#Blessed

We are blessed to have spent the last 3 months in the States with such wonderful family and friends. We traveled through Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cheraw, D.C., Los Angeles, Waco, New Orleans, Savannah, and more.

We had fun trying yummy foods, driving for the first time in 2 years, the beach, Disneyland for the 1st time, ice skating, camping, falling in mud, hanging out with mammoth fossils, belching with goats, reindeer on the beach, re-visiting our 1st home, seeing a space shuttle, and of course sharing with multiple churches and hanging out with some amazing supporters and friends!

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When the unexpected happens…

Often, when things do not go as planned, I have a tendency to freak out. You know me… we have talked about this type A personality and love of lists and order. Lately, we have had some detours as to how we expected events to happen and it has been amazing to see how God has used these times.

Story time….gather ’round…because God is so good…

Story 1: In February, we went to Bucharest to visit friends and we had a great weekend. Before it was time to go to the train station, we wanted to take a moment and pray together. We are so glad that we took that time, but then we could not find a taxi, and the tram was not coming in time to take us to the train station.IMG_1778 We called a friend of theirs with a car, but we still missed our train. That evening we went to a gathering of missionaries with them and planned to catch the night train instead. At the gathering, we met several people working in Bucharest, and Jeff was able to connect with someone who teaches at the Bible Institute. A week later, Jeff was asked to sub for him in 2 classes. We recently got back from Jeff teaching and he taught both classes in Romanian. It was so exciting to see the next generation of church leaders thinking about what it means to serve the city.

Story 2: We were traveling back and we were hoping to sit by a friend who would be on the train with us, but going to a different city. However, the train was packed, people were in our seats, and it never worked out to sit by each other. However, God sat a young man about to graduate high school beside us, who started talking with us in English about how his mother was a christian but he was an atheist. We were able to talk with him about his future as he is searching for a purpose for his life.

Story 3: We went to Craiova for a day trip with a friend and we got lost … a lot. We ended up looking for a shop that no longer exists, went to the wrong shopping center to see a movie, and ended up needing to take a taxi to the other end of the city. While getting lost was a great adventure, we also go into a taxi with a driver who talked with us about his disappointment in the Orthodox church. He was telling us about how priests require payment for everything (blessings, services, visits, etc.) and how he believes that is not what religion is about. It was interesting to hear his point of view and frustrations. We got his number and we are hoping to connect him with a new church plant happening in Craiova soon.

Story 4: When Jeff lived here in 2010, he went on a mission trip to the Severin area and helped build a church. Well, 5 years later, we went with our friend to her church in that city. As we drove up to the church, Jeff remembered the building. Come to find out, the church plant that was there, recently sold the property to our friend’s church, and Jeff had been there 5 years before to lay concrete for the flooring. It was amazing to see the location now filled with believers worshiping and praising God.

Story 5: A few weeks ago, we saw an apartment online that looked too good to be true. We decided to call and see if we could go and look at it. Amazingly, there was an open house the next day with several people coming to look at it. We really liked it but there were more people coming by, and they said they would call at 2. At 2:30 we got the call that they wanted us to rent it and we met the landlords that evening to discuss everything. IMG_0141It seems God is provided a bigger place in a part of town we love. We are excited to see how God will use this new place. We are still a little nervous of moving to a new block but, we know however this works out, God is perfect in the unexpected.

None of these events were our doing but just us trying to remember to be open, listen, and aware of opportunities presented to us. So we continue to trust and keep our minds open and flexible, because who knows what’s next…

Is God doing something unexpected in your life right now?

Are you embracing it or fighting it?

How will he use your obedience and flexibility for his glory?

Paris, Culture, and the Church…

Hey Guys,

Jeff here..I know I don’t usually blog on here, Lauren has been amazing at it. But I wanted to take some time to share about some takeaways of our time at Paris. Now I could go on and discuss how amazing the food was and how beautiful the city was, which it was, but I really want to talk about some of the take aways from the conference.

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I. Diversity

It was so amazing to be able to attend the City to City Europe 2014 conference. We had heard about the City to City network from the pastors at our church, but we wanted to be able to experience the conference ourselves, to “network” with others and to explore what it would like to have a “network” here in Romania. I was quite impressed upon walking into the doors to hear and see so many countries and languages represented. Even though the conference was in English, you could hear German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and many other languages being spoken. As an American missionaries, we were definitely a minority. It was so encouraging to see 500 people from all over Europe gathering to share how the gospel is moving in their own countries.

