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There is hope in the turning of the page.

Sometimes we get stuck on one page, one chapter, one day.  We feel trapped in a situation or in a mindset and can’t remember when things ever looked or felt different.  It’s as though the pages of our story have stopped flipping.  As if someone reading our book stopped on a page and walked away.

It is very easy for one day to melt into the next and before we notice, a year has passed and we seem to be in the same place.  Habits form and the day-to-day living takes over.  Rather than waking up excited for what God has in store, we wake up and fall into our everyday life.  Busyness has a way of creeping in without making a fuss.  While we are busy packing our bag for the day, tossing something that resembles breakfast down our throat, and running off into our day of work or school or life, this sneaky character of busyness begins to take over. No longer do we have time to look at the clouds and find a hidden picture in the fluffy shapes.  No longer do we have time to call that old friend who you’ve been meaning to catch up with or read a book just for fun.  No longer do we take the time to stop and think.

I felt as though my story had come to a halt.  The book was lying open, faced down, it felt.  Not knowing what to do in a situation, I did nothing.  I sort of hoped it would just sort itself in a matter of time.  I felt stuck in my prayers, like a broken record singing out to God – and I was tired of the song.  I wish I could tell you that upon feeling this way, I asked God to give me a new song – but instead I did nothing.  I packed my bag for work and continued my everyday busy life.

I was so caught up living my day-to-day life this past year that I let busyness take over and watched my thoughts take a back seat.  I didn’t even realize how harmful it was until during a conversation with an old friend, I found myself searching for the answer to “how are you” as though I’d been asked the million dollar question on a game show.  I had been rushing through life and ignoring all sorts of thoughts allowing them to pile up in the back of my mind, hoping they’d just disappear.  But they didn’t.

The problem was not with God.  He is our author of salvation, the creator and giver of life and He has never forgotten us or ignored us.  Even in those times when nothing seems to go our way, and everything piles up in a big mess – God is there and He always has a solution.

This past year has been a revealing time for me, and has reminded me of just how much I need God’s hope.  On my own, I become busy and overwhelmed and hopeless…but in God there is life and peace and hope for the future!  He brings purpose to the everyday.  And he brings clarity to the mess.  As I enter into this new year, my desire is to see change and to live with His mission guiding me each day.  I love how Moses says in conversation with God in the Bible, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).  He recognizes his absolute need for God to be with him and the Israelites in their journey, for without God there is no point in going.  I want to live with that kind of dependance on God…seeking His presence each day because I need it to live and to breathe.  It’s so easy to forget how much we need God when we are taking care of every detail on our own.  We pay the bills, and drive the car, and we feed ourselves all the while forgetting who the source of our life is.  Trust is a difficult thing to live by, but when it is put in God who is Faithful and Loving and Kind, it is the best kind of life!  God always has a way of doing more than we could ever hope for or imagine when we put our trust in Him!  But we need to make that choice and take that step – responding to His invite to be loved and cared for.  He provides in perfect timing and loves without measure.  He is the best person to wake up to each morning, and the perfect friend to walk with on your way to work.  He comforts and He guides, and He desires to be in relationship with each one of us.

Perhaps you feel like your story is on hold, or forgotten all together.  But I encourage you, God has not forgotten about you.  He is writing a beautiful story for you and invites you to walk with Him though each chapter.  Take the time to stop and think about His amazing love and allow Him to bring you back to life.  No matter the hurt and disappointment you have faced, He is able to bring you peace and hope and joy.

I love the lyrics to this song called “Alive”  that beautifully illustrate God’s message of hope for us:

This is a call to all the dead and disappointed 
The ones who feel like they are done 
This is a word to all the ones who feel forgotten 
But you are not 
Oh you are not

We’re alive, alive, alive we’re singing 
We’re alive, alive, alive and we’re shaken 
We’re alive, alive, alive, alive in You

We are soaked in all the grace that we’ve been given 
Unchained from all that we have done 
Your mercy’s rising like the sun on the horizon 
We’re coming home 

We’re alive, alive, alive we’re singing 
We’re alive, alive, alive and we’re shaken 
We’re alive, alive, alive, alive in You

 

I’ve also attached an amazing video by Francis Chan.  It is clear and concise and speaks of the importance of taking the time to Stop and Think.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. “

Hebrews 4:16

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Thank You for the friends I’ve met,

for the adventures that we shared.

Thank You for the food I ate,

and the love with which it was prepared.

Thank You for the parks and ponds,

and the walks that I enjoyed.

Thank You for this chapter,

with which I’m overjoyed!

Thank You for the children,

who quickly stole my heart.

Thank You that you’ve loved them,

as a Father from the start.

Thank You for the tough times,

and the way You helped me grow.

Thank you for your comfort

and your peace that overflows.

Thank You for Romania,

a country loved by You.

Thank You for this city,

and the things that You will do.

Bucharest became my home

from summer sun to snow,

and I thank You for each month I had

to learn and serve and grow.

