Saturday, December 19, 2009

winter is here!

so .. it's been a while since i've posted anything. maybe someone is still reading? if so, thanks for your patience!

late monday night, and didn't really stop until late friday night. little flakes .. but that much snow means a lot! i don't know exactly how much, but six inches? maybe more? this is the first real snowfall, so i've been enjoying it. makes me feel like it is actually winter!

one big difference between snow in america and snow in romania is that an average american family has a car (or more), while the typical romanian family doesn't necessarily. there are plenty of cars .. but many people still get places by walking or taking a bus or a tram. which is generally a great way to get around. but when it's snowing and cold .. less enjoyable. but more enjoyable for many small children .. as they go with parents and grandparents on errands, many get rides on sleighs, instead of walking!

this morning, i saw that it had stopped snowing, and i looked at the temperature. -13*C .. which is about 9*F. cold! i just checked, and now it says that it's around -17*C, which is just over 1*F. very cold! nobody is spending any more time outside than they have to. everyone is bundled up well, with at least a few layers, and walking quickly to their destination. makes me very glad for good heating, and for warm tea! but .. crazy as i am, i am enjoying the cold. i have warm clothes, which helps, but i also just like cold weather. and it is finally here! if it stays cold, the snow should stick around for a while as well! at least until Christmas :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

answered prayer

today something happened that could have been discouraging. but i asked God for strength. i told Him that i trust Him .. so instead of being discouraged i got to give the problem to my Daddy who knows how to take care of it. i took a few minutes to write some thoughts in my journal before heading off to worship practice, and asked God to give me trust and joy. and He did!

throughout our 3 hours rehearsal, i kept smiling. not constantly .. but whenever i looked for Joy it was there. this sweet Presence with me. and really .. when one is aware that the Creator of the Universe is present, it can be hard not to smile! and if i had been alone, i would have danced a jig at least a few times. but i was with our worship team and didn't feel quite comfortable enough for that. so i made do with lots of big grins, a light heart, and a few handstands.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

a trip to the dentist

most people i know aren't excited about a trip to the dentist .. but sometimes, it is actually nice. like when you know something is wrong with your teeth and you know that it's going to be better after the visit. last week i made a few phone calls and set up an appointment to go and see a dentist. a romanian dentist. something i'd never done before. another new cultural experience..

i wasn't sure what information i would need, or what sort of forms there would be to fill out. from what i remember in america, there are usually lots of forms. i showed up at the right office (with good directions, that is easy!), rang the doorbell, and the dental assistant let me in. she asked me to wait a couple of minutes. and it really was only a couple of minutes! i was then invited into the office (and that's the extent of it .. a waiting room, and an office .. one dentist and one assistant), shown a chair where i could put my bag and coat, and pointed to the chair where i would sit.

she asked a couple of questions about what i thought the problem might be, and then she asked me to open my mouth and the process began. no forms, no writing, no background information needed. it was easy! and i learned some new words in the process .. words like 'filling' and 'cavity' and 'gums'. since it was just a problem with a cavity, there was no anesthetic. not sure how often they use shots in america, but the dentist just drilled carefully. if it was in a sensitive spot, she went slowly and never pushed too hard. it wasn't painless, but definitely bearable. and i'm not saying that it was exciting to be at the dentist .. but the fact that it was an 'unknown' .. and i was able to go and figure it out as i went and even have some interesting bits of conversation .. one less thing to be uncertain of here in romania! and aside from that i even have a tooth that is much happier!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

it's marvelous to be warm!


the weather here has been cold for more than a week. but typically, there is a wait of at least four days to see that the weather will stay cold, so that money isn't needlessly spent on heating. but it has stayed cold. temps in the 40s and 30s most days. making for lots of tea drinking, layering, and warm blankets. i arrived home this evening, heard a strange sound .. and when i felt one of the pipes in the hallway .. it was finally warm!!

we have heat!!
Thanks, God!

Friday, October 09, 2009

a good morning

this morning i curled up in my comfy armchair with three wonderful things..

