Tuesday, December 23, 2008
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus as he entered the human world in a humble setting but with a powerful purpose: to save us. The One True God put himself among us to understand us, to take on our punishment for sin even though he was faultless, to die in our place, and to beat the power of sin and death once for all by rising from death.
And he is victorious today and with us . The events that were determined before the creation of the world and that played out in Bethlehem and Jerusalem are relevant to us today, because--wonder of wonders--God is still with us. He will not abandon us in the midst of our busy lives or shortcomings. Jesus still offers himself as the savior and advocate for you and for me.
Who would make a better advocate than one who has been there and understands? This part of God's character and love is always so special to me; perhaps it is even more significant as I feel separation from many whom I love. Immanuel. Amazing. So, merry Christmas! Celebrate during this festive season and all year through, whether you feel close to God or drifting. Take heart: our God is with us.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
You are amazing. Really.
This is a shout out to my dear friends in the States who have been my encouragers, examples, sounding boards, prayer warriors, hosts, package-senders, YouTube-posters, partners in this life and ministry. Daily little moments on the street, in the classroom, or at home will spark countless memories of YOU and your kindness to me. I miss you but am thankful for our friendship that spans the ocean.
This gratitude overwhelms me so often, but I've not expressed it enough. So, today's entry is just for you. THANKS!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Day 18: Immanuel--the "with" of God--deserves my awe and certainly my thanks. In Jesus, we can have eternal life. "And this is eternal life: that they may know the one true God and Jesus Christ, whom you sent." John 17:3 As I study the book of Isaiah and the prophecies leading up to the birth of Jesus here on earth, I am again amazed by the God who really knows me and lets me know him.
Day 19: Looking forward with anticipation builds excitement and joy. Kristen and I have been planning our long weekend together for a month now. Today, I just enjoyed the possibility and the looking forward.
Day 20: Skype and webcams made this holiday far from family not so far after all! What a great invention. I'm also thankful for the Langs, Yaikos, McLemores, Custers, and Olsens for sharing Thanksgiving (and all their adorable kids) with me.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I had a marvelous time this weekend in the first fluffy, juicy, beautiful snows of Budapest. When I saw the flakes swirling, I grabbed my coat and hat and headed downtown. There is no way I looked like a native in the snowfall; an idiotic and totally sincere smile was beaming from my face even as flakes flew into my eyes. I strolled around in the dying sunlight until the glow of streetlights against the snow amplified my silly grin. St. Istvan's Bascilica was a vision blanketed in white. Fellow pedestrians' images were softer as the snow diffused their silhouettes. The only component missing from this winter wonderland was the Christmas lights that are as yet unlit around town. Soon enough, they will add even more charm to the city.
Sunday, as I recovered from my icy outing, I appreciated the heat filling our flat. First, I recognized that many people do not have this luxury, and I needed to continue giving away coupons to the local shelter. Second, I enjoyed how cozy it got without becoming stifling. In these communist-era buildings, the heat for the whole building is turned on by one master switch, however, I can adjust the level in my room.
Wow, I'm almost finished with these 20 days of gratitude. May the attitude of thanksgiving continue after the holiday has passed!
Friday, November 21, 2008
And I typed this entry from my bed: another benefit of the laptop!
Happy Friday everyone.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Why? Because after hearing the exciting news of a fire drill during class by which they could avoid class, these kids followed directions and the request to "lead the younger students out" perfectly. They were silent out of the classroom, silent down the hall and stairs, silent across the street, silent walking by a cute dog, silent in the mass of high school students. Silent as asked.
Today, I'm thankful for the amazing students we have at ICSB--silent in the hall, singing in the musical, or otherwise. The quiet fire drill was just a reminder.
Tuesday, I enjoyed the ride home with a fellow citydwelling teacher. In the scope of those twenty-two minutes, we dove into an honest, introspective, and lively conversation. We discussed relationships, the joys and tensions of living overseas from our passport countries, and plans for the coming day. Ahhh, and home I go.
Wednesday, I ran into the same friend at an Indian restuarant. That's right: indian cuisine in Hungary. We live in a small world. Anyway, I got to share dinner with five other teachers from ICSB as we celebrated one's birthday. Not only was the company and the atmosphere just charming, but so was my adventure getting there.
