Friday, November 16, 2012

Bridal Shower

The ladies of ICSB and the surrounding community amaze me. Last night, the middle school principal and the school director's wife hosted an "Around the Clock" bridal shower for me, and 40 people came. On a school night. For two hours. They brought with them the encouragement and love of four years, as well as gifts, laughter, and prayer. It was quite a night!

Eric stopped by to load all the loot into the car and couldn't help but make lots of shower jokes. Even today at school, he's thanking everyone for all the soap. In spite of showers being oddities to men, he, too, is so grateful for the ladies' generosity and amazed at the strong turn out.

Thanks, dear Budapest friends! I'm certainly feeling more bridal.

With love and gratitude,

Monday, November 12, 2012

"You don't have to pay."

Simultaneous generosity from a new landlord and failure with a student taught me about grace that is costly and free.

First, as Eric moved into what will soon be our new home together, the landlords made the most unexpected and generous of statements. Regarding rent for the first month, "You don't have to pay." Instead, this school family wanted us to buy things that the apartment needed. "Go to IKEA. Maybe buy some curtains." Really?? A month's rent worth of curtains and fixtures and fixings? What generosity!

I was actually taken aback by the gracious offering. It seemed too good. I didn't want to misunderstand or offend our landlords, who happen to be from a culture different from my own. Surely they didn't mean a month in an apartment for free. But they did. This is the rich abundance of grace.

At the same time, back at school, I was not living in quite the same thankful euphoria. A student had asked me to help with an important task as she applied to a prestigious university. I was determined to get it right for her. Instead, my portion was drawn out and the deadline passed without it reaching completion. I failed, utterly. My reaction was disbelief, mortification, and regret. How could I let her down? This moment demonstrated the reality of my sin.

But God (don't you just love that phrase?) took care of the situation and taught me an important lesson. The student had other teachers also working on the application, and she forgave my hurtful blunder. It cost her something, though. My mistake had consequences. Her forgiving response wasn't easy. This is grace.

 God's favor is more abundant than I can really grasp, and he lavishes it on me in love through Jesus. When I actually notice grace, I'm amazed by the power of it to redeem, loose, and equip.  At the same time, such grace isn't without great cost. Christ himself  faced the utter rejection, the horrible punishment, the agony of my sin.

Grace is costly, but it is freely given to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Time and the hour run through the roughest day"

and God is always good.

Regardless of circumstance, a right perspective is that focused on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith (Heb. 12). In the midst of countless details and difficulties, who am I to question the magnanimous magnitude of God (Job  38)?

The hours and days pass. We are but dust (Ps. 103). "Time and the hour run through the roughest day." These truths make it all the more wonderous that God shows love and kindness to such as I (Eph. 2).

Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A New Mode

Eric loves a good boat ride. He wanted to help the captain dock a few times.

Since we returned to Budapest from a summer of meeting family, planning a wedding, and renewing my teacher's license, the city has added a new mode of transportation to the BKV system: boats on the Danube. Now, Monday through Friday, the regular bus/metro/tram pass is accepted on a series of boats floating up and down the river.
The famous Chain Bridge as seen from the water.
This is not an express route. It is, however, extremely picturesque and relaxing. So, one afternoon on our way back from the US Embassy, Eric and I waited at an old, dubiously constructed dock and hopped on a BKV boat headed south. We weaved our way through the people sitting or ordering snacks on the main level and climbed up to the top deck for a shaded, breezy view of Budapest.

Not to stretch the metaphor, but this semester has found me--us-- in a new mode of life as well. I'm teaching my normal classes, grading piles of essays, mumbling in Hungarian, and enjoying the time to invest in students here. In addition to all that, Eric and I are navigating the slow waters of our engagement period (or "relationship purgatory", as it has been affectionately dubbed) until the New Year's Eve wedding. These months are not the express route. They are, however, a lovely time of preparation and celebration as well as adjustment. Everything works a little differently when it directly affects another person. Everything moves a little more slowly as compromises are struck and prayer is communal. Everything is in a bit of upheaval as we combine two well-defined lives into one. And it's a beautiful ride.

Parliament in the glorious sunshine.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The heart of my students

After two and a half weeks (with nearly a half interrupted by a migraine) of school, I'm enjoying the steady pace of a newly-formed schedule. Yes, life is a little--gloriously--hectic as Eric and I try to share as much time as possible while maintaining two different homes and teaching loads, but we'll hit our stride, too.

In this new school year, I have some new students as well as many returners. As I get acquainted with my pupils, they offer sweet glimpses into their hearts. Without betraying any confidences, here are a few such glimpses for you to appreciate:

"I've lived in America, England, Croatia, Bosnia, and now Hungary. I'm a little concerned about this new, awkward environment."

"A lot of preachers seem to tell me that I need to do something for God in exchange his 'free' gift. I just learned about Mary and Martha. Spending time with Jesus and enjoying Him might be more important than doing missions."

"I'm concerned about what my future holds. I have big dreams that I feel insecure about."

"I wish everyone understood that I love God really much."

"I wish everyone understood that though I couldn't speak actively because my English is not good, but I want to have fun with [classmates]."

"Everyone thinks that I try too hard to be different, but really I'm trying to be me."

