Friday, December 24, 2010

A child is born

December 24, 2010

And, here we are.

The day before Christmas. Christmas Eve. Sometime on this night, somewhere in time, a child was born and a young girl birthed him.

Being pregnant for the first time, I've thought about Mary and becoming a mother a lot this Christmas. I'm almost 25 years older than she probably was, but I wonder if age difference doesn't keep at bay the worries of motherhood.

Like how will we provide for this little one?

Both Mary and I have no place of our own to lay our children. We live in a borrowed room and instead of a manger, my baby will sleep in second hand basinets and cribs. I'll clothe her in things that have been worn before and wrap her in a baby blanket that was once a sari, sewn by a woman who was a sex slave but now is finding freedom in making purses and blankets.

And I look at all I have for my little girl and realize I have all I really need.

And Mary, when she looked at her little boy, saw that He was all she really needed.

This Christmas, I realize I've been given more than I ever thought possible. Our needs our being met, the Provider is doing what He said He would; He is providing.

And on that night He was born, the greatest provision of all was given. A Son who would become sacrifice, but also God who became man. Like us.

I bask in this provision. And I'm hoping that to this child I've been given, I will be able to point and say: I've not much on this earth to give you, but I give you the one thing I know I have beyond any doubt, the assurance that He has provided, He will provide.

A couple weeks ago I heard that the real meaning behind the word 'merry' was 'mighty.' I wish you a Mighty Christmas, full of the hope of His mighty provision in a new year and the faithfulness of His gentle care in the last year. Even when it feels like that provision isn't so mighty, even when it feels like it isn't so gentle. He is all we really need.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I've waited for this all of my life...

Lately I've been asked quite a bit if I like being pregnant.

I don't.

I kinda always thought I would like carrying a child. And, I don't.

Nausea still shadows me daily so I have to be sure to eat every couple hours and carry snacks with me. Gorgeous thick hair and beautiful skin still evade me. I've never broken out as bad as I do now. At 27 weeks my ankles and feet are swollen beyond recognition. In fact, I feel like my body is bloated and big beyond recognition.(I drink about a gallon of water a day....still, said swollen ankles). Sleeping is difficult at night due to strange pains in even stranger areas of my body that I did not think could hurt. I cry without notice. I'm angry without notice. I'm stressed without notice.

And yesterday I said to myself: I've waited for this child all my life.

And I thought: Perhaps creation was much the same as it waited for its King; bloated, fat, hurting, sleep deprived, angry, emotional, stressed, hungry, and broken.

Still, the earth had waited for this moment all its life.

The moment that changed everything.

I wouldn't change how hard this is for anything, not for what I'm being given in return.

I've waited for this all of my life...

And in these days before Christmas, when we reflect and remember and wait again for the birth of Jesus, I find that this ravaged body of mine is waiting in more than one way for a return to wholeness.

I've been waiting for that, too, all of my life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When intentionality and reflection at Christmas are missing: 3 steps I just came up with

December 21, 2010

So maybe I won't be posting an Advent reflection everyday...I did try to say something yesterday, but the words just wouldn't come. I couldn't organize my thoughts in a way in which I was happy. And then I became busy with the day...watching my husband's eyelid swell up, making some homemade gifts, finishing up what was on my shopping list, taking a much needed nap, hanging out with nephews, etc etc etc.

And throughout the day I thought about stopping and pausing and reflecting and being intentional...and it just didn't come. I wasn't feeling it, you know?

As much as I want to reflect on the season of Advent, I'm sort of stuck in the middle of reflecting on everything else. Which I know is the danger and therefore the moment where what the time of Advent is about, is lost.

So, I'm going to take it a step at a time...this pondering. I want to start with what is first on the agenda of my busy day, and then get to what I'm feeling. And hopefully, in uncovering it all, I'll reach a place of rest at the Advent of our Savior.

Step one: Name what I'm doing today.
Today I'm making peanut butter balls (for the first time), hoping that my husband is healthy enough to finish up a round of immunizations he needs for a medical report for immigration, work on my affidavit for said immigration, wrap a few gifts, email a few people, get a haircut (yay!!!), and I think that's about it.

I know, it doesn't seem like a lot on my plate, so why do I feel so lost amidst it all? I think because of step two, everything I'm feeling.

Step two: Name what you are feeling today.
Yesterday morning my husband Bela and I skyped with the people we worked with in Galati. They were having a Christmas party and we wanted to be able to say hi, so we called.

We said hi, showed off my belly, made a few jokes, and tried to understand one another between a bad internet connection and so many people talking at once that no one could hear what the other was saying. Before we ended, they sang us a song. And with all my heart I wished I was sitting in that room with them singing and laughing and celebrating.

During this season of our lives, and namely, during this Advent season, we are having to wander through the grief of leaving so many we love. And I think that grief, slammed up against the season of Advent, can make it hard to find reflective words about the season.

I think I'll share one of my favorite Christmas moments from Galati. Every year we take the kids from the center caroling around the city. Many people carol during the Christmas season in Galati, and often they do it in hopes of being given money or food. We did it in order to say thank you to those who gave or prayed or were simply a part of our lives during the year. We also would go to the kids' homes and sing for their families.

And so these kids who could sing like angels would perform their songs and at the end, one girl would recite part of Luke 2: And unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

I loved standing in the middle of courtyards and in the center of bloc apartments and hearing the name of Jesus proclaimed...Christ the Lord. I reveled in the idea that whole sections of Galati were being brought into the Light, and such Light the darkness cannot contain.

This season, I'm not doing anything half so glamorous as trudging through a snow laden city with 30 kids singing carols and speaking the name of Jesus. I'm sitting in my parent's home, listening to rain, feelling my baby's kicks get stronger, and hoping that Bela and I will be able to get our immigration application in this week.

Step 3: Speak the name of Jesus.
What I am doing today, the grief I'm wading through, the worries I'm battling may not be full of high and holy moments like a Christmas in Galati, but, they are worshipful nonetheless.