II.  A Different Type of Growth

Too often, we hear that the Church is dying here in Europe. Everyone has stories of the struggle of seeing so many people who maybe don’t have a relationship with God here, who have been hurt by legalism in the Church, or who are indifferent. But it was very interesting to hear from a university professor from the UK who studies the dynamics of religion in Europe. She is a professor of Sociology but is a member of the Church of England. She discussed how yes, there is a decline in the church in Europe, but it doesn’t look as negative as some might think.

She urged us to see a decline in inherited religion. This is the type of religion that we receive because of our family has always believed this. But there is a rise, while not enough to balance with the decline, in desiring to seek out personal religion. People in Europe are seeking now and it presents new opportunities for the Church in Europe.

III. Push and Pull

The main speaker of our conference was Tim Keller, which was very much a blessing. The amount of wisdom he has is immense. One of the main takeaways was in regards to churches and their interaction with culture. Too often churches like to live in extremes.

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Finding the balance was a huge take-a-way for myself.

Also, Tim talked about this idea of pushing and pulling. Too often, we, as the church, disregard and/or throw all aspects of culture out the window  or we accept all culture as good and do not challenge anything. Tim shared the balance of accepting certain parts of culture, that is those parts that do not contradict Christian beliefs, and then using those cultural points to challenge and help others strive for closeness of Christ.

The church should be an illustration that people can come with their gifts and keep their uniqueness but also see that they are incomplete without Christ.  Coming away from the conference we were so excited to see application points to our ministry here in Romania.

Our time in Paris was a great networking time, a great time to hear new ideas, and a time that we were challenged to think more about our lives here in Timisoara. How might you be challenged this year to push and think outside the box? How might you be challenged to live differently in your community, your workplace, your neighborhood, and within your family this year?

We pray this year that the Lord would push you all just as He is pushing us into new directions!

 

November 19th

What are you doing November 19th? Are you packing up your life in suitcases? again…and getting on a jet plane? Are you moving to another country?

Guess What?!

WE ARE!

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We got our green light and reserved tickets on Tuesday. It has been a whirl-wind of  days and we don’t expect it to slow down for  a while. It has also been a whirl-wind of emotions. My dad has had marshmallows on his mind since my family had a fun night of smores a week ago, and tuesday he related our feelings of gooey emotion to the inside of a marshmallow.  So now our daily emotional scale is a marshmallow rating.

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But we are really excited and still trying to wrap our minds around the fact that it is actually happening now. We are excited to share another journey with you!

Ps. We updated the prayer page and would love for you to take a look at our prayer calendar.

Christmas in Cali

Hi Everyone!
Merry Belated Christmas! Sorry I haven’t posted sooner but I was enjoying my free time with my usually very busy husband. We spent Christmas in California this year and it was so relaxing!

I was surprised by how well I coped with not seeing family at Christmas time. Last year was the first year we completely split time between each family and had to miss a gathering or two so we could be with the other one’s family. We were in the same state and that was hard for me last year. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go this year, not seeing family at all. Jeff usually does better with not getting homesick. I have to say, around the 28th or so, when people started coming back into town, it felt like we skipped christmas because we didn’t do the normal events. But, this year was a lot of fun and very relaxing! Jeff actually told me that he is ready and excited for the next quarter to start! I haven’t heard that in a while. We enjoyed not house hopping and spending quality time together, which we really needed. Here are some pictures of our fun times!

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Our Newlywed Mistletoe- It may stay up the rest of the year!

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Our heart garland for the tree.

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Our church, Reality LA, had a service on the 23rd but I took care of the babies that night so I didn’t get to hear the sermon. So for the 24th, we went to an eleven o’clock service at Lake Avenue (pictured above), a huge church down the street from our house. We were also invited to a friend’s house for christmas eve dinner. It was so nice to be surrounded by his family and friends that night.

Growing up, we always received silly string in our stockings, and we would have a silly string fight christmas morning.   Jeff and I were delighted to find silly string in our gifts from my parents. I declared myself the victor of the fight, but it was fun spraying and laughing at one another Christmas morning.

