April 30, 2011

adventures in europe: hungary

in the spring of 2008 i spent 3 months living in florence, italy. as i am about to depart on another journey across the world in just 2 weeks, i have realized how much i wish i had started my blog before i lived in europe so that i could have shared those adventures with you as they happened. but since i can't go back in time, i'm now going to share my adventures in europe and the moments that forever changed my life.

my faith grows the most when i step out of my comfort zone and live in a situation where i have to continually rely on GOD for my every need. europe was just such an experience. at the young age of 19 i boarded a plane to study in italy from january through april. i traveled by plane, train, and boat all throughout italy and europe. i along with my friends had 3 week-long periods where we could travel anywhere in europe that we wanted to completely by ourselves. and i learned so much about the world and so much about myself in that very short amount of time.

in almost every place that i traveled, i encountered an event or situation that completely changed my life. i found myself relying on GOD endlessly, and my prayer life grew to a constant conversation with the LORD. in the next few posts, i want to share those moments that changed me and the prayers that i offered that got my friends and me out of what seemed like impossible situations. i hope that these posts will increase your desire for adventure, your faith, and your prayer life, as it increases that of my own.

adventures in europe: hungary

i was traveling on an overnight train from venice to budapest with 5 of my girl friends. it was our very first journey without any older adult supervision, and we had butterflies in our stomachs as we boarded the train. we had purchased what we were told to be the right tickets, and we soon found our couchette which is a compartment made of seats and beds that fold out for 6 people. when we stepped into our couchette, we put our bags down, locked our door, and breathed a sign of relief as our first step of tackling 7 countries in 8 days was complete. but we were very soon to find out that our good fortune was not what it seemed.
around midnight, as the train was approaching the croatian border, the conductor of our train car came to our couchette. he was the most adorable, hungarian, old man that you could ever imagine. he didn't speak much english but was obviously delighted at the thought of protecting 6 little, american girls during a 13 hour train ride. he laughed and gave us a huge smile and asked to see our tickets. but as he examined our tickets, the laugh died and the smile faded, and the only words out of his mouth were, "big problem."

the ticket cashier back in florence had sold us the wrong tickets. the tickets we had purchased were only valid from venice to croatia, and our only options were to each pay a fee in order to stay on the train or to be kicked off of the train in croatia, one of the most dangerous and anti-american countries in europe, at midnight. so for 6 19-year-old girls, the choice was obviously to stay on the train, until we learned the cost: 50 euro a piece.

at that time, 50 euro in europe was equal to approximately 75 american dollars which is a large amount of cash for 6 girls to each happen to be carrying. but if together we didn't have 300 euro in cash on our hands, which is equal to about 450 dollars, we would immediately be kicked off the train. our old, adorable train conductor delivered the news sorrowfully and fearfully, realizing the danger that we could be in but being able to do nothing to help us.

so i started praying like you wouldn't believe. we all started praying as we opened our wallets and bags looking for any cash that we could find. and by the grace of GOD we found exactly 300 euro. we paid our conductor, and he hugged us with joy as he realized the blessing from GOD that had just occurred.

but as if that wasn't enough, we now had no extra money to eat and wouldn't have any cash again until we got off the train and found an atm. but in the morning our wonderful train conductor, realizing that we had nothing to eat, brought us each a complete breakfast, probably which was covered with money from his own pocket. he watched over us and took care of us throughout our 13 hour train ride, making sure we had everything we needed and making sure that no one dared to disturb our couchette. and as we were about to leave, he taught us two words: köszönöm szépen, "thank you" in hungarian.

April 28, 2011

how to: make cake balls

the other day someone asked for my cake ball recipe, and suddenly i realized that i had never put it on here for all of you. whether it's been making red velvet cake balls with cream cheese icing or going crazy with funfetti cake balls with strawberry icing, the cake ball is a crowd favorite that always brings success. so here is my recipe, and i hope it brings you and all of those who share in its goodness lots of joy!

what you need:

● 1 box of cake mix/ingredients for the cake
● 1 package of vanilla almond bark
● 1 jar of icing
● 2 bowls and clean hands
● wax paper and a spoon

what you do:

1) buy a cake and bake it as you normally would using the directions on the box.
2) allow the cake to cool, and then using your hands and fingers, crumble the cake into little pieces in a bowl.
3) add a whole jar of the icing of your choice to the cake crumbles (example: red velvet cake uses cream cheese icing).
4) mix the cake and the icing evenly together until you don't see any extra pieces of cake or of icing. i've found it's easiest to mix it with your hands.
5) put a whole package of vanilla almond bark in a bowl and melt in the microwave for 90 seconds. if you need to reheat the almond bark, melt it again in increments of 15 seconds to avoid burning it.
6) roll cake/icing combination into balls, and roll the balls in the melted vanilla almond bark with a spoon (i make mine small so i can eat more and feel less guilty).
7) place them on wax paper with the spoon and allow them to cool.
8) eat and enjoy!

