Thursday, December 29, 2011



During these slightly slower days of Christmas break and in light of this Advent season, I'm reflective and thankful. These are a few of my favorite things, or at least my favorite things that happen to be caught in photos (and in no particular order).

Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge) makes a great impromptu cafe

with no cover charge and a fantastic view

Visiting friends from the U.S. (more dear ones not pictured)

Kate and Seth Yaiko, both of whom I've met before their respective births, are my little darlings.
Here, they are making "cheese" faces.
My students hard at work and having fun. I have few joys greater than when they make important
 connections between the Creator God who loves them and our literary discussions.
Time and space to commune with my Heavenly Father in glorious nature (and with coffee)
Not eternally significant, but a really cute car on my street, nonetheless!

To me, Starbucks' Gingerbread lattes harken back to my university term abroad in London: a time when so much of that to which God has since called me first became understood.
The square near my flat: Kosztolányi Dezső tér is beautiful year round and especially at Christmas

These people are pretty great.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Parody and Prayer

In watching my seniors lives this semester, I've had a few specific prayers for them. As they came from Calculus or Discrete math and sat for their British literature exam, I penned a poem: half parody, half prayer. Though the poem is a rough draft filled with inside jokes, it might prove applicable to you as well as to me and my students.

'Twas the Night Before Finals

Twas the night before finals, and all through Bp
All the students were studying—from ICSB.
Notes and study guides lined on the desks with great care
In hopes that the teachers’ exams would be fair.

We students were reading, so close to our beds
While visions of Christmas Break danced in our heads.
With coffee fresh-brewing, I’d turned down my jam
And just settled in for a long, drawn out cram

When all of a sudden, there arose such a thought
That I slipped from my seat, “Brit Lit ‘scholar’ I’m not!”
Easing out of my bedroom, down the stairs I did slink,
Grabbed a cold can of Red Bull, threw my mug in the sink.

How I needed some energy, chugged the last drop,
Then wandered around and stared at my laptop.
What could bring to my watering eyes motivation?
But a message, a red tag, a notification!

People chatted ‘bout “Timeline” and tagged my new pics.
It’s just what I needed: a quick Facebook fix.
But my eyes got so blurry; caffeine makes me berserk.
I knew that I needed to get back to work.

Now vectors! Now limits! Now Chaucer and Caedmon!
On truth tables, integrals, dramatic conventions!
My brain started throbbing; brought my hands to my head.
“Shakespeare, leave me alone! ‘Something’s rotten,’” I said.

We’ve had so much to do: tests and projects galore.
Building lots, calling businesses—I still need two more.
College apps, obligations, the rushing around.
As we’re students and seniors, the tasks, they abound.

Where’s the peace and the joy and the hope for the world?
As I pleaded, the Spirit’s clear answer unfurled:
“Come away, come to me, sit and ponder the manger.
I have come. I’m true life; stop and enjoy me, your Savior!

You have done a good job; I’ve been pleased with your worship.
Now be still; stand and wait. I am faithful; I’ll do it.”
So I mused to myself as my heart came awake,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good break!”

Friday, November 18, 2011

You know you are an international school when

The hallways are quiet this Friday morning. The record-high enrollment of the year seems a fantasy. Most desks sit empty in the high school wing. 

No, the bus drivers haven't gone on strike again. We've been spared serious bouts of sickness so far. Today is not a national holiday. Why the dramatically low attendance at ICSB?

In this case, kids are missing because "I" stands for International. For a small, international school like ours, sporting opponents are hard to come by. Clusters of schools form quick and busy tournaments so that more teams will come and play.  An away game is away. The girls' volleyball teams along with coaches, parents, and siblings are driving 5 hours west to Salzburg, Austria for a Friday-Saturday tournament.

Because we are an international community and many of us long for rare English-language events, another huge group of students and staff has driven eastward to the city of Debrecen, Hungary. The draw this time is a seminar and concert led by Hillsong Australia and Darlene Zschech.

All this travel sounds glamorous.  In reality, driving to Salzburg from here is not unlike my drive from Dallas to Little Rock last weekend (for my brother's wedding). The trip to Debrecen compares to the Chicago day-trips of my childhood. Fun, but no big deal. Such is the nature of an international school in the heart of Europe.

I'll tell you, though, that just like the village-view out my classroom window, the ordinary and day-to-day of life here is still pretty special.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Facing the Tanks

October 23 is a national holiday in Hungary as we commemorate the revolution of 1956 that began on that day. The rest of the story is that on November 4, 1956, more than 2000 Soviet tanks rolled though the streets of Budapest, firing into crowds of citizens, shattering the structures of buildings, and subduing the revolution.

