Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Halloween Here Just "The Day of the Dead"

So as children and adults in the U.S eat candy corn and other delicious treats while running around in costumes, Eastern Europe won't be as delightfully interesting. Many Eastern European countries celebrate All Saints Day to honor dead ancestors. This official holiday creates time for the country to visit graveyards, attend family celebrations together and light candles in honor of the dead. In Hungary it's a national holiday so everything shuts down. Tonight I went grocery shopping but the lines were so long, I decided I really didn't need to eat tomorrow.

According to Eastern Europeans who are of the Catholic persuasion, this holiday is a time to pray for your dead relatives to make it to heaven. Basically, Catholics hope that their prayers will help their relatives make it out of purgatory (a place of holding between earth and heaven) and into heaven. There are many customs associated with All Souls Day and in Hungary the day is known as Halottak Napja, "the day of the dead." A common custom is to go to your relatives grave, bringing flowers. It's also a time to stay with family and invite orphans into their family, giving them food, clothes, and toys.

The metro, the streets, the sidewalks, the grocery store were all extremely busy tonight. It was interesting to watch people on the metro and the streets as I traveled to our last English Conversation club before the holiday. People in the city look even more rushed as they prepare for the long weekend with their families. I'm sure people enjoy having a long weekend, but I wonder how much all of this means to them. My Hungarian friend Nori is taking her grandparents to see their relatives graves a few hours from Budapest. They will spend the day there and stay the night with relatives, coming home on Friday. I find all of this very interesting! It's been wonderful people watching today.

Quick Tri Update

After two weeks of being "off" in tri-training -
first week - the Texas team here; extra commitments in the mornings and evenings so no time
second week - went to Krakow and was a chicken - didn't want to venture into Polish communities not having a map and not knowing what I was doing
- I am beginning to get back in the groove this past week and it's been great. I LOVE staying fit. I want to be the old woman in her 70s still taking water aerobics classes or something.

Anyways, my new friend Nona is an amazing resource of information and random tips for tri-training. I'm so glad I found her on a blog and emailed her. She's been amazing!

Today she really challenged me in swimming. We completed a 1/2 mile swim by doing the number of laps (give or take because of the size of the pool). We raced on a few laps, which was great fun and we tied. Granted, she is out of shape compared to her height in triathlon competition so it doesn't really say a lot for my ability at this moment in time, but I hope to follow her on the upswing of her recovery and get in on the benefits of all she's learned over the years.

We also biked it a bit this morning. I still need to get a bike and her husband is going to help me build it out.

So I have three goals at the moment:
1) continue in the groove of tri-training
2) learn Hungarian
3) follow up with all the students we met a few weeks ago and see some great things happen!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Peanut Butter, bananas and quotes

This morning I realized just how much I LOVE the taste of banana chunks smothered in peanut butter. YUM! The Texas team brought a container of my favorite brand - Jif Creamy. I'm truly diggin' it and diggin' in with bananas.

Here's a quote I've been ruminating on especially these last few weeks as I've been "feeling" a lot of different things.

"Our feelings and our experiences are not the sum total of truth.
God’s word is truth and we need to cling to that when what we can observe tells us otherwise."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Krakow Trip

Krakow is an interesting city. The city center is gorgeous. It's a smaller city center but so warm and inviting. I was so impressed and encouraged to see the Every Nation church completely run by national Poles yet started by an American couple, Jeff and Ana Bullock, who are now leading the Budapest team.

I stayed with my Polish friends Diana and Dominika (she's pictured here where we were waiting for trams). Dominika was the first girl who came to believe and trust Christ over eight years ago in Krakow. She's like the Hungarian version of Nori. Wow! It was powerful to hear about her life and see how God is using her to impact many, many other Polish women today. She is one fruitful woman!

One of the highlights of the trip came in the form of a Polish Gospel Choir. My friend Diana was one of the main organizers of this event. She sang a solo and sounded like a "sista". She also was an MC, interpreting from Polish to English. There were over 700 singers in the choir.