La revedere, Romania.  You’re in my heart, and I’m excited to see what God continues to do in the lives of those I met!!  Many great great things to come!!!

 “The LORD bless you 

   and keep you;

the LORD make his face shine on you

   and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn his face toward you

   and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Today is the first of December.

If you checked Google today, as so many of us do, then you would have seen the picture of people dancing representing the National Day of Romania!  It is a day to celebrate the unification of Romania, which used to be divided in separate and distinct regions.  I celebrated by going to the parade here in Bucharest, the capital city.  Praise God for a bright and sunny day!!  A perfect day for a parade.  It was like the Santa Claus parade except that instead of floats with giant gingerbread men and dancing clowns, there were large tanks and soldiers and helicopters and horses.  And while I didn’t see Santa, who’s to say he wasn’t hiding in one of the tanks.  I had so much fun seeing the soldiers and other military men and women marching while fathers hoisted their children up onto their shoulders to see the exciting sites go by.  The more daring children climbed surrounding trees and sat on branches for a better view.  It was like the scene from “The Sound of Music” when they go on their first big adventure with Maria.  We cheered when the horses came, and children oooed and ahhhed at the helicopters and jets zooming over us.  And the best part was at the end, after the parade finished when all the children climbed up onto the parked tanks to take pictures with the soldiers.  I did a little climbing myself, haha.

The first of December also marks another event.  It is the first day of the last month for my time here in Romania.  27 days more.  27 days to live and enjoy and serve.

It has been an amazing past month!  I am thoroughly enjoying my time at the orphanage.  One of my favourite things to do at the orphanage is take Alin on an afternoon walk around the centre.  Alin is 14 years old, but about the size of a 9 or 10 year old.  I am not entirely sure about his story, but I know that he has spent almost his entire life in orphanages, and only learned to walk a few years ago.  He doesn’t speak, but he isn’t shy about expressing what he wants with screams, and grunts, and pulling of arms.  At first it was really hard to understand what he wanted, but now after getting to know him more and showing him that I care and want to know what he is trying to communicate, I am amazed at how smart and aware he is of what is going on around him.  The best part about working with him is hearing his laugh.  He is so sweet and so adorable, and he makes me laugh.  When we can’t find any trucks or work being done around the centre to capture his attention, I try to find other things to make him smile.  Recently, we started playing a game.  It’s simple.  I pick up leaves and throw them into the air and we watch them fall.  He loves it!!  We take turns picking up leaves and throwing them.  It often lasts for ten minutes, or until my hands get too cold.  It’s been amazing to see the growth in him over the last two months.  Seeing him learn to eat on his own, put away his own hat, scarf, and jacket after our walks, and walk more often, rather than crawl.  And did I mention he can dance : )

Looking back at my first day at the orphanage, and the shock I felt seeing the children with so many different disabilities, I can see how God has been softening my heart more and more each day towards these children.  I love the way love grows in us.  Spending time with this group of children each day, seeing their personalities come out, watching as Ana sneaks cookies from the yellow drawer beside the sink, spoon-feeding Adi his lunch making sure to put the meat at the front of the spoon to ensure he lets it in, it has been amazing! Just the other day, at snack time we were eating chocolate pudding.  Alin was eating on his own, but with only a few spoonfuls left in the bowl he was finding it hard to get the pudding onto the spoon.  Alesandru, five years old, came to the table, walking slowly with his walker, and carefully moved his chair close next to Alin.  I was watching, thinking that Alesandru was just having a hard time getting his chair into the right position.  But before he even took a bite of his own pudding which I had placed at the table for him, he picked up Alin’s spoon and started feeding Alin the last few bites of pudding.  Instinctively I wanted to jump in and tell Alesandru to let Alin feed himself, but then I stopped myself.  This was an act of selfless love.  Neither one of them made a sound.

These simple moments are huge.  They are the moments that make us remember how beautiful life is.  I remember seeing an elderly man stoop over to pick up some garbage on the ground in his neighbourhood park.  It made my day.  To see how he cared for his community in such a tangible way.  Today at the parade, an older woman wanted her grandson to have a better view and so she asked a friend of mine to hold him.  My friend held the little boy up, happy to lend a helping hand.  Just seeing the woman’s face made my day.  We have to have our eyes open to these moments because life doesn’t typically highlight them for us.  Watch for the man on the bus who silently gives up his seat for the woman.  Be attentive to the one who holds the door for others during rush hour as people storm through.  Look for people who stand out.  And perhaps you will find yourself standing out too.

