December 1, 2019

So. Thankful.

M is thankful, family, God, health and happiness.
I'm a few days late to the "what I'm thankful for" party, but as we all know, better late than never is my official motto. That's probably what I should have named this blog 😂

On Friday, we did a Thanksgiving craft with the kiddos in the village. Obviously, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Romania, but we try to use our holiday as an opportunity to have them think about what they're thankful for. And of course, we incorporated turkeys into it as well!

For this craft, they needed to write five things they are thankful for on the turkey's feathers. I had written a list of examples for help with ideas, spelling, etc, but the little boy in the photo didn't need that list. After not attending school for a little while, he has recently returned and is, of course, learning to read and write. This meant that I needed to write on his feathers for him, and that he couldn't read the list of examples I had written down.

So I asked him what he is thankful for in his life...expecting to need to prompt him with ideas like I did for many of the other children...but I could tell that the wheels were turning and he was genuinely thinking about what he's thankful for.

After a second, he said that he is thankful that he gets to go to school, which again, is a recent change in his life. He went on to say, in full sentences and with such thoughtfulness, that he is thankful for his family. He is thankful for God. He is thankful that God has given him health. And he is thankful that God has given him happiness. As I wrote these words on his feathers, I could have wept.

This sweet child took this opportunity, through this simple craft, to practice gratitude and found five things that he is thankful for despite the many challenges he's endured in his short life. And let me tell you, he wanted to write a few more, but we ran out of time.

I am so thankful for this moment that I had with him. I've been thinking about it/him since the program ended on Friday afternoon, and I decided to use his five things as inspiration to practice gratitude myself...

I am thankful for...

  • School - I am thankful for education. I am thankful to my parents who chose to send me to a private school from 1st to 8th grade. Of course, I'm thankful for the academic education I received there, but I'm also thankful for the spiritual education and the lifelong friendships that I made during that time. I'm also thankful for my college education. It's very easy for me to have a negative attitude about my college education due to the amount of student loan debt that came with it, but I am thankful. I am thankful for the social work education that I received, and I truly don't know if I'd be in Romania had I not chosen to go to Olivet. I probably would not have met the social work professor who connected me with Romania, and I definitely would not have met friends who I remain close with to this day. 
  • Family - I am thankful for my parents and my sister...and my niece, nephews and brother-in-law. I'm extremely thankful for the relationships I have with each of them, but these days I'm also so incredibly thankful for technology that allows us to stay so closely connected despite the fact that I'm halfway around the world. And, of course, I'm thankful that they continue to support me in my decision to live and serve in Romania. 
  • God - To put it simply, I am thankful for God and the personal relationship that I get to have with Him. Through the good times and the more challenging times, I am thankful for His constant presence. For his love, peace, grace, forgiveness, mercy, wisdom, etc. 
  • Health - I am beyond grateful for my health. I've had very few physical health issues in my life, and I think my health is something that I take for granted sometimes. Since living in Romania, for various reasons, I have become more and more aware of how fortunate I am to be physically healthy. People here are constantly thanking God for physical health, and it's something that I need to practice more often.
  • Happiness - I am thankful to do work that bring me happiness. Whether it's doing a craft with children or playing ridiculous games with teenagers, I am so incredibly thankful for the work I get to do here in Romania. It's not always easy. In fact, this past week came with some really tough stuff, but there's still happiness to be found. 

I could never have imagined that this is the life I'd be living, and yet I am SO. THANKFUL.

October 20, 2019

A slow Sunday is good for the soul.

I had a slow Sunday today. I woke up not feeling great, and decided to stay home from church, lunch plans, etc. Little did I know, that this slow Sunday would rejuvenate me in ways I didn't know I needed. Let me tell you what my slow Sunday looked like before I briefly tell you why I've needed to be rejuvenated...