Tiny increments of time given to me in which I can say His name: Jesus, the sweet baby born to Mary. The King. The Lord. The Savior.

These seconds are handed to me and I revel in them and hope that the time will only expand and what once just a moment, will become a holy hour and even in this small part of the world, Light will unfold and no darkness or worry or grief or anything will be able to overtake it.

(art work taken from Fanpop)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The week before Christmas

December 19, 2010

It's hard to believe that we have only 7 days left before Christmas (if you count today, Sunday). My husband and my life have been a crazy mix lately of working through the emotions of moving from one country to another, doing that legally, preparing for a baby, Christmas shopping, health insurance issues, the California sun, the California rain, and discovering who we are and will be in this new place.

Quieting ourselves, quieting myself, and reflecting on the birth of our King has truly not had much space.

So I thought I'd be intentional this week in blogging everyday in order to sit and be quiet and consider what the Word becoming flesh is saying to me this season...not only the Christmas season, but aso just in this time of life.

I wrote a Christmas article 5 years ago for The Other Journal (click for link). I thought I'd share it here today to kick off the week before Christmas.

Seeking the Kingdom: A Christmas Reflection

In the year 2005 our world was no stranger to deep tragedy. Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tropical storms, war, and the AIDS pandemic devastated countries resulting in loss of life and livelihood. The ones who were already vulnerable were made more so because of such unexplainable acts of God. Children who already lived in poverty lost their parents. Men, who daily struggled with nets to fish the ocean and eke out a living, lost those nets, their boats and even their courage to face a fickle sea. The poor became poorer, the exploited were left wide open for further exploitation, and we are left to ask some difficult questions.

Not difficult questions like: Where is God? Or, if God is good, how can He allow such horrible things to happen? And, why do such catastrophic events always seem to happen to the poor, leaving them even poorer?

Instead we are left to ask more personal, even more difficult questions like: What does this catastrophe reveal in me? And, where do I fit into this tragedy?

It’s Christmas time now, a time when the world unites and we are on our best behavior. We give money to poor children so they will have gifts under a tree, donate blankets so homeless men can stay warm at night, or we might even serve up a turkey dinner at a local shelter to battered women or recovering addicts. At this festive time of year we’re reminded to find the good in others. We receive holiday cards calling for peace on earth printed on recycled paper and are urged by made for T.V. specials to be thankful for family and friends.

I, like most of us, try doing all of these things, or at least at some level feel compelled to do them. I desire to make a difference, make my dent in humanity at this point in history that is both healing and fulfilling.

A few short months ago I stood and worked on the streets of Calcutta, India. Calcutta is a city of an estimated 23 million people. Crowded streets, packed buses, overflowing metros are an overwhelming characteristic of this city. As are the gray and crumbling buildings that once boasted the affluence of the British Empire. Calcutta was the capitol of British India and the gem of Southeast Asia. Today she smells a bit rotten, like she was overcooked or left to sit out too long at an empty dinner table. Her children run barefoot, her women are mostly forgotten, and she is the last place on earth where rickshaw pulling by human beings is legal. I stood and walked and breathed the length and breadth of this city and wondered what good I could do here when I heard a whisper: Seek first my Kingdom.

When Jesus was born His parents took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer Him to God (Luke 2:22-32.) Here waited a man named Simeon who loved God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen God’s Messiah. The Messiah would usher in God’s Kingdom and offer salvation to Israel, and ultimately to the world.

And so, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus came to the temple and Luke says that Simeon also came in the Spirit to the Temple. He took this 7-day-old infant in his arms and blessed God and said: Now I can die, I’ve seen the Kingdom of God.

Not only did Simeon see the Kingdom, but he also took it into his arms and held it. I imagine Simeon holding that baby like I would hold one, cuddling it up close to my neck, kissing its forehead, and believing that I’d never seen such a beautiful baby.

I wasn’t holding a soft cuddly baby, though. I was living in a city with sweltering heat, fighting a parasite, and attempting to ignore the dirt, when I heard a whisper to seek the Kingdom and I wondered how to do it. How does a white woman like me look past the leers of men who grab her on the street in order to find the Kingdom? How does a privileged white woman like myself forget her affluence long enough to sit on a Calcutta sidewalk with a street woman and find the Kingdom? How does an educated privileged white woman like me lose all she thinks she knows in order to hold the hand of an elderly demented abandoned woman in order to find the Kingdom?

Calcutta is also the city of Mother Teresa who founded an order of nuns and monks called the Brothers and Sisters of Charity (Missionaries of Charity.) This group of men and women take a vow of poverty in order to “serve Jesus among the poorest of the poor.” I worked in a home run by these Sisters called Shanti Dan. In India, mentally ill men or women are generally abandoned and left to die on the streets. Shanti Dan is a place where women with mental illness can live in safety and be fed, clothed, and cared for as long as they live.

At Shanti Dan I met a woman who was visibly mentally ill. She would sit in a hunched position most of the time, bobbing her body back and forth, biting her fingers. She couldn’t speak, but would mutter the word: mommy. Since the Bengali word for mother isn’t mommy, she wasn’t calling her own mother. Instead, it became her name.

I learned part of her story included giving birth to a baby in January. She had been living on the streets and someone took advantage of her mental state and the reality that she would not be able to tell anyone she’d been raped. There was no one to tell anyway. She was alone on the street. I can only guess that this was not the first time she’d been sexually exploited, but this occasion had resulted in the conception of a child. The baby was put up for adoption and there wasn’t any indication that she knew she’d had a child.

My heart broke for this woman. Because she was mentally disabled, she was abandoned. Because she was abandoned and mentally disabled, she was exploited beyond anything I could imagine.

From time to time the Sisters would turn on music at Shanti Dan. When they did, Mommy would stand and place her legs in almost a running position and bob from left to right foot, dancing. She’d moan with the music, singing. And I thought: what did she find in those moments? Was it merely joy, or was she holding the Kingdom?