Two weeks ago I went on a fabulous adventure with my housemates.  It was Nico’s birthday, and so we all went to Transylvania, to a village called Balomir near a city called Hateg (Hatzeg).  Balomir is charming and quiet and full of life.  Both Nico and Chiva grew up there, neighbours in the village between the valleys.  There is a lake, and a river, and something in between a mountain and a hill.  Rolling hills, and valleys dotted with villages.  Cows leaving in the morning to go feed in the open land.  Chickens flapping about, each family with at least three or four it seems.  An occasional horse, and pigs that are being fattened in preparation for Christmas feasts!  The smell of wood burning, keeping homes and fingers and toes warm.  Men of all ages, accompanied by their sons, chopping wood, and women preparing sarmale and mamaliga. Nico, Chiva, and I arrived in the village at nearly 2:00am, and I was thinking we would go straight to bed.  But Nico’s amazing mom had a different idea.  We came in, warmed up by the fire, and then we ate. And ate.  And ate and ate.  She  put blankets on us, and tucked them around our toes to keep in all the warmth.  We were given chicken, and potatoes, and homemade pickles, pate, and tomatoes and cucumbers.  Then, just when I thought it was over, the cake came out.  It wasn’t even Nico’s birthday yet, and already we were eating two slices each of her birthday cakes.  Yes, that’s right…cakeS!  One tiramisu cake…soooo good!! And one fruit cake…yummmm!!  We ate and ate and ate some more, watching endless movies that come on TV all the time here in Romania.  I love it.  As we sat under the blankets, watching TV and eating amazing food, I felt so loved and so happy to be where I am.  Nico and her family took me in and made my feel completely at home.  Her parents made sure we were always being taken care of, and her grandparents gave us company.  Throughout that weekend, I experienced a new lifestyle living in a more traditional countryside village, met new people, and saw breathtaking sites.  I’m even happy that my camera ran of out battery because it challenged me to simply appreciate the beauty in the moment.  Sometimes it’s better to have a memory stored in our minds rather than on a photograph.  It’s like a secret that we can treasure in our mind’s eye.

Christmas is fast approaching.  I had my first Christmas moment today.  My friend and I did some baking for an upcoming ladies’ breakfast.  The lights were dim, and Christmas music played in the background.  There is something about the smell of cinnamon that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  It is exciting to think about what my first Christmas in another country will be like.  But I already know it is going to be something special.  A few years ago, I would not even consider spending Christmas anywhere but home with my family.  Things had to be exactly the same.  I got upset if even one part of our tradition changed.  But slowly, God worked away on me, each year changing something else.  Last year, my family went to visit my brother in Thailand and I stayed back, spending Christmas with other members of my family.  It was so nice, and I can see now how God was preparing me for this Christmas, and so much more.

It is so reassuring to see how God is always steps ahead of us, preparing the way and preparing us to walk in that way.  When my mind drifts to questions of “what’s next” and “where am I going” I have to step and back and look at the proof of God’s love and guidance in my life.  He has never left me unprepared.  He is faithful.  Sometimes I lose sight of this, and I start to listen to the voice of the enemy that wants me hopeless and anxious and fearful.  But I thank God for never losing sight of me.  My life belongs to Him, and it is the most thrilling and exciting way to live.  I was so excited the other day I made a timeline of my more recent years.   Yes, I’m a geek.  But as I looked over my messy timeline, etched out in blue ink on a paper filled with my doodles of dresses and faces and other silly things, I realized that I am living this exciting life not because of any of my own strengths or talents.  The most amazing adventures I’ve had have been a result of failed attempts, and my stumbling into something completely unexpected.

In high-school I wanted to be on student council so in grade 9 I ran for class representative and failed.  However, soon after I joined the Art Council as grade 9 rep, and one year later became president, which led to many other amazing opportunities.

Preparing to go to university, I had my mind set on going to Ryerson for fashion design.  But before I even sent in my application, I felt like a stressed-out failure. I was having such a hard time with the application and I realized I didn’t even like sewing that much.  I don’t even remember how it happened, but soon after I applied to Philosophy at the University of Toronto, Victoria College.  Four years later, I graduated and I couldn’t be happier about my time at UofT.

During my first summer not working at the church, I thought it would be fun to try nannying in Toronto.  But after what seemed like endless searching, and a failed interview, I was ready to give up on my idea of nannying.  But then, soon after, a friend of a sister of a friend of mine contacted me, interviewed me, and hired me as her nanny for the summer…in Germany.  It was an experience that changed me in so many ways, and is still very close to my heart.

In my final year of University, after applying to teacher’s college, I was in the waiting zone.  Friends were hearing back, but I wasn’t.  Then I heard, and both schools I applied to rejected my application.  I was shocked and sad, and yet, strangely excited.  That was the spring that God put it on my heart to go into full time ministry.  It was at that time that my passion to serve God in a creative way was reignited.

There are many other failures in between, but these ones stand out to me because of the way that each one has helped prepare me for the next big adventure.  I am where I am because of God.  Each failure stands to show His glory, and His power.  When we are broken, He is able to build us up. When we fall down, He is able to pick us up.  When we are humbled, He can then lift us up.  Don’t be afraid to fall…you’ll be surprised and delighted to see where you are standing when He picks you back up.  It is always beyond anything we could ask or imagine.

