Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting caught up!

Yes, I have been pathetic at blogging and keeping everyone up-to-date (thanks for reminding me Ryan Woolsey...haha), but now I’ve turned a corner! Just this morning I FINALLY got caught up on my receipts and finances since the first of the year! That has been looming over my head since I moved in to my new place and I can’t tell you how great it feels to get caught up with that. Now it’s on to my blogging and my many emails and facebook comments/msgs I need to respond to.

This has been a great time leading up to Easter Sunday. I have spent a bit more time focused on reflecting and realizing what it REALLY means to celebrate Easter. Maybe it’s been better that I haven’t been around all the commercialism of the holiday. Germans still celebrate it but not near the way we do in the states. Many stores (and families) decorate, but it doesn’t seem to be as...I’m not really sure of the right word....obnoxious maybe? I don’t have people giving me Peeps or Jellybeans every time I turn around and I don’t have all the crazy green fake grass in my house that I’ll find the lasts of in November. Many of these “distractions” that I just described, I actually LOVE, but they simply take me away from the focus of what this season is all about for me. And that’s why I’ve liked it this year...I can focus!

One of the most challenging things for me in my preparation for Easter came from the book of Luke. It was after Peter claimed that he would never deny Christ and then proceeded to do it 3 times on the same night just as Jesus said would happen. Following his 3rd denial and the rooster’s crow, it says in Luke 22:61, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” I wonder what Peter saw in Jesus’ eyes. I wonder if it was compassion...sadness....disappointment...forgiveness...hope...love. And I wonder what Jesus saw as he looked in Peter’s eyes. Was it fear....sadness....disappointment....embarrassment...brokenness?

It got me thinking....as I make mistakes and mess up, as I deny Christ with either words or actions, what do I see as I look His direction? And what does he see as he looks my way? Sometimes in my humanness, I believe he looks at me with only negative eyes....with eyes full of despair, disappointment, hurt, sadness, the impossibility of me being 100% faithful. And many times I trick myself into thinking that the only thing his eyes communicate is the disappointment he must have in me. But the end of the story is not in the look that Jesus gave Peter nor is it in the look that I feel he is giving me. The end of the story comes as the rest of the weekend unfolds...

The day after “the look”, Jesus says, not with his words but with his actions, “Peter, no matter what you think you interpreted by what you saw in my eyes last night, I’m doing this so that you need no interpretation. My actions shout that I love you. That I forgive you. That I will suffer for you. That I will rise again and give you hope. And that you will be able to be restored.” No matter what I think I see as I look Jesus’ way after I fail him, I am reminded that as he hung on the tree, that one display of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness could never be misinterpreted. And that is what I’m grateful for this year. I’m grateful that Jesus turns and looks straight at me but then in the case that I might interpret the look incorrectly, he also reminds me that he loves me and that, because of him, I have hope.

Hope, love, and forgiveness....what a great time of year!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Life without internet

This time I actually have a valid excuse for not having written a blog in so long...

I just spent 6 weeks involuntarily going back in time to experience what life was like pre-internet. I registered for the internet on January 26 and after 3 attempts to have someone come install it and 6 weeks later, it was finally installed. But now I’m back online and I’m attempting as best I can to get caught up!

The past 6 weeks of living in a new place on my own again has been a joy....frozen pizzas have once again become routine and I’m so thankful for that....not b/c they’re just simply so easy, but b/c they are cheap and I absolutely love them. Old friends have come for visits and have since left. New friends have come and used my place to have brunch, dinner, movie nights, coffee time. Relationships are being built and are being deepened each and every day. I am so thankful for my new place opening up so many opportunities.

The acclimation to the culture and language are progressing nicely. Of course there are frustrating hours, days, or even possibly weeks, but overall I am very pleased with the progress I’m making. It’s hard to try to adequately describe what I’m going through here with the language, but as I tried to explain it to a friend the other day and this was the best way I could explain it....

