Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sign of the Times...

No, not an apocalyptic blog post (even though I firmly believe we are in the "last days" as described in the Bible.) However, since I am quickly approaching the year anniversary of my arrival to Romania, I took stock of the last year and realized I've grown quite accustomed to my new home. So here's my Top Ten...

Top Ten Signs You've Grown Accustomed to Life in Romania

10. You see a living horse lying in the grass on the side of the road...and you assume it's dead.
9. The use of garlic for everything is neither strange or uncommon.
8. It feels rude not to cover your mouth when you use a toothpick.
7. You no longer laugh when you see dogs obeying the law by crossing at the crosswalk.
6. You find yourself looking for space on the sidewalk to park.
5. Driving on a highway is a huge thrill!
4. You notice fences along said highway and remember that is actually normal in the States.
3. Backing-in to a parking space has become the preferred method of parking.
2. It is strange to eat with the fork in the right-hand.
AND #1
Dr. Pepper tastes disgusting!

All you loyal DP fans will probably gasp in disbelief at #1, but I assure you it is true. A friend sent me DP flavored ice pops...you know, the liquid, sugar-filled tubes you put in the freezer? Anyway, I decided to break one out the other day. And YUCK! My taste for soda has completely changed. It's just too sad to even go on about it. How I loved my DP.

None of these changes are weird or strange, just the way it goes when you exchange one culture for another. One thing I hope I am always accustomed to is change. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have to do it, and the change in perspective it brings about.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Now That I Know...

...I am responsible.

When I initially made the decision to follow Christ as a seven year-old, I meant it. I knew what it meant, and I understood that I needed Jesus. After 10 years of doing the best I could following what I was taught in the church, I was left with one questions of the Lord: "If you are who you say you are, then there's gotta be more than what I've seen in church." After 17 years in a small baptist church, I wasn't satisfied with man's viewpoint of who God was, nor should I have been.

What I didn't consider on that day was the weight of what I was asking. God was faithful, and still is, to reveal more of His character when asked of Him. And the knowledge of His character comes responsibility. A responsibility to share the hope of Christ that I have come to know. A responsibility to "walk in a manner worthy" of the life Christ lived and died for me. A responsibility to not let this knowledge die with me, but to be broken open and poured out so that others might be able to see past imperfect vessel that I am to the One which will perfect me on that final day. It's this responsibility that I can't shake, and it's this responsibility that resounds in my heart as I live each day in Romania.

When I first arrived in Romania 11 months ago, I began to pray a simple prayer in my heart. I asked of the Lord, "Give me eyes to see what you see, and give me ears to hear what your heart says." If you've been following this blog, then you may be able to recall a few stories I've told regarding the way in which my eyes have been open. The most recent entitled, "Uncomfortable is as Uncomfortable Does..." This left me shaken to the core at the capacity of the Lord's heart for us, specifically for the downcast and the lowly. I can say that I now fully enjoy the time I spend with those that once made me uncomfortable and have come to know the Lord closer through allowing His love to flow through me to them. However, I was mistaken by thinking that the feeling would somehow pass...

A few weeks ago I was driving in Timisoara. It was a beautiful sunny day on which I was happy to be out and about, driving around the city in my car. Then, I stopped at a red light on the way to the mall and saw young Roma girl begging for money. I had seen this young girl before, as she is usually in the same place every time I go to Timisoara. However, this day was different. As I looked at her, I felt the same pain in my heart as I did when I first began spending time with the orphans. I felt the need to hold back my tears...to harden my heart against what I knew was the Lord's desire to impart his heart in mine. But at that moment I sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, "Do not harden your heart," and I knew that I must allow myself to cry for this young girl. So I did. I sat at that stoplight and cried for this young girl. I looked straight forward as she passed my car with her hand held out for I didn't want her to see that I was upset. What exactly I felt for her, I do not know, but I know that my heart broke for her.

See, I am responsible. Not because I live and work in a third-world country. Not because I work with the HIV/AIDS affected communities of Romania. Not because I can afford 3 x more than the average Romanian family. I am responsible because of the life of Christ that was given up for me. I will always be responsible for this. It is part of the price of taking the name of Jesus.

I'm not a super-hero, super-"Godly," or super-spiritual. I'm broken, prideful, selfish, idolatrous, and vain (to name a few.) Sometimes, doing what the Lord wants is the farthest thing from my mind. But God is faithful in that he continues to remind me of his love for me and call me back to the responsibility that I have. And I'm thankful. I'm thankful he doesn't leave me here to figure it out on my own; and that he is patient with me even when I feel as though his patience should run out.

