredible company and it's Romanian founder, Samuel Bistrian on their website, but also here and here.

When I first discovered the company, I'm sure I would have read about the founder being from Romania, but I guess it didn't stand out to me as much then. Now, it obviously means a lot more. That, and the fact that I've been to/worked in the types of villages where Roma Boots typically donates their boots on what they call "boot drops". They do these boot drops all over the world, specifically in 25 countries, but Romania holds a special in the founder's heart...obviously.

Getting ready to unload the cute boots!
The Romanian founder of Roma Boots speaking words of encouragement to the children in Kids' Club
About a year ago, Roma Boots came back on my radar somehow, and I decided to inquire about a boot donation for the kids in the Veritas Kids' Club and kindergarten. I talked to Veritas staff members, completed the appropriate forms, and sent lots and lots of emails to a woman named Megan, Roma's foundation coordinator. There were lots of details to sort out, but that's to be expected when you're organizing a donation of 100+ boots halfway around the world.

I'm saying this again, but my two worlds collided today when the Roma Boots founder, Samuel Bistrian and Megan came to do a boot drop at Veritas!!! We sat and talked a bit when they first arrived, to help them better understand the history and work of Veritas, before unloading the boots from their car. Adela, three of the teens from our It Takes Courage 2.0 group, and one of my Romanian Studies Program students helped to unload, organize, and distribute the boots. We organized the boots by size in our large meeting space, and then brought the kids into the room, five at a time. We asked their shoe size and then grabbed a pair to try before sending them away with a pair. We held the boots up to their shoes at first, and then, if it looked okay, made them try the boots on to ensure a good fit. We made sure the boots had some wiggle room since their feet grow so fast! We put their shoes in the bags that the boots came in and sent them back into Kids' Club. Once everyone had a pair, we took a group photo and spent some time with the kids.

One of the teens from 2.0 who came to help, alongside one of my RSP students
Samuel helping one of our girls find the right size
Adela spent her afternoon helping to distribute the boots
Before bringing the kids in, Samuel asked if he could say a few words in the Kids' Club space where the kids were doing their homework. I couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed as he introduced himself and explained why he had come back to Romania. The very first thing he said was that he lives in America, but was born in one of the most beautiful countries in the world...Romania. With so many people leaving Romania, to work and live in other countries, this was a very intentional statement for him to make. I might have to write a whole blog post on that topic at another time.

Two kids who have been in Kids' Club since before I came to Romania. I don't spend as much time in the Kids' Club anymore, and I have missed them SO much. They have grown up so much in the last year.

He talked about growing up in Romania and wearing hand-me-down rain boots from his siblings, as he is one of twelve children. He spoke to them as if he knew them, and I think it's safe to say that he definitely understands certain aspects of their lives as someone who also grew up in Romania. He spoke to them with purpose and with a strong belief of how valuable each and every one of them are. I think this hit me hard because I so strongly believe that as well. These children are so insanely precious, but not many of them believe that about themselves. Again, I have lots of emotions about all of this...

Megan taking some group photos of the kids! I cannot wait to see the photos she took.

Samuel also explained the reason behind the name Roma, which is amor spelled backwards and means love, as most of us know. He shared this with the group, but then reminded each child of this as they tried on and received their boots. One of the reasons why I, personally, think it was so important for him to make this definition clear is because Roma is another term (a more politically correct term) for gypsy. To give these children, many of who come from marginalized Roma families, a new definition of that word is powerful. I see hope in adding, and intentionally associating, love with their definition of that word.

By the way, the boots are the colors of the Romanian flag...

August 12, 2017

An August in Sighisoara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 6, 2017

If we were having coffee...v3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2017

Currently: Romanian Edition Part VII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 11, 2017

Two Years

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

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

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

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

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

February 27, 2017

28 Before 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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