Online Schooling

Right now Sam and I are have joined the growing number of distance students and we are both currently enrolled in online school. I am working towards a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature at Southern New Hampshire University, and he is studying for a Master’s degree in Christian Studies and the Classics at Knox Theological Seminary.

I began my online schooling about a month before we moved to Romania, and Sam began his a few weeks after we moved here. We both work with 8-week terms; I take two classes for a full load and Sam takes one class for a full load (the difference being due to undergraduate vs graduate courses).

Having experienced two years at a physical university with absolutely amazing teachers and classes, transitioning to online college classes was difficult, but it has also been a huge blessing.

When I first met Sam I was in my second week of my freshman year of college, while he was beginning his senior year. We began thinking about and talking about marriage pretty early on in our dating relationship (we began dating about 5 months after we met), and school was an issue that came up many times.

While I was up for quitting school and never looking back, both my parents and Sam strongly encouraged me to consider the benefits of having a college degree, even if I never used it career-wise. Of course, they were not saying that there is anything wrong with not having a college degree, simply that if I had the opportunity, it would be a wise choice for me to make.

I began researching options for online schooling at the end of my freshman year, and SNHU was the best option I found due to it’s degree options, affordability, and flexibility for distance learners.

Of course, I was getting a little ahead of myself as we were not even engaged yet, but once we got engaged right before my second year at Florida College and made our plans for the future, I began researching and pursuing the online school more seriously.

As I said, the format for online classes is quite different and took a bit of getting used to, but it has turned out to be a huge blessing during this stage in my life.

I usually begin a typical school week by writing out what all is due for the week and note what days the assignments are due. Some weeks I have a discussion board post due by midnight on Thursday, but the majority of the assignments are due by midnight on Sunday.

Once I can see what all is due for the week I can schedule out what I need to complete each day. This usually means I complete the reading at the beginning of the week, taking notes for the prompts I know I’ll be writing for, then I complete the assignments.

I like the flexibility of online classes, because I have the option of working ahead and taking a day or two off, or if I have an extremely busy day and I’m unable to get anything done I know I can work harder the rest of the week and catch back up.

Right now I am getting ready to start one last eight-week term before the baby comes. I will finish August 26 and my due date is September 6, so I am cutting it a little close. However, I  plan to work ahead as much as I can, and I know the professors at SNHU are aware of many unique circumstances of their students and will be gracious if I go into labor before the term is up.

According to my current schedule I will take one eight-week term off, and Lord willing I will start back with half a load (one class) when the baby is about 2 months old. I have no idea how it will all go, but I know I have support from my husband to keep going, and I will have lots of help from him, Mama, and my sister Leah.

If all goes as planned I will complete my degree in April 2019, right around the same time I would have finished if I had continued my education at FC or another traditional school. And thanks to online schooling, I will have also been able to get married, move to another country for a year, and have a child in between!

Online schooling is not perfect, but it certainly is a huge blessing.

Pregnancy Story: Part One

I recently realized that I have shared very little concerning my pregnancy with our first child other than small updates here and there. Some have expressed interest in knowing more, so I decided to go back and create a record of our child’s life so far.

Back in June after our wedding, our lovely brother and sister (Abe and Grace) placed several pregnancy tests in the back of Sam’s car before we drove away for our honeymoon. When we found them we laughed, thanked Abe and Grace, and Sam put them away in a storage box at his parent’s house in Kentucky.

Last December we made a trip back to America to spend Christmas with family and to attend Paul, Sam’s brother’s wedding in Kentucky. While we were in Kentucky Sam gathered all the boxes of his possessions left at his parent’s house because they were planning on renting the house after returning to Romania.

Included in those boxes were the pregnancy tests.

Once earlier in the year we had purchased a pregnancy test at a pharmacy in Romania because I thought I might be pregnant. I wasn’t, but we discovered that pregnancy tests in Romania were not the cheapest, and we definitely did not want to have to buy any more than we needed. So when we found the tests in the box, we decided to bring them with us to Romania. Just in case.

The night before we left to return to Romania, as Sam and I packed our suitcases he came across the pregnancy tests.

“Why don’t you take this in the morning?” he handed me one of the tests. “Just for kicks and giggles,” he added, seeing the incredulous look on my face.

