a look inside the life of Whitney

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The Photo Book

I wanted to share with all my followers the photo book I put together. My parents purchased the book so that I could have a hard copy compilation of my trip in pictures. I had a lot of fun making it and can’t wait to have it in hand to share for years to come!

Hope you enjoy!

Click here to view this photo book larger

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14 Days Later: Back to “Normal”

It’s been two weeks already. Two weeks! How did that happen? I meant to post sooner; I’ve been wanting to share some reflections now that I have returned home, but it took a while to get back to a normal schedule.

I was really excited to be home for one singular reason–my boyfriend.  My spirits were high and my eagerness barely under control thanks to my anticipation of being in his arms again. And once I was finally there, it was like releasing a breath that I had been holding way too long. Relaxed and relieved.

IMG_3787He gave me a wonderful surprise when he took me home. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but on the evening of the day I left for Romanian, my absolute favorite author and his co-author were IN TOWN doing a book signing. When I found out, I was devastated that I was going to miss that by just a few hours! Naturally, I told him about it, so that night after he dropped me off at the airport, he went and got a book signed for me and even got a picture with them! I never knew until I saw the book hiding under a pillow on my bed when I got back. I squealed and nearly knocked him over with a hug when I saw it :). It meant so much to me that he did that! And he continued to be Mr. Wonderful during the first half of the week as I dealt with the lasting effects of jet-lag. It was really rough. I was tired nearly all the time, would wake up on and off all night, and had a horrible time trying to eat normally. Going back to work was hard too and I am thankful that it wasn’t super busy that week because I was a zombie. I drank a lot of coffee. But those days are mostly a blur now. It wasn’t until the second half of the week that I started feeling normal again, and by that time, my poor guy caught a nasty cold. Our assignments suddenly switched and I spent the rest of the week helping him get better quickly. So that first week was difficult and certainly abnormal but we got to spend a lot of time together and that was all that mattered to me.

As surprising as this is, once I got over jet-lag, I experienced a little bit of culture shock again as I re-adjusted to American life. I had to re-learn what was normal. It was not as profound as the moments of culture shock I experienced in Romanian. I just realized that while everything was the same, everything felt different. It wasn’t hard to figure out that I had changed, that I had gained new perspectives.  At first it was just a series of emotions that I didn’t understand. I felt a sadness and disappointment for the abundance that people live with here, and yet always want more. I felt a new appreciation, and embarrassment for how much I have, and of that, how little I really need. I felt humbled by the hospitality I was shown there that is greater than the “southern hospitality” version here. And at the base of it all, I wondered if we have grown so used to our freedoms here that we don’t even appreciate them anymore, or fight for them like we used to.

So yes, this trip changed me, like I knew it would. And the one thing that this trip affirmed for me most is that I do not want a typical American life. I don’t want to just work, just have a family, just go to church, just live in a house, and just barely have any kind of real relationship with God, wondering whether I’m really His. I want a life that is fully His to use, no matter where that takes me. I hope it means traveling the world, because I definitely want that. But more importantly, I want to live the life that God promised, a life in full (John 10:10). I want to go out and experience the world, I want to be used by His hand and see the power and purpose He brings about in this world. Because that life is the one worth living. The one that says, even if I had nothing else, I  still have Jesus, and that is enough, more than enough!

It’s a mindset that I have been working towards, slowed by my own doubts and fears, but reaffirmed from time to time, and especially now after I have returned. And I hope it is what will also keep this blog going, because writing it my outlet. It is the way I come to understand myself, God, and the world around me best, and equally share that understanding with others. And the life I hope to lead for God will certainly be worth sharing!

Thank you all for following me throughout this journey. The mission trip is over, but this is only the beginning. Thank you for your prayers and love!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Day 16-17: Last Hours and the Trip Home

Current Time-5:24pm

Finally, a place with free wifi again! You know, I am very thankful, though, that this is the first long wait for a flight that I’ve had, and it’s the last one! Since I have about an hour until the flight, it was best to post now before jet lag takes over too much. I’ve got a Starbucks in hand to get through the home stretch.

But let me first elaborate on my last hours in Romania. Once again I was very blessed by my students Friday morning as I said my goodbyes. I got hugs, exchanged emails, and more gifts. And since I spent the night before getting everything packed, I was able to spend the afternoon with the student I have been closest too on this trip. She, and I, and her friend (who also became a friend of mine) spent the time just walking around and taking pictures. I can’t wait to share those. It was a lot of fun, and when I had to say goodbye, it was definitely the hardest one 😦

Friday night we took a train to Cluj to catch our flight the next morning. That was a really nice ride! The countryside was beautiful and going through the mountains was beautiful! Definitely my favorite ground trip in that country. I even got to eat a fresh from the farm peach from a nice Romanian man who was sitting near us. It was the best! When we arrived, the preacher in Cluj who also hosts WEI  campaigns took care of us. He took us to our hotel for the night, walked me to a shop for a bite to eat, and gave me a quick tour of the church before I went to bed. It was a nice little hotel and I got a decent amount of sleep. I was disappointed I couldn’t get on the internet that night though. Oh well.

