Remembering Two Years Ago

 

I am having a coke to help with jet lag, trying to stay awake on day 1.
I am having a coke to help with jet lag, trying to stay awake on day 1.

As we came upon celebrating 2 years here in Romania (Nov. 20), I was looking through my old journal entries around that time. I specifically remember my mom telling me to write it down so I would remember what I was feeling during that time of transition.  So I found my entry from our first day here pretty funny and I thought I would share it with you.

Day 1 in Timisoara                                                                                      11/21/13

Emotions: Overwhelmed, voiceless because I can’t understand or speak the language yet, excited, anxious, nervous, exhausted, very surreal. Physically, I feel a train has run over my body which Jeff says is jet lag. I am a little worried about money and having enough and being able to get enough out with out a lot of penalties (When we arrived, we discovered the bank we planned on using had closed). I am glad Jeff is with me and I feel less eager to be on my own like I did in December (2010) when I came to meet Jeff. Love, engagement, etc., creates a lot of energy that I didn’t account for. My goal for today: walk the city and get a handle on what needs to be done here. and don’t cry.

Enjoying some tea while working on my Romanian homework. Day 706 in Romania
Enjoying some tea while working on my Romanian homework. Day 706 in Romania

And now,  we have been here for 2 years and it continues to feel more and more like home. If I am completely honest with you, I think I am still trying to figure out if I am ok with that feeling. I never imagined I would live here, but I know this country and its’ people are being sown into my heart. I am so glad and thankful that the Lord has continued to provide for us. We have a wonderful community around us, I can understand more of the language, I can get around the city, and God continues to provide support for us here.

Sincerely,

Another Cultural Learner

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?

Why I Love Spring in Timisoara

During the winter everyone retreats. It is cold. The sun is brief and the buildings seem to match the sky, a nice shade of boring grey. The trees retreat. The birds retreat. The people retreat. I retreat.

This is an exhale.

I wait in anticipation for

 

Spring.

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Some people think of spring as a time to clean. Some think of spring break. If you are in Georgia, it is the time of year when you can’t find your car because all of them are the nasty shade of pollen yellow.

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In Timisoara, in the spring, the city seems to take a deep  i n h a l e.

The sun comes out and the colors start to appear. The tree outside my window puts out green buds. The parks and center get a face lift with fresh plants. The men come back to the park for games of chess. The women to the front stoop to gossip. The birds sing a song of awakening. The tulips and daffodils fill the street vendors buckets. The pink trees line the street as a sign of life. The terraces and outside tables fill the square signaling time for gatherings with friends (and gelato).

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I   N  H  A   L   E              L  I  F  E

BREATH      DEEP

I love Timisoara in the spring. God made everything with a rhythm. God made the Earth with seasons.  God made us with a rhythm of breath. inhaling. exhaling. He made us with a rhythm of life and death.

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Easter is approaching us this weekend in Timi. (we celebrate with the orthodox church calendar so it is different from countries who use the catholic calendar.) As spring continues to return with each daily breath the city takes, I am reminded of Easter. That Christ’s exhale was not his last. Jesus’ death on the cross was my inhale for eternal life. Through Christ, my rhythm can continue past my breath and I can praise God in eternity.

The grave was the exhale and the resurrection the i n h a l e.

As the Earth has it’s rhythm of spring , may it remind you of Christ’s exhale and sacrifice on the cross and the  i n h a l e  of eternal life that was given to us through the His resurrection.

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“day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”  -Revelation 4:8

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!

 

When the Browns come to town

“A man without a timezone.” Famously quoted by my dad at a late night game of cards, as he described his jet lag proudly.  We had the privilege of mom and dad coming to visit us in Timisoara for a week at the beginning of October. We have been here for 10 months and we were excited for them to see what our life here in Romania looks like.

As we have said before, there is a 18-24 month window that is crucial to bonding with another culture. This is why we do not plan to go back to the US before 2 years, and we greatly weighed how this trip would affect that bond. We decided it would be best to have them visit, with the knowledge that it could be very hard after they left. It was hard, but Jeff was very supportive and we gave ourselves space to miss them. Everyday Jeff would ask me, “1-10, how are you feeling?” and sometimes multiple times a day. I think the best parts were just getting to spend time together. Quality time  is one of my love languages if you can’t tell. The week flew by and we wish we could have spent more time together, but it was filled with joy!