The best part of the choir performance was a song that Alek helped sing. He's pictured here if you look closely and as a quadriplegic, he sang a song about God being the strength of his life. Wow. I couldn't hold back the tears. It was powerful to hear him sing it because I know what he goes through just to do the things we easily take for granted. Everything from showering, dressing, brushing your teeth, have to be done with the help of others. So, to hear him sing the solo about God being the strength of his life, I was impacted!

I also had a great time with the Bullock Family. I truly appreciate their family and their input in my life. All around it was an amazing trip.

Show off!!!

My roommate, Anna, is a total show off. Yes, I'm jealous. The girl has only been in Hungary since August and she speaks more Hungarian than me.
I have been taking lessons since I arrived in August 2006. Yep. Pretty much that is just NOT right. Show off!!

She made up this song in Hungarian that I can't get out of my head. It's actually quite catchy and funny. But the funniest thing is that I like to sing it wrong and she corrects me!!! I can't believe it. What a show off!!

I'm laughing as I write this because the girl is crazy. She's sort of from Texas and Florida. That explains a lot. And she has these cowboy boots that she just cut up and is going to make them into a denim skirt. Crazy, creative, and a total show off! She makes me laugh like crazy! I'm so thankful that we are roommates right now......The girl is a show off!!

This week is Fall break for most high school and university students. Guess what my roommate is doing? She's going to live in a village with a family that our friend Peter knows so she can learn the language better and be surrounded by Hungarians. Show off!!! I'm just jealous because I wish I would have thought of the idea first. But she really has the determination to learn this language. It's impressive.

The funny thing is we have been joking because one day this past week when I was marveling at her decision to go to this unknown village she said in Hungarian, "One day YOU TOO can go to the village...." I laughed so hard because she said it with these funny eyes....It reminded me of the kool-aid guy in the states who was kind of crazy and killed himself with a bunch of other people using Kool-aid........My roommate could have said something like "One day Jen, you too can drink kool-aid."

She's killin' me. I don't know. I guess you have to be here to understand that I'm so proud of her, challenged by her.......and yeah. She's a show off!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Life is short and then we die. So live well.

I've found myself a bit emotional this week. I've been thinking about how this life is really short and there's so very much we have to be thankful for every single day. This past week I have realized that on a few different accounts.

When I heard the news that Tennyson died, I was shocked. I wasn't very close to Tennyson but I did get to know him over 7 years ago when we lived in Los Angeles at the same time together for six months. Also, a friend of mine dated him for awhile but they just couldn't seem to work it out, partly because of his bi-polar. Now she is engaged to someone else. This got me thinking about God's sovereignty and how He knows everything and in some ways this was the mercy of God for my friend. It still sucks to think I won't see him again here. And so I've been a bit emotional about it.

My brother is fighting the "witch" fires in San Diego. Seems appropriate as this week is Halloween. I called him through Skype, but he is such an "untouchable" that I didn't get a bad report. I worry when I hear that there have been some firefighters injured. It's his 30th birthday coming up and I'm going to miss it. Looks like HE might miss it too....atleast his party.

Then I think about being here in Budapest. What an incredible time God has opened up for me. I love these Eastern Europeans and I can see how God's hand is at work to move them to himself. I met with Nori tonight as we are talking about building her foundations and wow. It's so exciting to see the hand of God on her life. I LOVE it.

I don't want to have any regrets. I'm trusting that God is going to make my life fruitful and full of life. I'm trusting that His promises are true. When He says that if you leave all to follow Him, He will give you 100 fold back of all you've left -- I'm trusting that this is true. When you truly stop and think about this life it is really really short --maybe 80 years. Then we die. But the question is how do we live? or how then shall we live?

I want to live well, laugh often and love much. This is my life motto.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Rocky Mountains....

I just arrived back from Krakow tonight with a variety of news on a myriad of topics. South Africa won the Rugby Cup. I could have predicted that. I don't know why...just had a feeling. The Red Sox are going to the World Series. I predicted that too. Although I will say that I did have to hold my breath and hope for the best over the weekend. Boston is going on to play Colorado.........Colorado. Why Colorado?

