Saturday, December 27, 2008

He's Always On Time



Walking the streets of Budapest recently, I began to marvel at the really cool street clocks as pictured here. These clocks are atleast 100 years old and brought an element of modernization when placed on the streets of Budapest at the time. Today, I captured their look because they look like something out of antiquity.

As we stand on the brink of a new year with new possibilities, what will be written in this next chapter? I came across this remarkably simple but encouraging quote and was reminded that there are times and seasons for everything.

Take courage that God holds your life in His hands. And although not everything is clear today for your future, these 70 plus years, if blessed with that long, belong to Him. He is in control of our days. He gives us breath to breathe. So shouldn't we trust Him with all our tomorrows? I think so. Our times are in His hands.

"The time came for the baby to be born." Luke 2:6 NIV

Jon Walker writes:
"We manage, waste, spend and save time. We wish it would come...we wish it would pass..we see it fly and we feel it drag. We watch clocks and carry calendars, creating the illusion that somehow we control it. God controls time.... Do you think He was surprised that 'while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born'? We're surprised by unexpected developments...God's never surprised, even by the most disastrous turn of events."

How would your faith be, if you knew God wasn't surprised by your circumstances and is working towards a holy and healthy conclusion?

George Mueller once waited on the dock for a special chair to be delivered because he had a bad back and needed it for his ocean voyage. When departure time came and it still hadn't arrived his friends offered to buy him one, but Mueller said,
'Either God will provide...or...give me grace to do without.'

Then, just like a Hollywood ending...the chair arrived...right on time!

How would you act, think, and live differently if you were absolutely certain God was at the end of your deadline...even if there were only seconds left?

The Bible says, 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever' (Hebrews 13:8 NLT).

Time doesn't diminish His love, or His power to work within your life.

He was there in the past; He's here now, and He will be there in your future. A thousand years are like a few hours to Him.

He's interested in bringing you into eternity, not just getting you through until the weekend." When you see it like that, it changes the big picture, doesn't it?"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

While In Reno today....


ha ha ha. Well, I actually did go inside the store. So, technically, I was in Reno today - a Hungarian shoe store. I'm missing the PEOPLE aka MY FAMILY I love so much in Reno, so I thought I'd take a picture :D

Here's me in Reno. :D Boo hoo hoo.

Merry Christmas ya'll.

Jen

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seeing Red in Romania



I thought you might get a kick out of this news.

Bucharest (not Budapest) set a Guinness record, representing for the Holiday season. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7794716.stm

I was in Bucharest in October and I'm excited that this nation organized this event. There was so much poverty it was really tough to be there and see it. The darkness of Nicolae Ceau┼čescu's rule and reign over that country until he was murdered by the people is seen in the high level of poverty surrounding the "Palace of Parlaiment", the 2nd largest building in the world next to the Pentagon. Anyways, what a great way to hand out presents to people and set a record. Kind of fun for them.


Here in Budapest I've seen Santa in a VW and a Hummer. Both were pimp my ride nice. In a time of economic decline that's hitting the auto industry, it seems Santa upgraded his sleigh for a sleeker ride in Budapest.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rest is the best


All day long I've been lounging around my house resting without much of a care in the world. I made an incredible thing of Texas chili and can't stop chomping on it. I pulled out some books I have been wanting to finish, one of which is called "The Scottish Chiefs" by Jane Porter. Although it's a novel, it has been said that she was a true historian of this time period in Scottish history and that this book is one of the more accurate. One biography on her life notes that for this book "She took the cold facts of history and warmed them with the flame of her genius to a warm, throbbing story describing the intimate lives of her characters."

The primary character in the book is Sir William Wallace. Books have been written on his life and many tales have been passed down about him as well. Of course there's the famous "Braveheart" movie (which has some inaccuracies) that live on to tell the story of a noble Scot who rescued Scotland from the hands of England. I'm enjoying the read and of course all of the wonderful honor and nobility that these men portrayed in rescuing women, defending a country and living out great adventures for a nation that had been pillaged and raped of its destiny. Something in my soul cries out to live in more honorable times or atleast among honorable men and women that made up these hard times in the late 1200's. Believe me. I'm not saying I'd like to go back to those rough times. I much prefer the comfort of internet access in my living room and grocery stores down the street but hopefully you get the picture that it's nobility I'm after, a sense of honor and duty when living life.

Call me idealistic but I do believe in the nobility and honor of men and women. Many things have been lost along the way and robbed if you will of our identity and our capacity to live this way. That doesn't mean it isn't true and real and worth cultivating. I'm on a bit of a soap box for this maybe because I'm all caught up in the moment reading this delicious book but honestly I'm quite tired of the stuff that Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City is made of. Where's the fun in that? Such base living. There's got to be more.

And these are the thoughts on a restful day....Resting and reading is the best.

Well, here's to living and living well, laughing often and loving much.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sifting through stuff and other random thoughts

As I look ahead to some exciting changes for 2009, I sit here in Budapest looking at all the "things" I've collected that will no doubt be a part of the New Year clean out sweep for me. I'm excited to give away a lot of things that I really hold no attachment to anyways and downsize so that perhaps everything I own can fit into three suitcases when I travel back to the US in February. Is it possible? Well, I tell myself I've become a minimalist but we'll have to see how this goes. I'm hopeful though. Truly hopeful.

I'm learning something about myself. I like flexibility in life. I like being open to new things. Although I hold many traditional values, I'm not a traditionalist. I enjoy the surprise of the unknown, on most good days.

When it comes to this workout plan, I like being able to mix up the workouts and don't get too caught up if I'm not able to get everything done for the day that's on my workout list. I can always scratch it for that day and add it to another day. I'm talking about a training plan which includes 30 minute bike rides here and there and 4 and 5 mile runs. I'm trying to be ready for a 1/2 marathon in March and a Sprint Tri in April.

This holiday season is usually a bit reflective for me. I enjoy looking back over the past year and thinking about things. I enjoy praying and looking to God for his encouragement about the future and I enjoy living in the moment, realizing this is life. And I am fully living it and enjoying it!

Government bailouts the same as socialism?

I haven't put an incredible amount of thought into this, but I'd like to consider how government bailouts on a federal level are basically another term for socialism. In a free market society where things either sink or swim on their own, you have to decide the levels of supply and demand and provide goods and services that people are willing to either save up their money to purchase at a later time, or spend their money in that moment to buy. The point is, people's wants and needs in a relatively afforded society give them the ability to manage their money and be responsible for what they want to purchase or not purchase and what they can pay for. They're not going to get in over their heads.

Unfortunately, corporate America has begun a spiraling process since the 1970's of thinking bigger, spending bigger, and producing bigger than what can really be afforded. Some things in history are interesting and understandable perhaps. Take for instance the bailouts of our national railway in the 70's. Airlines were just beginning to really take off and business nearly collapsed for supply and demand. However, national railways are somewhat of a connecting point for the nation and so the government chose to bail out the railway But when you get to the place where you're bailing out the car industry just to save jobs when there isn't a demand for cars, what's happening? This is beginning to look a lot like socialism. Not sure I like it or agree.

http://www.thetakeaway.org/stories/2008/sep/17/the-long-history-of-federal-and-corporate-bailouts/

Monday, December 15, 2008




Lara (in the middle) recently moved back to the United States from Lithuania. She's the first to touch down. Lara and I have been friends for years and were once roommates in Los Angeles. She was living and working in Lithuania for a Christian church and ministry there and she finished her time last week.