- Drank coffee: Freshly brewed coffee in the french press with one drop of Cinnamon Bark essential oil (from Young Living 😉) in the coffee grounds. Let me tell you, this has been a game changer for my fall/winter coffee. Combine that brewed coffee with warm, frothy milk and a little sugar. SO GOOD.

- Listened to worship music: The This is: United Pursuit playlist on Spotify is my favorite playlist right now. The majority of the songs bring tears to my eyes at some point, and I just love filling my apartment with this music. Some of my favorites include Lay It All Down, Let It Happen, Through and Through, Set a Fire, and so many more.

- Watched a sermon: If you know me, you know how much I love Annie F. Downs...and basically any content that she puts out such as books, podcasts, sermons, Insta posts/stories, etc. Anyways, I remembered that she had semi-recently preached at Cross Point so I went to find the sermon. I ended up finding a sermon called Working Hard at Rest that she did in July rather than the most recent one, but guess what? It was exactly what I needed to hear. It was about rest. Rest, and more specifically, practicing Sabbath, has been on my radar for awhile now, but I'm really feeling seeing the need to prioritize it. This sermon was the first part in a series called Lazy River, and I am excited to watch the rest of the series.

- Started a new book: I bought a book before I left the States called You Are the Girl for the Job by Jess Connolly. I've been following Jess on social media for awhile and when she started talking about the release of this book, I kind of tuned it all out. Why? Because most days, I DO NOT feel like I am the girl for the job. For this "job" in Romania. For most "jobs" that I get assigned to here. You get the idea. And honestly, the thought of reading this book scared me because I know how how much scripture Jess uses to back up her writing and teaching...and I know that I can't argue with God or the reminder that He says that I am, indeed, the girl for the job. I've been wanting to start a new book so I picked this one off of the shelf today and WOAH. It's exactly what I've been needing.

- Diffused some oils: To start the day, I diffused Grapefruit and Jade Lemon oils, which woke me right up and helped me to start my day. You probably don't know this because I haven't shared too much about it online, but I started using Young Living essentials oils in May 2018. I was such a skeptic when it came to essential oils, and truly thought that Young Living was just another pyramid scheme trying to sell me something I didn't need. After following a few oil users and doing some research, I decided to give them a try. I bought a Premium Starter Kit from a woman named Mary who was, at the time, selling PSKs in an effort to fund her family's international adoption. I'm a sucker for a good cause. But man, oh man, I can't even begin to tell you (at least not in this short blog post) what using oils, and other Young Living products, has done to support various areas in my life...physical, emotional, etc. More on this at another time...or feel free to contact me if you're curious about oils. Yes, I am being "that person" at this current moment 🙋 Not sorry.

- Put a load of laundry in: After the sermon about rest and Sabbath, I decided that I would try to make today a bit of a Sabbath. In the sermon, Annie says that Sabbath is rest and worship. While washing one's duvet cover may not seem like rest, it actually allowed my mind to rest knowing that I wouldn't be putting it off for yet another day.

- FaceTimed with a special young lady: I was able to enjoy about 1.5 hours of absolute joy while on FaceTime with Larisa, one of the teens who was in the It Takes Courage program for three years. She is now off at university in Germany (studying social work!!!) and it was so so great to hear all about her new adventure. It continues to be such an immense privilege to invest in the lives of young people here in Romania. This FaceTime call was good for my soul.

As I'm sure you know by now, this is the view from my balcony.
As you may have read in my last blog post, I feel like change is coming. I wrote that post as I sat in the airport, not officially back to real life in Romania, but now that I'm here, it's becoming more and more clear that this feeling is real. Change is coming. Conversations are happening that make some of these (previously unknown) changes very real. And yet, I feel like other changes have yet to make themselves known. And you know what? It's all kind of exhausting. Hard conversations and difficult realizations that are leading to brainstorming and planning. It's tiring. It's scary. It's discouraging. I don't think I've realized how difficult it's all been until this morning as I rested and took time to process some of it. Things are changing. And while it's definitely scary, 100% of the time, it can be kind of exciting too. I'm excited to see what God's up to...because He's clearly up to something. And I'm getting a little more used to the idea that I am the girl for the job...whatever that job may be.