The Kingdom in the song and dance of a mental patient in Calcutta? I guess I thought the Kingdom would shine more brightly, smell better, and be less crowded. In the Kingdom I thought people wouldn’t let their children sleep on the street because they owned a mansion just over the hilltop. Streets would be paved with gold, not strewn with garbage, and Peter would stand at the Pearly Gates only letting in those who belonged. They certainly would not be creepy Indian men.

And when I heard that whisper beckoning me to seek the Kingdom, I whispered back: how can I when I daily feel like I’m literally dragging myself from the small house where I live, to a rickety, crowded bus, to Shanti Dan, and then back to the house and a cold shower, after which I drag myself to a thin sleeping mat, and in between these stops I witness poverty, deformities, filth, smells, and abandonment. I struggled with learning Bengali. And me, dragging myself, dragging myself because I thought I should come and make my mark, make a difference. Because I believed in this “mission,” because I had a vision for the oppressed and exploited.

Still I heard a whisper: Seek my Kingdom.

Is the Kingdom in the faces of sedated, deserted women? Or is it in the uncertain steps of a girl who rarely moves, but loves to dance? Can it appear in the smiles of widows happy to hold my hand, in the bright red nail polish I applied to dirty hands of women who are missing fingers?

It was one of the things they loved best, to have their fingernails painted. From the moment we would enter the home they would begin asking: Auntie, nail polish? And so, I would sit and paint hand after hand, sometimes toes too. They had a variety of colors to choose from, but they liked red best. Lal, they call it. Bengali for red. It’s applied thick like blood, and I began to wonder if it was the color of the Kingdom, bright Christmas red nail polish.

Another day at Shanti Dan I slipped on a wet step and scraped my hand. The women laughed at “Auntie,” and rushed to tell the Sister about my accident. I was sent to Sister Olga to get cleaned up and bandaged. She put iodine on my scrape, which tightened and stung the scrape. I blew on the cut to cool the sting when an old woman named Roxana who always spoke nonsense took my hand in her own with its red finger nails, and began to blow on it for me. In the Bible the Holy Spirit sometimes manifests Himself in a wind or a breeze. At Shanti Dan He was the cool breath of an old woman with painted fingernails, the Kingdom breeze blowing across my pain.

It’s Christmas and the end of a year, a year riddled with global tragedy, tragedies I found written on the faces of women I grew to love, to hold, and in those faces I knew I’d never seen such beauty. And in their smiles, in their laughter, in their dirty hands that filled my own I found I belonged. I belonged not because I was poor or because I was rich, but because I was a woman who could feel their pain and recognized that it was not unlike my own.

I am an educated privileged white woman who believes that in belonging to the Kingdom of God I should care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. At least, I did believe that. I once believed it was my responsibility and yes, my obligation, to care for those who had less than I did, to remember the forgotten. But in Calcutta I did not find and hold the Kingdom by fulfilling a Christian duty. I found and held and belonged to the Kingdom by becoming a part of it, by entering into it.
Simeon didn’t only hold and cuddle a promised Messiah, the Kingdom of God. He held the One who became just like us. That One lost His home, His father, His safety until He was nothing but a man.

One sweaty Sunday in Calcutta we walked to church and past a man with leprosy. He had no arms past elbows or legs past knees. These stumps were bandaged and as I turned to smile at him, he put his white gauzed stumps together in front of his face and smiled back. The pain of his disease and the shame he faced at not only being a leper, but a beggar as well, seared into my heart. I was struck with the picture of this man as Christ. When Jesus took on humanity it must have looked like this man; God becoming man was like me becoming a begging leper.

The King of this Kingdom I seek was a man despised, rejected, and diseased. He knew betrayal and abandonment. He was shamed, hungry, thirsty, and alone. In Calcutta I was weak, dependent, scared, lost and alone. At least, I’d like to believe that it was only while I was in Calcutta that I was weak, dependent, scared, lost and alone. The truth is, I find myself feeling weak, dependent, scared, lost and alone no matter where I am or whom I am with in the world.

Liberation theologians like to talk about solidarity and while I may not agree completely with their theology, I do find myself thinking again and again that it is in solidarity where we find the Kingdom. Human solidarity requires a like-minded thinking on our part. It means believing that I am no better than anyone else. It is remembering that all humanity is frail and sits warily on an egg shell of emotions and stories that begin to look not unlike another human in Africa suffering from AIDS or in New Orleans who lost their home. We are men and women who at a very soul level know what loss is and live with a longing to belong.
And here is our opening to the Kingdom. Here is where we forget who or what we are and become like children in order to reach out to each other and see the Kingdom of God draw near. This is what happened when the Christ of Christmas was born and the Kingdom of God appeared.

I struggle now in the U.S. to still live at this place in the Kingdom, but for this day, I hope I do. I hope I remember the feel of a cool breeze on a cut so that in a small way I can reach towards another in their pain and offer not just a touch of human solidarity, but also hope. Because the Kingdom of God is not only about being in a place where we all stand equally, it’s about being in the place of salvation.

And when I remember this place of salvation, the Kingdom where I belong, I pick up a bottle of thick red nail polish and paint my toes the color of the Kingdom.

(art by Bellini, Jesus presentation at the Temple)

And...if you haven't seen this, Colbert may never have preached a better message: Click Here Now

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby shoes...

While still in Romania, we visited a shop in Bucarest called Zara Home. You may be familiar with Zara as a clothing store...their home store is just as great.

I saw some baby girl shoes in the home store and they stole my heart. In fact, I audibly said: OHH! When I saw them. I was by myself. After, I looked around sheepishly, but no one seemed to hear me.

But I didn't buy those sweet shoes.

And, I couldn't stop thinking about them. And so I thought: I bet my sister Elisabeth could make them.

And she could.

And she did.

Look at these sweet things! I can't wait until 10 sweet little toes fill them...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Still Grateful...

I usually wake up around 4 a.m. hungry. So, I eat a banana, drink a glass of milk, and try to sleep. Instead, I end up thinking about life, our life, this life...where we find ourselves now.

