Monday, December 15, 2008

Year in Review

So I decided that I would combine my desire to experiment with putting pictures on here and my desire to review my year. So...I picked my favorite picture from each month of 2008. Some I picked for purely photographic value, some for nostalgic value, some for both, some for neither. Anyway...let's begin.
January: Sedona, AZ

On New Years Day I took a trip up north with Ashley, Katie, and Amanda to do our favorite hiking trail near Sedona, which we've done periodically since high school. It was a beautiful winter wonderland, and I was actually pretty excited to be back in the kind of cold I hadn't been in since New York. The creek that we've gone swimming in before was completely frozen over, and we had fun testing its strength. Here they are in the middle of the creek.

February: Tempe, AZ
When my friend Jeremy came back to Tempe with his wife Tracy for a visit, it made for a lovely little reunion of college friends. For the first time in a long time, all of the members of my original church small group from early college were under one roof. Cassidy, Matt, me, Kiki, Jacob, Jeremy, Nate, and George. God used this group of people to encourage, edify, and entertain me in the beginnings of my adult life. He still uses them in my life today, but not usually all at once.

March: Tucson, AZ
There are hundreds of pictures from March 15th, my sister's wedding day, but I picked my favorite of the ones from my own camera. My cousin's daughter Chloe was the flower girl, and because of an accident on the I-10, she was almost late for the wedding. This was of course a source of stress for everyone involved, and it was such a relief when she finally showed up. Her mom had done her hair in the back of their car on the way into town, and you'd never guess how frazzled everyone had been. She looked amazing, but she wouldn't smile when she first arrived. I made it a personal goal to get her to do so - and succeeded!

For the month of April, I encounter a problem with this blog idea - I didn't take any pictures. So instead here's a picture (taken in June) of my friend and roommate Pam, who was the top quote-getter in April. Her quotes that month were:

"I was going to take a shower, but then I remembered the child life gadget."
"I maybe should only eat purple goldfish once a day."
"I guess she assumed we were at home - you know, not out on the streets with a popsicle."
"Oh my gosh, I was kind of a player."

May: Grand Canyon, AZ
This was another month with many pictures, including a ton of the Grand Canyon at sunrise, which I think every person in the US should try to see before they die. But since one of those pictures is already the picture at the top of this blog, I picked this one instead. My Romanian friend Vasi was visiting for a long weekend. I met Vasi in Romania my first year there - he was one of our translators. It was really bizarre for me to have a part of that world here with me in my world. Anyway, this pic was taken on our short hike partway into the Canyon.

June: Palm Springs, CA
I went to Resolved Conference in June with about half of my church. This was my 3rd time attending, and as usual, it was full of really impactful sermons and sweet worship. Fellowship was a lot of fun, too. But since impactful sermons and sweet worship can't be captured on film, and the fellowship pictures are mostly just typical pictures of people hanging out, I decided to go with this one. The conference was in Palm Springs this year, which was unfortunate because it was nowhere near the ocean and was 115 degrees. But the mountains nearby were pretty incredible, and I love it when I can capture something beautiful in the foreground. This pic was taken from right outside the conference center.

July: Coronado Beach, CA
I took the annual trek to San Diego with my mom and sister to visit my great aunt. We went 4th of July weekend this year. On the 4th of July itself, my mom decided to stay at my aunt's house - it gave them a chance to catch up and to look at photo album after photo album. My sister and I journeyed out on our own to Coronado Island to pay the beach a quick visit. Little did we know there was a parade there that day, and parking was impossible. It made for a really fun adventure with my sister though - some quality sister time that we hadn't had since her wedding. And having to walk for a long time to get to the beach was really no problem at all - beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, and everything all decked out with patriotic spirit. This is my favorite picture from that little journey.

August: Harris, NY
My trip to New York was everything I hoped it would be. I got my fix of both New York City and Sullivan County, where I'd finished my internship last year. I spent time with lots of dear friends in both places and had such a welcome break from life here. This picture was taken at our intern reunion. These are the 3 girls I went through the internship with, who are now dear friends. And Conio was our director - so nice to know him now as a friend only and not someone I feel the need to impress and please.
September: Mogollon Rim, AZ
One hot weekend in September, I escaped the Phoenix heat with a group of friends and went up north. The group that scouted out the campsite did so in the dark, and then they woke up in the morning to this view, just a few steps away from where they'd pitched their tent. If you look carefully, you can see Cassidy standing out there on the edge. Anyway, by the time i got there, it was late afternoon. Camp was already set up, and I got to simply enjoy the view and the company. We got to watch the sun both set and rise from this amazing spot and enjoy sweet fellowship and time out of the desert.

October: Sedona, AZ

Katie and I decided that since Phoenix was still pretending it was summer, we would need to go find fall for ourselves. We drove up to Sedona for the day and had a lovely time enjoying cooler weather and changing leaves. We found a little trail that led us to part of the Oak Creek that we'd never seen before, and we had fun exploring and picture-taking.

November: Mesa, AZ
Not many people's Thanksgiving celebrations get to include romping in green grass and picking dandelions - sometimes I'm glad I live where I do. After dinner, I took my cousin's kids across the street to the park. They are all naturals at posing for the camera, and it was fun to see their pure joy at just being outside. They made wishes over and over again and blew enough dandelion seeds to prepare us for the next harvest - maybe Christmas Eve?

December: Phoenix, AZ
Every year, the Phoenix Zoo decorates with millions of Christmas lights. It's a really fun excuse for us Phoenecians to get dressed up in warm clothes and do something unique. A group of friends from church went, along with some of our friends, and their turned into a very random but fun assortment of people. I love this picture despite not really knowing some of the people in it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Some old poetic creations...

I hesitate to call these poems, mostly because I don't consider myself to be a poet. One of these once became a song but the chords have been lost along the way and didn't add much in the first place. I found both of these in a journal from 2005, although one had been written before and this was a rewrite. I'd been looking for these writings for awhile and had lost track of them, and I came across them today while attacking the disaster that is my closet.

The first was written in the aftermath of my grandparents' car accident in 2003, an event which led to a period of unrepentant sin in my life and a lot of questions. It's called Intersections:

Where Indian School met 22nd Street,
my Granny and Grandpa their fate would meet
In our family album we'd turn a new leaf,
for soon we would find ourselves dealing with grief

Where 38th St. met with Oak,
my fragile heart collapsed and broke
I hated You, I yelled and cried,
In Your promise to comfort me, You had lied.

Where Vista Del Cerro met Dorsey Lane
My heart became numb with pain
I knew what was needed to make things right
but was too weak to run and too tired to fight.

Where Mill Avenue met with Baseline
a dear friend and I met to catch up and dine.
I warily told her of my fall
"Too tired to run?" she said, "Then crawl."

So where Forest Ave. met Gammage Parkway,
I know I will always remember the day,
I crawled back to You, cuddled up as your child
and remembered how I came to be reconciled

For where wood met wood upon a hill,
my heart will remember still
You died to pay a sinner's fine
and Your heart intersected mine

This intersection beats them all,
You saved me when I deserved to fall
The price you paid upon that cross
Speaks louder than any tale of loss.

I did repent at that time, but still struggled with a lot of questions for a really long time. Not so much, "Why did my grandparents have to die?" but "Why am I not feeling the presence of God right now?" "Why don't I have answers for my unbelieving family members?" "Why do I have to feel alone in this?"

The 2nd one was written later, after that period too had also come to an end, or nearly had. After months of heaviness, there was a beautiful week in Rocky Point, Mexico, where I'd gone for a Spring Break mission trip. Walking and praying on the beach with a good friend was sweet medicine to a thirsty soul. then there was this really cool moment where we were swimming with dolphins...and nobody had their camera on them. I remember talking to my friend later and we decided that that moment was meant to be so special that we couldn't capture it. I also had the opportunity to simply float in the ocean. Anyway, I reflect on that trip and the months leading up to it in the following, called Tears

I will not let you know that I am holding you right now
You have to understand that I must help you grow somehow
I promise you that one day you will count as joy this trial
but until then I have to let you miss Me for awhile

My face will not be clear to you, your answers will not come
I'm watching you right now, and you're wondering why I'm dumb
I see your tears, my daughter, and I will not dry them yet,
But I'll count them, and I'll do wonders with your tears that I collect

You're driving now, it's raining, and the tears have filled your eyes
You don't know where you're going, you're half-hoping that you'll die
There is work still left to do for you, though, lives still left to touch
and if I made this struggle easy, then it wouldn't mean as much

It's months later now, I see you've found Me faithful yet again
And you see now, precious child, what I blinded you to then
Can you hurt with those who hurt now? Can you grieve with those who grieve?
Can you even understand why some just simply can't believe?

