Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yes, we are back from romania...

life has passed us by. way too fast. we are long home since romania, i may finish out those pictures later and post all that has happened since then. here is what has gone one since then.
1) we took a stephens family vaca to the beach in alabama. it was so much fun.
2) riley turned 4 and her party was so much fun.
3) riley started pre-k 4 at prestonwood christian academy and is absolutely loving it! her little uniforms are adorable.
4) we got an offer on our home about 2 weeks after we got back from romania and after a couple of hiccups and delays and more delays, we closed on sept. 30th! it was bittersweet. we are so happy it finally sold, but leaving the memories and our first home was a bit sad.
5) we are currently in a home in carrollton. 9 minutes from the church! 6 minutes if you drive like jarrett, but really, 9 minutes and no tolls. like everyone told us, it has transformed our lives! we are almost completely unpacked and getting settled.
all is well otherwise. will keep the updates coming.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lo / Ro Mission Trip 7

Four hours from Bucharest was Braila and Galats. Don't check my spelling please. This is where we spent the bulk of the time in Romania. Our first outdoor concert was in this town square in Galats. It was packed. All songs were in English, except one the students learned in Romanian. And whenever someone spoke, a translator helped out.

Another view. This man who has his back to us picked the flowers (he was sitting on) and threw them and some kisses at one of the girls on the front row. It was interesting.

Jarrett (green) sharing the gospel and the translator helping (red).

The students are finished performing and waiting for Jarrett to finish so they can go pray and mingle with the people. See this pile of backpacks. I should have taken a picture of the whole pile. There were hundreds. The students that "had" to have them and didnt realize the dangers of walking around with a backpack left theirs in a big pile while the performed. And we had to form a human wall around them because people would walk or run by and try to take off with one. Crazy. We were close to a very very poor area (which I will blog about next) where the gypsys live. They do whatever it takes to survive. We met some great people with interesting gypsy stories.

One of my favorite pictures from the night. A group of our guys sat with a group of Romanian guys for such a long time (and without a translator). Side note: most of the younger generations are taught english, but over in this area most are not educated. They sat there and shared the gospel with them and laughed and tried to teach each other words for most of the night. It was a cool sight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lo / Ro Mission Trip 6

same day of touring with lydia.
drove by the arch d'triumph. alot like the one in france. in fact, a lot of the architecture (well, before that dictator bulldozed it all and built up the ghettos and housing blocks to control the people) resembled france.

visited this little outside museum. it was so cool. it had all these examples of homes and churches from all the different villages and areas throughout romania. obviously, most people do not live in these style homes anymore, but some very very remote villages still do.

one of the churches from the villages....

lydia and jarrett walking thru the villages....

left side, some area of romania had these blue homes. since everything back then was man made, my little imagination created the blue paint from blueberries. i love the little world i live in...

after the villages, we walked thru this amazing park.

me and j on the bridge.

i know its tough to see, but there were these huge statue heads all around this fountain. famous romanian men.

walking towards the exit of this park. this is where the skaters were (rollerblading was very very popular here). i dont know who all the statues were of that lined this walkway.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lo / Ro Mission Trip 5

sorry for the delay in updating. the last 10 days has been hectic. i hope to finish posting this trip this week.
we arrived in bucharest and were taken around town by a new friend, lydia. first stop, the people's palace / house of the people. i don't have the whole history down. its the second largest building in the world. (first is the pentagon). over 300,000 square feet. it was built for and by the communist leader, Ceau┼čescu, who dominated romania and kicked all the people out of their homes and moved them into blocks, rationing food, clothing, you name it. they were under this communist rule for 50 years, receiving their freedom in the late 80's. we met a family (the stanciu's) and to hear the stories from michael and christina was depressing. their whole familly was expelled from romania for professing to be christians and teaching the bible.

Outside of the People's Palace. Not built for the people actually, but for that mean leader. Building it as he is stripping people of their homes, freedoms and dignity. He died before it was complete. Never got to enjoy it, now it houses all the government offices and 5% of it is open for touring...

Close up of the side entrance.

jarrett and i standing on the outside balcony that faces the main road in bucharest. this balcony (and view) is where dictators address the people (who gather in the streets). michael jackson famously addressed the people here..."hello buDapest..." uhhh. its bucharest.

Small examples of the extravagance (all while the people are losing their possessions). One of the ballrooms had a retractable glass ceiling so a helicopter could come pick up whats his name in case of attack.

These are considered "small chandeliers" in the palace. All goldplated with real crystal. Over 2,000 in the palace.

huge "gone with the wind" staircases and tapestries everywhere.

Marble floors throughout. This pattern was all over the place. We found out its actually a map of the whole palace so the workers would know how to get around. Its that big.