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Also during the break, I found a job taking care of this sweet dog, Salsa. We went to her house twice a day to walk her and care for her. The walks were fun and got us out of the house and exercising, but I enjoyed them more for the great quality time we had to talk to each other about joys and fears for next year.

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Before Christmas we went to Rancho Cucamonga, a city about 45 mins from us. There is a street that is famous for its’ christmas lights. I think when you move there, you sign something saying you will participate in decorating your house. It is also a bonus that there is a chickfila right off that exit! First stop – Sweet tea, waffle fries, chicken sandwich, and a cookies n’ cream milkshake!

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Here is the awesome street of christmas lights!

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This house had a dance company come a perform in the driveway! The girls were so cute!

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This house cheated and tweaked their decorations from halloween.

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“Dear Santa, I can explain…”

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Most of the neighbors sit in their driveway and sell hot chocolate, cookies, etc. We had to stop for homemade tamales on the street!

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Merry christmas in different languages. No romanian though.

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Ninja Turtles are always awesome!

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We hope you and your family had a Merry Christmas too!

A Whirlwind into December

Hi Everyone!

We hope you are doing well and enjoying December. Our Country has experienced pain and grief this week and I am so thankful to personally know a God who cares about us, understands every emotion that we experience, and is yearning to give us hope even when we feel how lost the world is. If any one wants to know more about God’s love for you and His hope, we would love to talk with you.

December has been a a whirlwind of events for us here. Jeff finished this quarter and is relieved to have all of his papers done. He is anxious to know how he did, but he won’t find out until mid-January. I can’t believe he only has 3 quarters left before he graduates! He is doing fabulous! We even have an answer to prayer, it seems Jeff has a practicum for the spring quarter.

I just finished my second week at my new job! I am caring for a sweet little 5 month old girl in the mornings. It took us some time to get use to each other but I am really enjoying getting to know her.

Sweet Little Girl and I hanging out outside.

Sweet Little Girl and I hanging out outside.

Some fun facts: she doesn’t like to be read to very much (which makes me a little sad), she is so eager to crawl and go somewhere, she seems to be starting to teeth, and she doesn’t like to be rocked in small movements but in squats. Yes, I am going to have awesome legs by this summer! I am also still working with Mr. Z, which has almost been a year now.

This past weekend we had the pleasure and delight of having the Cardells come visit us. It was a short weekend trip, but we loved getting to show them around here. We were able to spend some time with Sherry, Bette’s sister, and with some of Jeff’s cousins who live in other areas of Southern California. I think we were most excited about giving them a tour of Fuller, Reality LA, and our cute little home. It is nice to have them experience our life here as a couple. We also had fun in Santa Monica and exploring LA  and Chinatown via the Metro. Here are some fun pics from the weekend:

John and Sherry and little Raelyn.

John and Sherry and little Raelyn.

Me and the Birthday girl

Me and the Birthday girl

Bette and Charlie

Bette and Charlie

The whole gang! *sorry I blocked your head Sherry.

The whole gang! *sorry I blocked your head Sherry.

After Church at Reality LA

After Church at Reality LA

Hanging out at Santa Monica Pier and enjoying the nice weather!

Hanging out at Santa Monica Pier and enjoying the nice weather!

So thankful for y'all.

So thankful for y’all.

Fixing lunch together after our tour of Fuller.

Fixing lunch together after our tour of Fuller.

At Union Station, where we changed lines on the Metro.

At Union Station, where we changed lines on the Metro.

Hanging out in Chinatown.

Hanging out in Chinatown.

We have also been working on a new newsletter to go out soon. It is our “should-have-been-November-but-it-is-going-to-be-December” Newsletter. We hope to get them out on Tuesday, we if you want to get one send us an email at thecardells@gmail.com. We do have one request of those who do get the newsletter, we would love to get your feedback. We want to know what questions you have, what doesn’t make sense, what more information you want, and how we can be praying for you. The feedback is helpful to us and many people probably have the same questions that we need to answer. We live in a bubble at Fuller, where missions terms are used in everyday language, and we don’t want to assume you that we are making sense. Sometimes we have a hard enough time understanding one another, much less express that to others. Your feedback/encouragement/questions help.

This month our Reality LA community group also commissioned a dear friend, Kim, to go to Brazil for 2 years. She is going through her masters program as a missionary. We have loved getting to know Kim over the last year, and we are so excited for her and getting to see her in this experience. Here is her blog if you want to know more info about Kim or her program: http://kimberlybeth89.blogspot.com.