1 -- a bowl filled with homemade granola, homemade yogurt, and a kiwi
2 -- a mug of strong black coffee, ground yesterday, made in a french press
3 -- the Word of God, which my Friend always uses to speak truth to me!

what better way to start the day?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

feeble explanations of grace..

i see my 'bunica' (boo-nee-cah, which means grandmother in Romanian) about once every two weeks, and we always find interesting things to talk about. when i first began spending time with her (almost 3 years ago!) our time consisted exclusively of language lessons, and me leaving with an aching head almost every week. now, there are few grammar corrections and we simply share stories, thoughts, ask questions, and seek to get to know each other better.

last week, she told me a story about how a young teenager had murdered his mother. in our city. violently. she told me she has no hope for him, that when she hears stories similar to this one she is filled with despair. i couldn't agree with her on this one. you see .. if i say that any individual is beyond hope, it means that my God is not all powerful. i believe that He is powerful beyond my imagination. way beyond. this is a concept that doesn't get explained easily in any language .. but i made an attempt in Romanian. this is the second time this particular topic has come up in the last month, so i think my 'bunica' started to comprehend just a little bit more. and me too, i think. may our definitions be widened and narrowed in such a way that we can both proclaim and understand Truth more fully!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

3 vignettes

i have 3 unrelated thoughts .. but if i don't post them now, they probably won't get posted. sorry for the randomness :P

CULTURES .. i was talking with a friend the other day and she said something that was funny .. but i didn't understand much. she said it quickly and mumbled a little. she looked at me with exasperation and said, "you americans don't understand anything!" i looked at her with sad puppy eyes, and sighed. she relented, "okay. you're half romanian, so you understand some of the time." we looked at each other and laughed for at least a minute. sweet!

AUTUMN .. living in Romania, one of the signs of fall that i enjoy is a particular smell. because it is still very much an agricultural society, going to the neighborhood farmers' market is still part of the week (at least once!) for most families. and in the fall, there is lots of canning, pickling and freezing to prepare fruits and veggies for winter. one common vegetable is a red pepper. it is similar to a bell pepper, but can be a bit spicy. they are roasted, peeled, and then frozen or canned to be eaten later in the year. and the smell .. delectable!

KINDNESS .. this evening, on my way to church, i saw a little boy (5 or 6 years old) caught on a fence. it was 2 or 2.5 feet high, and he had climbed halfway over. most apartment blocks have plots of land outside that are fenced in, which are sometimes used for flowers or drying clothes. this little boy looked pretty stuck, and a young man who was walking by said 'can i help you?' and gently and easily picked him up. he held him up so they were about eye level, and then asked him which way he had been trying to go. the boy told him and was gently placed on the other side of the fence. what a treat .. to see one human acknowledge and value another with grace and simplicity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


i had a conversation today with another american. who hasn't spent very much time in romania. when he found out that i'd been here for 3 years, his eyebrows went up. a few minutes later, he asked me if i felt like a romanian now. i didn't know how to respond. maybe it's a difference of definition? although i speak romanian fairly well, and know how to get around this city, and don't hang out with many other foreigners .. that doesn't make me romanian. to be romanian means to be full of their beautiful culture -- language and history and family stories and wonderful food and so much more. because i've spent three years in romania -- i am now neither fully american nor fully romanian. somewhere in the middle. i am actually beginning to feel at home here in some ways .. but there are often reminders that i just don't belong. which is okay. it's a challenge to push in deeper.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

connections .. God style!

our God is rather crazy. in an amazing and astounding way. but for the end of this story to make sense, there are a couple important pieces that you need to know first.

two years ago, a friend connected me through email to another friend of hers who lives and works in romania. this person works with another missions organization that has a similar perspective on life and missions to the one i'm part of. although we communicated just a little bit through email, it didn't work out at that point for me to go and visit at that point. it's not too far .. about 4 hours by train. but things got busy, and i got focused on other things, and nothing ever happened.

things have been changing on my team, and i am stepping into a posture of learning what God is doing in my neighborhood, the city i live in, and even a wider perspective of what God is doing across the country. i haven't been particularly sure how to go about this, but have been praying and asking God to direct my path.

