Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christians, Friends, Witnesses

I have a lot of friends who aren't Christian. Yes, I have old friends from high school that I somewhat keep up with on Facebook. The people I see every week in my places of employment may or may not be Christians. There are people I have interacted with over many days and months and years who do not follow Christ. But when I say, "I have a lot of friends who aren't Christian," it is not even these people I am referring to.

The friends I am talking about are ones I have grown close to. I have grown up with some of them, playing games of imagination and creativity as children. We've hit puberty one after the other. Others, ones I met later in life, I still grew close to. My handful of guy pals and I have gone on many platonic dates. We have laughed and talked and shared what we believe about God, if we believe he exists (which I do). Each of these friends, some like family and some who literally are family, believes something different. One an atheist, the other somewhat New Age, discovering his own beliefs. One does not think Jesus is God, while another agrees, but embraces the Old Testament, the Torah. Another has never once told me what she has believed, even after I asked for a school assignment. I must keep their identities vague here, for their privacy. But I do want you to know that I deeply love them all.

There are portions of Scripture that I struggle with. I understand the passage in 2 Corithians that says not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. I would not marry someone who did not share my convictions, for instance. But I have struggled with the implications that some Christians take from this verse when they take it to mean that we must stay as far away from unbelievers as possible.

"Not of This World," the out of context bumper stickers proclaim. They might as well sport decals on the backs of their SUVs and hatchbacks that say, "Join Us." Joooiiiin uuuuussss. Forget this world. It's going to hell in a handbasket, right? We're just jumping ship, while ya'll get....wait for it....Left Behind!!! Many people other than myself have seen the fallacy in this attitude that has been adopted by contemporary Christians. I'm probably not the first person who has expressed this to you.

But, what if...the facet of the world that has sullied us, the portion that has really defiled us, was...our insatiable desire to say to the world, "Screw you!" What if this attitude of jumping ship is, gasp, not from God? Not holy, divine, or inspired? Hmm.

Jesus has already overcome the world (John 16:33). We don't have to do it, because it's already been done, and done well. Maybe we can still remain unstained from the world yet, you know, live in it. Living involves loving, or at least it should. I know a God who leads me to those who respect me. Many times these people are not Christian. My friends and I, we are well aware that we are different. I have gotten to a maturity level where I know what I believe, can express it, and can listen and digest what the other person is saying, and I don't really think there is any defilement happening either way.

I think differently. I might love differently, too, I don't know. Maybe that's why I don't understand why more people aren't crossing religious boundaries to communicate, why Christians think they are well and good without getting to know anyone who doesn't already know Jesus.

Is it healthy for a Christian to only talk with non-Christians? Admittedly, no. Is it healthy to not talk to God? Definitely not. We should talk to God all the time. And finally, is it healthy to only talk to other Christians? I'd have to say a resounding no. Christians might just end up creating their own world, with all of its pitfalls, if they decided to get too cultish and only associate with each other. Obviously, church is a place for us to get to know each other and create a community. But why should we close our doors, our minds, and our hearts off? Why should we deny the existence of people who God has definitely created in his image?

My faith is stronger because of my relationships with my non-Christians friends. I have learned how to articulate what I believe and share the love of Christ in a way that has created not just a long line of stories of "that person I witnessed to" but true, real, genuine friendships. Because if Jesus did anything, it was love. He loved.

To donate to my time in Romania, click here! Thanks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Choosing Love

There is some trouble inherent in having my lifestyle. Let me explain.

I am in a transitory state. I am leaving Raleigh at the end of June. I have thought about the limitations and challenges of that lack of permanence more than anyone else. This is my life, and I have chosen to embrace it rather than hating every step of the way. I have begun to view my past as a gift, and that is how I am choosing to view my present and my future, too.

As my boss says, I am more than a grown adult. I am a grown-a** adult. I've been through my share of terrible circumstances, and living in a new state temporarily does not even make the top 5 list of the most difficult things I have been through. This is like a vacation. Sort of. Working two different jobs, often in the same day, is not a vacation. But the stability, safety, independence and maturity that have accompanied this chapter in my life make preserving my well-being very easy. I can handle this.

I really appreciate all the people who actually acknowledge that I am a grown-a** adult and let me make my own decisions. Like my mom. She trusts me to make wise choices. My previously mentioned boss always says, before I head off to the bank, "Make good choices. And don't get herpes!" References to STD's aside, my boss has also made some observations about me. Like that I am an individual, and that I dance to the beat of my own drum. No one has ever told me that stuff so directly. I would much rather be different than look like everyone else.

But my alternative lifestyle can be difficult. I have been warned against getting too close to people while I am here. Specifically members of the opposite sex. Clearly I can't make any serious commitments outside of Romania. The thing is, I have realized this for years. I first wanted to be a career missionary in Romania when I was fourteen. That is almost a decade ago. I've had a loooot of time to think about all this. Somewhere along the way, I got tired of worrying about getting too close to people. I think Jesus could have had the same trouble. He began his ministry knowing he would be leaving earth about only three years later. Why did he grow so close to the disciples, then? Why did he bother forming close friendships with men and women? Why did he take these risks?

There is a tired old saying that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. I think this is actually very accurate. Why risk a broken heart? Why not keep your distance from people? Why get too close to people you'll have to leave? Well, because love is better than fear. Love beats closing yourself off and it beats isolation. Love trumps easiness. I believe love is worth it. I have been hurt through such a variety of ways that saying good-bye doesn't terrify me anymore. It stills scares me, but it doesn't immobilize me. There is a kind of love in saying good-bye that you would never have known otherwise. It reminds me of sacrifice. It reminds me of the cross.

I hope my journey inspires people to really live, to take chances, to love fully and deeply and understand that pain is inevitable anyway and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I would rather choose what hurts me, and I choose love.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Different Person

"Who am I now?" Imogen Heap asks at the end of the song "The Listening Chair." The song had just documented her favorite things and people, her childhood riddled with bullies and visits to the hospital, and her current worries, like whether or not she wants to have children. This is a song she will add to with each successive album until her death. It will be a sonic autobiography. And at the end of her first chapter, she calmly asks, "Who am I now?" and a chorus echoes, "Who am I now?"

It is so easy to write about the past, but writing about the present is tricky. You have to evaluate everything before you have the perspective that time allows. Writing about the present requires one to pause, to go off to a quiet corner and think. It can make you sad. It can make you angry. But sometimes, it really is best to focus not on what happened last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. And so this is my attempt to write about what it happening right now.