But the national Hungarian heart had been stirred, and revolution would one day succeed. During that time, Hungary would become a gateway for East Germans, Hungarians, and others from behind the Iron Curtain to freedom. For more of that story, I recommend that you read James Michener's book, The Bridge at Andau.

Happy November 4th, everyone!

Thanks to Dr. Gabor Gyori for the photo and reminder.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On the street where you live

This past weekend, Budapest glowed with autumn sunlight. Walking down my street, I noticed how--in the right light--common scenes were especially beautiful. These moments prompt me to talk to God about how thankful I am for this life and how concerned I am for the dear people of this city. Join with me as I pray not only for my school out in the village but also for the city where I live.
Trams crammed with people
The elderly visit this pharmacy a lot

This square, Kosztolányi Dezső ter, is serene. Many homeless persons rest on the benches.

Sirens wail as emergency vehicles rush down Bocskai street to (often) limited medical facilities.
A tension exists between accepting traditions, styles, (Starbucks) and values from beyond our borders
and maintaining a rich heritage.
Budapest's municipal government has high hopes for public transportation expansion
and a growing economy, but the reality is not quite so rosy.

Thanks for walking and praying down my street. You are welcome to join me in person anytime!
 Just buzz #31.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A kick in the head

Migraines have attacked my poor head each Sunday for several weeks now. Some of them have been so severe that the usual medicine and sleep course of action isn't enough and they remain in the morning.

Like today's.

Besides the pretty uncomfortable symptoms themselves, these migraines are terribly inconvenient as life grinds to a halt in my little flat. Other people don't understand--and rightfully so--why I can't fulfill certain obligations during the weekend or even attend church. How frustrating for them and for me.

While I take more note of triggers, food or activities that prompt these headaches, I would really appreciate prayer. Because I become isolated from fellowship and teaching on Sundays, I'm sure there are spiritual repercussions as well as physical.


P.S. Sorry to those of you who, excitedly, thought I was going to blog about love. I was referring to the pain in my head quite literally. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

That Slaves We Shall No Longer Be

October 23rd is a Hungarian National holiday commemorating the 1956 Revolution. I'm reminded again of the struggle for freedom, autonomy, and hope that lasted through a thousand years of oppressive regimes. A new struggle for real hope persists even today.

Here is a look back at the 1956 Revolution through the eyes of Time Magazine in January, 1957:


I'm humbled every time I consider the fortitude of my dear friends here. Let's continue to pray for those in power and for nations that are seeking peace and freedom today and for eternity: Hungary, Tunisia, and so many more.

In my anguish I cried to the Lord,
and he answered by setting me free.
Psalm 118:5

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazing Surprise

After a truly wonderful and a bit stressful high school retreat, I walked into my classroom last Saturday to discover this:
My classroom now contains a projector and screen! I'm so thankful for the supporters of our school and the administrators who carefully dole out the resources. I know this classroom has been on the list for a projector since I've tried to incorporate more and more technology into my classes, but I had no idea that I would actually get one. Wow. 

God has provided for a need for which I didn't think it was important enough to ask. What a delightful surprise. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It takes a village.

This weekend, it took a village to care for "the little American girl" and I am certainly feeling the love.

 First, my sweet, diligent, and concerned landlady, Zsuzsanna, sent her brother-in-law to fix my water heater and rewire the light fixture in the living room. Not only do I now have hot water for bathing and washing dishes and clear light over my sitting area, but I also have a sparkling tub and sink. Apparently, every 8 months or so when repairs are needed, Gabor brings a professional strength cleaning agent that he and Zsuzsanna don't want me to touch. They certainly don't need to clean my bathroom, but I appreciate their extra labor.
  Later the same day, Zsuzsanna came to collect several months' rent. She explained some country-wide hikes in electricity costs as well as some other unfortunate price changes of which I was already aware. While my rent will be going up, I'm confident that she is giving me the best deal she can. At the same time, my dear landlady informed me that she had taken it upon herself to complete the confusing census forms that are circulating Hungary. Long story short, I was frantically trying to get a new internet code in order to comply with the law and complete the census; I'd tried to explain my situation to a census worker who stopped by but to no avail. (Everything is trickier when one doesn't speak the language.) The fact that Zsuzsanna is taking care of everything is a weight off my shoulders.
  Today, workers came to read the water and gas meters. I was happy to work with the meter readers myself and felt quite competent speaking basic sentences as they walked into the flat. The village of helpers came through later, though, when the super unlocked the gas meter in another part of the building. She has a deal with my landlady to take care of such things on my behalf.
  Finally, I got to meet another neighbor in the elevator. He and his son rode up with me, and, when my Hungarian ran out and he discovered I spoke English, Joseph was all the more delighted to make my acquaintance. He was baffled as to why I would choose to live here (common response) but glad to know me. He hopes I might be able to teach his little boy English from time to time. While the added time commitment seems daunting to me, and I'm choosing not to start now, I'd love to interact more with this sweet family in my building! Before saying goodbye, the little boy who "doesn't speak any English" held out his hand and stammered, "I-I am Joseph." What a darling pupil he would make. The elder Joseph also offered his services if I should ever have questions or need help. How thoughtful.
  I might be the oddity in my building, and the super might continue to give me such strange looks as I greet her, but everyone is very helpful to this "little American girl".  There are situations for which I am ill prepared and moments when life here seems quite complicated, but God has built this little village on Bocskai street to take care of me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perseverance in the Mundane