Anna (on the left) is leaving tomorrow morning and I'm sure going to miss her. We were also roommates here in Hungary and we've had some incredible memories. It's so awesome to have someone who can share with you the memories you've had in a foreign land. I will miss her tomorrow. I will miss the laughter, the tears, the hilarious. She leaves at 3 am in the morning and my last act of friendship this side of the continent is to help her get out the door and to the airport with all her crap. Someday that will be me and I hope someone has mercy on me and helps me get my stuff to the airport too. Oh yeah, I am a minimalist and have become even better at this over the years. (Yeah, who am I kidding!)

I just have to say something about friendship. There's nothing like genuine, authentic friends who you can live with and encourage and have fun together and also follow Christ together!

Take care.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

beautiful Budapest


As things are winding down on campus and in the high schools for Christmas break, I've had a little time to do some things this past week. I've really enjoyed spending time with my friend Anna who is staying with me for her last week in Budapest. I'm so glad we became friends and were roommates for six months. She wanted to do a few things before moving back to Texas on Tuesday. One of my absolute favorite nights was earlier in the week when we went to the Christmas market downtown, got a glass of hot wine, which is a traditional Christmas wine with cinnamon and cloves, and then walked down by the Danube River. We took this picture while sitting by the Chain Bridge. She will be one person who will always understand the best and worst of Budapest and we'll be able to understand this experience, the people, the culture, the language when we move on from this place.

Anyways, this is the most famous bridge in Budapest. We've had some incredible times of laughter and nostalgia while walking the city. I will always think that Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Garlic dip addictions


I can't explain to you the absolute and complete transformation that I've had in my attitude towards garlic. I am a mincing queen really. It doesn't matter what time of the day, I will eat almost any vegetable with this incredible garlic concoction that my friend Anna introduced me to. I absolutely LOVE it and I'm absolutely addicted.

Try it. See if you like it. Here's what you do.

Get a bowl and mince or chop into little pieces 3 cloves of garlic or more if you'd like.

Add olive oil - lots of it

Put 3 or 4 shakes of salt and 3 or 4 shakes of pepper

Wash some fresh broccoli or cauliflower or zucchini (or almost any veggie for that matter...It's great with tomatoes too.)

Happy dipping!! Make sure you get the chunks of garlic in each bite for the full affect.

All I have to say is that this is probably not the best way to get a boyfriend, but man is it ever delish!! :D

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December's cold in Budapest


It's been really cold in Budapest the last few days. Every time I get out and run or bike I'm absolutely and ridiculously freezing. I don't like the cold weather at all and I'm trying to find a face mask that I can wear to keep my cheeks from freezing off. It's actually really funny but I want to stay on track with training and if this cold weather continues like this, I don't see how I can do it without a face mask.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

is it really December?

I keep pinching myself when I realize it's December 5th. The colder weather is an indication for sure but I can hardly believe it. My favorite part about Budapest at Christmas are the lights that line Andrassy utca and the quaint, old Christmas market downtown. I also need to make my way over to the Danube and see the lights of the city that way because it's always beautiful around this time. I will have to take some pictures and post them very soon. Anna is coming to stay with me for her last week in Budapest and we are going to try and do all her favorite things before she moves back to the motherland.

Other than that, I'd rather be spending my nights and weekends with family.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Finding strength in His shadow

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1

"If you say, 'the Lord is my refuge' and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.......Because they love me,' says the Lord, 'I will protect them for they acknowledge my name." Psalm 91: 9,14

You can say He is your refuge but you must make Him your dwelling.

What does that look like? How do you do that?

Dwelling - Not only is a dwelling the place you live or dwell, but when you dwell upon something - you think, speak, write at lenght about it. You linger in your thoughts on whatever it is you're dwelling upon.

What are you dwelling on these days?

My mind needs renewal and I find strength in His dwelling place.

A Noble Man

In an effort to understand the opposite sex and to continue trusting God for a noble man, I came across this article that really encouraged me. All of us have our stories and I have mine too. In the end, I'm determined that the noble man exists and will pursue. It's only right and biblical. Unfortunately today I don't think men or women are being schooled in Biblical truths of pursuit. Instead most of what I see going on in the church is either entirely non-existent or looks like a dumbed down version of Sex in the City. What's happening? Well, call me naive or blindly hopeful, but I am trusting God to instill within the men of this generation a desire for nobility, to be men of intention, to stand out from the crowd and pursue.

The Noble Man by Carolyn McCulley, Author & Contributing Writer
Once when I was praying about a man I liked, the Lord
brought to mind the Scripture address of Isaiah 32:8. I
looked it up eagerly, and read: "But the noble man makes
noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands" (NIV). I had no
idea how to apply this Scripture to my prayers, so I waited
and watched. Over the course of time, I came to see that
this man was not being purposeful in our friendship, that
noble plans were not being made and the deeds I observed
were careless, not intentional. However, as I later studied
this passage, I saw several ways to evaluate whether a man
would be commended by the Lord as a noble man. This verse
concludes a passage about the kingdom of righteousness that
reads:
"See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will
rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the
wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in
the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and
the ears of those who hear will listen. The mind of the rash
will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be
fluent and clear. No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected. For the fool speaks
folly, his mind is busy with evil: He practices ungodliness
and spreads error concerning the LORD; the hungry he leaves
empty and from the thirsty he withholds water. The
scoundrel's methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to
destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy
is just. But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble
deeds he stands." (Isaiah 32:1-8 NIV)
I realize this is a prophetic passage about the Messiah, and
not anyone's husband. But because here in Scripture we find
the characteristics of a noble, godly man contrasted with
those of a scoundrel, this is a useful passage for women to
study to understand what God calls godly.

A noble man (The scoundrel)
Is a shelter from the wind (Speaks folly)
Is a refuge from the storm (Mind is busy with evil)
Is streams of water in the desert (Practices ungodliness)
The shadow of a great rock (Spreads error concerning the Lord)
in a thirsty land (Makes up evil schemes)
Makes noble plans (Does nothing for the hungry, thirsty)
Does noble deeds
A noble man is a hiding place from the rough elements of
life, a man who offers protection and shelter. He does not
leave you exposed - either to ridicule or to harm. He is
refreshment in a dry place, bringing much encouragement. He
flows with streams of living water because he is a man of
the Word. He is shade in weariness - reflecting the strength
of the Rock, Christ. When a man is making noble plans toward
you, he wants to offer you covering. He will offer to serve
you, help carry your burdens, and pour the Word into your
dry soul. His deeds will be noble, not common. He will show
evidences of cherishing you, protecting your boundaries and
standards. He won't touch you like a common object, and he
will exert himself to care for you and to notice your needs.
Most importantly, a noble man is a submitted man himself. He
serves his King wholeheartedly and makes himself accountable
to other men. In my opinion, this should be one of the first
characteristics we look for in any man who pursues us. In
the happiest marriages I've seen, the husbands have other
men in their lives who observe them, offer correction, and
ask them how they are doing serving their wives and
children. Without that community of accountability and
authority, a couple has no one outside themselves to appeal
to for help in unresolved conflict. Author and pastor Andrew
Farmer writes:
"A woman should evaluate a man's respect for authority. In
our society, the godly man is most distinct from the worldly
man in the way he has put away prideful independence and
pursued humble submissiveness. A man who is independent in
his faith and does not seek the counsel and oversight of
pastors and other mature men, will be a failure as a leader
(and therefore as a husband) as defined by Scripture. See
the story of Abigail and Nabal for a sad example of an
arrogant man not worthy of his virtuous wife (1 Samuel 25)."

