Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Our Land Beine (legs): Germany Week 2


Monday night of this week we had a final supper with the Clarks before their departure to the U.S.  This is when they introduced us to a new food called the döner kebab.  This is a Turkish dish that is found everywhere around here right now.  We, in the states would probably call know some of its relatives, the gyro or shawarma.  It’s meat, usually veal or chicken cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then shaved off into portions and served in a German pita bread with vegetables and sauce.  This stuff is money!  So good!  After dinner we said our goodbyes and well wishes and headed back to our little apartment. We were on our own now, with high hopes of being a blessing to this church.

Döners

On Tuesday morning we moved from the little Airbnb apartment to the Clarks house.  Everything is smaller in Germany including the roads and cars.  However, we were determined to do this in one trip, so we stuffed everyone into the vehicle and then Lynn went about stuffing the luggage onto our laps!  It looked like a horder’s circus act, but we did it!  It’s a strange thing to move into someone else’s house and try to make it your own.  They actually have a larger house than ours back in the states with four floors counting the basement.  We aren’t used to stairs and especially ones that tend to curve upward and are hard stone.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a feat of great proportions if we all make it home without anything broken.  All of us have had a slip or two on the stairs as we are getting used to going up and down.  We’ve found that we don’t even go down without assessing if something needs to be taken with us, the same with going up.  I’m also hoping for some calories burnt by this as well. 

That evening was our first Bible study night.  We planned on leaving early to make sure we got there before everyone and got the church set up with the tables to sit around for the discussion.  Well, we headed out a little bit later than planned and wouldn’t you know we got lost on our very first time out!  We left the house about 15 minutes later than we had planned.  It was dark out and our first time navigating out of the little town of Brühl and into Mannheim, which should normally take just around 20-25 minutes.  The Clarks had put the church into the GPS system of their vehicle, but she takes some getting used to.  She’ll say things like, “take a right and then go left,” this can be very confusing at times, but we’ve learned that she means that some exits on the right have you travel further down the road so we must stay left until our actual exit.  We didn’t know all of that then.  So, the very first exit we needed…we missed.  One of the quirks of the Autobahn is that if you miss your exit, you’ll probably be traveling a few minutes before there is another one where you can turn around.  We finally got turned around and wouldn’t you know we missed another exit!  By this time all of us were feeling the panic.  You know that feeling where you panic, and you can’t think about the simplest of solutions?  Well, we were there.  Poor Lynn!  I can only imagine how frustrated he must have been inside as he was trying to navigate himself while little miss GPS was also trying to navigate, and I was in the next seat trying to navigate him as well!  When we finally made it to the church it was 7:00 right on the dot!  Thankfully, the members here tend to run late, so we actually beat them all there anyway.  Whew!  It was dicey there for a few minutes!

We brought with us, from the States, copies of the study by Jim Berg called Changed into His Image.   I’ve been through this study twice already and still learn more each time.  It’s an in-depth sanctification book that’s great for discipleship purposes at pretty much any level.  We figured it would aid the discussion if we have an actual workbook to go through while we’re here, giving the participants homework each week to fulfill. This first week was just an introduction night as he explained the study and how we will go through it.  We also had a bit of a testimony/meet and greet so as to get to know some of the members a little bit better.  I loved hearing all of their testimonies of how they came to know the Lord and how they came to this church.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I’m humbled when I realize what a small world we live in and how Christ has permeated all these different nationalities.

We also started back into homeschool lessons with the kids this week.  It felt good to establish a bit of a routine.  This, of course, has to be a flexible routine with all we have planned to do, but routine, nonetheless.

The Kids and Me.

Late in the week we took the kids over to Heidelberg during the day.  We were still getting used to driving in Germany as well as driving a manual stick shift which neither of us have done for quite a few years.  We made it thankfully, but on one of our wrong turns we ended up on a hill of a street that certainly seemed one way since there was a stone wall on one side and it was so narrow.  But, no, not in Germany they figure you can get a few cars lined up side by side in the space of about two and a half meters wide – Oh wait! Let me speak American – that would be around 8 feet.  We decided to turn around in a driveway along one of the crests of the hill but backing out was also a challenge.  The Volkswagen that the Clarks own has a sensor system for backing up that beeps at you.  We are familiar with cars that have back up cameras that seem very helpful, but this just beeps and as you get closer to any objects it beeps faster and louder which is always a good mix for keeping the driver calm as he’s backing out in a dollhouse size area along a hill on which any second another car could come zipping around.   Thankfully, Lynn did it well and we were on our way back to where we needed to be.

We walked along the old town part of Heidelberg which was our first taste of old Europe and all of the beautiful architecture.  We found some really cool shops including a used bookstore that was about 3 stories high with a spiral staircase in the middle of it.  Katie was in a wonderland here.  She just loves books and to be surrounded by all of these treasures made her giddy with delight.  Of course, most were written in German, so we didn’t find any English books of interest for us, but it was still a really cool store.  This area of Heidelberg is like the idea of Branson Landing (if you’ve ever been to Branson, Missouri), put into 600-year-old buildings…aka charm galore!

Heidelberg university is also situated in this area and is said to be around 600 years old!  Imagine the feel of walking on a university campus that is older than our own country! 

We lingered and enjoyed the day so much that we didn’t even have time to go up to the castle at the top of the hill.  We’re hoping to do that on another day.

 Our first Sunday flying solo went very well.  At first, we were a little worried as, again, people showed up just right on time or a few minutes late, and I mean everyone.   However, we were relieved when they did show.  Our kids have taken on the challenge of running a Children’s Church program for the young ones which went very well.  We brought over some Abeka Bible story cards and the girls are each taking a week teaching the lesson while Jarod helps with singing and games and helping the little ones listen.

Lynn brought an awesome message called “Don’t Pray it Safe.”  He’s preached this before, but has to go through his sermons and do some editing for the cultural nuances and applications.  He did a great job of preaching and communicating his message without losing anyone language wise.  After service we realized that these folks like to talk about the message!  This is great as it provides feedback to Lynn on how they understood the message and it’s also encouraging to know that they aren’t just listening but are thinking it through as well.  This is always an encouragement to a minister when he knows that the crowd connected with the message.

After church a sweet family from the church, Rene and Marina, invited us to dinner with them at a local döner place that they frequent.  We enjoyed getting to know this sweet young couple and can sense we’ll be good friends through this experience. 

Well, that’s the week two highlights.  More to come as we adjust to living here in Germany.

Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, My Interests, Travel, Uncategorized

First Impressions: Germany Week 1

Exhaustion thy name is jet-lag!  I cannot recall when I have been more physically tired in my life than upon the day we landed in Germany.  We flew out on Monday Jan. 28th at noon from Oklahoma.  We landed at 8am Jan. 29th in Frankfurt, Germany.  However, to us it was more like 1am!  The Clarks met us at the airport to help us get our rental car and settled into our apartment for the week.  They encouraged us to NOT give in to the overwhelming desire to take a nap, but one by one we fell prey to this debilitating fatigue.  I believe someone could have performed surgery on any one of us without the threat of our awakening.  Truly this was awkward in many ways.  For one, we have never been to their home in Germany.  I was hoping my kids, as well as Lynn and I would give a polite and warming first impression.  But the luring weariness, just controlled us all.  Here I was excited to be in a new country and see my friends’ home for the first time and I simply laid out on her sofa and fell asleep!  When I awoke looking for Lynn, I went up to their third floor bedroom/office to find Bro. Walter studying at his desk while my husband was practically passed out across their bed!  I didn’t remember having this feeling when we went to Romania a few years ago, but it was the real deal now.

Our random greeter at the rental apartment we stayed in the first week.