Rick Stafford just returned from 2.5 years of walking the Amazon. "Although everyone would like me to say that the hardest thing has been our encounters with (indigenous residents) pointing bows and arrows at our chest, for me that wasn't the hardest part," Stafford said last month, " ... the adrenalin kicks in and you deal with exciting, potentially dangerous moments like that easily."
"It's been the mundane that had really challenged me," he said. "... The weight of the rucksack, the basic food, the constant mosquito bites, the constant thorns. The little things that in a two-day expedition wouldn't bother you have been the things that have actually been challenging."

I appreciate this reminder for myself and for my students. The God of the obvious challenges, the high points, the retreats and mission trips is the God of the every day, too. He is just as powerful, loving, and active as we go about our grocery shopping, our family living, our daily labor. I'm challenged to experience God in the "mundane" and to discover so much more under the surface.

This post is a bit dated. I wrote it upon Stafford's return but didn't actually publish it until now. The truth remains.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Delight and Rest

In this new school year, God is teaching me about his delight in me, my delight in him, and what true rest--not just leisure--looks like. This afternoon, before I get to some important grading, I'm spending a delightful hour with him at a park in Kosztolányi Dezső tér  a block from my flat.
I'm lying under this tree.
Can you see the fountain? It is behind the tree and splashing into the  Feneketlen-Tó  or "bottomless lake".

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Starting Fresh

School is in full swing at the International Christian School of Budapest, and I'm getting swept along again. My students surprise and amuse me more each day, and my fellow teachers spur me on to love and good deeds as we labor together. This job is great!

Thank you SO MUCH for your faithful prayers over the past three years but especially through the last two. My teaching schedule has been adjusted as one of our history teachers this year has been willing to take on an English class, too. My day now includes two sections of English 8, a class of freshmen, and British Literature with the seniors, along with discipling a few girls. Awesome!

Class sponsorship responsibilities are intense this year with my students, the seniors, but I think a year of more balanced living is still  in store: work and ministry, health and nutrition, rest and friendships. I've even started up with Hungarian lessons again! God has been faithful in extremely challenging and busy times; He will remain faithful and near this year, too, as I have some space for rest and renewal in Him.

For my students, for the world, and for myself, I'm so eager to see what God has in store! I can hardly wait.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The correct answer is what??
Oh my goodness, Alaska with family is a beautiful thing! After not being together for two years, the Ooms family--complete with Zack's fiancee, Leigh--headed waaaaay up to Anchorage, Alaska to enjoy each other's company, meet the newest member, and camp in this great wilderness.

Highlights for me included talking late into the night as the sun nearly set, getting into camping again after several years of being city-fied, and reveling in the sight of Denali (a.k.a. Mt. McKinley), the highest peak in North America. Alaska is a strange and glorious place unlike any other locale I've experienced.

Check out the always concise and creative commentary and (more) photos of my dear sisters-in-law, Anne and Leigh. Really, visit Anne's blog to appreciate the photography skills of my family and catch a glimpse of the last frontier.

Denali National Park is only open to official bus traffic.
There it is! Denali.

We had a wonderful time together, but this vacation did bring out the deep reality of the "daily goodbye".  I had to come to terms, again, with the distance, the leaving, the separation through which we live. In the midst of laughter, dinner preparation, and Zack and Leigh's bridal registry, I was caught off guard by and wrestled with how very different my life in Hungary is and how much I miss by living so far from family. The truth of the situation wasn't new, but its depth occasionally surprised me. It's worth it, make no mistake, but missing day-to-day life with family is painful.  Our rich time together brought this truth to my mind and heart again and again.

After the difficult departure from the U.S. in a little over a week, I will be very thankful to enter back into life and ministry at the International Christian School of Budapest. Then, each day with students, neighbors, and friends will serve as a reminder that I don't give up family because God wants me to sacrifice. I don't face the daily goodbye in order to prove my faith or earn God's love.