The Intentional Man
If you are fortunate, you know a few tested, noble men. What
remains is whether or not they are being intentional toward
you. The "problem" with godly men is that they are so
markedly different - gentlemanly, kind, attentive - from
most men in our culture that it's hard not to receive it
personally. I see that over and over again in my church as
new women join. Inevitably, one of the guys will offer to
walk a woman to her car after a meeting. These women usually
have one of two reactions. Either they will refuse the offer
because they think the guy is interested, or they will light
up like Times Square because they think he is interested.
What they don't know is that there is a third option: he's
not interested, he's just extending gentlemanly care.
Because they don't know the culture, it's easy to be
confused.
The point is, an intentional man makes his purposes known.
He tells you what he's doing, and where he's leading. He is
clear about where he wants the relationship to go. When he's
not clear, when he's not saying anything, when he's enjoying
the friendship but not moving forward - he's not being
intentional. Period. You don't see noble deeds because he's
not making those noble plans. You may have the greatest
friendship in the world, but he's just hanging out in it. In
fact, one man called this half-hearted testing of the water
"the buddy approach."
I know how tempting it is to hang out in these undefined
friendships, where the best you can get is a blurry,
part-time boyfriend. At least some attention is better than
none, right? Nope, sorry, I'm no longer convinced of that.
For one, I find it challenging to guard my heart and keep my
peace before God in these "hopeful friendships." I'm always
in danger of closing my fist-of-demand over the friendship,
instead of leaving this friendship in open hands before the
Lord. Second, it tempts the men to passivity, in my humble
observation. It provides them with the out of "Oh, maybe you
misunderstood me, we're just friends." If we women would be
better about guarding the amount of time and attention
invested in these close friendships, we might see our
reserve rewarded with pursuit instead of passivity. After
all, we don't want to manipulate the situation and then live
under one of the three things the Bible says makes the earth
tremble: "an unloved woman when she gets a husband"
(Proverbs 30:23).
When is a man interested? When he says so, and his actions
back up his words. Anything less is at best merely friendly,
and possibly even uncertain or inconsiderate. If he's a
noble man who's made noble plans, one of his noble deeds is
letting you know about it!
(A shout out to the guys still reading this column. See? It
really does come down to those three little words: Talk. To.
Her. I also hope you are not discouraged by the points
above. It's worth stating again: Perfection is not the
standard. We only want to see you taking biblical standards
seriously and attempting to apply them in your lives. I
often receive letters from guys saying there's not much
material out there for cultivating godliness as a single
man. Yes, it does seem that most materials are for single
women. Though I do not presume to fill that void - it's
better that you are equipped and discipled by other godly
men - I do hope that by eavesdropping here you've derived
some benefit and have some points to discuss with the guys.
We women are praying for you!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back in the Pest

We arrived tonight around 5 pm from Slovenia where our team went for a team holiday over Thanksgiving. My Thanksgiving meal included vegetable soup that had no taste, a salad from a salad bar where the red beets were the best part, and a Margarita pizza with garlic that actually was very delicious. Turkey and stuffings aren't a big part of this last week in November over here in Europe. Darn it all. That's alright though, we had some very memorable times in Slovenia at this indoor water park, sauna, pool facility. I was sick the entire time and basically just slept on a long beach chair inside the indoor park or read books or listened to music.

I picked up a book by Ravi Zacharias, one of my favorite authors of all times, called "The Grand Weaver". I wouldn't say this book is the best of what he's written, but I definitely enjoyed it. There was one part that was absolutely amazing, In a chapter called “Your Disappointments Matter,” Ravi writes “at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes. Your heart will become coarse and desensitized, be crushed under the weight of disappointment, or be made tender by that which makes the heart of God tender as well.” Hoping and praying your heart is tender to what God is doing in your life these days.

I finally feel much better health wise and I'm looking forward to starting the training program again for a 1/2 marathon and a sprint triathlon - 2009 schedule is drawing near.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sickness...yuck

I really hate being sick. I hate it for several reasons but the most frustrating thing for me is not having energy to do what I want to do. I'm fighting this thing with all my might and this afternoon we leave for Slovenia. Just hoping I'll get better in the process. Lots of OJ, garlic, menthol cough drops, water. What else can a girl do?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Eat lots of turkey for me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pushin through



























The girls event is tomorrow in Budapest and it's going to be great. Lara and I have been pushing for the past two weeks to see these events come to pass and although I'm exhausted and a cold is trying to latch onto me, I'm fighting back with all my might. Lots of fresh OJ and fresh garlic and broccoli. Nothing like garlic breath to keep all the nasties away.

Last night was a lot of fun as a group of girls came over to wrap gifts and help set things up for Saturday. Because we can't get into the venue the night before, we are having to do set up for breakfast, decorations, registration and then sound and room set up all in an hour and a half tomorrow morning. Im hoping all will go smooth and I'm sure it will. It won't look anything like Lithuania. This one is in a small coffee shop and maybe 30-40 girls.

It's been so great to come to this point though. I'm very excited. I'm hopeful that as the girls hear a different message about beauty and as they hear messages, dances, dramas, interviews on dreams and relationships, their lives will be impacted and their hearts turned to Christ. Relationships with the girls will of course continue after the event but its in moments like these when things culminate into a special day that girls will remember and refer to as they continue on their path in the world. Praying they will see Christ differently and embrace His love. Thanks for your prayers most specifically for my health and my friend, Lara's health.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good times in Bungary

Anna has come up with a new name for Budapest, Hungary called Bungary. Anna, Lara and I have had a few funny moments traveling around the city this week. Excited about Saturday but no time to write. It's a dream come true to have Lara here and to host this event in Bungary for young women. I'll write more later. :D

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lithuanian treasures...


With American friends Chey, Naomi and Lara on a bus to the children's center this week in Lithuania



Tonight I can't sleep but it's my fault. After the Straight Up Beautiful conference, we went back to Lara and Austra's apartment where Agne joined us for dinner and I made the crazy mistake of drinking two cups of coffee.....But our conversations were rich, deep, spiritual.

Over 250 Lithuanian girls came to the conference! Amazing. But some stand out --- like diamonds. Agne is one of the Lithuanian treasures I've met here in Kaunas. I'll have to post a picture of her later because I haven't uploaded all my pics. She has a powerful story of how she ended up where she is today. At 21 years old, she's seen a lot. Both her parents were severe alcoholics growing up -- the kind you find laid out on the side of the road. She said she has memories of being 6 years old and trying to get her mom up from outside a bar across the street from her house. Now, she's dating a great guy in Lara's church, leads worship, works with youth and is just powerful. At 5 feet, she's a powerhouse! Today she was our translator and she did an incredible job. Such a different experience from my time in Romania. I'm starting to get the hang of this.


The conference was truly incredible and I have to brag on my friend Lara a little. She is amazing to me! This entire thing is her brainchild, but actually I'm convinced it's something in the heart of God and she has found a way to make it real. The whole purpose behind straight up beautiful is to help define beauty differently according to God's truth, talk about the power of a dream and encourage healthy relationships. It's fun, girly, inspiring, and grass roots. Lara's dream is to see local girls get involved with the development and production of the event.

Here in Lithuania a group of girls found their place and expressed themselves. Such creativity and it was fun to see! Lara also invited a team of "models" to model "Street Fashion", and she invited a team of young dancers from the modern school of dance in Lithuania to perform. There was also a girl band who came and sang a powerful song about God's love. There were topical messages, times for questions, gift giveaways.

Can you believe that one girl from the states organized her church in New York to buy 150 MAC lipglass and 50 Laura Mercer finishing powders? There were other lip gloss, fingernail polish and a ton of other things sent for the cause. Amazing. The girls were given such a treat and so excited about it. Before we gave out the gifts, it was fun for me to get up in this bigger venue and talk about the three mirrors that will soon be a chapter in Lara's book. The three mirrors include pop-culture, self-judgment and God's word. By the end of the day, some girls were really being touched. After one talk on God's heart toward them as a father, almost 20 girls came up to receive Christ. It was so amazing! There are new Lithuanian treasures here now....

