23 December, 2012

Two Pictures

So Ben wanted me to blog about some things that I shared at church this evening. I'm doing it now, because if I don't, Grant will suck it out of my head and I will not remember anything that I said!

As Christians, we celebrate many holidays. All of them have differing levels of importance and meaning for each of us, but I think that most Christians can agree that the two most important are Christmas and Easter.

I have always viewed Easter as the most important, because it was the event that secured my salvation. As I was thinking about both events tonight, I was struck by the two pictures of Christ that each holiday presents. Distinct, clear pictures, but completely opposite ones.

The Christ of Easter is triumphant. He is victorious. He has beaten Death; the foe that no man escape.

The Christ of Christmas is a baby. He is small. He is weak. He is helpless.

I can easily identify with the Christ of Christmas. I am small. I am weak. I am helpless.

However, I desperately need the Christ of Easter. I need the victorious warrior who can win the battle.

The two go together in perfect harmony. Without one, we cannot have the other.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin."
Hebrews 4:15

Over the next few days in our house, we will celebrate the Christ of Christmas. We will celebrate the fact that God would humble Himself to become a tiny baby. Because He was not afraid to humble Himself, He knows exactly what we go through in this broken world. He was cold, wet, and hungry. He experienced tragedy and mourned loved ones. He did all this, so that He could be the Christ of Easter!

19 December, 2012

Grocery Shopping 101

So, I got several responses to my Facebook post, so here is Megan's Guide to Grocery Shopping in Hungary.

1. Try to avoid huge trips at all costs.

  • When you have no car and have to bring your own bags, you are limited by how many bags you have and how much you can carry. The wise nénis ("aunties") of the city have bags on wheels to carry their purchases and I am not ashamed to use one as well!


2. Carry your own bag on you at all times.

  • When you make frequent, small trips to the store, you never know when you will have to stop by to pick up a quick liter of milk. You don't want to have to buy a whole new bag just to carry home your milk and bread. Ben calls his a "Popple," because it folds up into a neat little bundle like the 90's toy.


This is an internet picture. Neither Ben nor I own a Popple. I think. Yet.
3. About that liter of milk.

  • It's in a cardboard box. For the more adventurous, you can get it in a plastic bag.

4. Common items are surprisingly different.

  • Eggs come by the 10s, not the 12s. 
  • Bread is fresh. Many times you bag it and slice it yourself. For those that might have OCD, don't think about where the bread has been or choose an already bagged bread loaf. Oh, and the sticker is not edible, but it does not peel off.
  • Shredded cheese? Nope, buy the whole thing and shred it yourself. Oh, and cheddar? Either ridiculously expensive or completely unavailable. You will learn to love trappista; a salty, mild white cheese.
5. When Hungarians like something, it comes in 500 different kinds.
  • There is an entire case in our grocery store devoted to túro. What is túro, you ask? Cottage cheese. But you can get it creamy, you can get it dry, you can get it flavored, you can get it bite-sized and covered in chocolate. Do I sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump yet?
  • Remember trappista? So. Many. Options. 
  • Chocolate? A whole aisle full
  • Wine? 3 aisles full
  • Paprika? psh, you have sweet paprika, spicy paprika, deli paprika, paprika spreads, and paprika flavored chips. The word "paprika" actually means "pepper" in Hungarian, so I think you can tell who made it popular!
6. Look up the Hungarian word before you go, but do not expect it to be called that.
  • Some of you may remember my cumin post. Yeah... nothing like accidentally buying a ton of caraway to teach you THIS lesson.
  • Paprika- vegetable pepper. Feketebors- black pepper
  • bor- wine, bors- pepper
7. Do not go shopping on a Saturday morning.
  • Just don't.
8. Do not expect anyone to be aware of their own locations or the location of their carts
  • Have enough self awareness for yourself and the rest of the people in the grocery store. If someone runs their cart into yours because they were not looking, they will give YOU a nasty look.
  • Ben and I have developed the "dive bomber & fighter plane" system, particularly if we have lost our minds enough to go on a Saturday morning. Ben moves slower in the large aisles and I dart in like a fighter plane and grab 2-3 items we need in the crowded, smaller aisles. I return to him to drop the parcels and receive my next mission. We have never lost a man in combat utilizing this method.
9. Malls are the best places to find large grocery stores
  • Every mall in the city has a large grocery store in the basement. The store at our mall is called InterSpar, but at other malls you can find Match, Tesco, and Auchan. 
  • There are little grocery stores all over the city, but if you want more selection and harder-to-find items, get thee to a mallery!
10. Throw out your idea of how a grocery store is organized in the States
  • There is nothing illogical about how sections are organized here, it's just not like it is in the States. Canned or jarred fruits and vegetables line the walls of the produce section. You will find your tomato sauce next to the corn. Pasta is over by the oil and flour and cereal is in the bakery.
11. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but choose something other than cereal.
  • You know that box of cereal you snagged for $2 last week with a coupon? It's $7 here and there are no large boxes.
  • Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, bread, and deli meat are the most common ingredients in a Hungarian's breakfast. I wish I liked all those things, because eating all those raw veggies is a much healthier alternative to bacon and eggs or cereal!
12. How do we get out?!?! It's a trap!!!
  • Don't expect it to be too easy to leave the store without buying something. At the InterSpar at our mall, there is only 1 entrance and only 1 exit if you leave without buying something (customer service). They are at opposite ends of the store.
  • If you try and sneak out one of the check out lines, you will be firmly reprimanded and sent to customer service to exit there.
13. If you have ever been to an Aldi, you have a pretty good idea of the European model for grocery stores.
  • You need a coin to get a cart.
  • The checkers are all seated at the registers.
  • You bag your own groceries. Preferably, after the transaction is complete and in a different location.
  • You need to bring your own bags or purchase them at the store.
14. Above all, do NOT forget to weigh and sticker your fresh produce and make sure EVERYTHING has a tag or a barcode on it.
  • If you get to the checker and your produce does not have a sticker, you will not be getting that produce. The same goes for anything missing a tag. You REALLY do not want to see the nasty looks you will get from the checker and the people behind you in line, if you decide you still want whatever item you had. It's just not pretty and really not worth it. Last week, I did not get the kiwis I wanted because they did not have a tag on them.
15. Speaking of fresh produce...
  • Better than going to a grocery store, go to a covered market. Every district has one and you can get cheaper prices and fresher items. Not only that, you will find a larger variety and you can also get cuts of meat. The one catch is that you have to be confident enough in your Hungarian to get what you want!