last week, i spent the week at camp with kids from our program. to arrive at this particular location, we took a train four hours south (generally). then we got on a bus for another two hours to arrive in a village. then we walked half an hour on a dirt road to arrive at the actual place we stayed. it was a marvelous location .. tucked away in the hills, with plenty of activities for the kids to do. from where we were, we couldn't see any other houses or buildings. just green trees and hills! there were houses nearby, but not visible. it was a bit tricky even to get cell phone reception. by the end of the week, everybody knew where their particular phone had a couple of bars, and spent time there once in a while to call parents or friends or send a text message.

anyway .. turns out, that the organization that i had made contact with long ago also comes to this same location with their kids during the summer. and it turns out .. someone from their organization had come to spend a few days on retreat. through a couple of conversations with different people, the connection was made that he works with them. so .. i got to make a new connection. and have the possibility of visiting come up again, with an invitation, even! at the end of a dirt road .. from a small village .. in the middle of romania. one could say that it was coincidence .. but i don't think so. only God has a sense of humor like this!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

is seven too many?

i was looking at my stack of books this morning, and what i saw struck me as rather eclectic. books are wonderful. i read something in a book every day. it's not just something to do, but is .. part of the way i understand the world. part of how i learn about myself. part of what gives me joy. at the moment, i'm working on a number of books. all of them have such different flavors that when i sit down, i think about my mood, how much i can focus, how thoughtful i'm feeling, which ones need to get read soon .. all sorts of factors go into which one i actually read on a particular day. at any rate, here are the books that i'm currently reading ..

harry potter and the half-blood prince .. j.k. rowling

a short history of nearly everything
.. bill bryson

interior castle
.. teresa of avila

celebration of discipline
.. richard foster

the dangerous act of worship
.. mark labberton

well connected: releasing power, restoring hope through kingdom partnerships
.. phill butler

power under: trauma and non-violent social change
.. steven wineman

Friday, June 12, 2009

a graduation ceremony

yesterday i had the privilege of attending a friend's graduation from college. she studied at the horticulture college, in the landscaping school. i'd never been to this kind of ceremony in romania before, and i'm glad i was invited.

the funniest part was one of the speeches. one of the professors, for some rather unclear reason, decided to 'give a tour' of the world's flowers. it's something that could have been very interesting, but i tend to be of the opinion that often, interesting means concise. particularly at a graduation ceremony where it's rather warm. say important things .. just don't say them three times. not that this woman repeated herself, but instead of doing a few countries, she decided to cover a number of countries. her speech was somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, i think. talking about the various flowers for countries, where they come from, if they are specific to that region, what they symbolize. somewhat interesting, but a bit too long. so .. the funny part..

she started with america. and the first powerpoint said 'alabama'. i thought to myself 'if i were going to choose a state to represent america, i'm not sure it would be alabama. (okay. that sounds mean, but there are other states that are much more well known around the world. anyway..) the next slide said 'arkansas'. and i started to groan. was she planning to talk about all 50 states?! my disbelief and laughter was quite entertaining to my friends (good thing we were at the back of the balcony!). the professor did a pretty good job of pronouncing states, (harder than you think, since english isn't so much a language you can read letter by letter..) although a few made me chuckle. she started getting to the "m's" and a friend told me that when she got to 'utah' i'd need to wave my flag. we laughed and i mimed my prepared flag .. but the professor skipped right over utah! :( which .. of course .. means that my friends teased me about the fact that there aren't actually any flowers in utah. not true! but kinda funny.. the professor then proceeded to cover parts of canada, south america, africa, asia, and then europe, ending with romania. nice to have something to smile about, even though there was so much that was said i didn't quite understand. (fast talking and microphones make a foreign language just that much harder to grasp..)

the best part was when our friend actually got her diploma. there were four groups of students who graduated, and her group was the last group. because her last name is toward the end of the alphabet, she ended up being the last name to be called. throughout the giving out of diplomas, our group clapped and cheered, even though not many others were doing so. when her name was called .. we whooped and hollered and cheered. and she got a big grin on her face. big enough to be seen even from the back of the balcony! nice to encourage her and to celebrate her accomplishments. the long ceremony was worth it to see that grin on her face!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

a good evening

tonight was pretty wonderful. i got to be at church tonight. that's a good start. we have church in the evening instead of the mornings, and because i'm part of the worship team, that means that most sundays i'm at church from around 4.30 to 8.30 or 9. getting to be with, to worship with, to enjoy my Family. pretty marvelous.