"I can't go back to yesterday -- because I was a different person then." -- Alice


I think about how I've changed as a person, and I see a lot of what I hate to call "progress." But I am progressing, as my character changes with each new experience and I grow stronger. I'm adulting all over the place. I'm actually earning a little bit of money and I've learned so much about how a nonprofit organization works. I had to basically oversee the office on my own while my bosses were in India, which was for about two weeks. I have learned how to speak to customers and handle fistfuls of twenties at my parking job, not to mention that I will be dealing with progressively colder weather for hours at a time. 


In all of this, I feel extremely fortunate. And aside from the occupational developments, I can feel how I've changed as a person. I'm bolder now, and less apologetic. I can feel myself shine more. I'm aware of when and why I am discontent, instead of being unperceptive about my own feelings. I know when to cut my losses. I let go more easily. I can handle when people don't turn out to be who I thought they were. But I also laugh more. I've started biking around the neighborhood, and I read as much as I can, for fun. I've gone through about a dozen graphic novels alone this past fall. My favorite author is now, officially, David Sedaris. He grew up in Raleigh, so reading Naked had me jumping every time he mentioned North Hills or Crabtree Valley or pollen or the beltway. I can actually pursue some of my interests now that I am not consumed with school. I feel like more of myself. And working in missions feels closer now that I am not studying it but doing it.


I can't go back to yesterday, because I really was a different person then. I love myself now, and I still love myself then. I am proud of how I've made it through all that I have. I don't have regrets. I had to give up the luxury of regretting all the things others might shake their heads at. Regret is something I cannot afford. Yes, I do regret some things. But they're certainly not obvious. 


The past and present go hand in hand. They say that eternity is most like the present. And it is with appreciation that I find my present a very satisfying eternity. It is my eternity, for now, until I discover the real thing. I can really say that I am more me now than I ever was at any point in my past. I am a different person now. And the clever part is, I don't have to prove it to anyone. I thank God that he has brought me to this point in my life. And I can't wait to see where he will bring me next.


To donate to my time serving in Romania, please click here!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mercy

Love is hard. There are often people in our lives who we are required to get along with, regardless of how we feel. You may be hearkening back to grade school, when you sat next to that kid you didn't really care for. But this is a problem that will follow us all of our lives. And perhaps, it ought to.

I have had to learn to love people I did not necessarily admire. I had to do this because 1) Jesus calls me to do it but also 2) because I was living in the same room with them. I've been through my share of trying situations but somehow living in the same room as someone who does not treat me with respect or compassion is one of the worst experiences I have ever been through.

I recently let go. I unfriended these people not because I was still angry with them, or because I wanted to punish them, but because I could look at their picture and feel not bitterness in my heart but goodwill. It was a painful goodwill, hard earned. It was a state that allowed me to say goodbye to two people who probably don't realize how much they have damaged my self-image and well-being. The good thing is, God can use any situation to shine light on his goodness, and he actually often uses the most hypocritical of people to reveal to us what he really looks like.

What if love was always easy? What if it required nothing of us? Jesus' love for us cost him everything. Why are we disturbed when we also are required to give of ourselves?

The thing about mercy is that it is for the undeserving. That is its purpose. And the thing is, we cannot cast any stones because we are just as guilty. I could write a blog post about every crappy thing those two people put me through. But my journey now is one of forgiveness.

I have dropped my stones. It is not my business to expose anyone. Instead, I am called to love them in a tangible way. And now, that way involves acknowledging the fact that I do not, cannot consider them my friends. If that sounds strange, like I am trying to get my way and still call it love, I'd just ask you, is being a victim any better? I am not a victim. I do not even think these two people will miss me. Time has passed. Part of me wants justice, but I know I am called instead to mercy. There are some things I must leave in God's hands because only he really know what to do. That is what faith is: giving God your worst knowing he is worthy to handle it.

I hope you can look at your hurts a little differently. Don't let the pain last any longer than it needs to. Learn to just forget. I know we can never forget completely. But the last place your hurt has to live is in your mind. Don't let things you can't stand live in there, or else your mind will become a place you can't stand to be. Forgive. And remember mercy was designed for the undeserving...that is, for all of us.

To donate to my time in Romania, click here!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happpiness

I've been very happy these days. Okay, Monday, when my eye was twitching uncontrollably and I got a headache at the back of my head from stress, I was not particularly happy. But overall, and in spite of the stress, I've found a lot of satisfaction in my life.

I'm no guru. And frankly, I get annoyed at people who try to tell me "the" recipe for happiness. DO THESE 5 THINGS for happiness, they say. I think it's beneficial to pay attention, take notes. But to base your life around someone else's rules strikes me as counterproductive. What is meant for you may not be meant for me. But I have found a few things that are true to my experience.

Listen to God. However you do this, wherever you do this, listen to One who formed you, who knows you better than you know yourself. He knows everything, for that matter! If God tells you to do something, especially if it is kind of challenging, seek to do it. Life is not necessarily always a give and take. Sometimes there's more giving or taking, and God isn't a magic genie. But Jesus really does love you, and one of his roles in your life is that of a guide. Listen to his whispers.

In my journey from my lowest point to now, I have had good and bad times. My lowest point was major depressive disorder, an atypical depression, or at least a particularly severe period of bipolar depression. I literally thought that I was evil. No one should ever feel that way (or at least the people who ought to feel that way usually don't). Sure, we're all sinful, but we shouldn't be imagining the easiest way to kill ourselves. Anyway, my current happiness strikes me as uncanny, since I do still have dark moments, but they are always overpowered by what God has given me. So what has he given me?

Purpose. Each day I am living not just for my immediate pleasure but for a goal. I believe we can and should have comfort in this life but there is even more comfort in giving up certain things, things like "normalcy" and "conventions" and "$$$."

Perspective. Had I not wanted to die, maybe I wouldn't appreciate life as I know it now. I certainly would not be able to relate to as many people. I feel like a more complete person the more I go through things that other people might think would make me incomplete. I can appreciate every experience that God gives me because I can make the choice to embrace it. I have that choice now.

Peace. I don't always get to choose what happens to me, though. Many times things seems to come out of left field and I find myself unprepared...until I have to act and realize that I am actually well equipped. God has given me peace in that I don't worry about my capability because I know he is capable and will lead me through it. I trust that every confusing turn my life has taken not only makes the journey but produces a competence in me that leaves little room for fear or discontent.

Okay, I really didn't intend for these to all start with the letter "p," but whatever. These are some ways I've found happiness in the life Christ has given me, a life that has involved family issues, death, back surgery, teen angst, a car accident, depression, mania, travel, romance, and moving all the way across the country to work at a nonprofit. I am happy with all of this, because I feel I have learned more about myself, others, and Jesus than I could have had my life been, well, boring. Do not despair if your life has been not as, well, eventful as mine has. We cannot compare lives, ever. If my "happpiness formula" helps you, great! If not, well, I'd be happpy to hear yours ;)

If you'd like to donate to my fund for Romania, please click here!.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Afraid of Nothing

Right now I'm reading a graphic novel (i.e. book with cartoon panels) entitled Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. It's not exactly a light read, regardless of what the medium might lead you to envision. It's full of family secrets, growing pains, and psychological complications. And what is more, it's all depicting true events.