We will be here in California for Christmas this year. We are excited to start some traditions of our own and enjoy as special time as a family. We will miss you all in Georgia, and thinking about you!

Talk to you soon,

Lauren

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy stuff your face with pie day!

We hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving this week! We had a very interesting crazy,chaotic, weird, good, a little sad…day…I am sure you did too. I find these words familiar to thanksgiving time. Ok gather ’round, let me tell you a story.

Jeff and I decided to go to the Fuller SIS (intercultural studies) Thanksgiving gathering to share it with students who don’t have family around and international students. We volunteered to make a turkey to bring. This was the second turkey that I have ever cooked. The one I made last year turned out a little dry so we decided that brining the turkey was the best option to keep it moist. And hopefully, with it being the second turkey, I wouldn’t be so worried about under cooking it. Anyway, we got the brining set up the day before. We couldn’t find a brining bag and thus decided an oven bag was the next best option. We also didn’t have a pot/bucket to hold our 15lb. turkey while it brined, so we popped it in the foil pan it would eventually cook in. As we were checking on the fat bird later that night, the oven bag ripped a little on the foil pan. Then disaster ensued as the brine spilled out of the top of the bag onto the wall, floor, table, and surrounding chairs. Two hours later, of re-scrubing the entire room to make it non-sticky from the apple juice and brown sugar in the brine, we finally got the mess cleaned up. Thankfully, the turkey was fine and we saved most of the brine. The next morning we were getting ready to put the bird in the oven and we notice something strange about the skin. It had the tips of the feathers still stuck in it underneath. We couldn’t see them very well, but you could feel them. Breakdown number 3,4,and 5 followed this discovery. I decided to get our “fresh” bird from Trader Joes because it was hormone free/cage free. Jeff did some research for me and found that not only is the bird hormone free, but they kill the birds “humanely,” and thus the process doesn’t get rid of all the feather pieces. After much research and freaking out about someone choking on a feather tip from our turkey, we decided the best course of action were tweezers. It didn’t help that air kept getting caught as we turned the bird over and over searching for pieces, that it sounded like the turkey kept farting at us. One LONG hour later, our turkey was de-feathered! Because of that unexpected event, the turkey was a little late to the party, but it was devoured! And I have to say, it was so juicy! Jeff and I will definitely be making the brine again, probably with a less-fresh turkey.

Plucking the turkey with tweezers!

Finally! We Eat!

Oh our funny stories and woes of the kitchen. I am going to stop telling you all the bad stories so you don’t think we are bad cooks. But this was too funny not to tell! We enjoyed a pie swap with our Reality LA friends after dinner, and it was a much-needed sugar comma to relax from the adrenaline earlier. I brought Gigi’s (my great-grandmother) chocolate pie, and it was a hit!

Gigi’s Chocolate Pie

IN OTHER THANKFUL NEWS, I got a job! I will start caring for a 4 month old little girl next week. I am so excited to have a baby girl this time! Can we just all explore God’s awesomeness in this provision! We plan to leave California in the summer. The dad is a teacher and thus they are fully flexible with whenever we need to leave because he has that time free. They are both Fuller grads, and Christian, and very supportive of our journey to the mission field. They, too, are looking to transition into ministry positions by fall. God is so awesome! And even more, I will be working in the mornings, so that I can still work with Mr. Z  in the afternoons.

Mr. Z at Travel town.

I do ask that you pray for my relationship with his mom and family. They are not Christian but have been amazingly supportive through this job hunt, and I am having more and more opportunities arise to share God’s love for us. I will just say it again, God is awesome!

Please keep Jeff in your prayers the next two weeks! He is entering the last week of classes and then finals week of the quarter. He is also working on finding a practicum site for the spring. This has been a tedious and hard process over the last couple of quarters. Thankfully, this break is the longest he has and will have about 3 weeks to recover from this constant state of busy.

We are so thankful for all of your prayers and support while we are here. We are sad we can’t celebrate with all our friends and family in Georgia this holiday season but we are thinking about you and praying for you. I can’t wait for christmas cards and updated pictures! And we are so thankful for our friends here in California for making this feel like home this season too!

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Rejoice in the Lord Always, again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

Love,

Jeff and Lauren