I loved the ceilings so here is another example.

Arched hallways with intricate ceilings throughout.

Handmade tapestries and all these bronze busts of all his communist buddies.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lo / Ro Mission Trip 4

i cannot remember the area, nor read the sign on the street, but I do remember being told that the architect purposefully built the 2 buildings and the street to form a semi-circle. its really cool.

we took the train over to notting hill. it was so quaint and cool. very quiet, not quite as bustling as the movie portrays and although they did have a bookstore, it was not a travel book shop and there was no hugh grant, or julia. that was a great day just hanging out eating and of course scarfing down many many cupcakes from this great little cupcakery - hummingbird cupcakery.

as rachael ray would say - they were delish!

the streets of notting hill. they did have fruit stands and vendors to resemble the " life thru the seasons without anna scott (julia)" scene as he walks thru the market. playing my favorite song from the movie -"ain't no sunshine when she's gone". what is funny, we got back to our hotel room that night and the movie that was playing...notting hill. funny.

cute little sandwich shop/bakery. we walked by it 3 times thru the day and they had this adorable car in their storefront that featured the specials or the baked goods they offered. so clever and looked so yummy. would have eaten there, but cupcakes were our main source of sustenance that day. paid for it later!

this is what the trip was all about. i wish i could play a video of it for you. this was the hightlight of my trip. being around the students and watching them in action. their energy and passion for Christ was amazing. this was a show they did in london. their schedule was intense. they did have fun and see some sights, but they were serving or canvasing the area to get the word out for that night's show or practicing or performing. the adult "sponsors" are called family group leaders and there are 2-3 of them assigned to a group of about 14 kids for the entire trip. but the groups meet weekly months and months in advance to get to know each other, learn how to share their testimony and the gospel and to focus on their mission on the trip. they become super tight knit and then spend pretty much every waking moment together on the actual trip. the adults on this trip were the cream of the crop. amazing energy and amazing attitudes thru the 10 days - i don't know if i could have done what they did, but i have always wanted to.

Friday, July 24, 2009

London / Romania Mission Trip 3

Monday, July 6
dinner at this amazing and very fancy hotel- the regent, i think. it says it on the plate, but i can't read it. us, the seals, the grahams and todd bell (our music minister) and his son parker. todd also takes pictures of his plated food - if the meal is amazing. i know this looks like something from dr. seuss, but i had to try something local. holstein was my selection for the evening. at first i was scared, but honestly it was incredible. don't be scared off by the ingredients, it sounds like an accident and maybe thats how it started, but i thank whoever put together the weinerschnitzel, egg, capers and anchovies. yummy! don't judge me.

just a pic of the streets.

buckingham palace at night. this is on the to-do list for next time.

Tuesday, July 7
visited the tower of london. it was fascinating and massive. i didn't get my picture taken with a beefeater like i wanted, next time. this tour was worth it. lots of interesting facts and stories. this is the place where traitors of the crown were taken and held. then when their day came they were marched up the hill to another property to have their heads chopped off and then they hung the heads off the bridges so people going down the thames would know thats what happened to people who opposed the crown - the royal family.

another angle. you can see a bridge in the back, not the london bridge like everyone assumes (including me), i think its called the tower bridge.

this little round building is the tower of blood. i know there is a story of two little heirs to the throne that were murdered and buried on the property by their uncle so he could inherit the throne. this building had a torture exhibit, you know the regular rack, 4 corners and the ball techniques we have always seen. this building was packed with men and young boys - go figure.

this guy "guards" the building where the royal jewels are kept. his stomping/marching was echoing (due to his 2" soles on his shoes - no joke, look at them) all over the property, i guess so you know he is always there in case you have any ideas of lifting a crown or two. the royal jewels exhibit was amazing. and i am a diamond girl, lover, not necessarily a collector (yet??). all the crowns and silver used for their coronations and other very important ceremonies. i felt so proper and formal when we left the building...

changing of the guards. they had a girl guard who was yelling all the commands. cool. i did take a gander at their guns and they had very very scary knives on the ends. i don't think they were pretend. the canons, i am not sure about. across the street from the crowd is a building with a huge henry VIII exhibit. it was cool. although he was a large (and merciless) man, he loved armor, horses and jousting so there were tons of weapons, and outfits (thru all his sizes).

we also visited the imperial war museum. aka the churchill museum. it was amazing. i didnt get any pictures cause it was pouring down rain and jarrett also almost got smashed by a lady on a bicycle trying to hail a taxi and i was laughing so hard (in love). it really was tough crossing the street around there. thank goodness they have painted on most of the major intersections "look left" or "look right", regardless i still looked the wrong way first. i just made sure i triple checked every time. they are wild drivers.