We met up in a section of town that I had never discovered before. It was so fun to arrive on my own after a bit of exploring in the dark. No worries, the streets are well lit; they have to be since it's dark at 4:00 these days! Christmas displays were in a lot of decor shop windows (another thing I've never seen before) and the street light poles are wrapped with unlit lights that promised a beautiful season to come. The Indian restaurant we went to was gorgeously decorated with silk-like pillows with beading, etc in Indian style on the benches around the walls. Our group got this little loft area to ourselves. Ordering was fairly comical, because the waiter didn't really speak a lot of Hungarian (most of our group has studied quite a bit of the language) or English. The menu was in HU and English with Indian names for the dishes. It worked out in the end with pointing. :) What a great evening.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Last week as I gave my testimony, a story of God's work in my life, the details of my extremely premature birth came to light again. It is always good to be reminded of God's faithful care over me and his perfect plan these 27 years.
Just as I marvel at the biology of babies, I'm reminded of the true life, the new life that my Heavenly Father gave me: a life without condemnation, a life with power and purpose, a life with joy and love, a life for eternity all possible because of Jesus' sacrifice and Lordship. It's a miracle.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1:3-4
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:4-5
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Humor is a great gift for which I am grateful today.
A cheerful heart is good medicine... Proverbs 17:22a
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Since moving to Budapest, I've lived with a family, a nursing professor, and now--more permanently--a young Hungarian woman. My, how things change when you add another human being to the mix! There have been moments of rough transition, cultural misunderstandings or assumptions, and surprise as I adjust to sharing life with Zsuzsi. I can only imagine her perspective as she has welcomed this American into her quiet flat.
Zsuzsi has offered so much as I settle into this life. Her presence--though sometimes still a surprise--encourages me and teaches me. She is a bridge to the Hungarian culture and a fellow traveler on this narrow road (how's that for a mixed metaphor?). I hope to offer the same edifying friendship to her, too.
As difficult as it is from time to time to live in close proximity to other human beings, I value and respect Zsuzsi and the life lessons I'm learning from sharing a flat with her. For her, I'm thankful.
Friday, November 14, 2008
In the broken relationship between a holy God and people who chose their own mistakes over His better plan, the only one with the position and power to fix it was God Himself. Jesus Christ--God the Son--came into the world of men to live among us, to experience the same struggles, to offer himself as the innocent "guilty" one in our stead, to die a terrible death, to come to life again victoriously, and to be the totally understanding and perfect representative in Heaven.
He has not chosen to save me from a distance, brush off my hurts or struggles with the cosmic sweep of a hand, and pretend everything is fine. Jesus is my intimate redeemer. He knows and loves me. He has saved me completely, powerfully, personally and will continue to deal with the real life issues with me. What a marvel!
It is such intimacy, closeness, reality with God that gives me comfort, identity, power and purpose in this life. The passage in Philippians 4 continues with the admonition not to be anxious. How is that possible? Remember, "the Lord is near." There is the security, the comfort, the foundation to combat worry.
The greatest gift and most profound truth for which I can be thankful is such a personal God, an up-close savior.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Today, Wednesday, there was a sweet surprise in my school mailbox: a letter from my maternal grandparents! How sweet they are to send me news from home, reflections of daily life, and words of encouragement. I've rarely seen these grandparents as often as I'd like, but they are so faithful to check in with me.
I am thankful for the enduring love of family and the perfect timing of a letter.
And why was this morning the perfect moment to receive a note? Well, responsibilities and opportunities rarely spread themselves out evenly in life. So many great things are coming up in the next couple of days, that when I thought of all I needed to do this morning, a wave of panic threatened to capsize my little life.
I have so much to do! How will I be most effective in a specific class today? How was I during that evaluation? What if I can't get it all done? I have to be better. Notice a pattern in the panic? I was the center of the problem.
But then, the reality of God struck me. He is the amazing King of the Universe. He calls me his child. He has given me life and his very Spirit. He brought me to Budapest. He created me to be an English teacher. He knew what today and tomorrow would hold before time began. He loves my students and colleagues more than I do and will not let me mess things up too badly. He asks me to join him in life, not to do it alone. He walks beside me in the "yoke". He has a plan that will not fail.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I am so very thankful for the peace that he gave today and the hope he gives for tomorrow.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
Today, as I stood at the bus stop and the temperature dropped, I was very thankful for my scarf and all the others like it in my drawer at home. :) Friends have made me these scarves. One is a souvenir of Andrew's and my trip this past summer. All of them keep out the brisk, cool breeze. They are nice to have (and fairly "European-" looking).
And then I got out of the cold weather and onto a warm bus that took me exactly where I needed to go. Public transportation is a marvel to this small town girl.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I am thankful for the chance to teach at ICSB.
More refreshment came as Kristen invited me over for dinner. Fellowship, humor, and really good food were topped off with absolutely fantastic cinnamon hot chocolate and apple crisp. I haven't eaten so much or so well in quite a while. Thanks, Kristen and Kacie!