Many times I feel like I’m handcuffed at the mouth. I think about prisoners who have experienced full freedom but are currently handcuffed forcing them to only observe others experiencing the full joy of freedom while they are restricted. That’s the way I feel....only of the mouth. I know what it’s like and I have experienced being to be able to communicate thoughts, to share feelings, words of encouragement, prayers, etc with one another. And yet there are so many times here that I witness others experiencing the joy of being free to vocalize their full thoughts while I sit with my own thoughts in my head completely unable to experience the full joy of communication I once knew. Sure I can communicate a little, just as someone handcuffed is partially free. But I long for the time when I’m completely free. I long for the time that I can communicate without restrictions. And I know I’m on my way.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

More important things!

It seems I’m on par with my once-a-month blog....seriously, what is my problem?! I need to be doing this more. And the sad thing is I actually enjoy it...I just don’t do it often enough!

I know that many of you are waiting to hear and see new pictures of my new apartment but that will have to wait for two reasons. The first reason is that I’m not officially moved in just yet. I purchased all of the big items from IKEA (what a stressful day that was) and got it all in my apartment (thank goodness for my supporters because I was able to save my back by paying other men to bring the 2,000+ pounds of boxes up the 104 stairs). Now i’m just in the process of putting it all together. And the guys building my kitchen will be here on Thursday to do that. Thank you Lord!

The second reason you’re gonna have to wait for pictures and hear more about is because there are more important things going on right now. This past week was a tough one for the world. On Monday of this past week, the Church of God (and many around the world) mourned at funerals of two of the great missionaries that have paved the way for me. Susan Hardman dedicated her life to the work of the Lord in Asia and her legacy will forever live on. I had met her once or twice but the stories that were told of her is what I’ll remember...and I hope that I’ll be able to make a fraction of the difference that she was able to make many people’s lives around the world!

Bob Clark was the the other former missionary that passed away. Bob and his wife Fran were not only former missionaries to India and Bangladesh, but they were financial and prayer supporters and friends of mine. Bob’s love for people, passion for the lost, and desire to help out at any given moment are things that I will always remember about him. I won’t ever hear of India or Bangladesh without thinking of Bob. Thanks for making a difference Bob and Susan!

The day following the funerals of these two saints in the Church of God, the little precious county of Haiti was rocked with an earthquake of tragic proportions. I had the privilege of traveling to Haiti this past July to work with a children’s camp in Callabasse, Haiti in partnership with the House of Blessings Children’s Home (HOB). HOB (www.haitihouseofblessings.org) was started over 20 years ago by good friends of mine, Phil and Lonnie Murphy. As I read news reports from the earthquake my mind went straight to those kids’ smiling faces and to the heart of the Murphys. After talking to Phil on the phone I found out that the orphanage had not sustained terrible damage and the kids were all safe...

But bad news was still there. Francky, the husband of the director of HOB (Tonia), was in Port-au-Prince when the quake hit and not been heard from. Two days later after many prayers from people all over the world, Francky had been heard from and he was safe. Let me briefly share with you his story, told by Lonnie on Facebook:

“Francky was in town for his Biblical studies class and the vehicle he was driving had some problems, so he did not go to class. He was at the garage when the earthquake hit. He said that the school building collapsed and the Pastor friends he took to class have perished. He said 40 plus are dead from his class. He is back in Callebasse tonight.”