I agreed, and when I woke up the next morning I dutifully took the test with me to the bathroom, just to please my curious husband. Sam hurried down to the basement to try to run a few miles on the treadmill before we began hours of traveling.

I fully expected the test to be negative, so I did not worry as I waited for the lines to appear and proceeded to pack a few last minute items. When I looked at the test again I was shocked to see two lines. I thought surely this test was different from the one I took in Romania and I checked the box to see what constituted a positive test.

I was still in disbelief as I walked down the stairs where Sam was running.

“Is everyone waiting upstairs?” he asked when he saw me come into the room.

“No, everyone’s asleep,” I replied.

Sam stopped the treadmill. “No…was it positive?”

I smiled and nodded, and Sam jumped off the treadmill and hugged me. We were both in shock.

And then we left.

I cried on and off the entire trip, from the nine hour drive to Chicago, to the ten hour flight to Munich, two hour flight to Serbia, and the five hour drive to Romania. I was already so sad to be leaving family, then I did not know what to think about being pregnant.

The first few days after returning to Romania were extremely hard. We were jet-lagged and still depressed from leaving, and we had a new, huge change in our lives to begin to think about and plan for.

I felt so guilty that I wasn’t thrilled about having a baby. I would just cry and cry, telling Sam that I was still a child and I could not have a child. I didn’t know what I was doing already, and I had no idea how I would do it and be responsible for another life.

After much debate and prayer, we decided to move back to America for the birth of our child, and for at least a few years after it. While I was still terrified about being a mother and how much our lives were about to change, this was a source of great peace to me.

I still feel badly for my attitude at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I have grown to love our child more than I could have imagined, and I know my love will only grow when I get to meet her.

Everything did not suddenly get easier, but it did begin to get better. I will write about all the ups and downs of my first trimester in the second part of our pregnancy story!

SaveSave

Adventures in Bulgaria

Last week Sam and I took a trip to Bulgaria for our one-year anniversary!

June 3, 2018 was our anniversary and it is so hard to believe that we have already been married a year. It has been the craziest year of my life, but it has by far been the best. I have learned and grown so much through my experiences in the past year and I am so thankful for all that I’ve been through, including the difficult times. It has all been worth it to get to live, learn, and grow with my best friend! I look forward to many more wonderful years of living and growing together.

To celebrate Sam planned a three-day trip to Bulgaria, which is on the southern border of Romania. He booked us a place to stay through AirBnB and we set off on our adventure!

It was about a 5-hour drive to Aprilsti, the town in Bulgaria where we stayed, but we did not realize that we would have to take a ferry across the Danube river to cross the border! We went through border control on the Romania side, paying a tax for the ferry and getting our passports checked. Then we waited in line to drive onto the ferry, which was still on the other side of the river when we arrived.

Here we are on the ferry! This was definitely a neat experience. The little green car behind me in the second picture is our Tico. It has taken us so many places! Once we got across the river we drove off the ferry and went through the Bulgaria border control. Here we had to pay a Bulgarian tax for the ferry, a road tax, and we got our passports stamped.

When we finally arrived we were exhausted and hungry! We ate a traditional Bulgarian dinner at a nearby restaurant. We do not know any Bulgarian, and our waitress did not know any English, but thanks to Google Translate, hand gestures, and pointing to the menu, we were able to figure everything out and order some delicious food.

We really just relaxed for the three days we were there and it was wonderful! We both agreed that we would not do any school while we were away, so we worked hard on the days leading up to our trip. We sat together and read and drank coffee every morning, studied Romans and read Sacred Marriage together, and went on lots of walks.

This is the house we stayed in. It was recently redone and it was so nice. There was no air conditioning or wifi, but the weather was pretty cool and we had already decided not to do school work, so it worked out nicely.

I loved this kitchen! After the first night we cooked every day with the food that we had brought.

Our trip to Bulgaria was a wonderful experience and it was so much fun to reflect on our past year of marriage and dream about the years to come.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Evangelism in Romania

I write this for those who are curious about some of my evangelistic conversations. It is my goal to write as accurately as I can.

My Orthodox friend and I met through a mutual friend who evangelizes for a local non-denominational church. After getting some corndogs at cafeteria in grocery store under the mall, we took the elevator to the third floor and sat down in the food court. I pulled out my notepad and the conversation began.

