I loved the smell of her studio. The deep, earthy smell of fresh leather.
I loved the look of her studio. Rugged. Exposed brick with wallet cut-outs hanging. One green painted wall. The organized chaos of a true artist.
I loved the sounds of her studio. Her husband's mechanic shop on the other side of the wall. The clank of the design fork teething through the passport carrier she was creating. The words of the Gospel of Luke being read in the air.
I loved the friendship in her studio. The way that I listened to her story unfold - the weaving in and out of themes - as she strung together the needle and thread stitchwork on her project. The way we weaved through laughter and tears and the deepest desires of the heart.
I loved the idea of her studio. The way the whole room represents her perseverance and grit over the past year as she chased her dream of becoming an artist and finding leatherwork, though she had absolutely no experience before. And just one year later her Christmas orders are backlogged so far that her multi-colored hands give testament to her dedication to her craft.
I loved how watching her work brought me back to my Creator. Her mantra that she was created to create. The way her hands delicately knit together something so intricately beautiful out of something dead and useless, the same way our Merciful Potter molds the clay into a vessel worthy of being poured into. And worthy of pouring out into others. I'm grateful she has poured into me.
In his book-turned-movie Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand said he wasn't angry with his Russian Communist torturers for the same reason he wasn't mad at rabid dogs for doing what is only natural to them. The communists are sinners given over completely to the lustful and wicked cravings of their hearts in an atheistic system that glorified them to be that way. They are people who do - in fact - have the moral law written on their hearts because of them being made in the image of God. They are without excuse for their horrible deeds. Yet even in that, Wurmbrand recognized that they were the real Walking Dead, living only as the sinners they know how. And living as the products of being shaped by a system and told lies for years in their atheistic government.
In our last newsletter Derek said that we were praying that God would re-open the door with Alexa, our Roma friend who cleaned for us. The truth? Derek may have been praying for that, but meanwhile I had been quite content that no Roma people had been ringing our doorbell recently. In fact not even many of our neighbors have been ringing our bell much since we returned home. I can submit to God if He brings people again, I suppose. But I can’t really bring myself to PRAY for them to return. I idolize my comfort and control of my schedule far too much to pray for those things to be challenged.
We've had a lot of people ask us about the mold in our house we had previously reported on in our previous emails. Given our kids' sicknesses, it certainly was a concern of ours and everyone else's. So understandably many people have asked us about it and showed concern about us moving back into the same house when we go back at the end of the month. So for those who want the full explanation - or for those who are just interested in knowing a cultural difference between Romania and America - here is the post for you!
Every missionary talks about learning new cultural differences that they didn't even know existed. You can't ask questions about a topic you don't know is something you should ask about! For us, one of those major things was the differences in house construction.
In Romania, the houses are built of concrete, have single pane windows, and no air conditioning or ceiling fans. And hardly anyone has dryers so that we hang our clothes out to dry. And Romanians always leave the furniture a few inches from the walls. Being ignorant newbies, we didn't recognize that all of these differences was a recipe for mold growth in the house if we didn't do certain things. The concrete walls meant that the same wall was getting super cold on one side and super warm on the other side. The single pane windows meant that condensation was constantly forming on the windows and dripping down. The lack of air flow with HVAC systems or ceiling fans meant that there wasn't air circulation. Hanging wet clothes to dry inside the house during the cold months added a lot of moisture to the air. And to save space we pushed our furniture up against the wall and stored things in every nook and cranny. Without realizing it, we basically created a jungle ecosystem in our home which was just perfect for mold growth in those dark spaces behind our furniture. Ahhhh! This means that we did all the wrong things ourselves and now know how to make changes!
We have purchased a dryer, a dehumidifier, and two air purifiers to help with the humidity and mold. We've learned that during certain rainy seasons we need to be wiping down our windows on a daily basis. We purchased a few more fans to help with air flow throughout, and we know to open the windows as much as possible when it isn't freezing cold. Our team members even taught us about opening up our kitchen cabinets at night to allow for air circulation in those areas, too. And because the houses are constructed of concrete, we have confirmed that there can't be any mold "hiding" inside the walls like they could be in the States.