And my heart may race. And my mind may worry. And I may wonder what's ahead.

This I know. When my heart races and my mind worries and I wonder what's ahead, if I stop and think about all I have and say thanks, the heart stops racing, the mind stops worrying, and what's ahead matters a little less.

This I know. We will have a baby. A girl. Who we will name. And love...because we already do.

This I know. When I come to The Table and see all that goodness spread out before me, I know that I've been given so much.

grateful for...#266-277

safe travels
gifts of cell phone service
a car to drive
friends to welcome us
clothes for our baby
bassinet, high chair, car seat and other gifts of baby necessities
my parent's house to stay in...all inclusive
my husband's hand to hold
amazingly warm weather that heats my soul
the movement of my baby
passing the DMV test (100%)
clear lungs, clean blood

Sunday evening we went to a Romanian church about an hour away for a Christmas concert. The whole service was in Romanian and was made complete with sarmale and cozonac. Here's a picture of us all dressed up and ready to, 26 weeks pregnant with baby girl and looking quite plump. :)

holy experience

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Random Updates of the Not-so-Random

November 30, 2010

Hi's been a few weeks since I posted and much has changed. My husband and I moved to California from Galati, Romania and are now in the middle of processing the shift in our lives. We've been taking it slow, taking it easy, and just trying to rest. Here are a few updates...

~~As of yesterday, we've been in the states for 3 weeks. Leaving Romania was more difficult that I'd ever imagined. We are missing our family there, the sweet faces of the little ones we worked with at the center, and even just the rhythm of our days in Galati. So much to become accustomed to here, especially for my husband, Bela, who is living in the states for the first time.

~~The weather in California (southern) couldn't be more beautiful.

(These are views from my parent's yard of the San Bernardino Mountains and their orange tree...which Bela loves. Now, he could only find the elusive lime tree in their yard...)

~~I'm 24 weeks pregnant. Trying to figure out a name. Imagining what she'll look like. Longing to hold her...even at 2, 4, and 6 a.m. Feeling her move around more and more. Continually amazed at this unimaginable gift.

~~Last Saturday we went to Chinatown in L.A. with the Browns and ate Dim Sum.

~~We spent Thanksgiving with family in Long Beach and laughed. A lot.

~~Have not quite had my fill of Mexican food.

~~Learning that when He said He is always with us, He meant it. Trusting that He is indeed our Deliverer...that He wants to save us.

~~Thinking that I'll wait before I do anymore with the "If You Have the Time Fridays- short story share..." It seems that I don't quite have the time right now.

~~My sister Elisabeth is visiting from Portland this week with her family. Can't wait to see them.

~~That's it for now...but I'm here and hoping to begin posting once again...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What's in a name...or a title?

Posting for me this week is difficult as I'm finding words, or at least the right words, to be a challenge.

We are leaving...Galati, Romania, home. This is our last week here.

And it is more painful than I'd ever imagined it could be.

So, I'll be posting more when I can, but for now, I have only these few words.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

If you have the time: short story share

Welcome to: If you have the time Fridays: short story share. All you need to do is link up to my blog in the comment section (sorry, I am still working on how to do a Linky system...)and then post your own short story or essay on your blog. I'm hoping that this will develop a community of people who read one another's work, comment on it (in kind, constructive ways) that both improve our writing/stories/essays AND get our work out there. Feel free to post the same story week after week so that we can enjoy the changes you make. And now, my story:

