Beware of Trains

People say tornadoes sound like freight trains when they’re on the ground.

I’ve never been in a tornado, but I have seen (up close and personal) the destruction caused by them. And, in a way, I’ve survived a different type of tornado – one that struck my heart and my life.

It was 2013. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I had health problems the doctors couldn’t diagnose, and the man of my dreams…well, I thought he was going to propose. I really did. But he ended up leaving instead.

The breakup came by text message, right before Valentine’s Day, and right before a big trip he and I were supposed to take.

My life came crashing down in what, quite literally, felt like an instant.

path of destruction
A real, actual tornado struck this person’s house – ironically, this is how I felt on the inside

After the dust settled, I began clawing my way out of the hole I was in. I saved money however I could: by eating cheaply or not at all; by scraping deodorant from the bottom of the deodorant stick; I even cut open spent toothpaste tubes to salvage whatever paste might be left.

I also canceled all my travel plans, including the trip I’d been planning with my ex, and I refused to go anywhere except to work and to the doctor.

No more makeup or clothes.

No more hair products or haircuts.

No more going out.

Basically, I let myself go. I had to – because of my finances, yes, but I also didn’t see the point in trying anymore. If such intense, horrible heartache could happen in an instant, why bother? I was only setting myself up for failure. At least, that’s what I thought.

beware of trains
I didn’t heed the warning signs, the red flags. I hadn’t meant to get stuck on those proverbial railroad tracks while a train was coming full-speed, but somehow I did.

Battling extreme depression, I tried to tell myself that my writing was enough, that I didn’t need anything else. But no matter how much I poured myself into my work, I couldn’t make any progress. And nothing, absolutely nothing, quenched my thirst.

Thirst. The very word makes my throat dry as I remember that season of my life. It’s like I was searching for something and hadn’t even known it. Acceptance? Love? The kind of love that wouldn’t toss me out like yesterday’s garbage?

As the weeks unfolded, I succumbed to depression more and more. I was mired in darkness—and not the kind that’s fun and exciting. It was the kind that’s gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

Emptiness, by its very nature, is weightless – yet, the emptiness inside me somehow carried an unbearable weight.

dark gray
Searching for hope in dark places

The weekend of my birthday arrived. Desperate to make the emptiness go away, I partied so hard I was sick for three days. My friends took pics of me passed out at my dining room table. In one pic, my forehead was resting on a banana (“banana pillow birthday” someone captioned the pic).

I had hit a new low.

That same weekend, an F5 tornado struck the small town of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people and injuring 212. The tornado was a mile wide, and it was on the ground for 37 minutes. The destruction was inconceivable–like a nuclear bomb had obliterated the small town–and I was moved by the images I saw on TV.

More than moved. I had a long history of recurring nightmares about tornadoes, especially when I was a kid, and I felt drawn (like a calling) to go and help with the cleanup and relief effort.

The idea sparked purpose in my heart. This was my chance to do something that would make a difference. Sure, I was incapable of helping myself, but I could help others.

Right?

american flags
Memorial at Moore’s elementary school
believe in hope
I had been searching for hope in the chaos of my life…but it was Hope that found me

Yes, I thought to myself. I could lift people up. I could rescue them…little did I realize, I was the one still in desperate need of rescuing. You see, I went to Oklahoma, thinking I was going to save people.

In reality, it was Christ who led me there because I needed to be saved—from destructive behaviors, from unhealthy mindsets, and from a whole lot of brokenness.

group photo_during
Our cleanup and disaster-relief crew – we all need a support team around us to make it in life. We weren’t meant to be alone.

Stay tuned for the conclusion on Thursday….

Review of Craft

If you’re hungry, you might want to turn back. Seriously, the food pics below might just make your mouth water.


Craiova is a little city west of Bucharest. They have botanical gardens, a water park, and a huge green park designed by French architect Edouard Redont. There’s a jogging trail, a lake, a suspended bridge, a hippodrome, and a lot of great scenery for picture-taking. If you’re into shopping, Craiova has a modern mall, an open-air market, and plazas with shopping and restaurants. We even found an eclair shop!

We went to Craiova to visit friends and to serve with a ministry (I delivered toys and food to families in need, and we ended up visiting some Roma churches). It was a great experience, but there are some things you’ll need to know before you plan a trip there.

First, you’ll need to plan accordingly. We traveled to Craiova from Brasov (Transylvania) and realized there was no direct route by train. We had to pass through Bucharest, which was fine by us. They have Left Luggage at Gara de Nord, and the rail station is nearby to my Unchiul’s house. We were able to stop in and have an early dinner with him at Beijing Garden (BEST Chinese food I’ve ever had in my life) before our late afternoon train departed.

Overall, it was a very long day of traveling: 3 hours from Brasov to Bucharest, our 2-hour layover in Bucharest, then 4 more hours to Craiova.