I think it is remarkably brave of Bechdel to put her family's struggles in words and pictures for everyone to read. I'm increasingly drawn to autobiographical work these days. There's something so honest about it. The fact that Fun Home is acclaimed in the graphic novel world lets me know that other people also understand the beauty behind the maxim that "truth is stranger than fiction."

I have desired to put my story into words myself. Once I tried to write a semi-autobiographical novel about my first year of college, but I stopped. Part of the problem is my life is composed of separate episodes, elements that are discrete but undeniably linked. How do I write both about mental illness and my travels? How can I depict my family issues in the same place as my forays into romance?

However, I suppose a major part of the problem is this: I'm not yet over it. I still get mad when I think of certain things: how I majorly embarrassed myself, how I was dropped by people I thought were my friends as a result, how people never really change. This anger is directed at others, but mainly at myself. I hardly trust my own mind, and only do to a certain extent if I take four white pills every night. I never asked for this life, for these problems. But even that sentiment makes me angry. I refuse to be a victim. I left the bipolar support group on Facebook because I grew tired of seeing people still enslaved to the disease, who refused medication, or who couldn't find the right one. I just was not in that place anymore. I had to cut the tie.

There's a song by Sharon Van Etten called "Afraid of Nothing." It goes, "I can't wait til we're afraid of nothing. I can't wait til we hide from nothing." That is what I hope for myself, and for others. No fear. Fear tears us from other people. I've been told that I am brave. Mostly I just want to go through the whole house, looking in every corner, throwing the blankets from the beds so that no secrets remain. I want to reveal each whimpering lie, each assumption that keeps us from knowing the truth. Fear does that. It hides things. I want to understand every horrible thing that has happened to me, to hold it up for all to see, and conquer the fear that hid it in the first place.

Sometimes I long for a story. An engineered, fine-tuned concoction specifically designed to elicit a specific emotion at each turn of the page. And yet, a part of me rejects this. Because...how much greater is a masterpiece that is true, that is genuine, than one that was just thought up?

Maybe one day, when I am afraid of nothing, I will write down my own story. I still think I have a ways to go, though. I will just have to keep my secrets in their corners.

Monday, October 12, 2015

I Hate Asking For Money

I know, there is an obvious response to the above title-- "If you don't like asking people for money, then why don't you just earn a living like the rest of us!" I wish it was that easy. I wish I could actually earn money by doing humanitarian work. Unfortunately, that's not how the world works.

Maybe I'm just being a little defensive (wouldn't be the first time). I feel like I always have to explain myself to other people, as if they are not already capable of doing the thinking themselves. I just want people to know, yes, I wish my calling was one that could earn my some money. I'm hoping to branch out, maybe raise some funds through my writing or photography...as if either one of those skills was a) hard to come by or b) known to be a cash cow (yes, an attempt at sarcasm).

Practical, dynamic, world-changing mission work, or humanitarian work, is just the sort of thing the world needs--but it takes an unexpected person to fund it. Because, yeah, the people who need the help, the people who are lining up to get it, the people whose lives are changed because of it--those people are the ones who can't fund it. What about their government? It's an old story. The government often fails its people. In worst case scenarios, it is the problem (or is always the problem, but that's a little too political for me here, heh). So, if a people group cannot help themselves, and their government can't/won't help them, who does?

You do. That's right, the person to step up to the plate must be you. Not me. This isn't about me. This is about you, and your role. Maybe you help at a food pantry. Maybe you are helping at a fundraiser this month. Maybe you sponsor a child in another country. When you do all of this and more, you are on the front lines. You're the one who funds it, whether with your time, effort, or finances.

God is the real MVP here. But you are the hands, and the feet. Some of us are eyes, and mouths. My job is to go, get involved, show you what I see, write down what happens, and let you know. My job is to be connected to you at all times, like I am connected to the orphans I'll be working with. I'm not asking you to fund me and forget. What I'm asking may actually be more.

I hate asking for money. A part of me feels like a mooch, but that's really not accurate. This is my dream, but it's also the futures, the lives of other people that will be impacted. I know I can't do much, but my God can. Jesus has been good to me. He has shown me that this is the path he wants me on. Every turn, every twist in the road was necessary to bring me here. To be honest, I'm not sure what is waiting for me. It's going to be far from easy. But it's only impossible if you, the one reading this, don't see how important you are to these orphans' lives.

Check out Next Generation Outreach's website. I'm not over there right now, so there is a limit to what I know and therefore can share about what it is like to work through the difficulties of helping young men and women who have been neglected by the system. But please, pray. I hate asking for money. But I'm not going to let some embarrassment keep me from what I know without a doubt God has called me to do. I'll keep you all in the know, as usual.

Best,
Katie

Please click ~here~ to donate!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Driving Into the City at Night

I never like the city as much as when I am driving into it at night. Somehow, it looks cleaner, brighter, more varied and intriguing than walking its streets during the day. I'm only impressed by it at those fleeting moments when I drive onto the section of the highway where no trees or buildings can obscure my view. Then, the buildings owned by banks and large corporations and other companies rise, in Disneyland-like splendor over the streets below. Streets which are most likely deserted at this time of the night. But you can't tell that, not from here. From here, for now, the city impresses me.

During the day, I see downtown Raleigh differently. I see an obstacle course of people parking, people walking, people trying to cross the street, while I am driving; or, a series of ill-timed street crossings, while on foot. I enjoy getting out of the office, which has only has one window to the outside, and even this shows me nothing but a wall. I make my way to the bank twice a week, if we have enough donations, and I walk the few blocks briskly but while enjoying myself. I notice people--people sitting on the benches, talking excitedly, cursing, asking me for money. Once a woman was selling bracelets. I declined at first, but seeing her again on my way back, I softened. "How much?" I asked. "Fifteen dollars." I had $2.

Men will talk to me. "How's it goin'?" "How you doin', Sweetheart?" "Want to get lunch with me tomorrow?" "I'm in a hurry, I've gotta go!" I said to that last one. What happened was, I had been walking along to my car when a rat ran out in between me and a construction worker, from the gutter to the spiky bushes. "You see that rat?" Laughing, I nodded. Then he asked me out. I don't think rat sightings normally lead to dates, and this time was no exception. I never know what to do when men speak to me on the street. Usually it's positive, I think? A "how-are-ya" is fine--but sometimes I'm uncomfortable. The line between friendly and intrusive can be hard to gauge here--in California it was easier to tell. But then, I only went to LA for excursions, class trips and Saturday jaunts to check out a bookstore and get lunch.