The Whole World Rested on the Point of his Finger

Florin closed the door behind him when he wasn’t quite out of the doorway- the door bumping the red backpack straddled across his shoulders. He paused for a moment, adjusting the weight in the bag, looked up and down the street, and headed to school.
His navy pants were held up by a zipper that wouldn’t zip and a piece of shoestring pulled tight, causing the waist of the too big pants to buckle around his too small body. A rainy day in a gray city, he skipped through puddles, the holes in his shoes capturing the water, wetting his socks, and sloshing him down the street. The shoes he wore he’d been so proud of. Bought at a second hand store, they’d once been some other boy’s Addidas soccer shoes.
The city was abuzz with early morning activity. Tall men topped with curly fur hats brushed by him while women in fur trimmed coats held the arms of their husbands, smug expressions of satisfaction lining their thin and aging lips. A biting wind stung Florin’s cheeks as people passed by as icily, and he pulled his knit hat down lower over his ears.
Thrown up against a granite sky, giant block apartments stood with their empty eyed windows staring blankly at him as he waited for the bus. A woman shook a rug out from the balcony above him and the dust of other’s lives rained on his shoulders. He hardly noticed, although the dust made him sneeze.
The 34 bus came swimming toward him like a whale heading south for the winter, stopped and squeezed open its door. Florin grabbed the rail and pulled squat legs over steps as jagged as a prize-fighter’s teeth. Before he reached the top step, the door closed, and the bus enveloped him into its body.
Florin faced a sea of faces and no one offered him a seat. So he stood and braced his legs as the bus rumbled away from the stop. The strong smell of garlic and onions wafted around him- vapors of lunches and dinners. The smell, however wrong, made his belly rumble and his full-lipped mouth swallowed away a lump of hunger.
The bus lunged to a stop and grownups stood around him to exit. Shoving him into another passenger, they pushed past Florin.
The door yawned shut and he mumbled to himself,”One more stop.”
The bus lurched forward, causing him to lose his balance and fall into the lap of an old woman.
“Careful!” she yelled, “Stupid boy.” With one hand, she pushed him off of her and made the sign of the cross with the other. “Don’t you look where you’re going?” she hissed.
Florin stumbled forward as the woman mumbled and carefully fixed her hat, “Why do they smell? You always know one is near by the smell.”
Having turned pink with shame, Florin shouldered himself forward and found a bar to hold onto, when the bus came to another lurching stop. Moving quickly through a thick forest of coats, he mumbled, “Scuze, pardon.” Hands pushed him through until he erupted from their grasp, whereupon he fell down the steps of the bus, through the yawning door, and into a half frozen puddle of water.
As the door shut, he heard someone say, “He needed a bath.” And then the roar of the bus echoed around him, leaving a trail of exhaust in which he could hide.
But the relief of being hidden, or at least just a shadow, was momentary before he heard the honking of an approaching car. Florin quickly stepped out of the puddle and onto a slippery curb while at the same moment being splashed by the same puddle he’d just fallen into as a white Dacia raced past, dousing an already wet child.
His too big pants, now mud spattered, were heavy with water and as he moved forward, they began to fall. A shoelace through belt loops made an inadequate belt.
Adjusting his backpack, he held up his pants with one hand, while continuing to push forward with the other. Fearing he’d be late for school and with only one more block to go, he began an awkward limp of a run. With one hand still on his pant and the other pushing open the door, he entered the building even while heaving a huge sigh of relief. In a moment of complete exhausted relief, the hand that held his pants in place lifted to re-shift his backpack, just as his pants slipped to his ankles. A few students were scattered in the almost empty halls of Scoala 24, and while Florin quickly realized his mistake, he wasn’t fast enough for the observant eyes of upper elementary aged students. Those who saw began to laugh and point, while exclaiming loudly so others would look. With a heave and a sigh, Florin reached down and pulled up his pants, trying to work with the wet knotted shoe-lace so that he could pull the pants tight around him again and squished his way to the classroom. Doamna would most certainly be unhappy with his tardiness, not to mention his appearance. Still, he pressed forward, finding the classroom door and entering, greeting his teacher who sat at her desk with the mandatory, “Buna ziua.”
Slopping his way to his seat in the back of the class, every eye watched him. A few giggled, but his head was down so he couldn’t see who.
He sat with a squish, water oozing out of his pants which then began to drip on the floor. His neighbor scooted away from him so that the gathering puddle around Florin would not over take him, too.
Drip, drip ran the water over the side of the bench. In the quiet of the classroom, the sound rocketed off chalkboard and window pane until Doamna teacher who sat at her desk, lowered her glasses to the tip of her nose and hollered, “Florin!”
He jumped in his seat, his legs not unbending quickly enough and he, knobby kneed, hit the bottom of his desk. The thunder of bone against wood shook books off the ledge and off the desk, hitting the ground with a slam.
And there he stood. All eyes, all heads, giving him obeisance he did not seek. A submission of mockery, of disgust and mistrust, lay at his feet along with the gathering puddle of water.
Silently the teacher stood, too. Glasses still lying low on her nose, anchored by a mole that hung there, she powerfully cleared her throat. Quickly, all obeisances were returned to her. Ripples of laughter ceased, pencils submitted to paper, and a litany of homework began.
Florin stood, facing his teacher. Their eyes met, but he didn’t look away. She stared hard, and he didn’t turn his gaze. A bead of water traced its way down his brown cheek and neck, and still he didn’t move, still he didn’t look lower his eyes in submission/humiliation.
“Florin,” she spoke, “You entered my classroom late, wet, and, it appears, unprepared. You’ve continued to disrupt the class with your clumsiness, wet appearance, and now, with your disrespect. I suggest you collect your things and return tomorrow with a more narrowed perspective given to your education.” And then, almost as an aside, she said, “And do something about that smell.”
Still, he didn’t move. Undeterred in his gaze, he watched his teacher sit and resume her work. He, though, was an oak where he stood. The clock ticked and he dripped. After some moments, the teacher raised her head and found him where she’d last seen him.
“Florin, I told you to gather your things and go.”
No movement. Not even a flicker of understanding ran across his face.
“Young man, if you do not move this instant, I will call security and they will escort you out of the building.”
Suddenly, a shudder ran down Florin’s arm, as it rose from his side, one finger extended. On the point of that finger a whole world rested. The air of that world filled his lungs, expanding them in his chest, growing his heart large and strong. The light of that world filled his eyes so he could see as if for the first time. The water of that world bathed him and its hands dressed him and its words filled him and its power raised his finger high until he exclaimed, “I am a gypsy!”

Imperfect Prose: We Came to Say Good-bye

We Came to Say Good-bye

We came to say good-bye
sitting on couches,
which would later be beds.
Grandpa read Orthodox proverbs to us
and asked if I could read Romanian.
When I said: a little,
he gave me his book to read.

We ate chicken from the yard
and were gifted a frozen goose.
After spreading garlic thick across our meal,
we ate warm placinta and complained of tummies too full.

We held new babies
round with fat and life,
they smiled at us~
and we came to say good-bye.

We sat in the yard
and on a green bench snapped the moment,
then rose, the day grown cold around us.
Grandpa said: when two become one, you go~
and told us he'd been married 60 years~
and then they could go together no longer.

We embraced; I wore my chunky shoes
and had to bend my baby heavy waist to hug him~
Three kisses on each cheek.
My husband held him closer~
and then we all walked to the gate.
Aunt said: nu vreau sa plang~
I don't want to cry, as tears fell.

We held back our sobs, even as we held them
one last time.
We stood, he on his cane, her on her tears,
and us on our choice, and waved.
We came to say good-bye
and maybe we have been
since the day we arrived.

Come back tomorrow to link up your short story to "If you have the time..." See Tuesday's post for more details.

Today I'm linking up with In the Hush of the Moon...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eiffel Tower

What landmark better represents Paris than the Eiffel Tower? It's renown is worldwide (I think that's what renown means...)Standing tall and proud over such a gem of a city, its own grace represents the city's beauty.

However, our visit to the Eiffel Tower will always be shadowed not by the iron edifices grace, but by our stop at the public toilet (i.e. port-a-potty) preceding our vieiwing.

First, I must say that the public toilets on the streets of Paris are not your ordinary run-of-the-mill port-a-potties. (I'll describe them in a minute). The line for this toilet was, however, exactly what you'd expect from a free public toilet.

And I HAD to go.

But, we waited. 20 minutes.

