Sunday, July 17, 2016

Married Life

As you may or may not know, Max and I were married on February 13, 2016! If you were not invited, I apologize. We stuck to only immediate family and first cousins for the U.S. side invitations (just in case everyone said yes). It is Austrian tradition to have a sit-down meal afterwards, so we had to prepare carefully for that.

Benny, me, Max, and Lydia

A question we get from most people is 'How is married life?' And I do not know people's motives in asking that question. Are they hoping it's going bad so they can feel better about themselves? Would they genuinely pray for us if we said it's going bad? Will they be jealous if we say it's going great? Would they genuinely praise God for that and rejoice with us? I guess the honest answer is most people are in-between.

The true answer is that we are doing great. In hearing from other couples, it sounds like it is common for people to have a difficult start to marriage, and from pre-marriage counseling and reading books I admit I was a bit nervous to get married. But after the honeymoon when things normalized and we spent more time together, it was fine.

All I can say is, praise God. I complained (to others and to God) and hated to go through the difficult roommate and teaching experiences I've had in the past, but now, looking at our marriage, I would say it was all worth it. Being a teacher and learning to deal with thankless pupils who complain at the drop of a hat has helped me be less demanding of Max to recognize what I do for him. And having roommates who controlled the temperature, talked bad about me, and slammed the door in the middle of the night has helped me value Max for his thoughtfulness. And when he asks me what I want, sometimes I'm still shocked that he values my opinion. It is nice to be trusted and given the freedom to make decisions for two people and know that he will tell me the truth if he is displeased.

We still have our spats and flare-ups, but the foundation is strong and we know our feelings are not always to be trusted. Love is truth and action, not an emotional roller-coaster. 

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. -1 John 3:18

This should be encouraging to those of you who have gone through difficult circumstances and cannot see the point. Why did God allow those experiences to happen? If you had good motives, why were people allowed to attack you and misunderstand you like they did? Well, the short answer is, God loves you SO MUCH that he wants you to rely on him and grow your character. God disciplines those he loves, and he allows us to be tested strongly. Those who are truly His will remain in Him and not be pushed away through the trial. They will draw closer to their source of strength, Jesus Christ. 

Think about it. Jesus and Peter were friends, and Jesus told Simon (Peter) that he would be attacked intensely by Satan. It is not stated whether Satan demanded this from God the Father or Jesus himself, but either way, God said yes and granted Satan permission to wreak havoc in Peter's life, with the goal of making Peter lose his faith in Christ.

31 “Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan has demanded permission to sift[all of] you like grain; 32 but I have prayed [especially] for you [Peter],that your faith [and confidence in Me] may not fail; and you, once you have turned back again [to Me], strengthen and support your brothers[in the faith].” -Luke 22:31-32 (Amplified)

If you look at Scripture, you can see that Peter became much closer to the Lord after this ordeal. He walked in the strength of the Holy Spirit, and he did not complain about his trials. Paul didn't either. This is one mark of maturity in Christ: seeing the value of the trials and forgetting the 'It's not fair!' argument.

A Psalm of Asaph.

73 Truly God is good to Israel,
To those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.

For I was envious of the arrogant
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For there are no pains in their death,
Their body is fat and pampered.

They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like mankind.

Therefore pride is their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment [like a long, luxurious robe].

Their eye bulges from fatness [they have more than the heart desires];
The imaginations of their mind run riot [with foolishness].

They mock and wickedly speak of oppression;
They speak loftily [with malice].

They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue swaggers through the earth.
Therefore his people return to this place,
And waters of abundance [offered by the irreverent] are [blindly] drunk by them.
They say, “How does God know?
Is there knowledge [of us] with the Most High?”
Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who always prosper and are at ease [in the world]; they have increased in wealth.
Surely then in vain I have cleansed my heart
And washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long have I been stricken,
And punished every morning.
If I had said, “I will say this,” [and expressed my feelings],
I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.
When I considered how to understand this,
It was too great an effort for me and too painful
Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood [for I considered] their end.
Surely You set the wicked-minded and immoral on slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
How they are destroyed in a moment!
They are completely swept away by sudden terrors!
Like a dream [which seems real] until one awakens,
O Lord, when stirred, [You observe the wicked], You will despise their image.
When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within [as with the fang of an adder],
Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to honor and glory.
Whom have I in heaven [but You]?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the rock and strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful and have abandoned You.
But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge and placed my trust in Him,
That I may tell of all Your works.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Can't Get No...

In general I have an idea of what I want to do for a blog post each month, but I've taken a break from posting for awhile so all those ideas were floating in my head and I'm picking my favorite as the topic for this month. It has to do with satisfaction. I'm not a rock music fan, but this phrase has been on my mind: 'I can't get no satisfaction...' 