Downtown has its share of anomalies: an overabundance of sirens, streets blocked off by a squad of police cars, not to mention cars which somehow managed to flip upside down (I've already seen two of those). There are young black men who evangelize on behalf of the Christian Science Reading Room, preaching in from of buildings and drawing small crowds. Fun stuff happens, too, on the first Friday of each month. Store are open late, and bands play in the street. Vendors sell various goodies out of easy-ups. Some people dance to the music.

I'm living here. I am a resident of Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. I've done a fair amount of driving around the area for work. This place no longer feels big to me. And it's not. You can drive across downtown in a few minutes. I still like it here. But I know I'm staying for a while. I'm going to see little kids going from door to door soon, chanting in unison for candy. It's going to get cold, and then colder, and then I'll be colder than I have ever been in my entire life. I might be standing in a parking lot for upward of three hours at a time while it snows. I will see Christmas trees lit up in windows, and then Christmas trees stripped of their finery, lying by the side of the road. I'm going to pass the New Year Year here, if I don't spend it in California for the holidays. But my home is, and will be in Raleigh. And then the end of June will come, and I'll be in California. But not for long.

The lights of downtown Raleigh shine differently than the lights of LA, though. Somehow, they're more stunning. Because I know what those streets hold. And I know that it's hidden. My boss, Sam, once said that Raleigh's lights are different because they're ours. It's ours. Ours to work in, ours to walk in, ours to live in. It's a smaller city, but it's only small because the both of us have come here from other places, with our preconceptions and otherness, and have spent time here. I'm not a local. I wasn't raised anywhere near the Triangle area. But now, for a while, this is home. This is where I'm living my life. And I think it's okay to call it mine.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Boyfriend Post

I'm currently reading a really raw, really honest, really not-for-children graphic novel by Daniel Clowes called Ghost World. It's fairly well-known, at least among people who read this sort of stuff. It's wacked, but in a good sort of way. It genuinely depicts how real people tend to live their lives, something I am always looking for in literature. Don't worry, I won't tell you how it ends, because I'm in the middle of it, anyway.

What I do want to share is one panel, one I just happened to share on Facebook. Enid, one of the two main characters, has just lamented that no boys ever ask her and Rebecca out, and exclaims, in a particularly poignant moment, that, "The trouble is the kind of guy I want to go out with doesn't even exist...like a rugged, chain-smoking, intellectual, adventurer guy who's really serious, but also really funny and mean..."

While I don't esteem all the above qualities that Enid Coleslaw (yes, her full name) has listed, I can definitely relate. I've come across lots of different guys in my life, some of whom I was more attracted to than others, but obviously, since I've never had an actual, authentic, gen-u-ine boyfriend, I have never found anyone who I really connected with. Once I thought I did (okay, more than once), but in that particular situation, even though all my boxes were checked (missionary? check. deep thinker? check. attractive? check.), his were not. He called something I did "refreshingly mature," he admired my "depth and style," but that wasn't enough for him to hang on.

When am I ever going to find someone who doesn't want to see me go? my heart feebly asks, as I keep everything under control, just under control enough to mask the empty spot inside me, a spot that sometimes is barely noticeable, and at other times gapes wide open.

Lots of people are single. Lots of people don't think about it, either. Usually I am one of them. But once in a while, I am reminded that there could be more to my life than there is right now. Sometimes it makes me happy to realize that. Sometimes it hurts. Usually, it's a little of both.

I am at the place where I know I am meant to be with someone. I trust that God will lead me to the right place, at the right time, to meet the right person. But I do get tired of worrying about the end result. Meaning, I don't want a husband. Not right now. I guess right now, all I'm aiming for is a boyfriend. After all, the one comes before the other. Maybe I'm just tired of all that purity culture emphasis on some nebulous future spouse. I'm just not in that place right now. I do want a husband, eventually. But if I think "husband, husband, husband," I might look for perfection instead of a work in progress.

Should I be looking for a guy who has all his "stuff" together, or one with a few flaws? How many flaws? How good should it be, being with him? Should it be fantastic? All the time, or most of the time? I have a feeling, that when I find someone whose life plans actually mesh with mine, and who I really love to be with, I will feel pretty sure. But should I be? What if I'm wrong? What if I just need to keep waiting, if it's not totally obvious? When is it ever totally obvious?

I know, too many questions. My mom has some pretty good advice: you should know someone for two years before you marry them. It takes not one, but two years, to really see all that secret, sometimes icky, stuff come out. Not just in reference to your partner, but regarding you, too. Some people go through this during marriage, and I guess we all do/will, to some extent. But to be more safe than sorry, wait to marry.

Or at least that's what will probably work for me. My future boyfriend/fiance/husband/whatever is going to get to know my goofy side, the way I talk to cats, the way I talk/laugh/sing/fart in my sleep, how little things bother me (esp. if they're my fault), how I love to get really deep really fast in conversations, etc. My hope is that, rather than just tolerating me, my husband will cherish me. Love me. That's seems like a little to expect, but it's actually a lot. Sure, I'm probably going to bug him some. He's probably going to bother me sometimes, too. But there needs to be a greater, prevailing, unquestionable bond between us that embraces, rather than rejects, our flaws.

Oh, dear. It seems I've been using the "h'" word (husband). I guess it would have been a lot to expect all that stuff from a boyfriend. I read a blog post the other day about not settling. So I guess that's what this is about, too. Don't settle. Don't settle for less than love. Love isn't perfect. It takes work. But a guy who loves you (and who you love) will stand out from all the others.

I think so, at least. Sorry, I'm not exactly an expert.

If this blog post has compelled you to donate to my mission in Romania (in some way, hopefully?) you can just click this link. Thanks!


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bhangra Blues

Something I've often found myself trying to explain to people is why I seem to be caught between not just two, but three countries. Beyond why I want to be a missionary, is why do I seem to be split between Romania and India? This is actually a good question, one I am still answering to this day.

Romania is, without a doubt, where I am called to minister long-term. It's been confirmed to me by God on a number of occasions. I guess I will find out for sure when I get there in a year. But there has been an irrefutable certainty in my heart that Romania is where I am meant to be.

So why the detour to India? What that a good choice, when I already felt so connected to Romania? These two countries are so extremely different. Why did I choose to divide myself in such a way?