We tried hard to wear them out to help with jet lag by walking all over Timisoara. We went to Opera square to see the Orthodox Cathedral, the construction of Liberty and Unity square, the revolution museum, the areopogus (where we take classes), our favorite places to shop, a large open air market, the mall, our church, and to some friends’ homes for great conversation and games. We took them to places by tram, bus, and taxi.

We even rented a car for two days, and Jeff and dad both chauffeured mom and I around. We took the car for 36 hours to see Sarmisegetusa (a place of Roman ruins from 106-109 A.D.), Corvin Castle, Alba Iulia (another city with a large citadel), Cisnedia (a small village outside of Sibiu with a beautiful fortified church), Cisnedoara (a fortified church on top of a hill), and Sibiu (an old german town and citadel in Transylvania).

And of course, we had to feed them sarmale, shoarma, salata de vinete (an eggplant spread), inghețata (Romanian gelato), gogoși (fried dough) , and other yummy goodies. We even got to recreate their first date by going out for pizza, although their pizza from their first date didn’t have corn on it and was not served with ketchup. By the way, pizza should always have corn on it. Anyway, in conclusion, my parents are awesome, deeply missed, deeply loved, and tireless. Check out our pictures from the trip below.

Blunders of the Tongue

Whether you think language learning is easy or hard, there is one common standard: it is great for comedy!

In honor of our first week back at school, here are a few of our most favorite language blunders!

  • Lauren going to the bread store and asking for bread and a set of grandparents, instead of the type of bread called “grandmother’s bread.”
  • Lauren going to the bread store and asking for bread and a house, instead of the type of bread. (Needless to say, she gets tongue tied when buying bread, and they know us when we come in.)
  • Instead of telling his friend he needed to charge his phone, Jeff told his friend on the phone that he needed to go poop to the bathroom.
  • Lauren saying her phone was pickled instead of dead.
  • Lauren practicing her sunday school lesson with a teacher and saying she would teach the kids how to love on top of one another instead of how to love each other. (That could have been disastrous!)
  • Jeff bought the wrong kind of milk, and found out what the word for buttermilk is here by tasting it in our cereal.
  • Instead of reading a conjunction word properly, frequently used in the bible passage Lauren was reading in class, she found out the importance of pronunciation- one type of “a” sound makes a conjunction word, another “a” sound makes a not-so-nice word.
  • Jeff was asked by our administrator if he liked chicken or rooster eggs, but he didn’t know the word for rooster. He said both and now it is a running joke for our administrator every time we see him.
  • Instead of saying our friend missed Romania, Jeff told our landlord she was in pain.
  • Lauren was trying to tell a story and instead of saying her dad was going to meet her mom, she said her dad was going to meet our Romanian friend’s mom. It became a very confusing story.
  • Instead of telling a woman at the store Lauren didn’t speak Romanian, she told the woman that she didn’t speak Romanian.
  • Jeff did well speaking and understanding Romanian until it came down to tell the woman how we would pay and his face froze.

If that didn’t make you laugh enough, we often enjoy this clip from the show “Friends.”

On the plus side, we have both told one successful joke in Romanian! <– now that is an accomplishment!

Haha! Here is to more blunders and fun times learning this fall! Now we are just praying for bravery to continue to put our foot in our mouth and keep trying. Learning a new language can become discouraging when you find yourself not being able to do such basic things; but that is where our pride is cut to the core and we are humbled. I still cannot figure out how I know what people are saying in Romanian but I do not know how to respond, or  how to say what they just said to me.

Here is to more mind stretching, pulling, and growth!

“I can do all things through him [Christ] who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

3 years…Already?….Only?

3 years of marriage

So exciting and so much fun! I think I say this every year, but how can it already be 3 years, and all in the same, it really has only been 3 years?

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Tell me how you really feel about marriage? 😉

We celebrated on Wednesday with a day to ourselves in the city. We started the day off with a morning workout. You make think this is crazy, but we just started the couch to 5K program. It is a true sign of commitment when your spouse is willing to get up early to work out with you on your anniversary. We had fun in the kitchen making Chinese steam buns for lunch and went to see the Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D afterwards. We loved the movie and all of the American pop culture references, although not as many laughs from the Romanian movie goers. After the movie, we treated ourselves with some Starbucks and walked around the park before dinner. For dinner, Jeff took me to the restaurant were we ate before he proposed to me. We ate on the terrace, on the roof of the restaurant, and watched the sun set over the square. It is fun to live in a city with so many special memories for us.