Morgan Harper Nichols

October 1, 2019

October 1st

Photo by Ashim D'Silva on Unsplash
As I write this, I’m sitting in the Bucharest airport. It’s 9:17pm in Romania…but my laptop still says it’s 1:17pm in America. And my body doesn’t quite know what time it is. I landed a little before 8pm, but my bus doesn’t leave until 6am. Soooo I’ll be here for awhile. I can usually sleep just fine in the airport, and there’s a guard constantly roaming the halls so I’m safe. (Adding that for my parents and other parental figures in my life!) I’ll prop my legs up on my suitcases and try to get as much sleep as possible. If all else fails, I have a 5 hour bus ride in the morning, and I usually sleep the majority of that ride since I can’t read or look at my phone much. Carsick problems. 

Now that we’ve established where I am, let’s review where I’ve been. As most of you know, I spent almost two months exactly in the States…spending time with family and friends, speaking at churches, meeting new people, attending a study abroad fair at a university, trying new things, etc. It was a whirlwind to say the least…an enjoyable and challenging whirlwind. 

Being at home in the States is always an interesting experience. But obviously, it’s my home. It will always be my home. There’s nothing like walking back into my bedroom for the first time and seeing old photos and knick knacks that I’ve never gotten around to packing. I love the familiarity of driving back to my house after going out for coffee with friends or running to the grocery store. I love watching Raegan and Maveric jump on my bed with Holden crawling down the hall two seconds later to see what his sister and brother are doing. I love sitting with my family at church in the same pew that we’ve sat in for as long as I can remember. I love getting ice cream with friends at everyone’s favorite local spot. I love taking road trips to visit close friends, and feeling like we picked up right where we left off. I love every moment that I get to spend with “my people”…even though the scheduling of those moments can be hectic and exhausting. 

However, the longer I live outside of the States, the more I start to feel like an outsider. People use street names in conversation, and I cannot, for the life of me, remember where that street is located. As I drive through town, I realize that places I once ate at or shopped at no longer exist. Names that were once familiar don’t ring a bell. I constantly feel like I have to readjust to this place that is supposed to be my home…but the reality is that I don’t live there anymore. My every day life takes place thousands of miles away, and it has for the past 4.5 years (which I still cannot believe). 

Maybe this makes sense to you…and maybe it doesn’t. It doesn’t always make sense to me either. I often get frustrated with myself for having such a hard time being back home, and I’m sure some of you have gotten frustrated with me as well ;) Don’t worry…I get it!

And now, well tomorrow afternoon, I get to enjoy readjusting back to my every day life in Romania, but I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m a little nervous. I feel like change is coming. I don’t know what kind of change(s). I don’t know when things will change. I don’t know why things will change. I just feel like God is taking me into a new season. It feels like a season of growth, which interestingly enough (or not at all) is my theme/word for 2019. You can go back and read about that here. 

I’ve actually been kind of frustrated with myself…and with God, if I’m being totally honest. I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t seen more growth in my life this year. I haven’t kept up with small habits that I’ve wanted to establish in my daily/weekly routine like reading my Bible, journaling, waking up early, being more intentional with my time, reading books instead of scrolling on Instagram, art journaling, eating less sugar, stepping outside of my comfort zone, diving deeper into my friendships, etc. You get the idea. I feel like I’ve failed in these areas and soooo many more…and that’s frustrating. It’s October 1, 2019 and I don’t feel like I’ve grown. 

It’d be really easy for me to want to throw my hands up and quit. To say that there’s only three more months left in 2019 so what’s the point of even trying. But again, I just have this feeling about this new season and I know, deep down, that I need to try again. This is my AWAKENING.