In this last month of my time here in Romania, there is a vast sea of unknown before me.  But even though I cannot see the future, I can take confidence in knowing that the one who is holding it has a perfect track record and loves me more than anyone else in the universe.  Yup, my God is pretty cool : )

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9:8

There is a symphony playing over our lives.  A beautiful orchestra that has been fashioned for each of us with the instruments that make our hearts full and give us hope and bring us to tears.  A song has been written.  A rhapsody with our name on it.

This evening I saw a movie with a beauty that must be shared.

August Rush.

It is a story about a boy born to two musicians, Lyla and Louis, who met unexpectedly at a party and slept together.  The two were separated after that one night by what was going on in Lyla’s life with her controlling father. She finds out she is pregnant with Louis’ son, but is still stuck in Chicago with her father who is not happy about the pregnancy.  Shortly after, she is hit by a car and the baby is born prematurely.  But unknown to Lyla, her father gives us the baby for adoption telling Lyla that her son died as a result of the accident.

After eleven years, Evan (the son) is living in an orphanage, unaware of his parent’s whereabouts. But in the midst of his troubled life, he believes without a doubt that his parents are alive, and that they want to find him.  He hears music wherever he goes, and this music, he believes, is his parents calling out to him.

As the movie unfolds, we see his musical gift grow and blossom into a remarkable talent that sets him apart from others.  He is then taken by a homeless street musician known as Wizard who keeps many children and has them perform on streets and bring him back the money.

Louis, at this time, is living in San Francisco no longer in his band.  And Lyla, also no longer making music, is teaching children music at a school.  But when Lyla learns of her son’s life by her father who admits to his actions made eleven years earlier, she flees to New York to find him.  She also decides to get back into music at an upcoming symphony.  Louis also comes to New York after deciding he wants to find Lyla and he too gets back into music by joining up with his old band.

Evan, now renamed August Rush, is staying in a church after the police raided the street home with Wizard and the other children.  Here he meets a girl named Hope who sings beautifully.  She teaches him how to read music and he begins to compose masterfully.  Others take notice and bring him to Julliard where he continues to grow in his gift.

He is given the opportunity to have his composition featured in a concert in Central Park, where Lyla, whom he has still not met, will also be playing. Louis happens to be passing by at that time and is drawn to the concert after seeing Lyla’s name on the poster. In one beautiful night the three are brought together while August’s Rhapsody plays out over them, sweeping the entire park into a single mass of joy and anticipation.

There are still many details I have not included, and the soundtrack alone makes this movie worth seeing.  After the movie finished I was overcome with emotion and had a flood of thoughts come to me.  I began to realize that this story of August Rush, is the story of our lives.

We are like the little boy, Evan/August, who seems to be without parents. Here in Romania I volunteer with orphans and I am so filled with love for them each day.  I am reminded that regardless of who we have parenting us here on earth, we have a Father in heaven who has a perfect love for us.  And He is singing over us (Zephaniah 3:17) , calling us back home, back to Him.  We were separated from Him by our sin, left alone and disconnected.  But out of His love for us, He made a way for us to come back.  He came to us.

It is when we listen to His voice, to the song He plays over our lives, that we are brought back.  Jesus, God’s son, came to earth, and called forth to us to follow Him.  His death was not in vain, but in sacrifice for our sins, the things we’ve done wrong.  And in love He overcame death so that we could in turn follow Him and by Him, live eternally.

In the movie, the boy, Evan, is so filled with faith that his parents are alive. Though he cannot explain it, there is this pulling in him that draws him to one day come face to face with them.  The music he hears around him is their song that is whispering hope and direction to him.  I believe we all have that song in us…one that is calling our name, and whispering hope and leading us towards our eternal home.  In the Bible it says that eternity is written on our hearts (Ecclesiates 3:11).  We have this song in us, a desire to be connected to our creator, to know our Father who is eternal.  However, we are often surrounded by so much noise that the song is drowned out. Sometimes we don’t want to hear it, that voice that is calling our name, and so we plug in to something else.  Or we try to push every sound out and reach a point of complete clarity where only sound judgements can be made, and matters of the heart are not entertained.  Either way, the voice remains.  The song plays out.

People told the boy, Evan (August), he was crazy for saying he could hear music from his parents whom he had never met, nor knew were alive.  Wizard offered him another life, trying to selfishly convince him that he was better off performing in the streets.  He could have listened to them and ignored the songs he heard, and missed the opportunity to grow his gift…but he had faith and chose to SEEK. He went looking, following the music, and along the way the song grew stronger and was given clarity through practice.  Instruments were provided along the way, giving voice to the song he had inside.  It was through Hope, the girl he met in the church, that he was given knowledge of the written aspect of music, allowing him to learn more and share what he had inside.  It was as he practiced his gift that opportunities arose, such as the concert in Central Park, and he was brought to that place where he could be reunited with his parents.  It was a night where the lost was found.