And so, the second point of gratitude? Chocolate, of course.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
First, I was studying Isaiah 2:1 through 4:6 at Gloria Jean's today (per my new Sunday tradition), and was extremely moved by the mercy of God. Isaiah is a book of the Bible that addresses the future of Jerusalem and Judah in particular as well as the (then)future Messiah. Isaiah chapters 2-4 deal with how people try to build up their own security, vanity, power, and even their own gods but how when the true God's majesty is displayed everything else will be embarrassingly ridiculous. People will be brought low; now how could I be grateful for that? Well, in chapter 4, I see that God offers a judgment that cleanses those who trust him. His discipline brings holiness, fruit (a biblical word for the produce or result of something), and true security beyond the things of men. I am so thankful for a God who accepts me as his child. I haven't earned his love--in fact, he loved me before I knew him--and now he is cleaning me up.
I'm thankful for a God who sees my flaws, loves me in spite of them, and loves me too much to ignore them. He's offering mercy that cleanses, strips away the junk, and makes me new. That's real love!
Second, and without any graceful transition other than after the study of Isaiah at Gloria Jean's, I got off the tram and was instantly surrounded by...Christmas lights!! I know, it is really early for Christmas lights. Sorry--I LOVE white lights. The körút (a main street that forms a ring around Budapest, literally the "round road") is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. One whole block is twinkling with soft white lights around trees and hanging from light poles. A scene like this is so charming and inviting and magical and romantic. The joy that was in my heart from the love of God just overflowed into raw happiness as I turned slowly in a circle and took in the lovely scene.
I am thankful for Christmas lights!
Okay, I'm three days in. Practicing the lifestyle of thankfulness is great! What are you thankful for?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The first thing for which I'm thankful on this, the second day of my "20 Days of Gratitude" is the opportunity for rest and reflection. (I'm thankful for the smaller things, too, like coffee, candles, a laptop, a couch, books, etc.)
Secondly, I'll soon be enjoying the amazing hospitality and culinary skills of several families from the International Christian School of Budapest. A group of families has gotten together and planned a lovely Korean dinner for the teachers tonight. Since this is my first year, I am eagerly anticipating my introduction to this particular cuisine.
Thank you, thank you, Korean families for loving us in this way! Jó étvágyat! (Enjoy the meal!)
Friday, November 7, 2008
I'm thankful for my enthusiastic students: 8th graders, freshmen, and seniors.
Three friends from the States sent e-mail this week. They are faithfully checking in with me, sharing life, and letting me know that I'm loved. God has made us to need each other and work better together; these friends contribute to the work that happens here in Hungary.
I'm thankful for faithful friends and ministry partners.
God provides for my every need at just the right time. Just this week, I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount and significance of work for which I was responsible and feeling a bit disconnected from friends. At this time, as I surrendered control and asked for supernatural assistance, God delivered big time! He always accomplishes the work He starts--in me, in relationships, and in my students.
I'm so thankful for these gifts from a loving Heavenly Father.
And you? What are you thankful for today?
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The American holiday and tradition of Thanksgiving is in 20 days! As I try to be more intentional about living a life of gratitude and prayer as well as posting on my blog, I've decided to adopt twenty days of gratitude. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, I'll post a few things for which I'm thankful. You are very welcome to join me!
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Psalm 105:1
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
ICSB is accredited through ACSI (Association of Christian Schools, International) and Middle States (something or other) for accountability, recognition as a quality school, and easy transfer of our students' credits to universities around the world. Our accreditation will expire/be renewed this year. In the meantime, all staff are working furiously--as in intensely, no anger here--on various committees to get paperwork and policies in order. We did have some great free time as well for fellowship, rest, reflection, and coffee. Ah yes.
Click on the picture below for a short slide show of photos.
The same school holiday was busy for many students as well. The Outreach team decided to head into Budapest and perform one of their dramas on a popular shopping street as a way to present the good news of Jesus Christ. They took the initiative and spent a day off doing this. We, as faculty and family, are very proud of our students and pray that God continues to challenge and bless them as they step out. I love these kids.
Monday, September 15, 2008
First, let me tell you a tale of suspense, confusion, and cell phones. Now, I have been in Hungary for exactly five months today (wow), and I finally have my mobile phone. Because land lines are less popular in Hungary than in the U.S. and because my flat doesn't have a land line, I felt it was wise to get a phone.