In many ways I prefer the way groceries are done here. There is a lot more emphasis on fresh produce and not putting preservatives in foods. You will not find things canned here as often, but you will find things in glass jars. I prefer the glass jars to the more common plastic jars in the States. They are easier to recycle and if you save them and remove the labels, they make for great containers for Christmas gifts!

That's all for today! I don't know that any of you will ever need to go grocery shopping in Hungary, but if you do, you have some basics to start with!

10 December, 2012

Ministry update

video

Boldog Karácsonyt!  Merry Christmas!

BrrrrRRRRrrrrRRRRrrrr it's COLD in Budapest!  About a week ago we dropped down below freezing and it's forecasted to stay that way for awhile.  That's okay with us, though, our flat is nice and cozy, we have warm coats, and Megan is her own furnace these days :D  A few of you have requested more news on the ministry front, so that's what I'll try to do a bit of here.

First off, a few followups from our Summer update.  That team from Florida came and for 2 nights we hosted what we called "Cheesecake Night".  It turned out to be "American Dessert" night with live music and LOTS of guests.  God timed things perfectly, because just down the street from The Forum there was a craft beer festival and with our open windows and live band, several people stumb...I mean, "visited" our outreach.  This led to some great conversations and the gospel was shared with many.  I personally chatted with a Spanish guy who was visiting Budapest with a couple friends on his way to medical school in Slovakia.  I never got his name, but I still pray for him.

The English club in Törökbálint didn't happen this fall, but we had plenty of other things on our plates to keep us VERY busy.  We did indeed help lead an Alpha Course and overall it has been a wonderful experience.  For those of you from Grace Bible Church, it's not too far off from the Essentials course. The meals and fellowship, as well as the weekend away, really unified the group and enhanced the discussion times.  One lady became a believer in Jesus and another is right on the cusp of believing if she hasn't already.

What I'm most excited about these days is what God is doing with Agora.  The other American pastor, Trey, and I still meet weekly, but we greatly miss our Hungarian brother who is doing his best at Oxford.  Pray for him and his family, actually, if you don't mind.  Life is tough living in another country where they speak a different language!  Add studying at OXFORD to that, 2 small kids and a 3rd on the way... Yeah, prayers.

Okay, back to Agora.  One of the other great things about the Cheesecake night is some of the new people who have begun attending on Sunday afternoons.  A couple of them are Budapesti who first found us that night and have been a part of our family every since.  A few months ago, Trey took a Sunday off from his series on II Corinthians to basically have a church meeting.  He asked everyone, "Why do you come to Agora?"  "What brings you back?".  It was a wonderful afternoon, and we came away with 3 distinctives that comprise what I've been calling "The Agora Flavor".  1) The Bible is taught clearly.  2) We discuss the sermon/passage as a group.  3) We pray for each other.  Those three things are the core of our service now, and new people have continued to visit and stay.  God is really doing something with that approach and blessing Agora.  We do music as we can (no worship leader), communion every 2nd Sunday and meet early the last Sunday for a discussion table meal.  The service is always translated into Hungarian or English depending on who's teaching (I'll start preaching once a month in January) and there's a Hungarian small group on Wednesdays that also attracts new people.

That's Agora in a big nutshell.  Something else that gets me all excited is dreaming about the future of Agora, and how we should grow.  I know I've only been at this for a year, I don't have a seminary degree, I'm still learning the languaculture and I don't know that much about church planting, but I have a dream and it puts a smile on my face :D  Agora can't get big, if we're doing to keep those 3 distinctives.  I think when we get up to 35-40 people, it will be time to multiply into two groups of about 20.  Think cell division, but I'm avoiding that word since it has a negative connotation.  Trey, Dávid and I feel like we already have another leader candidate to help with a new Agora, the guy who's currently serving as our translator.  God has clearly gifted him with discernment and he has an ability to explain Scripture or ideas in ways that are very understandable.  Anyway, I can see that strategy working until the whole city of Budapest is inundated (or saturated if you still like that word) with at least 1 Agora in each of the 23 districts!  From that, why not Agoras in Pécs?  Debrecen?  Sopron?  Győr?