Is there a dream you have that needs to be given birth?  A song that needs to be played.  Don’t be afraid to step out into unknown and do something that might make you look crazy.  Perhaps you don’t know what it is that you are good at, or even what to dream.  That’s ok too.  Just take time to listen, as the movie reminds us.  God has an amazing way of birthing new dreams in us, and speaking words of encouragement and life to us when it seems that no one else can help.  Remember songs often include rests, repeats, and key changes.  So take time to rest.  Don’t be afraid to repeat something over.  And enjoy the changes.

As the credits rolled, the song “Someday” by John Legend played out.  I want my someday.  I want to be brought to a place where all things come together in a rhapsody with my name on it.  I want my August Rush.  I long for the day when the desires of my heart are brought forth.  In due time.  There is a crescendo drawn over my heart illustrating the hope I have, and the anticipation that is growing in me.  As I wait, I grow stronger.  Evan waited eleven years for his parents, but he grew more in that time than many do in their entire lives because he was set on the best. Though I am sometimes tempted to settle for other good things along the way, I am holding onto the dream that God has given me which is better than any good thing.  I can see that as I walk in the direction of His voice, listening to His song for me, I am each day one step closer to Him, closer to the place where all things come together in perfect harmony.

 “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

It was a cold and rainy October day.  I was wearing ballet flats with bare feet because the day had started off sunny and the entire week had been warm.  But this was a day of transition.  Goodbye to warm summer days.  Goodbye to summer dresses and flip flops.  Goodbye to ballet flats with bare feet.

As I walked home from visiting my dear friend, Isa, who so kindly lent me her giant purple plastic parka (the kind they give you when riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls), the rain continued to pour.  I felt like Tinky Winky, but I was dry from head to knee, and that was worth it!  I did my best to jump the puddles, but it was dark and I missed a few along the way.  All I could think about was getting home, having a hot shower, and being warm.  My mind kept drifting to thoughts of a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.  It would be the perfect thing to eat after such a cold and wet adventure home. But I had no noodles, and no chicken, and thus…no soup.  The thought, however, lingered.

As I reached my apartment, I gained speed, eager to be warm and dry.  Up the elevator.  Careful to wait for the red light to disappear before opening the door.  Careful to listen for the “bump” after the pause before getting out.  To my wooden door.  Ah, home at last.  Chiva and Nico were there, safe and warm and wonderful as always.  I did a little pose for them in my giant amazing Tinky Winky plastic parka that saved me from being completely soaked (thanks Isa!!).  Once I was all cleaned up and dry again, I headed into the living room to sit with the girls.  And that’s when the amazing happened.  Chiva said to me, “Go check in the kitchen.  I cooked.”  Those words alone were all I needed to hear.  Hot food on the stove, ready to warm me up.  But there was more.  There on the stovetop in a big ceramic white pot, decorated with little flower designs, was……CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP!!!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  I laughed with delight and ran into the living room to tell Chiva that she had made EXACTLY what I had been craving my whole trip home!! It was perfect.  It was delicious.  It was hot.

That was Thanksgiving Weekend (the Canadian Version) for me here in Bucharest.  I was so thankful for Chiva’s kindness, making food for us girls.  The soup was so perfect and it got me thinking about all the other things I’m thankful for.  I have been so blessed with people’s generosity and kindness during my time here in Romania.  Sometimes it comes in the form of food – an easy way to my heart. Sometimes it comes in the form of a friend who is there to chat and listen after a long day.  And often it comes from a complete stranger who helps me find my way through a new part of town…not like I get lost that often… : )

I am thankful for hot food on the table prepared daily at work.
I am thankful for new friends that introduce me to their friends and family and help me feel at home.
I am thankful for pastries and pretzels sold at every metro station and corner.
I am thankful for my family who supports me in all I do and takes time to chat and skype with me even when the signal sucks.
I am thankful for old friends that share stories and say hello and remind me of how much love I have at home.
I am thankful for leaves that change colour and fall, reminding me that’s change can be beautiful even if it means we have to die to what we once were in order to make way for new life.
I am thankful for children who make me smile with their silliness and smiles.
I am thankful for warm blankets and pillows.
I am thankful for my time here in Romania and the long list of new things to be thankful for arising from this experience.

Weeks after my chicken noodle soup experience I received a package from one of amazing friends, Trish.  She thoughtfully sent me some items for me to use and enjoy, and give me comfort in my time here.  One of them was a book, “A Spoonful of Chicken Noodle Soup for the Christian Soul.”  It’s a collection of touching true stories of faith and love and hope that are meant to warm the soul of those who read them…in the same way chicken noodle soup warms the soul.  Many of you are probably familiar with the “Chicken Noodle Soup” books.  You can find them for almost any “soul” out there, from Cat Lovers and Gardeners to Latino’s and Ocean Lovers, which got me thinking.  What could be learned from surveying a person’s collection of Chicken Noodle Soup books?  Could details of their soul truly be gained?  And for those who don’t own any of these books, are we to assume that they are vegetarian?  Could there be a “Chicken Noodle Soup for the Vegetarian’s Soul” or would that be too much of a conflict?  Either way, I greatly appreciate the chicken noodle soup I received from both Chiva and Trish.  They each warmed my soul in a special way, and for that I am thankful.