This past year has been filled with large steps of faith. We were talking about the last year at dinner and trying to think of a theme for the year and what we have learned. We agreed that with all of the huge changes in our lives this past year, our theme would have to be practicing how to support one another.

Year one was learning how to fight  communicate and the unique things you find out about someone when living together. Year two was learning how to appreciate the quirkiness of each other and how we process ideas, situations, etc differently. This year we have been able to practice supporting each other as things of familiarity were left behind.

They say moving to another culture will enhance problems, and magnify struggles. We experience changes differently and react to them differently, but we have had to be very in-tune with one another during this process. For example, my introverted-ness has amplified as I get worn-out from being around people here quicker, and Jeff has practiced how to support me in the times when I need rest and how to encourage me to step past my comfort zone. We have to be aware when things outside of our marriage wear on us, not to bring them in, but to address it together.

I am not saying we got it right all the time, but it is so very nice to have a best friend who will support, encourage, and empathize with you. And when you melt down, fall apart, or are un-supportive of the other person, they will still love you in the midst of it.

We are excited to see what year 4 will teach us and how we will grow…

 

Adventure Camp

Tabara de Aventura

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We had the pleasure of supporting Biblia Pentru Toți (Scripture Union) last week with an adventure camp for youth. The camp had youth, ages 13-17, from different parts of the country and different denominations (baptist, pentecostal, non-denominational and orthodox).

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At an Adventure camp, you have to have some fun! We had field games, water games, zip-lining, archery, a climbing obstacle course, and 2 hr ride in a dump truck so we could hike up a mountain. The camp was surrounded by beautiful mountains and a creek beside it, which brought me back to days of camping with my family in North Georgia.

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There was a team from England, with Scripture Union, who came to invest in the youth and they lead talks in the morning. It was wonderful to meet these young adults and hear their testimonies. They were not only a blessing to the youth, but for us as well. We also had times for small groups, and Romanian pastors spoke at our evening sessions. It was so encouraging to hear how open and honest these youth were about their love for God, their desire to share about Jesus with their friends and neighbors, and where they have struggled in their journey with God.

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We had so much fun but we are exhausted from all of the fun! Now time to finish washing the horribly stinky socks and shorts. This week we will see what adventure God has in store for us in the city.

 “Adventure is out there!”

Birthday Traditions

Birthday Traditions

Every family has different birthday traditions. In my (Lauren’s) family, it is all about family. Every birthday the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins get together to celebrate. My mom always cooks whatever meal and desserts ( yes, multiple) we want for our birthday. I have only missed 1 other birthday before, so being away this year was harder than expected. It is hard when traditions have to change but it is exciting to begin to build new ones!

I have a friend here whose birthday is the 25th, and she turned 13 this year. So we decided to celebrate by getting some starbucks and going to the movies to see Maleficent. Jeff surprised me with sunflowers, which may or may not have been stolen, it was lost in translation. We also went to the piața (open market) near the center and bought fresh tomatoes and veggies for our Italian dinner. We had home-made brownies and the next day I had dinner with some girlfriends. It was a great birthday weekend for turning a quarter of a century!

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June 27th

 

Jeff’s family usually goes out to eat or picks what meal they want, and in college we tried to get together with friends. While in grad school, Jeff always had papers due or intensive classes, so we had to celebrate this year well!

For Jeff’s birthday, I tried to make him waffles for breakfast. Our waffle maker goes on the stove top and we have never used it before, so Jeff graciously ate half cooked or half burnt waffles. That night, we had an Italian night with our friends here and it was a blast! What could be a better way to turn 28 than with italian music, mustaches, pasta and bruschetta, cake, and friends.

He also got to talk with both parents and his sister that day. We also celebrated with Jeff’s parents when they were here about a week ago. Birthdays have been more emotional than we expected but we are so blessed by the community we have around us here.

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July 30th

when a team comes…

When a team comes …it is the most exhausting week ever. But we were so glad to have seen friends and family for a week.

The team continued to work on a house in progress and decorate 2 children’s rooms, they put on a VBS for a local church in a village near-by, they had a 1 day seminar about marriage and singleness, as well they spent time with friends they get to see once a year.

It was exciting to help alongside and work with both our Romanian and American family here!  We tried to help in the translating, and by the Holy Spirit we think we got some of it right. We also had a day alone with our family (Jef’f”s parents) to show them our “everyday” life here, which was so much fun!

Here are pictures from the week. (If you click on the picture, you can see it bigger.)