April 26, 2011

the filter

i recently made a life-changing purchase that i feel is going to probably affect the whole course of my existence. when i think of my town's drinking water, i am instantly reminded of the elephant in "tarzan" asking his mother, "are you sure this water's sanitary? it looks questionable to me!" so as a result of the questionable amoebas floating around in my water, i purchased...the brita water bottle.

that's right, i said bottle. the most brilliant, economical, sanitary creation known to mankind. you basically can start saving your life for a mere $9.99. what this little wonder does is purify your water as you drink it. you fill it up, and as you drink it, the water passes through a filter built into the lid before it escapes to your mouth. sheer brilliance.

the first time you fill it up and squeeze out the water, all kinds of black impurities immediately filter out of it, cleansing the system. and after that initial outpouring, the impurities that are removed are all of the countless little amoebas invisible to our eyes, nasty little things that you didn't even realize were in there.

you can fill the brita water bottle up at a water fountain. you could even show true bravery and fill it up in a gas station bathroom, and you better believe that water's gonna get clean! but in acquiring this delightful personal filter, it made me desire an actual personal filter.

what if each of us had a built-in filter for our hearts and our mouths? what if everything we were about to say were processed through a filter at the lid before it was able to escape our mouths? what if the flow of our hearts were cleansed before it could reach and affect anyone else?

i imagine that the first time we would fill it up and squeeze out the water, all kinds of black impurities would immediately filter out of it, cleansing the system. and after that initial outpouring, the impurities that were removed would be all of the countless little amoebas invisible to our eyes, nasty things that we didn't even realize were there.

i want to live life as a brita water bottle: filtering every thought before it becomes a word or an action. i want to keep my impurities and imperfections from affecting and hurting someone else. i want to make sure that the water is sanitary instead of questionable. i want to bring light, to bring purity, to bring peace to other lives. i want to make a life-changing purchase that is going to affect the whole course of my existence in the name of the ONE who made a life-changing purchase for me.
so i leave you with this thought: is your water sanitary?

"create in me a clean heart, o GOD, and renew a right spirit within me. cast me not away from your presence, and take not YOUR HOLY SPIRIT from me. restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." psalm 51:10-12

April 16, 2011

the essay

being the daughter of a minister, i have encountered many questions about my faith during my lifetime. now that i have reached an age where i have made my faith my own, i am constantly asked by people why i choose to worship the way that i do, which ironically has always remained the same. if you would like to know my personal beliefs and opinions, feel free to ask me, and i'll be more than happy to have a discussion with you with an open heart. but i choose to worship the way that i do because i view worship like writing an essay.

worship is just like writing an essay. for the essay, the TEACHER has given a few specific guidelines and directions. the TEACHER has given you a specific topic to write about. HE'S asked that you please type your work. HE'S asked that it be typed in size 12 times new roman font. but HE has not indicated how long HE wants the paper to be or whether HE wants the paper to be single or double-spaced.

HE has given, instead, an example of an A paper. a paper that truly pleased HIM and exemplified what HE wanted. and that essay is 5 pages in length with the lines double-spaced. and although there's no specific guidelines for length and spacing, one can assume that if you write a 5-page, double-spaced essay, the TEACHER is going to be pleased.

and ultimately that's what it's about: pleasing the TEACHER. as much as you might love to write about another subject, the TEACHER has given you a specific topic. as much as you might love to type with a good, ole georgia font, the TEACHER has asked for times new roman. and as much as you might want to cop out and just write a 2-page paper or to keep writing and add extra information, the TEACHER has given an example consisting of 5 pages.

and because you love your TEACHER so much and because you are seeking HIS ways instead of your own, you put HIS wants above yours and do exactly what HE says. not that HE wouldn't be gracious if your paper was only 4 pages. not that HE wouldn't forgive a georgia font. not that you wouldn't receive an A if your paper was single-spaced. but because ultimately you want whatever it is that HE wants in order to write the essay that will bring HIM the most glory.