You are now a little humbler, cling to me a bit more tightly
I've done this that, now that it's through, you shine a bit more brightly
So lets take a trip, just Me and you - My love's what matters most
Let's take a trip, we'll spend some time together on the coast

Those tears that I collected, I have cast into the sea
Come ride the waves, supported by Me fully, rest in Me
Here's a moment you can't capture on your film or with a pen
A moment in My presence, which is where you've always been.

Ok thank for reading, if anyone got this far. Sorry for the extreme length of this blog...and this is me restraining myself. :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Well said,....Jesus

I am always really excited when I hear or read a quote or song lyric that is well-written and thought-provoking. My favorite artists are Jars of Clay and Caedmons Call, because of their music but also because of their way with words. I love when people can somehow speak of something, whether ordinary or extraordinary, in a unique way, and I especially like when I can relate well to what they've said. When I'm reading books, I always have my eye open for that quote that says beautifully what I can only say commonly.

I don't often approach scripture with that same eye. The Bible is the Word of God, and I certainly seek to submit myself to it, come humbly before it to learn of my God, and apply its truths to my life. But I think what I lack many times is that freshness with which I approach new songs, new books. I've read every word in the Bible before, and while I truly believe that I can learn something new each time I open its pages, the sinful part of me can almost become casual in my reading of it because it isn't new to me.

My small group at church has just started going through the gospels, and this danger is greatest here. So many of the stories of Jesus have become very familiar even to those who don't have a relationship with Him or regularly read His word. And for those of us in a Bible-teaching church, this familiarity is even greater.

Today, though, God graciously opened my eyes to His own words, the words of Jesus, some very familiar words of Jesus, and I saw them as if for the first time. I read them and thought, "what a great quote! That speaks to my condition! That says in a beautiful way what I could only say commonly! The words were these:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." - Matthew 7:24-25

A"nd the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house..." How exhausting!! How real! What a true statement about my condition, and what a calming reassurance - "It had been founded on the rock."

Reading on in Matthew, I see that I was not the only one moved by these words. The crowds were astonished, too, because they saw that he had authority. Obviously, these words take an a far greater weight than Jars of Clay, Caedmons Call, or my favorite authors' words do. The Creator of the universe, the Almighty God spoke them! And he spoke them well!

The uncertainties of my life have been burdensome this week, and it's easy to question a great many things. I can feel that rain, those floods, those winds...but I can also feel that rock. By His grace, this house will not fall.

Look out, Arizona!

As usual, lots of stuff on my mind, but this is another one of those days where I don't feel quite ready to write any of it out. So I'll opt instead for what made me laugh today...

Our weather has been really warm lately, up in the eighties most of the week and coming close to record heat for this time of year. It's gotten a little bit ridiculous - many of us girls were wearing tank tops at some friends' house last night and the fan was running, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I don't mind terribly, and LOVE the ability to be out and about outside when much of the country is icy and snowy. I walked to a coffee shop this morning in a short-sleeved shirt, jeans, and flip-flops and ordered my customary iced mocha while cooling off from my walk. Such is the life of a Phoenician. I do remember fondly my time living in New York, where checking the weather was important - figuring out if it was supposed to snow and how much, preparing for possible snow days and altered schedules and leaving extra time to drive on icy streets. Checking the weather here is not usually quite as crucial but I do it anyway.

So today I got on and was surprised to see a "special weather comment" under the "local weather alert" heading for the greater Phoenix area. I read the following:



I literally laughed out loud. I love how they call it a "main precipitation event" and how the great climax of the warning is that by Thanksgiving, temperatures may only be in the 60s and 70s. BRRR! Will we ever be able to handle being only 40 degrees warmer than the rest of the country?? It's like someone at the weather service felt bad for us over here because we never get any weather warnings, and they gave us one and made it sound as ominous as such pleasant weather can sound.

Ok, well maybe my next post will be a little more profound...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Te iubesc, O Domnul meu...

This is one of those nights where I am thinking about a great many things, but I'll try to focus in on one theme and get to a coherent point...

Yesterday, I went with some friends to a homeless shelter in downtown Phoenix. We gave burritos to people and talked to them about God. Some conversations were better than others, but one was particularly intriguing. When asked what he knew about the gospel, this guy responded that most churches are not teaching people the basics. I had certain assumptions about where he was going with this and thought this might be a point of agreement (I think many churches do NOT teach people the basics). I was thrown for a loop when he said, "For instance, the letter J..." He went on to talk about the fact that Jesus' name in the original language is not Jesus at all, that the letter J didn't come into existence until 500 years ago, and that if we are praying to Jesus, our prayers will not be answered because that is not His name. No matter what we said, it was clear that he was stuck on this point. I was blown away. To me, it is so obvious that a God who intends to call some from every tribe, tongue, and nation, would not be bothered by a language "barrier," clearly not a barrier to Him. I even expressed to this man my own joy at being called a Romanian version of my name while in Romania - that this in no way changed who I was but seemed to immerse me more deeply into the culture I was in. This man's mind was unchanged, however, and he begged us NOT to pray for him when we finally walked away.

Tonight, I went to Apele Vii - the Romanian church I attend a couple times a month. I was very encouraged by every part of the service and thrilled that despite an exhausting day I was able to follow the Romanian sermon more successfully than usual. The part that most affected my heart, though, was while we were singing. It was a song in Romanian that I didn't know but mostly understood. The last line, which we sang repeatedly, was "Te iubesc, O Domnul meu," which means, "I love you, O my Lord." I was struck by the miracle that it is that I can sing those words, for several reasons. First of all, I was born a sinner and was incapable of loving God. He rescued me from my pursuit of sin and ultimately of hell, and he gave me a heart that is now able to love Him. Secondly, he is MY Lord. What right have I do have any sort of claim on the creator of the universe, a perfectly holy and righteous God? Only the right given me by the death of Christ on the cross, as he bore the wrath of God on my behalf so that I could be called His child. And on top of all of that, I am able to address Him as Domnul and know that the Lord hears my voice, understands that name, and responds to that worship. And I can know that those same things were true earlier in the day, when I praised Him in English. He doesn't only identify with blood descendants of Abraham, He doesn't only identify Himself as a God of the Hebrews and respond only to a Hebrew name. Instead, an American, English-speaking girl is able to worship Him alongside Romanian believers, and to have confidence that the blood that was spilt was not spilt for only one people group and was not affected by the creation of the letter J. Praise God!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Archive: October 17th, 2008

If I wrote a book...