As excited as I was, I couldn’t help but think of the families of the ones who weren’t so fortunate. My mind raced with questions for God....“Seriously God? The poorest country in the western world? Why? Why them? Why take from people who have absolutely nothing to begin with?” He calmed my heart by reassuring me that HE was God and I am not! He reassured me while my tears were falling, He felt my hurt. He heard my words. He knew my heart. I want to say that I’m totally at peace about it now, but I’m not....Phil (a great friend of mine) is getting on a plane today with a broken heart. Many people he spent so much time working with, talking with, playing games with, ministering with, sharing life together with in Haiti are in need. Many of his friends have not survived or have not been heard from. And he’s getting on a plane headed towards a disaster zone and he’s already worn out mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Meanwhile his wife, Lonnie, sits at home trying to orchestrate things from Lake Wales....emotions keeping her from adequate sleep and hurt and anguish that are constantly ripping her heart apart. Am I at peace knowing my friends are going through this and knowing that people that I have personally met are going through such torturous pain? NO WAY! Truthfully, I’m kinda glad I’m not at peace right now....I’m glad I feel pain for my friends. I’m glad that when they hurt, I hurt...when they cry, I can shed tears for them as well. And as they rejoice, I have the freedom and the opportunity to celebrate with them. Unfortunately right now there’s very little rejoicing going on.

I know that you can’t know what a mountain is if you’ve never seen it from the valley and this past week has started many of my friends on a journey in the “valley”. My prayer is that I’d walk alongside them and the One who’s rod and staff can comfort us in this valley until we all make it to the mountain again.


P.S. If you want to give to Haiti, I would suggest giving to House of Blessing. Check it out at www.haitihouseofblessings.org

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My New Crib

video

Here's a video that I did so you can see my new flat (European word for "apartment"). Looks like I'll be moving in the beginning of 2010!s

Monday, November 30, 2009

What a month

Guten Tag Fruende!

The past month has been one of many adventures. Too many websites to mention have been scoured through to find the perfect place to call my next ‘home’ with no luck to this point. But that’s okay. I know that there is a place out there for me, and thanks to the generosity, grace, and caring hearts of the Philips family, I am not in urgent mode and do not have to “settle” for a place that is not the best.

On the 17th of November I began German language school at the local Volkshochschule (Adult Education Center). I surprised myself with how well I did the first day. The class is taught entirely in German and I understood quite a bit. It seemed as if I understood more in my first day of German classes than I did after 2 weeks of Hungarian lessons. I felt like I was on cloud 9.......until the second day.

The day after my first German class, I flew to Budapest, Hungary for a (Wed-Sun) retreat for all of the ChoG Global Missions Employees within our region (Middle East/Fmr Soviet Union/Europe). It was a joy to be able to spend some time with teammates and co-workers and get to know their stories even better. And to be back in the city that I called ‘home’ for 2 years was absolutely amazing! I feel like I’m home when I’m in Budapest. Navigating the city streets, public transportation, and stores almost seems like 2nd nature. The language on the other hand is much more difficult. But I actually surprised myself with how much I could recall. But then reality hit....I needed to go back to German class with my head full of Hungarian.

So, back to the second day of classes.....while it was only my second day, it was everyone else’s fourth. Exactly one week had passed since I was last there and I had missed 3 classes in a row due to the retreat. First thing in the morning my teacher asked me, in German of course, how my conference was in Hungary. I knew it was going to be a long day of classes when I answered, in Hungarian, not German, ‘It was very very good. I was there from Wednesday until Sunday and I enjoyed the city a lot. And the Christmas market....it was beautiful“. From that point on, I couldn’t switch the Hungarian off. I didn’t realize I knew so much until I was told to say stuff in German and the only thing that would come out was Hungarian.

Things settled down quite a bit after that and I’m back into the flow of things now. It’s back to class again tomorrow for me to start week 3.

I sit here now stalling to get back to work (oh how I hate you ”die, der, und das“). I hope and pray you had a blessed and restful Thanksgiving! My Thanksgiving will be my next blog....hopefully before a month goes by again!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Words on the page

(Before I get on with other stuff, I want to share good news....I was able to obtain my residency (that process was MUCH simpler here than in Hungary) and have an appointment on Thanksgiving Day to get my visa...now, onward)

The moving process is a difficult one at times. Or maybe it’s not that difficult but it’s just MAJOR time consuming and at moments you feel like you get nothing accomplished. These past 2 weeks that I’ve been in Germany have been like that for me.