This brings me to the tragic news. A guy friend I knew from Colorado was found on Friday with a note on his body "I can't take it anymore." Tennyson had struggled with bi-polar all his life and had been on medication for it. He was tired of taking the medicine and so he stopped. Some of his friends said for about a week after he got off the medicine he seemed great but then it turned for the worst (which it always does when you're bi-polar).

I don't know how these things work. I would love to study the human body and how all these things work together. I really believe God has mercy on people with mental illness. Yet I'm still pondering this thing...talked to a friend in the states who knew him is still so very hard to see someone as bright and loving make a decision that ultimately affects so many other people around them.

For me I think the moral of the story both with Tennyson and Red Sox is this.....It doesn't matter how dark it may get. Just wait awhile. The sun will shine tomorrow! Things can change in an instant. Even when it's really's usually because dark clouds are hiding the sun.

But I do pray for Tennyson's family and friends, that God would hold onto them and lead them through this tough time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm gonna tri

This morning I met Nona for the first time. She's an American girl married to a Hungarian-Romanian and the "tri" expert I've been hoping to meet who is willing to take me aside and help me with everything.

The crazy thing is this Brooklyn girl was on her bike crossing the Brooklyn bridge last year and involved in a hit and run. It's a miracle she's alive. She's been recovering and wow. Can you believe that? Someone hit her on her bike and left her. Anyways, on her road back to triathlons, she's willing to help "little old me." I'm so glad about that!

Learned a few things today.

1. It will be possible for me to get a bike and not pay an absolute fortune right away. (the key is right away....) Apparently, there is just no way around "trickin'" out your bike as you prepare for the tri....but it's not a priority right now.

2. I've been hitting the 30-45 minute running mark. Apparently, Once you break through this you can just run and run and run....

I will believe that one when I do it!! ha ha.

But Nona also didn't like the running part as much as swimming and biking at first. She said that changed over time and running became her favorite. Interesting. We will see but for now, I just need to keep building a base of running.

3. I'm right where I need to be in training, with perhaps a few things to begin to adjust so that was encouraging.

4. There's a group of runners called the "hashers" who drink and run. No it's not hash and run...but they sound hilarious. It's kind of like adventure running where they mark out a path for you and you have to follow it. In between they have beer breaks. According to Nona, most of those who participate are grumpy Brits in their 40's. I find that hilarious. They end with pizza and more beer after their run. Beer and running. What a funny combination. Apparently, the hashers aren't just in Europe either.

Well, back to training. Not sure what I will do for training while in Krakow. Probably a few neighborhood runs......I'm gonna try to get a few runs in.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A great week (but no tri-training)

So here are some pictures from this weeks events...The Texas team arrived last Sunday so my body hasn't felt the rigors of exercise since Sunday. Sun up to sun down we've been running around Budapest but it's been great. There have been lots of new relationships formed with Hungarians and other internationals in the city.

I have to say that the team from Texas were like a shot in the arm, reminding us that this next year in Budapest is going to be amazing.

Of course the whole idea of getting something free on campus was a big hit and students were willing to hang around for a few minutes to talk with "native" english speakers - especially Texans!

There were a few new girls who came from campus to Thursday nights regular conversation club and really seemed to enjoy themselves!....and one of the best questions asked ...."what's more important money or love and why..." Lots of great insights and thoughts as Dora said, "what's the point in having a ton of money if you have no one to share it with? Money won't make you happy." So true. Thanks for your prayers for all the students we met on campus and in the high school. Seeds were sown. It's going to be great.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thank you, men.

I'm writing this to thank all the men in my life whom I admire and cherish for truly walking in your manhood. A four-pillared man. No, not a monster; a modern day superhero.
a man of character and vision – a king.
a man of strength and power – a warrior poet.
a man of faith and wisdom – a mentor.
a man of heart and love – a friend.