I love Agora, I love getting to serve there and that being my "job".  I love witnessing what God is doing with His people and how they shine for Him.  I've been learning a lot about what 'church' is this last year, and I think the authors of Tangible Kingdom said it best, "If [Christians] embody the message, they won't have to target people or go after them.  They enjoy the alternative of waiting for people to approach them with curiosity and interest because of what was seen."  Agora EMBODIES the message of Jesus, and God is drawing people in to hear about His love, grace and mercy.

Thanks for letting us be here in Budapest, this is almost more fun than a missionary is supposed to have!

10 October, 2012

Ben's Dream & a Long-Awaited Announcement

So I (Ben) don't remember my dreams but rarely, however two nights ago I had a really funny/heart-melting one.

I dreamed that it was the day we gave birth and that we had a little boy.  It was the day of delivery itself and Megan was off in a class or a meeting, so I was getting to enjoy a little father/son time.  Oh, he was already about a year old, maybe 2.  Anyway, we were walking around the city together, me holding him in my right arm when I had a realization, "CRAP!  Now I have to name you!"

There were two names Megan and I had been discussing but I hadn't decided which I liked best.  I thought, "Well I can try out these names right now and we'll see how the little guy reacts to them."  He was looking up at me this whole time, so I looked down at him and asked,

"Are you Grant Arthur?"

(Grant is my great-great-grandfather and Arthur is my grandfather's middle name.) He looked away but I could tell that he had a little smile on his face so I asked again, "Are you Grant Arthur?"  He looked back up at me and his smile was a little bigger.  I thought, "Okay, he seems to like that one okay, let's try the other one."

"Are you Samuel Jay?"  At this, his smile dropped, he looked at me very seriously and said,

"Not so much."  I cracked up laughing in my dream when he said this, so I sat down on the edge of a flower bed to text this to Megan.  He asked me, "what are you doing, Daddy?" and I said, "I have to text this to your mom, that was so funny!"

For some reason, the sky went black and the screen of my phone became so bright I couldn't focus my eyes on it anymore.  I turned off the phone and soon after, the sky returned to its normal brightness.  I could see our son again and he wrapped his arms around me, rested his head on my chest and said,

"This is my Daddy."

I woke up, heart melted and still chuckling.

Today, we had another sonogram, the 5th in which we've tried to determine our baby's gender.  Yes, we've heard from a lot of people that 'waiting is so much better, more surprising, etc.' but we wanted to know :D (helps Megan know what colors of yarn to buy).  In all the previous sonograms, our baby was REALLY shy, not giving the doctors or us a clear view of anything.  Three times we heard, "I think it's a girl" and once in the same appointment, "I'm 1000% sure it's a boy" turned back into, "I think it's a girl".

Well today, the doctor and both of us saw CLEARLY that I must be a prophet because WE'RE HAVING A SON!!!

His name is Grant Arthur Naylor

28 August, 2012

Summer Update


Overall, up until about a month ago it was a tough summer for us.  Many of our teammates went back to the USA for Home Ministry Assignment and with a few notable exceptions, we were left to ourselves.  Megan’s first trimester was not a happy time for her as the nausea and hyper-sensitivity to smells consigned her to bed rest for 2 months.  She also had an inner ear problem that made her incredibly dizzy for a couple of weeks during those months.  Add on top of that, this was the hottest summer since 2007 for Budapest and we didn’t have what all Texans grow up with, air conditioning.  I was in charge of all cooking, cleaning and shopping so almost needless to say, the quality of our cuisine and the cleanliness of our flat declined :D  The situation finally reached its limit and we fled the city to our team leader’s house in the suburbs which has two rooms “klimaval” (with A/C) 

We stayed there for almost a month with one of our other teammates who stayed in Hungary and just tried to take care of Megan.  While out in Diósd, we got to experience the town and Budapest by car.  It was my first time to drive in 7 months and the first couple days were a bit nerve-wracking.  Not just because it had been awhile, but because it’s a different country with some different rules (no right on red) and often the streets make NO SENSE!!!  I would study google maps for about 30 minutes before we went someplace new and still got lost a few times. 

Part of that driving for me was going to another suburb, Törökbálint, to help translate for an English outreach camp.  You heard me, I TRANSLATED.  Still can’t believe that happened.  The first day as we were introducing ourselves I said (in Hungarian), ‘I am Ben Naylor and if needed I am a very, VERY bad translator!’  The two Hungarian ladies in our group laughed and believe you me, I gave them plenty of other opportunities to laugh at me. 

That same week, the two pastors of the church plant we have been attending asked me to join them and help lead the church!  It’s called ‘Agora’ and it meets at a place called ‘The Forum’.  The Forum is a place where different ministries and another church come to use the space during the week.  The other pastors are both wonderful speakers and big picture guys, but details like communion and tithing escape them :D  I’ve been meeting with them weekly since the first week of July and am acting as the “Executive Pastor”; every couple of weeks we Skype with a church in Florida that is graciously supporting our plant financially.  They’re sending a team to Budapest next month and we’ll be working together to host a Culture Exchange at The Forum with live music, native English speakers and cheesecake (not really a dessert they do over here). 
At the very end of July, thanks to our amazing landlord, our generous parents and our own savings, our flat had Klima installed!  A couple days of cleaning (it hadn’t been lived in for a month) and we’ve been back ever since.  One of the other things that Megan realized as soon as we got to Diósd was how much she missed quiet.  The city is not quiet, especially when you live on a major road 2 km away from a state hospital (we average one siren every hour) that has a tram on it.  Before we had Klima, our windows were always open/cracked to get a breeze and all the noise had been subconsciously grating on Megan’s nerves.  Once we were out in the suburbs, all we heard was an occasional dog barking.  Now we can keep our windows closed and with the white noise, our flat is a MUCH more quiet and restful place to be.