That first evening we went to the Bible Study that they hold on Tuesday nights at the church.  We were all nervous but also excited to meet everyone.  Bro. Walter did a good job leading the Bible discussion, but I must be honest – I cannot even remember what the discussion was as the room was spinning while I struggled to stay awake.  At one point I thought I was falling out of my chair!  My only hope is that I was able to keep my eyelids open enough that nobody would notice! 

After dinner we went to a family’s home that were members of the church.  When they can, they hold a prayer meeting on Thursday evenings.  We were impressed with their sincerity and openness with the prayer time for their personal needs as well as the church needs.  They were all very welcoming and we enjoyed the fellowship after our prayer time.  This is where we were introduced to all that the Google Translator App can do!

The view from our little apartment. Yay for snow! Boo for parking, only allowed on one side of the street and usually full. We had to do a lot of walking that week.

  Driving was an intimidating concept to say the least.  Only Lynn was on the rental as a driver since we would only have this vehicle for the first week until the Clarks left for the States.  However, as I observed and learned the rules of the road along with him, I was overwhelmed.  There aren’t any stop signs over here, just turnabouts.  This is a good thing in my opinion as it keeps the traffic flowing.  However, there are many more pedestrians and bicycles than what we ever see in the States.  Our family joke has been repeating Bro. Walter when he told Lynn, “Watch out for the bikes and pedestrians.  They really frown upon hitting them over here.”  As if they don’t frown upon that back home.  But we understood what he meant, they have rights over here and are in more abundance over here than at home in Oklahoma.  So added to the observation of the driver is the roundabout rules, the yielding rules to the side roads on your right and the bikes and walkers.  This doesn’t even touch on the Autobahn and all the rules of that road.  you can practically feel the breeze as cars speed by at warp speed.  Believe me there are no problems with people dawdling in the left lane around here!

This guy was hanging on the wall at the Schnitzel restaurant making me feel guilty throughout my meal.

Schnitzel:  Walter and Dalene took Lynn and I into Heidelberg on night three.  By now, we were still tired, but able to function like normal humans.   This is where we tried Schnitzel for the first time.  Basically it’s chicken fried pork cutlet with any of 101 sauces over it.  The atmosphere was great, the company was great, the conversation totally enjoyable.  The schnitzel -meh.  I think it will have to grow on me.  I guess I have 100 more options to try before my final verdict, but so far, I do not care what Julie Andrews says, this is NOT one of my favorite things.  We walked around Heidelberg that evening and totally enjoyed the old European flair of this amazing city.  The castle was lit up above us on the hill and was awe inspiring to behold!  Lynn and I both felt like we were at an amusement park in the States that was built to look like we were in an old European city …but, no, it was real!

Heidelberg at night! The castle is so pretty all lit up!

This leads me to my next impression:

  Grocery Shopping:  Dalene took the girls and I into town to grocery shop on Friday.  We started with the bottle recycling area. 

Fun times recycling plastic bottles! Seriously, we need this back in the States.

Side note:  Germany is green extreme!  This is not a criticism, it’s an admirable thing.  The garbage isn’t even near the same as they recycle everything they can, so there are four trash bins, paper/plastic, compostable, glass, and then the “everything else” bin.  As good a thing as it is, I’ll admit, I suffered from a paralyzing fear of putting something in the wrong trash bin for the first week or so. 

Basic run of the mill garbage cans in Germany. Can you see why I got nervous?

Anyway, we were walked through the steps of taking plastic bottles to recycle so we could get credit on our groceries.  This wasn’t much different than when I was a little girl and we would take in our glass pop bottles to get dimes at the grocery store.  We were at the store for a couple of hours I’m sure as Dalene showed me the differences and how to find the things I’m used to finding.  This proved to be one of my biggest culture hurdles at first when I tried this on my own and felt lost and rushed.  Thankfully, that church members who introduced us to the camera feature on the Google Translate App saved my life as a shopper!   I can scan the shelves at the store and translate items so as to choose the right one.  It’s not 100%, but it sure is a life saver!  It still takes me a couple of hours to grocery shop, but some of that is my own dilly dallying around the store.

How Cool is this grocery cart feature! There’s a little extra shelf that flips out when needed. I could also see myself using this as a step stool #shortgirlproblems. As you can see all stores work like Aldi back in the States. You have to put a coin in to get your cart and you get it back when you return the cart. You also have to bring your own grocery bags/baskets or buy them from the store.

Bratwurst (brot vurst):  On Saturday of our first week, we went with the Clarks into downtown Mannheim.  It’s a bustling large city like most I’ve been to, so the size wasn’t too unfamiliar.  Of course it mixes the old with the new as some parts of the city or buildings are older than our own country!  It was here we tried our first pretzel on the street – oh so delicious! Then, for our first real German bratwurst. Of course I didn’t get pics because I was too busy stuffy my face. This too was delicious and large!  It was a delightful day navigating around this large metropolitan area.  Our favorite part was the marketplace that had stands with fresh cheeses, olives, flowers and the list goes on.  It was abuzz with people everywhere.  It was unfamiliar with the language barrier and trying to navigate a large city, but we felt at ease having the Clarks with us as guides.

Money:  We fast learned that people in Germany do most of their transacting with cash only.  Even Burger King!  This wouldn’t have been a big problem but that even though we had gone to our bank before ever leaving the U.S. to make sure our ATM card would work, we still ran into problems.  After a few emails with our bank’s fraud dept. things were set straight and we were able to access our accounts and navigate on our own without having to constantly trade money with our friends. 

Rhein River Baptist Church: Mannheim Germany

Church:  The whole reason we are here!  We went with the Clarks in the morning to a service of another missionary in town who holds his services all in German.  It was a good service, well as much as we could get out of it.  We did feel our novice status here as we were observers more than participators in the service. 

     However, in the afternoon at the service with the church for which we came to help, we were able to feel more at ease.  They share the same building as the church that holds the morning service, but minister to an entirely different demographic of people.  Rhein River Baptist Church is made up of an international group who all speak English due to their diverse backgrounds.  There are people from Brazil, Russia, the U.S., England and Africa all in one little body of believers. I love this diversity as it feels like a glimpse of Heaven to me!  Sometimes, in day to day life we get caught up with our own little part of the world and forget that we have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world!  I find it such an energizing feeling when I am able to meet people like this!  Of course this is also a relieving detail since Lynn doesn’t have to learn an entirely different language or work through an interpreter for this short 3-month stint as filling the pulpit. 

     Since it was also the first Sunday of the month, they have a time of pizza and fellowship after the service.  This was an enjoyable chance to get to know some of the members and chat for a while.

The Clark family. Our favorite Germany missionaries.

We felt like we were getting our land legs as the jet lag was subsiding and we were learning new things each and every day.  That one week felt like an entire month, but we were in for more as we approached the time of the Clarks leaving us for the States…

Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, Daily Musings, Life Lessons

Time-Out: Germany Intro.

Ready or not here we go!!

 Time – it’s always such a fleeting commodity in this life, especially when it isn’t managed well.  Now, that mine is slowing down for a short time, I can look back and see that more clearly.  Excuses are always abounding, I started working as the Pastoral Secretary at our church, it just kind of happened one day while I was filling in while our staff went through some changes.  Then, after a while it became a permanent thing.  It’s a blessing, and the timing was right, but being the part time secretary is a bit of an oxymoron at a bustling church like ours.  We have one of the busiest calendars in the land.  With that comes the people work, which usually is the heap of the time spent.  Paired with continuing to home school my kids and those same kids getting older and busier themselves, can lead to a full-on anxiety attack on any given day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the work, I mean, love it!  I get to sit in an office across from my husband’s office every day.  We have five ministers on staff, and I love every one of them!  I love their wives and the other part time staffers as well.  I mean, we have THE best staff in the land.  I would vacation with them all!  We work well together and even get frustrated well with each other.  The humor is never lacking in our office.  Even when I have a bad day, these guys know how to make me smile.  However, I still fall prey to mismanaging my time – often.  It’s a gift, or maybe a curse that I have.  My personality is bent towards spontaneity, which can be good when fun is to be had or I get a creative spurt that needs to be followed.  But day to day, it can get out of hand and that’s exactly where I’ve been this past year.  Anxiety city.  And then God….