I have to stop here for a moment because I’ve left out an important detail about those last hours in the country. My traveling companion, a.k.a. one of the other teachers, had been sick this past week. You may have seen my request for prayers on facebook. We were all very worried for her, especially with the upcoming trip and how the flights would affect her condition. We prayed very hard for her. And may we all give thanks to God because by the morning of our flight, she was practically her normal self, and has been through this whole trip home! It’s amazing and she looks and feels so much better than even yesterday morning! It has been an absolute, “THANK YOU GOD” moment! Not only that, but we had great seats on the long flight from Munich, and have had smooth sailing up to this point. So everyone who has been praying, be sure to give thanks to God today, because it was by His hand that she is well again.

So, rewind back to some experiences I had during this long trip home. First of all, the sun hasn’t gone down for nearly 20 hours now. It followed us home, so it definitely feels like a really long day. As I saw the landscape below when we departed from Cluj, I felt mixed emotions. I was very eager to get the states to be able to get back in touch with my boyfriend, and even more eager to be home again and with him. But at the same time, I felt sadness, which is not surprising. I’m going to miss it. But more than that, I held this hope and assurance that this would not be my last trip. That despite the fact I was ready to go home, I know I want to travel again, do mission work again. Maybe not the same campaign, but definitely something. And I will return to Romania someday. I don’t know when, but it will happen.

Even though it has been a long day, I knew there would still be a lot of new experiences a long the way. Namely, the multiple customs checks we had to go through. In Munich, we had to have our passports checked and answer a few questions. And in New York, we had quite the process to go through. First was getting through passport control. Then, we had to pick up our under-carriage bags. After that, we had to check-in again in order to get our boarding passes for the next few flights, which meant in the end we had to go through security again. By the time we were through and heading to the gate, we had about 20 minutes before we were on the next flight. So, our lay-overs have been perfectly timed and its been very smooth travels.

Having a window seat on the long flight was really great. I got to see the ocean and some good views of the skyline of New York when we arrived. I managed to watch 4 movies, take a small nap, and enjoy the food. I should have done more constructive things, but I wanted to enjoy my last 24 hours of freedom before having to plunge into my normal life again. But as I looked out that window, feeling joy when I saw the familiar landscapes of America, I also started to realize that this trip has changed me. I knew it would. And in that moment I looked at America, at my extremely blessed life with different eyes. I have a far greater appreciation for what I have, and I feel a sadness for those who never look beyond themselves.

I’ve learned so much, gained new perspectives, and expect to have some really deep reflections in the near future. I hope to share them, at least in part, and it may even generate some great conversation. Either way, God has been very good to me this trip, I have been very blessed, and I will never forget this experience!

My flight is boarding, I must go. Hope to share more once I get over jet lag! Thanks everyone for reading!



Day 15: A Day of Gifts

7:57 am

First of all I’d like to share that I successfully packed everything! I dare say I would consider myself an expert at this point :). But, if I have to pay some overweight charges on the way back…..then I guess I still have some learning to do.

It hasn’t quite hit me yet that I begin my journey home today. After all, everything yesterday went normally–classes, lunch break, classes, and an evening activity. You’ll notice by the title of this post though that the defining trend of the day was gifts. Let me share why.

Gift Number #1: My first student that morning surprised me with a jar of honey! This was from her boyfriend’s family who raise bees! And it tastes super good! I hope it makes it home ok.

Gift Number #2: Shame on me for waiting until the last minute to get a souvenir for one more person on my list. But, fortunately we had time during lunch break to walk to the big market where there was a booth of handmade items. So I managed to get one last thing as a gift to take home (and I’m being vague so as not to ruin the surprise). Along the way I managed to get one more item I wanted for myself and snap some great pictures of the outside and inside of the Moon Church. The front of the church shows the different phases of the moon along with the time. Its nifty! Not only that, but I also got to try a traditional Romanian “pie.” I forget what it was called but it was a thick “tortilla” made from potatoes, and had sour cream and cheese in it. It was salty, but definitely yummy!

Gift Number #3: We were all told to be back at the church building by 3:30 for a surprise. Well that surprise ended up being a handmade, gorgeous carmel cake! The cake was made by one of the other’s teacher’s students and her friend who is one of my students. We all got to share in it’s wonderful deliciousness! It was a wonderful surprise!