Shortly after my arrival here, the kind and conscientious people of Campus Crusade for Christ/New Life Eastern Europe added me to their phone plan and ordered a simple phone. We waited, and then T-Mobile informed us that the specific model was out of stock for a few weeks. No problem; I can wait. Things don't always happen at the speed we would prefer. In the meantime, a family loaned me an old phone they had used in Romania.
We waited for two months. No phone came, so Ancsa offered some similarly discounted phones and I chose one. Another order was placed, and I got on with my summer with language school, visitors, and even travel.
We waited for three months. No phone came. The Campus Crusade for Christ family returned from furlough in the States and needed the phone for their middle schooler. No problem. I've been working on this Hungarian language; I'll just go to a store and buy a phone. Right? No.
Buying phones without plans is possible, but I've discovered this method is extremely expensive--like four times as expensive ($80 or $100 instead of $20). Also, most phones these days are fitted with cameras and MP3 players. I just wanted a simple phone for texting and calling. Dejectedly, I returned home from three different store visits without a phone in hand. Life continued, but I was out of contact with friends and colleagues.
Finally, I decided to ask Campus Crusade to help again. A few e-mails flew around, and several ladies were astonished to discover that I still had not received a phone from T-Mobile. More e-mail and then...a solution. Someone had ordered one too many phones for a department at work and was trying to get rid of it.
Now, it is a simple phone--I was warned--but the price was right: 1,000 forint (or about $6). Incredible! A streamlined, light-weight phone without all the bells, whistles, and hyper-technical options was available and totally within my budget! Perfect! And my sim card (phone number, contacts list, current phone plan) would transfer easily. Done.
After I got frustrated trying to figure it out myself and the process dragged out for months, this is better than I hoped for, the perfect provision from God.
The second instance of God providing for my needs is best presented by the following graph:
This shows the fall of the dollar (the currency in which I'm paid) against the Hungarian forint (the currency with which I operate daily). During the past five months, the dollar plummeted so prices soared for me and other Americans living overseas. For example, my rent went up 13% in two months simply because of the exchange rate.
But, suddenly in the last couple of weeks, I have seen a steady increase in the dollar. After I glumly watched the value of the dollar drop on my laptop screen each morning and cautiously prayed that God would provide during the budget crunch, whoa, did He deliver!
Now, God can and will provide for me even when the dollar goes down, even when the budget gets really tight (right, Kristen?), but this time, He chose to provide by allowing the dollar value to increase. My rent has been "reduced" by about $58, and the price of groceries is roughly back to where it was when I arrived in Hungary, if not a little bit lower.
Life, breath, salvation, purpose, a $6 mobile phone, and a friendly exchange rate...
And it is all thanks to Jehovah Jireh: my Provider.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I hope the weekend will offer a chance to come up for air, reflect, and share specific stories, but for now I'll just let you know that long-awaited pictures from my trip with brother Andrew are now on my photo site. Now, back to work!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
P.S. Krakow is gorgeous, and I've only really explored for a few hours today!
Friday, July 11, 2008
Hungary doesn't shock me. (Well, maybe the police tactics do from time to time.) Typically, I notice differences in culture, tradition, language, but I'm not shocked. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised Thursday by the Immigration Office experience. There are stresses, though, when living in a new place. Today, the specific stressor with which I've battled the most appeared, guns blazing.
I tried to make brownies. Brownies are a treat that every junior high girl in America can make. Brownies are not known to be fundamentally difficult to bake. Until today.
The only real life difficulty that I notice here is located in the kitchen. Ingredients are different--obviously--or nonexistent because they aren't part of the culture. Measurements are different here, because I don't really remember my conversion tables for the metric system and I sold my measuring cups before I moved. :) And, my oven doesn't have a thermostat. All these small differences combined with the fact that I naively try to cook exactly the same as I did in the States make for frustrating moments like when the brownies take 1.5 hours to bake and don't taste right.
The basis of the frustration lies in the starting over, the re-learning of skills I mastered years ago. I've baked treats since I was a kid. Preparing food for myself in the States--while not my favorite use of time--was a daily, undaunting task. Now, even though I step confidently onto the red 7 bus or introduce myself in Hungarian at church, I still struggle with something as simple as food preparation.
In the grand scheme of eternity, kitchen kerfuffles don't mean much, and I appreciate the perspective. I'm so thankful for the perspective. In my current phase of culture stress and transition, though, the kitchen seems to be my biggest obstacle.
(This post is a few days old as I publish it. The poor brownies are still in the pan as though, by some chance, they will improve when I walk by and taste them again. No such luck.)
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Now, I am going to seem a little cheap, but I'd like to direct you to Kristen's blog where she offers an account of our day with PICTURES. I have no such gift to offer. She does a great job of narrating the day.