He knows what we need, and he knows what we want, and he cares about them both!  Oh I’m not saying that we always get those things that we want, nor should we, but like any good parent (even better!) he allows for those wants when it works within his will.  That is exactly what he’s done for this family. 

Our time-out started back in July 2018.  Pastor walked in one day and stopped by at my desk.  “What do you think your husband would say if I asked your family to go to Germany for several months to fill in for our missionaries who need a furlough?” he asked.  “Yes! We’re there!” was my immediate response.  Of course I thought he was only joking at the time until he assured me, he was serious.  He went on to explain that the Clark family needed to come back to the states for several months.  They have one daughter graduating from Bible College over here, another who is ready to graduate her home school and is preparing to start college next year and he also needs to visit some supporting churches and new churches too while he’s here. However, he doesn’t have anyone who can take over the work he is in while he is gone.  Being the wanderlust side of this family I kind of figured that my spontaneous response would be met with a more practical view by my husband and there would probably be some reason why this would not be a good idea.  Not that he is a downer, it just seemed like a possibility that was far too awesome to actually happen.  Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when his initial reaction was an excited “Yes!” as well!  Of course, we still took time to pray about it, and there were plenty of excuses that would prevent this from happening, but here are the awesome reasons why both Lynn and I were on board so quickly:

  1.  Friends in Need:    We came to Central 21 years ago when the Clark family was just starting their internship.  We were both young couples excited about new ministry.  This led to a friendship that would span continents and time.  Dalene and I became fast friends.  They already had two girls, but we were pregnant at the same time with my now oldest, Katie and their third, Kyndall, (who are both going off to college this next year! Sniff sniff).  I still remember us with our babies at the airport seeing them off when they initially left for Germany.  We’ve always picked up where we left off, whenever they’ve been able to come back on furloughs.  Now, there was a legitimate need at this work they are in and we would be able, as friends and colleagues to be a help to them.  How awesome is that?!
  2. Answer to prayer for our son:  Just last summer, while our girls were away at camp and we had only our son at home, we had an emotional discussion with him about his sisters.  He was feeling a pressure and desire to be closer to our oldest but felt like he just didn’t connect with her due to the age difference among other things.  He was in tears just thinking about her going off to college in only one year and not getting that chance.  Just as we, as parents, were absorbing the idea that our family was on the brink of change with our kids growing up and leaving, Jarod, too, was rolling around these thoughts.  We encouraged him to pray about opportunity over this next year to grow closer as a family while we had the time.   Then, along comes an offer of just the 5 of us in Germany for three months!  What better way to grow closer as a family than through stepping out of all of our comfort zones together with no peers along for the ride or crazy work, school, youth group schedules to contend with?
  3. Opportunity for life decisions:  Our middle daughter, Megan, has wanted to be a missionary since she was a little girl.  Her hero as a child was Amy Carmichael, she even dressed like her one year for our fall festival.  However, last year, she read a book.  It was a good book, that was challenging teens to consider their futures.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  However, she seemed burdened by a statement by the author who challenged readers to reconsider their own desires and make sure it was God’s will – also, a good thing to do.  She seemed to be confused and burdened by this, though, wondering if she was just in love with the romantic idea of going to far off places as a missionary or if it was really God’s will for her.  Again, what better way to get a taste than to actually go on a mission trip, not for a week but for three months.  Getting to feel what it is like to be away from home, comfort zones, and all things familiar.  Yet, she gets a chance to do this with, at least, the comfort of her family with her and the knowledge that this is just a short-term commitment.  We’re praying that God will show her His desire for her during this time.
  4. Time with our oldest:  Just as our son was wrestling with the fact that our family dynamic is about to change, we have been wrestling too.  I absolutely love where we are right now with the ages of our kiddos.  We embarked on this parenting adventure knowing that we were raising them to send them out.  However, the fact of that time coming soon, weighs heavy on this momma’s heart.  I’m a bundle of conflicted emotions.  Excited to see where God will lead her and how He will use her and also heartbroken at the thought of missing her.  Not seeing her face daily, hearing her laughter, seeing what cool pictures she has drawn recently sitting on her bed listening to music, or even just enjoying a movie together or dinner time conversations.  It’s natural, it’s good…it’s heart achingly coming too soon!  I treasure the thought of 12 weeks to just huddle in close with my babies and absolutely absorbing each moment with them.
  5. My desires:  I have long wanted to be able to take my kids to see things in this world!  We’ve done the Disneyworld fun trips, but I have expressed multiple times how I’ve wanted to take them on a mission trip so that their eyes may affect their hearts.  We just haven’t had the opportunity.  The trips that Second Man and I have been blessed to go on were when it just wouldn’t be feasible to take our little ones along.   Not only missions work, but also, seeing some of the wonderful things in this great big world that God has created, has been my desire for my kids.  Well, here it is just plopped in our laps.  It isn’t the sole reason for accepting the call, but it sure was a fabulous extra!  What a blessing the leadership of our church has been as well.  When Pastor first posed this to the deacons of our church, one of the first questions was, “Will they get to do some traveling?”  This is so important.  Second Man is an extraordinarily hard worker and even hard on himself to be busy about God’s work.  He’s not a workaholic, but he is exceptionally careful with the stewardship of the ministry in which God has put him.  The assurance of our deacons and Pastor being behind the idea of us getting to use some time to travel while in Europe freed up his conscience to be able to do so.
  6. Reward:   This is a personal matter and small on the whole scale, but special to us, nonetheless.  We truly are hoping that we can consider it a reward for something personal to us, that I don’t even want to give detail about here.  However, we, as a family gave something up recently that was both enjoyable and a desire of ours.  We felt led out of conviction to give it up and it hasn’t been easy, both socially and personally.  I don’t give details, because it truly isn’t something that I would want others to think I am imposing on them or judging them about.  But I do believe in a God of rewards and can’t help but consider that maybe that would play a part in this.  I won’t truly know that until I reach Heaven and get to ask Him about it, but for now, I know that this is a blessing in our lives!
  7. Time:  The mere logistics of this trip lend a look at time.  Though Second Man will be preaching each week, leading a Bible study and discipling an individual who is a shut in, his schedule and mine are both extremely lightened while we are in Germany.  We need this.  We both need it physically, as stress due to schedules, extended family issues, and other life pressures has taken a small toll on the both of us.  I was diagnosed this past year with Rheumatoid Arthritis and am still trying to navigate my way in this new journey.  He has suffered from heart palpitations among other physical ailments that all tend to come from stress and…well…getting older.  We can’t deny that little tidbit, now can we?  We both plan to use this time to work on our physical, spiritual and mental health.  This is such a luxury that everyday normal life doesn’t always give us.  How blessed we are! 
  8. Opportunity to be used:  How honoring the thought that God can use us to help a missionary and to get minister to people in a foreign land.  How honoring the thought to do that even at home!  I never want to miss the opportunity to be used by God!  There is no great feeling in this world!

God’s just so good!  I can’t wait to see what He’s gonna do!