Thank you for being an example of a real man. Thank you for being today's William Wallace, fighting for the honor of women and children through your thoughts, words and actions. It seems to me that shouldering the burden of manliness in this generation is a tough mandate. Choosing to be different and walk in the way of a William Wallace is not a path that gets much applaud these days. So I want to applaud you.

Thank you for broadening your shoulders—and walking in the discipline of heart something unseen but known in your thought life, and allowing your actions to reflect genuine manliness – everything from thinking rightly about women, opening doors, offering to carry things, listening with joy to our stories and being a protector of feminine mystique and dignity.

Barlow Girl's "Guy Song"recently reminded me that this world has tried to discourage and distract you. Yet it's so powerfully attractive and admirable when you live with a bigger purpose than just what teyes can see in the natural. There's something so admirable about a man who does not conform his lifestyle to this world which devalues things of faith and real life. Every time you embrace a way of life that's counter-cultural, by what you choose to do and not to do, you are speaking volumes to so many watching eyes. You are to be admired, valued, and highly esteemed because you choose to look straight ahead and meditate on healthy things. Your life cannot be equaled to the man who just indulges his flesh. You far surpass this man on every level!

I want to applaud you. You mean so much to me! This kind of man walks with confidence to protect and provide a place for women to flourish in feminine beauty. Because you're willing to be a warrior and fight for a woman's honor and beauty, you are a king, a warrior poet. You don't indulge in porn or empty relationships to make yourself feel like a man. You choose to say no to these things and yes to real relationships, building with women as individuals and seeing them as image bearers – God's creation reflecting something of God's purpose and character - God's daughters. You guard and cultivate this in the women around you because you are God's son.

Thank you men. To those of you who are fathers and husbands, thank you for loving your wives and children with a supernatural love and choosing to be a king, a warrior poet, a mentor and a friend to your wife and children as well as the men and women around you. To those of you who are my single brothers, thank you for honoring women by not taking advantage of their emotions or their physical bodies for your pleasure. Instead you have chosen the harder way, seeing women as hand-crafted for a unique purpose, who need to be prized and treasured, our honor kept intact. You are a man of character, vision, strength, power, faith, wisdom, heart and love. To all the men in my life! Like the "Guy Song" lyrics sing….."This world distracts you, lies to you and hopes to keep you from your call….don't be fooled….you can stand up to it all…..this is your day! Don't let them take it away…."Thank you for fighting the good fight, taking the narrow way and clinging to God's promises which keep you from falling. I admire you, I respect you and I want to honor you today. Thanks for being His four-pillared man.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Think Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean. This story has a point.

I recently heard the story of Barry Clifford a 12-year old boy who was intrigued by his uncle’s stories of pirates treasure off the coast of Cape Cod. As Barry grew older he worked as a lifeguard on Cape Cod and became an avid scuba diver on weekends, searching for this “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

Barry found his first historic shipwreck in 1976 but in 1984, Barry and a team of experienced divers found the infamous Whydah (WID-uh; a slave ship that was pirated by “Black Sam”, a former British sailor turned pirate) off the coast of Cape Cod.

Over 100,000 objects from Whydah were found including gold bars, silver coins, rare jewelry from Africa, ivory and jewelry that Black Sam and his crew stole from more than 50 other ships. The pirates treasures dropped to the ocean’s bottom when a storm in 1717 broke the ship in half and took it down. I’m sure this wasn’t the way these pirates hoped their treasure would be stored…..for over two centuries. I wonder if a Jack Sparrow type threatened to cut someone’s heart out if they didn’t help him find his wanted treasures.

Doesn’t that sound like the making of a great Hollywood movie?
I’d go see that one for sure!

Over 2000 years ago, someone else was interested in storing up treasure. He said wherever your treasure is your going to find your heart…So eat your heart out Jack Sparrow….or cut it out….but if your treasure is sunk at the bottom of Cape Cod you’re not going to find it….or yourself……. for atleast a few centuries.

It was Jesus who said in Matthew 6:20-22
… 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.

If your treasure is in booty (in and out of shallow relationships), your education, your abilities, having a good time, finding reprieve in the bottle or some other form of mental alteration….your life treasure is sinking to the bottom of the ocean even as we speak.