Jenna is another treasure who has been here for awhile. She volunteers with Lara in an after school program that the church sponsors three times a week in one of the poorest neighborhoods. Lara was teling me some of the really sad stories. Jenna also helps Lara at the womens rehabilitation center. That will break your heart! But wow, we had a special time there too, praying for these women and watching God heal their hearts. Jenna called Lara the next day to say that in their counseling times with their counselors the next day, everyone was crying and something was different in the girls. These girls are tough. They've lived a hard life.

My final treat was running with Austra, the Olympian. We ran for over 3 miles together through a foresty area near her flat and she took me on part of a trail that was....hilly. I was dying. Austra is Lara's roommate, and the Olympic athlete I blogged about earlier in the summer when I asked you to root for her during the Olympics.

Austra also shared at the conference and was interviewed about pursuing her dream to be in the Olympics. One of the questions was about how she handles success and failures since in 2004 she won silver and in 2008 she didn't. She talked about how she spends time looking in the mirror of God's word to get her self-confidence. She knows she did her best and that's all she can go by is God's opinions of her.

This week has been incredible! It will forever be a treasure for me. Tomorrow Lara and I will rest and then we fly back together to Budapest where we will host a smaller, but hopefully just as impacting, conference. Thanks for praying for that!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Following the plan, except for the swims

So training is going well except for the swims and when I get to Lithuania, there's a track behind Lara's house and she said it's safe to run laps. Excited about that. As much as I'd love to be able to say I did it, I would be dying if I asked Lara's roommate, Austra to run with me. If she suggests it, that would be cool. I'd try and go for it and if I totally suck and she leaves me in the wind I'll just realize I've got a long way to go, but I won't give up.

Beautiful in Lithuania and Hungary



http://www.unitytm.lt/

Early tomorrow morning, I'm airport bound once again and flying to Vilnuis, Lithuania. I'll be staying with my friend Lara and her roommate Austra. We will spend this final week getting the final details together for the Straight Up Beautiful conference next Saturday. Two American girls I know from Lawrence Kansas will also be coming. Can't wait to reunite with them too!
I'm very excited to see where Lara has been living this last year, to support her in this big production, and to see her roots. Both her parents are Lithuanian and moved to Chicago before Lara was born. So it's really cool to see her roots. Also, I'm really excited to meet Austra, the Olympic athlete I was telling you guys about in August. I just think that is so inspiring to be able to even make it to the Olympics. She holds two silver metals and has been three times, I believe. She'll be speaking at the conference about pursuing your dreams. I'll be talking about which mirror are you looking into -- the mirror of pop-culture, self-judgement or God's word to get your identity. It will be translated into Lithuanian and I just hope it goes smoothly. Amazing to think I'd have anything to say, let alone that what I would say would be translated into Romanian a few weeks ago, Lithuanian this week and Hungarian the following week. Thank God for translators and the fact that everyone speaks the language of love and kindness. I hope to extend all of that to the girls I meet this week.

Then, Lara will fly back with me and we will do it again in Budapest. There will be lots of things to tie together that last week when I return, but I met with a few of the girls involved today and I think we are on track. I'm excited about it.

I'm excited, nervous, still feel all over the place but i'm going to bed....after I do just a few more things. I leave my flat at 6:30 am and I'm getting really really excited about getting this message to young women in the nations.....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is Obama the European Union's President too?

By the looks and sounds of it, you would think that Obama just won the seat for EU president too. Everyone here in Europe is absolutely thrilled that Obama is our new president. I feel for the guy, personally. I've seen how he hasn't even taken office yet and he has notably started to turn grey. Why is it that the presidency causes men to go grey? Could it be the stress of the job? I mean the poor guy hasn't even taken office yet and Russia is threatening to cause problems in Poland and Lithuania, trying to "bully" the new guy and see if he moves. Add to that the global issues of the environment, things in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East, not to mention the very personal events in the US regarding financial crisis....and yeah. It's enough to turn anyone grey. My thought is this. I need to remember to keep him in my thoughts and prayers.
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So, I'm a little overwhelmed with details for Straight Up Beautiful in Lithuania and in Hungary but I'm sure it will all get worked out. Excited about it and excited about seeing friends in Lithuania. Better get back on the details for that....

In the meantime, the training plan is going great. I'm out the door this morning for a bike ride. Getting the swims in is the toughest thing for me at the moment. I've had a hard time getting back in the pool. But i"ll get there. I have to if I'm going to follow the plan. I have some events I'm looking at in 2009 and getting excited about it. I love having a goal to prepare for! That's the way I roll....:D

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's 5 am

It's 5 am Budapest time and apparently still too early to tell?? I think it's around 7pm on the West Coast. I'm up and ready to find out who the next Prez will be.

One thing I find so interesting is the way our founding fathers created the Electoral College specifically as a check and balance for the smaller states. It hasn't failed us yet, but it is quite interesting when you actually realize that the 538 electors, who have mostly been appointed by our elected senators and representatives, are the only ones whose actual vote really counts in voting for president. But a lot of their decision is based on the popular vote of the people and the general feel of the political landscape of our country. I just find it interesting and I think it's actually another brilliant check and balance in our system.

I have a feeling Obama is going to win. If he does, my stance is this. I will support whoever becomes president and look for ways that I can get involved in my country. Right now that's a little harder since I'm living in Eastern Europe, but I can pray and I can get involved in the future. I'm sure I won't be here for another four years. In fact, it's becoming very clear that my departure back to the US will come in the next year. So, if I feel strongly, lets say, about abortion, I will find a way to volunteer at the CPC, which I've done in the past. If I feel strongly about some other social cause that I don't feel the president elect shares my views, I will look to get involved.

I really like this article by Breakpoint - a reminder that voting is just one of many ways to get involved.

http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=5775

Ahhh, life.

Things have been really busy here preparing for two upcoming conferences, one in Lithuania and one in Hungary for Straight Up Beautiful. I'm excited but also very nervous about all the details coming together. I know it's going to be impacting and powerful in both nations, but I'm just believing all the little details will fall into place. I'm sure they will but you know how that goes when everything seems so scattered.

So far so good on the Hal Higdon training program. Granted, it's only day two on the new plan but I hope to keep it up. In three months, according to this plan, I'll be ready for a half marathon -- but I also added the components to train for a sprint tri so that the cross training days are days I'm training for sprint tri. I think it's going to work well -- if my back doesn't give out. I was starting to have a little back pain this weekend but I think it's because I ate so much and Hungarian food is SOO rich it just sits in your stomach. I had a great time in Northern Hungary with Nori and Peter. We visited an amazing cave called Aggtelek which is on the Slovakian/Hungarian border. As we were driving home, Peter and Nori tuned into the news to find out that a football match between Hungary and Slovakia that took place in Slovakia turned into a disaster when Hungarian fans went ballistic on Slovaks. Apparently there are animosities between the two countries. Then again, I'm finding that there are a lot of spoken and unspoken animosities between all these European countries. Interesting for sure.

So, I wanted to stay up and find out about the elections, but i have to meet someone at 7:30 am tomorrow to get some things printed for the Straight Up Beautiful event. That being the case, I opted for early bedtime and early rise. Also, that way I can wish BOTH my parents "Happy Birthday" since Nov 4th is their day. They are four years apart.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Revisited Hal Higdon's Half Plan

I recently purchased a city bike from a guy here in Budapest for $15. It's not Triathlon training style but nonetheless it's a bike and since I haven't been able to make it to spin classes with Lisa (which is an hour away -- in the boon-docks of Budapest), this bike was a perfect fit. I've been lamenting over the fact that it's not reasonable to buy a nice bike and then worry about shipping it over to the US. II didn't want to worry about returning with a bike, but other than borrowing Chris' mountain bike, I didn't see any options. So this was the perfect thing and it fell into my lap, not literally.