Posted in Life Lessons Disciplines of the Faith, Uncategorized

Checking 13 Bags of Crazy Thru to Bucharest part III: Worship

 

Worship

 

If you’re like me, when other people report on a mission trip I kind of tune out a little.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear about their experience. It’s just that it’s hard to enter into their excitement since I didn’t experience it myself.  I must have heard a few dozen times before this trip about how people in other countries have such authentic worship as compared to Americans.  But, how does one process that information if they are American?  Does that make me a fake because I’m an American?  Or does it make me somehow inferior?  I mean, I’m doing the best I know, so why am I being shamed?  That’s how, I usually feel anyway…just sayin.  But, truly that’s not my intention in writing down my experiences here.  Oh, it is much different in Romania that is for sure.  But, so is the entire culture, so to say they are better than us isn’t really my point. They’re just different.  I’m pretty sure there are people in Romania who just show up to church, or who don’t come ready with hearts prepared to worship, just like here in America.   I do propose, though, that the number of those people is much fewer and I will explain why later, but what I’m trying to say is that not everyone there is a super Christian, just the same as here.  Some go to clear their conscience, some to please someone else, or some, because they are lonely or outcast, or curious.  But those who come ready, and prepared are definitely apparent and boy was it amazing to witness. Was I blessed and inspired?  Oh yes…immensely.  Has it changed my worship and views of church?  Hmmm, maybe some, but honestly, I’ve been trying to be authentic for years now.  Some years and days are better than others, and I’m sure I fall prey to the American trap of soft and non-sacrificial worship.   I believe with all of my heart though, I’ve been challenged to grow and move forward with walls down and roof off.  So, without judgments or offenses I give to you Romanian worship.

Our Group in front of the Rogova church/feeding center
Our Group in front of the Rogova church/feeding center

Saturday P.M.

Our first Service was at the church in a little village called Rogova, where our feeding center is located.  We arrived early to take a tour of the building, which housed the church and feeding center all in one.  The building itself has quite a history.  The Soviet Army used it for communist propaganda during WWII, then it went through different phases of being a movie house, a nightclub/disco and more.  At one time there was thought to be a ghost and the people of the town said that only the “Repenters” (their name for Baptist Christians which is meant to be derogatory, but I think is great!) could claim this building for good!  The church had been meeting in a small meeting room for a while, but after a group of teens from Kentucky had visited the ball got rolling and God provided in amazing ways for them to acquire this building.  I was so excited that our church had gotten to be a part of this building acquisition and reclaiming for the Lord.

Before the services started, Pastor Rica offered to take us on a walk around the village.  It was more like a stroll or even maybe a saunter, for we walked slowly and as we walked people came running out to greet Pastor Rica (even people who weren’t members of the church!).  Children joined us, and villagers greeted us.

Pastor Rica with friend Mac (who first brought him to Rogova) and a village boy
Pastor Rica with friend Mac (who first brought him to Rogova) and a village boy

 

Most of the properties are the same set up with a house, small yard and a wall around the property.  Many have benches setting outside of the front gates that they sit on in the evening and greet their neighbors.  The roads were dirt and pocked throughout.  There were the occasional “leftovers” from the flocks that were herded through town in the evening, so we had to watch our steps.  As we rounded one corner we saw the village water well, where they still came to get their water for some of the houses.  That itself is a sad topic, because most of the villagers had kidney problems from the well water.  Filtering could get rid of bacteria, but there is a problem with chemicals leaching into the rocks in this area and that cannot be filtered out.  It’s just a fact of life that they will have to deal with kidney problems as they grow.  Poor as they were, my most beautiful impression of this entire country is that they all try to make their space as beautiful as possible.  Geraniums were everywhere!  I guess I’ve always had an appeal for geraniums, so it really stood out to me.   Other flowers were used as well to try and bring some beauty to their little neck of the woods.

Geraniums!
Geraniums!

Village water well in Rogova
Village water well in Rogova

This part of their beauty was heart warming, however, what was sad was when we rounded the corner where the Orthodox Church stood.  Majestic and mighty, gilded and beautiful, it was a pillar of false doctrine and thievery.  I grieved the lies that were preached as the “church” used up all of the money.  Small idol centers were a staple item along roadways in many villages throughout the country.  It was a place people go and light a candle and pray to a dead “saint” trying to appease this false idea of who God is and what He requires.  Yet, as we continued our walkabout, and people flocked to Pastor Rica, I was heartened by what he represented to them…TRUTH!  He preaches a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  With the Bible as authority (not man or priest), He teaches them the truth that through this personal relationship with Christ we can be forgiven and set free from sin.  We serve a risen Savior and a living God who cares about them where they are (more to come on this).

 

Chippy and friend who followed us around on our walk through Rogova
Chippy and friend who followed us around on our walk through Rogova

 

The Orthodox Church in Rogova
The Orthodox Church in Rogova

 

 

Faces of Rogova
Faces of Rogova

As we arrived back at the church, people were beginning to gather for services.  2nd man was getting the honor and privilege to preach at the three services we would be attending and he took this privilege seriously and humbly, so we were anxious to get started.  Inside the building I started taking some pictures as people allowed.  I am still in debt to them in that I need to get them developed and mailed back, as they love to have a copy or see their pictures.  I kept a small journal with me throughout the trip and especially during services I’d jot down observations such as these:

 

“I don’t understand a word, but the people are so loving and attentive.”

“The service:  starts with singing

Rogova congregation
Rogova congregation

  • –     a gentleman from the congregation brings a small devotion
  • –     the natives around me (kids and teens) are restless in the back of the room…at least the young ones
  • –     The little boy next to me on his sister’s lap whispers something I cannot understand. His sister says in broken English ‘he says you are angel’ um tear!
  • –     There was no room by our group to sit, so I ended up in the middle of all of these kids! Love it!”
  • –     After the devotion was prayer time. Started with a young boy about Jarod’s age (8yrs) and then one at a time others would just stand up and pray. No hesitation or coaxing, just fervent sincere prayers!”

My little friend who said, "You are angel!"
My little friend who said, “You are angel!”

  • –     The group behind me came tonight, probably to see the American visitors. They were restless and kind of noisy, I’m sure it’s a process to teach them to behave in church. The girl in front of me opens a candy bar and water and the little ones flock to her like ducks right in the middle of service!
  • –     When the little ones next to me were talking during preaching the woman to my left reached right over me and whacked them with her paper fan! She paid no mind to my being there…too funny!!
  • –     After the prayer time the mandolin band played. I love this music! It’s kind of like Euro bluegrass. Sounded like Fiddler on the Roof…without the fiddler….mandolins instead…never mind. 

    New friends in Rogova
    New friends in Rogova
  • Jerry Abbot gave intros. Of the American group
  • –     Kyliegh Garza played piano and then her mom, Connie, gave her testimony of how God provided them the way to make the trip. She was visibly nervous at first, but pulled it together and did a perfect job!
  • –     A woman’s group sang for us after that
  • –     Then 2nd man got up to preach with an interpreter or as he called it, and interrupterAfter the service a trio of Muslim teenage boys approached 2 Man and one in particular asked him some pointed questions about his claims that God cares. 2nd man took the opportunity to graciously answer their questions the best he could and you could see their countenances begin to soften as he talked to them with tenderness and not defensiveness. After about 15 or 20 minutes, they left with plenty to think about.

    2nd Man talking with some teen boys in Rogova
    2nd Man talking with some teen boys in Rogova
  •       We waited for a few minutes as the shepherds drove their sheep into town after a days grazing and the loaded on the bus back to Severin.
  • He preached from II Kings 6 about the story of Elisha and the floating ax head with his main points being that God cares for you. He cares about the big and the little things and He doesn’t want us to worry. That’s pretty simplified, but He’s the eloquent one in the family.”

 

Waiting for the herd to pass before getting back on the bus in Rogova
Waiting for the herd to pass before getting back on the bus in Rogova

 

Sunday A.M.:

Services in Severin Sunday morning started out much the same way as in Rogova.  Severin was the city church that we had first seen when we arrived.  The gentleman who gave the morning devotional gave it on 2. Cor. 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  I didn’t understand a word, but boy could that man preach with passion!  Afterwards the prayer service and music services proceeded much like in the Rogova church.  Bro. Sammy Ciupuliga worked hard in preparation for our arrival and it was evident in the music service.  The mandolin group along with others who weren’t there the night before played beautifully!  They even surprised us by playing our national anthem!  They are a very musically talented group and practically had a cantata ending with “To God be The Glory.”