The song rings true for many people. The object of satisfaction, of course, varies. It could be a sense of accomplishment, good grades, a nice salary, a dream home, a loving relationship, kids who appreciate you, or simply a clean apartment. The problem is that no matter how much we accomplish, there is always a state of higher satisfaction that can be reached, and hence, the elation of the feeling disappears quickly, especially with cleaning!

It's not feasible to do an experiment for each desire we have in life, but for one of my desires I did a little test at the beginning of the year. I didn't mention it on the blog or to that many people because I didn't know how long I would last. It was sort of an extended Lent, if you will.

I decided to give More specifically, I tried to not buy any new clothing, and if I wanted something I would make it myself (sew it).

When I look at my schrank (standing closet) it is full, and Max always tells me I look good whether I'm in a t-shirt or a dress. When I thought about what he said, I realized that I hardly ever feel like I look good. Most of the time I think I look 'almost' good, because there's always one or two things I could do to my outfit or add that would make it perfect. If I have a good dress I don't have the right shoes, or if I have the right shoes and clothes, sometimes the clothes don't fit exactly right. Or maybe what I'm wearing is great but my hair looks bad. Or, more recently, maybe I can't wear contacts because I'm tired (my eyes get too dry for them) and then I feel like an old lady with a bun and glasses. Old lady fashion is preferable for school since I teach middle school boys, but not really a good look for everywhere else.

The first three months of the experiment I constantly reminded myself that I have everything I need and more, but the thoughts were always in the back of my mind, 'I want a green coat, the shoes don't match this outfit, I want brown flats, if only I had smaller silver earrings...' and on and on. And when I talked about it to Max, he always said, 'But you look good babe!' Why didn't I believe him?

In about the fourth month I started to relax a little and to believe that I have all I need and I'm good, no need to buy the latest this or that. And in the meantime I finished a tank top sewing project that I'd had in my closet for a few months. I felt proud to create something of my own that mostly fit and looked cute. I think in the West most people take their clothing for granted and don't think about the effort put into making it, and then it's easier to throw away. If you make something yourself then it's more special and a little harder to get rid of (and usually cheaper.)

The last month of the challenge (May) I made the mistake of going to several clothing stores. I had to buy a dress for the prom and decided to break the trial. I saw all the new styles out (80s revamped really) and spent hours walking through the stores looking at the clothes. My favorite was all the lace put on everything, and I couldn't take it any longer. I bought a black top for the prom since I couldn't find a good dress, and then in June I bought a few new pieces. 

And still I wonder, with all that I have, why do I constantly want more? Not just in clothing, but in many ways. At what point can I be satisfied with what I have? Another word for satisfaction can be peace. Why can I not be at peace with certain things? I believe God places a restlessness in us in some circumstances for a good reason, especially when it's time for a transition in life (for example, I know some people who became obsessed with babies right before the wife became pregnant and they longed for a third person in their home). But there is a difference between this restlessness and unnecessary emotional desire that can damage life. What I mean is, sometimes it's okay to be restless and sometimes it's inappropriate. (This thought could be expanded much further but I leave it at that.)

I want to be at peace with what I have and not be longing for more. I particularly love this verse.

First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. -Proverbs 30:8 (New Living Translation)

The book of Proverbs is many times about finding the wisdom to understand a situation and deal with it accordingly, sometimes reacting one way and sometimes another (with the basis that wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord). That's why I said sometimes you can be restless and sometimes not, but ultimately knowing the right course is a matter of praying it through. 

Prom 2015

Monday, December 8, 2014

Missionary Myths Debunked

Hey y'all, I know you're thinking that a missionary is some super-human who can bring thousands of converts to Christ per year with a smile on their face and joy in their heart. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that isn't true. I am here today to debunk a few myths about missionaries, a fog which seems to hang around the minds of some people who have never seen the mission field for themselves or heard the nitty-gritty of service abroad. 

1. Missionaries do not take vacation

2. Missionaries do not drink alcohol
3. Missionaries are busy 24/7 with ministry opportunities
4. Missionaries have no savings or retirement accounts
5. A missionary's success is defined by how many converts they have

Now, I know you are probably thinking, I don't think ALL of those are true. But there is probably at least one on that list that you would expect to be true. So for the sake of time they are numbered and you can jump down to the one you'd like to hear about.

1. Missionaries do not take vacation

It is part of life to work hard and then take a break. And the cost of traveling to other countries in Europe is about the same amount as traveling to other states in the U.S. So, it does not take a huge amount of financial planning to save up for a weekend trip to France or Hungary. In fact, I took one last week.