There are two reasons for my choice to get involved in India. Okay, more than two, but I'll simplify it a little. First, India is an amazing place. I first became enamored with it when I was in high school. Why wouldn't it be worth it to concentrate on this country for a while? I've learned a lot, and I feel I understand humanity better by researching this culture. Secondly, I needed to know that Romania was in fact where I was called. Let's say I never got involved in India and always concentrated on Romania and Eastern Europe without fail. I would know no other culture (besides American) and perhaps, one day, I would sit down and think to myself, what if I was wrong? What if I had chosen Romania arbitrarily? I would have less of a perspective on my vocation and perhaps an uneasy heart.

Now, it could be God would have worked that last scenario out anyway, by affirming my place in Romania. I don't know. But I do think God called me to India, for a time. But even yesterday I felt that calling reaching its conclusion.

Last night, I went with my good friend and her best friend to go out bhangra dancing, a popular type of Indian dance. Somehow, even as I was dancing (or, rather, attempting to dance) my mind kept getting all existential on me, making me question what I was doing there. Of course, part of that was because we were some of the only white people there. But I felt out of place in another sense. I work for a mission organization that works in India. I love that job and I know that's where I'm supposed to be. But trying to dance with Indians? I felt like I was cheating on a lover. I should be with Romanians, doing Romanian things, trying to speak Romanian. I think I had a dream last night I was speaking the little Romanian I know. I am coming to the close of one season in my life and entering another. And I guess that's the way it ought to be.

I'd like to end this blog post here, but...it gets a little more complicated. I sponsor a little girl in India, who I met on my internship. She's not so little anymore, but I got a letter from her from India a few weeks ago, and it broke my heart. She wants me to return. She asked me over and over, repeating that she loves me. I want to visit her, but mostly I want her to be happy and healthy, growing up in a safe place. I don't know if it will make things better if I keep showing up in her life again. I will continue writing to her. I love her. But I need to seriously pray through whether returning to India would be what God wants me to do.

Don't travel the world, falling in love with different people and places, studying culture. It'll mess you up. (wink)

Friday, September 18, 2015

What are You Banking On?

I recently lead a "spiritual gathering" among my roommates and I this past Sunday evening. While the phrase "spiritual gathering" sounds, eh, sort of like something a commune would do, (and my residence is, admittedly, referred to as "the Communist tree-house", sigh), all we mean by those two words is this: we are doing something spiritual, and we are all together. So no straight up watching The Bachelor In Paradise (we did that after), and we can't be in separate rooms, but other than that, "spiritual gatherings" are pretty fluid in nature. Wiggle room, room for interpretation. And we take turns leading them. So what do you guys think I did when I led it this week?

If you answered, "led a guided conversation and allowed time for journaling," you're right! While I obviously will not be sharing what people said, I can tell you what my four questions were (if I can remember them...).

My theme for this gathering was the past, the present, and the future. I think sometimes people don't allow time to reflect on all three of those. We might fixate on one in particular, like our terrible/fantastic past, or the 50 billion things happening in the present, or wistfully check off the days until we finally "make it" in the future. I'm guilty of all three of those, at times. But what I hoped for my roomies and I was for us to get some stuff out into the open.

So the first question: If you could say one thing to the person you were ten years ago, what would it be? Once I thought this question through (which came sometime after I said it, ha), I realized that I was already THIRTEEN years old ten years ago. Wow. Anyway, we all shared sentiments along the lines of, I have really learned a lot, been through a lot, done things very differently in those ten years. So, how would you answer the question?

The next question was, what is one thing that God has blessed you with right now, in the present? It can be too easy to rattle off a list (family, friends, health, a job), so I wanted us to pick one, the best one, maybe. What has God done for you now? Not what you are waiting for. Not that great thing that happened to you last year. Now. I think we often forget to see that super obvious thing God has given to us. We are like children who move from one toy to the next, in a way. We get used to the most important blessing, for whatever reason. My answer? The friends I have been making while in Raleigh. I've met some pretty cool people, and I have some friends who I've known longer who I get to hang out with as well. This makes me feel very blessed. Sometimes I get so used to being alone that I forget what it's like to belong with people. It's the best thing ever. (superlative)

My last two questions were about the future. This third one is the kicker, so here goes: What is the one thing you are BANKING on, the one thing you are relying on to happen, the thing you want the most...and what if it never happened? What if God didn't give it to you? What would you do? How would you feel? What next? This question really got me, as, if you can't tell, I was sort of making up these questions as I went. So I was having trouble answering my own question.

What if I didn't become a missionary? That's the one thing I'm dead-set on, even before having kids, even before marriage, even before anything else. What if my mom or dad needed me? What if there was some emergency? What if my health failed me? What the HECK would I do in the States for the rest of my life?

Okay, because that question is really scary, I amended it: what if the thing you want was delayed by 5 years? That's a little easier to swallow, but I think it's still worth pondering. God does not owe us anything. We didn't earn what we have, and we aren't entitled to what we want. We are all just lucky, blessed, fortunate to have a God who gives us good gifts. The only thing we can rely on here is God. Not the gifts, even if having a decently paying job doesn't sound like a "gift."

My last question: What is one thing you want to learn in the future? What one thing do you want to comprehend at some point, when you are older and *hopefully* wiser? Mine was this: I want to understand people who are difficult to understand. I've been through situations that sometimes leave me questioning the human race. I often don't get how certain positive and negative qualities, seemingly incompatible ones, can possibly exist in the same person. How can that possibly happen? People are complicated, and I love that. But I have a lot to learn.

There you have it! If you're wondering what I would do if I didn't become a missionary, the answer is, something involved writing and photography! Triple threat: missions, writing, photo. I guess. Thanks for reading!

If you'd like to support my missions in Romania in one year, please follow this link!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Douazeci"

I've been very busy, since the weekend before last, when I started moving for the second time. The last time, God willing, until June 30th of next year. So I apologize for not having written in ages, but sometimes life is happening and it takes a while for enough perspective to accumulate and form itself into a decent post.

I have a new job at the PNC Arena. I work as cashier in the parking lot at my first event in about two weeks. I've sort of been stressing out about whether I'll get to keep my nose piercing, since my boss was unsure if even a clear stud would be acceptable. In case my hole closes up, I've thought about dyeing my hair instead. But I don't really want to do that. I hear once you start dyeing your hair, it's hard to stop. And I like my hair color.

So when I sat down on my new couch after work today, it was the first time I'd gotten to really process how I was feeling. Little stresses like moving in and wondering what my face would look like had consumed my attention. But as I sat on the newly moved white sofa, with the new coffee table, lamp, and the 18 books I shoved in a bag and got for $10 sitting on the shelves, I didn't feel the sort of satisfaction I thought I'd feel. Instead, I wanted someone to share it all with.

I watched the sunlight still pouring in through the window, and the way it lit up the room, which still felt mostly empty. I felt fortunate, and happy to call this place home, but there was something missing. I could have gone downstairs to be with my roommates (which I eventually did do). But instead, I sat on the couch, listening to "Lover's Spit," and realizing the desire to one day be committed to someone was not gone, no matter how busy and preoccupied I might be.