What are icons? I asked, having seen many Orthodox Christians kiss them. Icons are everywhere in Romania. They are on the side of the road at times and many people hang them up at their jobs, whether they be an insurance agent, taxi, or elementary teacher.

He responded, how icons depict spiritual truths and some of them have inscriptions on them. They are perfect paintings, no mistakes. Orthodox Christians must respect them, they are necessary, but one does not always need to pray to them. They are useful. For many people in the villages who cannot read, icons can illustrate the text for the illiterate.

Okay, I responded, but why do people kiss them? Isn’t that a form of worship?

After thinking for a moment, he responded. Yes, it is a form of worship. But not everyone needs to kiss them. Actually, some Orthodox Christians who are very concerned with hygiene don’t.

But doesn’t the Old Testament clearly say we are not to make an image of God? I asked. And grasping for other reasons, I continued, Paul was bit by a snake once and when others wanted to worship him yet he said we all must only worship God. If you worship icons, is that not something else?

My mother does not believe in icons, he replied. And she doesn’t go to church either. It is just how you want to worship God, I think.
Yeah? But Paul said in Galatians 1:8-9, if you preach a different gospel, then you are to be cursed, rejected. Doesn’t that mean there is a right and a wrong way?

My friend responded, some traditions are okay like how we paint the eggs during easter. That isn’t wrong.

Not really sure what we were talking about anymore, I wrote a picture of a face on the back of a napkin. Then I asked, is this piece of paper, which has a sketch of you on it, you? If I started talking to this piece of napkin, would I be talking to you?

That is different, he responded. God is not like us. I can talk to you just like this but God is different. An image can help us think of God.

Okay, but do you at least agree that this piece of paper is not you? And also, we can actually talk to God just like we are. We don’t need an image. Just like this, we can talk to God.

Please let me know if you enjoyed reading this. Also, feel free to contribute to the conversation. How would you respond and what do you think about icons? In your commenting,  I ask you please comment with grace

Photo credits- everypixel.com

SaveSave

I’m Going to Miss This

It is crazy to think that in four short weeks I will be boarding a plane to go back to the States after spending nearly a year in Romania.

Time has flown! If you had asked me a few months ago about going back, I would have told you that July 10 could not get here soon enough. Now, I am not ready for it to come and I am begging time to slow down.

It was definitely difficult at the beginning when I was newly married, very unexperienced, and I moved halfway across the world to a place with a totally different culture and language. Almost everything in my life changed at once and it took me a while to get used to everything and be able to breathe.

I remember crying almost every day because things were so hard and I did not know why. I just wanted to be able to figure everything out, but I felt paralyzed because I didn’t know what to do.

Now, nearly a year later so many things have changed. I walk to the store by myself. I am not terrified of someone talking to me and not knowing what they are saying or how to respond. I have made friends and no longer feel lonely. I have grown to love the culture and lifestyle here in Romania, and now I am sad to leave.

I’m going to miss being able to head out my door and walk into town or to the grocery store. I am going to miss shopping with Sam at the piata for the masses of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Romania. I am going to miss the drive to Severin and seeing shepherds and their sheep on the grassy hillside. I am going to miss many things, but I am going to miss the people most of all.

When we move back to the States everything is going to change again. Maybe not as drastically as before, but many things will be different all over again.

Recently someone gave me advice about the changing seasons of life. Each time my life changes I resist, feeling like I haven’t had enough time in the previous season. I was not ready to go to college. I was not ready to come to Romania. I am not ready to become a mother. I am not ready to leave Romania.

But it’s all going to be okay.

I told Sam that sometimes I am terrified by change. He told me that things are going to change and be very different, but it will also be good. Soon I will be in a home in Mississippi taking care of my baby, and I will so glad for the change in my life. I won’t be thinking about the time of being newly married that is past, or the miles I could have run or things I could have accomplished.

It is comforting to know that God is always constant throughout the changing seasons of life, even when they seem to be changing at an alarming speed. It is comforting to know that He never changes, and I can always rely on that.

Change can be good and exciting, even when it seems to come just as I was getting used to the last change. So I’m going to embrace this change and this new season of life.

But for now, I’m still going to beg time to slow down for these last four weeks. Because I’m going to miss this.

What Do You Do All Day?

I get asked this question often. People from back home as me what I do every day as the wife of a missionary. People here in Romania ask what I do all day when I tell them I’m from America, or that I don’t have a job.