Gift Number #4: My 5 o’clock student gave me a magnet with a picture of Oradea on it. It was very nice of him. And we connected through facebook so that we could stay in touch.

Gift Number #5: My last student (who I went out with Wednesday night) surprised me with a souvenir coffee cup and literature on Oradea and the Fortress here! I was really really excited about this! Now I can read up on the places I saw and tell everyone a little more about the buildings here in the city. Way better than just saying, “I took this picture because I thought this building was cool.”

Gift Number #6: The gift of a good old cookout to celebrate the 4th of July. Of course, this was a Romanian style cookout with traditional food like Mici! (pronounced meech). It was so so good! It has a hamburger-like texture but with a lot more yummy and different flavor. It was so good.

And that’s not all the gifts I have received over the two weeks, that’s just one day! Every single person here that I have come in contact with has been so hospitable and so generous. It didn’t matter what age, every time I was out with my students, especially, they wouldn’t hardly let me buy my own meal if we were eating out. I have been so blown away by it. And the church members are no different. They’ve fed us, given us a place to stay, beds, and everything we need. It’s been so amazing.

So to all of those wonderful people that I have met here, thank you so much! I will never forget your kindness and generosity! I will miss you all very much!



It’s Late, and I Need Sleep

Hey everyone, I had to spend the remaining hours of consciousness packing so that I could spend the few hours I have left tomorrow doing fun things before hopping on a train to Cluj to fly out Saturday morning. I am amazed I got everything in my suitcase! Plus I feel pretty good that everything will arrive in one piece.

Anyways, hopefully I can give a wrap up of today and what I do tomorrow at the hotel tomorrow night.

Oh and Happy 4th of July! Sorry that you got rained out, Knoxville!



Day 14: So much to see!


Oh what a busy day it was today. I’m just going to get used to being tired.

So, classes as usual. I honestly wish I had more to share in that area, but most aren’t really interested in talking about the Bible stories in depth. Only a few really talk about it, and with them I have agreed with their views. There is of course one student who voices his opinion easily and openly, despite if its different from my view. I enjoy it and shy away from it because its hard for me to say anything that might cause confrontation. But most of the time it has been discussions and opinions and it has been a good challenge for me. I just hope I have at least posed some questions that have made him think a little more.

Meanwhile, I did A LOT outside of classes today. This afternoon I went to the zoo with a group from the church that had young children. It’s a very small zoo but nice, and apparently much much nicer than it used to be. Then at 5, one of my students switched her time with another so that we could rush over to this huge catholic church to see the inside, and go up in the city hall tower and see the city. That church was absolutely beautiful! And the view from the tower was amazing, but those stairs nearly killed me! After I was done with classes she also took me out this evening to a Monastery and a spa area that has natural mineral water from a spring. Finally, we had pizza and then I came back because it was getting late.

Haha I’m so tired. That’s why this post is so short tonight. But pictures are worth more than words so I’ll upload those soon so you can see all the places and things I saw today!



Day 13: Unexpected

Current time-10:03pm (far too late, so this will be short)

Today was a really good day, but very busy, in a good way.

Of all my students, I have one who unabashedly shares his opinion and today, that truly became apparent. We spoke about Noah and the flood and he has many different opinions about it. I’m not up to sharing the details right now, but we got into bigger topics like, why did God not just kill all humans except Noah’s family? What about how God is all-knowing and pre-destination? I was a bunch of deeper topics. I definitely was not prepared for that, nor was I prepared to give answers. Plus, the questions he asked were things that involved faith, and not necessarily having definite, specific, and possibly scientific answers. Either way, it was good to see a student really thinking for himself and posing those challenging questions. And I hope to exchange emails so we can continue and elaborate on the things that came up today.

Outside of that, classes went as usual. One of my students brought me some Joe’s (see my pictures on Flickr) today and I nearly ate the whole bag during all my other classes. She’s so nice. During my lunch break, I went out with the teenagers and another teacher again. We had planned last week to go swimming, but that changed to Frappes and shopping sometime yesterday. I had an EXCELLENT mint and chocolate frappe that was practically as good as Starbucks (which I can’t wait to have when I get back home). And while we were out shopping I finally managed to get souvenirs for the people I intended to except one person, so I’m hoping to find something this coming Thursday.

Tonight, one of my students was supposed to take us to the highest point in the city to see the view and possible eat at the restaurant there called “the Mushroom,” but his car broke down. I was really bummed because tonight was the only night I have, but then the preacher and his family drove us up there real quick just to take pictures, so I was very thankful for that. It was a beautiful view and I got some good pictures!

So tomorrow afternoon we are going to the zoo with the preacher and his family. I’m excited about that because I heard they have wolves :D. And if you know me, you know I love wolves! 🙂

Busy busy busy. That’s what the next days will continue to be, but I love it!