Megan has started a knitting circle for the Budapest Moms group (300 English speaking expat ladies who are expecting or have small children) that meets in our flat twice every week.  So far, about 7 different ladies have come to hang out, learn and eat the tasty snacks Megan set out.  It’s fun for her but of course, we’re praying that these turn into relationships where the gospel can be shared.

Two weeks ago we were blessed to travel to Slovenia to attend UWM’s Euro Conference.  For us, it was like a family reunion in a lot of ways because somehow, we already knew more than half of those who attended.   Some of them were families we hadn’t seen in over a year so it was a wonderful time to reconnect.  There was a lot of rest time built in, the food was wonderful and do yourselves a favor by googling ‘Lake Bled, Slovenia’.  It is BEAUTIFUL there!

Coming up this fall, we will have fairly busy weeks.  If the scheduling works out, we will be going back out to Törökbálint like we did in the spring to help teach English to a group that meets at the Reformed church there.  Also, we’re hoping to join our teammates John & Zsofi who lead something called ‘Alpha Course’ at their church here in the city.  Basically it’s a no-pressure environment in which to learn about Christianity.  It was originally developed by the Anglican church in England but in the last few decades has spread internationally and EVERY denomination has used it because it’s very middle-of-the-road.  Charismatics would say it doesn’t talk about the Holy Spirit enough but someone like me might feel it talks about Him too much.  Nobody loves the material completely but everyone recognizes that it’s powerfully effective.  Megan will continue her knitting group and I’ll continue working with Agora.

I promised that this would be less than 1,000 words so here it is!  Thanks for reading.

10 July, 2012

A New Little One

My sweet husband has been kind enough to keep up the blogging while I have been struggling through my first trimester of pregnancy, but I thought you might want to hear a little from me now that I'm feeling better!

I will be 13 weeks along tomorrow and am finally feeling a little bit of the second trimester relief that so many women talk about! Ben and I found out that I was pregnant on May 10th. I had been suffering from terrible allergies for a month or so and decided it was time to get an allergy test to discover exactly to what I am allergic. The doctor had some students sit in on the skin test and they were not disappointed as I got STRONGLY positive test results to cats, feathers, and dust mites. I was not surprised about the cats or feathers, but the dust mite allergy explained why I suffered year-round instead of seasonally. The doctor and I talked about medication options and how I had been taking Allegra for some time, but had recently run out and decided to wait until after the appointment to get more. I also told her that my husband and I were trying for a baby, but I was only one day late. She decided to go ahead and do a pregnancy test, since I cannot take oral antihistamines if I am pregnant. Sure enough, I got another positive test result and the lab tech gave me her congratulations!

Where was Ben in all this? Our area director had recently had surgery and Ben and I had decided to make him and his family a meal to help ease the stress for his wife during his recovery. So while I was at my doctor's appointment, Ben was in the middle of schlepping a full meal out to the suburbs for the mom to pick up whenever she got her kids from school.

I was then faced with the dilemma of how to tell Ben. I never doubted that he would be thrilled, but didn't know how to share this big news. I ended up taking the long (air-conditioned) way home to buy some time to think up a plan. I woke from my thoughts at a stop I knew had several baby clothing stores. I hopped off the tram and bought a onesie that said "I love dad." When I got back on the tram, I busied myself with rolling a stuffing the onesie in one of the boxes for the allergy spray my doctor had prescribed.

Ben was surprised that he beat me home, but I made an excuse, "The appointment took longer than I thought and I had to pick up some prescriptions." He wanted to hear all about my appointment and we sat down at the kitchen table as I pulled out my prescriptions. I showed him one and asked him to help me open another. His first thoughts as he pulled out the onesie ranged from "Is this a breathing mask?" to "Did they give her socks?" Until it finally dawned on him what it was and what it said. He looked at me and said, "Are you pregnant?" I nodded and we were both lost in the midst of disbelieving excitement!

A week later we got to go to Brusssels, Belgium for a surprise trip I had planned for Ben's birthday. We had a great time, but while we were there I started to feel the beginnings of nausea. It just got worse when we got home and there were a few days of vomiting. The nausea increased to the point that I could hardly do anything. Getting up and moving around, smells, and even bad color combinations had my stomach pitching like a ship in a storm! The worst of it, oddly enough, occurred when it was morning in the States. Regardless of never having been there, apparently this baby is a Texan!

I tried to do as much as I could, but the only thing that could keep the nausea at bay was to take up position on the couch and do very little. Food sounded disgusting, but I tried to eat what I could, because an empty stomach is the worst thing for morning sickness. When I was 11 weeks, I was looking forward to the nearing end of the 1st trimester and hoped-for relief. What struck instead, was the worst dizziness I have ever had in my life. Dizziness that just intensified my nausea and vomiting. I could not even move my head without the world spinning. It did not matter if I was standing, sitting, or lying down. One small movement and things were no longer stationary!