2nd Man preaching in Severin
2nd Man preaching in Severin

2nd man then preached from Isaiah 6 about God’s core attribute of holiness.  It was a well put together sermon that he gave flawlessly with the help of Bro. Sammy.  They worked well together and really got into a rhythm.  The congregation was a responsive group with many who spoke out “Amen!” (Pronounced, a mean)

 

Morning Devotion time in Severin church
Morning Devotion time in Severin church

Most of the people in this church, though wealthier than the village people, walked to and from church.  As they left that day, they went through a line of us giving handshakes and expressing the word “Pace” (pronounced pacha) which means Peace.  It was a word that under communist rule would let them know who was a believer without getting caught.  It stuck and to this day the believers greet each other with this expression.  There was a gypsy woman who has been attending lately and she just all out grabbed my face and kissed both sides!

 

Lupsa Church
Lupsa Church

Sunday P.M.

After eating lunch at the church we loaded up in the bus to head to our next church service.  Well, let me back up first.  A few of our ladies had to get something ( I don’t even know what) from the grocery and asked if they could walk over before we left.  They hadn’t returned when we needed to leave so we drove the bus over to the store to try and find them.  There had been some sort of mix up with money and communication and it held them up.  So, 2nd Man, Brother Abbot and Pastor Rica all went in to try and find the ladies.  As they all returned to the bus I was giggling as the men surrounded these ladies and looked just like the shepherds that had herded their sheep into town the night before.  So, then, we headed to our next service. This was a bumpy 1-½ hour drive into the small mountain village of Lupsa.  This village was composed of about 400 people and was where Pastor Rica and his wife Cathy had grown up.  The church is located upstairs from a small Manna feeding center nestled into a hill and surrounded by dogs, chickens, ducks and even bee hives.  Pastor Rica’s own mother lives in a tiny apartment in the back of this building with just a bed, and small bathroom that takes buckets of water to flush down the toilet.  Such humble living.

The congregation in Lupsa
The congregation in Lupsa

The ladies all showed up with scarved heads greeting us much he same way as the other two churches with warmth and expressions of “Pace.”  The spirit was incredibly welcoming and casual.  I was stupidly out of place in that I hadn’t had time to change into flat shoes and stumbled my way up the hill into the church.

It was hot.  No other way to put it.  People in Romania just don’t have or use air conditioning and especially in a little remote church such as this one.  The room that was the church was about 25’ x 25’ in size with a patio out in front of it.  The Mandolin band had traveled with us to this service and set up outside on the patio.  They were delayed in their playing a bit because of the humidity in the air that affected their strings.  Two little girls who stood in front of us to sing touched me.  The younger one in particular was exceptionally talented in her singing.  Here they live in some remote forgotten village corner of the world, but yet they praise Him in their song.

The ladies and men from the congregation did much like the other churches in praying, but they also stood and read a scripture or sang a song or read a poem or gave a testimony from their week.  It was so moving even though we couldn’t understand them.  The singing was beautiful and the idea that a precious village lady who didn’t know much about the outside world, knew enough to stand and read poetry about the Lord!  It was convicting in the sense that we are, as Americans, emotionally handicapped in our praise, either leaning too heavy on feelings or not feeling at all.  This was genuine praise stripped down and raw, and real.

As I sat taking it all in, I was caught up in the whole environment.  As 2nd man preached, he was accompanied by clucking and quacking and rooster crows, I was soaking, soaking, soaking it all in.  A couple of hours later the services were all over.

A little piece of beauty
A little piece of beauty

No, people in other countries aren’t necessarily better than us and I’m not trying to shame anyone.  The truth is we do tend to get caught up in our soft living and mighty pride over here in America.  But, I do believe that we can learn much from our brothers and sisters in Christ who have faced harder times than we.  You see, while Romania was under communist rule until the late 80s people had no options of riding the fence in their Christianity.  You were either in or out, the choice had to be made, for the risk was great.  Risk breeds commitment and we just don’t face that here…yet.  Oh I don’t want to face risk any more than the next person, but I do want to learn what I can from a people who have faced the risk and blessedly come through!

 

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Checking 13 Bags of Crazy Thru to Bucharest Part II: Our Hosts

 

Our Hosts

The view out of our hotel window our first morning in Romania
The view out of our hotel window our first morning in Romania

  As we awakened to morning in Romania, we were greeted with the honking of cars down on the streets, a cool breeze from the open window and the neat realization that my hair appliances were not going to be working on this trip.  Before you think I’m too much of a traveling rookie, I must say that I did try to prepare for this.  I bought a converter and adapter before we even left the states.  Then, just days before leaving I read the instructions only to be alerted to the fact that it was NOT to be used with hair appliances.  Instead it was only good for small gadgets like cameras.  Well my thought on this is phthttttttt!  I don’t want to use my camera for pictures if I can’t do my hair!  Hello!  It’s not that I’m ultra vain, but I was born with naturally frizzy hair…and a lot of it.  Not pretty curls, and not smooth and straight.  It is the main reason, that I could never be on a reality show like Survivor, that and I get hangry if I don’t eat. They’d tell me to bring one thing I needed if stranded on an island and I’d be there with a straightener and no plug in sight.  Anyway, my plan was to just buy one when we landed because we originally were going to go to a supermarket for supplies.  However, with the flight fiascos, I thought I’d be smart and just buy one in the London airport while we were on our layover.  Pretty smart huh?  I’ll admit I was pretty pleased with myself for thinking ahead.  Yet, to my chagrin, the plug for England doesn’t fit the receptacles in Romania, go figure.  So, I spent the morning knocking on doors asking our group if they had anything with which I could do my hair.  I did borrow a hair dryer from Tammy and Laura Kleinmann, and as I’m writing this I’m remembering that I need to go buy a new one for these ladies as I blew theirs up trying to use it with …you guessed it, my converter.

See...the hair don't lie!
See…the hair don’t lie!

On a deeper note, we made our first stop at an orphanage that Manna is now constructing.  The construction and vision for it was originally that of a widow woman from the U.S. who had moved to Romania to start an orphanage. She had already helped start it before the building of this facility.  Some, who are still in the care of the orphanage, are adults with special needs.    She, unfortunately, ran into some health and then financial obstacles that prevented her from finishing the project, so she passed it along to Manna Worldwide.  It is going to be an amazing facility when finished.  Their model for orphanages is called Bridge to Life homes where they have a married couple raise the kids as their own in a family setting.  This way it is not a dormitory, uncaring, or impersonal atmosphere, but rather a close knit family unit functioning with responsibilities and raising of kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There will be enough space for four family units to live in this facility with quite a few kids per unit.  My only regret is that we didn’t get to meet the young people who will initially get to live in this building due to time constraints and our late landing and altered schedule.

The future Bridge to Life home in Campulung
The future Bridge to Life home in Campulung

Praying for the future of this Bridge to Life home
Praying for the future of this Bridge to Life home

 

Hearing the story behind the vision.
Hearing the story behind the vision.

After touring the home we loaded back into the bus for a five-hour drive to Severin, the home of Pastor Rica and his family.  Pastor Rica, we noticed was a passionate and thankful man.  Just moments into meeting him I realized, “oh we’ve got a hugger here!”   He hugged 2nd Man probably a dozen times before we even got to his home.  He definitely knew how to make a group feel welcomed.    Upon arrival we were greeted at the church with a church tour and home cooked meal that was amazing!  The church construction was only finished this past April of 2014.  They had gotten the plans from our own church back in Ponca City, OK and adapted them to fit their needs.  It was so warming to see this church with so many similarities to our own and know that we had gotten to be a part of the planning of this building.

