February 5, 2018

A story about bread.

Photo by Karolina Szczur on Unsplash
Let me tell you a quick story about bread. Yes, you read that right, bread. And no, this isn't becoming a food blog. Don't worry.

Last Wednesday, I made chili for our weekly Wednesday Night Supper, which is attended by a handful of ex-pats working and living in Romania. I had some really delicious bread leftover so I brought it with me on a quick trip to Cluj-Napoca on Thursday and Friday. I knew I'd need a snack on the 3.5 hour bus ride and this bread is too delicious to be wasted. So I carried it with me on the bus, but I didn't eat it. I carried it around town, thinking I'd get hungry along the way, but I didn't eat it. On the second day, I knew I probably needed to throw it away, but for some reason, I couldn't. Again, I thought I'd eat some of it throughout the day, but I didn't. I thought that I might encounter someone who needed a bit more than I did, but I didn't.

Finally, after carrying this bread around for a day and a half, I saw a trash can and decided that it was probably time to let the bread go. As Adela and I walked towards the trash can, I remarked on how I felt so bad to be throwing this perfectly good bread away when I was sure that someone needed it. Well, as we approached the trash can, I joked about whether I should put it in the trash can or on the trash can. I opted to set it on the lid of the trash can so that someone who might need it could see it as they walked by.

Well, guess what?! As we were walking away from the trash can, an older gentleman was walking by us. As we walked away, I could see, out of the corner of my eye, that he was slowing down to look at what I had set on the lid of the trash can. I kept walking, but I tried to subtly look back to see what he was going to do. Sure enough, he kind of smiled at me (I wasn't so subtle after all) and took the bread. Maybe he smiled because he thought that only a crazy person would throw away such good bread...or maybe he smiled as a thank you. I'll never know.

I could have just dropped to the ground right then and there. I had carried this bread around for a day and a half, just waiting for an opportunity to use it. I had a bit of a weird attachment to this bread, but I think it's because I knew that God wanted to do something with it. Again, that can sound a little odd, but that's really how I felt. But once I finally let go of using it in the way that I thought I'd use it (eating it myself or giving it to a beggar that might approach me), He did use it. And man, if that doesn't get into some real deep stuff, then I don't know what does?! I keep laughing to myself as I write this because who knew that an experience with bread would cause me to reflect in such a serious way!

What do I have that God wants to use, but I just won't let Him because I want to do things my way? The answers would make this into a really, really long blog post, and I wouldn't do that to you. Is there something (physical or otherwise) that I'm holding on to instead of letting Him use? It might even be something that I'm holding on to with good intentions, much like this bread, but I'm holding on to it because I want to use it in a way that I think is best. I could go on and on with different questions and thoughts based on this whole concept (of letting go, of using what you have to serve others, etc), but I'll leave it at this.

Side note: It should be made clear that I am very stubborn, and everyone who knows me, knows this to be true. I like to do things my way. I like to be in control. I feel like I can say that I've gotten better about this since moving to Romania, but I definitely still have my moments. This relates to things both big and small, like what volume the tv should be at (answer: always an even number), how a conflict should be dealt with or how to lead a program. Basically, I like to do things my way.

I think I'm getting to a point, with my life in Romania, where the newness is wearing off. Yes, just now, after almost 3 years. And I'm starting to wonder what God really wants to do with me here. He's definitely already done so, so much. He's used me in ways that I could not have imagined, but I know He's got more planned for me. And I can feel it. There's something about 2018 in Romania that feels very different from my life here in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

So maybe I made something out of nothing with this bread experience. Or maybe this is something that God wants me to be thinking more about as I continue on into 2018. And/or maybe it's something that you needed to hear. So, whatever the reason, I hope you gained something from a seemingly silly blog post about bread.

January 6, 2018

2018 - One Little Word

Created with Canva. Image from Unsplash
As I mentioned in my last Currently post, I was going to try to choose One Little Word for 2018. I tossed around a few ideas, and even tried to think of what words I would retroactively assign to the last few years. The words that came to mind for the last few years are brave, peace and courage. These three words mean so much to me, and although I don't feel like I fully embody any of them, they stand out to me when I think about 2015, 2016 and 2017.

After reflecting for a little while, it was time to look forward...to 2018. I looked on Instagram and Pinterest for examples and inspiration. I thought about what I wanted more of in 2018, and even what I wished there was less of in 2017, for me personally. This past year was a very different kind of year for me.