No. I get to embrace a life lived by the Holy Spirit in me. I get to reflect on a God who gave up his family to come in human form and rescue me. I get to work toward and await an eternal home where I will worship a loving Heavenly Father alongside my family and my students and people I have yet to meet. The temporary sadness is real but so is the eternal reward.

Until then, I'll enjoy the family time we're given, work through the goodbyes, and laugh and weep with the God of the universe who carved the mountains, knows my heart's cry, and is planning a glorious ever after.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


English conversations whirl around me. Air conditioning and clothes dryers hum. Stores with endless shelves of goods stretch out before me. Billboards shout messages that I can fully understand. Friends and family are close at hand. It's summertime in the USA!

I am glad to be back for a visit after a couple of years of huge distance. Our family just got together in Alaska for a wonderful reunion. I'll be in Colorado at a conference until July 18, in Chicago the weekend of July 21st, tripping on down to Dallas, Texas shortly after that, and returning to Budapest on August 9th. Let's get together in the meantime! :)

(Today, I noticed several blog posts that I had written but never published. Sorry!! They are from throughout the spring semester. Time for a little catching up.)

It's nice to be back.

Thinking Christians

And the first place prize for a short story in the senior division goes to...

ICSB's Robert Brown!

pictured here as the comically evil Monsieur Thénardier of Les Mis

   A great delight of my job at the International Christian School of Budapest is the platform from which I may encourage students to be thinking Christians, to love God with their minds, and to worship with their whole lives in response to the Lord's mercy. This spring, my students represented this ideal well at the Short Story Competition hosted by the American International School here in Budapest.
  Several students placed in each age category and dear Robert (keep an eye out for this talented writer and film director) won first place. How wonderful that these students can be recognized for their efforts, worship God with their best, and show the gathered students and teachers from other schools that those who live by faith can also think creatively and deeply in this world. 

After all, we are made by and serve a creative God who holds the mysteries of the universe in his hand.

Since Then

Here is a really cool photo album (not mine) that incorporates old images of Budapest into the modern landscape. The website offers great views of this place I call home.

Quiet down

This weekend, the cold I had been fighting for days triumphed, so I sank onto the couch not to stir until Sunday evening. I'm thankful for a job that can be accomplished from a prone position on the weekends. Catching up on the sleep was important, but two days of whining (to myself) and emptying Kleenex boxes got old fast.

<--Picture me huddled here.

Tonight, I showered, bundled up, and set out on a walk. With another Kleenex in my hand and a mellow playlist in my ears, I walked to my favorite bridge for fresh air and a bit of perspective. Finally able to get my attention off of my own condition, I stood amazed at the instant perspective and stillness I found over the Danube. Turning my eyes to Jesus, I was renewed in spirit and reminded to worship.
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:25-26


Friday, February 25, 2011

Middle School Boys

For the past three years, in addition to teaching high school English students, I've ventured into the wonderful world of middle school. Each new class of eighth graders wins me over instantly with their enthusiasm, energy, and unabashed love of life.
The current group of middle schoolers in history class just finished studying medieval battle techniques, and they were required to create a video or power point reviewing their assigned techniques. Below is the movie trailer one group of boys submitted to my colleague.

Enjoy the result! They certainly did.*

Have a great weekend,
*Note: Since I posted the video, it has been made "private". Should the boys choose to publicize their work again, I'll repost it for you. Sorry you had to miss the amazing talent of 8th graders with energy, creativity, and  Macbooks. :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Surviving and Thriving

ICSB Basketball

We've just come through a very busy season with the triennial Campus Crusade for Christ conference, the International Basketball Tournament, and life as we know it. There have been many lessons and added responsibilities. I've been stretched beyond what I knew was possible and glad that this season has passed, but I'm honestly thrilled with how it all turned out. God's purposes prevail and his grace is sufficient for me. Seriously.

Conference by the sea

Thank you so much for praying for and encouraging me and my students during this time! You'll find updates on the Prayer Requests page as well as three new photo albums on the photo site: the conference, the tournament, and--at last--my apartment.

My flat at Christmas

Next week is an important time in the life of our school. Spiritual Emphasis Week is a time of daily chapel with activities and a guest speaker, extended times of musical worship, and focused prayer on the spiritual health of students. While we aim to emphasize the eternal perspective all the time and live lives of worship, this week is a special addition to the rest of our year. Please join me in praying for growth in faith for students who have known Jesus for years and salvation for many who are just meeting him for the first time.

With love and gratitude,