When I leave, I will bequeath it to Peter who has wanted a bike for a long time and will finally get his wish. In my mind, its a win win situation. The cost of the bike will be easily recovered n the equivalent of three hours of riding as three spin classes would cost $15 or more.

I also got inspired again to start training for a half and for another sprint tri this Spring. Since running the 5k in September, I've been hit and miss with training. I realized something about myself. If I don't have a goal in front of me and a training plan, forget it. Although I don't have any event in mind for the next several months, I pulled out Hal Higdon's Half training plan and added the cross training workouts from a Sprint Tri plan. Hope it works and I hope I'm not overdoing it. We shall soon find out. So far, so good. Needless to say, I'm excited about getting back on track and having a new plan, a new goal to shoot for.

Old and full of years....

This morning I opened my Bible to the last few chapters in Job. I found some interesting and noticeable things in Job 40-42. To paint a brief backdrop of Job's life, He had just experienced the loss of everything that was meaningful to him in life. And, I think because of those circumstances and the pain of it, his vision of God was small. Even his friends who tried to help him understand what was happening had a small vision of God and didn't speak with understanding.

So in this chapter, it's as if God is contending with Job's mind to consider how incredibly great God is, despite his circumstances. I don't think Job lost complete faith in God but he was obviously curious about where God was in the middle of it all. It seems that his eyes were drawn lower, to the base realities that faced him on a day to day basis. And who can blame him? I've done the same thing for lesser losses. Job lost everything. He had nothing and his friends were quick to find out why this was happening to him. It seems to me in the final chapters of Job God wants to make a few things clear.

In chapter 40, God reminds us to look at even a few things in creation -- for example, the Elephant, which may be what is being referred to in 40:15, and its strength, its power, even visible in the tail and in verse 19 God says, "Yet it's Maker can approach it with his sword." Even though no one can easily capture it, God is no match for the strength of an animal we might fear. He goes on and talks of other animals in chapter 41.

What I find interesting is this is enough to remind Job of who God is. Just look at a few things in creation and it becomes clear. Our sights are low. Our view of God is low. And we need to see things clearly.

After this conversation, Job takes his eyes off the painful circumstances where he wonders where God disappeared to and instead see things from God's perspective. And I think that's the point. Sometimes our view of God is so little, so incredibly small, so dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. We have no idea of His majestic state, though we might get a glimpse here and there.

Job 42:1-6
"Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you and you shall answer me. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."


As I read verse 12-16, I was amazed. "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part.....
"Job lived....and died, old and full of years."


Sometimes I find myself going through circumstances that bring my eyes lower and I need to see things clearly once again. One of the responses will be the reality that we have been foolish in our thinking. Job realized this and repented or turned from this thinking in the hopes of being restored to a greater vision. Not only will God do it but every loss we sustain, He will multiply in blessing. I want my future days to be greater than what I've experienced and known this far. I want to die old and full of years of incredible stories and memories of God's goodness. I'm thankful for this little treasure this morning that reminded me no matter what I face, God is greater.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

thank you DHL


I don't like to complain, but I just need to vent.

Today was the last day to turn in your election ballot at the US Embassy here in Budapest where they would securely mail it for you free of charge. One of the benefits, I guess. Being a good American citizen, I researched a lot, especially for local candidates in Nevada that I had no idea about and I had my ballot filled out and ready to go this morning. It's a good 20 minutes to get to the Embassy and I made it there this morning. The Embassy is gated and guarded so you have to show your passport when you get there. So, I said "Good Morning" and showed him my US passport. The guard said, "You must come back between 1 pm - 4 pm for American services." I was a bit frustrated, but this is the day I'm using my voting power so I was also excited. I didn't really pursue the matter because he's a guard and I figured the Embassy was closed until 1 pm and I would figure out a way to get back during those hours.

I was able to come back later in the afternoon. I passed the guard, went through security, got a number and only waited a few minutes before seeing the attendant. When I took out my ballot, she said, "I'm sorry but our last package of ballots was mailed off this morning. We won't be mailing any more ballots."

"This morning? I was here this morning ready to turn it in but I was told to come back between 1-4 pm. Are you serious?"

"Yes, but the guards were instructed to take ballots this morning so I don't know why they didn't take yours."

"Are you serious? You won't be able to take my ballot and mail it? There's no possible way you have one last group going out?"

"No, maam. We sent the last one this morning."

This morning. I was at the US Embassy this morning. I showed the guard my US passport. The guards were instructed to take our ballots. Here's where government offices and administration goes bad. The US Embassy in Budapest is there to serve US citizens, right? All those who work for the Embassy should have this as their primary desire, atleast at a base level. Civil service, public service, just service.

It would have been obvious for me, I think, if I were a guard, knowing that elections are next week and a US citizen came to the gate to say "American services are from 1-4 pm unless you have a ballot. I can take your ballot." Instead, he led me to believe that all American services would be provided during that time and, as a civil servant, he had nothing further to say that could help the situation.

Are my expectations too high??

Oh, I was livid inside. Tears started to well up and I explained to the woman how important it is for me to vote and again asked if there would by any chance be anything she could do. Could she fax it? We looked up the State of Nevada, and they don't allow it to be faxed. So, she suggested I go down the street and send it DHL. It's really probably not the biggest deal in the world. But I ended up paying $50 to have my ballot mailed to Carson City, Nevada and I just need to vent because when I think of government entities such as the US embassy, I think of it as a refuge, a place to serve US citizens living overseas. Unfortunately, that didn't happen today in Budapest. Frustrated but I'm over it! Atleast I voted and now have a clear conscience going into the elections. Thank you DHL.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Romania 2008









































































This was my first time in Romania. I flew to the Southern part and stayed in Bucharest, the capital. I remember before ever living over here that I used to get Budapest and Bucharest confused. There is no confusion once you've seen these cities. Budapest is absolutely stunning. Bucharest is quite impoverished still, thanks to the communist leader Nicolaeu C.

I went to Bucharest this weekend to meet with Ryan, the international director for a student missions organization that I am looking to work more closely with in the future. Romania has a swelling move of young people who are passionately loving Jesus and also feel called to go to nations in His name. So, Ryan and I stayed at the Pentecostal Theological School Dorms. That was cool. We met a group of great students there who are in their 2nd and 3rd year of study and had a great time hearing their passion.

The Christian culture in the Romanian church where the event was hosted was interesting. I'm always conscious of cultural differences and wanted to be sensitive to that. I'm glad I brought a skirt. I had to wear it when I spoke at the meeting on Saturday because ladies wear dresses and don't normally speak in church. Apparently it was a big deal to have me speak. But this pastor, Immel, was a bit more progressive. The pastor invited us to come and talk on Sunday in his church too and it was four hours long!! Wow. It was hard not to just people watch or work really hard not to take a snoozer, especially since the entire service was in Romanian except when Ryan spoke for 40 minutes and when I gave a brief five minute introduction to the work in Hungary- both of which were translated into Romanian. I think the pastor wanted me to speak longer because when I finished, he sort of looked stunned and brought up someone to do a special song -- I think the special song was a bit impromptu.....oops -- but I didn't have anything else to say. We had already been there for 3 hours. I'm a fan of quitting when you're ahead. I was sort of done. :D

In between the college conference and Sunday service, there were meetings with pastors and leaders across denominations who are working in Romania all talking and meeting together to see about advancing student mission work in Romania. That was cool and it was interesting to watch Ryan work graciously with these men from different organizations and churches. Loved that. Well, I basically had a throbbing headache the entire trip. I"m not complaining about it because I absolutely enjoyed my time there but I just have to explain why I think I had this ongoing headache. There were many reasons for this.