We looked at moving into another house, but everywhere we saw had the same issues because this is just a cultural difference that we had to learn about. We don't feel like moving homes is necessarily going to change anything; not to mention that it's very hard to find rental properties in our area anyway. We've spoken at length with our pediatric pulmonologist about the mold, and we did blood allergy testing for both boys that came back negative for mold allergies and didn't show in their blood work that they had mold disease. So while it certainly wasn't helping our situation, we don't think that the mold actually caused any of our kids' issues, though it certainly could have exacerbated the asthma. But given the fact that we've figured out what we need to do to keep the mold at bay, we don't feel like it's going to be a pervasive issue any longer.
We're really looking forward to moving back into our home. We love our neighborhood and neighbors. We love our fenced in yard that is perfect for the dogs and kids. We love some of the "extras" our house has that aren't found in other houses around. We love that the house is right next to the mountain and giant field where the animals go to graze. We love our landlord and how awesome she has been with us and our situation. Truly, this house has been a huge blessing. And now that we can go back and start again with a better understanding, we're really hopeful that we won't see the mold anymore.
Overall, Romania has been a pretty easy country to move to, in part because the EU has a considerable amount of reciprocity with the States. Part of that reciprocity included driving. While Romanians have to endure a pretty tedious process to obtain their license (30+ hours of driving school, a very difficult written test, and a very difficult driving test), we didn't have to endure that process. We were so thankful for this. We had plenty of Romanians tell us how tough the process was, plus we saw firsthand how fearful being a student driver was. It is inevitable that when you drive into Brasov you will end up driving behind a car with a big orange sign up top that indicates a student driver is in the car. They are the most timid, slow, annoying people to follow. The fear of God is in their hearts and they dare not make any mistake.
July was a busy but fun month. I flew back to the States with Catalina and the kids at the end of June, then turned right back around about a week later to Romania. Since it was the middle of summer and the flight window was short, I ended up booking a 48 hour long plane route which took me from Atlanta to Providence, then to Dublin, then Milan, Bucharest, and then three hours by van to Brasov. It was nice having a ten hour layover to explore Dublin a bit, but I was exhausted by the time I got to Brasov. I look forward to a similar trip on the way back.
Power. Fame. Money. Many would put their life on the line for any of these. The chance to obtain any one of these things might make risking failure worthwhile. In the sense that all humans have these same desires, this common pursuit unites humanity. It's something we all share, whether rich or poor. But in another sense, these very desires we hold in common are desires which, at their core, seek to separate us from the rest of humanity. Each of these common pursuits ends in our separation from others. To have power means to have influence and control over others. If I am to be powerful in any real sense, others must be powerless, or at least less powerful in comparison to me. We can see the same thing with fame. Were all people to have the same fame and notoriety, of what significance would the word "fame" have as compared to "normal?" One who seeks fame would never want everyone else to be famous, for then fame would carry little weight and influence. Likewise, money would be of little value were everyone to have an abundance of it. Income and wealth require disparities for them to carry any useful distinction and significance. And so it is that the very desires which tend to control us and unify us in our humanity, are likewise pursuits which seek to separate and distinguish us.
We’re still here in the hospital. We might be able to go home tomorrow but not sure yet. And I’d truly love to go home, but until that time, God has changed my prayers and prayer requests.
I’m praying for the lady across the hallway who lives in my same town and doesn’t have a church home. She’s been very sweet to me and I’m hoping to be able to make a connection with her once she leaves the hospital. Which she says won’t be until at least Friday for her and her 2 month old baby girl.