TIP: Be sure to book a First Class ticket on the train, especially during the summer. The price doesn’t go up a whole lot, and the extra lei is worth it. The train to Craoiva is slow, can get very packed with commuters, and it can be very hot and stuffy. You’ll want that extra space to breathe, as well as for your belongings. And if you’re lucky, the air conditioning will work in the First Class cabin, but no guarantees. We’ve ridden First Class when the A/C works well, and other times where it works poorly – but it’s always worth a shot.

A lot happened in Craiova, and there will be some reviews coming shortly that — well, aren’t my usual, glowing reviews (sneak preview of those below). Even so, our experience was awesome and we love our friends there, so we will definitely go back.

One of the highlights of this trip was a restaurant called Craft. The food was phenomenal, the drinks were very unique, and the atmosphere was magnifique.

I ordered the pork steak with mashed potatoes and a side of butter pickles. This dish was fantastic! The cream sauce was buttery and offset the pork perfectly.

pork

Chris ordered the seafood pasta, which I was a little bit leery of because Craiova is nowhere near the sea. But I have to say, it tasted very fresh. His portion size was also substantial (not uncommon in Romania!), and his Romanian wine complemented the dish very well.

I was impressed by their presentation, the trendy feel of the menu, and the modern atmosphere. The waitstaff was excellent, too. We are accustomed to waiting a long time for our food when we’re in Romania (it’s not uncommon for staff to forget about us or mix up our order). HOWEVER, the waitstaff at Craft was incredible and the service was fast. We were in and out in about one hour.


Kay’s Score

number of Backpacks is based on a scale of 1 to 5

Food: 5 Backpacks – absolutely incredible; couldn’t have asked for better quality or flavor

Atmosphere: 4 Backpacks – would’ve been a 5, but I love bustling spaces for meals out (reader, keep in mind: we were there at an odd hour in the middle of the week)

Service: 5 Backpacks – fantastic service; very attentive waitstaff

Price: 4 Backpacks – the drinks were about average, but the food was lower than I was expecting (especially for what we got)

Overall Experience:  5 Backpacks – this was my overall experience, and I cannot wait to go back!


Sneak Preview

Here’s a sneak preview of some upcoming reviews I’ll be posting….

waterpark - filing complaint
Why are we filling out a complaint form at the water park? (Those are our friends speaking to the staff about a very, um – unexpected – incident I walked in on.)
20190605_213420
Sooo…Chris and I might’ve gotten scammed at this restaurant in the mall’s food court. I’ll explain what happened in the review.

Stay tuned for what should be some interesting reviews…

 

kay exploring
When Kay’s not writing, you might find her feeding homeless people, exploring ancient churches and basilicas, or aimlessly wandering around the cities she adores. She especially loves to wander around Bucharest at night, and she’ll never refuse a late-night stroll down Brasov’s Strada Republicii.

The End of Writer’s Block

This is a poem I wrote July 3, 2012 when I had a bad case of writer’s block. I had no shortage of poems back then, but I couldn’t make any progress on my manuscript no matter how hard I tried:

The End

Every word is a puzzle
I struggle to speak
Every thought or idea
Slips out of my reach
I stumble, I fumble
I can’t find my feet
The letters escape
And my pen skips a beat
When all that I want
When all that is mine
Is summed up in perfectly
Haphazard lines
The flow seems to stop…
Stop. No, it won’t come again
A passion evicted
A gift’s fatal end

Now, seven years after the writer’s block set in, God has lifted that block and given me fresh, new inspiration for my fiction writing. My first book, which is set in Romania, is now finished (I’m waiting on some feedback from my critique partner before I start seriously submitting to agents), and I’m nearly halfway through the first draft of the sequel, which is set in Paris.

To celebrate these incredible milestones, I thought I would post the above poem. It was written from a place of frustration and hopelessness. A year later, I met Hope. His name is Jesus, and He has been so good to me.

This is a poem, filled with hope, that I wrote for Him – and I wrote it even when I had the writer’s block. Because my identity isn’t in my writing. It’s in Him. And He was good to me, even when I couldn’t do the thing I felt I was created to do.

This Great Love

My heart is breaking
Tenderly
Gently o’er the rolling seas
Gently and with perfect ease
In this great Love
You have for me

Break my heart, Lord
Perfectly
Whispering, You speak to me
Singing, slowly, shaping me
In this great Love
You have for me

Touch my heart, Lord
Mercifully
Draw me out o’er stormy seas
Draw me out – say: Come to Me.
For if I fall, You’ll carry me

In Your great Love, God
Do not wait
Please don’t ever hesitate
For I might doubt, and I might speak
And I might pause with shaky knees
But I can fight, Lord
I won’t sink
I won’t run away from Thee
I will stay, Lord
I can’t flee
From this great Love
That’s calling me
From this great Love
Awaiting me
From this great Love
You have for me