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


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

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.

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.

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.