I grew up in Southern California, for goodness sake! I keep wondering where my snow day is! This is more winter than I've ever had, even with the better part of 10 years spent in the northwest.
Here are some more pictures...
Please remember the kids we work with. Many of them don't have heat in their homes, or they live in abandoned buildings and tents. This is hard weather for them...please pray that they'll be warm.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Posted by April at 3:46 AM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I woke up this morning, stumbled to the kitchen to put the water on for some tea, glanced out the window and to my delight, it had snowed. And, it's still snowing! Here are some pictures of our frosting laden yard at the center! And, it's supposed to snow all week! You can imagine that Bela is a very happy guy with visions of snow boarding dancing in his head!
Posted by April at 12:52 AM
Monday, December 14, 2009
This is a chapter from Henri Nouwen's book 'With Open Hands.' I thought I'd share it here because I really love it.
Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched. Why would you really want to do that? Perhaps you would let the other cross your inner threshold to see something or to touch something, but to allow the other into that place where your most intimate life is shaped—that is dangerous and calls for defense.
The resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists. This image shows a tension, a desire to cling tightly to yourself, a greediness which betrays fear. A story about an elderly woman brought to a psychiatric center exemplifies this attitude. She was wild, swinging at everything in sight, and frightening everyone so much that the doctors had to take everything away from her. But there was one small coin which she gripped in her fist and would not give up. In fact, it took two people to pry open that clenched hand. It was as though she would lose her very self along with the coin. If they deprived her of that last possession, she would have nothing more and be nothing more. That was her fear.
When you are invited to pray, you are asked to open your tightly clenched fist and give up your last coin. But who wants to do that? A first prayer, therefore, is often a painful prayer because you discover you don’t want to let go. You hold fast to what is familiar, even if you aren’t proud of it. You find yourself saying: "That’s just how it is with me. I would like it to be different, but it can’t be now. That’s just the way it is and this is the way I’ll have to leave it." Once you talk like that, you’ve already given up believing that your life might be otherwise. You’ve already let the hope for a new life float by. Since you wouldn’t dare to put a question mark after a bit of your own experience with all its attachments, you have wrapped yourself up in the destiny of facts. You feel it is safer to cling to a sorry past than to trust in a new future. So you fill your hands with small, clammy coins which you don’t want to surrender.
You still feel bitter because people weren’t grateful for something you gave them: you still feel jealous of those who are better paid than you are; you still want to take revenge on someone who didn’t respect you; you are still disappointed that you’ve received no letter, still angry because someone didn’t smile when you walked by. You live through it, you live along with it as though it doesn’t really bother you...until the moment when you want to pray. Then everything returns: the bitterness, the hate, the jealousy, the disappointment, and the desire for revenge. But these feelings are not just there; you clutch them in your hands as if they were treasures you don’t want to let go. You sit wallowing in all that old sourness as if you couldn’t do without them, as if, in giving them up, you would lose your very self.
Detachment is often understood as letting loose of what is attractive. But it sometimes also requires letting go of what is repulsive. You can indeed become attached to dark forces such as resentment and hatred. As long as you seek retaliation, you cling to your own past. Sometimes it seems as though you might lose yourself along with your revenge and hate—so you stand there with balled-up fists, closed to the other who wants to heal you.
When you want to pray, then, the first question is: How do I open my closed hands? Certainly not by violence. Nor by a forced decision. Perhaps you can find your way to prayer by carefully listening to the words the angel spoke to Zechariah, Mary, the shepherds, and the women at the tomb: "Don’t be afraid." Don’t be afraid of the One who wants to enter your most intimate space and invite you to let go of what you are clinging to so anxiously. Don’t be afraid to show the clammy coin which will buy so little anyway. Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, and disappointment to the One who is love and only love. Even if you know you have little to show, don’t be afraid to let it be seen.
Often you will catch yourself wanting to receive your loving God by putting on a semblance of beauty, by holding back everything dirty and spoiled, by clearing just a little path that looks proper. But that is a fearful response—forced and artificial. Such a response exhausts you and turns your prayer into torment.
Each time you dare to let go and to surrender one of those many fears, your hand opens a little and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving. You must be patient, of course, very patient until your hands are completely open.
It is a long spiritual journey of trust, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all those fists and at any hour of the day or night you might find yourself clenching your fists again out of fear.
Maybe someone will say to you, "You have to forgive yourself." But that isn’t possible. What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so that the One who loves you can blow your sins away. Then the coins you considered indispensable for your life prove to be little more than light dust which a soft breeze will whirl away, leaving only a grin or a chuckle behind. Then you feel a bit of new freedom and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you. Praying then becomes effortless, inspired and lively, or peaceful and quiet. When you recognize the festive and the still moments as moments of prayer, then you gradually realize that to pray is to live.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love—
unconditional, everlasting love.
Posted by April at 5:00 AM
Friday, December 11, 2009
I discovered this blog about books and writing and want to post the link here.
And actually, the link is directed to a book give-away-contest, so make sure you look around the site and not just the link!
Posted by April at 6:43 AM
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Most people know I enjoy dark chocolate (with a little wine). The chocolate I mostly buy here is called Heidi. The other day I discovered this statement on the back of its packaging:
Heidi Dark Intense
is about the bitter
sweet taste of life.
It is about your
And that, my friends, is why I love dark chocolate.
Posted by April at 1:35 AM
Friday, November 13, 2009
Posted by April at 3:10 AM
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Posted by April at 3:25 AM
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
A couple weeks ago we had friends from the center over for dinner. I made potato soup (which was super yummy if I do say so myself) and played a few games. It was not only our first party, but also our first party with baby Lukas Fowler! Josh and Robin have returned to Galati with their little one and we love having a baby around again...he gets loved on lots!