Pastor Rica arm in arm with 2nd Man
Pastor Rica arm in arm with 2nd Man

 

One of our fabulous dinners served by the tireless people at the church in Severin
One of our fabulous dinners served by the tireless people at the church in Severin

 

The new church in Severin!
The new church in Severin!

 

A view inside the sanctuary
A view inside the sanctuary

 

Another sanctuary view
Another sanctuary view

At dinner we were informed that our leader, Manna Director Jerry Abbott, as well as 2nd Man and myself would be staying at the home of the Gonciulea’s and the Ciupuligas.  My initial thought was, “oh no!”  I mean, it was kind and generous of them, but my private shy side sometimes gets panicked in these situations, as well as my private want-my-own-bathroom side.  However, we were here to serve and I quickly dismissed my hesitations and decided to roll with it.  Imagine my glee when we rolled up to their house to find a huge, western world style home that allowed 2nd Man and I to have our own basement suite complete with private bathroom!  Now, let me give some background on how these missionaries were blessed with these accommodations.  I assure you it is not because they’re just rolling in the dough.  While they lived in the states they were blessed with a beautiful home and were able to bring over the plans to Romania when they moved back.  Apparently the construction workers weren’t adept enough to do the English to metric conversions correctly and they ended up with a much larger house than the original plans called for.  This worked greatly in their ministry’s favor for the first fourteen years of being back in Romania, as the church used the great room as their church sanctuary and the basement for children’s’ ministries.  As a matter of fact, they had only just finished redecorating and getting their American furniture out of storage before we came.  It is pretty expensive to even get an apartment in Severin, so their Son-in-law Sammy, daughter Becky, and grandson Sammy all live there comfortably as well.  What a blessing!

 

The missionaries' house
The missionaries’ house

A view into the great room that formerly served as the church sanctuary.
A view into the great room that formerly served as the church sanctuary.

 

The "suite" that 2nd Man and I stayed in. (please pardon the luggage strewn across the side of the picture. I'm not a very neat traveler)
The “suite” that 2nd Man and I stayed in. (please pardon the luggage strewn across the side of the picture. I’m not a very neat traveler)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were such hospitable people too. We were treated so well and enjoyed some wonderful conversation.  I likened it to staying at the home of Jesus.  I actually felt kind of guilty though in that we weren’t exactly suffering for the cause if ya know what I mean, that and the rest of our group was staying at the local hotel.  I was later relieved to know that the hotel was quite nice and comfortable for them.  They came over in the mornings on the bus after breakfast to meet up with us and go out for the day.  But, best of all (well ok best is an exaggeration but roll with it) they had a hair straightener and blow dryer I could borrow!  Yea me!

The Hotel Flora where our group stayed.
The Hotel Flora where our group stayed.

We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast every morning with eggs, and cheeses, salami and home jarred current and sour cherry jams on fresh bread bought daily.  I was sure I would not go home hungry.  Pastor Rica enjoys gardening.  That sounds like a pretty generic sentence in context with the degree to which he actually enjoys it.  Though they are in the city limits they have an entire orchard in their backyard with plum, apricot, cherry, and peach trees.  Along with a garden full of tomatoes, eggplant, blackberries, raspberries and a farmers market full of other things.  We were privileged to eat of his harvest and it was fabulous!  2nd man and I strolled through the garden one evening with Pastor Rica as he kept shoving berries into our hands.  I would just get my mouth wiped and here came more!  Gotta love a man who keeps shoving sugar in your grip right?

 

A view of Pastor Rica's orchard
A view of Pastor Rica’s orchard

Truly God has blessed this family for their great sacrifices.  I don’t dare presume that it isn’t without it difficulties.  They, however, don’t choose to share those readily and those of which I am aware aren’t mine to share.

But, suffice it to say, we were humbled and honored to share their home and company for the short time we were there.

 

In my next post I’ll share the joys of the church services we experienced…

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Checking 13 Bags of Crazy Thru to Bucharest

 

 

2nd Man and I at the banks of the Danube River
2nd Man and I at the banks of the Danube River

We took a little jaunt over the pond to Romania this summer. It was a mission’s trip for our church to visit a feeding center we sponsor via Manna Worldwide I say it all casually, but truly it was the first time I had technically been out of the country and I was excited out of my socks! When Pastor told 2nd Man he would be heading up the trip and I could go along, I was thrilled and honored. One of my biggest joys is to see things I’ve never seen before.

One of my other joys is reading biographies. In the past several years I had read the biography of Richard Wurmbrandt who started an organization called Voice of the Martyrs and others like him. He told of his time imprisoned in Romania under communist rule and his escape from the country after his release. It struck a curiosity in me as to what life must have been like behind the iron curtain (and still is like in some parts of the world).

Pastor Rica and Cathy Gonciulea
Pastor Rica and Cathy Gonciulea

The missionary we were visiting, Rica Sever Gonciulea and his wife Cathy had a similar story in their escape across the Danube River into Serbia, and making their way to the United States. They didn’t get to see their children for three years, before they could get them over to the states as well! You can see The Gonciulea’s story here. However, what is even more impressive is that they don’t just readily offer up this information about themselves, but live for now and the future in winning souls to Christ, feeding and teaching underprivileged children and helping get orphaned children off of the streets. They are so humble in fact, it is a bit intimidating to be in their presence. Serving alongside their daughter and son-in-law the Ciupuligas they are a worthy foe for the enemy.

Rebeca, Sammy and  little Sammy Ciupuliga
Rebeca, Sammy and little Sammy Ciupuliga

 

A lot happened on this trip, so I think I will break it up into parts so as to cover all of my thoughts. So here is part one:

Getting There

We showed up at the church on time and all was looking pretty clear for our departure. Everyone was in good spirits and seemed rested up and ready. Our motley troupe of travelers consisted of; 2nd man and myself; one of the secretaries, Miss Lynne; a mother and teen daughter duo, Tammy and Laura; another mom and her two teens Cynthia, Carissa and Karston; a couple of other ladies, Judy and Suzette; a single lady from a sister church in town, Michelle; and another mom and her 8 year old daughter, Connie and Kyleigh. If you were able to follow, that was 10 women, a little girl, a teen boy, and 2nd man. Pretty heavy on the estrogen this group was.

Our Three Amigos: Judy, Lynne and Suzette caffeinated and ready to travel!
Our Three Amigos: Judy, Lynne and Suzette caffeinated and ready to travel!

 

I’ll take this moment to put in a disclaimer that I truly do love everyone that went on this trip. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and I’d never want to displease Him or hurt them. Any views of frustration or annoyance are meant in good humor and this is my story. I’m very sure I was the source of frustration to others as well, but they can write that story.

2nd man had tried to prepare us all ahead of time, knowing that large groups of women, with little male presence, could sometimes boil into trouble. Mix that with at least four (maybe 5) of which are strong choleric personalities. No offense to the cholerics out there, just a fact that it’s a strong personality type. Then mix that with us melancholies on the trip…well let’s just say that the word for this trip was FLEXIBILITY. However, his reminders to “die to self” and be flexible were well taken and well applied, as we soon would find out. I had suggested that we get shirts that said “It’s a good day to die!…to self” but we decided that was probably not a good idea when traveling through security at the airports.

 

2nd Man trying to figure how to check 13 bags of crazy onto the plane
2nd Man trying to figure how to check 13 bags of crazy onto the plane

When we arrived at the airport our little motto of flexibility was instantly put into high gear. We were supposed to be allowed to have two checked bags each since we were a humanitarian group taking shoes and other activities to children overseas. Well, the first airline that we checked in with didn’t get that memo and we ended up paying $1200.00 to get those shoes and bags over there! 2nd man did a primo job at assuaging the initial frustrations and working with the airlines to sort it out. Then, while checking in our bags one in our troupe had packed everything including a kitchen sink I think, so we had to disperse some of her belongings throughout everyone else’s. It was an eye rolling moment that we soon found out would be the least of our worries.