for the last sunday each month this year, one of the people in our church shares part of their story. however they desire to do so. the pastor doesn't preach, and someone talks about who God is in their lives. this month our theme has been worship, so in addition to one of the guys sharing, 3 of us made some art. and we talked about it - how we had created it, what we see it in, that sort of thing. and we sang 3 good songs tonight. (the last one is a new song, and the last section of said song feels very jazzy. not necessarily the rhythm or speed, but the style. in that there is a very simply theme that gets repeated, motifed, transformed, played with, improvised around. and .. it's different every time we play it. sweet!)

after church is over, people stick around and talk, eat cookies, drink pop. tonight we pulled out the ping pong table and played doubles so that more people could play (including people who don't have lots of practice .. just playing because it's fun!). and 4 of us improvised a 'basketball court' so that we could play. hadn't done that in a while .. it was 2 guys vs. 2 girls, with both of the guys being around 6' and neither of the girls. but the other girl plays well, so it was somewhat evenly matched.

and to add to enjoyment of the evening, i got to play with the pastor's two older kids. the oldest is a boy who is about 7, and the middle child is a girl about 4. i got to pick her up, to spin her around, to swing her, to make her laugh, to imitate her movements, and to have her grab my hand and pull me to see a few things.

life is a gift. thanks, Abba!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


5 cities.
4 flights.
3 layovers.
22 hours.

it actually didn't feel that long. my layovers were all less than 2 hours, and even though i had to rush to catch one plane it was quite possible. airports for some people are scary places or frustrating places .. for me they are often quite enjoyable. i heard about a third culture kid who said that he was most comfortable in airports. neither here nor there. leaving and arriving. between the goodbyes and the hellos.

my longest flight was not quite 8 hours, and i had a nice german man for a seatmate. we talked probably 2 hours (i slept more than 4, as well!) and turns out he travels quite a bit more than i do. but .. his whole extended family lives less than 50 miles apart. quite different from my family. he has deep roots and plans to always call the area where he lives just outside frankfurt home. of course, this led to him asking me 'where is your home?' .. and i gave him the answer i've given many times, but which feels more and more true. my parents still live in the same home that they lived in when i was born, so that is indeed one home. at the same time .. home is with people that i love. so when i'm with family or dear friends, regardless of where we are, i'm home. when i'm with innerchange, i'm home. when i'm at any of my 3 churches, i'm home. 'home' in varying degrees .. but still, i think this is true. (if anybody begs to differ, or has a question .. comment away!)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

similar .. but not ..

words are interesting. and quite enjoyable.

in learning another language, there are always mistakes and misusing words that sound similar but in fact mean something completely different! one recent example .. i was talking to a young teenager about how people hang out in groups. especially young people. and the romanian word for such a group or 'gang' is gaşcă (gahsh-kuh). i couldn't quite remember how to say it, and instead said găscă (gah-skuh). in my mind, these look and sound somewhat similar. except that one means 'gang' .. and one means 'goose'. this friend i was talking to laughed and couldn't think of what word i might actually be trying to say. to my english-speaking brain, they are just a few accents different. to her romanian-speaking brain, they aren't even close! finally i was able to verbalize the right version and she thought about it and said that they are somewhat similar .. but it didn't cross her mind until i finally explained it!

an example of this in english is the two words 'chicken' and 'kitchen'. until i came to romania, i would not have thought them to be even remotely related. seriously. think about it. say them. look at them. they have the same sounds .. just in a slightly different order :) which means that sometimes people say funny things such as 'i'm going to bake in the chicken'.

my brain finds random connections that others' don't necessarily find. i know that everyone's brain works differently, and it's enjoyable that over my time here, some friends have learned to make similar connections and don't look at me quite so strangely when i ask about a word that somehow sounds or looks similar. anyway .. early on in my language learning, i struggled to remember the difference between three words that sound and look similar (to me!). mănuşă, mătusă, and mătură. respectively meaning glove, aunt, and broom. very different things! i've got them settled now, but there were definitely a few humorous and embarrassing mistakes at first. in a course i took about learning language, they said 'you will be the town clown, so laugh it up!' and it's pretty true .. people certainly notice and find humor in my mistakes, so once in a while i purposefully use a 'new word' that i've made up (by messing up before), which brings smiles to faces.