I decided to wait almost a week until my next OB appointment and tell him the symptoms. He thought it might be low blood pressure and over two days I came in for 2 liters of fluid intravenously. When that did not help, I went to see a GP who diagnosed me with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). It turns out that there are crystals in your inner ear that can occasionally get out of place. When this happens, moving or tilting the head causes them to move and abnormally displace the fluid in you inner ear, thus causing the dizzy sensation. The doctor did some maneuvers to try and replace the crystals. I felt no better that day, but the day after was noticeably better, and the day after that I felt almost normal. I still have issues when I lie on my right side, but other than that I feel better than I have in over a month. I am working now on building back up my stamina, since I have basically been on bed-rest for 6 weeks. In the month between my appointments I had gained no weight, so I am working to make sure I am eating well and drinking a lot of fluids. I still have REALLY low blood pressure (inherited from my mom) and am trying to do what I can to raise it a little so I don't have so much light-headedness. I don't regret any of this. I am excited for the little miracle that God is growing and want his or her health more than anything! Even if that means more nausea for me.

Wow! Probably WAY more than you wanted to read and I applaud you if you made it this far! In all of this, Ben has been so amazing and supportive that I cannot thank him enough. Many of you have said you are praying for me and the baby, but please pray for him too. He has had such a great attitude, but I know it has been difficult to be suddenly saddled with a caregiver role as I have been ill. Pray for his arthritis. The Enbrel seems to have lost some of its effectiveness and he is experiencing more pain. Also, he has been denied another year by the Encourage Foundation. This means we cannot get his Enbrel for free and we cannot afford the amount it costs normally. He has a few more weeks worth of shots, but is meeting with a rheumatologist tomorrow to see if there are any other, cheaper options for him to pursue. Maybe this is God's way of helping us pursue a medication we otherwise would not have known about?

28 June, 2012

A quick thought

So the Supreme Court just upheld the Health Care Insurance Law and a lot of people think that this is hugely damaging.  My two cents that I also shared on facebook:


As 'bad' as it might get if that law sticks around, the USA is still a LONG way away from taxes being as bad as we understand it to be over here. Also, why get so worked up over what a government does? Is God off His throne now? Is He no longer in control? Is He going to stop taking care of you and your family? This is not our home, friends.

26 May, 2012

Ska as worship

The genre of ska music will always have a special place in my (Ben's, though did you really need me to clarify that? :D) heart, it's the soundtrack for my high school days.  My favorite ska band was a Christian group called 'Five Iron Frenzy' and they wrote what would be #1 on my list of top ten songs (even beats out Scuttle Buttin' by Steve Ray Vaughan!)  I heard it this afternoon and just had to share the lyrics.  I love the last part especially, a link to the song on youtube will be included at the bottom if you want to listen to it.
Hope you enjoy it!

"When I was young, the smallest trick of light could catch my eye.  
Then life was new and every new day I thought that I could fly.
I believed in what I hoped for and I hoped for things unseen,
I had wings and dreams could soar, I just don't feel like flying anymore.
When the stars threw down their spears, watered Heaven with their tears,
Before words were spoken, Before eternity.

Dear Father, I need you,
Your strength my heart to mend.
I want to fly higher,
Every new day again.

When I was small, the furthest I could reach was not so high,
Then I thought the world was so much smaller, feeling that I could fly.
Through distant deeps and skies, behind infinity,
Below the face of Heaven He stoops to create me.

Dear Father, I need you,
Your strength my heart to mend.
I want to fly higher,
Every new day again.

Man versus himself.
Man versus machine.
Man versus the world.
Mankind versus me.
The struggles go on,
The wisdom I lack,
The burdens keep pilling
Up on my back.
So hard to breathe,
To take the next step.
The mountain is high,
I wait in the depths.
Yearning for grace,
And hoping for peace.
Dear God...
Increase.

Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again.
Jesus Christ, light of the world burning bright within our hearts forever.
Freedom means love without condition, without a beginning or an end.
Here's my heart, let it be forever Yours,
Only You can make every new day seem so new!"


22 May, 2012

Hospitality

Thursday through Saturday of last week, Megan and I went to Brussels, Belgium for a little belated birthday trip for me.  She put it all together and we really enjoyed our time there (not to mention all the foods you can think of that start with 'Belgian').  We'll tell you more about that trip and show some pictures in another post.  I wanted to share a story that actually started at the END of our trip that culminated last night.

We were at the Brussels South Charleroi Airport in line to go through security when we heard American-accented English from the group behind us.  Megan, being the instigator that she is, turned around and asked where the three were from.  'Washington D.C.', they said, though one had been studying in southern France this spring.  Turned out they were headed to Budapest on the same flight as us and had been given some faulty information about how to get into the city and to their hotel.  We told them to just follow us once we got off the plane and we'd help them get there.  We hung out by our gate and were able to recommend a few activities for them to pursue.

When it was time to line up at our gate to board the plane, we overheard another group of three speaking American-accented (well, at least 'non-British-accented') English.  They asked US where we were from, and they were just as surprised as the first group that Megan and I actually live in the city they were going to visit also.  We got to talking with them and told THEM to just follow us once we got off the plane and we'd also help them to get into the city and on the way to their hotel.  We arrived, they found the ATM and we tried to get them their 72-hour public transportation passes.  The kiosk was down.  Bummer.  So, we decided to just grab an airport shuttle to a part of town where all three groups would easily be able to hop on another form of transportation to reach their various destinations.