We got through security rather well and were on our way to the gate where we were welcomed with the news that our flight was cancelled! Not delayed, but all out cancelled. As we stood in line to get our schedules rearranged the airline attendant announced that we could call an 800 number to talk to someone directly with the airline that could help us. Since we had a large group we initially thought this was a good idea. Immediately one of the ladies started dialing right alongside of 2nd man. Now this was amusing to me since 2nd man was the leader. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking, so I tried to politely say aloud to 2nd man “don’t you think we should only have one person calling? That way we won’t be doing any double booking?” She didn’t take the hint. Finally, 2nd man realized that she had the need to make this call so he conceded and let her talk to the person on the line since she got through a little faster than he. However, this proved futile as the airline worker had to make different flight arrangements for each person in our group individually. They had, at one point, our resident 8 year old, flying separately from her mom! I was a little appalled and would like to take this moment to suggest to American Airlines that they get a better “group travel” reservation set up. After going through all of this rigmarole, we had to rebook everything one at a time AGAIN with the airline worker on site, so the whole phone call thing was in vain anyway.

After 7 hours of this nonsense everyone was on his or her way to Chicago. We were split up onto two different flights, but we were on our way. We were actually excited though, because it looked like we would get a 7-hour layover in London and maybe go see some sights. However, that dream was crushed when we arrived in Chicago, ran through the airport (which is quite large I might add) only to find out that our flight to London was now delayed as well. Boo! I had a glimmer of hope that maybe the two ladies that had been separated from us could now get on board the same flight to London, but that would not happen either, so we all hurried up to sit down again until the flight left.

Our Route to London
Our Route to London

 

A little side note on international flying in coach class if you’ve never done it: For some inhumane reason, the airlines walk you through the first and business class sections of “spread out and prepare to be pampered” before sitting you back in the cattle car area of the plane. This is cruel and unusual punishment for the middle class person in my opinion. Keep in mind I’m only 5’2”. However, I was in the middle of the middle section of the plane and thought I was gonna crawl out of my skin. There was no seeing Greenland, or Ireland as we flew over. There was no getting up and walking around the cabin because everyone around me was asleep! Only one other time have I felt claustrophobic and that was in a cave deep in the earth, but I digress.

The Cattle Car
The Cattle Car

 

We did get the privilege of having a layover in London’s Heathrow Airport. It is known as the largest airport in the world. Of course the layover wasn’t long enough to go have tea with Princess Kate, but we at least had time to do some fabulous people watching and a little shopping too. You know, to buy stuff in a gift shop that has places you didn’t actually get to go see. There were people from every nationality on the globe at this airport. Security was filled with a mass of humanity. There were as many security lines as there are cash registers at Wal-Mart. With the difference being that all the lines were open! They were busy and thorough. A couple of our group got the full pat down privilege and a full check of carry on luggage items with some confiscations to follow. This was just kind of humorous to me, but I’m sure they didn’t like it.

After getting everyone through the corral we were able to find a spot to impose squatters rights and made a home base. From there we chose to rest, text or shop for the next five hours.

Claiming squatters rights in London's Heathrow Airport
Claiming squatters rights in London’s Heathrow Airport

Finally, our flight to Bucharest, Romania was at hand and our group was all together! As we got closer to our gate filled with passengers who were mostly Romanian themselves, the language barrier started to take affect. In fact, the woman I sat next to didn’t know a lick of English. Well, that or she just didn’t want to talk to me (which is quite possibly true). Anyway, cultural reality started to set in and we were on our way. This flight was, thankfully uneventful, but late late late. We landed in Bucharest around…well…sometime around dark thirty. We met up with others who would be part of our group for the next 6 or 7 days; three people from Manna, Jerry, Curt and Beverly; A couple from Albuquerque NM, Sarah and JJ; and a college student from Arkansas, Courtney. Our missionary, Pastor Gonciulea, was also with the group.

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What I had missed in the memo was that we still had a three or four hour bus ride through remote villages to the city where we would stay for the night! We finally made it to our first destination and got into a small twin sized bed around 4:30 am. Ahh sweet rest!

Tiny European hotel rooms

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The Cookie

There are some days when I look at my kids and ask myself, “Who are these people?”  I know it sounds odd, but truly it’s my aim, my goal, my purpose in life to mold these three precious lives into characters unrecognizable to my flawed self.   When 2nd Man and I pray for them, he often says something to the effect of them standing on his shoulders and using us as a springboard to go further in their lives, namely their spiritual lives.  It is truly why I stay at home and…well…ahem…don’t work (said as I stuff a bon-bon in my mouth and change the television channel.  Just kidding, I don’t eat my bon-bons in front of the TV).  Seriously, though, we do have very high hopes for our children’s’ spiritual walks and their lives in general as well.

Now, that sounded pretty highfalutin and noble didn’t it?  But, the little things these kids do even amaze me sometimes.  Take for instance the cookies Jarod got at a restaurant the other night.  We took some missionaries out for dinner after Sunday evening church.  It was probably 7:30 when we went and we didn’t get out of there until almost 10:00!  But that’s probably another blog post about the poor service industry of our town.  Anyway, with it being so late, we had him wait to eat the cookies until Monday.  I told him he could have them as a snack since it was the first day of school.   Now, before I tell you what happened let me preface this by saying,

s70cookies

 

these two cookies which look very much like this picture,were only the size of dollar coins, they were not those big ‘ol honkin kind.  So I was shocked when he looked at me and said, “I’ll just have one.”  What?  WHO DOES THAT?!

I responded coolly though, so he wouldn’t catch on to my shock.  When he asked what to do with the other one I told him to set it on a napkin on the kitchen table and he could have it later if he wanted it. As I walked by it all day long I kept sniffing and thinking, “man, I could down that in single chew.”  If you’re wondering – no, I didn’t eat my kid’s cookie.

Later, though, as I was doing dishes and pondering the oddity of one of my offspring having such self discipline I went down my panic road thinking, “Oh no, he’s going to be one of those no hormone, no sympathy smart- alecks who respond to diet articles with quips like ‘It’s easy all you fat people, just eat healthy food and stop shoving sugar in your mouth!’ or something completely insensitive like that.”  I usually save this kind of momma panic for when one of my children misbehave and I send them down the aimless road to living in the gutter in my mind.

When I told 2nd man about it he didn’t think anything of it.  “You’re not alarmed?” I pressed. “No, this is a good thing you know,” he said.  “But how does a person do that? I mean, how does a person eat only one dollar sized cookie and think that’s enough?  I think it’s weird. Do you think he’s sick?”  2nd man really wasn’t amused.  “You know honey, it’s called self-discipline.”  “Our seven year old son – self disciplined?  Nah.” I said as images of this same boy yelling, jumping, and swinging from stairway posts in the church gym by a rope flashed through my mind.  “Well, maybe at least in one area he’s becoming disciplined.” 2nd man replied.

I guess he’s right.  It is a good thing.  Unfortunately, I think my girls were born with momma’s hungry hormones.  Hopefully, they’ll learn from little brother in this area.  Hopefully, I’ll learn from their little brother in this area.