Friday, March 27, 2009

walking the dog

two friends of mine were traveling for a week. i'm glad they got to go .. but it did mean that for the duration i was in charge of their dog, sandy. she is a gentle, easily-pleased dog .. but she's used to being walked three times a day. which means that for a week, my schedule was quite different than normal. in some good ways, and in some less enjoyable ways. to get to their apartment, take her out for a short walk, take her back, make sure she had food and water, and get back home generally took at least 30 minutes. something so simple .. and yet somehow time-consuming. dogs are nice and i quite enjoy them. but they do take energy and time. especially when one lives in an apartment ..

- for the last week, i've seen stars (including orion!) every night!
- for the last week, i've been out of the house at least by 9.15 if not before.
- i got to listen to 3 sermons and 4 podcasts.
- one day (due to other commitments) i spent over 3 hours walking.
- sandy gets walked along the nearby river .. which means there are only two directions to go. two directions .. three times a day .. 8 days .. means i know a small section of the river much better than i did a week and a half ago. :)
- i'm less afraid at night then i used to be .. because i had to be out around 9 (sometimes even after 10) every night, and doing that for 8 days and being fearful just doesn't cut it. so God and i talked about it and He's given me a greater peace. not that this means i'm going to be wandering the streets late in the evening, but if for some reason i'm out, i'm not going to be afraid about getting home.
- staying home this morning (and reading my Bible and drinking coffee and sending work emails) without having to first walk a dog has been quite refreshing!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

schizophrenic weather!

yesterday we had more than our share of weather. let me explain .. the day started out a bit chilly, with some wind and a sun valiantly peaking out around the clouds. throughout the morning, the clouds got darker and thicker until they were a grey layer across the sky. as i was sitting eating lunch with my romanian grandmother, we looked out the window to discover that it was raining. pouring, actually -- for just a few minutes -- and then just a light drizzle. standing on the porch, preparing to walk home, i learned the word for hail in romanian (lapovita, for anybody who is interested). the halfway point between her home and mine happens to be a long footbridge that crosses a number of train tracks. with all the train tracks, open space, and elevated pathway, it can be very windy. for the 5 minutes it takes to walk across this footbridge, it was snowing horizontally. not quite a blizzard, but thick and dense. for the next hour, visibility was quite limited. by mid-afternoon, the sun was shining and the clouds were white and fluffy. there was a gorgeous sunset with golden edges around the clouds and strong rays of sunshine. it stayed dry, without more precipitation, but by the time night fell it was again almost freezing temperatures. strange .. and yet rather wonderful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

2 reminders i live in romania

man .. almost a month since my last post. apologies to whoever happens to read this. when i wait too long .. there are too many things in my head and i'm just not sure where to start. but today i know exactly what i want to share :) two stories that recently reminded me that i really do live in romania.

story number one: i wanted to buy a snack, so went into a corner grocery store, and asked for what i wanted. i only had a bill for 5 lei (romanian currency), and it cost .60 lei. the shopkeeper looked in her drawer and said that she only had 4 one-lei bills and that she wasn't willing to give them all to me. i told her i didn't have any one-lei bills, so she said. 'can't help you'. and sent me on my way. i wasn't going to buy something worth lots of money, so it wasn't worth her time. no offers for 'do you want to get something else too?' or 'let me go next door' .. just 'go away.' on a slight side note .. sometimes when cashiers at small stores like this one don't have the correct change they'll give you a piece of gum or a piece of candy instead. kinda strange at first, but one mostly gets used to it.

story number two: yesterday i was walking home from church with two friends. one of them was going to catch the bus, and we saw it pass just as we reached the bus stop. this meant she would have to wait another 10-15 minutes. and all three of us just assumed that we would wait with her. if one of us had needed to be somewhere, it would have been alright to leave, but because we didn't it was acceptable and expected that we would wait with her. which is nice. i enjoy that. spending time with people, waiting with them, talking until something interrupts :) in american culture, people are often so busy they might not have time to just hang out with somebody while they waited for the bus. today i'm glad that i do have time (at least sometimes!) and that it also makes sense culturally.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

one thing i really don't like

recently, i was strongly reminded of something i really dislike. generally, i'm pretty easy going and don't get upset easily. (at least i think this is true .. ) but last week i was in a situation, and saw again just how much i dislike this particular habit some people have. it may not seem like a big deal, but it feels like a symptom of something bigger.