It's on all of these things that I've been pondering and thinking. Recently, I felt led to read the book of Revelation...not to try to understand when the Lord is coming back, but to understand what he says about that time. I do believe that we are in the final days, possibly sooner than we think. As I've read this book, what has stuck out to me is the character of the church in the last days and how out of seven churches to which Christ spoke, only ONE did not offend Christ. My question to the Lord was, "God how can I be one who does not offend you. How can I walk so that I am still on the straight and narrow path?"

And then, a friend sent me this testimony by John Mulinde from Uganda.

I highly encourage you to take the time (it is a longer video) to listen to this testimony. However, I warn you, it is disturbing, and it should be. I won't even try to sum up what he says, but as for today, this video has me undone. I pray for those of you that watch it and pray that the conviction of God will come upon you so that you might find yourself favored by God on that last day...for this is what I'm praying for myself.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Free at Last, Free at Last...

Tonight I sit thinking...
Thinking of two little girls who are spending their first night in a new place. Oh, they're not really "little girls" in age, but in so many different ways. For one of these girls, it's her first night outside of an orphanage...EVER. For another, it's a night's peace.

What a word I take for granted...A state that I have known all my life. Sure, I've had my trials, but in reality, I've had peace. What a day this must be for Ana-maria, the 22 year-old that's never lived outside a government institution. A girl, who today, has the opportunity to start a brand new life. A life where she can take care of herself...where she can live in a place where she will NOT be looked down upon...a place where she has us, her spiritual family, to help her grow and mature in her relationship with Jesus. I can't imagine her excitement...I can't imagine her fear...I can't imagine how badly she's wanted it and now it's here...Freedom.

Another word/state I take for granted. As an American, I don't know life without freedom. As a Christian, I struggle with walking in it. For Ane, this word/state has come with great price. Due to an impossible family situation, Ane was "cut free" of her home 4-6 months ago. Able to stay with friends until the last two weeks, she has had a tough time living on her own. Without family support and a stable place to live, (not to mention a healthy friend base) Ane was in a difficult situation.

Today, we (Joshua Project staff), had the privilege of moving these two girls into an apartment in Resita. Through donations we were able to provide housing for Ana-maria and Ane who were in desperate need. We may not be able to do it for all the children we serve at JP World Ministries, but Praise God we could do it for these girls.

But there are so many more. So many more that it makes my head spin. So many that go to bed each night without knowing a Father's love. So many that wake up each day not knowing that there is a purpose and a plan for their life. So many that we could help.

We can't help unless you help. Will you help? Will you be one of the few that stand with us and serve these neglected, forgotten children? Will you help them be...free?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uncomfortable is as Uncomfortable does...

It's taken me a while to figure out what I wanted to write about next. I've found through the process of blogging that I don't want to use it to talk about my daily life, although I do plan to give a run down of a typical "day in the life." Instead, I want to use the blog as a journal or record of the things God is teaching me through this process. To me, this seems like the most fruitful way to use the blog.

There's been so much going on in me lately, and while I say "so much," it's been difficult to put everything into words. My beau asked me the other night what God has been speaking to me, and I had to pause and think. I had to think because I feel as though there's something so deep that is being revealed to me and I can only see the tip of it. However, I'll do my best to explain what I have been able to put my finger on.

During the Fall, we had an influx of youth from a local orphanage to our Day Center for dental care. These youth, while the same age of many of the others we serve, are even more so developmentally, socially, "you name it" delayed. It's been a real blessing to see what it's like for new youth to experience God's presence at the Day Center. However, at the same time it's been uncomfortable. This feeling of uncomfortableness has done nothing but grow since I've started to get to know these orphans a little better. I didn't even know what the uncomfortableness was connected to. This was such a surprise to me. I mean, I have a heart for this ministry...that's why I'm here. But now there's an uncomfortableness.

I took this to the Lord in prayer and asked Him what was going on. I didn't receive an answer right away, but instead experienced something else strange.

One night, I went to the grocery store like I always do. I usually wait until the last minute when I'm out of everything, so I have no choice but to go to the store (it's not really my favorite thing in the world to do.) I was halfway through my shopping experience, when I noticed everyone's eyes on my cart. This wouldn't be unusual, as it's normal in Romania for people to stare. But, this was different. This time it made me feel uncomfortable in a different way. I knew that they weren't looking at me, but instead HOW MUCH and WHAT I was able to purchase. Even as a missionary, living off the least that I possibly can each month, my salary is three times more than the average Romanian wage. People here cannot feed their families the basic things needed for nutrition. Instead, they live off of bread and potatoes. At that moment in the store, my heart was pierced for the Romanian people. I had always known in my head that Americans have so much more, and I had so much more, but at this moment, it hit my heart. I wanted to leave the store immediately. I didn't want to feel the way I was feeling. After all, it was so uncomfortable.