I know, you gotta love the green couch! and we have not one, but two matching chairs!
Posted by April at 3:25 AM
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
"Rebecca said that she thinks I could be a stand-up comedian, too. The sad thing is, I don't want to be that anymore."
The above photo is Bela dressed up as a Bosnian princess at camp '08...it was one of the first things that made me love him.
Posted by April at 5:05 AM
Sunday, October 25, 2009
A friend posted this on Facebook...I thought I'd post it here as it is lovely. Read it several times...
The Sacrament of Waiting - Macrina Wiederkehr
she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
the the orange, yellow, and red
finally she let go of her brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf
she watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the color of emptiness,
her branches wondering;
How do you give shade with so much gone?
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
they kept her hope alive.
They helped her understand that
her dependence and need,
her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.
Posted by April at 2:37 AM
Thursday, October 22, 2009
" You know it's a good idea when you think of it for the first time more than once!" After telling me his 'good idea' again...
Posted by April at 3:30 AM
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Bela and I spent time in Northern Romania last weekend visiting and praying at some old monasteries in that area. Orthodox churches are incredible to me in their beauty. One isn't allowed to take photos of the insides of the church, but they are completely painted, from floor to ceiling, and typically the highest point of the building is Christ...the idea being (I think) that all others, whether they be saints or disciples or apostles or the mother of Jesus, point and lead the way so that in the end, our eyes are cast upon Him. The awe of it all is breathtaking and, I think, very worshipful.
Bela mentioned that it is amazing to think of all the prayers that have been offered in these churches, especially since some of them are 500 years old. Truly, it is amazing and humbling to think that I am one of many...including those who painted and prayed as they worked (and so worshiped), who have prayed in these places. And even while the details and faces are lost on some of these churches, so will we...and yet our prayers remain.
Monastery at Voronet
Monastery at Moldavita (my favorite)
Monastery at Sucevita
We didn't take many pictures here. There was a tax one needed to pay to take photos of the church and we opted not to pay it.
The oh-so-blatantly-communist art was a piece dedicated to those who built the road.
The Monastery at Humor
Posted by April at 1:41 AM
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I'll post more from this incredible book in later posts, but this for now:
Standing on a hill in Galilee Jesus said to His disciples: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessings to those who mourn, cheers to those who weep, hail to those whose eyes are filled with tears, hats off to those who suffer, bottoms up to the grieving. How strange, how incredibly strange!
When you and I are left to our own devices, it’s the smiling, successful ones of the world that we cheer. “Hail to the victors!” The histories we write of the odyssey of humanity on earth are the stories of the exulting ones- the nations that won in battle, the businesses that defeated their competition, the explorers who found a pass to the pacific, the scientists whose theories proved correct, the athletes who came in first, the politicians who won their campaigns. We turn away from the crying ones of the world. Our photographers tell us to smile.
“Blessed are those who mourn.” What can it mean? One can understand why Jesus hails those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, why He hails the merciful, why He hails the pure in heart, why He hails the peacemakers, why He hails those who endure under persecution. These are qualities of character which belong to the life of the kingdom. But why does He hail the mourners of the world? Why cheer tears? It must be that mourning is also a quality of character that belongs to the life of His realm.
Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted by its absence. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is no one blind and who ache whenever they see someone unseeing. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one hungry and who ache whenever they see someone starving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one falsely accused and who ache whenever they see someone imprisoned unjustly. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who fails to see God and who ache whenever they see someone unbelieving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who suffers oppression and who ache whenever they see someone beat down. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one without dignity and who ache whenever they see someone treated with indignity. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is neither death nor tears and who ache whenever they see someone crying tears over death. The mourners are aching visionaries.
Such people Jesus blesses; He hails them, He praises them, He salutes them. And he gives them the promise that the new day for whose absence they ache will come. They will be comforted.
The Stoics of antiquity said: Be calm. Disengage yourself. Neither laugh nor weep. Jesus says: Be open to the wounds of the world. Mourn humanity’s mourning, weep over humanity’s weeping, be wounded by humanity’s wounds, be in agony over humanity’s agony. But do so in the good cheer that a day of peace is coming. P. 84-86
Posted by April at 8:02 AM
Monday, October 12, 2009
Think through me, thoughts of God, when I have to deal with difficult souls. Let me see in each soul an opportunity to claim the powers of Calvary. Love through me, Love of God, love that hard soul through me. Flow through me, Patience of God, flow over the roughness of that soul even as the sea flows over the rough rocks. Hope through me, Hope of God. O God of Hope, hope afresh in me as I touch that soul again. Let me not remember past disappointments. Let me begin each morning with hope, as Thou dost begin each morning with hope for me, even me.
For love, brave love that ventureth.
For love that faileth not I come,
For love that never wearieth,
Nor findeth burdens burdensome.
I come for hope that springeth green,
And burneth steadfast like a star;
For faith that pierceth through the seen
To things eternal, things that are.
O Love, that lightest all my ways,
Within, without, below, above,
Flow through the minutes of my days,
The sum of all my life be love.
Posted by April at 1:48 AM
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
He said: Have a cookie...it'll make you feel better...(short pause)...I didn't say that, it's a line from a movie.
Thing is, even if it wasn't his line, it made me feel better because I laughed and found I didn't a cookie after all.
He usually knows just the right thing to say...whether it's his line or somebody else came up with it.
Posted by April at 5:16 AM
Monday, October 05, 2009
My birthday was almost 6 months ago, but I'm playing catch-up, so please indulge me as I show some pictures we took. We went across the Dunube on a walk/hike that ended with a picnic (and me running to the bushes because I was sick). Still, it was a beautiful day and a sweet memory...
Posted by April at 5:56 AM