I think I would love to write a book one day. My roommate Pam has the same thought, and lately we've been "authoring" together. I don't really know what my book would be about if I wrote one but the other day I just started writing about a day at the cemetery. This then turned into the beginnings of the story of my grandparents' death and how it affected me, but the first page is my favorite. And if I write a book, and if it happens to be a story of my life, this might be in it. But for now it will just become a blog:
On the first day of fall each year, I go to the city cemetery in my hometown. Nothing to do with the changing weather – it doesn't change until at least October. But on the first day of fall in 1920, my grandmother was born. And in fall of 2003, she died. And so this is one of several landmarks during the year when I visit her grave, which she shares with my grandpa.
I'm not a person who believes in the mystical power of gravesites, or even in the dead looking down on me, or me having a chance to communicate with them while I'm there. But there is something about a cemetery. This one especially. It's not well-groomed really- not a manicured lawn dotted with perfectly sculpted monuments. It's old, and it has weeds sometimes, and it's right in the middle of a not-so-nice part of town. But I love it. Somehow, ironically, there is life there. People come there and they sit by the graves of their loved ones. Some bring chairs, some bring books, some plan for a whole day. And unless there's a funeral happening at the time, there isn't that innate sense that you need to be quiet. And some people put balloons at the graves, not just flowers. And Happy Halloween signs, and birthday cards…
But I digress. When I go to the cemetery, it's not for a long day of sitting. On this particular fall day, it's much too hot to stay long anyway. I park my car and wander, nodding my respects to funeral-goers nearby and starting my search for the grave. I always remember that it's just east of the entrance, and just north of a tree…but there are many trees and I always end up wandering. And then I find it, and I pause. Ingebrigtsen, Marjorie and Leonard. I'm here for both of them, really, it's just that the birthday is my grandma's. I make sure the ants won't be too bothersome, then I tidy up a bit. Other times, I've brought flowers, but today I didn't. I fluff out the fake flowers that someone else has brought before and turn my attention to the gravestone itself. It's dusty – the lawn has apparently been mowed recently and little grass clippings have settled all around. I brush off the big ones with my hand, but that doesn't take care of all the little bits that have landed in the engraving. My grandparents loved the Superstition Mountains – even moved here to Arizona because of them. They once had a cabin there that still fills the memories of everyone in the 2 generations above me. And so that was chosen as the design of their stone. A simple sketch of the outline of that dramatic desert mountain range, now filled with the tiniest bits of dead grass. I blow gently on each line to clear it, and then trace the names the same way. Now satisfied, I simply sit and think and pray. Not for a long time – these are thoughts and prayers that aren't as gut-wrenching now as they once were. Now when I go it is more to remind myself of those times before – of everything that happened in the fall of 2003, of the largely unscarred life I left behind, of the doubts I overcame, of the daily mercy of God sustaining and refreshing my soul, even while I was trying my hardest to walk away from Him. They are things that need to be remembered and cannot be forgotten, things that have shaped me into who I am. And I dare not ever forget that it was hard but that God was there. And that the story's not over yet and that God still has much to teach me.
I breathe my thanks to the God who was there, to the God who IS there. I breathe also a prayer for the family members who are still here, who still need the mercy of God to capture their hearts. And I pray that I would not grow weary. And I walk back to my car, as I watch the funeral-goers, and the lawn-chair-sitters, and I remember.

Archive: September 17th, 2008

Kids are amazing

After many weeks of not blogging, I finally have a night with both inspiration and time on my hands. I actually have a lot I want to write about, but first i'm just going to combine a few kid stories...
So I've started, in my plethora of free time, to volunteer with a tutoring club in South Phoenix. It's a really cool program and I wish I was able to committ more time and energy to it, but for now I'm just going a couple of times a month for less than an hour. Anyway, it takes place in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood, so all of the kids live close. On Monday, my roommate Amanda and I went to walk a little girl home - I think she's 9. We asked a guy to go with us for safety, and he came along but said the neighborhood wasn't anything to worry about. To which the little girl very nonchalantly answered, "There are drive-bys sometimes." She went on to tell us that the last time there was a drive-by, she got sick and had to stay home from school. Turns out she was so scared from the experience that she threw up. The part that really broke my heart though was what followed. She said, "usually when there's drive-bys, I sleep through them." No little girl should be able to start a sentence with that preface - "usually when there's drive-bys." And she didn't say anything in a way that invited pity or attention - she was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing and seems to be a happy, well-adjusted little girl despite the terror that regularly plagues her neighborhood.
Another awesome kid: one of my music therapy kids. This kid is 12 years old and has autism. You'd never know it to see him, talk to him, etc. - I only believe the diagnosis based on reports from his parents. Anyway, he is one of the coolest kids i know. He's got all sorts of interests and seems to really care about people. Case in point: He just told me today that he's come up with a fundraising idea for his local YMCA, where he spends hours on end volunteering each week. His idea is a basketball shoot-a-thon, and he wants to invite other kids with autism to participate. It is so rare for any 12-year-old kid to take this kind of initiative in helping other people, and his placement on the autism spectrum only points to the fact that the autism spectrum is full of kids who are wrongly stereotyped all the time.
My third kid story deals with several different kids but more so with my thought processes. It may not seem like a kid story at first, but wait for it...Ok, so I've gotten caught up in the personal lives of politicians these last few weeks, along with many other millions of Americans I'm sure. And I'll admit to having googled Trig Palin, Sarah's youngest son, who has Down Syndrome. And in this process, I saw a link to an article that claimed that 90 to 95% of pregnancies in the U.S. with a Down Syndrome diagnosis are aborted. My heart breaks over so many lives lost. It also breaks because of the huge number of families that have missed out on a blessing. I'm not even going to begin to suggest that parenting a child with Down Syndrome would be easy - it would be full of challenges to be sure. But I've experienced such profound joy in my interactions with kids with DS. Challenges, yes, but so much joy. And that sickening statistic has made me so much more thankful for the 6 kids with DS that I get to make music with every week, whose parents either were ignorant of their diagnosis or were willing to let their baby live despite it.
Today 2 of those kids in particular made me smile. My 3-year-old ran up to me (she couldn't walk at all when I first met her!) and hugged me with a huge smile on her face before we'd even gotten started. Partway through the session, she made a game out of this, walking away, then quickly walk-running back for a hug, repeatedly. She's talking up a storm these days, which is so exciting, and you should see her with a microphone! We sang our hearts out together for 10 minutes straight.
My 9-year-old has been a big challenge for several months. If she doesn't want to make music, she will make that perfectly clear, and she has stumped me more than once. But today, we had this terrific momentum that just didn't stop for the whole hour. We danced, we sang, we played, we laughed...and after I'd sung goodbye to her, she promptly turned my keyboard back on, grabbed the microphone, and sang another verse.
These kids are amazing too - and by the grace of God, they're alive! I find myself amazed afresh today at the beauty and grace of these little lives.

Archive: August 15th, 2008

some New York moments

I was going to blog about my new york trip, but now it's been so long and there is too much to say. But I keep having flashbacks to certain moments there, and those are what I'd like to share the most. 2 for now:
I spent Sunday with a family from the church I attended out in Ulster County. This family has 7 kids and lives in a cute little house in the country. They also live across the street from family friends who have a farm and a huge plot of land, so they spend much of their day on the farm, roaming about shoeless and doing all sorts of things that country kids do. I got to join them for this roaming for a day and very much felt like I'd been transported to another era. We fed the cows, climbed in hay, ate veggies straight off the field (yes, even me!), etc. But that's beside the point:
When I first saw the kids on Sunday morning, I told them that I was excited to see NY so green, because it hadn't been so green when I left (early March) and because it isn't so green where I live. Several hours later, I was sitting on the swing set with the oldest daughter, Lauren, who's 7. We were looking towards their gorgeous view from their yard – mountains in the distance and nothing but green. Lauren turned to me and said, "is it so pretty here?" to which of course I responded yes. I told her that we have mountains where I live too, and that they're pretty also but very different because they're brown instead of green. I also said that I don't see them as often because I live in the city and it's hard to see them well. She said, "That's very sad." Not in at all a rude way, just in a very honest way, a sad way really. I agreed that it was sad, and she invited me to go sit on a hay bale with her, because she said this was the best place to see the mountains. How could I turn down an invitation like that? We sat on the hay bale together, looking at the mountains, and she told me that she'd found that spot all by herself but that she'd told her whole family now so everyone knew. I loved this moment. In a family of 9, she had found a perfect spot to get away, but she didn't keep even that to herself.
The other moment I keep thinking of actually happened earlier in the weekend. My official reason for being back in NY in the first place was for an intern reunion that went from Friday to Saturday. The music therapy team, past and present, plus some friends and relatives, put on a concert for the residents of the place where our internship took place. I didn't get to see many of the individuals I saw for therapy last year, but I did have a couple precious reunions. The only adult that I had sessions with 1:1 was getting off her bus from her group home for the concert, saw me, and burst into the most infectious smile. We hugged, she kissed my cheek, we talked briefly, and I had to rush off to lunch. During the concert, though, I made eye contact with her time after time while I sang. The last song we did was "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Prepare for me to be super cheesy, but I almost cried singing this song to the people there. My internship was such a hard time for me for many reasons, but when all was said and done, I left having developed really meaningful relationships on top of accomplishing my degree. To be back there in that beautiful place, singing to these amazing people who I was blessed to get to know, was pretty incredible. Singing that nothing could keep me from them seemed pretty true. Over a year later and thousands of miles traveled, I was back again. What a huge blessing to revisit that part of my past, with such a deep appreciation for all that I experienced there and for how far I've come since then.