First, the language. It's SOOO different from Hungarian obviously and your brain just has to work overtime when you are in a culture that is not English-speaking. I appreciated the fact that some words in Romanian were familiar just because Romanian is in the same family of languages as Italian and Spanish but my head was still.....spinning.

Second, we ate at random times and really never very well. We started the days early and ended late eating in a way I'm not used to... It just wasn't the best scenario. But, our final afternoon, pastor Immel gave some of the guys from the school money to take Ryan and I to Pizza Hut, sort of as a thank you, so that was awesome!

Third, I realized my complete addiction to coffee. We were completely on our hosts schedule and so whatever they did, we did, wherever they were going, we were going. And no one really seemed to think about coffee. Well, we did ask one morning so we could get through the headache craze and the early morning and so I had a cup of.....coffee. No cream. I don't like sugar normally but I put it in there just to help a bit.

When I got off the plane late Sunday night, it was SOO good to hear Hungarian. And that's just not normal. But on this trip, there were Romanian and Spanish speaking young people and my head was spinning. I kept wanting to respond in Hungarian but that helped no one. Fortunately, many of the Romanians spoke English.

I'm glad I decided not to bring my running shoes. There's really nowhere to run in Romania. It was quite depressing to see the streets, building, everything. Lots of poverty and I actually found myself a little depressed about that one night when we were driving back to the gated campus. That was rough.

I really enjoyed the trip. Part of this was somewhat like a "scouting" trip for me as well - to talk with Ryan about future plans to work together. It looks like I will be working more and more with Ryan and his wife Kelly and this organization. I'm excited about it and the potential of seeing young people across denominational lines come together and live for Christ in the nations.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On my way out the door

In just a few minutes I'll get on public transportation and travel about 45 minutes to the Airport. Not going to spend extra money this time to get to the airport quicker. I will use the time on public to finish a few things I had to do with my notes.

This weekend I'll be in Bucharest, Romania speaking at a college "Ignite" conference and meeting up with Ryan Shaw from SVM2. Very excited about this weekend but also a bit nervous. Not sure that I'm prepared completely but I'll just go and be myself. I guess that's all that God wants anyways.

My friend Anna and I were talking about whether I should go running. We both decided NO. Romania is not known for being the safest place. I have no idea what to expect, but one thing I'm excited about is that Ryan will be at the airport when I arrive. He is coming from Turkey. Not sure if I will get to meet his wife and kids, not sure if they are coming. We are staying in some dorms at a Pentecostal Center or something? Actually, I have no idea.

Oh the adventure of it all. I'm going to try and take lots of pictures. I appreciate your prayers!

Jen

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A few highlights on London





































































I've been to London four times in the last three years -- (but that's counting a long layover in 2005 on the way to South Africa when my friends picked me up and took me to Windsor Castle and back). So, I think that this is the first time I really got to see the sites. Other than Windsor Castle, Eton College and Imperial College in the past, this was the first time I stayed downtown, which made it so easy to hop on the underground and go anywhere. For example, one afternoon I met up with a Hungarian girl, Luca, who is living as a nanny in London. Her and I are pictured with the London Eye in the background. We visited all the sites around the Westminster tube stop, which included places like Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Big Ben, Parlaiment, and the River walk there.

Highlights for me on this trip were reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones. In two years time, there are a lot of things that can happen! People got married, had children, and some have moved around a bit throughout Europe. New people have moved into new places. Of course I really enjoyed the music. One of the pastors from Sweden had a kickin' band and they played one morning. They had the Scottish team play another time and then the London team. I was loving the variety and the music, period. I so miss that part of our services here in Budapest. We usually do one song or two but nothing in depth.

Another highlight was reconnecting with two girls, Liga and Inta, whom I met in Latvia two years ago when we did a Straight Up Beautiful event there. Since then, one of the girls has gone through an incredible amount of difficult thing. She's living in London now and found out I would be in town so we visited. Being able to speak life to her and encourage her felt sooooo good. We spent a whole evening together and I missed that nights session because I really felt it was important that we talk. Overall, the trip was great. I was really pleased this time and felt like I can actually say I saw London.

I also got a neighborhood run in one morning and ran past a building with a plaque dedicated to Winston Churchill as apparently he had lived in that building for 9 years of his life. That was awesome. Speaking of working out, I have been such the slacker since the 5K race. Nothing consistent, just hit and miss for me so I need to kick it back into start mode but I need a race or something to start training for. The next races I have planned aren't until 2009. I need something before December I think. If not, maybe I'll just create one in my head so that I have something to train for. I seem to work better that way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

London

I'm not exactly sure what to expect while I'm in London but I'm excited about it. I'm not terribly excited about the tube, though.

The first part of the week, there will be Christian teams from all over Europe that gather for a time of encouragement, reflection, perhaps a bit of direction. Recently, a pastor in Europe who was battling cancer passed away. I'm sure this will be something we atleast acknowledge, if not bring into focus. Then over the weekend, we will have tons of students and campus leaders from all over Europe gathering together. I'm excited to see old friends and meet new people.

I'm bringing my running shoes but I'll have to feel it out. Not exactly sure what the neighborhoods will be like or where I'll be staying. This time, I decided not to stay outside the city with my friends who offered to stay in their home. I want to be closer to our venues and I'm just not ready to be on the tube that much every day.

In addition to the conference, I'm hoping to see a few places I have yet to see in London that are historical. Honestly though my highlights will be seeing Inta, a girl from Latvia I met two years ago at a Straight Up Beautiful conference and Luca whose Hungarian and moved over in the Fall to be a nanny.

I doubt I'll have much internet access but that's actually quite a nice thought.

Have a great week!

My blanket's in the dryer


"Change is inevitable, except from vending machines." Unknown

I agree completely.

Growth, on the other hand, is not.

"We do not grow absolutely..... We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially..... We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations." Anais Nin

When I look back at the "layers" of growth in my life I think I've found that most of the time the catalyst was change and I usually fought it in the beginning.

As Marilyn Ferguson once said, "It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to."

Right now my blanket is in the dryer. I've found myself with little to hold on to.

Periodically, I build these layers of reflection while in the midst of living my life. It's usually not real deep. It's more about the highlights for me. In between these thinly padded layers of contemplation and reflection, I'm busy spending my time actually living life-- up on the citadel; back down again. I've been to the mountain tops-- where hope, faith, joy, confidence and encouragement were my companions. I've also been to the valleys; where fear, doubt, discouragement and pain were stalking me. This life is much like a roller coaster I'm not sure I agreed to get on but it's one I don't think anyone has successfully avoided. There are ebbs and flows in life and the trick is -- don't let it allude you.

Why? Call it a chapter in a book, if you will. But there will be many, many changes for every single individual - both internal and external changes, controllable and uncontrollable, expected and unexpected -- until the day of death. The truth is you may have nothing to hold onto, but your answer is warming up. It's in the dryer. I'm not so sure that's the best analogy but let's just say, for the point of conversation, that every one of us needs a blanket or atleast something secure to hold onto -- and for the point of conversation, this would be like Charlie Brown's good friend Linus's beautifully blue blanket.

My blanket's in the dryer. It's warming up and although I'm excited, I feel a bit uncovered as I'm sure Linus would without his blue pal.