I let some time pass before sharing this account so that I could assure you that everything has calmed down here in Budapest, and there doesn't seem to be any permanent physical damage to person or building. It was a pretty frightening and unreal experience over which we had no control, but it proved the reality of Psalm 20:6-7. The police may have been out in force--like a small army--but our God is always in control.
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Freedom is a gift for which I am very thankful but that I don't fully grasp because I've never known the lack of it. During my lifetime--and yours, too--the United States has been totally free. Since I was quite young, I've even enjoyed spiritual freedom from sin and death because of Jesus. The people of Hungary have had a different experience.
On my last day of language school, my teacher Bori helped us to translate (roughly) a song that is very significant here. While considering the history, the words, and finally the sounds of this song, I was moved to tears. On a weekend when Americans celebrate independence, I'd like to share this glimpse of the darkness that so much of the world has known.
Please accept this rough translation of the lyrics of Ha én rózsa volnék (If I Were a Rose). This song speaks to the resiliency, pain, and yearning for freedom that surrounded the failed revolution of 1956 against the evil and oppressive Stalinist government, all of which came after Nazi occupation. Then, check out one (or both) of the YouTube links. The first shows some helpful images and also what the Hungarian language looks like. The second is an amazing performance by Koncz Zsuzsa that displays how a Hungarian audience feels about this song.
If I were a rose, I wouldn't blossom just once a year.
Every year, I would blossom four times.
I'd open for the boys, and I'd open for the girls.
For true love and for passing away.
If I were a gate, I would always be open.
From anywhere someone could come, I would let in anybody.
I wouldn't ask: who sent you??
I would be happy if everyone came in.
If I were a window, I would be one so large
that the whole world would become visible.
They would look through me with understanding eyes.
I would be happy if I showed everything.
If I were a street, I would always be clean.
Every blessed night I would bathe in light.
If the tank wheels should crush me
The ground would cry out under me and open.
If I were a flag, I would never flutter.
I would be angry at all kinds of winds.
I would be happy to be tightened/stretched* by them. (image like
Jesus' arms on cross)
I wouldn't be merely a toy for any wind.
YouTube link: song with images
YouTube link: live performance
Sunday, June 22, 2008
This morning at 5 AM I got back home from the gorgeous wedding of Attila and Kara! It is exciting to see how God joins couples together for their good and for bigger purposes. He is so faithful to us, trustworthy, and the giver of perfect gifts: eternal life, grace, peace, joy, friends, love, the desires of our hearts, marriage, singleness, all of it (well, some gifts are mutually exclusive). His plan is the best for us, as was so apparent during the joyful ceremony and reception this weekend.
Now, I've heard jokes from many of you about coming to Hungary and getting married--sorry, I have no insight into this specific idea for you :)-- but for now, I am quite content to appreciate the new marital bliss of friends around me and the gift of singleness.
Congrats to Attila and Kara!
"Haven't you read," [Jesus] replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." ...
Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning..."
The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."
Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." Matthew 19:4-11
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I spent the morning looking for and then working with the customs office to clear my boxes of books, DVD's, etc that would not fit in the two suitcases allocated to each air passenger. After polite customs officers, way too many forint (local currency), and a kind-hearted older man who drove the delivery van, I am now the proud possessor of eight vaguely familiar boxes. (I guess I packed that vase two months ago.)
Now, I've been looking forward to having books to read and movies to watch. Don't get me wrong. That cozy fleece will come in handy this fall. Artwork that used to hang on my walls in Illinois will be welcomed in my new flat. Stuff can be helpful and fun. But now more than ever I am aware of the limits--and often the setbacks--of stuff. Other things are just more important.
Like the kind-hearted man who waited for three hours and carried all my boxes even though I couldn't chat with him in Hungarian, the considerate customs officers who don't have an easy or popular job, my new students, and old friends. Investment in them will never land me in the back of a van and will have an eternal pay-off. So, as I careened backwards through the streets of Budapest (or at least it felt like careening), I got to check my heart's condition. It is nice to have my stuff, but I'll keep my treasure elsewhere.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Thursday, June 12, 2008
On the tram, I usually have my iPod playing something worshipful, upbeat, or instrumental (if I'm studying for the aforementioned language school). God and I have a wonderful time together during the commute as I sing along-- in my head, no worries--and ponder all that is going on.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Yesterday during my commute, I was struck by some lyrics that I've heard a thousand times but that hefted new relevance on the streets of Budapest.