On the ride from the airport, Megan and I had a quick conference and decided to invite them all over for supper last night (they all fly out today).  Two of the girls started crying a little at that because, "It's been so long since we've had a home-cooked meal.  Actually, it's been a long time since we've been in a HOME!"  They were all excited about the idea so we passed around enough e-mail addresses and phone numbers to coordinate getting them over.

10 minutes before the first group arrived, I finished putting together our new dining room table and chairs (been saving up 6 months to finish buying furniture for our flat!) and they helped us 'break it in'.  The enchiladas were the best we've yet made (becoming pros at them), we played the 'Holly Nelson' game and 'Apples to Apples' and all had a really good time.

It's amazing to us how many opportunities we have to host people in our flat, cook for them, entertain them, and share the love of Jesus with them.  Conversation turned to spiritual topics several times and we did our best to model a Godly marriage to them.  We LOVE doing things like this, and now we finally have a table that can seat up to 10 people.  It will be well used.  THANK YOU so much to those who support us in prayer and financially so that we get to love on people, we wouldn't be here without our team.  (that's you!)

11 April, 2012

Black Flags

Megan said it's been a while since I blogged and some of you might want to hear my thoughts for once.  So, Mom, here you go!

We do a lot of walking to get around, which probably doesn't surprise you because most Americans have heard that about Europe.  More often than not, we walk along the same stretch of buildings near our flat as we come and go.  One day as we were returning from the grocery store, I noticed that one of those buildings had placed a black flag in their flag holder (most all residence buildings have them near the entrance).  I inquired of a friend of ours as to why they had done that.

"Oh, one of the residents must have passed away".

Over the next couple weeks, we actually saw 3 or 4 buildings on that stretch with black flags out front.  We were a little shocked too, wondering at so many deaths in such a small amount of time.  There's nothing nefarious about this story, no killing spree or anything like that.  In fact, we still don't know what happened, but that's not the objective of this blog.  I was struck by the tradition of the black flags themselves.

I want to prepare the soil a little before I go on.  We've only been in Hungary for 4 months now and any attempt at interpreting anything we've observed is most likely rooted in ignorance.  However, there are a couple general impressions that have been made on us by interacting with Hungarians.  One of them is that in comparison to Americans (I should really say, 'Texans'), the people in Budapest are MUCH quieter and more reserved while in public.  In fact, the people in our building really keep to themselves too.  There's not much of a sense of community that we've noticed, and that's a little ironic.

When our team leader first visited our flat, he was really intrigued by the layout of the building.  There are only 5 flats to a floor and they all share a common space that gives us access to the stairs, the lift and a set of windows that overlooks the amazing courtyard we share with about 20 other buildings.  Our building was designed to facilitate community among the tenants.  Communism, however, apparently destroyed that sense of community (hence the irony).  The years after WWII under a communist government taught people to look out for themselves because everybody else was out to take advantage of them.  Not just other nations, but anybody outside your family or those select few you called 'friends'.  It's been almost 23 years since Hungary switched from communism, but the sense of community is nowhere near what it is in Texas.

Bring in the black flags.  In my mind, they're a way for the building to band together in a way they don't normally and to proclaim to the neighborhood that the people inside are hurting.

Good times and bad times bring us together like nothing else.  I can't help but feel that these flags are proof that somewhere, deep down, people here want to be a part of a group.  They want people that love them and will help take care of them and want to return that love and care.  I believe strongly that the church is what they're searching for.  We're not meant to live alone, it's the first thing God said was NOT good about creation and the reason He made Eve for Adam.

The flags give me hope that the people we meet and get to know are open to what we want to share with them.  Pray for us that we invest the time necessary to learn their language so that we can actually communicate, and for courage to go out into this city to meet them.

And now for something completely different, here are some pictures of the performance hall inside Duna Palota (Danube Palace) where we attended a chamber concert a couple of weeks ago





If you look closely at this last one, you'll see Megan patting her 'do.  Sadly, she's sitting down so you can't see how absolutely GORGEOUS she looked that evening!

28 March, 2012

Recovery

Thank you all so much for your prayers about my back. It is feeling much better! I took the medicine the doctor gave me, got a massage, and Ben and I made our first trip to the baths. We also went on some long walks to enjoy the beautiful weather and city at night. Some pictures from our walks:


I have to say how much we thoroughly enjoyed the baths. It is very much a part of Hungarian culture to go to baths and wellness hotels. We went to the Szechenyi Baths in the north part of Budapest. They are almost 100 years old and absolutely gorgeous. I don't have any pictures to post this time. We didn't know how things were set up and didn't want to run the risk of the camera getting wet or stolen!

So how do the baths work? First, you pay for your ticket which includes a locker rental and a little wristband that gets you in, opens and closes your locker, and gets you out. Then you go to the locker room and shower with soap and water before putting on your swimsuit. After that you can go outside and enjoy the pools and sauna. There are three different types of pools. One is a regular swimming pool/ lap pool where you are required to wear a swimming cap. The second is like a heated swimming pool and is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The last is heated to the temperature of a hot tub. Our favorite was the sauna. I will describe it for you and you will think we are insane, but just trust me! You go into a room that is hotter than midday in a Texas summer. You shower off before going in just to give your sweat glands a head start. There is some sort of peppermint or eucalyptus scent in the air that causes your nose to burn when you inhale. We could only stay in for about two minutes and our faces looked like tomatoes! Once we left, we went into the next room and dove head first into a small pool. I had to dive in or I would not have made it all the way in. Ice water is not something I typically like to ease into. Yes, you go from Death Valley to Antarctica in mere seconds! And it is the best feeling in the world! It was the first time in days I had no back pain. I felt wonderfully relaxed and kind of melty. Ben says he could easily get addicted to that feeling. There is also a machine that spits ice into a concrete basin. You can use the ice to rub on your skin after the ice water or take it into the sauna to help cool you.