Now, the toilet. I'm sure other major cities in the world have similar toilets, but this was my first experience with one of such caliber. First of all, after each use, when the user leaves the plastic -but actually spacious so you don't worry about touching the walls accidentally- shack, the toilet cleans itself. Some sort of water and disinfectant rises from a chain-mail type floor, the toilet scrubs and rinses, the sink power bubbles itself so that the next user can relieve one's self in a relatively sanitary environment.

However, such endeavors take time and therefore the long line to wait for occupancy.

As we waited we saw many young people draped in the flag of Liberia. They were in fact of Liberian descent and it was World Cup time. Liberia was playing that night and these transplants were proud. (In fact, while in Paris we saw many different nationalities. It is truly a cosmopolitan city).

We also saw Indian men selling Eiffel Tower miniatures of all sizes and uses (i.e. key chains). They were selling their wares illegally, so when a policeman was spotted they had their display rigged on a mat that would quickly close up and the vendor could hide what he was doing from the law. Sneaky. We didn't buy one of those models, but now I wish we did. (What we did buy was this little bust of Napolean - which I love).

At last, finding relief in a clean Parisian public toilet, we walked the few blocks that remained to the tower.

We'd waited until evening for our visit because we wanted to see it light up. (We opted not to go up due to costs and more lines). Of course, when you approach this tower of steel, it is as imposing and gorgeous and inspiring as you'd imagine. A kind of "I can't believe I'm in Paris" feeling ensues.

We found a spot on the long lawn that stretches in front of the tower and waited with the crowds of others who'd brought baskets of bread and bottles of wine. We snapped photos and soaked it all in - we were in Paris.

And then, this brief light show brightens the tower and we all watched and cheered and then took more pictures until we realized we'd walked all over Paris that day having left Romania extremely early and were operating on very little sleep. We still needed to walk back to our hotel, so we lingered a moment more in the Eiffel glow, kissed (because we were in Paris at the Eiffel Tower), and hand in hand, walked away past the line at the public toilet, glad we (read: I) no longer had to use it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Random Updates of the Not-so-Random

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

~~ When I eat too much, I can't breathe. And it doesn't take much to be too much.

~~ The heat is on in our apartment!!! A whole week early!!!

~~ Looks like water is clear and clean of any toxic waste...

~~ I go to the grocery story almost every day. Sometimes twice. It helps that I only have to walk 100 steps.

~~ When trying to choose a name for our baby, almost all names I like have been chosen by friends, either for a child or a dog. Whatever happened to naming the canine species things like Rover?

~~ While wanting to keep this blog family-friendly, this update was too good to pass up. Galati now has a Mexican Restaurant and it's called:

That's right, El C.O. Jones. We ate there with some friends a couple weeks ago. It was least there were free chips!

~~ Every Friday I'm going to start posting short stories (at least I'm going to try to), and set up a LINKY system so that others can also post their stories. I'm hoping to start a community of people who basically want to read one another's work and offer constructive criticism. And also, just get some written work out there. It's going to be called "If you have the time." Hoping that some of writers out there will post your stuff along with me!

~~ Today Bela and I have been together for 2 years. So hard to believe, it's gone by so quickly! And now we're having a baby. Whowoodathunkit?

~~ And now, the Lentil Soup recipe. It's so great...and good for you, too! (sorry that the pictures aren't the greatest...)

Here's what you'll need:

4c lentils (or less...this amount makes a ton, so last time I only put in 2 1/4c and still had plenty)
2 tbsp oil
2 carrots, diced finely
1 onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely (or pressed)
1 tsp paprika (I always put in more, though!)
1 tsp cumin (again, I'm generous!)
1 tsp tumeric (don't skimp!)
1 tbsp tomato paste
8 c veg or chicken stock (although you'll probably want to add water as this gets pretty darn thick!)

salt and pepper

on the side: sour cream to top it.

saute carrot, onion, and garlic in oil 3-4 minutes

add paprika, cumin and tumeric to pan of sauted veggies.

continue to cook 6-8 minutes
stir in tomato paste to pan of spices and veggies.

add lentils to stock, bring to boil

cook 20-30 minutes
stir time to time

After lentils and stock have cooked, add spices and veggies to lentils and continue to let bubble for about 20 minutes. Make sure the lentils are tender, and then you know you're done. And so are they.

also, you can add chopped tomatoes, peppers, whatever you like!
this is always better the second day! gets the second day add more water and then some spices to compensate, if you like!

Here's what my kitchen looks like after I finish cooking.

Monday, October 25, 2010

So much for which to be grateful....

The next couple of weeks promise to be especially difficult for us...I'll say more later, but to look at pictures like this one and be grateful for the things I've posted below, well, they become more and more precious.

I wonder how my life would be different if I didn't know these little girls...if they didn't play with my hair...if they didn't complain about the math homework I gave them...if they didn't let me touch their face or rub their back...if we didn't have conversations about their changing bodies...if I didn't know their smile, their voices, their hugs.

I try and figure how life would be different if I didn't stop and look at what I have been given and then lift my voice in thanks. I'm not certain, but I think it would lack a certain depth, a voice called meaning, a grace called love.

Grateful for...grateful that...

~ He knows where we'll be.
~ Doing lessons/homework with "I"...I love doing this.
~ The countryside visit.
~ Feeling fetita move.
~ Little girls who collect fall leaves.
~ Clean water.
~ means I've loved and I've hoped.
~ Green apples.
~ Ballet pictures of Brynne.
~ I'm ecoli free!!!
~ Pizza dates with my husband and papnasi for dessert.
~ Hard conversations and looking/digging deep.
~ Reading old notes/letters/pictures/drawings from the past 3 years.
~ Bela's grandpa calling me: Fetita mea (my little girl).
~ Gifts of goose and chicken.

(Those were #251-265, please see link below to learn more about the Gratitude Community...)

holy experience

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Baby Post

Friday, October 22, 2010

Judging from the amount of comments I get when I post anything about our baby or this pregnancy, I'd say that having a baby has been the most popular topic of my life. I'm here to say that I share the joy and revel in all the comments I get after a baby post.