Morgan Harper Nichols

March 17, 2019

Four Years

Four years ago today, I arrived in Romania. I think I said this when I hit two years as well, but when I left the States to come to Romania, I really had no clue how long I'd be here. I knew it wasn't going to be a short term thing, but I also wasn't entirely sure that it would be a long term thing either. Honestly, at that point, I had stopped trying to predict the future so I can't say that I was thinking too much about the length of my stay.

A lot has happened in these four years. Sometimes I don't feel like four years lends itself to too much change in a person until I think about a freshman versus a senior in high school/college. When I think about it that way, it's almost impossible to overlook the drastic changes that often take place in that span of time.

Raegan and I walking around the airport before saying goodbye on  March 16, 2015.
I also think about how Raegan was 2 years old when I left and now she's 6 years old (and has two younger brothers!). She's changed SO much (physically, emotionally, intellectually) since I first left and sometimes when we're on FaceTime, I can't comprehend that she's reading books or helping Maveric get a snack or trying to calm Holden. She's grown so much in four years, and in so many different ways. Again, drastic changes.

It's also a little crazy to think that when I came to Romania, I was in my 20s and now I'm in my 30s. Granted, I was in my late 20s and now I'm barely in my 30s, but still...that's a fairly big life change. And, as I've said before, this is not at all how I envisioned living my life at 31, but good grief, I couldn't have imagined anything better. And, of course, that doesn't mean that every day is full of sunshine and rainbows...just to be clear.

It continues to feel like such a natural and normal thing for me to live in Romania...a place that I once would've called "a foreign country", but now refer to as home. I often get asked how long I'll live in Romania, and obviously, I have no clue, but for now, it still very much feels like home.

And it is an immense privilege to call it home. It is an immense privilege to do life with the people here. It is an immense privilege to spend time with kiddos in the village and teens in the It Takes Courage programs. It is an immense privilege to help expand the worldview of American university students who come through the Romanian Studies Program. It is an immense privilege to serve the community alongside my Veritas coworkers and foreign volunteers. It is an immense privilege to grow here in Romania.

Before I click "publish", I have to say one more thing...

To every person who has ever said a prayer for me, given a generous financial gift, sent a text or card of encouragement, thank you. Words truly cannot express how grateful I am to have you on this journey with me. My support system is stronger than I ever could have imagined. "My people" are some of the best people, and they (YOU) are a huge reason why I can continue to say that Romania is my home. I came to Romania after I finally stopped being stubborn and started listening to that still, small voice, but I've been able to remain here, and call it my home, because you also listened to that still, small voice.

February 23, 2019

2019 - One Little Word

Well, we have been living in 2019 for almost two months now and I've officially decided on my word for the year. Last year, I chose the word light, which you can read more about here.

Can I be honest and tell you that I wanted a fancier word for the year? I see the words that other people choose like connection, creativity, intentional, gratitude, etc., and I think that they sound so much "cooler". Insert eye roll emoji here as I roll my eyes at myself. Anyways, when the word "grow" kept coming up in my mind and in things I was seeing/reading/hearing...I was a tiny bit disappointed. Grow seems like such a simple word. Now I'd like to insert the crying laughing emoji because growth is anything but simple. Here's a little bit of the backstory in how I ended up choosing GROW...

On my first or second Sunday back in Romania after being in the States for Christmas, I wasn't feeling (read: sleeping) well so instead of going to church, I watched a sermon online. Without giving too many unnecessary details, I ended up choosing a sermon series called "Off the Grid", which didn't give me a lot of information about the sermon's theme. But...would you like to take a wild guess at what the theme was? That's right, growth.

The sermon series focused around Luke 2:52, which says "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." All of that to say, after listening to the first sermon in the series on that Sunday, my word for the year was solidified.