It's easy for me to watch my One Second Everyday video and feel like it was an amazing year, full of joy and fun...but I'll be 100% honest with you and say that it wasn't full of joy and fun. Obviously, there were lots of positive moments, and I recorded as many of them as I could. I don't think it's a coincidence that 2017 was the year that I recorded a short video every single day. I think God gave me that app, as weird as it may sound, at the perfect time.

If I think about 2017 (without my fun little video) the word that immediately comes to mind, for me personally, is darkness. Honestly, I felt like I was in the dark. As I've started to talk to some friends about this, I often say that I was sitting in "my dark corner" most of the time. It effected my work and productivity. It effected my relationships. It effected my attitude.

Did I still enjoy parts of 2017? Yes.
Did I have amazing moments with some of my favorite people? Yes.
Do I still feel like Romania is where I'm supposed to be? Yes.
Do I still love the work that I'm doing? Yes.

And yet, the darkness was present. It still is present. As we all know, things don't drastically change as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. But the light is starting to emerge. In the first six days of 2018, the word light has already shown up more times than I can count. Obviously, it's on my radar now so I'm noticing more, but I've been hearing it in songs and seeing it in books and articles.

What do I wish there was less of in 2017? Darkness. What do I want more of in 2018? Light. Even as I answer that first question, I'm reminded of a quote by Leonard Cohen that I came across as I was researching what light means to me.
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 
Let me tell you, folks, that's good stuff right there. Personally, I think there's power in brokenness, and I've thought that for a long time. So, as you can imagine, when this quote popped up on my computer screen, I almost lost it. I broke a bit in 2017, but that's what has allowed this light to get in and shine...

New apartment decor for 2018
When I was looking for ideas and saw light on a few idea lists, I knew I had found my One Little World. I've spent the last few days thinking about this word and what it meant for me to choose this word. I decided to break it down, and apply it in different ways in 2018...and beyond.

  • Seek light: Jesus is light. He is the light of the world. I want to be in His light. I want to better understand His light. This one is pretty simple. Now, is it just me or did anyone else start singing In the Light by DC Talk when they read this bullet point? 
  • Be a light: I want to share that light, His light. Can we go back to how emotional I got when we lit the candles placed in the oranges at the Tigmandru Christmas service? The picture that I took that night still gets me. All of those sweet kiddos in the background are exactly who I want to be a light for. My teens in the It Takes Courage groups are who I want to be a light for. My coworkers are who I want to be a light for. My Romanian Studies Program students are who I want to be a light for. My family and friends are who I want to be a light for. 
  • Lighten up: This one is a little lighter, no pun intended. Sometimes, I take things too seriously. I need to chill. Case closed. 
  • Lighten the load: I say "yes" a lot, and so, as you can imagine, saying "no" is extremely difficult for me. I want to do and help and serve and be...but that comes at a cost. I do too much and then withdraw into my dark corner. Here's to hoping that I can say "no" more often. And here's to knowing that being more selective with a "yes" will make it mean more. 
So there you have it. Light. My word of the year. I know it's not going to be easy. I know the darkness will still linger, but I am encouraged by a quote I recently came across. Frances of Assisi once wrote, "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle." Light is a powerful, powerful thing. 

One final thing to share with you. I received the book God Calling (comparable to My Utmost for His Highest) for Christmas from some American friends here in Romania. This book has a reading for every day of the year. Would you like to take a wild guess as to what the very first day's reading was about...?
I stand between the years. The Light of My Presence is flung across the year to come - the radiance of the Sun of Righteousness. Backward, over the past year, is My Shadow thrown, hiding trouble and sorrow and disappointment. 
Dwell not on the past - only on the present. Only use the past as the trees use My Sunlight to absorb it, to make from it in after days the warming fire-rays. So store only the blessings from Me, the Light of the World. Encourage yourselves by the thought of these. 
I mean...seriously?! "The Light of My Presence is flung across the year to come...". January 1, 2018. The year of light, and this is the first reading. Coincidence? I think not.

January 2, 2018

One Second Everyday in 2017

I am so insanely excited to share this special video with you. I first learned about the app 1 Second Everyday from a blogger that I've been following for years. I tried to do it in 2016...and failed, only making it through February. Oops.

When 2017 rolled around, I decided that I'd try again and I am SO glad that I did. At first, it was a challenge to find something to film every day, but after awhile it became a habit. It was fun to look for something to document every day, whether it was recording the kids singing out in Tigmandru or setting up the phone to record myself enjoying a cup of coffee at home.

So...this is my 2017, and I'm obsessed with it.

I thought about trying do something more/different in 2018, but as they say, "if it's not broke, don't fix it". So please enjoy my 2017 in just over six minutes...