Archive: July 25th, 2008

New York...

I'm going to New York next week, and God's timing couldn't be more perfect, for several reasons:
My patience with the kids has been wearing thin the last week or so - I find myself getting frustrated with all the little things - some they can control and some they can't. Burnout is such a strong possibility in jobs like this one, but I think a week away will be a real help.
My future is still so up in the air, at least from my perspective, and that is what I find myself thinking on much too often. A break in my routine will give me different things to think about...and along with that the blessed ability to NOT think about that for awhile.
All the people I get to spend time with are people that I think will be refreshing to my soul in one way or another...i may say more about that later.
And then there's New York itself- something about the calmness of my tiny little town, and something about that infectious excitement of the city itself...I think both will be like a breath of fresh air for me.
My week will start with flying into the city on a red-eye flight and arriving early Thursday morning. A whole day in the city with nothing planned, probably hanging out with my friend Amber. Then I'll take the train (and I LOVE this train!) into Middletown. My friend Lindsay, who was an intern with me, will pick me up there on her way to Monticello from Indiana, and we'll stay with our other ex-roommate Amanda at her apartment in Monticello. I have no doubt there will be a lot of laughter and craziness - and probably some pretty memorable quotes. :-)
The official intern reunion is from Friday to Saturday at the Center for Discovery. I'll get to return to the place where so much soul-searching happened for me, where I felt knocked down in so many ways but from where I eventually emerged as a professional with so many amazing experiences under my belt. I'll see some of the music therapists there and hopefully a lot of the residents that I worked with. And we'll be putting on a concert on Saturday, which should be a fun adventure.
Sunday I'll say a sad farewell to my music therapy friends and meet up with a family from the church I attended there. They're picking me up to take me to church with them, then I'll spend the day and night with their fabulously fun and huge family - 7 kids!! These kids had so much fun introducing me to fun things to do in the snow while I was there, and I'm eager to see what the country life has in store for me in the summer. The whole family was a huge encouragement to me while I lived there and I'm so glad we're going to reconnect.
Monday I go to the city again. I'll go whenever my friends can get me to the train station, hopefully meet up with Amber, and spend another day just enjoying everything that NYC has to offer. In the evening, I'm meeting my friends Mo Bing and Cathy, who went to Romania with me. They've both been back there more than once since we came back last spring, which I can't help but be jealous of, but which will also be fun to hear about. And I'm excited to get their input on my whole situation - they love Romania almost as much as I do and are also older and wiser than I am so may be able to help me look at things in a new way. I get to spend the night at Mo Bing's apartment in Chinatown, which I'm really excited about, too.
Tuesday is another up-in-the-air day. Bumming around the city some of my favorite things in life. I'll spend the night at Amber's fantastic house in Brooklyn.
Wednesday Amber is actually flying home to Phoenix before I am, and I'll have the day to myself I think. I'm torn between exploring parts of the city I don't know very well and going to my old favorite spots. I do know that Central Park is a must and could see myself spending the entire day there, with coffee and a book and a journal and my watchful eyes taking in all the sights and processing life. I'm kinda up for anything.
At some point that afternoon I have to find my way to Newark to fly home. Praise God I have many things to look forward to once I get home also - I know it will be hard to leave but at least not impossible.
This was a really long blog and maybe only interesting to if anyone read this far...I'm flattered. :-)

Archive: July 23rd, 2008

just a sliver of what I’m thinking about...

Two cancellations and counting today, so I have some time to try to spew out some of the many thoughts in my head. Sometimes I get a feeling that there will never be the ability to sort out everything that I'm thinking and feeling, and that no matter how hard I try to express things to people there will always be something very crucial that gets left out because there's just too much going on.
I woke up today with a heavy weight. I think the emotions of the last week and a half finally caught up with me a little bit - I had a very fun-filled weekend with my friend Tracey in town and didn't really take any time to digest all of the emotions that would typically bombard me. I was able to praise God when I woke up though, hard as it was. I can thank Him that I have burdens in my heart that can only be removed by Him. That is mercy! The best place for me to be is at my Savior's feet, and that is not a place I am very likely to be if nothing is ever hard.
I may not go to Romania. This is a sentence I'm getting used to saying. Whereas several months ago, it seemed that everything was pointing in that direction, the complete opposite seems to be true now. And I don't know if these things are things to persevere through or if they are signs from God that now is not the time. And I don't know how to know that. And I'm getting used to not knowing and at trying my hardest to simply trust, much as that seems to be an oxymoron since trusting is so far from simple.
A common theme in both my life and the lives of my friends recently seems to be dealing with desires that appear to be from God but are not quickly fulfilled. One person desires to have a baby. One desires to be in a relationship that seems completely impractical and even impossible. One desires to be pursued by a man who is not taking the steps he needs to take. One desires to go to another country. And it is so easy to become angry with God in these situations - "Why would You give me such a strong desire and leave me there? If this isn't going to happen, could You take away this desire?" And again, I need to be reminded, as my friends do, that God is primarily interested in our hearts. He DOES care whether or not our desires are fulfilled, because we are His children, and He died for us, and He is intimately connected to our hearts. But ultimately, He cares about what matters most - our relationship to Him, our complete dependence on Him, our willingness to surrender. And because He is good, and because He is faithful, and because He is all-knowing, and because He is God, He is more than worthy of being trusted.
One of the kids I work with again gave me precious insight on Monday. We wrote a song about life, or started one anyway. She came up with a line that said, "Life is full of ups and downs and turns-arounds." I wanted to cry. When pressed to explain her lyric, she gave an example of having had to learn a new way to solve a math problem in 5th grade. It was good to be reminded that she is only 11 and that she doesn't have the same kinds of things on her plate that I do. Because when I think of ups and downs and turns-arounds, I think of relationships, and of Romania, and of a constantly changing view of my own future and the roller coaster that I sometimes feel I'm on. And in away, I wish that all I thought about was math problems, but I know that God will not give me more than I can handle. So as my view of my own future constantly changes, I know that His view of my future does not. And that is what I rest in, and that is what I hope in.

Archive: July 13th, 2008


Today is hard. I got the long-awaited letter from my dad on why I should not go to Romania. I've had a tearful morning full of questions and regrets and fears and prayers. Too many of the first 3 things and not enough of the 4th. Anyway, I'm working hard to shepherd my heart to trust God in all of this.
The other day, I was having a hard day, too. This was before the letter but still in the midst of other concerns about Romania, of an eagerness to be there and a feeling that that is so far off, etc. Anyway, we had just finished reading Micah in my small group. And there is a passage there in which the Lord says to the people of Israel:
"O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember..." (Micah 6:4-5a)
So I got to thinking about how what I need the most is to trust God during this time. I need to teach my heart daily that God has the very best plan, whether it's to go to Romania or to stay, or to stay and then go, or to go and then stay. He is primarily interested in my heart. This heart so longs to trust Him wholly and knows that it should. But it is hard. And it almost seems at times...well, wearisome. So in response to what I'd read in Micah, I wrote this, and now I want to share it:
How has He wearied me? In saving me from my pursuit of Hell? In empowering me with sanctifying grace? In forgiving me with finality at the Cross? In forgiving me repeatedly in my never-ceasing offenses against His perfect holiness? In giving me a heart for Romania in the first place, when I hadn't expected it? In filling my heart with joy undeserved in every interaction with Romania and all things Romanian? In giving me a life full of unmerited blessings here in Tempe, Arizona? In giving me a church body that I love and cherish? In putting me under solid teaching among like-minded believers weekly? In providing a home with other women who love Him and who love me? In giving me relationship upon relationship in which to give and receive, to care for and to be cared for, to learn, to teach, to connect? In giving me gifts and talents that are so naturally used to serve the body and to reach the hard-to-reach? In giving me His holy Word to see, to hear, to touch? In giving me passion for this life and the next? I have no reason to be wearied by Him and every reason to trust. And so in this time of not knowing, what I DO know is what is good, for He has told me! All that He requires is that I do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God. (Micah 6:8)