As you may remember, last year I broke "light" down into four parts, which happens to also be how I'm breaking things down this year with "grow". I like to use my word to guide me into some goals and themes throughout the year, but when "grow" initially came to mind I wasn't sure what that was going to look like. However, after listening to the sermon series, it was clear that I would use the four parts of the verse to guide me in my goal setting.

So here are a few examples of how I hope to GROW in 2019...

  • In wisdom: to read more books (the Bible, in particular) in order to gain wisdom, to pray regularly for God's perspective on life and situations that come my way, to seek out wise people from whom I can learn, to learn more (about social work, Romania, enneagram, etc.)
  • In stature: to work on my overall health (physical, emotional, relational, spiritual)
  • In favor with God: to grow in relationship with God, to focus on the simple act of being with Him rather than doing things for Him (this one's a little hard to explain without writing five more paragraphs and it could honestly be it's own blog post altogether...maybe another day!), to grow where He has placed me 
  • In favor with man: to open my mind, circle and heart to the people around me, to be more aware of how I treat others, to improve my communication skills 
Even as I read back through that list I get a little overwhelmed because it seems like A LOT...and I didn't even share all of it with you! It's a lot to think about, a lot to start doing, a lot to work on...but at the same time, I feel a strange (and yet familiar) peace about all of it. I know that God put the word "grow" on my heart for a reason. I also know that things will change as I grow, which can be really scary...but as I think we can all agree, change can also be really beautiful. 

As I end this post, I hope that you have also chosen a new word for 2019, and if so, I'd love to hear what it is and how you plan to focus on it throughout the year! Feel free to leave a comment on Facebook when I share this post, to send me an email or text message, or to leave a comment on this blog post. 

And finally, I must leave you with this lovely quote that I found as I was searching for "grow" inspiration. For me, this quote relates to those overwhelmed, yet peaceful, feelings that I have. I know that growing isn't going to be easy...but I'm so curious about who I will become as a result of it. 

January 26, 2019

Moments of LIGHT in 2018

My top 9 Instagram posts from 2018
Okay, I'm back to reflect a bit on 2018. IT. WAS. A. YEAR. Am I right?! If you haven't already watched my 2018 1 Second Every Day video, you can find it here. As I said in that post, it continues to be my favorite project, but I know it's hard to fully catch everything when you watch it "as an outsider".

I decided to write this post to give you a little more information on what 2018 looked like for me, but also to personally reflect back on the moments of LIGHT that I found along the way. As you may remember, I chose the word "light" as my word of the year so it felt important for me to think about what that looked like in 2018...

Moments of LIGHT in January: 
  • Hearing the smiles and giggles from the kiddos in the village
  • Drinking coffee, of course
  • Bonding with a super cool gal
  • Discovering beautiful doors
  • Celebrating Maveric's 1st birthday from afar

Moments of LIGHT in February: 
  • Being celebrated on my 30th birthday
  • Celebrating three lovely ladies on their birthdays
  • Drinking more coffee, reading and journaling
  • Discovering yet another door
  • Receiving super cute photos of my super cute nephew and niece

Moments of LIGHT in March:
  • Reuniting with close friends
  • Capturing a cute photo of Jimmy...the dog who lived in the citadel in Sighisoara
  • Eating Chipotle
  • Getting surprised by photos from Raegan's mini-photoshoot with her nesting doll dress 
  • Visiting friends in St. Louis with other friends

Moments of LIGHT in April:
  • Celebrating the beautiful marriage of a close friend
  • Receiving a sweet photo from my It Takes Courage group
  • Spending time with three of my besties
  • Celebrating Easter with my family

Moments of LIGHT in May:
  • Eating ice cream at the good ole Union Dairy
  • Celebrating my mom's birthday with Mexican food
  • Taking neighborhood walks with the family
  • Reading "You are Free" by Rebekah Lyons
  • Stopping to smell the peonies
  • Attending the Reaching Europe's Children conference in Hungary
  • Capturing a door with my favorite door model
  • Celebrating the local high school graduation in Sighisoara

