Saturday, December 20, 2008

a Christmas tradition

yesterday we celebrated Christmas with our kids at Steps of Hope. (hey - shameless self-promotion! i helped make this website possible! it's mostly the program i used .. but still. there's a site where there wasn't one before :) and a big part of that celebration was going caroling. to various families who wanted us to come. we met at the office first for some games and playing and rehearsing and eating cookies (the kids mixed them up and i baked them) .. and then we started by singing to the school principal. we had 4 songs that we'd practiced (the only one i knew before this month was 'away in a manger' with 'slightly' different words :) and we sung all four of them at almost every place we went.

we left the office about 3.30, and by my count, we visited 7 families. with a total of about 18 kids and 4 adults, with our feet as transportation. i'd guess that the average walk between homes was more than 15 minutes. partially because we weren't speed walking, but also because of where people live and who got home from work when. we finished at the 7th home about 7pm .. so 3 and a half hours or so. personally, i think i only sat down at one of the homes, so the bulk of that was on my feet (even those who sat only did so for a few minutes here and there). i would say we walked at least 5 miles. maybe more .. after the 7th home, about half the kids went home and the other half (the older ones) got on a tram to head to one of the kids' homes about 35 minutes away (by tram!).. i personally opted out of this last one because it would have meant arriving home after 9, and i was already tired (and homesick) at that point. and .. before i even arrived at the office, i had already walked at least 3 miles and had to walk another 1.5 to get home. which means that i probably walked about 10 miles .. and my body certainly felt it last night!

at almost every home we visited, the door was opened and as many as could crowded into their hallway/small foyer (most romanian apartments have foyers where shoes are taken off and coats are hung). we sang our four carols (with two girls alternating 'giving the tone' meaning they sang the first line of the song. this is typical for how a tone is given here.) and then the family invited us to sit down in their living room, again not quite all fitting. they had some sort of sweet for us (often more than one kind of cookie) and something to drink, typically coke or another soda. and if you don't eat, sometimes they get offended. hospitality is culturally very important .. so it is polite to both offer (a few times if it's not received at first) and also to accept what is given. which means that by the end of the night, even though we only went to 7 houses, we were sugared out! a couple of the houses gave us fruit in addition to or instead of sweets, which was very nice! i had heard about this tradition but hadn't been able to experience it for myself, so this was quite a treat.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"A maturing friendship with God means knowing more and more what pleases him. Like a football coach who knows that he and his quarterback are in sync, he increasingly trusts you to make the call." (p181, Can You Hear Me, by Brad Jersak)
i read this yesterday and the image has stayed in my brain. i do believe that God cares about our day to day lives -- how we choose to spend our days, how we respond to various situations and who we seek out. but when i ask God simple questions, i don't always get answers. sometimes .. but not always. and i do have to choose. so reading this put words to something i've been feeling for a while .. that when a person has been steeped in the Word, steeped in relationship with God, steeped in the community of God .. some ways of being become more natural. good habits, as it were. not that a person stops sinning (ha!) .. but some of the characteristics of God begin to be reflected more clearly.

not to say that "i have arrived" or "i know God's plan so well i don't need to talk to Him anymore" or "i always know what's best" or "i always do what i believe is best" .. none of these are even close to true. but the idea of God trusting me (although often this is laughable and absurd to me) fits with the God i have come to know in the Word. a God who chooses to use broken people. people who make huge mistakes. (seriously .. murder, adultery, lying, jealousy, anger, dishonoring God, following false idols, disobedience .. you name it. it can be found in the Bible .. and often (to one degree or another) from those whom God used to lead His people.) so it's okay that i'm not perfect yet. He still chooses to let me be part of His Kingdom work. He chooses to let me mess up, to let me decide, to be present with me and show His mercy and grace. over and over and over again. glad we have a coach who knows how to discipline .. but also how to cheer us on when we've made a good play :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

caroling rehearsal

tonight we had our first practice for Christmas caroling. we're going as a group from church, and i'm pretty excited. although it will be hard to be away from family during this season, it feels right and good for me to be here .. in this culture i am learning to call home, experiencing their traditions, eating their food (yummy!), speaking with my presence that i value them enough to stay. so we had our first practice tonight, and about 15 people or so showed up. turns out we can sound pretty good. and with a few more rehearsals .. we'll be good to go!

somehow my heart hadn't made the connection that i wouldn't be singing carols i know. one of the three we practiced tonight was a tune i know .. but when i think of Christmas caroling and all the wonderful memories that go with it .. it is indelibly tied to the melodies and words i have grown up with. maybe i can convince my teammates to have a carol-singing night? the familiar ones? in english? we'll see. but .. i get to choose to start a set of new memories .. learning new words, new melodies, new traditions. with the Family that God has provided for me here. and although the music and sense i have are very different .. the amazing truth that God came to earth as a little baby has not and will never changed. and that is comfort enough for tonight.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

clear associations..

last week, for thanksgiving, i found myself making three double batches of cookies and two pumpkin pies -- for various people and events. good thing i had lots of practice while i was growing up cooking these important foods!

at the office, we were preparing for the month of december, and the staff turned to me and asked when i would make cookies with our kids. i wasn't quite sure what to make of this, since there isn't an oven at the office.. but they told me the kids made it clear they wanted to make cookies, and one of the staff told me that if it has to do with cookies, my name comes to mind. so .. we decided on a day and i'm already thinking about what kinds of cookies to make and how i'm going to get them from the office to my place so i can cook them all.

when we celebrated thanksgiving, one of the girls found out that i had made the cookies. when i walked by her seat, she stopped me and said 'i'm going to invite you over to my house so that you can make cookies for me.' and then yesterday at the office, one of the kids was there early and we were talking. after saying 'hello' and 'how are you' .. the first question she asked was 'did you bring more cookies?' this made the staff laugh .. apparently more than one person has now associated me with cookies.