As I sat there, leaning into that quiet feeling inside me, I realized something else. I had not been in tune with God for some time. It can be so easy to go to church and go through my day working for a Christian nonprofit without really chilling with God. I think being still with God is one of the most important things we can do, and yet I often forget to do it myself. Why is it that God wants us to "be still and know that he is God"? What benefit can come from not producing anything, not reading anything, not processing anything, not doing anything?

I'm not going to answer that question outright. I'm not even going to necessarily say that I have the answer. But I do know that listening is a lost art these days, an art that if we can take up afresh, can change the way we live our lives...(oh, that sounds too trite, but I can't think of another way to put it.)

There is one story I'd like to tell, which could have resulted from either my intuition, my charity, or perhaps, from being in tune with the Spirit. The other day I drove to the grocery store, and as I came up to the parking lot, I noticed a family standing on the outskirts of the lot, begging for money. I quickly decided to help them out, not thinking it through, perhaps because there were two small children, unlike other people asking for money, who are typically individual men. Whatever my initial motive, I decided to go up and ask them what they'd like for me to buy them at the Kroger.

As I walked up, I saw that not only did they have two little boys, but the wife was pregnant. I asked them what they wanted, and after listening closely to the man I figured out he was asking for a gift card. Then I asked where they were from.

"We are from Romania."

"Vorbesc putin romaneste!" I said, wonderfully surprised, even though I should have guessed, given their appearance combined with their accent. They were also pleasantly surprised that I could speak their language (at least a little bit). The woman seemed especially pleased. I went in, grabbed some cabbage and tofu and other stuff, and picked up a gift card. I asked the cashier to put $20 on the card.

I walked back to the family, and handed the father the card. "How much?" he asked.

"Twenty," I said. "Douazeci," the man answered. "In Romanian, 'twenty' is 'douazeci'."

Now, I've learned that word before, though it hadn't come to mind. But now I know I'll never forget it.

Sometimes I make decisions based on very little evidence and I stumble upon dramatic results, or maybe God is increasingly sovereign in my life. Increasingly sovereign, if such a thing can be, at least to me. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Please list all previous addresses"

That is what I expect to be told as I fill out the paperwork in order to start moving into my new address. This whole process since I've arrived in North Carolina has been hectic: finding out two of our roommates didn't like the lease, which was admittedly pretty sketchy...hearing they would both refuse to sign the lease...trying, on my own, to find two more roommates while our fourth was out of the country...hearing from people, and finding one who agreed to move in....finding out our fourth got a sweet gig house-sitting for two years...needing to find an additional two people...then finding out the person who had agreed to move in changed her plans...and then coming to the obvious conclusion that I would need to find a new place to live.

Let me take a breath...okay...so to shorten the story, God has blessed me with a great new place to live. I actually ended up with 5 options, and this new place was my top choice location-wise, people-wise, and even money-wise. The house itself is pretty great, too. Maybe you saw the picture of the front that I posted a while back. I took that picture the day I found out the other girls would love to have me live and do life with them. I'll be sure to post more pictures soon.

I haven't really been too stressed out by all this. Maybe I've just gotten to a place in my life where I realize I can only do what I can in some situations. I've discovered that I worry more about things that I have done directly. If there's a problem that is clearly my fault, then I might freak out, but if it's out of my hands? I let it go. At least, usually. Going through, ahem, stuff, really prepares you for all the future shenanigans life will dish out. Sometimes I'm afraid all the, again, stuff I've been through makes me a worse person. A messed up person. A scarred, tarnished, weak person. But what if going through it all has actually made me a better person?

Today I was just thinking about how the request "Please list all previous addresses" will change over the years. I was lucky growing up. From the time I was three until I was 18, and then for a few years after that, I was in the same house. But now, I have lived at my university, at a house near my university, and now my current house. How many more places will I live at in the years to come? How will I answer that request in five years? I will have been in Romania by then. How many more experiences will I go through? How much will I change? So many questions.

Some people who go through a lot in life are great people. And some are horrible people. And some fall somewhere in between. If we really want to split hairs, we could say everyone goes through a lot in life. Many people have illnesses, daddy issues, go through crappy relationships. How do we truly point out differences without necessarily making unfair distinctions?

Basically, what I am trying to say is, how should I think about all that has happened to me? Not just this flimsy housing issue necessarily, but all the other, yes, stuff. The rubbish that sometimes threatens to define my life. Bipolar disorder is one example. Once I was overwhelmed by this disease; now, I'm distanced from it, thanks to my p-doc and some great medicine. But I still wrestle with how to classify that part of my life. How do we come to terms with things we hate but that nevertheless shape us in some respects? We list the various setbacks, complications, and defeats in our minds like past addresses. I have been here, and there, and I spent two months depressed back then, and then in the spring, I was manic for about a month.

Thank God for new mornings full of mercy. Thank the Lord for forgetting, for moving on, for new strength in our bones. May there be one day for all of us when all that we have been through, whether for better or worse, will be to us as simple as a list of our past addresses.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Words of Affirmation"

I love compliments. I'm chagrined to admit it, but when people tell me something nice about myself, especially about my personality, it makes me feel so, well, affirmed. It tells me, in a little way, that I am appreciated. That I am a person worth complimenting. Some may say compliments are often empty, and I'm sure some may be. I can't argue with anyone else's experience. But when someone tells me of the impact I've made on their life, however small, or that they are proud of me, or that they noticed something about me that I had thought was invisible...that means something to me.

I love connecting with people in meaningful ways. I'm an INFP, which means I am introverted (the "I") but it also means I am a people person. I prefer using intuition rather than my senses, I feel things more strongly than I think them, and I perceive more than I judge. Hopefully I am not mistaken in believing that these make me more inclined to rely on other people rather than on other sources.

The challenge for me is not to be a sponge but to be a well. I shouldn't soak up all the positivity around me without giving it back. Sometimes I don't give as much as I take. I use being an introvert as an excuse to not pour into other people as much as I should. That is a mistake.

Maybe my life experiences make me afraid of giving. Maybe I'm timid, not wanting to sound like a busybody. Maybe I've grown so much quiet strength I haven't spent enough time growing my exuberant strength. Maybe I'm afraid doing something foreign to my character will look fake, or turn me into someone I don't recognize. Maybe I'm afraid of being two-faced, or becoming exhausted, or giving more than I receive. There is so much I could be afraid of.

There are other ways to show love, as anyone familiar with the love languages will attest. I am good at listening, at least. I try not to be too busy to get to know people. But I think I can use words of affirmation more often. I think I can give something back to people, the kind of thing I'd like to receive, without necessarily expecting it in return.