The best thing to do once we’ve been fed is to feed others.  And that is precisely what I am doing at the orphanage here in Romania.  It’s called “Don Orione” and it cares for disabled orphans.  The centre has the first donkey therapy program in Romania.  Children are taken on donkey rides regularly, helping to stimulate their senses and provide physical therapy in a creative way.  The children love the donkeys, and the staff does a great job caring for them.

A typical day for me at the orphanage consists of helping with feeding the children, and teaching them how to feed themselves.  There is often A LOT of food on the floor, on their faces, and on the tables.  But it is so good to see how they are learning to become more independent step by step.  I have been focusing on helping one of the older boys, Alin, with using a spoon to eat.  I am amazed at how much he is improving day by day.  I hope to see him learn to eat completely on his own before I leave. Some of the children are unable to move on their own, or chew solid foods, so we put it in the food processor to make a lunchtime smoothie.

In the mornings, after breakfast, I take Liviu – an adorable brown eyed boy – to kindergarten.  Don Orione also has a program for autistic children, and the teachers there have allowed me to bring Liviu each morning!  It’s amazing to see how much Liviu is learning, and growing from his time in kindergarten. We sing songs, say our names, learn the months and days of the week, the weather, and other such things.  My favourite song is “Ratustele Mele” – a song about ducks.  It’s so much fun to sing!  Once kindergarten is done, I head back to the main area with all the children where I do stretches with some, helping to loosen up their muscles, teach others how to play catch, and in general hang out with the children doing whatever I can to help.  For something as simple as putting on a jacket, or eating a bowlful of mashed potatoes, it can take what seems like forever with the children.  One boy loves to wrap his arms around you, but by reaching backwards.  He is blind, and needs help to eat.  I help him at lunchtime and use one hand to hold his hands down in order to keep them from flinging the food across the room.  I always focus on doing these things in a firm yet loving way because I never want to forget that they are people who deserve love and respect, regardless of their condition.  Another boy suffers from Cerebral Pulsy and therefore has little control over his muscles, making it very difficult to put his jacket on.  But we laugh our way along, and I try to let him do as much as he can on his own, telling him “Trage (pull)” as he holds the sleeves and pulls as best he can.

I am amazed at the level of patience parents must have with children in general.  I’ve had many opportunities to work with children and grow in patience as we go about a daily routine.  But now, as I work with disabled children, I am again amazed at how important patience is.  There is always the temptation to do things for them in a more efficient way.  To grab the spoon from their hands and feed them quickly and without all the mess.  But then how can they learn.  I understand that there are cases when that is the only way, and in those cases I see it as a blessing to be able to help feed someone by spoon.  I am challenged to help serve them in a way that brings honour to God and values them as a person, never as a nuisance but as a gift.

I’ve been at the centre now for almost a month, and I have had the chance to get to know each child as an individual.  Here’s a bit of what I’ve gathered:

Alin likes tractors and trucks and things that go vroom. Alessandra likes stretching and twisting and laughing a lot. Stefan likes to be tickled.  Ana likes to sneak cookies from the countertop, and Anca likes music and dancing and pulling people’s hair.  Liviu likes smiling and chocolate and being independent to the best of his ability.  Ramona likes to hug like a koala.  There are two Ioanna’s.  One who likes to kick and surprise you every so often with a giant smile that lasts a split second, and one that likes to climb and whimper.  Adi likes to say “da” and Alessandro likes Tom and Jerry.  Aurel likes soft foods and hugging backwards.  Robbie likes to chew on anything he can get his hands on, and Marian likes to chirp joyfully when he’s hungry. Luminita likes to care for the other children and speak softly like Snow White, and Dani likes to hold hands.

I love these children and I love my time at the Centre.

I love that I’m in Bucharest!  And I love that I am right where God wants me right now.  There is such peace in walking with God…like the feeling of leaning on a loved one and breathing out slowly with a smile on your face.


The Ratustele Mele song 🙂

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

I just watched “Tangled” for about the seventh time, and just the other day I watched “Enchanted” for the eighth time.  Am I obsessed?  No.  I simply enjoy the beautiful stories of love and adventure and ever after.  I feel like a princess when I watch them.  And the music is delightful!  (check out the song at the bottom)

but…

I never felt like a princess as a child.

I wasn’t the girl who gravitated towards all things pink.  I liked blue, and still do.  I didn’t beg my mom to buy me barbies and dolls and pretty, frilly dresses with bows.  And I absolutely did not look at Cinderella, Snow White, or any other Disney princess as my role model.  It wasn’t that I was a tomboy, only wanting to play with the guys and pretend I was one of them.  I just felt silly being girly. It embarrassed me to think about getting dressed up and twirling around in circles for all to see.  I was happy wearing pants and a shirt and standing still…well, just not twirling.  But really, that embarrassment of being pretty and girly was drawn out from a fear of not measuring up to all the other girls around me, whom I felt were the true princesses.

