things I want to remember, thus far.

It’s a quiet evening, a stack of books by my side, a mug balancing on top of them. It’s on still days, such as this, my thoughts have time to settle. What is there to say? What observations, what moments should form poetry, form memoirs? What do I want to cherish my whole life long?

These are the things I want to remember:

I. A question, and an answer. The question I’ve received the most is, “Were you scared to come alone?”  (or “Wow, you’re so brave to do so!”). At first, I kind of just smiled and made some comments about how it was a little scary but I’ve been fine since.

But no, in all truth it wasn’t scary. Leaving was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, and gladly would do again. I don’t remember a time in my life where traveling wasn’t my happy place from each new skyline, airplane, hotel rooms, or tiny cafe. Packing your life into suitcase, and knowing you’re going to be a new person is profoundly thrilling. Especially this time, the longest I’ve traveled; I’ve loved every airport, every free weak cup of airplane coffee, every new sight, every time I’ve gotten lost and had to find my way, every new taste of a new food I’d never seen before. Newness like that has always been my very fuel for living. Bravery, for me, is never needed in leaving.

So, my answer? I’ll say this. There is little bravery is gladly going, in the adventure, in the grand scheme of it all, but there is much needed in the staying, in the settling of one’s feet, in the creation of the familiar paths you’ve walked before. There is much bravery in a lifetime of not just going wherever He may call, but staying there and standing firm. Yes, it is scary on the days that lack, the days I feel unworthy, the days I doubt providence, the days where I am full of false believed strength, yet those are the days that I am being made brave – so I shall glad continue to keep on leaving, and keep on staying.

II. The words of a particular hymn. How many times I’ve sung or listened to “Come Thou Fount” and now on this trip, it’s been my anchor. Often I’ve walked, or fallen asleep at night with the words echoing within my head. I think it will be intertwined with this trip in my memories for a very long time.

Recently I was introduced to an old verse of the song, lost to recent versions I’m particularly fond of:

// Hallelujah! I have found it,
The full cleansing I had craved,
And to all the world I’ll sound it:
They too may be wholly saved.
I am sealed by Thy sweet Spirit,
Prone no longer now to roam;
And Thy voice, I’ll humbly hear it,
For Thy presence is my home //

III. Scraps of good days: wandering beneath the city lights at dusk starting the long walk home as music starts to play, the smell of smoke and the feeling of my feet walking against the cobblestone street, the thrill of just the right amount of wind blowing through my hair, a bouquet of camomile tucked away in my bag, tickets and folded up letters, familiar faces and new ones I’ve already felt as if I’ve known my whole life long, conversations with people from another place entirely yet who share so much of my heart. These things are the things I choose to treasure, to collect, to carry with me as gold.

IV. The bliss of realizing teaching is surely the job with the most joy is one I don’t want to lose, or grow old in thirty years when I am exhausted of classrooms and English papers.

Being apart of the English school here has truly opened my eyes to how much I love lessons, how much I love meeting new faces and knowing what goes on in learning minds. Students open up, the fumble with English, they ask questions, and they keep too silent.

I’ve laughed to tears at students’ jokes, and teared up at their sweet words. I’ve planned out workshops and changed things at the last second. I’ve learned to go with the flow, to always look for the best idea for the moment. I have so much to learn, but certainly I am learning more than every student I’m supposed to teach!

V. A knowledge of providence I have longed for my whole life long. If the Lord has revealed to me anything on this trip, it’s a deeper knowledge of such provision and foreknowledge. When the Lord first put this summer on my heart last year while in Romania, I could barely imagine the faithfulness I’ve seen.

When I was in middle school, I marveled often at when in Genesis, the Lord promised Abraham an inheritance greater than the stars. Last fall, I was humbled by how God gave  Abraham his promise then called him up a mountain to sacrifice that gift at an altar (yet provided, still). This summer, my eyes have been opened to another page of that story, personally: that promise to Abraham, for an inheritance, for provision for every calling is also mine.

As Paul wrote in Romans 4, “But the words ‘it was counted to him [Abraham]’ were not written for his sake alone, but for outs also. It will be counted to us who believe in him” (23), and earlier, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed” (16).

Yes, as I sit in the country that has been a part of my whole life, with every need accounted for, and faith that every unspoken need will come to completion: I do believe his promises are guaranteed, for the next six weeks and for the rest of this life (and if I can only remember one thing, let it be that!).

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord has led you” // Deuteronomy 8

 

theres’s so much I’d tell you.

A car honked window around 8:45 in the evening, and I looked up from the book in my lap. Startled, I quickly realized I wasn’t home. It feels hard to grasp I haven’t been here for very long, yet small things still startle me: a weird combination of discovering and settling in.