I’m praying for the room down the hall with motherless babies. There are about 6 cribs in one room - all babies whose mothers aren’t here. I don’t know if they’re orphans or if their mom’s just can’t stay up here with them. I pray for them constantly! There are only two nurses for the entire respiratory wing. They can’t possibly tend to the needs of these poor ones. Today I stood outside the door and saw one baby - probably one year old - lift her head and just wail. I felt so helpless. She had mucus just dripping from her nose. I got a tissue and cleaned her face off, but I wish I could do so much more. I keep praying for the God who loves all His children to send them His Spirit for peace and comfort. I’m praying His promises that He sees them and loves them.
I’m praying for Alexandra, the sweetest little 11 year old girl down the hallway - who has 6 more siblings at home, preventing her mama from being here with her in the hospital. I gave her some chocolate and talk to her as much as I can. She’s soft spoken, and it looks as though her mama French-braided her hair before she came to the hospital, and it hasn’t been fixed or combed or washed since. She gives me the biggest grin every time she sees me, and she often stands at the door of the motherless babies. She clearly has a soft heart for them, probably because she’s in the same situation.
I’m praying for the sweet little girl next door who has this terrible barking cough. I can’t even explain how it sounds. I hear it all night long.
I’m praying for all the poor kids who have to have treatments done that they neither want nor understand. That they’re afraid of and are uncomfortable. All hours of the night I hear kids screaming because they’re scared. And often don’t have a mama to comfort them.
I’m praying for the lady down the hallway who has twins here - both sick. I can’t even imagine how overwhelmed she must be since I feel like one baby is so hard! She ran out of diapers for them today and asked if I could give her some. I gave her half the bag I have and told her I’d give her whatever I have left after I leave.
I’m praying for the girl across the hall who ended up here in the hospital without any credit left on her phone, so she had to borrow a phone to even call someone to tell her she’s here and needs supplies. Her sweet baby daughter has the thickest head of dark black hair, coupled with pretty blue eyes. Her daughter’s name is Catalina.
I’m praying for the nurses who come only two at a time for 12-hour shifts. Who are most assuredly tired and overwhelmed. Who do their best to meet the needs of everyone. Who probably feel unappreciated. When I asked one of them this morning how she’s doing, she was taken aback and thought I was asking my own baby. When I said I was asking her she was surprised and then smiled and softened toward me as she answered. Then there’s the other nurse with an infinity tattoo on her arm. When I commented on it and asked her about it, she softly, lovingly, sadly mentioned it was in honor of her sister. Even a language barrier doesn’t keep me from knowing what that means.
I still pray for Denton. And I still want to go home. But it’s been harder and harder for me to pray for myself these last few days as I’ve gotten to know the needs of others here. I have friends who come to relieve me. I have a sweet husband who brings my other babies up here for quick five-minute visits so I can hug and kiss them, and they bring me food and more clothes and toiletries. I have a sweet daughter at home who remembers to pack socks for Denton and a piece of paper and an orange highlighter for me, in case I get bored and want to color.
I walk up and down the hallways a lot, softly bouncing Denton and singing hymns. Nobody understands anything I sing. But God does. And I’ll keep using the oddity of my “fat baby” (as the other ladies here affectionately call him) to open up conversations and allow the Lord to work His love on their hearts. I want to go home, but until God says it’s time, I’ll keep praying and singing for my little mission field here.
I have this dream. This vision. This goal.
When my kids grow up and reflect on their childhood, I sure hope that Holy Week and Easter stands out to them. I want them to unrelentingly talk their future spouses into carrying on the traditions of crawling on the floor with donkey ears and washing each others' feet. I want them to be so giddy excited to show their own children what Easter is truly about. I want them to understand the immense gravity of Good Friday juxtaposed with the exuberant joy of Resurrection Sunday that it makes their eyes sting with tears and their hair stand up on their arms in goosebumps. I want it to mean something to them, where their whole year will be looking forward to Easter again.
And truthfully, I don't think the Easter Bunny is enough to get the job done. I don't think an egg hunt or buying pretty dresses or baskets of goodies are enough. I don't think a sunrise service or special music is enough. Or a Sunday ham. And, dude, juicy hams and coordinating family outfits are pretty awesome things. We plan on having all of these things next Sunday. But they're not enough.