I have been afraid to post online the places I've been going for fear that people will think I'm spending money frivolously. In truth, many people I work with take trips all the time, and it is de rigueur for someone to travel to a foreign country on a 3-day weekend. It is way more expensive to travel home, and I know missionaries who travel to the U.S. twice a year! 

No more fear. I am posting the places I go and people I see. Last weekend I went to France to visit a friend there, and the flight cost about the same as gas money for a 6-hour trip across Texas. 

I had my first French crepe! Delish.

2. Missionaries do not drink alcohol

Question: What was Jesus' first miracle?

A. Causing lots of fish to be caught in a net
B. Turning water into wine
C. Casting out a demon
D. Healing a leper

For those of you who chose B, great job! Jesus did in fact turn water into wine as the first sign of his ministry. He even got nailed for this by the Pharisees. Jesus said in effect, 'What do you want from me? John's disciples didn't drink and you complain, and mine do and you complain.' 

'For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Behold, a Man Who is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and notorious sinners.' -Luke 7:33-34
Creating beer is a huge source of pride for the Germans, and the Austrians love their young wine. They do not eat and drink frivolously. It is a past-time that's part of their culture and they have a different attitude towards drinking than Americans. Many, and I repeat many, missionaries in Europe drink. And yes, I do too. 

3. Missionaries are busy 24/7 with ministry opportunities

After being legalistic most of life, I have learned the value of sitting back and waiting for God to show me what to get involved in. I am surrounded by busy bee teachers who do tons of ministry and have little left for themselves or family at the end of day. I don't think that's ideal, and I have the rest of my life to figure out what to do with my evenings. I have gotten involved in a bible study at school with some 6th grade girls on Tuesdays and that's great, and I do the Starbucks bible study with Max on Thursday nights. And for now, that's enough for me. 

A teacher I work with has battled with sickness for weeks, and he said the doctor told him if he could take it easy he would get healed. But this teacher has been stressed and was talking about that and then he said, 'Who isn't stressed?' Secretly I was thinking, 'Me.' I don't wanna say that their work isn't important because it is, but I don't feel called to give up my evenings for the sake of the school or to look good. God has given us what we need for life (if we allow him to) and godliness without us trying to earn it ourselves. 

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that are requisite and suited to life and godliness, through the full, personal knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence. -2 Peter 1:3

4. Missionaries have no savings or retirement accounts

Now, I'm not saying missionaries are rich, but they are usually good stewards of what God and others have given them. It is wise to save for the future, like the busy ant saves its food in Proverbs. There may not be much to work with, but to give up and decide to spend all you have is simply foolish. The verse below shows that is God's blessing for a man or woman to enjoy the possessions and money he/she has, not longing for more. 

Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, and the power to enjoy them and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil -- this is the gift of God. -Ecclesiastes 5:19

In talking with older missionaries, I have found it's not uncommon for them to have savings plans and retirement accounts. Some of them even play the stock market with their savings in order to boost it since they don't start out with much. After seeing how the Austrian government takes care of its citizens so well, I wish the U.S. government could do the same. But unfortunately that's not the case.

5. A missionary's success is defined by how many converts they have

I have felt the pressure since I started sending out support letters to have some type of results for the work here in Austria. Three converts this year! But to be honest, that's not the type of results I see. And Europe has been described as a missionary graveyard. That's because people have already seen it, heard it, and don't want much to do with Christianity (which can't be that different from the Catholic church, right?). They also value longevity, and it takes a long time to break down people's walls here. I'm talking years and years.

So, I am finally learning to relax. The work I do here is valuable even if I don't see immediate results. After all, if the soil is bad then the seed won't grow. I feel like I'm a planter or toiler in the soil, maybe a waterer, but not a harvester. Not yet, anyway.

And now for some pictures! 

I had the chance to visit my friend in Toulouse, France. Here are some pics from the city.

I also had the chance to go to a Christmas market near the Mondsee (moon lake) near Salzburg, Austria. 

They had great places to warm up. It was about 35 degrees. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Year of Jubilee

As anticipated, this school-year is going great. Having a visa and an apartment and job security really are factors that contribute to peace of mind. Add to that, the kids I teach aren't hostile to the Good News or those who believe in it. That helps too. Or maybe it's just that junior high kids haven't become jaded yet.

I titled this post 'Year of Jubilee' because that means a year of celebration, and the Israelites in the Old Testament were supposed to hold a year of celebration every 50 years. In that year slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, and the land was given a chance to rest. Unfortunately they didn't observe it as God ordered, but I feel like this year is pretty much along those lines. God has given me freedom and rest.

Along to pics! This is my K-Pop class before a performance of 'Fantastic Baby' by Big Bang.

Final pose - 'Fantastic Baby' by Big Bang (I don't dance with them) For those curious, these kids are from Africa, Austria, America, the Philippines, and Australia.