The last few years in Budapest have been rich with purpose, people and challenges as well. As I look at returning to the West Coast in 2009, I'm looking through a photo journal filled with glimpses of a life I've built here in a land that is far from home. Two and a half years is a long time. When you leave the things you've invested your life into, there's a part of you that realizes you are walking into a new place with nothing. No blanket. No experience to define you. Don't get me wrong. I actually despise the thought of needing an experience to define me. But how much will I carry back with me in that blanket? The people I've known, loved and carried in my heart will return with me but it will be different, just as it always is different when you leave one place for another. That, to me, sucks sometimes. I don't think I like that part of change.

My point of growth came this summer when I had to ask myself a very difficult question. As much as I love it here, did I truly forsee myself building and living in this place for a lifetime? No, I did not see myself living here for a lifetime, atleast not now. And staying any longer would only prolong the inevitable and be harder to tear away. When I look back to the time I first mentioned moving to Budapest, I casually said 2-3 years. And that's exactly what it will be - 2.5 years.

Yet, like a child, this is where I want my candy bar before dinner. I left my native born country to live among a people I'd only seen glimpses of in my dad's mom. Yet now I want to take them back with me. I was and still am brimming over with hope for a people I somehow feel connected to after almost three years. Letting go is never easy to do.

And then I realized something.

Because I'm leaving, there are Hungarians who will also be moving -- moving forward, moving on. Forward in their faith and in their weight within the context of our small Christian community. Anthony J. D'Angelo once said, "Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant." And I find I'm learning that this might be good. And then these words ring true. So the choice is mine. I must choose to look at the situation honestly and realize that not only my life but those I had hoped to build with here will be affected in a good way. This is how character is built, right?

It was Harriet Lerner who said, "Although the connections are not always obvious, personal change is inseparable from social and political change." It's here that I resolve myself to realize what once was understood to be merely a flat world later became clearly round. And the place that seems like the end of the road, at least in some of my moments of reflection, may also be the beginning of spectacular things. Yep. My blanket's in the dryer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The responsibility of being an American citizen

Although I haven't lived in Nevada for over two years, I am registered as a permanent resident in Carson City thanks to the parents address. When I received the absentee ballot here in Budapest, I realized I had a lot of work ahead of me by way of researching and understanding what's going on in my nation -- not only on an international level, but within Nevada. I've been listening to the presidential debates and forming my opinions, doing some research on key issues, but having a harder time with state politics. Voting for a Representative in District 2 - Dean Heller is the only familiar name on the ballot, but I need to find out what his track record is in Nevada. Assembly District 40 - Barbara Parnell has been a long time leader, but has it been good? Couldn't tell you. There are two supreme court justice seats, the Carson mayor, board of education and school trustee positions. Without having the constant barrage of media coverage on the presidential election, let alone local politics, I've been left to my own research for facts about the issues facing our nation and Nevada. It's a bit overwhelming, actually, but I count it a privilege that I am a citizen of a relatively free nation.

So, I'll be spending the next few evenings doing some research. Anyone who has opinions and ideas about the Nevada seats, I would be interested to hear those or if you have good websites I can visit, even better.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mobile Home.

The light of dawn has yet to hit the pavement. My jazzy phone alarm goes off. I set the new ring tone for early mornings like these. Guess I was hopeful that the crisp sound would leave a nice imprint on my mind and wake me from my groggy state of being and plunge me into the new morning.

But alas, I fumble out of bed, longing for a few more hours of sleep. I head to the kitchen, flick on the hot water heater and prepare a few scoops of my favorite Italian espresso in a French Press -- I really enjoy that morning cup of java.

Morning always comes much earlier than I’m ready for. But it’s a new day. A new chance to love people and to keep my heart near home.

Home. Where is home?

Surely I am far away from home and family. Across the ocean and on the eastern side of Europe is not home to me. As much as I love it here, not much looks, smells or acts like home. I don’t speak the language and I don’t undersand the cultural innuendos. Something about home implies a comfortable familiarity with your surroundings. Their jokes are not my jokes and I often find myself thinking, "What's so funny?" Ways of thinking, ways of living. This is not my home.

The birds outside chirp enthusiastically. This is the sound I was looking for with my alarm. A simple reminder that I too have been given a voice to sing. Sweet and clear on this cold morning in Budapest, I embrace their sounds and hope that I too will be a sweet and clear sound. Sounds and sights in the morning. Sweet, crisp, fragile, fresh, innocent and ready to face the day are all those little birds I hear outside my door. And, as crazy as it sounds, I too am a bird. Birds may have nests, but do they have homes? -- a bird without a home. Birds fly south in winter. I too am finding myself looking for direction -- and I'm going west as the weather gets cold in Budapest.

On the Western side of the US, will I truly be at home? Familiar sights and sounds make life much easier. The sense of comfortable familiarity is strength for the day. But my soul finds little rest in an undefined place. There are old memories sweet to the taste and some bitter on the pallet of remembrances. What a mixed reaction when I consider going west. Anxious to embrace the familiar yet not wanting to get stuck in the drones of a place that has, so many times in the past, taken me far from home. I find in this melancholic moment a truth that I'm not always quick to admit. This place is also not my home.

And then I realize I will find my home wherever I find my heart.

Lord, I worship you. My heart is yours and in you alone do I feel at rest. And because of this, I sing like those birds. I sing and you hear me. Lord because you are my home, you also prepare a place for me wherever I go and whatever I do. I will never be satisfied looking to external circumstances and possessions for a sense of domestication. I'm your bird. And if sparrows are cared for with such detail, how can I worry about a home?

I can be anywhere, go anywhere, do anything – and you will always be my home. There's a sense of mobility that comes when I stay close to your heart - a mobile home in the essence of the word - that I can go anywhere, do anything, and I'm at home. You are my home.

My name is Johnny...



Last night Anna came over again and we decided to make dinner. I had tons of veggies with fresh garlic which I'm really into sauteeing recently and I made my famous pasta pesto. Anna wanted us to eat raw broccoli bushes with her olive oil, salt, fresh garlic dippage and all I have to say about fresh broccoli in Budapest is that it's really bitter. Talk about organic girl, that would be Anna. I don't have anything against it, but I like steamed broccoli with lots of melted cheese on it. Much more my style, but since broccoli is a good source of fiber and you have to keep village earthy girl happy, we did try her dippage thing. I felt like I was eating little trees live with those broccoli trunks. I also had some chocolate chip cookie dough left over from Wednesdays high school english group and so we made a batch of cookies. Sometimes, I just love being able to stay inside and enjoy the simple things in life. Yet in those moments, it's all about your company. If you have good company it's a lot of fun.

Anna has become a great friend. She's great company. We chatted, practiced guitar and laughed at our personal jokes and antics. Then I got in the mood to watch a movie. Walk the Line was our best option as we have both really been in this guitar practicing, rock star mode, and decided a good dose of Johny Cash and June Carter was the answer. I love to read biographies and autobiographies so its no wonder that I love movies based on people's lives as well.

Watching the movie, two things came to mind. First, oh God save me from ever becoming like Johny's first wife. She didn't believe in him, always tore him down and I actually wondered - did she love him? I'm sure she did and that's a terrible thing to say but I guess I just realized that life does get hard and things happen and people change and pursue dreams and I would hate to ever be the woman in a man's life who tore that guy down or didn't believe in him, inspire and encourage him.

Second, I loved the part when Johny first went into the recording studio and the guy basically said that music should be about passion -- and what would you sing if it were the last song you had to sing?