here we are with a traditional guard. his hat is taller than his torso. i just wonder what kind of people they are like off duty. its not like you can turn the "ignore everything, but attack an intrusion" on and off at the drop of a hat. we are not at buckingham palace, but where charles and camilla live. i think its called st. andrews - but im not sure.

this is camilla and charles's pad. not too shabby.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

London / Romania Mission Trip 2

Sunday, July 5

After all the church services we met some of the high school choir crew (the service team) who help run the behind the scenes stuff along the trip. my definition. they were all nice and jet lagged from having just arrived, so we pepped them up by stuffing our faces with the traditional fish and chips. this was the cool place we went to and it was quite yummy. i couldnt help but sing (in my head because we were surrounded by people from our praise team at church) the little "fish and chips and vinegar" song that our choir teacher at heights elementary once taught us. admit - some of you (near my age) probably know the catchy tune. the actual meal was not too shabby, but one time was enough for me. people teased me so i did not take a picture of my plate at this meal. i think thats fun to do and i know i am not alone.

our friend andy, who knows all the cool spots like a local, found this little cupcakery, but it was closed. i couldnt get a good picture of the cupcakes, but i can best describe them in two words - willy wonka. these were the coolest most decked out cupcakes i had ever seen. the tops were enormous. it was like marshmallow and then fondant covering it with huge gumdrops and pretty candies. they looked fake. we realized that the stores in london kept "different" hours. this one closed at 7, but it was a sunday. bummer.

since we were fresh off the sudden passing away of michael jackson, these were everywhere. some may call them memorials, but this one was more like a shrine. people were singing the songs and weeping like it had happened that morning. they may have been the poor ticket holders to his upcoming concert that was to open in london on july 15th. now they are out many, many pounds and maybe this makes them feel better. i know those that grew up in the 80's especially have an affection for mj, but its different in london. some of the people at this shrine were near tearing their garb and placing ashes on their foreheads. to spare any embarrassment, i didnt take pictures of the ones crying so hard they were nearly dry heaving. im not that cruel. man in the mirror is the #1 mj song in london, out of all his hits i would think it would have been his duet with sir paul mc carthy - ebony and ivory! i was wrong.

this is the off the center of picadilly circus - the district we were staying in. it had a cool times square feel, but smaller....and with a gap in the middle.

stretch your neck to the right, im too lazy to flip the picture.

monday, july 6
we started off our day with a friend and business associates of scott and josh - richard. he is a trained tour guide. he drove us around and pointed out alot of the fascinating and not so famous sites in london as he took us to st. paul's cathedral.
if you look close, the pigeons are here at the feet of this statue waiting for mary poppins to come feed them. i know there is a song that goes with that scene and im too tired to dig in my brain for it.

here is the entrance into st. paul's. from left to right - richard, jarrett, scott (in the hat), julie, kaytie and josh. i neglected to read the sign right behind me that said no pictures inside the facility! oops. although tours are going on non stop, it is still a place of worship and prayer. take my word, if you have not been , it is absolutely stunning. the intricate detail in the ceiling - breathtaking.

we climbed all, all, all the way to the very top. i think josh said it was a total of 700 something steps. i could be off a little, but i know it felt like it. the view was amazing. this is one angle of the river thames. about an inch in from the left you can see the london eye (ferris wheel as we would call it). we didnt get the chance to do that, next time hopefully!

here is me and jarrett. it was really windy and you can see the multiple colors my colorist puts in my hair really well in this shot. there is kaytie sneaking in to the left of jarrett.

a view of downtown and a huge crane on the right.

another pic of the thames. if you see the big green tree about an inch in from the right, behind it is a famous theatre that has a real thatched roof. white building with a brown top right off the river. these roofs were tradtional to london prior to the 1666 fire that wiped out the city - due to the thatched roofs.

another angle from the top. i am looking down on the front of st. paul's. you can see the red double decker buses on the street - which i love, but didn't get to ride on.

still at the top. i want to say this is the modern art museum, but i can't remember. we didn't go - they don't have the censors and regulations we have and apparently have a big gore and naked (nakie as riley calls is) section that none of us were wanting to venture into. call it art, but yuck is yuck to me.

the front of st. paul's as we were leaving. im standing at the base of that statue with mary poppins' pigeons.

premier radio (the broadcast company that broadcasts pastor grahams messages in london) placed (i think) 19 pianos across the city that say "play me". they have little books of sheet music attached of popular british and karaoke type songs. they did it for promotion sake, but to also give the high school kids from our trip a little something to do when they were touring around. they could stop and play on the pianos and sing around and promote their concerts. it was cool. you would randomly hear a piano playing, but couldn't see the street it was on, but knew who placed them there and why. great idea. this little man was playing his heart out.