Sunday, April 3, 2016

One last week later

Today, I am sitting in a coffee Tempe, Arizona. I've been home for a week now, but I hate the idea of not documenting in the blog world my last amazing day in Romania. So even though this is one week removed, I'm going to do my best. :)

I got up early that Friday morning and cleaned and packed, then headed downtown one last time. My plan was to go read at my favorite Bucharest coffee shop (ok, the only one I tried). It was still cold and a little bit rainy, but I loved how confident I felt about getting downtown, and I was getting pretty used to the weather. I stopped at a little pretzel stand I'd been to once before, and got my favorite apple-filled pretzel for 1 leu (about 25 cents, a totally cheap and delicious breakfast). Then I walked to Origo...only to find no empty tables. So sad. So I went for a walk around the block, hoping a table would open up by the time I got back...but no such luck. I got my latte to-go (they still did beautiful latte art that I hated to cover up with a lid), and made my way back to the subway, only to realize I'd lost my subway pass and had to buy a new one to get back to the apartment. All in all, not the most successful morning, but I was still pretty cheerful.

I had prayed that the rain would let up by noonish. I had to check out of my apartment by noon, and was going to go from there to my friend Adoriana's apartment, which was a 30-minute walk or 10-minute drive away. Taxi drivers really don't like short drives, so I was going to probably have to pay someone extra to do it (plus taxi drivers are notoriously dishonest in this city) so I'd prayed the rain would stop...and it did! I had a mostly-pleasant walk (after being yelled at by a shop owner for throwing my trash in their trash bin), and arrived safely at Adoriana's flat. I got to meet her husband Bogdan and their son Paul, and she fed me a delicious lunch (complete with Romanian soup! I miss it so much!). While her husband worked (he owns a photography business) and her son napped, I walked down the street to the mall. I'd avoided American chains the entire trip, but I was actually pretty happy to sit in their really nice Starbucks in their really nice mall on a still-chilly day and read to my heart's content. Adoriana met me a couple hours later with Paul, and we walked back together after watching Paul explore a fun little play area for awhile.

with Paul and Adoriana
My evening in their home was truly one of the highlights of my trip. After two weeks of traveling alone, I was in a home again, with sweet believers, enjoying fellowship and a home-cooked meal. Belonging to the body of Christ is truly amazing – how sweet and easy it was to have conversations with these friends, and what a joy to see God's kindness toward me in their hospitality and friendship. I was filled with so many emotions – it is hard to love people and know that in just a few hours you'll be separated by thousands of miles – and so thankful that my original plan of hanging out at the airport for the evening was not God's plan for my night. I felt safe and loved and overwhelmingly grateful.

After purposely dumping a bowl
of popcorn on the carpet, Paul got
to help Bogdan vacuum :)
Bogdan helped call me a cab in advance, to come pick me up at 2:45 Saturday morning. He and Ado both got up with me at 2:30 to say goodbye, and Bogdan walked me out to the curb and made sure the cab driver was doing what he was supposed to do :) I cried a bit on that cab ride – not the first or last time I've cried about leaving Romania behind.

The rest is pretty much history – a flight to Amsterdam, then to Seattle, then to Phoenix. I'm horrible at sleeping on planes, so I think maybe I got about 2 hours of sleep in 24 hours of traveling, but everything went smoothly and for that I am thankful. My sweet parents met me at the airport, and since then my full-time job has been adjusting to “normal” life back home (oh yeah, and working at my full-time job, and my part-time job :) )
My heart wasn't happy at the
airport, but my finally-free
feet sure were!  Flip-flops!

I have so much more to say. I feel like much of this blog has just been a chronological outline of my trip's events and not much about the many things going on in my heart. Here is one thing I wrote – wasn't sure if I'd publish it here but looks like I will. I wrote this while sitting in the Starbucks that final afternoon. I'd prayed earlier that week that I would see blue sky before leaving Bucharest. It felt like a silly thing to pray, but I just wanted to see with my own eyes that the city wasn't always gloomy, and I had seen God answer prayer after prayer all month and felt confident that He would do so again, just because He is kind. And answer it he did! When I saw blue sky out of the Starbucks window, I wrote this:

(side note, I use the word “pocaitii” toward the end. This is the Romanian word for “repenters” and is a label for evangelical believers there  that is meant to be derogatory but that they've adopted as their own. I could write an entire additional entry about this word alone...maybe another day)

“Keep tearing up a bit, I sure will miss this place. I thought about adjusting to life at home once I get back, but I didn't give much thought to the actual leaving, the pain of it. And there's a beautiful patch of blue sky out this Starbucks window that reminds me of a God who answers prayers, even seemingly silly ones, and the really big ones, and who plants hopes and dreams in our hearts and has us wait and then sometimes fulfills them. And sweet Ado and Bogdan are at home in their humble flat and hardly know me but are welcoming me so very kindly, and this too is evidence of a kind God who dwells within them. It is strange to feel simultaneously sad and weary and peaceful and joyful and excited and nervous. And I love this place, not in the na├»ve way that I think I loved it before, but in the way you love someone you've actually gotten to know. This is not an easy place, and I don't understand it still, not completely. But there are so many dear ones here, and they are dearer to my Lord than they are to me, and He has watched this country suffer and fight and lose and win and grown and change, and I only see in snapshots, both literally and figuratively. And I will go home, and will love the people and the place God has given me there, and maybe I will come back again. And there will be a day when God brings all His ransomed ones, pocaitii all of us, home for good. And there will be none of the strangeness left, and all of the joys.”