So, I have a doctor appointment in just a little over a week, so no new sonograms to share. In about 2 weeks we head to the states on maternity leave, so that is exciting.

I thought I'd share some of the music I've been listening to over the last several Baby Playlist, as it were. I imagine I'll add to this list still, or even make a new one as we begin a different part of this baby journey. Some of the songs are repeats from other lists....but maybe mean a little something different to me now. Anywho, here they are:

1. Sing over your Children, Matt Maher
2. Closer to Love, Mat Kearney
3. Your House, Aaron Strumple
4. Say, John Mayer
5. Desert Song, Hillsong (Thanks to Jenny Matthes for bringing this to my attention....I had the CD, but after your recommendation, it's become a favorite).
6. In These Arms, The Swell Season
7. Grace and Peace, Fernando Ortega
8. Your Grace is Enough, Matt Maher (if you're not familiar with him, you should be.)
9. I knew I loved you (Savage Garden: an oldie...but so true)
10. Mighty to Save, Hillsong
11. Love you 'till the end, The Pogues
12. Alejandro, Lady Gaga (sort of an inside joke...)


Also, some people have asked me about baby bedding (!!!). I'm still trying to wrap my mind around actually having a child and all the other things going on in our lives. But, it's still fun to look and this is what I think I want to do.

Sari Bari (click the name to go to the site) is a business ran in the red-light area of Kolkata. It was founded by WMF staff and basically what they do is help women get out of the sex-industry (slavery) and into a job where they discover their worth, freedom, and the love of God. They recycle old sari's and make blankets, purses, etc.

They also make baby blankets. Right now they are only showing one on the site and it's sold out....but I've been told that new shipment will arrive and when it does I'll get a sneak-peak and what they have so we can choose for our baby girl. HERE'S the baby blanket they current display on their site. I think I'll just find some sheets, bumper, and maybe a crib skirt to match the blanket and we'll be good to go.

Be sure to check out the Sari Bari website...Christmas is coming and these blankets and purses would make great gifts.


I've mentioned before a blog that I love: A Holy Experience. Awhile back she posted some thoughts on raising kids and I thought I'd share a few of them here, today.

Figuring out how to parent teenagers, a holy experience, Aug 25, 2010

...And I hear these fathers' wise words and I line them up a bit different in my heart and I think too about this.

Our children are the fruit of our best love -- am I making them my best friends?
Their hearts came into being in the circle of our wooing -- why do I ever stop wooing their hearts?

Each child came to us directly from the presence of God and a parent's daily work is to lead the child back from whence she came --- back into the presence of God. To simply keep inviting the child into the transformative presence of God -- to live before Him ourselves.

For only the Spirit of God can take a child and shape him into a whole and holy person. My parenting cannot do this work. I forget this. I realize parenting is complicated with seasons necessitating instruction, admonition, intervention... but I wonder --
Is my work as a parent less about directing and more about being a friend who's a spiritual director?

It's our tender love that woos them back to His.

We string a net up across the back lawn and volley laughter. We call it a day early and go swimming. We bike back lanes. We pray and vow to pray more. We endeavor to make our parenting more hospitable to soul growth. We listen better and linger longer. And we practice the hospitality of parenting -- inviting children into our presence and His.

I'm thinking we're having best friends for dinner.


And these she shared about her first pregnancy, which feel so true right now.

Friday, Sept. 3, A Holy Experience

The long winter I grew heavy with our first child, I wore heavier sweaters and I didn’t tell any of our friends until I was six and a half months swollen.

We’d only been married eight.

And six weeks later, I held our baby.

Our friends thought it a remarkably short pregnancy.

Sometimes we shroud who we are becoming, to keep all the tender, stretching places, safe. Sometimes we fear the words that might abort dreams, the future that might miscarry, the humility that might hurt.

Sometimes the new life unfurling within us, the unexpected embryonic gift God’s placed within, asks us to be brave, to let God change the shape of us, to be courageous and let Him fill all of our skin and not shrink back because He’s so big.

Please visit her blog...I've it listed as one of my favorites.


Finally, this week I woke up one day and thought: Today, I feel pregnant. It seems this bump just gets bigger and bigger. I'll ask the kids at the center: Is it bigger today? and they always say yes. :)

I'm about 19 and a half weeks. :) (Hey, every day counts). Here are the most recent pictures of my little girl as she grows...and so do I. (Sorry for how dark they are).

With the sweater...

Without the sweater...

Have a good weekend...I'm off on a pizza date with my husband.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The other day "J" came to the drop-in center full of her usual liveliness. Running through the yard and to the door in a puffy red coat and yellow 'abc' hat she exclaimed: I ran the whole way! And collapsed on a set of lockers. Taking off her coat she revealed an outfit composed entirely of purple: purple turtle neck, purple sweat pants, purple sweatshirt.

We did lessons together that day and I had to keep re-focusing her to her math homework. "J" is very social, easily distracted, loud, takes her time doing just about anything, and is just plain cute. When she talks, she'll put air quotes around what she's saying. She's 9 and this seems like such a western thing to do, that it makes me laugh to see her do it for Romanian. Her hair is blonde, her eyes are aquamarine, and she is tiny. Next to the mostly Roma kids we work with, she stands out.

And within all the sparks of life that dance in her eyes and tip-toe in her feet is the reality that in the last two years "J" has lost both her parents. Two years ago, her mom died of cancer. Last year, her dad lost his battle with TB.

When she at last completed her homework, she had a few extra minutes before art class began. So she wouldn't distract others, I had her sit with me and asked her how her weekend was.

Good, she said.

What did you do?

On Friday I played and on Saturday we had pomana for my dad.

Pomana is an Orthodox service celebrated a year after someone has died. A priest comes to the house and prays, certain foods are prepared, and the loved one who is gone is mourned.

I said, Oh "J," was it hard?

She paused and said: a little...and then Sunday I played some more.