After reflecting on both of these situations, and asking the Lord what is happening, I felt the Holy Spirit impress on my heart that these feelings of uncomfortableness aren't bad. In fact, there exactly what the Lord wants me to feel. For all of us that follow Jesus, we have a responsibility to the same. We SHOULD be uncomfortable. After all, Jesus said whoever wants to gain his life, will lose it...that we should leave our father and mother, take up our cross, and follow him. That can't be comfortable.

So what do I make of the new feelings? What do I do with them? I press in. I continue to take them to the Lord, and I don't shut them out. If I want to know Jesus...if I want to know the Father...if I want to be led by the Holy Spirit, I have to allow God to take me to the tough places. I have to let Him change me in the ways that HE sees fit, and not what makes me most comfortable.

You see, it's uncomfortable to feel the grief and extreme love of God. I know that I haven't even come close to feeling what He feels, but instead I have been given just a glimpse. However, I'm not to shy away from it, I'm to continue to press in. I MUST let the youth from the orphanage into my heart. I MUST let the dire situation of Romania into my heart...HOW ELSE WILL GOD CHANGE ME? How else will they know of God's great love for them if I don't experience it and show it to them? This must be the road that I take, for I don't desire to be the same. But with that desire is an understanding that God will take me to the difficult places, and continue to bare His heart in mine...however uncomfortable that may be.


Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Back...

This year has held many firsts for me. While uploading pictures on my new digital photo frame, I was reminded of some of the funny and not so funny memories. So, naturally, I'd like to share them with the rest of the world. Cause you know, no matter what you think...NOTHING on the internet is private.

Jan-May: First time I've never had a permanent home and bounced around like a ping-pong to the homes of my many friends. Thank you to the Mitchells, Youngs, Gormans, Mom, Grandmother, Dad, Carlsons and anyone else who had the pleasure of hosting me during that time. Ha!

Jan: First time I've ever donned a hospital gown for longer than that uncomfortable visit at the doctor's office. Apparently, stomach viruses are NOT to be messed with.

Who says you can't have a little fun in the ER?

February: First road trip across the mid-west with a brief stop in St. Louis, Missouri for a tour of the Arch.

(Pictures from left to right: outside the arch, the "pod" we rode to the top in, a plane's eye view of St. Louis)

April: First trip to Seattle and British Columbia. Since I've always wanted to visit these places, it was truly one of my favorite "firsts" of this year.

May: One of the most obvious firsts is the first time living in another country as I moved to Romania on May 15, 2010. I waited over 10 years for this moment and failed to capture any photos to commemorate this experience. However, there were many tears instead.

June: First time experiencing summer camps with JPWM
(Joshua Project World Ministries) as staff. Very different than the 10 day experiences I've had in the past. Favorite Fun Moment: The Water Fight!

Instigating parties shall not be named...

July: This was the first, but not the last time that I got to see Eastern European handiwork at it's finest. Not making fun, but truly astonished at how people can make whatever they want if they put their minds to it. Case in point: The Boat House.

The conversation pretty much went like this while looking out at the Danube one summer evening:

Andy M: Say, what's that out in the water?
Me: Not sure, but it kinda looks like a house.
Andy M: Looks like a plank with a house and tree.
Me: Hmm, let me see with the super zoom on my camera.

Images from Camera

Me (laughing hysterically:) Dear gracious,
that's exactly what it is...you just forgot
the bicycles and nearly naked dude with girlfriend.

August: First birthday in a foreign country...and by foreign and country...and I mean anything outside of Texas :-) Somehow failed to capture images of this day as well, however, I do have the bill from the birthday dinner I paid for. Yes, that's right. In Romania, you pay for your own birthday party. You do get some pretty SWEET gifts from those you invite, though.

Divide that by 3 and it's not so bad for 5 adults.

September: First trip to Odessa, Ukraine to visit a friend and met some new ones.

Need to add a few notes about these pictures. The first on the top row is a random statue at the large pier in Odessa. It's a random muscled up baby in a giant palm. A little disturbing, don't ya think? The second is a picture of some of my new Ukrainian friends. These ladies were so welcoming that is makes me want to go back just to see them! The middle is a nighttime view of the "famous" street in Odessa. I'd attempt to spell it, but uh...I can't. It was nice to stroll the street with the hundreds of other people...haha. The pictures on the bottom row were of sailboats on the black sea. It was only after I was sitting there for a while that I noticed the misspelling of the boat in the first picture. Cracked me up. Unless, however, I'm wrong and don't know how to spell what I thought is the name, "Sinbad."

October: Witnessed another great example of Romanian ingenuity. While on the way to Timisoara with Andy & the kids, I saw a most interesting site.