Sometimes I get so sad about my musical inabilities but I don't have nearly enough time to put into learning guitar. I want to though. Isn't it amazing how much an instrument can stir the deepest crevices of your soul, especially when you're creating something from nothing? Anna and I had fun with that aspect of the guitar and we've been information sharing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jersey Girl with Ben



Tonight I started watching Jersey Girl when Anna came over from her Russian lesson. The Russian consolate is just around the corner from my house so now on Fridays she comes down from her neighborhood which is about 45 minutes from where I live to study Russian. So I put the movie on pause and we went for Pizza at Pizza Hut. All I have to say is that Pizza lovers is the best! All that delicious pepperoni that tastes like real pepperoni. So great. Then we walked back down Andrassy street talking and laughing. I came back and finished watching Jersey Girl with Ben Afflack. So sweet! What a sweet movie.


Anyways last night we "sort of" went to the Opera. She was given tickets by one of the parents to see "Gone with the Wind" but we were gone with the wind after the first act. I had seen it a year ago and she wasn't that interested to sit through the whole thing so we were hasta la vista.
Everyone needs a fun friend like Anna.

Unexpected.

UNEXPECTED AND UNPLANNED FOR - Temper tantrum. Yep. That's right. I had one as a grown up this morning. Although I withheld myself from flailing on the floor, tears were not beneath me on this one. So unexpected too.

UNEXPECTED AND RELIEVED - London trip is paid. I was really stressing about the next few months and all the traveling responsibilities that are no my plate. Just like that and unexpected, my London flight is paid for. Unexpected blessing.

UNEXPECTED AND WIERD - Reconnecting with high school friends. Blast from the past for sure. So unexpected.

What other unexpected things are just around the corner?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

quadrangular

Quadrangular. Yes it's a word. Just came across it while studying an online personal trainers course. Basically, this is the shape of tissue in your muscles surrounding your heart. Interesting fact, no?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Music is the latest adventure I want to conquer.....



Renea is giving me guitar lessons and letting me borrow her electric guitar to practice on. So cool! I feel like a rockstar but at this point I'm so bad that I'm practicing basic chords and rhythm. My first lesson was basically just learning how to play the G,Em,C, and D chord with some rhythm. I clipped my nails and started building up callouses already. So thankful that she's letting me use her guitar. It's funny but over the past two years, I've used their guitars, their bikes. They sure are going to get a lot less use when I'm gone!! ha ha.

On Saturday night I had a get together at my house with some friends and invited my new middle eastern/italian friend to come and bring some entertainment with his setar. What an interesting instrument. It was amazing to hear him play. I felt like I was right in the middle of the middle east as he effortlessly played this amazing Persian instrument. I started thinking once I get to a good place with the guitar, maybe I will look into getting a setar. They are incredible both in sound and this particular one was hand crafted and gorgeous. I fell in love with its rivets and strings. The sounds this instrument plays! Amazing.


In a great place

This morning I woke up so thankful for everything, not wanting to take anything for granted in this life.
Thankful -
-for breath in my lungs
-good health
-family
-friends
-travel
-music
-worship
-a heart to love others
-eyes to see others
-ears to hear others
- a mind to think, consider
-hands to paint with, try to play guitar, cook, enjoy life
-feet to walk, run, bike
-food in my fridge
-clothes on my back
-words of life spoken directly from God's heart to mine
-new perspective
-renewal of the soul
-that pain brings us closer to the things that are most important
-that God is sifting through my heart and bringing forth the most important things

I'm in a great place.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ghoulish or Goulash

You know you've been in Hungary too long when you get an email that says "100 Days of Holidays - 30 Ghoulish Halloween Recipes."

No Jen, that's not 30 different goulash recipes ok?

Have you that quickly forgotten that in your home country right now in possibly every grocery store and gas station Halloween paraphernalia is in every corner? Yes, this would be the ghoulish holiday called Halloween.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

thoughts

With little time to write, I just want to say three things.

1) Salsa lesson tonight was a lot of fun. I have a new dance partner and its so great when you can lose all dignity and just step out and do something that is uncomfortable but enjoyable. That's what makes a great dance partner is someone who doesn't take the whole thing to seriously, can laugh when I step on his toes, but stay focused enough to figure out and enjoy the dance. Anyways, I went directly after English conversation club tonight, which was also a lot of fun. We had about 10 people and although the topic was deep on the origin of man, there were some great discussions after watching some video clips and interviews on the topic.

2) Reno was recently in the news for their homeless "tent community". I had no idea. Did you?
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/09/19/tent.cities.ap/

3) I'm still fighting head congestion and have left a workout plan I had in the dust. It's time to revamp and regroup. I will say that I am---mostly---eating healthier. Do banana muffins count?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the $700 billion bailout

I'm just now starting to get in touch with the western world as I read this article. It's so strange not being in the US to hear an American perspective on it all. At the same time, it makes our economic situation that much more of a global issue as I sit here in Budapest reading about what's happening in the US and the world.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26876718/

Monday, September 29, 2008

banana muffins and cinnamon



























I just made THE most PERFECT banana muffins I've made in a long time. I'm going on my 3rd one right now and I feel very little shame about it. Actually, I'm even debating a 4th. These suckers are so good and they are beautiful. I had to capture it for you so you'd have a mental picture. :D

Anyways, the recipe I semi-follow is Bree's Banana bread recipe and it calls for cinnamon. I ended up putting way too much in there but they turned out great. And then I just learned there are medicinal properties to cinnamon. Did you know that ---

Studies have shown that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.

Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.

In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.

It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.

When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.

One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.

Researchers at Kansas State University found that cinnamon fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.

It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

So, I think I'll be adding a bit more cinnamon in my food and I was thinking about it earlier today while sauteing veggies that I think I want to take a few professional cooking lessons. How cool would that be to learn how to cook a few really nice meals. I'd like to do that. I think I'm a fairly decent cook but I want to expand my horizons and learn a few cooking techniques. That would be so cool.

These are my thoughts -- all inspired by cinnamon.

Goodbye to Texas

Last night we said goodbye to the Texas team at Jeff's house. We had chili and cornbread and our new student friend in a red sweater from campus joined us too. He's a muslim and was observing Ramadan until the sun went down. He's a really great guy and I'm really hoping and praying that God does some amazing things in his life in the future. It got me thinking of how much dedication many muslims have and something was stirred inside of me. Where is my passion? Where is my dedication to Christ? I want a fresh passion, a fresh love, a fresh devotion to the greatest God and creator of all. As soon as that sun went down, he was chili chompin' with the rest of us. He told us he's not one to observe the meat restrictions.




Anyways, we had a great week. Lots of awesome things happened and I can't wait to see what takes place in the future here in Budapest. One of the songs that Tyler sang over and over again was a song by Chris Tomlin called "God of this city." So awesome. I'm going around singing it and when I think of any nation in trouble these days, this song comes to mind. Here's the you tube clip.



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Can't wait to get back into a normal schedule. Hope you have a great week.

Coldplay in Budapest

A few months ago, I started making plans to see Coldplay in concert with some of the Hungarian students. About a month ago we went to the ticketing offices and there were no standing tickets left. I didn't care and I was more than willing to get a seated/assigned ticket but none of the students wanted it so they were going to check on iwiw (the Hungarian affiliate to facebook) and see if they could locate some extra tickets. It never happened and I figured since Coldplay was going to be here the week that the Texas team was here that maybe it just wasn't meant to happen and I'd have to catch them another time.

Well, Tuesday night, at the last minute, a handful of the Texas team really wanted to go see Coldplay. We finished the evening, were grabbing a bite to eat and then some people started talking about it. Of course I was all over that! But the question was whether we could get tickets. We were 10 minutes away by metro and the concert had started a half hour earlier. Seven of us took the chance and went for it. Here's a quick video shot and some great pictures! I LOVE the picture of Ali, Nathan and Andrew after we got tickets and were running to get in. I tried to upload a quick video from the camera, but it wasn't happenin'. You probably would have got sick by all the moving around I did in the first minute anyway. :D