I love anonymity and I love being noticed just the same as anybody else. Years ago I told you how I love to be alone. These days I'd be perjuring myself. -Caedmon's Call
But I must say, "being noticed" as the song continues, or being recognized by someone in the crowd is refreshing, too. To be always the stranger gets tiring. I've felt a bit too foreign or anonymous this week as I've trekked to language school and then headed home to study (or avoid studying). Yesterday, I even had a moment of deep sadness when it seemed that I was on the outside of every social circle here. But then, the God who listens to my brief comments on the tram stepped up and reminded me of truth, of his great love, and of friendships that are forming here.
Still, it may be time for some social interaction! :) Enough anonymity for now. Anyone up for the new Narnia movie?
Saturday, May 24, 2008
As I rode the #19 tram home from language school, a store caught my eye. In the window of this shop, there was a display of shoes that were perfect for wearing around the house. (Let me explain. Shoes are not worn inside homes here in Hungary. I've been slipping around in slipper socks on the tile floors and needing something with a sturdy sole. Anyway, back to Wednesday...)
Entering the store, I acknowledged the shopkeeper with the polite, traditional greeting and began to browse. As he followed me to the display, I turned and told him that I didn't know my Hungarian shoe size. Later, after that mystery was solved by converting from U.S. to European, to Hungarian, to this particular brand's sizing system, the dialogue continued. I asked for a specific color, mentioned that one pair was too small, and assertively stated that I didn't want some decorative options found nearby. Did I mention that this conversation took place completely in Hungarian?? Oh yes, my friends.
Payment followed at the cash register and the cultural understanding continued when I got "Sajnos..." from the young lady there. "Unfortunately..." she couldn't give me smaller change for the bus. This kind but weak -faced statement is very common and not a big deal, but I was thrilled that I understood what was going on.
I have so much to learn about the people, traditions, perspective, and language, but for one day, in one shop, I had victory! After exiting the store, I cranked up my iPod and strolled back to the tram in the evening sunshine. Life's simple pleasures are my favorite.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Here is a snippet of my first Hungarian essay written after only two days of class:
Én Audrey Ooms vagyok. USA-ban, El Pasoban élek, amerikai vagyok. Angolul, kicsi franciául, és kicsi magyarul beszélek. Tanárnő vagyok. Most itt vagyok Magyarországon, és Budapesten magyarul tanulok.
Basically, I'm introducing myself and explaining my current situation as a teacher in Budapest learning Hungarian. There's also a sentence in there in which I discuss the languages I speak or try to speak.
Oh, at lunch time, my classmates and I decided on lunch using Chinese, German, Hungarian, and a little bit of English--such fun--and on the bus this evening, I interacted with a French woman in the three languages I've studied. Quite the day for linguistics in Budapest!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I got to spend the glorious spring day with the English Home Fellowship group from church. I hopped onto a tram to get into the city and rode along the Danube for about 20 minutes. Grins were inevitable as I began to recognize famous sights glistening in the sunshine. After my tram stop (at Battanyi Ter for those interested in the geography of my day), I enjoyed a brisk stroll farther north along the river, across Margit Bridge, and onto Margitsziget (Margaret Island). This island is located in the middle of the river and offers a park or countryside atmosphere for the people of the city.
We spent the afternoon throwing Frisbees, watching children, dogs, and ducks play, and simply enjoying the company from blankets in the grass. Marvelous. After dinner, we rode the metro--yellow line, first underground in continental Europe--to Heroes' Square in the far northeastern corner of Budapest. Believe it or not, we sipped coffee at a Gloria Jean's before the events in the square picked up!
Traditional Hungarian may pole dances, folk music, costumes, and fireworks under the noble obelisks and statues of Heroes' Square seemed a fitting conclusion to the holiday. Though I don't have a grasp of the language yet, I could understand the romance and pride reflected in the performances.
(I was enjoying the evening so much and guarding my belongings so vigilantly from pickpockets that I didn't take any pictures. Night time photos don't typically work well, anyway, but I apologize!)
A long walk down Andrassy street in the rain, a metro ride and two buses later, I arrived at home in Diosd. What a great day to see more of this city that is now my home, interact with people who will be my friends, and appreciate the history and culture of Hungary. Happy May Day!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I am: a child of the King, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a friend
I think: in broken French sometimes and love it
I know: this transition to Budapest will be hard at times
I want: an eternal perspective
I hate: soggy bread
I miss: my family, friends, and dog in the U.S.