Aren't they dear?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gifts from my students

A few gifts from my generous middle school and high school students during our first week at the International Christian School of Budapest:

1. A 12th grader, knowing my love of coffee, brought me a rich sampling from her mission trip to Costa Rica.
2. Another senior offered joyous enthusiasm upon hearing some wedding plans and renewed my frazzled spirit.
3. A young lady who faces various challenges in the classroom and with the complexities of life reminded me that simplicity is worth seeking. And brevity is the soul of wit!
4. One family with whom I've had the delight to interact for several years now brought "Teacher Appreciation" cookies...on the first day of school, before I'd done anything to appreciate.
5. A sophomore whom I've gotten to teach for two years but who is in a different class now ran across the street to give me a warm hug.
6. Hilariously and genuinely, a 17-year-old boy gave wedding venue advice that he'd recently heard-- "The top of Trump Towers would be an awesome place to get married. You should do it."--as he passed me in the gym.
7. And a recent graduate gave me the best gift he could. He complimented my "swag" because I'm now engaged to "a baller". (Translation: your fiancé is cool, so you can't be too lame.)

Our students at ICSB are a crazy, brilliant, loving lot. Though we teachers feel called to give of our comforts, families, paychecks and lives to God and to the kids, these teenagers give right back to us every day.

They are quite a gift.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Video Update! A Day at the Zoo

After a summer of planning a wedding, traveling to meet future in-laws, taking recertification classes for the State of Illinois, and preparing my flat for an eventual move--whew, let's pause for just a moment--my fiancé, Eric, and I headed to the Budapest zoo. I've been to this place before with my other family, the Yaikos, but Eric needed to check it out for the first time. He's hoping to take a field trip there with one of his middle school science classes.

While we wandered around among the throng of young families, we made a video update for Eric's blog series.

The new school year will start in a little over a week. Our new teachers are currently in orientation while some of us veteran teachers are preparing our rooms and curriculum. In addition to Eric's science classes and field trip prep, he is reviewing his ancient history in order to add a new class to his schedule. I'm reviewing and will continue to review my writing curriculum this year. All of us hope to educate, prepare, and inspire our students to know Christ, to think independently, and to become effective and relational citizens in this world.

We have quite a charge! Eric and I are looking forward to this transitional time together. Pray for us!

In and with love from Budapest,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Citizens Elsewhere

Yesterday, I was reminded of both the fallen and the beautiful characteristics of nationality.

First, I had a bit of immigration frustration. Every three years or so, I must renew my residence permit at that stalwart bastion of Hungarian government and culture: the immigration office. Because of the excellent service of my mission agency, the process of stopping by to pick up the completed permit is a smooth one. I can briefly relax and enjoy people-watching in this very international place. Not so this time.

I came into the 11:45 "pick up" appointment feeling flustered as I rushed back into the city in the middle of a busy school day. I was also antsy to get going, because I was to meet a couple of my senior girls afterward. My stomach was tied in knots and my mind was whirling, but the crowded room was air conditioned (!) and there was an open seat next to unexpected friends of mine. These friends are headed to a new country soon, so I was thankful for the time to talk with them. Not too shabby.

 As the two little boys played at our feet and Juci from my mission agency worked with the immigration officials on my behalf, my friends and I had a nice talk. Slowly, numbers were called and various parties of expatriate types walked through the double doors. One at a time, my friends, too, were called back while the other stayed with the kids and me. Occasionally, I caught a glimpse of Juci as she scurried back and forth doing all sorts of productive and official Hungarian things. Or so I thought until about 1:00.

Time passed, and I had to contact my student to let her know that I would be late. I was stranded at Immigration. More lucky parties disappeared successfully through the double doors. My friends loaded up the kids. The final cluster of strangers came and went. Silence settled over the rows of empty chairs. A stern guard with a huge ring of keys locked the front door and stood there staring me down. But no Juci and no residence permit.
Finally, at 1:45, I was called through the double doors for the brief interlude with an immigration official. "Sign here, and here, and here. Your residence permit has been approved by the judge, but we don't have the card for you. Come back in another ten days. Goodbye."

While I must keep in perspective the comfort and safety in which I waited, the relative ease with which US citizens can get through immigration processes like this one, and the faithfulness of God in all situations, I was frustrated because of the futility of today's efforts, my missing school today during the busy end of the year, the prospect of missing again, and the dangerously last minute nature of "ten more days" as I leave the country in twelve.

In case I had any doubt, I am not a citizen of Hungary. I don't really belong here.

 Quick as I could, I ran through a sudden thunderstorm to catch a bus and meet my students across the river. These senior girls were going to take me around the Asian Market in a totally new neighborhood of Budapest. We all had odds and ends to find before our senior trip!

What a fascinating place! In the area of about two city blocks, hundreds of wholesalers hawked their wares to Chinese and Vietnamese businesses in the city. Down the other side of the street sprawled tents and sheds selling individual items to the public. Colors, fragrances pleasant and off-putting, and languages spiraled up into the now-clear afternoon sky.

My lovely senior girls confidently navigated the crowded shops and met friends from their youth group here and there. We laughed and chatted in a mixture of English, Chinese, and Hungarian.  (Well, I mostly listened.) We negotiated with vendors from all sorts of faraway places who had somehow come to Budapest, Hungary.

I was sorry to realize that I had never seen this part of the girls' lives in the four years I had taught them, but I was so thankful for the chance now. Qian Lin, Bai Jia, and Claudia, too, were sweetly thankful that I joined them on a shopping trip in an area of town into which few ICSBers venture.

In this moment, my earlier frustrations with international living and the complicated nature of nationality faded for a moment as I enjoyed time with these lovely girls. I marveled, though, that even while they seemed so comfortable here, they, too were oddities. Qian Lin and Bai Jia have grown up here in Hungary. Claudia has an Italian passport, is of Chinese ancestry, and lives in Hungary. Citizenship, nationality, residency, and identity are strangely fluid ideas to Third Culture Kids like these.

We are all a little odd and don't really belong here. We do have a permanent home where our identities are clear, though.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,"
Philippians 3:19-21

Vocabulary Versifiers

This is how my freshman boys remember their vocabulary words! They put this together in a few minutes during a May English class.

"Vocabulary, English 9. Vocabulary, English 9."