Live for something greater than yourself. Find your treasure in something that can’t sink to the bottom of your life when it’s over. There isn’t much that lasts beyond this world but there’s one thing that is building a treasure chest in heaven and that’s a very real relationship with the living God.

This relationship, when understood correctly, is an absolute treasure. He changes your perspective and outlook on everything. But get ready! He moves into your house and re-arranges the furniture. I’m not talking about Jack Sparrow because unlike Jack, this man doesn’t rip anything off from you, pirate style. No, he rebuilds broken hearts. He gives you a new life. He’s worth living for because he is that great treasure that doesn’t fade away. He is one of a kind, one in a million and truly worth your entire life.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A thousand other things....

I have to get up in 7 hours to help host a team of Texans who are here this week. I'm thinking about the week and all I have to do (this is how my brain works) from Hungarian lessons, staff meetings, outreach events, English club, English conversation groups, Bible Study; not to mention working out and spending time with the team in social avenues.

Fortunately, I don't have to ride the pink tourist bus with the team tomorrow. Been there, done that and, well, Hungarian lessons got in the way this time! *awe shux, darn*

Then I'm struck by the thought....yes, I know I will read a little in the morning for inspiration, that good and righteous book, and feel a bit closer to the one I'm living my life for.....but what about actually spending good, serious, long time with Him? Hearing His thoughts? Allowing His heartbeat to be heard through my veins? Wow. Hmmm. What about that?

A thousand other things.......... are calling and I'm just now thinking about a time to really be with Him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Joyful Obedience

Recently, a good friend was telling me about a process she has been going through where she has been asked to lay down a dream that's been in her heart for years. Over the years, this dream has ministered to others and she has seen great things come of it. But, in this season, she realizes she has to give up her management and development of this dream on a larger scheme in order to focus on what God has for her now. Yet this dream is of something that stirs her heart so deeply.

My immediate thought was the story of a little girl holding crushed dandelions in her hand, reluctantly making an exchange with God. Have you heard this story?

I don't remember all the details, but basically this little girl is asked to give her dad what's in her hand. She doesn't want to let go because they are some dandelions she hand-picked. Yet, by this point they are crushed because she's holding onto them so tightly. She finally, reluctantly decides to give them back to her daddy when he gives her, from behind his back, a colorful array of beautiful flowers for her enjoyment.

In a similar way, I have been meditating on what it means to joyfully obey all of God's commands and thoughts towards me. Sometimes I do a better job than at other times. Many times, like those crushed dandelions I hold tightly to what I think will bring me the greatest joy. Isn't this beautiful, though? Shouldn't I hold on? And he says, let go and let me. This can be very hard to do.

So what does it mean to joyfully obey? I guess it means, in a way, throwing all your concerns, your thoughts back on Him so that you can remain joyful - lighthearted, radiant, cheerful, in good spirits. And then it means complying with the wishes, orders and authority of the one asking and doing it without attitude.

Last night at Bible Study we were talking about SIN being "I" at the center. When you are at the center of your life, this is the best description of sin. But when you open the door and let God in, when you give him the keys to unlock every basement, attic, and hidden cellar and let Him re-arrange the furniture and decorate your house, doing it with you, you are beginning to realize what it means to joyfully obey.

OK, I have so far to go on this. But thank God life is a process and a journey and we are in it for the long-haul like a long distance runner!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Egy, Ketto, Harom, Negy

Oftentimes there are very funny things that happen when you live in a country that doesn't speak your language. After awhile, it just becomes par for the course.

But I laughed out loud, I think tonight when I was leaving the little gym I found just down the street from my flat and the step aerobics teacher was yelling out 'EGY KETTO HAROM NEGY....ONE MORE! ONE MORE!! EGY KETTO HAROM NEGY ONE MORE!!"

1,2,3,4 ONE MORE!!

My roommate thinks that maybe the instructor got it off an old Richard Simmons video the "one more" part. She might be right.