Archive: July 9th, 2008


I had a dream the other night. I don't remember much about it, except that I was in Romania and it was wonderful. But not wonderful in a utopian kind of way – wonderful in a very realistic kind of way. I'm pretty sure I was in Brad, the town I lived in the last time I was there, and we were heading to Criscior, where I've stayed the other times. This dream was a little different than other dreams of Romania that I've had recently, because there were people from my life here that were there with me. I don't know who exactly, but I think someone from my family or maybe some friends, maybe both. And in the dream, I was trying to figure things out, and I was speaking to people in Romanian and to other people in English and things were getting accomplished. It was sort of hectic, I think, but in a really great way. I remember feeling like I was NEEDED there – needed by the other Americans to get around rural Romania for sure, but also needed in a greater sense by the kids there. There were orphans in the dream, I know, but not the kids I already know. But immediately there was a connection there. Strange how a lot of details are missing from dreams but a lot of things are very present.
Having this dream this week couldn't make more sense. I think right now, I am longing for people here to see that world. Oh, if they could only see that world, if they could only see who I am in that world, if they could only see those kids the way I see them and see God working there as I see Him, surely no one would have any doubt anymore that I need to be there and be there soon. The last couple weeks have been really hard on that front – the elders at my church have expressed concerns about not knowing much about what I'd be doing when I get there, and they're having me slow down on moving forward, which is really hard to do because I certainly haven't been moving quickly the last couple months. Then I spent the whole weekend with my family, and nobody in my family is behind me in this, at least not behind me 100%. My great-aunt has told me she'll support me financially, and that she hopes that I go, but it just seems half-hearted and almost like she feels obligated to say these things. And everyone related to me just seems sad and cautious and skeptical when the conversation comes up. And this is WITHOUT my dad around – my dad won't even have a conversation with me about this topic but is in the process of writing me a letter – a process that began 3 months ago. And it's hard for me to communicate to people why I need to be there or what exactly I hope to accomplish. I wish that somehow they could just see into my heart. The whole cautious, drawn-out, American approach of applying for the trip, of making sure all the loose ends are tied up before we even know what the loose ends are, is lately seeming tedious and…well, hard. Part of me feels like if I sold everything I have today and got on a plane tomorrow, I would be on the right track. But there is another part of me who respects so much the leaders of my church, who loves my family so dearly, who is still so connected to this life, to this local church, to these friends, to this job even, that I know it wouldn't be right to just cut ties tomorrow. And so the waiting continues. A very active waiting – I'm by no means twiddling my thumbs and watching the world go by. I do love my life here – nearly everything about it – and I'm about as busy as busy can be. But my longing to be THERE is not going away.

Archive: June 24th, 2008


I have many things I could blog about right now, but I'm going to go for the least profound one because it is most immediately on my mind...
This morning, I was struck by the luxuriousness of my middle-class American life. This happens occasionally, but today it seemed to come out of nowhere...
On Saturday, the sun visor in my car stopped working - it wouldn't stay up. I was a big girl about it and immediately contacted the dealer, who confirmed that it would be covered under warranty. I took it in today.
Talk about luxury. I couldn't help but think about the slight ridiculousness that the repair itself was. Yes, it was annoying to have that visor constantly in front of my face. It was distracting and could be potentially hazardous if I needed a clearer view of what was in front of me. but spoiled I am to even act under the assumption that a working sun visor is a necessity. Anyway, I got to the dealer, someone immediately came up to my car and I told them I was there for Shane. Shane came up probably no more than 2 minutes later and apologized for the "delay" - 2 minutes!! He showed me the way to the comfortable waiting area (which I already knew how to get to), where I got some work done on my laptop, then he came and got me 30 minutes later. I went and signed for my car, which was already pulled up with the keys in the ignition, conveniently turned around for me already so all I had to do was drive off with my brand new visor, which had been replaced at no cost to me.
I went from there to Safeway - just needed some bread, some stamps, and a birthday card for my sister. I was waiting in line in the express lane, with one person in front of me. Someone who appeared to be a manager came up and opened a lane to help me right away - as if I couldn't have waited 2 more minutes in the line I was in. I had my eye on some tea that was on sale at the register, so I picked that up - a 12-pack of small Lipton bottles. Both the cashier/manager guy and the lady bagging my groceries seemed genuinely concerned when I said I didn't need help out to the car and didn't need a cart to carry the tea. The guy said, "I guess you want your exercise today!" and I had a hard time not laughing. If carrying a couple pounds worth of tea to my car a few yards away is exercise, then...well...we're certainly in America.
My luxurious morning continued as I went (I'm ashamed to say, by car) to the coffee shop in the same center. I got my iced mocha while having a nice conversation with the owner, then sat and got some more things done.
It's funny, this thinking about the luxury of my life. Because I don't feel like anything I did today was particularly indulgent. Nothing extraordinary in the eyes of most people. but in comparison to the majority of the people living in this world, I truly live in the lap of luxury...for now. so i'm not feeling proud of it, but not guilty either...just aware, I guess. I'm thankful for this somewhat privileged life but also aware of the dangers of comfort to a soul longing to be daily satisfied in Christ alone.
There's a really great song by Andrew Peterson where he compares his life to that of someone in a tiny village in 3rd world country. He says,
"I'm just a little jealous of the nothing that you have,you're unfettered by the wealth of a world that we pretend is going to last.They say God blessed us with plenty,I say you're blessed with poverty,'cause you never stop to wonder whether earthis just a little better than than the Land of the Free."I don't ever want my life of comfort to remove from me the longing for Heaven. So I can sit here and be thankful for the easy events of my morning, but I do need to recognize the fleeting nature of all of these earthly the grace of God.

Archive: June 18th, 2008


I just got back from a conference called Resolved - an amazing gathering of some of the strongest pastors/authors/speakers in the US and thousands of Bible-believing young people eager to hear them expose God's word. It was my 3rd year attending and it was so good to be back.
This year's topic was Heaven and Hell. Yeah. Intense. I went with certain expectations and came away with my world changed. And as has been the case each year before, it seems impossible to process the truth that I heard and sum it all up. There were 12 different sessions, and each one opened my eyes to see something about God, about me, about Heaven, about Hell, or about this world in a way I never had before.
I'd hoped to have time to sit and dissect my journal and find one thing from each sermon that I could pull out and put in this blog. but now I have 15 minutes before I need to go back to work, so that's not going to happen. Instead, I'm just going to ramble a bit about some of the things that affected me.
I believe in the sovereignty of God. I never gave much thought to it until college, and since then have seen it more and more, have seen it in scripture, have seen it play out in my life and in the lives of my friends. I think a lot about God's sovereignty in electing some to salvation, in His sovereignty in the every day happenings of my life, in His sovereignty in each story I read in the Bible. This conference, though, helped me to see what I can only describe as the longevity of the sovereignty of God. One of the speakers pointed out that nothing on earth exists for its own purposes but is in one way or another contributing to the glory of God. How true! God has sovereignly ordained every element of our universe as a part of his perfect plan. Another speaker (or maybe the same one?) pointed out the symmetry of the Bible: The perfect earth without blemish in the 1st 2 chapters of Genesis, the world in its fallen state as a result of sin, then the perfect new earth (Heaven) that He has ordained for those who would depend on the blood of Jesus to cover their sins. Beautiful! From beginning to end, the end is in sight - a glorious end where those to whom the Father has granted saving faith will worship their Savior for eternity, free from sin and suffering forever.
But of course, the conference was not only about Heaven. Hell is terrifying and it is real. both of those points were driven home in very real ways. John Piper spoke on Sunday night, though, about the insufficiency of Hell - that fear of Hell alone is not a saving fear. One cannot just run from Hell but must run toward Jesus. O, that God would give me the words to convey to the people around me how desirable this Jesus is - how perfectly holy, how perfectly just, how perfectly loving. O, that Hell's reality would be apparent and the reality of Jesus as Christ would be even more so!