This was the best shot I could get of him, so in case you can't see what I did on that day I'll describe it for you. This would be a picture of a man on a scooter, with a chainsaw strapped to the back. If that wasn't enough, it's raining, making the journey quite perilous with the scooter alone, not to mention the chainsaw. However, he did at least try to protect himself as he is wearing a garbage bag for a rain jacket and the foamy INSIDE of a bicycle helmet on his head :-) Sheer genius I tell you. It provided quite a good laugh on this dreary day.

I'd like to say this was the last time I saw someone carrying their chainsaw on the back of a scooter, but that would be a lie.

November: First black eye. You probably thought I was going to say something about Thanksgiving, huh? Nope. The black eye takes the cake. I caught a virus days prior to Thanksgiving which resulted in the following chain of events: Virus caught = severe badness = dehydration = loss of consciousness = face plant on the floor = black eye, possible cracked cheek bone, and two very sore teeth.

And of course, I took pictures... the ones directly following the fall were kinda brutal looking so I thought I'd just post the aftermath. This one was the weirdest, so I thought it'd do.

Taken a couple of days after the fall, it's a shame I didn't take one a few days later, it was greenish-blue by then!

December: There are a couple of firsts in this month. My first time living in a country where snow is the norm, and my first Christmas in a foreign country. By "foreign" and "country" I mean, anything outside the U.S.

(Pictures from left to right: View from the day center of the Resita hillside, my discipleship group and me, lights in Timisoara square)

After such an exciting year, I'm not sure how 2011 will be able to top it. One thing I am sure of, the Lord is always full of surprises. I look forward to this next year with the King that is above all kings, and mostly look forward to the surprises that are in store.

May 2011 bring you peace, joy, and most of all, fulfillment through salvation in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Asian Faces On My Wall...

A little deviation from the usual.

I realized after looking at a recent purchase of photo frames that I failed to post updated pics of my newly painted apartment. These photo frames hang, mockingly, as I do not have any pictures to put in them. Instead of my adorable, bright-eyed nieces and nephews, I'm stuck with Asian children I do not know glaring back at me. Okay, so maybe they're smiling back at me. You get the point, though. Hopefully, we'll receive the next shipment from the US soon and I will be able to hang the pictures sent by my sweet sister-in-law while wearing the new fuzzy robe purchased by my mom. Ahh, the little tidbits of home, so sweet :-)

First up...the bedroom. You can't really see the faint blue color I put on the walls, but it is definitely a cool addition to what has become my "escape." The paint color, and the fact that I have a serta mattress topper really helps make this a serene area I love:-)

Before paint, rug, and swanky light...and after.

Next, my faux hallway (really just the area in between my bathroom, bedroom, and front door.)

Say it with me, "ahhhh." I doubt I'm the only one that's thankful the green is gone :-) Not to forget I got rid of the "energy saver" bulb which cast a yellow/green hue.

And lastly, the kitchen. I still have some work to do here, but it's so much better with that "lovely" pistachio color. Blech....

Before the paint job that took me two hours each coat...(just the kitchen took that long and there were 3 coats!)

Another area of my apartment (after the door, across from the couch and smashed up against the fridge) that make it feel cozy.

Like I said, still have work to do, but after 2-3 months of trying to put the apartment together I took a break. Frankly, I just got tired of buying stuff. Maybe I'll get some inspiration from the pictures coming my way...can you tell I'm excited about pictures of family and friends?

Any ideas are welcome, however, that doesn't mean what I need for those ideas are actually available here. It's okay, because it teaches me to be content. So until then, I'll just smile back at the Asian faces on my wall....


Friday, November 5, 2010

Mock No More...

I've made my fair share of mistakes. In fact, I've been greedy with them. By the sheer number it seems I've not only made my own but have tried to make everyone else's mistakes too. The reason I'm so sure of this? Well, that's because in the last two weeks I've been confronted with what feels like, every single one of them.

Some are funny. Some were indiscretions of an insecure youth...and some, well, they're so ugly that I shutter when I think of them. The reminder of these mistakes attempts to mock the character I have been given by God. However, I was reminded the other day by the Lord that God cannot be mocked. In fact, the only reason why the enemy tries this tactic is because he knows the end game. Revelation 19 gives us a picture of the victorious coming of Christ. The day of his redemption as the Bible words it. It reads,

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rode of iron. he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords."

It is on this day, when Christ returns in all his glory, that the darkness of this world, and the lord of it will be destroyed. How I long for that day. Until then, the battle continues. The fight to remind myself and to bathe myself in the truth of God's word continues.

This morning I happened upon a song that ministered these very truths to my heart. Not only that the victorious day of which I wait is coming, but also the truths upon which I need to fix my mind. the song comes from the prayer room at International House of Prayer. (See the link to learn more.) The woman singing this song is singing the words the Lord brings to her heart. It may sound like hocus pocus. But indeed, those who know Christ, know his voice and can hear it. I pray this song blesses you as it did me.