I know Romania will test me, and require more of me. I will be helping young people get on their feet, and even though that seems so strange, because as I write this I still have yet to get a second job...Maybe I will learn how to help people who I can relate to. And I hope to help people who may not appear to relate to me. I don't want to be getting ahead of myself, thinking I can do all this right off the bat. I have room to grow. But I'd rather be confident than afraid. I'd rather feel hopeful than unsure. I will always be who I am. But I think there is even more to me than I am yet aware of.

Thanks for reading this blog. If you liked it, let me know! If you have any questions, ask away. Blogging is my way of connecting with people I love, so by all means, respond if you like.

To help support my work in Romania in fall 2016, please click here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

So, why did you move again?...

I had a decision to make in writing this. Do I write a blog post on this blog, my Romanian Inclination one, or on my The Edge of Here blog? Basically, I decided to keep my focus on Romania, for tonight at least. It's been a little over a week since I've been here in Raleigh, and already I can feel my life filling up with a lot of wonderful things...but 95% of them have nothing to do with Romania.

The wonderful things should be noted. I'm meeting tons of people, going many places, and many of these people are becoming my friends and many of these places will be places that I will frequent as I spend my time here. I've been to two birthday parties, and one more on this coming Friday. I watched a Bollywood movie (all the way through) for the first time today. I swam for the first time this summer yesterday, at one of the birthday shindigs. I started working last Wednesday in the Global Hope India office. I'm cramming tons of information into my head on a daily basis, hoping some will stick: people's names, street names, the shape of streets, which restaurant in downtown is where (I work in downtown Raleigh), passwords, who I need to contact for which thing...I am also still searching to people to share our house with. All wonderful things.

Well, to be honest, finding two more roommates is a little stressful, especially now that I will hopefully have a second job. And my computer refuses to cooperate with the house wifi. So I write this from the Starbucks on Peace Street.

This is nice, though. Being busy. Getting away to a coffee place in a trendy part of Raleigh. I find myself thanking God for little things...getting the coffee and pho stains out of my white shirt using only water...finding out I didn't accidentally give our address to a scammer...okay, that last one was a pretty big relief. But the point I mean to make here is...Where is Romania in all of this?

I've had a lot of people ask me the question, "Why?" "Why did you move to Raleigh?" A decent question, but sometimes I want to ask, "Why not?"

Why not embrace change, take a chance, do something adventurous? Why not go wherever God calls you? Truth is, I moved for a lot of reasons, and the ones I do not voice may be just as powerful as the obvious reasons. I moved to make a step. And that step, ultimately, is to be in Romania.

People will ask me, when I get to Bucharest, why? Why did I move all the way to Eastern Europe when I could have gotten a job in the States, a job that would pay me? Why Romania? Why me?

When God has told you something, it is actually harder to not do what he says than to actually do it. To deny something God has clearly, obviously, unquestionably told you will rip your soul apart. People are good at getting by, sticking to cliches even when God has whispered earth-shattering truths to them. But what if God was right? What if, if only we listened, and then actually did what he told us, we found what we were looking for all along?

Romania is still my goal. I'm learning so much in the Global Hope India office that I am sure I will use when I work for Next Generation Outreach. Like how to engage donors, how to properly thank them and show them what their donations have been doing.

So to all you donors and potential donors, I want to thank you. This blog will be my way of describing to you where my heart is and what God has been doing in my life, and how he is leading me to Romania. I will have to decide what to do about my other blog. Two blogs at once? Or consolidate? I'll figure this out.

But seriously, if you know of a young woman looking for a place to live in Raleigh...leave a comment...lol

As always, here is the link for my donation page. Thank you all!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Eyes to See

One of my biggest worries in pursuing my call to Romania, in going out and raising support, is that people won't understand what I'm trying to do. They won't have eyes to see the importance or the merit of missions, and most of all they won't see how much power they have in it. Let me explain.

I am not worried about people who are not Christians. People who are not openly Christian have, actually, supported me in my call to missions, and for this I am grateful. But it is the Christians I am worried about. With all that is happening in our country, as values shift, as some people embrace the cultural changes while others hunker down against them, God's work in other countries gets overlooked. We have so many things demanding our attention, why should we send people to volunteer thousands of miles away? I am afraid some Christians are not adopting the eyes God can give us to see things from his perspective. Missions become an after-thought, or, ironically, a luxury. Missions is becoming an elective course in the curriculum of Christianity.

What am I trying to do, anyway? Have an extended vacation for the rest of my life? I will admit, while travelling the world is appealing, that is not what I setting out to do. I have traveled, and I have enjoyed it, but I am not asking for support just so I can satisfy my wanderlust. While there are few places I'd like to see before I die (mainly London and NYC), I am called to one country and one country only.

Romania. What is it about this place? Well, truly, everything. The landscapes, the food, the culture, the language(s), but mainly, the people. No place is perfect, but you know, if you've read my first post, that I felt a connection to this place, to this people that left me yearning to go back. The only thing I was unsure, even insecure about was what, if anything, I would be able to contribute. 

I felt so useless at certain points in Romania, especially the second time I went. I was uncomfortably shy, fluent only in English, and struggled even with leading Bible study on the first trip. To my embarrassment to this day, one evening on the second trip I quarreled with another girl from my church because we both wanted to do the harder part of washing the dishes, rather than drying them. I just want to do something that made a difference. I was chagrined when the Hungarian missionary appeared and said, "Girls, don't fight." I was in a difficult place emotionally. Here I was, back in the place I had wanted to get back to, and I loved it, but I had nothing to offer. At least that was how I felt. 

What is to say I won't feel the same when I return?

Well.

I went to India. Now, this may seem like a big detour, like I got sidetracked or something along the way. But India was the perfect arrangement, from Jesus, for me at the perfect time. I shone. I did photography, one skill, and writing, one skill, and played with children, which, as it turns out, is another skill. Along with me being equipped by God in his timing, I was with people who helped me grow, encouraged me, and appreciated what I had to offer. I smiled bigger in my pictures in India that I have smiled in any other pictures, ever. Yet, I don't compare my experiences in India to Romania. 

Are you wondering why in the world don't I just go back to India, since it was so great?

Well.

One evening in India, I was sitting outside with everyone else, for evening prayer and worship. During a song, which I didn't know the words to (because they were in Oriya...), I just quietly sat and watched the sunset, a ribbon of pinks and yellows. Suddenly and unmistakably, out of nowhere, I heard a word from my God: Romania. Wouldn't you like to go back to Romania? I am calling you back. 

It was as simple as that. 