These are pics of the K-Pop dance class I teach at school, and 2 weeks ago they had a performance at our middle school chapel. They did an awesome job! As you can see, there are more boys than girls. The moves are gender-friendly and easy to pick up for beginners, so the class is going great even though only one kid has had dance lessons before.

Things with Max are going great. We are moving into a more normal point in the relationship where we won't die if we don't see each other every day. I have joked that I feel like I'm in high school again. He makes my heart flutter! **Sigh** We had lunch with his parents last Sunday. His dad Harold took these pics for us.

I have also been taking a German class, intermediate level. Here's a picture of the book. It's 3 hours every Monday and Wednesday for 10 classes. It's slightly brutal, but I think it's important to learn the language of the culture I'm living in, and now that I am with Max it's extra important!   


And a little shout-out to Vienna. I went to a coffee shop today and a Mexican goods store, and it just struck me how beautiful this city is. I love the juxtaposition of the new and old. The big building is a museum. 


Saturday, August 16, 2014

School will be back in session soon. It begins on Tuesday, August 19, actually. This year in many ways is much better. I already have my visa (good until December and then it'll be renewed), I have taught 7th and 8th grade before, the last period of the day will be K-Pop dance, and I have a feel for the city and culture of Vienna.

Also this year will be relaxing in other ways. Since I began teaching, I have tried to fit in with other teachers and be a part of the group. Teaching in South Korea was a bit secluded, and it was hard to meet other English-speakers so we hung out together after hours quite a bit. Here in Vienna, the situation is similar for many teachers. It's hard to break out of the English-speaking community, and so many people have formed tight friendships that extend beyond work.

Being surrounded by these types of close-knit relationships is a bit intimidating for an introvert like myself. I prefer to keep work at work, and to see the same people all day every day is difficult, no matter how amazing or hilarious they are. The beauty of growing older is the maturity that comes along with it, and I am finally seeing that it's okay to not be best friends with everyone I work with. I just happen to have worked in tight groups of foreigners so far.

To reiterate a bit of what was in my newsletter, I was extremely blessed in so many different ways by friends and family in Texas. Thank you to those who were able to host me (and Max sometimes). Thank you for open homes and hearts. And also thank you for all the special gifts that came in different ways -- a visit here, a meal there, clothes, cash, a rental car, etc. My love language is gifts, so thank you for them. 

One of my favorite things I did this summer was visit an ice cave with Max. We went to visit his family in Salzburg for a week after I arrived back in Austria in July. The cave is called the Eisriesenhöhle. We had to climb up 700 steps, which was a breeze since I work out so often (NOT), but it was so cool, literally. It reminded me of Ice Age. 

Max and I also went for a walk around this lake, Fuschl See. Max's dad says you can drink the water straight from the lake because it's so pure. (I didn't try it though.)

Friday, June 13, 2014


This April, I had the opportunity to serve on my first mission trip. Although I’m a missionary, ironically, I’ve never been on a mission trip before. The group from ICSV went to Romania, where we served the ministry River of Life ( by pouring concrete for a driveway and teaching ESL lessons for the kids there. The place is a shelter for moms and children who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to go.

One of my jokes is that if I get sick it will be God’s will, since I haven’t had to take a sick day all year. But the day we arrived in Romania, my nose started running and I had a migraine headache. The whole week my nose was clogged up, I had a wad of tissues in my pocket, was cold at night, and smelled like smoke from the bonfire we had. Even so, through God’s strength, I was able to teach ESL lessons with patience and give my best on the work projects in the morning before lunch every day. I really had the sense that because I was in the right place (being in Romania instead of hanging out with Max in Vienna like I‘d rather do), God was able to use my weaknesses for his glory.

School has gone pretty well, but it’s been an exhausting year and I’m thankful that summer break is here. Next year I will be at ICSV again, but I’ll be teaching 7th and 8th grade English instead of 6th, 11th, and 12th grades. I will also be able to teach a dance class!

Hamza helping with ESL lessons

I'm flying to Texas this Sunday for a month, and I'm looking forward to seeing family, eating some Mexican food, floating the river with Jill, shopping at Wal-Mart, and being in MURICA! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

And the mystery man is...

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I've been dating someone since January. Yes, he's Austrian (half-Austrian, half-German technically). Yes, he speaks German. Yes, he also speaks English (I'm not that good at German yet). He studies computer programming and project management. As Jill says, I could probably use a computer programmer in my life, but he's definitely cool to hang out with for more reasons than his computer skills. Oh, and his name is Max. 

Here we are at the Augarten, a park near my apartment.

Wearing 3D glasses over our own at the Desolation of Smaug.

After Easter Sunday in Salzburg

I love you babe!