Grief, bookended by play, swallowed in the yawn of girlhood whimsy. What will she remember and what will be lost? The sound of her mother's voice, the feel of her dad's hug? Her grandma's wail of grief? The pound of young feet on hard pavement when she ran? The freedom of a good girly laugh? That her favorite color was purple and she loved to do art but had a hard time focusing on math homework? Will she forget that on Friday and Sunday she played and on Saturday she mourned?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Random Romania/Galati/Ispas Update for Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010

* It's the coldest time of year in our apartment as the heat has not been turned on. No matter how cold it is, the common heat we share with the rest of the building/city (? uncertain of that 'city' statement) will not be turned on until Oct. 31/Nov. 1. A throwback to communism? Perhaps, but pass me another blanket and fill the hot water bottle!

* Speaking of water, perhaps some of you have heard of the toxic spill in Hungary that flowed into the Danube River. The Danube also runs through Galati. We heard today that for the next couple of days we should avoid using tap water for anything. Including washing the dishes. I guess toxic substances aren't good for enamel. (On a side note, Hungary has refused to release exactly what that toxic waste was...which is so unbelievable to me. Thousands of people are effected by this spill, not to mention the environment, and no one can make them talk? Where's the EU when you need them? Now, back to regularly scheduled programming...)

p.s. don't mean to sound whiney and complain here...just keepin' it real.

* It's raining. A lot.

* Aren't pregnant women supposed to have beautiful skin and gorgeous thick hair? Must be the toxic water...Hungary is even keeping that from me!

* Here are some Romanian fashion pictures I've taken (on another side note, I thought I had more of these, but couldn't find them...these'll have to do). I adore these kids and I think the way they sometimes dress makes them all the more adorable. I don't mean in anyway to dishonor them in these photos. On the contrary, I hope it endears them to you all the more.

Let's catch those jazzy feet in action!!!

* You may have noticed that I haven't posted under my tabs recently (please see above...contemplation, advocacy, romanian wifery). The truth is, with being pregnant most of my energy goes into staying up with main blog posts. And, I'm not happy with the format of the tab posts. No one can comment and I can't label the posts, either. Further, life is changing for me and while all these areas are still topics I'm passionate and learning about, I think when I do post under tabs again, I'll use different categories. For now, the above tabs will remain because I like the stuff I posted there. I just won't be posting anything new.

* Finally, I think maybe I felt twinges of fetita (or fetitsa, the Romanian for baby girl or little girl). It was unlike anything I've felt before, so I'm hoping that's her giving me a little 'heads up, mama' and not any residual toxic Hungarian waste.

* In conclusion, the Folkertsma Family no-longer-a-secret Recipe for Potato Soup: (and, if you haven't read the post I wrote about this yummy soup, click HERE now).

You'll need:
6-8 good sized potatoes. Cut them into small-medium sized pieces. I prefer smaller pieces.

1-2 small to medicum onions, again, cut into small-medium can guess my preferance.

Garlic powder or fresh crushed garlic. I don't know how much, I always just eyeball it. Maybe start with a little and you can add more to taste later.

Real, full of fat sour cream. A whole tub...don't even think about buying low-fat stuff. If you do, this recipe won't work and you may as well walk away now.

Butter (several tablespoons)

2 tsp salt

What I do:

Depending on whether you use garlic powder or fresh garlic...if you use fresh garlic, you'll want to saute it in a little butter first...otherwise...

Place the potatoes in a good sized soup pot, and the put the onions on top of the potatoes. Next, fill the pot with water, but make sure it just barely reaches the onions. Too much water, and then you'll need more sour cream. Which isn't a bad thing...anyway, the idea is, don't use too much water (especially if it could have come from Hungary).

Then, if you're using garlic powder, put that in the pot along with the 2 tsp of salt. Let it all boil, but not boil over, until the potatoes are soft. At the point you'll add the butter and sour cream. Let them melt, while stirring/stiring. Either way, it'll all mix in there and is so yummy. Taste it and adjust seasonings as needed.

You'll most definitely want to top the whole thing off with shredded cheddar cheese. And, if you're going for an authentic Folkertsma experience, garlic toast.

Pofta buna!

p.s. I think next week I'll post my lentil soup recipe. It is pretty darn tasty...although quite different from potato soup.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fields of Romania

Thought I'd post a couple pictures I took in June of the fields we pass on the way to the village where Bela's family is from. Of course, it's mid-October now, so those fields look much differently, but I still thought their early summer beauty were worth posting.

In continued gratefulness for...
(When I put a letter in quotes, it refers to a child we work with at the drop-in center. Out of safety for them, I don't post their full name.)

# 236-250


red-leafed vines crawling on old brick walls

laughing with Bela

Each kid at the center, past and present.


Insurance ladies who are understanding

listening to kids learn to read

"I's" whimsy/whimsey(?)

last geranium blooms of the year

When 10 year old "D" counts fetita (our baby girl, still in utero) as one of the kids at the lunch table.

When 9 year old "I" puts air quotes around what she's saying.

Reading that not everyone feels the baby move at 18 weeks.

Learning that we're paid up 1 month in advance on our rent.

Anca making me a pregnancy coat.

"S" wearing an "I can be your hero" sweatshirt (pics to come). In pink. (Think Enrique Iglesias).

holy experience

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Romania I: Imperfect prose

Old man with a cane, tipped hat.
A skeleton dressed in sports coat and tie,
You shuffle the street with the steps of the aged,
Visions wash through watery eyes
When these buildings were a youth and a beauty
Instead of the bag of bones they’ve become.
An age when rectangles didn’t dot the skyline
And all you could see on a clear dry day were cumulus and sunflowers, bowing their heads
Waiting to dry and die.

You, bent over a stick
And they, only monument istorics?
Tombs marking ancient goodness
Just as big bloc buildings mark an old evil.

A folded paper stuck under your arm
A few steps until you reach a bench and
The pleats of your paper become the folds
Of your body resting on wood.

It all rests on so little a thing
As wood and bone and beauty.

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