I had actually always intended to go back to Romania. A guy friend of mine, who is not a Christian (anymore) said that in going to India, I was following my  "highest excitement;" in other words, a good thing. In my eyes, I was just following where God was calling me to go.  But regardless of my knowledge, or my plan, or anything I assumed, God was working. God called me back, definitively, in a moment as tiny yet as valuable as a diamond. I didn't need to ask anyone else for their interpretation, or opinion. That was it. These moments are indeed as rare and precious as gems. I try not to take them for granted.

So to wrap this all up, what could my story mean to Christians in America? What, if anything, could my story change in their hearts to help them see that they are not just living in the United States of America, but in the world? In the world, but not of it. Yet are the gypsies in Romania not your neighbors? Are the child soldiers in Uganda not warmed by the same sun as you are? This post is not meant to create guilt, or pressure, or bad feelings. I just think, rather than live in our occasionally insular homes and churches, we need to have eyes to see our place on the planet. How much power does God have, and how much power does he impart to us! Maybe you do not see it as power. But take a moment to see all he has given you. What will you do with it?

If you feel called to give, please click here.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Real Lost Boys (and Girls)

Imagine a kid without parents and you might have flashbacks to Peter Pan and his gang. Kids who do what they want, when they want. They have a bunch of friends in the same situation, so they're never really lonely. They're ill-behaved, but what problems do they really have? They seem free and independent. Right?

Of course, we know that this is not true. Laying the Peter Pan analogy aside, we know the two most important people in a child's life are their mother and father. Take these two key people away, and a child is left destitute until they can find a suitable home life. Unfortunately, for thousands of Romanian children who are orphaned, this never happens. Children are left to live with other children in orphanages and apartments, supervised distantly, or perhaps not at all.

If knowledge is power, what better place to start in the fight to help these children than by starting with research? What exactly are the effects of being orphaned? What does it even mean to be orphaned? What are these children facing? Last of all, for now, how will Next Generation Outreach, the ministry I have started working for, make a difference?

What follows is an excerpt from my Prayer and Action Guide produced for my Social Justice and Human Rights class.

"The victims in this situation are the many orphans of Romania, numbering over 100,000 after the death of Ceausescu in 1989 (Human Rights Watch). The nature of the injury is emotional and psychological along with physical. More specifically, even today, orphans still fill orphanages, and the ill effects of institutionalization and abandonment of these children continue to appear (Sullivan 2014). For children given to orphanages at a very early age, such as in infancy, a lack of attachment and sensory deprivation in these early months of institutionalization can create various psychological problems for these children (Sullivan 2014). Children showed high rates of developmental delays, anxiety and affective symptoms, and physical delays in growth (Ellis 2004). 

"In addition, another effect of the Ceausescu regime was the high rate of HIV among the institutionalized population of orphans (Morrison 2004). The means or method of injury originated with Ceausescu’s banning abortions and all forms of contraception in an outrageous attempt to increase Romania’s population (Sanborne 1996, 122). Destitute parents place their children either temporarily or permanently in these institutions where severely limited staff could not offer treatment, therapy, or education to the children (Morrison 2004). Along with unsanitary and crowded conditions, the results were incredibly elevated rates of developmental disabilities, infectious diseases such as HIV, and high mortality rates (Morrison 2004).

"The legacy of this chaos is still present today, and is partly why so many Romanian children continue to be abandoned while adult survivors struggle to make a living and a life for themselves (Sullivan 2014). The perpetrator was, initially, Ceausescu. Now that he has been deceased since 1989, and the problem still continues, who is at fault currently can be a difficult question to answer. The government still appears to be somewhat responsible, specifically because the state slashed funding for foster parents, and children can only be adopted out of foster homes, not from orphanages or group homes directly (Sullivan 2014). The idea of putting the needs and rights of these children first—reuniting them with their biological families or obtaining other loving homes for them—would necessitate changing the social mentality of Romanians, another perpetrator (Sullivan 2014)."

To answer the final question, how will Next Generation Outreach create change for orphans? Specifically, NGO helps orphans who are around 18 years old, adults, who can no longer stay in orphanages any longer but who often do not have the resources to make it on their own. NGO assists them in gaining skills and finding jobs, so that they can begin supporting themselves. Moreover, Next Generation Outreach is a cooperative of Romanian youth in addition to the American missionaries, and everyone together provide emotional connection for one another, serving as the sort of family these young men and women still desperately need. It's not perfect, but as Next Generation Outreach grows, group homes will become a reality and more young people will find employment and that more elusive sense of well-being and love that comes from having a place where they belong. With Christ's blessing, this and more will be the future for Romania's youth. Please prayerfully consider how you can help. If supporting me, Katie, financially is right for you, thank you and please click the link here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

So Inclined

This journey began with the ending of another. Sitting in my family's office, sometime before my back surgery and before I started high school, I felt different. I had returned from less than eight days in Romania. Not very long, in the scheme of things, at least one would think. But I felt it. Reverse homesickness. I had been to a place that I connected to on so many levels. Yes, I had enjoyed the food, and it was exciting being in new place. The language was beautiful. I had sat through prayer meetings and sermons, all in Romanian, that transfixed me. More significantly, I observed the people. I soaked in everything around me. I shared my personal testimony in front of a congregation of at least 200. I was also grappling with a private tragedy, a deep betrayal of my trust. I wept in private, but just once. I was going through many things. And I came back to California with this essence, this alteration in my heart. Sitting alone in the office, I had a new sense of reality. I now felt a tie to a place to which I was a stranger. I decided to change that. I decided to no longer be that stranger.

In the many blog posts to follow, I hope to shine a light on this country, Romania, and this people. For now, though, I want to leave you with a poem I wrote which became the inspiration for the name of this blog. And, if you are so inclined, please continue following the ongoing story as I get ready to resume my journey to Romania with Next Generation Outreach. There is still much to tell.

Romanian Inclination

First train home, I’ve got to get on it.
Only I’m not on a train, not returning.
I am going to Bucharest, a place I’ve
longed to be in since I was fourteen.
I remember coming home from Arad
back then, sitting in the back room
a week before back surgery….
Letting time tick by while I felt
homesickness not for home but
for a foreign land. Sitting on
the plane, now, my stomach full
of lightning bugs and the headrest
strains my neck but—here I am. I hope
the Romania I fell in love with
in adolescence is close enough to
what it is now, that I am not a fool
to bank my future on a country as
amorphous as saltwater. Life is built
on hunches sometimes—at least
mine seems to be—and wasn’t it always
little hints that spoke truest? There is
a certainty I’ve carried since the
beginning that I won’t let go, not now.
I have a degree for this, I’m ready.
The engine roars to life, the plane
rolls down the runway. I think
this: First train home, I’ve got

to get on it. First train home.

(Italics from "First Train Home" by Imogen Heap)