I fear: causing harm to others, to the cause of the gospel; misconceptions
I feel: thrilled to be here, content, drowsy
I hear: a slow drip from the shower, an occasional "crackle" from the circuit board over my bed
I smell: residual smoke from the bus line
I crave: a venti, skinny, iced, caramel macchiato
I search: the faces of Hungarians as we try to communicate
I regret: being too sick at the airport to hug my parents soundly
I love: God's Word and His bigger picture through eternity
I ache: with beauty and loss as I stand overlooking big cities that are filled with searching people
I care: about what people think (see "I fear")
I always: want to contribute
I am not: tall.
I believe: worrying offers no benefits
I sing: less than I used to. Why is that?
I cry: at self-sacrifice, attempts at nobility, undeserved kindness, injustice--in life and in fiction
I fight: with myself mostly
I write: rarely since college
I win: Encore! every time
I lose: track of what I'm doin--Oh, something shiny--
I never: comprehend in advance the greatness of what God will do
I confuse: most people with whom I talk for any length of time
I listen: to the conversation happening next to mine sometimes
I can usually be found: at school or a coffee shop
I am scared: of not absorbing Hungarian once my course starts, but I shouldn't. (See "I believe")
I need: to put down roots and build genuine friendships
I am happy about: most things
I hope: to "catch on" quickly here in Hungary
I am tagging: Megan S. and Kim A.--my writing-inclined friends
Friday, April 25, 2008
Jesus said to Peter and then to his disciples
...you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men...If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Peter had just recognized publicly that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of the living God, but when he heard Jesus talking about suffering, death, and resurrection, he pulled Him aside to "encourage" Jesus and let Him know that no such terrible things would happen to Him. Then came the firm reprimand of "Get behind me, Satan" as Jesus recognized the temptation to avoid the crucifixion that would save the world.
Peter saw a terrible situation unfolding and thought that such tragedy would not come to one loved by God. Suffering? Death? Surely not. But the crucifixion HAD to happen in order to fulfill God's promise to keep His covenant with His people and to enable us, sinful as we are, to have an intimate relationship with Him. Peter didn't see what God saw; he didn't have in mind the things of God.
Jesus took this opportunity to teach all the disciples--not just poor, impulsive Peter--about the perspective that is needed. The life of following Jesus would not be easy. In fact, any followers would need to identify with Jesus' shameful, torturous death on the cross. Then came the paradox: losing one's life for God is saving it.
But how can that be? I want to cling to life with both hands. Deny myself? Lose my life? Surely not.
It seems backwards, and that is because I'm looking at it from the wrong perspective. Yes, I must turn over this life to God daily and follow where He leads. I need to deny my sinful self and my plans for life, give up the things of men.
Just as Peter didn't see the glorious results and the coming reign of a crucified Jesus, so it is hard for me to see the perfect plan of God. But look to the end. "Whoever loses his life for me will find it." God's perspective, the eternal one, holds so much more than I can imagine.
Lose the life I might plan, but gain a better one. The Heavenly Father offers abundant life--with meaning, power, and hardship--as I realize that He reigns. This life of mine is His. I shouldn't settle for "the things of men," but yearn for, seek out, focus on "the things of God" that last forever.
Seize eternity. It is more real and all that will last.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Uploading pictures into this blog has not been possible lately, but two small photo albums of some my adventures can be found at my photosite. You'll find a link in the right column.
As a few more days pass, I'll be getting into a routine of sorts, acquainting myself with more of Diosd and Budapest, and reflecting on this big change in life. I'd like to continue to "seize eternity" by seeing the present as God does and also share my lessons with you. For now, I'll just sleep in order to chase away the remnants of jet lag. Rest has its place, too.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Amazed by the welcome.
Addled with jet lag and a bit of the flu.
There is so much to be thankful for from the past six months and from my seamless journey here yesterday...er...this morning, or ...whatever. I'll have to be more descriptive later. Tomorrow may hold the possibilities for some photos, so I'll do my best to include some.
For now, sleeeep.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The mystery of the visa has been resolved and confirmed by the Hungarian Consulate in New York and the Office of Immigration in Budapest. I may enter the country without a visa, as a tourist of sorts, and then apply for the residence permit. Without the delay of bureaucratic paperwork, I am free to leave as soon as possible. So I am.
The truth in all this blur is that I can't understand the abundance and the challenges of this life, and God can. As far as perspectives are concerned, God is in heaven and I am here on earth, so I'll let my words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2 He is trustworthy, wise, and loving, and I've nothing to fear.
So here I go.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
So, we are all navigating the tumultuous waters of a changing world and its bureaucracies. A decision needs to be made soon, though, because if I do need a visa, it will take about a month to process. This is another example of my limited understanding and God's perfect timing.