Now, however, I embrace the land of pink and princesses and happily ever afters.  I find myself gravitating towards the pretty and girly and even sometimes frilly.  I enjoy twirling around in my skirts, and imagining I’m a ballerina…even if my ballerina days only lasted two years and consisted of me dressing up as a very tall spider while others got to be Little Miss Muffet. While I still don’t fancy wearing makeup and buying expensive jewels to adorn myself with, I feel I am a princess.  In fact, I believe all girls are, regardless of our age, status, or our fascination with pink.   The princess state of mind goes beyond these things, dresses and jewels and frills.  It has something to do with our desire to love and be loved, to live life with a passion and sense of adventure, to be willing to lose our shoe and be okay with it, and to walk in confidence as a daughter of the King while still maintaining a beautiful sense of vulnerability that beckons others into the Kingdom.

I am so thankful for the people in my life that have helped encourage me to be confident in who I am.

In Junior High my pastor,  Andrew Jones, urged me to play piano on the worship team even though I had very little training and didn’t measure up to the amazingly trained musicians already involved. I was so scared to step out and play in front of others, but once I finally did, God helped me to grow as a musician and giving me opportunities to play that I could never do on my own.

In school, my favourite teacher was Mrs. Ballentine, who taught me in kindergarten and grade six. She was a huge encouragement to me, giving me opportunities to lead and teaching me how to lead with grace and humility through her example.  She challenged our class in grade six to be leaders in the school and wherever we went, and even though we were so young, she valued our thoughts and gave us no reason to doubt our ability to make a difference in the world.

“Stand tall” my mom said to me one day I will never forget.  In grade five, I was walking from the school to our green minivan at the end of the day, and I had my head down.  I had fallen into a habit of looking down, perhaps in an attempt to feel shorter and blend in with those around me.  When my mom told me “stand tall” she spoke to me in love, showing me that it was ok to be my height.  As simple as that moment was, knowing that my mom loved me and wanted me to embrace my height meant so much to me.

Each of these people, including many others, have impacted me in big and small ways and helped to give me confidence.  Even now, I am reading a devotional book with verses and life lessons written by Joyce Meyer, entitled “The Confident Woman.”  It is a continual lesson I am learning and my desire is to grow each day in confidence, not of my own strength and abilities, but in my loving Father.  The King. My God.  Knowing who I am in Him, a treasured child in His Kingdom, gives me confidence to step out into the unknown and take on the world with a pep in my step, haha.

In these past few years, my life has taken some major twists and turns.  With each new curve in the road, God was there already preparing the way.  A new challenge to overcome, a new friend to meet, a new opportunity to seize!  I’d like to say that with each challenge and friend and opportunity I came out on top, with perfect joy and gladness…but the truth is that I’ve fallen many times and bumped myself along this journey.

Sometimes we fail at a challenge.  Sometimes our friends break our hearts. And sometimes opportunities are missed.  In life, there are battles to be won and lost…but it’s not only princes who get to fight.

Cinderella had to fight against the daily injustice of being treated as servant by her her evil stepmother and stepsisters.

Snow White had to fight to be free from the jealous Queen’s evil plan to have her killed.

Rapunzel had to fight to see her dreams come true, escaping her tower and finding her place in life.

Belle has to fight against her own idea of happily ever after in exchange for something much more wonderful.

Each of us has our battle to fight.  We have a journey to embark on, and a purpose for our life!  Often people ridicule these princess stories, saying that they place too much emphasis on getting married as the ticket to a better life. But there is so much more to these fairytales as I am starting to see.  There is beauty in the wait.  There is joy in the challenges life presents us with.  There is hope in times of darkness and pain.  Rather than looking at our hard times and times of waiting in life as places we wish to escape from, we can look at them as opportunities to grow, and become prepared for what’s ahead.

Cinderella had her attic.  Snow White had her cabin in the woods. Rapunzel had her tower.  And Belle had her time in the Beast’s castle.  They each had a place to grow.  A place to prepare themselves for upcoming adventures as Princesses.  They did not know their fate.  They did not sit around waiting to be waited upon.  They cleaned and cared for seven strange men, read books, and learned to love beyond the surface.  Then, in due time, things changed in what seemed like a blink of an eye.  But because of their years of preparation for their unknown destiny, they remained humble and loving and kind.

Perhaps I am going too far into this whole princess analogy…but I like what I have learned from these movies.  Moreover, I am so happy that God has shown me how to embrace life with open arms and never be afraid to ask Him something, because I am a His daughter…a real princess.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24 – 26 


p.s. I will be sharing stories from my time here in Romania shortly…I just had this on my heart to write for now : )

I have now been living in Romania for just over three months.  Three months down, three months to go – my halfway point. But I am in no rush for my time here to end.  It feels so good to be here, and even though I love all my friends and family back home in Toronto, I have such a peace about being here at this time.  It’s nice.