I was just asked the other day by a good friend (WHAT’S UP TAM?!) what it was that I was actually doing during the days. That’s a great question. I told her (and I’ll tell you now) that the best way I can describe it right now is for you to imagine yourself in the midst of writing a long research paper in college. You spend hours upon hours researching things on the web or checking out and reading books from the library, and then organizing all your research but you’ve yet to write a word on a page for the actual paper. You might feel like you haven’t accomplished anything because there are no words on the screen to show your work, but in reality you’ve done a lot. That’s how I feel each and every day here. I KNOW things are getting done, I just don’t have much to show for it right now.

So what have I done since I got here? I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit slowly inching my way to a carpal tunnel specialist’s office as I sit behind my computer researching things. Each day I look at the new apartments being listed...that shouldn’t take much time should it? Well, no, if you can read the apartment descriptions and you know where all of the German-named streets are in Berlin. I, however, do not speak German yet, so my plan of action is the same for each day....
1) search for apartments in Kreuzberg (the district that I’m going to live)
2) out of those, I copy and paste the address of each apartment into googlemaps.com to see where it’s located in Kreuzberg in relation to where we are going to focus
3) if it is close to our geographical focus, then I click on the apartment’s link which takes me to a detailed description of that certain flat...in German of course (“flat” is European word for apartment)
4) I cut that flat’s description’s web-address, navigate to translate.google.com, and paste the web-address there in order to translate the description from German to English
5) And I do that for each flat....VERY TIME CONSUMING AND FRUSTRATING!

Sidenote: The other thing you need to know about the way flats are rented out here is that when the owner (or rental agency) is going to show the flat, they announce it and EVERYONE who is interested shows up at that announced time....there are no private tours of the flats. So it’s very common that you are going to see this flat at the same time as 10 other people who are interested. It’s a very competitive process!

Other research that has been done besides looking for flats?....figuring out which mobile phone company I want to go with (and plans are NOT set up the same here as they are in the states), which bank to bank with, which language course I can enroll in (depends on where I’ll eventually live which of course I don’t know yet!). And again, all these pages are in German so the same process happens with trying to translate it all.

So, just like researching for your big paper, work here is getting done....I just don’t have any words on my page to prove it just yet. The important thing for you to know is that this does not discourage me because I know that this is the process. At the same time I hope it doesn’t discourage you because you aren’t ‘seeing results’. You and I both need to get used to that though, because many times “results” are not quantifiable in the type of work I’ve been called to! So you may not see it....but things are getting done and I’m encouraged!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Flashback

I’ve forgotten many things about living overseas. I’ve forgotten what it really means to be 6 hours ahead of my family and friends....and EST television shows. Of course I told everyone that I would be that far ahead, but it didn’t really hit home until I was here and I had to calculate the 6 hour difference and how it meant that my day changes b/c I can’t just call people whenever I want. Or maybe, like last night, I have to wake up at 2:15 in the morning to catch a Colts football game that I really want to see.....one of the downfalls of being overseas.

Another thing I forgot is just how tiring it is living in a different culture. I love it, but it’s tiring! And I’m not just talking about jet-lag. In fact, I don’t even know that I really experienced jet-lag this past weekend. No, instead it’s the mental fatigue that displays itself as physical fatigue as I concentrate on every word that is spoken trying to understand every little detail. I remember going through this in Hungary, but being back in a culture I’m familiar with and a language I speak, read, write, and understand at the fastest of paces, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to try to get my mind to take the normal speeds of life and slow it down to an understandable rate. It’s nearly impossible when you don’t know the language, but it’s a mental thing that I just can’t turn off....I have to know what’s going on and I have to learn the language. And the only way I’m going to learn the language is to practice practice practice. So along with the practice will come mental fatigue....and it’s amazing to me how mental fatigue can become a gateway to physical and emotional fatigue as well. So, in the upcoming days/weeks/months/year(s) I expect to be tired....ALWAYS....and to rest up...OFTEN....but to NEVER give up or throw the towel in as I strive to live out this exciting adventure!