Posted in Daily Musings, Life Lessons, Parenting

No Sarcasm Saturday

I’ve found it!    What, you ask? The secret to building up your savings account? The cure for cancer?  The gumption to train and complete a marathon? Oh no my dear friends that’s all cupcakes and fluff.  I’m talking about THE most difficult self-imposed discipline outside of diet and exercise…No Sarcasm Saturday.   I know, I know this raises many more questions like “what on earth would motivate you to do such a thing?” or “Why?” or even “How long did you make it?”  All in good time my dear friends.  First let me give you a little background.   It all started way backlast week sometime.  I was trying to watch one of my favorite HGTV shows called “ Love it or List it”.  However, during the show one of my children (who shall remain nameless for her, his, ahem it’s protection) was just deriding these poor people on the show.  I found myself getting more irritated by the moment.  This child sounded so mean, so hateful, so judgmental and uh…so much like me!  Sarcasm is one of our main sources of humor in this family.  2nd man and I love watching Food Network, HGTV or even ESPN shows and totally deriding the logic behind which most of the decisions are made.  Truly, this is just a coping strategy for our own lusty jealousy.  Hmmm do I want the brand new house with five bathrooms and all new appliances that is $100,000 over budget or do I want to stay in my mid-century “bungalow” with it’s outdated electrical system, bowing floors and cracked foundation without a dishwasher?  Ah the decisions people must face.  It’s sad really.  We watch and shoot out scathing remarks about how materialistic our society is and how there are people starving in other countries living on floating shacks along rivers (funny though, they still have smartphones and reception –true story I saw it on TV too).  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, the degradation of our American society.  Like I said, I’m basically just jealous and get a kick out of the whole process. However, listening to my own kid doing the same thing sounded so harsh and critical.  I went from being irritated to being strongly convicted.  She/he sounded like a bully on a playground.  If I had caught him/her doing this to someone face-to-face I would be mortified and then I’d lay into him or her about apologizing and how we don’t treat others this way.  I’d probably go into how that person is one of God’s creations and therefore we have no right to be so critical.  All of this is true.  However, somehow people don’t seem as real to us if they’re on TV so a freedom of expression gets exercised regularly. We’re sarcastic with each other as well.  I’d say 95% of it is truly meant in good fun and humor.  However, there are those days when someone gets their feelings hurt.  But, mostly it’s how we relate to each other in a humor filled way.  2nd man and I often find ourselves even having the same sarcastic thoughts about different situations.  But, as a friend of mine explained to me, it can all be taken and given in different spirits depending on the people involved, so sarcasm must be handled delicately.  For instance she is a choleric personality and tends to go from humorous to critical in a quickly falling landslide; whereas her husband, who is very sanguine, keeps it on the light and humorous quite easily.   This made a lot of sense to me.  I know there’s a lot of debate about the validity of the whole personality thing, but I’m a believer in how it plays out in people’s lives.  My choleric child sounded scathing and harsh, but my own sanguine/melancholy personality keeps it on the humorous or sometimes overly-sensitive side.   So, with all of that said, I approached 2nd Man and told him I thought we should have a “no sarcasm day.”  He thought it was a good idea, but didn’t do anything about it immediately.  Then, Friday evening at the dinner table I made some kind of sarcastic remark and he pounced.  “Your mother and I have been talking about something lately, kids.”  He said.  To which thy replied, “are we in trouble?”  “No,” he said, “but we’re going to try to have a No Sarcasm Saturday tomorrow.”  Our oldest was instantly worried. “But it’s outreach day at church and, well, we teens speak in sarcasm.”  “I understand that.”  Replied 2nd Man, “but we’ll have to make do the best we can.”  We determined that everyone would start out with 100 points and the person with the most points left will get a dessert treat of their choice at a special place on our vacation in a month. I have to be honest here.  It was hard.  I woke up with much trepidation, scared to enter public with my family, wondering how ashamed I might be.  But, overall it was a good experience.  I caught myself having sarcastic thoughts all day long.  The hardest part of the day was going to Wal-Mart (did I mention we did this on a Saturday?)  I was never so thankful to go to the grocery store ALONE.  Even in the parking lot where Honey Boo boo’s mother’s look-alike about rammed my car to get a space she thought I was going to get to first. (You must understand how hard it was to even write that last sentence.  I had to wait a day so as not to get docked points.)  We had one daughter who tried hard, but was honest when caught.  Daughter number two kept docking herself and was about out of points when we confirmed that you had to be caught by someone else, and then our youngest son didn’t quite ever get the concept of what sarcasm even is.   However, it was a good exercise in discipline and learning to be kind.  We really didn’t have a winner at the end of the day.   We’ve actually decided to do it again perhaps next week.  I’ll confess I’m not willing to give up this form of humor for a lifetime – I don’t think that’s possible.  However, temperance is never a bad thing, so I’ll take it one challenging Saturday at a time for now.  

Posted in Decorating, My Interests, Uncategorized

A Summer of Weddings Part II

 

 

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Ok, so it’s been a year – yes a full year since my summer of weddings. That summer turned into a year and six weddings later with a 7th on the way. I’m not sure how this all came about, but for now I’m going with it. For memory’s sake though, I’d like to look at wedding number two from last summer. My second wedding happened to be the wedding of our Pastor’s second son. This was the day of  Sam Waterloo and Sarah Graham.
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Back when 2nd man and I first came to OK, I taught 5th/6th grades at the local Christian school. That’s when I first experienced Sam Waterloo. The quirky, ultra-polite, pleaser son in the Waterloo clan. He was a treasure for sure. The school shut down as he was going into 6th grade and I was soon to have our first child, so I home schooled Sam that next year. I’m pretty sure it was the most excruciating year for this people pleasing kid who had to sit through the hormonal pitfalls that accompany new moms. I remember someone coming to the door one day and I had to put Katie down somewhere. “Here Sam, can you hold her a minute?” I asked quickly. His response went something like, “uh, uh, ooh, oh, um…” “nevermind Sam.” I put the crying child in her bassinet and went on with business.313212_3960445883519_1717640416_n

Well, long gone are the days of hesitation. I like to think I maybe pushed him to a brink that brought out some boldness. Oh, it was many years later until he finally achieved manly boldness, but I played a small part and that makes me smile. Sam went through highschool and college being one of those guys that everyone likes. You really can’t not like him. He’s just sweet, kind and genuinely loves the Lord. Right after highschool he decided to pursue Sarah Graham. She was a beautiful, smart and sophisticated young woman who also went through our youth department. (I don’t excel in any of those qualities, so all the credit there must go to her parents – wish I could’ve been a better influence.) Anyway, they were going to separate colleges and the pressure of long distance accompanied by other factors put a stall on the relationship, so they called it off almost as quickly as it had begun, much to the chagrin of Sam’s mother. Through those years she didn’t give up hope though both of them seemed to be moving on with life. She was almost as in love with Sarah as Sam had been in a weird mother-picking her daughter-in-law kinda way. Well, her praying payed off and they found themselves reuniting after college. It’s more their story to tell, but lets just say that this friendly, unassuming youth pastor has a bold, “I wanna marry you” “you gotta be mine” side. Gives me chills really.

So, again, I found myself honored to be a part of their wedding. This one was a vintage wedding filled with nostalgic memories and literary nods. They chose to do the “first sight” picture before the wedding. The wedding party and I were all bawling at the back of the sanctuary windows as she handed him a box of letters she had written throughout her teen years to her future husband. Many in which she had pictured Sam as their receiver.
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In the ceremony they had taken a large photo of the two of them and made it into a puzzle. They had asked several people (2nd man and I included) to place a piece of the puzzle on an easle while Pastor read a letter they had written about how each person or couple represented inluences in their lives be it friendship, spiritual leadership, etc. It was truly moving. Then Sarah walked down the aisle to the music played in Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility (which is so cool since that whole story includes the love story of a friendly unassuming clergyman and a young woman who tries to handle things right and it looks like they won’t make it and then they do…((breathe)) ok I’ll stop walking you through it now.)
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Anyway, I had so much fun with this one. We rented chairs, set up lacy tablecloths, and made the church gym into a retro picnic feel with an ice cream bar and glass bottles of pop. It was a sweet affair all the way around including the extra hundred people we weren’t quite prepared for (but that’s a memory we won’t delve into here).

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The work was hard, the pressure high, but the honor was out of this world!527207_4056126074567_1105078114_n