Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beautiful Romanian Faces

Six of the Romanian girls that we were with last week at their conference, came to our JV conference here this week!

Yesterday I had them over for lunch, along with Amy and Laura, Katka and Lauree (who were with Amy two years ago at the conference in Romania). But there's more to this blog post than just a luncheon update...

In December 1991, when Dave and I were first contemplating a move to Eastern Europe, quite honestly, I was having a hard time picturing what that would mean for me.

At the time, we were in the States while Dave was getting his Master's degree at Wheaton College. I was a bit "lost" then, missing the girls I had been discipling in Germany (with Malachi Ministries), looking forward to the day we would return.

Dave came home from a chapel service early in September and strongly felt the Lord had spoken to him about us moving to Eastern Europe to work with youth. I wasn't so sure about that.

Fast forward to December, in a motel room in the Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington. We were spending Christmas with my parents and our one year old, Tyler. My mom and dad offered to take him for a night so that Dave and I could get away. So there we were in a motel room.

For several months, I hadn't wanted to talk about the possibility of moving to Eastern Europe. Dave, being a wise husband, chose to just pray and trust the Lord that if He was calling him, he would also call me. Secretly, I was glad he was "just" praying - I felt that let me off the hook as I was sure there was NO WAY God was going to call me away from Germany and to Eastern Europe.

Back to that motel room. Dave stepped out into the hall to get ice from the ice maker (do they still have those things in motels these days?!) and left me watching a gymnastics qualification meet for the upcoming 1992 Olympic summer games.

I wasn't thinking about anything except how nice it was to be alone with Dave, how much I like watching the Olympics, and how kind it was of my parents to take baby Tyler for the night.

If you've read this far you're probably wondering...what on earth does this have to do with the lunch at your house yesterday?! It really does relate...keep reading!

Without explanation, in the five minutes Dave was out in the hall getting ice, God spoke to me. It was the first time in my life that I clearly heard His voice. To this day I don't know if it was audible to anyone else (if they'd been in the room with me at the time) or if it was just a quiet whispering in my mind. But it was very clear.

"Connie, do you think you would love those girls any less than the girls you have loved in Germany? Look at those faces...look at those girls. I will give you a love and heart for girls just like those girls you're watching right now on TV. Trust me to take care of you and I will bless you with special relationships with those Eastern European girls, just like you've had in Germany with the American girls."

That moment of hearing from the Lord, changed everything for me. Dave walked back into the room to a wife who said, "I want to talk about moving to Eastern Europe"...and that was the beginning of an amazing, nearly 20 year journey, of being a part of God's work in the lives of young people all across Eastern Europe.

And who were those beautiful girls God pointed out to me when He spoke to my heart in that motel room? They were the faces of Romanian gymnasts!

Last year when I stood in front of the room full of Romanian girls at the conference I was speaking at, I was overcome with emotion that God had brought me full circle with the words He had spoken many years before. We didn't end up moving to Romania, but there I was loving a group of Romanian girls!

And now yesterday...I had a group of precious Romanian girls at my house here in Czech!! And truly, I can tell you that I LOVE those I have loved many Eastern European girls through the years! But the Romanian girls will always have a special place in my heart because of how God used their faces to call me to Eastern Europe.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Romanian Girl's Conference

Months ago, our friend from Romania, DU, wrote to my friends, Amy, Laura and I, asking if the three of us would consider coming to speak at their girl's leadership conference in September this year.

Each of us have spoken at this conference in Romania - Laura in 2007, Amy in 2008 and me in 2009. Now we had the privilege of going there together to speak!

After traveling 22 hours on three different trains (even spent the night in a sleeper together...a great slumber party!), we arrived in Brasov, Romania where DU greeted us on the train platform. How good it was to be there again, all together!

We spent three days with 115 Romanian women sharing our lives, our stories, our relationships...speaking about women friendships and how the Lord wants us to live and love each other better. We specifically looked at four poisons that damage women's friendships: our "self" (such as self protection), betrayal, comparison and unforgiveness.

What a powerful time it was as these women really dug into processing these areas of their did we. It was such a precious time together, talking about these sorts of things. Many said that this is an area that they've heard little or talked much about - yet that it was things they often think about. We're glad we could open up this topic and be a small part of bringing healing into relationships between them and others they are in relationships with.

It was equally good for the three of us...we've been friends a long time (Laura and I, 26 years; the three of us for 13 years), but we've still got lots to grow in and want our friendships to go deeper. So we're glad we had the privilege of doing this together so that could happen!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tastes of Heaven

God is good...HE IS!!

He has given us so many tastes of heaven these past months since I last blogged - I feel like I'm going to burst from joy as I think about what He's lavished on us.

I really want to capture all His goodness so I remember it and can give Him thanks for it even years from now...but sometimes it's just hard to know where to even start when I think of all He has poured over us. Especially hard to know where to start when I haven't blogged about anything in two months (sorry Mike! That's my brother and faithful blog reader who often keeps me going on this blogging thing!).

It might be lame to start off with the proverbial theme of "What I did for summer vacation", but hey! Truly there were glimpses and tastes of heaven during our vacation this summer that I want to capture.

For the past 8 years we have vacationed with the same three JV families - Ellenwood's, who live here in Czech, Hash's who live two hours away from us in Poland, and our family.

The 13 of us have camped in  Croatia six times, and in France and Greece as well. Right there gives you the first glimpse of heaven...seeing God's amazing creation in all those different places! My eyes literally feast on all we see during our two weeks together.

Then there's the taste of relationships that point me towards I love being with these people who all love Jesus like I do! How cool it is to spend time with each other, knowing that our hearts all beat for the same thing...adults and kids (who are not really kids anymore...but I call them that anyway!).

It's just awesome on vacation listening to conversations that are sprinkled with loving, kind, encouraging, and sometimes even challenging, words that end up pointing me/us back to the Lord...and it happens between everyone!

We also taste some of the best food while on vacation...the "finest of fare" we often say! I don't mind telling you that we pull it on out on vacation when it comes to food! From Creme Brulee flavored coffee each morning at our campsite, to amazing meals at night, to Croatian ice cream that is, what we think, the best in the world...we do "taste" a bit of heaven when we're there!

One of the nights we were in the campground, there was an absolutely spectacular show of shooting stars - I think we heard that there were 100 or more every hour that night! All thirteen of us went and laid down on the beach, in the pitch black, on the smooth rocks still warm from the sun, and let our eyes gaze on another one of God's gorgeous displays of Creation. It was one of the highlights of the trip! Wish I had a picture to capture it but...well, you know, it was dark!

God is GOOD! Just wanted to affirm that and say thank you to HIM for such a sweet taste of heaven while on vacation this year!

More glimpses of heaven to come...when I find some more time to blog!