In the past month there have been so many changes.  Many pages have turned.  Climactic moments have come and gone.  The weather has changed, almost overnight, from warm and sunny and bright to dark and rainy and cold.  We had it warm here until just three days ago.  I was really hoping we’d last until November…but the rain and cold had to come.  It’s ok…now I have an excuse to sit in cafes and drink hot chocolate.  I moved into a new place – an apartment that is sea-foam green on the outside, and cozy and colourful on the inside. And full of girls.  I live with two lovely girls; one from church (Chiva) and the other from another town, here for university (Nico).  Chiva is so sweet and funny  and makes amazing chicken noodle soup, among other yummy things!  She has a special way of making you feel at home.  Nico is great to chat with, super down-to-earth, and graceful in every way.  And, she is my new hero.  We have this ginormous green bugs that visit our apartment from time to time.  They like to hide in the curtains, or on the window sills, or even in the bathtub…ew.  I am terrified of squishing them…completely grossed out at the thought of feeling them crunch, ew, and squish, ew, under the tissue paper.  But Nico is brave.  Nico grabs a tissue and captures them with ease.  I stand in awe.

During this past month, I also paid a visit to Italy.  My dad was born and raised in the south of Italy in a little town called Dipignano.  With two weeks off from my volunteer work here in Romania, I decided that it would be amazing to go visit my family who lives there, as well as explore other cities in Italy.  I am SO happy that I went.  I stayed with my amazing and beautiful aunt, my Zia Anna.  She fed me and loved me and made sure I was well rested. I haven’t felt so relaxed in a long time.  And her cooking is too amazing for words.  Homemade pasta.  Need I say more.  I also spent a lot of time with my cousin and her wonderful and joyful family, Angelina and her husband Franco, and their children Maria Chiara and Federica.  Everyone was so welcoming and kind to me, and it was great to get to know them more.  I hadn’t seen this part of my family in about ten years!  I hope to see them more often now because waiting another ten years is TOO long!  After four amazing days with my family in Dipignano, I was off to Rome.  Taking the train was great.  My awesome mom bought me an all-Italia pass so I could get off and on trains as I wished.  And that is exactly what I did.

Rome.  Florence.  Pisa.  Venice.

I. LOVE. ITALY.

I could go on and on about all the amazing things I saw, and the food I ate, and the people I met…but that could take forever.  But I must say that I am so thankful for the wonderful friends I made along the way.  I met great people from Turkey, Brazil, Scotland, Japan, USA and Australia.  It was a taste of the backpackers experience, and I absolutely loved it.  Hostels are really quite cool.  The word always sounded so hostile to me…probably because the words are almost the same…but I was overjoyed to stay in places like “The Yellow” in Rome, and “The Emerald Palace” in Florence.  Each place had it’s own distinct character.   “The Yellow” was very social, funky, and full of old movie memorabilia, especially old gangster films.  It began to feel like home after three days.  “The Emerald Palace” was beautiful and impeccably clean.  And to my surprise, it was run by Romanians!  One morning, my second day there, I sat down to breakfast and the woman working said “Pofta buna”, the Romanian way to say “Bon Appetite”.  I beamed and said “Vorbitz romaneste?”  (Do you speak Romanian?)  She had been speaking perfect Italian and English since I arrived at the hostel, but turned out she along with all the other workers were from Romania!! I was so happy, feeling like I had a taste of home being there. There are many Romanians in Italy, and each time I heard the language being spoken around me, I perked up, feeling as though I had some connection to them.

Language is a funny thing.  While the majority of the people I met in Italy spoke English, I was so happy to practice my Italian, and learn bits and bites of other languages.  It’s great to see how many words are shared across borders.  I learned that Romanian has MANY similarities to Italian, and also has words with Turkish roots.  Learning a language is often a ticket into a new culture, and I am in awe of how many multi-lingual people I met.  But food is also a ticket in, and while I stumble my way through new languages, I will smile and eat more food.

Back in Romania, I have begun to help out at an orphanage in a neighbouring community called Voluntari.  It is an orphanage for disabled children, both mental and physical.  The centre itself is amazing, large and very clean, with a small farm out back.  I can hang out with donkeys and goats now in my spare time!  But it is the work I love.  It is unlike anything I’ve done, and I am so grateful for this experience.  I have been learning so much from my time there, working with children with many different conditions such as cerebral palsy, sticklers disease, down syndrome, and hydrocephalus.  My days are spent with the children, helping feed them and teaching them to feed themselves, playing with them, tickling them, helping some of them to walk, and loving them in the best way I can.  They are all such beautiful children, and it is amazing to see the way they laugh and smile when I do something as simple as hold their hand and sing to them.  And I continue to be filled with joy from seeing them each day.  I’m excited to see them continue to grow and develop more skills over these next three months.  The staff at the centre is also amazing, and they have been so welcoming and kind.  And they feed me so much, haha.  I am learning more Romanian as I spend time with them, and enjoy their company. I look forward to sharing stories about my adventures there.  I know many amazing things are still yet to come!

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

1 Corinthians 3:7