It’s been two years this week since I first stepped foot in Romania, and today while walking, I passed the building where I spent many hours of my first trip here and it silenced my thoughts a bit: what a journey it’s been, what love I’ve known in this city. This city has seen me in many different hours, hours of lacking, and hours of feeling as if I didn’t lack one single thing in the world.

A year ago I knew, sitting on a bench watching the sunlight glaze the mountains in the morning, that there would be more time for me in this country yet. I didn’t know then that by the end of the day, I would already be talking to people about this summer – still an abstract idea, but I knew then there was no mistake in thinking it. The Lord certainly led me here, years before and his purposes are still unfolding today. This trip has been the greatest means of grace in my life in learning to follow him, and I can barely comprehend I have a lifetime ahead of continuing to listen and to follow, by grace and grace alone.

How to describe this trip, so waited and prayed for, so lengthly written about in short letters and long journal entries, so perfectly orchestrated from every tiny detail I couldn’t even consider myself – seems impossible. There’s so much I want to tell, so much, and to so many people in particular; faces cross my mind constantly sunset after sunset, people who have been here with me, and who have prayed for overwhelming faithfulness for this country and for my time in it, which I can now write and say I have known.

I arrived in Romania on Saturday, after the quickest and easiest day of traveling. Navigating airports is surprisingly peaceful, quiet, and uneventful. The nine hour plane ride consisted of the guy beside me sleeping the entire trip as I didn’t sleep a second, but instead watched and cried over a movie for the first in years (the tears were about many things, I’m certain), drank lots of  water, tried to sleep, eagerly waited for the lights to return so I could read properly, and watched the flight tracker for too long. I arrived early to Bucharest, exhausted, and after a day of slowly getting back to Craiova, I made it to see the first sunset of my trip. Moments after arriving, I was welcomed into the sweetest surprise of my life with my dear friends from previous trips (words from missionary Adoniram Judson come to mind: “If such exquisite delights as we have enjoyed with these now in paradise, and with one another, are allowed to sinful creatures on earth, what must the joys of heaven be?”).

Monday, I started at the school where I’m instructing. I met students, who have already given me a thousand stories to tell (yes, there’s so much I’d tell so many, so much), and teachers who have been nothing but helpful in helping me learn the ways of the English school from showing me where to pour coffee to how to walk home. Following school, I come home to the young couple I’m living with asking me to join them for dinner. On free days, I’ve had such sweet meetings with some of the girls I met at the student camp last year, letting them show me around the city and tell me all that is happening in their lives.

“There’s so much I want to tell you,” several of them have said, and yes, I understand.

And that’s life: life here, which is not a list of accomplishments or highlights from a two week trip. Living here, if only for a summer, is different but in a way that is crafted morning by morning. Two weeks here, and I’ve just begun. I’ve just found the shortest walk home from work, and the prettiest. I now recognize the smell of the flowers that line the sidewalks. I’m learning what water to drink, the different names for different common foods.

Of all the things I so want to tell so many people, one stands out most of all that I’m discovering: the best thing you can do is to go somewhere far from the streets you’ve always known, not just for the views, and live there. Let it not be what you planned, but everything you hoped for. Learn what trees to pick fruit from, pick up words of the language from conversations. Keep your eyes plastered on the windows, as you drive through countryside and take note of every grand house and every lowly shack. Never forget how the sun rises, and sets, at different times. Listen to people of another tongue speak and sing of this grace. Go with little, come back with less, don’t take much anything for yourself, but come back with everything stored up in a far more precious way.

Not even two weeks in, and there’s much more to lose, so much more to gain.

the city in may.

Manhattan has always been sort of a mecca for me, a place I go not only with the intent of visiting but with the hope it’ll capture me up.

The last time I was in the city, it was a profoundly healing time. It was the end of my senior year of High School, the year I more or less discovered a whole lot of who I wanted to be through much redemption of two years fighting myself and doubting the very thoughts that uphold my life. Being in the city and learning to navigate the streets, I found peace in one of the busiest places in the world.

Now, more than a year later, I was anxious to visit to see what else I could find, what new revelations would resonate.  Like many trips, the trip striped back the surpassed layer of life that I often forget to peel away, burdening me with the bitter cup of this world. Yet it was such a time to be alive: to see my nine year old brother (the same age I was when I first visited) have his eyes excitedly lit with the lights of the city, to spend time with my family – whom I love with such a deep, overwhelming love that no time cannot make up for – before some time apart, to hear the wisdom of my Father who knows the city and life in a way I long to, and to walk the streets with my older brother discussing all things from the fine art that lines the walls of the MET to hip-hop.

Here is New York, captured by my camera in the way I choose to see it: bold, brave, tender, and wild:

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