Moments of LIGHT in June:

  • Celebrating the "graduation" of It Takes Courage
  • Posing for a photo with my Romanian Studies Program summer student
  • Stopping to smell (and pick) the wildflowers
  • Reading Katie Davis' book, "Daring to Hope"
  • Creating with kiddos
  • Enjoying a visit from good friends
  • Leading English Camp for the 4th year

    Moments of LIGHT in July:
    • Participating in a service project with It Takes Courage and ITC 2.0
    • Spending time with some beautiful ladies
    • Celebrating little kid birthdays
    • Making cute crafts with the cutest kiddos in the village
    • Finding out the gender of the new Barr baby
    • Inviting a bunch of teenagers over to my house 
    • Admiring Romania's beauty

      Moments of LIGHT in August:
      • Re-reading an incredible book
      • Bringing my two worlds together by hanging out with an American bestie and a Romanian bestie
      • Visiting Belgium with Erica (all four photos in the middle)
      • Enjoying camp in the village with my favorite kiddos

        Moments of LIGHT in September:
        • Celebrating 25 years since Dorothy came to Romania with a vision to impact the community
        • Attending Veritas' annual open house where Adela always displays her face painting talent
        • Celebrating Adela's birthday
        • Attending the Central Europe Field Conference in Albania
        • Discovering some beauty at a nearby castle 
        • Loving the cute little faces of the kiddos in the village

        Moments of LIGHT in October:

        • Meeting new teens in Sighisoara and helping them to build their character
        • Starting a new year of It Takes Courage with our biggest group ever!
        • Drinking more coffee
        • Enjoying the annual Veritas staff retreat in the mountains
        • Observing sibling love in the village
        • Attending a week of training at the Nazarene Global Ministry Center in Kansas

          Moments of LIGHT in November:
          • Spending a few days at home to visit friends and family
          • Visiting a cultural center in a nearby town in Romania
          • Taking a cute pic with Adela
          • Celebrating the birth of Holden James Barr!
          • Taking the It Takes Courage teens to serve the kiddos in the village
          • Attending the church's district assembly 
          • Celebrating Thanksgiving with some other Americans in Sighisoara

            Moments of LIGHT in December:
            • Enjoying a mini "field trip" with the It Takes Courage 2.0
            • Saying goodbye to my Romanian Studies Program fall student
            • Celebrating a birthday of the sweetest little boy with one of the most amazing families (top middle photo)
            • Being reminded to be the LIGHT at the children's Christmas program in the village (bottom middle photo)
            • Flying home and seeing the beauty of Chicago from above
            • Surprising Raegan on her SIXTH birthday
            • Enjoying a last-minute visit from a close friend
            • Spending time with baby Holden
            • Celebrating Christmas with my family for the first time since 2014
            So there you have it. 2018 was truly a year full of light. I was constantly amazed at how much light I found simply because I was looking for it. Now, of course there were dark moments as well, but finding the light had become such a habit that I could more easily get myself out of the dark than before. Even though we're almost one month into 2019, I'm still continuing to see the light...and I think the word "light" will not just be a 2018 thing, but more like a lifetime thing. 

            I'll leave you with this super cute photo of Raegan and Maveric enjoying the last few moments of 2018. 

            January 4, 2019

            One Second Everyday in 2018

            I have to admit that towards the end of 2018 I was kind of wishing the days away just so I could finally watch my 2018 1 Second Everyday video! This "project" continues to be my favorite way to document, not just life in Romania, but life in general. I've always loved taking photos and documenting life through scrapbooks, photo books and art journals, but this takes it up a notch and I continue to love it.

            I also wanted to include a brief summary of the year...and to pull out a few special moments in 2018. However, you'll have to wait a little longer for that one. I'm planning to write a blog post about "light", my word for 2018, and how that manifested itself throughout the year. So you'll see that soon.

            So for now, enjoy a look back at 2018 with my one second videos :)