Archive: June 9th, 2008

May 26th

Wow, you can tell I'm happy to be done with reports when I blog 3 times in 2 days.
The 26th started with a laid-back morning with my parents. Somehow the Mormon temple came up and Vasi said he'd like to see it, so we added that on as his last tourist destination in town and journeyed into downtown Mesa. I always forget that other places don't have LDS people to the extent that we do - it was just such a normal part of my growing up that I don't even really think about it. Anyway, he had only ever seen LDS temples in pictures so he wanted his picture taken in front of it and such. So we did that before heading to my friends' house for brunch.
It was nice to be surrounded by my own crowd again at the brunch, actually. The weekend had been full of so much 1:1 time, and we hadn't had time to talk to anyone at church the day before, so it was nice to really spend quality time with people. While Vasi shared his views on a variety of issues with my friend Cassidy, I got to share my Romanian experiences and hopes for the future with some friends who hadn't heard much about it before. Vasi eventually joined in that conversation, and he answered some questions from people about cultural differences in the church here and what he's observed. It was really great.
Then it was back to Romanians, and for the first time, I wasn't very excited. I was mostly just tired, and the gathering was a huge picnic at a park, and Vasi wanted nothing more than to play soccer with other Romanians. I only knew one other person who was going and she wouldn't be there right away. So I sat and watched Vasi play soccer for awhile, trying not to think about how the weekend was almost over and I should really be facing my work plans. It was great, though - there was an older man watching the soccer game, too, and he turned and asked me in Romanian where I was from. I decided to continue the conversation in Romanian while I could, and when I finally told him I wasn't Romanian, he was actually surprised! I was so pleased that I'd pulled it off. We switched to English at that point - turns out he's a pastor at a Romanian church in town. Anyway, later, I wanted to ask him a question and decided to do it in Romanian just for fun, and i succeeded at that also!
The whole picnic was quite an experience. Growing up in Phoenix, you get used to walking through a public place and hearing people all around you speaking another language, but chances are pretty good that other language is Spanish. I can't even explain how bizarre it was to walk through a park in Arizona and just hear Romanian all around me - well, romengleza actually - the Romanian equivalent of Spanglish. And I got to be a part of it to a point. When I went up to get a water from the food area, for example, they seemed to be out. I was digging around in an ice chest and someone asked, "apa?" - "water" in Romanian. I responded "da" to say yes and was thrilled even by such a minor Romanian interaction.
But sitting around a park all day when vasi was busy with soccer and my other Romanian friend was nowhere to be found was not the best use of my time. I decided to go find a Starbucks and get some work done so that I could feel at least somewhat prepared for the week to come. Came back to the park after a bit and finally found my other friend - we sat and watched volleyball then for awhile before Vasi and I finally left.
That night, we met up with his friends from his hometown at long last. We went "out to dinner" at McDonalds - not much else was open, and in Romania, McDonalds is actually a destination, but it was still pretty funny to me. This was an intense hour or two. They all spoke in Romanian and offered to switch to English, but I told them not to bother. It was really beneficial to me to need to translate for myself and I was mostly able to. Turns out, though, that I can't eat and translate at the same time. I would literally take a bite of my parfait only when there was a pause in conversation. Eventually, the conversation got pretty serious - about doctrinal differences - and I asked that we switch to English, which we did.
I don't even want to get into all that this conversation encompassed, but it was a hard one. I ended up feeling sort of attacked for my doctrinal convictions, and I couldn't even tell where Vasi stood on things anymore, because he was really busy clarifying my ideas to them and their ideas to me since he's pretty perfectly bilingual and none of the rest of us were (well, unless you included knowing Romanian and Hungarian, which Marta did, but that's beside the point). Anyway, so I felt a little bit isolated. And then in my exhaustion I let my emotions get the best of me, and by the time we left I was feeling pretty lousy. All of a sudden, I was scared for the first time about being out of my comfort zone in the mission field in Romania - away from likeminded believers. It raised a lot of questions that, thankfully, I've been largely put at ease about in the weeks since. It was a good experience to have though - I should never just assume that adjusting to life away from what I'm familiar with will be easy.
I don't think I'll blog about the 27th because nothing much happened except for coffee with Vasi, taking him to the airport, and work, work, and more this concludes my series on Memorial Day Weekend. :-) It was a weekend full of profound questions, profound answers, profound beauty, and lots of Romanians. All in all a wonderful weekend but one I am just now recuperating from.

Archive: June 8th, 2008 (2)

May 25th

This was Grand Canyon day! It had been years since I'd been to the Canyon, and while I certainly wasn't as eager as Vasi was, I was still pretty excited about it. It was so strange to get up at 3 am and just start driving. Even weirder that I wasn't even driving - that my Romanian friend was driving my car to the Grand Canyon. Who'd have thought? It was a fun ride - we were remarkably awake for the time of day and Vasi certainly took us fast enough...I'm so thankful that his reflexes were good enough to stop in time to not hit elk that were crossing the road. Despite his ridiculous speeds at times I felt safe and was excited for the event ahead.
And what an event it was! We were among the first people to get to the lookout point. We got there at 4:45, a half hour before the sun would rise. Twenty minutes later, the parking lot and the point itself were packed with tourists, but our timing had been perfect and we had front-row seats. Even in the half-light of pre-dawn, the Canyon was impressive, and what an experience it was to watch as the light generally came over the whole expanse. Even before the sun broke through the horizon, the colors started to change, the Canyon became more clear, and the immensity of it all became more overwhelming. There were two thoughts that literally did not stop running through my head the whole time we were there:
1) Romans 1:20, or rather the general idea of it since I don't have it memorized. It reads, "For his [God's] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they [the unrighteous] are without excuse." Basically, God is just in condemning unrighteousness even in those who have not heard the spoken Gospel, because He has made himself known in the natural world. The Grand Canyon seemed to loudly proclaim this concept to me. To me, looking at that massive expanse and not seeing the power of God there was incomprehensible. And it was a joy to view it alongside a fellow believer who could see God there as well - by God's grace have our eyes been opened.
2) A line from a song we sing at church: "Who imagined the sun and gave source to its light, yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night?" As I watched the sun show its face on the horizon, I could praise God for His wisdom and creativity in His design of this phenomenon.
I don't know what time it was when we finally tore ourselves away from that lookout point, but we had many other things to see and do. We were pretty hungry by this point, and Vasi was freezing (while I, the native Arizonan, was actually quite comfortable. :-) ), so the next thing on the schedule was a hot breakfast. Then we took the free shuttle to several different stops just to see what our options were, then eventually embarked on a short hike. Canyon hiking is so tricky because it's so easy on the way down that you just want to keep going, but you know there's a long way back. Anyway, we hiked down to "Ooh Aah Point," where we oohed and ahhed and Vasi risked his life by climbing all over things and I just stood by and took pictures. I told him later that had I gone with my immediate family, my mom would have passed out from the places we were standing for pictures, my dad would have not made it out of the Canyon with us (it was hard enough for me!), and my sister would have been livid with us for only bringing one small bottle of water. Vasi says that Americans are too cautious, so I guess embarking on a pretty intense hike with just a little water was very Romanian of us. Or just foolish. :-) Anyway, we made it out alive and it was a fantastic hike that I definitely recommend.
The rest of the day was rushed to say the least. We stopped at one more lookout point after getting to the top, then got back to the car and headed South. We only stopped very briefly in Flagstaff to pick up lunch, then got stuck in traffic from an accident on the highway. This put us behind enough that by the time we got to my parents' house we had about 25 minutes before we needed to turn around and nead to church. We sped through showers and made ourselves presentable, and made it to my church right on time. I'm so glad he got to experience my church, especially because we'd had many conversations about not-so-great happenings in churches, and I wanted him to see an American church that, by the grace of God, is doing many things right. Sadly, we couldn't stick around for him to meet people, because we needed to hurry off to the last night of the Romanian convention.
So the excitement of the day continued. Anyone who has been to downtown Phoenix knows that it is not exactly a happening place in the evenings. The streets that night were for the most part completely deserted apart from participants in the Convention, meaning that the only people on the streets of my hometown were Romanians, which was unbelievable! There were about 2200 people there I learned later - and to my knowledge I was the only one NOT of Romanian descent. I was so exhausted that night though and actually asked Vasi to translate a bit because my mind just wasn't working all that well. Anyway, there were some really good parts of the night but also some things I wasn't sure about. An interpretive dance, for example, that seemed to portray Christ as a helpless bystander to the sin struggles of a believer. I was also surprised by the round of applause in honor of the parents who chose to leave Romania to move to the US for a better life for their children. Makes sense I guess, but it still saddened me a bit because of my affections for that country and those people. There were also some very charismatic happenings at the end that made me a bit uncomfortable. And by the end I literally though I would faint. I hadn't eaten since Flagstaff and had been up since 3 am. Plus I was surrounded by people speaking a language that seemed ever more foreign the more tired I became. Vasi and I tried in vain to make dinner plans with old friends of his who I know from the Romanian church I've been going to. We finally gave up when we couldn't find them in the crowd and they weren't answering their phones. We got some fast food, stopped at my house to eat and upload pictures, then went to my parents' house and crashed. My mind was reeling with all that had happened that day, but the second my head hit the pillow...i was out.