All of this is included in the price of your ticket. Ben and I spent a couple of hours enjoying the pools and sauna, before we had to go and get ready for some other meetings we had later in the afternoon.

It takes a bit of an adventurous spirit to go and try it for the first time and the ability to avert your eyes from lots of old men in speedos, but Ben and I found it to be well worth it and I think regular trips will be a part of my new stress relief regimen.

Thank you all so much for all your stress relief ideas! It really helps to get lots of different perspectives, because what de-stresses one person might stress another person out. The baths being one example and hang-gliding being another ;)


20 March, 2012

Stress

Most of you know that just over a year ago I was diagnosed with shingles. I was surprised to learn that I had developed a stress-related illness. Me, stress? Never!

Ok, maybe that's not exactly true. I recognize that I stress myself out way more than necessary. I am a woman and a perfectionist. Not a great combination. As a woman I tend to worry about things emotionally and the perfectionist in me stresses about all the things I'm trying to accomplish.

I recognize the problem I have and I really try to calm myself down. My wonderful husband is a huge help in this area, but just when I think I'm doing well, I end up at the doctor's office with a stress-induced condition.

Last night I felt some tension behind my left shoulder blade, but I thought it was nothing a good night's sleep wouldn't cure. I woke up at 6 in excruciating pain and could not get comfortable to sleep. I was in so much pain when Ben woke up that I told him I needed to go to the doctor. I try not to be a wimp when it comes to pain. Unfortunately, back pain is not uncommon for me, so it has to get pretty bad for me to think about taking medicine or going to the doctor. I think part of why I decided to go today was due to a small fear that I was about to erupt in shingles blisters at any moment and I wanted someone to tell me that was not the case.

I have been blessed with some great doctors whenever I come in to be checked out and today was no exception. When she was feeling my shoulders, she motioned for Ben to come over and feel them too. When he touched them he said, "oh my gosh, your shoulders are hard as boards!" I couldn't argue as I'm pretty sure every person dreams of having abs as hard as my shoulders currently are. Buns of Steel, Abs of Iron, and Shoulders of Diamond. The prescription when I had shingles was laughter and chocolate. Today, the doctor told me to go to the spa and for Ben to give me a massage. Maybe this is why I have so many stress problems! It's hard not to enjoy prescriptions like these.

So I was laid up the rest of the day with muscle relaxers and took a hot bath this evening. All of this seems to help loosen things up a little bit. I may see about going to one of the many baths in Budapest and getting some hydrotherapy.

What do you guys do to relieve stress? Especially those ladies and perfectionists out there! I try lots of things, but always seem to end up in the same place. The worst is when I actually don't feel stressed and then my body freaks out any tells me otherwise. What works for you?

Goodnight guys! I'm off to see if my sweet husband will fill the other part of the doctor's orders!

15 March, 2012

March 15th

Today was March 15th. To those people who have read Julius Caesar or are familiar with the Roman calendar, you may call it the Ides of March. To Hungarians, however, it is a HUGE national holiday on par with our July 4th. The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 began on March 15th. From the steps of the Hungarian National Museum, Sándor Petőfi recited his poem "Nemzeti Dal" or "National Song" and called his fellow Hungarians to rise up for freedom against the Austrians.

Every year on this day, the event is reenacted all over the city and there are traditional foods, dances, and celebrations everywhere. Everyone sports a tri-colored ribbon with the colors of the Hungarian flag. Booths are set up to demonstrate traditional handicrafts. Musicians and dancers perform in the streets and many of the museums are open free to the public. Services shut down for the day, but the cafes overflow!

Ben and I went up to Castle Hill for the day. I tried some of the dried fruit for sale (I got dried strawberries- they were like gummy candies!) and was tempted to purchase a mustache from an enterprising and inventive young man. I settled for a picture! The names under the mustaches are those of national heroes, so I can only assume they are stylized to resemble those after whom they are named.

You can see a woman working on hand-made lace as well as some of the breathtaking traditional embroidery. We visited the dance theatre and were treated to some modern dance in the style of Martha Graham. If you are familiar with the movie White Christmas, this is the style of dance that the number "Choreography" is based on. My personal favorite were the folk dancers in the street. We ended the day with a late lunch in a cafe. We had seats by the window and I enjoyed watching fathers dancing with their children and an endless parade of dogs and children, and sometimes dogs WITH children. And by that I mean that the dogs seemed to be in more control than the children walking them ;)

People watching was by far my favorite event of the day. The whole atmosphere of the city changed! People smiled and relaxed. It was beautiful!


13 March, 2012

Just a Quick Update!

On Friday we finished up our second round of language intensive. And it was... INTENSE! We went to class from 9-12:15 every weekday. Three hours of many, many different concepts being thrown at us. Our teacher is wonderful and has been so patient with us, but we definitely need some time to process what we have learned. After class we would go home and take a nap! The evenings were spent doing homework, cooking, teaching English, and meeting with language helpers. Phew! Ben and I are looking forward to some rest this week, although there may not be much time for that!