growing up, my family ate dinner together around the table. we actually sat and ate together and had good conversations. there were things that came up sometimes, and not everybody was always there .. but generally this was true. and when one person talked, everyone else listened. honestly. as a little kid i was quite talkative, and sometimes my parents told me it was somebody else's turn to talk and i needed to eat my food. but the fact that i was able to talk and be heard by everybody? i mean .. i'm 7 years younger than anybody else in my family .. and they all listened to me. i was respected and valued and heard. and in turn, i learned how important it is to respect and value and listen.

but it seems like there are lots of people who haven't learned that lesson. the world isn't always a nice place for quiet people. their voices aren't always sought out. those who are loud and noisy are often those who get what they want. but quiet people have important things to say too. sometimes .. because they have more time to think about what they say .. their words and thoughts are incredibly beautiful. personally, if i have to interrupt to be heard, i often choose to just listen instead of trying to push my way into conversation. not always .. but generally.

so .. when there is lots of interrupting going on, what do i read into it? what do i see? i see disrespect. i see people who aren't assured enough of their own value to let someone else talk. people who feel like they need to speak up to gain approval or to be seen or to prove something. maybe that isn't always true. and interrupting is so common, it is a behavior that can easily be picked up and become a habit. sometimes if you want to be heard, it's just about the only way to accomplish that. but .. it is frustrating. and saddening. if one person is given an opportunity to talk and others keep jumping in, it seems like they don't value that one person. not sure how one could go about changing this in a community .. gently shifting expectations and behaviors .. and even if it should be done .. but it certainly makes me wonder.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

so many pieces of paper ..

it's that time of year again ..
visa excitement!
that's right .. waiting .. and rushing. and waiting .. and rushing .. and waiting .. and waiting ..
you know. the usual.

yesterday i paid the taxes.
three of them.
two of which were less than $1.
but i got to visit three different buildings.
and stand in three different lines.
and hand my passport to three different people.
and walk across a plaza from the first to the second building.
and walk a mile to the third building.
but .. getting there and accomplishing this
and getting home took about two hours.
which is better than i expected.

a few more things checked off the visa-list ..
just one more big one to go ..
the first time i did this process,
a teammate made the comment
that you have to really want to stay in this country.
they don't make it easy.
but it's true ..
i'm confident this is where i'm supposed to be
for now
so it's worth all the hassle and energy and frustration.

at least this time i speak the language well enough
to know what is going on.
and why the various offices i have to visit
don't always have the happiest workers ..
i can even to explain myself, if i have to.
and ask questions that get the answers i need!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

taking a Sabbath

apologies for my long absence. too much has happened .. and i haven't been sure what to write about or how to summarize .. so i'm just starting with this week. i'll try to be more consistent about writing, with God's help :)

each week i make a point to take a Sabbath. and it really does need to be taken. there are so many things to be done, and people to spend time with, and pushes toward accomplishing -- if i don't set aside a day, it won't happen. so what is Sabbath? a day to rest. to be refreshed. to spend time in God's presence. to not work. to be creative. those are a few of the 'goals' i have each Sabbath.

this past week, when i woke up on Sabbath morning, i really wanted to finish my book. but i curbed my desire for a while and spent some time with God in His Word, savoring His truth and yummy coffee at the same time :D and then i pulled out this book. it's a book i've read before at least twice, and every time i read it i understand new truths. or old truths more deeply. this particular book has a Christ figure .. and even though the book is not explicitly Christian when i read it, my soul understands it spiritually. all that to say .. i spent a good two or three hours reading, and wasn't sure if i should feel guilty. that i wasn't journaling and reading my Bible and listening to God in silence. but then God reminded me that He is not limited to the Word. He graciously allowed me to commune with Him and take delight in His character through this amazing story. and that's a pretty good way to spend a Sabbath!