What I do in a day varies a lot from week to week and from day to day. Some weeks I feel like I am running around every day, with barely any time to take a break or breathe, but other weeks I have plenty of time to catch up on school, housework, and any other tasks I would like to get done. Some things change as my pregnancy progresses and as I am changing physically, but here are some typical things you may find me doing these days.

School

I am currently enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University in the online program. I earned my Associate’s degree at Florida College, and last summer I enrolled online so I could finish my degree while living overseas.

Every day I try to spend some time completing my assignments for the week, which typically consist of reading and a lot of writing. Some weeks have more assignments than others, and some weeks are busier than others, but I typically find the work load manageable, which is a blessing with everything else going on right now.

I am working towards getting my Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. I will take off a couple of terms around our baby’s birth, and I hope to start back slowly about 2 months after she is born. Lord willing I will be finished at the beginning of June 2019!

Laundry

I do laundry in some capacity nearly every day. Our washer is pretty small, so we have enough dirty laundry (especially when we both run) for a load every other day consistently, and I will wash several days in a row when I do towels and bedclothes. Dryers are very rare in Romania, so we hang everything to dry on a drying rack. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, Daddy made me a clothes line on our balcony and the clothes try much more quickly, and I can wash bedclothes and a load of laundry in one day and both are able to dry.

Cleaning

I try to do some type of cleaning every day, but our apartment really isn’t that big and it doesn’t take very long to clean, so I usually end up doing all the cleaning in one day. It only takes up a morning or an afternoon, so it probably ends up being more productive this way. I spot clean all throughout the day and I sweep the kitchen several times a week.

Cooking

I also spend time in the kitchen every day. I absolutely love cooking and preparing food and I usually listen to podcasts or audio books while I prepare vegetables and cook our meals. We also have company over for dinner about once a week, so I usually spend a little extra time in the kitchen on those days to make a special meal and bake bread or a dessert.

Shopping

Going to the store takes up a nice amount of time, and I usually go to the store two to three times a week. This is partly because we do not have an abundance of space to store food, and partly because I have to carry everything and I cannot carry a week’s worth of groceries. I loved it when my family was here and I had lots of helpers with carrying the food.

It is about a 30-minute walk to the grocery store, but it is very enjoyable when the weather is nice. This is also a nice way for me to get a bit of exercise, as I am trying to stay active yet it is difficult for me to run as much as I used to. Now that Sam’s parents live in Craiova (only a ten minute walk from us!) Mom and I like to go to the store together. We talk and visit on the whole walk and the whole time we shop and we both enjoy it so much!

Study

Once a week Mom and I walk somewhere to study together. Since I have come to Romania we have gone through For Women’s Eyes Only by Shaunti Feldhan and part of Feeling Good by David Burns. Now we have recently begun Body Image Lies. I always enjoy discussing the topics from the chapters in the book, but perhaps even more I enjoy the time we get to just sit and talk about everything. We always tend to go off on tangents about any little thing, but it is always just whatever is on our mind and I am so glad we get the chance to talk about everything. I always come away from our studies so encouraged.

Volunteer

Once a week we volunteer at an after school center to teach English. Beforehand I will spend time preparing the lesson, and sometimes a slideshow with pictures, to teach the children. I also like to have a coloring sheet and a simple craft for them to do.

Every other week we have an English Book Reading Club at the library. So far I have chosen books that I have already read, so preparation usually consists of briefly rereading or skimming the books, writing a summary, and coming up with a few discussion questions. So far we have done Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and A Wrinkle in Time, and for our last meeting we will discuss To Kill a Mockingbird.

Website Work

I like to say that I am Sam’s secretary. I designed the church website for our church here in Craiova and I try to keep it updated with resources and events. Each week I create posters or flyers for the week’s events and post them on our website, Facebook page, and meetup.com.

Bible Studies

We have worship services and Bible studies here in our apartment on Sunday and Tuesday afternoons. In addition to this Sam teaches a study on Evidences for God in a coffee shop downtown. He also studies with various other people throughout the week, but I typically do not join him for those. Sometimes I will go out with Sam while he passes out flyers or puts up posters, but other times I stay home to cook dinner or do school.

There are many other little things I do each day and each week, but these are the things that take up the most of my time.