Archive: June 8th, 2008 (1)

May 24th

May 24th was the least eventful of the weekend really but still really busy and great. We got to sleep in on Saturday morning and then head out to a late breakfast with some of my friends from church. It was fun to just leave from breakfast and go straight to Sedona! I am so not used to being on vacation. The drive was nice and pretty uneventful. When we were almost to Sedona, I let Vasi take over the driving - the first time anyone else has driven my car for more than like 5 miles. We had some really good conversations, but unfortunately I wasn't humble enough to try to speak Romanian because English was just so much easier and less embarassing.
Vasi was impressed with Sedona, as I knew he would be. There really is such an unusual beauty there. It stopped raining while we were there but there were still some pretty threatening-looking clouds so we were afraid to go hiking up on the cliffs. We ended up just walking around downtown. We got ice cream and sat on a bench and talked about how strange it was for him to be sitting in Sedona, AZ like it wasn't a big deal. He'd dreamed of going to the Grand Canyon since he was a little boy and now it was finally becoming a reality. We also talked about the differences between Romanians and Americans. I really like thinking critically about being an American, and this is definitely something that Vasi brings out in me. Anyway, then we drove up to the Sedona airport, where there's an awesome view of the area. We sat in the car and waited for a downpour to stop, then got out and took some pictures before heading to Flagstaff. The drive from Sedona to Flagstaff was breathtaking, and Vasi said it reminded him of home. Once he said that, it reminded me of Romania, too, a connection I hadn't made before but which makes perfect sense - I have always loved that drive and it only fits that it resembles the Romanian countryside. He was also amazed that Arizona has forests, as many people are.
We met my friend Bekah in Flagstaff, and she was fantastic. She was so generous with her apartment and her food and her time and her money. She even treated us both to a really nice dinner at a cute restaurant in downtown Flag. Then Vasi treated Bekah and I to coffee at a great coffee shop. I certainly got the sweet end of the deal all around! After coffee, we just went back to her place and settled down for the night. We watched a movie to try to wind down and went to bed around 11, ready for our 4 hours of sleep before heading to the Canyon!

Archive: June 4th, 2008 (2)

May 23rd

On to the next day of that crazy weekend...
Vasi and I stayed at my parents' house while he was here. We got up early Friday so he could meet my parents, who were sleeping when we got in the night before. Talk about worlds colliding. I think this was especially strange for my parents – I'm hoping that God will use it in the long run to make Romania a little less mysterious to them and a little more real. Vasi and my dad got along ridiculously well and enjoyed talking politics. ..
We were going to head up north on Friday but the weather was still crazy and there were snow advisories at the Grand Canyon Saturday morning – not exactly prime conditions for viewing a sunrise. So I spent the day giving Vasi a tour of all my favorite Phoenix places – the zoo, Botanical Gardens, Mill Ave, and ASU. It was a really fun day, and he was a fun person to show things to because he got excited about stuff that I get excited about. And we made fun of evolution signs all day
Friday night we headed out to Session 1 of the West Coast Youth Conference – put on by the Romanian Pentecostal church and primarily consisting of young Romanian-American Protestants. Wow. I was disappointed that a lot of the service was in English, but it was still a thrill to worship God with so many Romanians. And again, the last time I sang praises to God with Vasi (besides in the car that day I suppose) was in the garage of the little orphanage in Criscior, so this was a little different. Anyway, there were two sermons, and they were both good. One was almost entirely in Romanian, and the other was mostly in Romanian but with some English sections. The 2nd one was really powerful. The guy talked about Jesus's prayer in John 17 and how He wasn't praying for everyone – v. 9 states "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." He talked about not assuming that we are among "those" if we aren't living a life that reflects this. I was thrilled to understand most of what he was saying (the English parts helped) and thrilled that the message was a strong one.
The most meaningful part, though, was at the end. We only sang one song in Romanian the whole night, and it was an adaptation of Chris Tomlin's version of Amazing Grace. That was cool, but the highlight was singing an old hymn in English – How Great Thou Art. Every time I sing songs like this one, I remember how I used to sing them in church as a kid. I'm not sure when I came to saving faith in Christ, but I'm fairly certain that I sang these songs before that happened. And I can picture myself as a preteen and teenager, singing with the rest of the congregation, excited mostly about trying to figure out the alto part in the hymnal. I was so oblivious at the time, oblivious to the work God was going to do in my heart to bring me to Himself, oblivious to the finished work at the Cross that had already been done on my behalf. So every time I hear these hymns, I think of the journey God has brought me on since then – salvation being of course the turning point, but also the daily walk with Him, the struggles and joys, the questions and the answers and His steadfast faithfulness.
And my praise of Him that night was only magnified by singing these songs alongside Romanian believers. Only 3 years ago, God had yet to open my eyes to His work in the nations. My vision of him in early 2005 was so limited, so Americanized. And now every time I worship with Romanians, it reminds me of the immensity of a God who works in hearts worldwide and who has promised that He has ransomed some from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Most of the people at this conference were likely born here in the States, but I bet the majority of them had parents or certainly grandparents that lived under Communist oppression in Ceaucescu-ruled Romania, who called on the name of Christ when this was an illegal thing to do.
And so along with praising God for my own journey of faith and for His work among the nations, I also could praise Him for combining the two. There was a moment that night of "What am I doing here?" Several years ago, I never would have dreamed that my ideal evening would be just that – singing praise to God among Romanian young people. What a great God He is! What a sweet, sweet blessing! He is truly able to "…do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…" – Ephesians 3:20

Archive: June 4th, 2008 (1)

looking May 22nd

I got my first good night of sleep in awhile last night and am currently as caught up as I can be with my Vista-cursed computer at a coffee shop between sessions. So finally I'm going to start the process of blogging the events of Memorial Day weekend. I think this blog will just be of the 22nd.
There was nothing normal about May 22nd, 2008. First of all, the weather was ridiculous. It was actually cold when I left my house, which is absolutely unheard of in Phoenix in May. More on that later.
I started with a new child in the morning. His family is Spanish-speaking, and typically my company asks these families to come to the clinic for services so that our bilingual secretaries can do any translating necessary. But because an in-home session with him fit perfectly into my schedule and he lives really close to me, I agreed to see him at his house and get by with my limited Spanish and his family's limited English. I basically loved every second of it. When I got there, the child was confused and kind of scared I think. He kept running from the room, his mom kept just saying "sorry, sorry," and I kept playing my guitar quietly in the background. He eventually came out to the living room (after having lost a tooth!) and sat down near me. As soon as this child had a drum in front of him, everything changed. He played tentatively at first, then lit up when he heard his playing reflected in mine. This kid is an improvisational music therapist's dream come true! I could see him unfolding in front of me, I could feel this connection instantly forming, and it was truly incredible. And my limited conversation afterwards with the mom was wonderful. She spoke in Spanish, I spoke in English, and we both more or less understood each other. I repeatedly stopped myself from responding to her in Romanian (a common tendency when I try to speak Spanish), but I was overjoyed that she pronounced my name the same way Romanian people do (Kreesta with a rolled r). And her son's big eyes and dark complexion took me instantly back to orphans in Romania. As I left she just kept telling me that I was beautiful, that my voice was beautiful, or that what had just happened was beautiful, I'm not sure which.
Ok, I can't give so much detail on the rest of my day or I'll never finish. But the rest of my sessions were not exactly normal either - most of them were really great, one was sad because it was my last with that kid, and by the end of the day I was just really distracted. The weather continued to get less and less Phoenix-like and by late afternoon there was a downpour and it had to be in the 50s or 60s. A perfect background to my abnormal day.
After work, I went to dinner with friends. I mentioned in my last blog that one of those friends was one I once talked about marriage with...and I don't want to get into details there except to say that I was really nervous to see him because I always think it will be awkward, but then it never really is and I always feel like I was blessed to have had that time. But again, far from normal. And after dinner, we all walked through the pouring rain to the mall, only to come out afterwards to a downpour. My friend Amber offered to run to her car, so she literally did just that - took off her shoes, gave us her bags, and sprinted across the huge parking lot to her car. We joked that security would stop her, thinking she was insane.
Anyway, shortly after I got home from that adventure, it was time to pick up Vasi. It mostly seemed surreal that he was even coming. Our friendship is far different from any I've ever had. I met him 3 years ago in Romania, spent two weeks with him and a huge team of other people, and then only talked online to him once in awhile after that. But he moved to the US in 2006, and while he was living in Florida and I in New York, he called me up one night out of the blue. For a few months, we talked every night. This actually made him the only non-NY person besides my mom that I had that kind of regular contact with while I lived there. Anyway, all that being said, I hadn't actually SEEN the guy since 2005. So picking him up and having him suddenly in my world here was so strange. Especially considering the last setting I saw him in was an orphanage in a quaint Romanian village.
So as I said, there was NOTHING normal about that day...and it wasn't going to get any more normal the next few days...but that will have to wait for another blog