We are making some wonderful friends: Hungarian, American, Scottish, Bulgarian, and Slovak! We have hosted several parties in our home and will be hosting another one on Saturday. Thursday is March 15th, which in Hungary is a HUGE national holiday and commemorates the 1848 Revolution. There are events all over the city and many museums are open free to the public. Ben and I are hoping to go out and experience the Hungarian culture. I intend to bring my camera and hope to capture some of the spirit of the day so you can share it with us!

09 February, 2012

Photo Dump

Today's post is a a photo dump. Basically, lots of photos that didn't have their own posts, but I still think you might enjoy them. I'll put short captions under them so you have some idea what they are!

Our living room! There are new pillows now, but it was so beautiful with the sun I had to take a photo.

The view from our little guest room/ office. There is a fold-out bed. You should come visit!

New Year's Eve from our bedroom balcony.

Snow! And a shot of the tram that runs out front.

Sunrise from our living room window.
Freedom Bridge

I love this man VERY much!

Ben playing percussion at the New Year's Eve service at a church

Me and Krystal when she came to visit last week.

An amazing surprise when I opened the bag of frozen creamed spinach! All the chunks were heart-shaped!

Teaching a chocolate chip cookie making class to two ladies from our language class.

We made 3 batches and they were delicious!

Tabea is a student from Germany and had to go back as soon as class ended :(

Oana is Romanian and married to a Hungarian. I'm looking forward to getting to know her more!

I hope that satisfies any photo cravings you might be having!

28 January, 2012

Green Chiles and Corn Tortillas

Anyone who has known Ben for 5 seconds, knows what is his favorite food.

Take a second.

Think about it.

You know you know.

Where was the boy born?

Yes, his favorite food is Tex-Mex.

I enjoy Tex-Mex, but I don't LOVE it the way Ben does. However, I must confess I do miss it here. There are a couple of Freebirds-type Mexican restaurants in the area, but it's not quite the same.

We are hosting a Tex-Mex party for our fellow team-members in a week and I am determined to be as authentic as possible. To make food so good that Ben does not miss Avila's in Dallas.

I am white. VERY white. I have no natural rhythm to speak of and my forays into ethnic cooking have, at times, gone awry. I refuse to try making curry ever again (a fact which I have not told Ben for fear of crushing him because he loves Indian food too), because my last 2 attempts have resulted in inedible yellowish mush.

However, I'm hoping that 10 years in Texas will have rubbed off at least a little bit. My hope stems purely from the fact that I once had a student tell me, "Miss, you're not white, you're Mexican!" I'm really not sure where that comment came from, but strengthens me to attempt:

Enchiladas!

In Texas, you go to the store, buy corn tortillas and enchilada sauce, and it is a relatively easy recipe to throw together. In Budapest, there is no enchilada sauce, cheddar cheese is outrageously expensive, you can find corn tortillas at only one store, and there are NO green chiles. After writing this post, I have a faint hope that one of our teammates will read this and say, "Oh! They have green chiles EVERYWHERE! You just have to ask for, 'such and such.'"

My enchilada making journey begins here: corn tortillas.

Corn tortillas essentially consist of masa harina, salt, and water. Easy, right? The recipe, yes. The equipment, no. It was cheaper to buy a tortilla maker from Amazon Germany than to buy a cast iron skillet. So we did.

It arrived in the mail today and I excitedly got to work. First thing I realized, the instructions are in German! So, Ben sat down and used Google to help translate while I mixed up the dough. In the end, trial-and-error worked better than trying to translate the German directions. The first few tortillas looked like they exploded, the next was only half exploded, and the last 2 turned out perfectly! However, I forgot to cover them with a towel, so we ended up with some very tasty tortilla CHIPS!

I am encouraged and intend to make many more of my own tortillas! The next thing to try will be the enchilada sauce.

After almost 2 months here, I am feeling a lot braver than I ever have in my entire life. It is necessary. We finished a 3-week intensive language course yesterday and had our class over for a party. I wanted to make some Texan food and one of my favorites is country style ribs.

Getting unique cuts of meat is different here than in the States. Some things like chicken breasts and ground meat are in a reach in cooler that you can get for yourself. Ribs are not. You have to ask for those. So I armed myself with some basic animal anatomy and went to the old covered market on the Pest side of the city. I proceeded to wander until I found a booth that looked to have what I wanted and a butcher with a good disposition. It went like this (in Hungarian):

Me: Good day! I speak very little Hungarian.
Butcher: You don't speak Hungarian. What do you speak?
Me: English.
Butcher: Oh, no I don't speak English.
Me: (In my head) Crap.

What followed involved my limited Hungarian, a lot of pantomiming, and showing the guy pictures on my cell phone of the part of the animal I wanted (the ribs were not difficult to describe, but the chuck roast was challenging). There was also a lot of laughing and him incredulously asking why on earth I wanted 6 kilos (13 lbs) of ribs!

A few minutes later, I had what I wanted and began the trek home carrying 8 kilos of meat. It felt really good to have been able to do that.

The party last night was amazing! We had a wonderful group of people and the diversity of language was phenomenal. German, English, Korean, and Hungarian were all spoken last night. Everyone had a great time, ate a lot, and laughed even more. By the end of the evening, my heart was full of joy and singing the praises of the the One that sent us here.

I'm hoping to post pictures a little later, but I had to write something because I feel I have shortchanged you all in failing to write for a month.

My best friend arrives today! This is our first trip out to the airport on our own!