To buy a plane ticket for early April or not to buy-- that is the question.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own
understanding. Prov. 3:5
This week, I was sharply confronted by this verse. So often, I miss the rich freedom found here and jump to the next verse. My brain is full of wise council, quality training, to-do lists, and cautious planning for moving to Budapest. This is good and so important. It's when I start "leaning" or depending on my finite understanding for support and security that I get into trouble.
Let's be serious; I can't foresee every bureaucratic snafu, cultural discomfort, or anything else for that matter. My understanding is incredibly limited. What shall I do?
I'll trust in the Lord with all my heart! His view is so much better than mine. He sees every moment coming and has accounted for it. I'll lean against God when the consulate adds a new requirement for the visa, when I realize that I don't own any pots or pans anymore but will need to cook dinner, when I say goodbye to loved ones, when I get on the plane to go to a gloriously new place, when I try to love and teach students from all over the world, when I don't know what else to do and when I think I do.
It is when I'm leaning on the Father, relying on Him utterly that I am in the right position to continue as the proverb does.
"In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."
Monday, February 11, 2008
I have reached 90% of my monthly support needs! God is not only mighty to save, but He is more than able to provide for the life He gives me. Loving people have stepped forward to join in this ministry to international students in Budapest, and I've checked my math. The result is 90% exactly!
Wisely, Campus Crusade for Christ requires their staff members to be fully-funded before leaving, so I still have progress to make. I cannot adequately describe the exhilaration of knowing that the total is closer, though. Glee sounds about right.
Please pray that I will finish well what God propelled me to start five months ago: finding ministry partners God is prompting. Also, the logistics of moving had been in the background but are necessary pretty quickly: airfare, visa, shipping of books, a home, etc. Ah, the lovely chaos is breathtaking.
This is getting exciting. Budapest in the spring? May it be so!
Love to you all...
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
In the context of the whole book of Zephaniah, such "might" and "delight" are a glimpse into the awesome character of God.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I'm actually enjoying some cultural discoveries as I complete the paperwork with capital letters in blue ink. For instance, as best as I can understand it, I am referred to by my mother's maiden name instead of my own middle name while in official Hungarian situations. Actually, the Hungarian tradition of name usage is quite different from that of the U.S. and closer to that of some Asian countries, though I can't articulate it very well right now. Next, the state in which I live is of no consequence (or at least does not merit a blank in the address section). This cultural difference may prove tricky since I live in a lesser known El Paso. And finally, I have again been amazed by the linguistic phenomenon that is European people. Three different Hungarian women who hold positions not unlike switchboard operators were able to flit from Hungarian to English with ease in order to answer my visa questions and direct my calls. As a beginner in the study of the Hungarian language, I can assure you that our languages hold nothing in common. Amazing.
And so the visa application and ministry partner development processes continue and the day for departure grows closer, though I can't see it just yet. I hope to continue to see new situations as adventures and different cultures as valid (No negative attribution here!). Ultimately, I realize that I hold no power over governments and bureaucracies, but God has everything under control.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Now, I am to work hard and with sincerity (Colossians 3:23). I should be prepared to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). But I miss the point when I seek things to do over the One to love.
As I study Luke 10:38-42, God's Word confronts me again.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a womanService in love, activities, deeds are good. They are an indicator of faith lived out. They show the world that I belong to Christ. They can be the demonstration of my love for the Father as He saved me by His Son to truly live. Then, such things can become a snare.
named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at
the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all
the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't
you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset
about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Martha loved Jesus, and Jesus loved Martha. She worked to feed a house full of company as His posse came to town. Mary wasn't helping, apparently, but was sitting at Jesus' feet as He taught (revolutionary in that time, by the way). Where did Martha's service become the snare? Verse 40 holds the key: she was "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." She lost sight of why Christ was there.
As this new year has come in with a bang for me, there is much to be done before I can head to Hungary. Once I get there, there will be much more to do. This life is exciting, and it is an honor to live exuberantly for my God. My students need a good teacher who is serious about influencing and preparing them, for example. The danger comes as I get distracted by the things that need to get done.
I need to get back into the habit of being still and knowing that God is God. He is my shepherd, my life, the power by which I live. He loves me, and I love Him. How is the relationship doing? Do I settle for a "to do" list or do I choose the better thing: a seat at the foot of my savior?
There is so much more that needs to be said as I share my lesson with you. I'm getting distracted by my own desire to write clearly and bring you comfort in the character of a relational God. Instead, I'm going to sit, be real with God, get things done, and not worry so much about things that need to get done.
In the battle of life, let's be still and know that He is God. It, or He, is the better thing.