Archive: May 28th, 2008

the pre-blog blog

I have an amazing amount of things on my mind and an amazing scarcity of time in which to blog about them. So right now I'm mostly just going to list off some of what's going through my mind, with the hopes that one day soon I will be able to actually process this stuff.
Thursday morning - great new client whom I adored right from the start. Reminded me why I do the work that I do, also made me think of Romania
Thursday afternoon - my last session (probably) with one of my favorite clients
Thursday evening - dinner with friends, including a friend I once considered marrying and now haven't seen in several months
Thursday night- picked up my Romanian friend Vasi at the airport, caught up on life with him
Friday day - played tour guide all day - showed Vasi the Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Zoo, Mill Ave. and ASU.
Friday night - first night of Romanian convention. The best preaching I've heard (and understood!) in Romanian so far. Plus a really powerful moment where we were singing an old hymn and I thought back on the journey God has taken me on thus far since I first sang that song as a non-believing kid in a Methodist church
Saturday - after breakfast with friends, Vasi and I headed up north. Gorgeous weather, good conversations, a nice time in Sedona and fun with my friend Bekah in Flagstaff
4 hours of sleep that night, then up at 3 to go to the Grand Canyon for sunrise - absolutely incredible
Hiking and exploring for the morning at the Canyon, then back to Phoenix
Sunday night - home from the Canyon just in time to go to my church with Vasi - so fun to have my 2 worlds collide and to show him off to church people and my church off to him. Then we went straight to the Romanian Conference downtown. I enjoyed it again but had a few theological objections to some of what happened and experienced a Pentecostal gathering like I never have before. I was really overwhelmed by the fact that I was surrounded by so many Romanians - 2200 or so!!
Monday - Brunch with church friends. Really good discussions about Romania and missions in general with a family from church, then Vasi joined the discussion and gave some of his opinions as an "outsider" in the American church. Fascinating stuff
then off to a Romanian picnic in Glendale as the last even of the conference. So bizarre to walk through a park and hear Romanian from most passersby instead of English or Spanish. Several people assumed I was Romanian and spoke to me under this assumption, which rocked my world.
Dinner that night with Vasi and two of his friends who live here and attend the Romanian church that I attend. Intense theological conversations that I was able to follow in Romanian and participate in in English - gave me a lot of stuff to think about and left me thoroughly exhausted.
Jumped right into work yesterday, even with Vasi still here. Took him to the airport on a break and now am trying to return to life as usual.
Off to work again now - and seriously considering taking some paid time off just to sit and process this crazy life.

Here come the archives...

Since only Amber responded, and since her suggestion was kind of what I was leaning toward anyway, I'm going to post my last 6 months of blogs from Myspace before deleting my Myspace here they come!

Archive: May 17th, 2008

Romanian symphony, Narnia, Romans 6

Yeah this is sort of a hodgepodge of what's running through my head after a very busy day or so...
So last night I went to Rumanian Rhapsody - a benefit concert put on by Phoenix Symphony musicians to raise money for one of their own, a Romanian violinist battling breast cancer. This pretty much spelled out a perfect evening for me - combining downtown Phoenix with music with the Romanian community, and combining all that with 2 friends who were excited to go with me. SO many Romanians were there, and the guy who co-owns my favorite coffee shop was one of the performers. I was glowing all night - the music was phenomenal - a collection of the woman's favorite pieces, including some Romanian works. And it was such a cool event - while still maintaining a strong sense of the symphony culture, the performers also sort of let their hair down so to speak - it was far more casual than your typical night at the symphony. It was fun to kind of get a glimpse into that world and so great to see the way that so many talented people pulled together to help this woman and her family.
Then today I saw Prince Caspian - also amazing. I love the element in this story of the 4 kids and their relationships to Aslan...Aslan is far less physically present in this story than in the last and they all deal with that in different ways. Lucy holds onto hope - more than hope really, a sincere confidence - that Aslan remains faithful. The others have a harder time. Susan and Peter both wonder why Lucy was able to see him and they weren't. Susan seems to remain hopeful but skeptical throughout the story. But Peter decides to take matters into his own hands and says they have "waited for Aslan long enough." I could see myself in each of them. But in the end, of course, Aslan is faithful, and all 4 kids bow before him and rejoice in his great love.
The other thing on my mind is Romans 6. Our church has been challenged to memorize the chapter as we go through a sermon series on it. A girl on the music team, Kami, actually wrote songs that recite these verses word-for-word. So the last few days, on my many commutes, I have listened only to these songs in an attempt to memorize the passage. It has been such a sweet blessing. It is so easy for me to completely space out while driving - I always have music on, unless I have a sermon to catch up on, and I'm often singing along, but even while singing along I'm often not really engaged in the words. This week, I've caught myself SO many times not paying attention, and I need to recapture my thoughts once again and focus on these precious words. And then, once I leave the car, I typically have these songs - straight scripture - running through my head for the rest of the day. I even woke up in the middle of the night with one of them in my head the other night. So much better than the garbage of a lot of secular music, the encouragement but often triteness of Christian music, and especially my own cheesy songs i compose and sing all day. I'm so grateful that in this case, God can use the gift of music to help me retain His life-giving words.
That's all for now but I'm sure there are many more bloggable events on the horizon...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

things I'm used to, things I'm not...

I'm often struck by the things that are true about my life that aren't true about many middle-class American lives, and vice versa. My life is not particularly out-of-the-ordinary but is certainly not ordinary, if that makes any sense at all. For example...

I'm used to living in weather that allows me to wear flip-flops all year long, and lets me rejoice when November comes because I can finally have my car windows down in the afternoon...

I'm used to walking into people's homes more than 20 times each week with a guitar and a keyboard and a bunch of random instruments and making music with one of their children

I'm used to communicating with people who can't talk.

I'm used to living with a bunch of girls and generally loving it

I'm not used to commuting to and from work 1 time each day

I'm not used to dressing up for work, working in an office, or doing things that I don't care about for a living

I'm used to being a part of a community of people who genuinely love God and each other

I'm used to having super-long lunch breaks but very long days

I'm used to listening to sermons and singing songs twice a month in a language that is not my own

I'm used to doing many things that the world might call foolish, for the sake of Christ

The last one is kind of cheating, cause it encompasses so much...but the list could go on and on. I'm so thankful for my ordinary and yet extraordinary life that God has graciously provided - oops, was thankfulness supposed to wait for a Thanksgiving post?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Same thoughts, new place...

I decided at long last to move my blog to blogger from myspace. My blog was the only reason I ever used myspace anymore, and blogger has worked great for my quote page ( So now the dilemma...should I transfer my archives from the old blog ( to this one? Or should I just save all my old ramblings to my computer and start fresh? Thoughts, comments? For the time being, I'll just leave them both up...