When you are in a constant state of change and unknowns, there’s a tendency, at least for myself, to, well, struggle and struggle inwardly. Despite the inward struggle that has encompassed pretty much my entire last year and a half of my life, God is vibrantly at work all around me! I’ve always said “We don’t get to dictate how God is going to manifest Himself in our lives” and well, that is ringing pretty loudly in my life once again!
I feel like the blog has more or less showcased my life which highlights personal change, struggle and how I have coped with it. What’s difficult for me is reconciling the hopes I had for the blog in detailing all the amazing ways God is using us, our family, and our impact for the global Kingdom here in Poland versus how self-absorbed it actually has become.
Honestly, truly in all honesty, all that is happening here would be occurring without us.
The “story” is in our personal lives and how we have and still are responding to it all. It’s hard to accept at times and I think that’s where the “struggle” comes into play.
We struggle and resist the “way” He chooses to manifest Himself in our lives because it is contrary to our dreams and expectations of how He would use us. I think this is actually healthy as it eventually places us at the foot of the cross. The ‘getting’ there is entirely individualistic and dependent on us, but make no mistake, we’ll all get there. Either on this side of heaven or before Him face to face.
BUT, I can indeed say with great joy that there are a lot of great things happening within the context of the ministry for ProEm in Tomaszów and in Łódż despite our personal, on-going craziness!
Not just in these two communities, but all throughout Poland. ProEm’s worship band, Exodus 15, shares how they receive numerous emails detailing testimonial changes as a result of their music. Music is and always has been a powerful medium for me, so I’m not surprised this, but it’s always awesome to hear how people are personally touched. They are often in venues all around Poland and this is but one aspect of the ministry I have barely shared how God is working.
Another area is the after-school program at Solna Street in Łódż. Relationships are being built with the kids and connections are being made with lasting impact among the parents. American teammates of ours are going to open their home Sunday evenings to study the Bible together, but in English, which opens doors for the diverse population here in Łódż who may want to either expand their Engish skills or for those who live here like us and don’t speak Polish.
The school continues to thrive in Tomaszów.
The church and it’s various ministries are thriving both in Tomaszów and Łódż.
Eyes are set for another city, so I mean, listen, I could go on and on about all the wonderful things happening and lives changing and it’s important for me to share:
That it IS happening!
So this brings me to a personal reflection on the church here in Poland and even Eastern Europe. I’ve been able to see firsthand the collective unity among the Body of Christ all throughout Poland. Poland by name is a Christian country, but, like the USA, there is a brokenness and disconnect between having a relationship with our Creator and the Church as a whole. But I have met people, not only from Poland, but from Eastern Europe who are working so hard in their communities and God is blessing their efforts. I have had an amazing privilege of meeting people on the front-lines and they are NOT Americans. They are Ukrainian nationals, Belarussian nationals and Lithuanian nationals.
I can honor them by praying for them and I mean really praying for them in the battleground for Him. It’s not even praying for more American missionaries to “go” abroad, but praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ in each of their countries to rise up and “share what He has done” to those right there around them… in their own heart language in their own cultural context! It’s happening, I am seeing it happen here in Poland! My life may have been a messy one here, but oh my gosh, the thrill of seeing my Polish brothers and sisters share with their friends, family, colleagues, neighbors is like no other. To give an example, the women’s ministry team decided to offer another day for the women’s conference next weekend because SO many signed up and many had to be put on a waiting list!
Don’t you see? I’m counseling myself right now as I write these words because we are in the middle of waiting on God’s next steps! The writing on the wall has been there regarding our return to Stateside and it’s been a tremendously difficult thing for me to process. So….
Instead of staying heartbroken in what seems to be our inability to live a healthy and productive life as a family unit here in Poland, I can celebrate all that God IS doing.
Instead of staying heartbroken over the women I have forged relationships with and feel God has used me to touch their lives (as they have most certainly touched mine), I can celebrate that they have been introduced or are connected to many other amazing Polish sisters who love the Lord and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
I leave you with a request to pray about your partnership with Christ. Are you struggling against “how” God is trying to manifest Himself in your life? Are you praying for genuine transparency in allowing God to use you RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE with your family, friends, colleagues? Are you praying our brothers and sisters all around the world, just like you who are living in your home country? Are you praying for the Body to be unified and strive together? Are you praying about participating in a short-term missions trip? Because I see the fruit of when churches partner with existing ministries and the teams actually aid/help/support the ministry, so why not pray about this?
Collectively, in this moment, let’s take a look around and celebrate all that He IS doing!!
Well, we are moved in to our new apartment in Łódż and have quickly settled. We found homes for a few pieces of furniture that we didn’t need and was able to move everything over in one of ProEm’s vans.
I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to have our own place again!!
It’s a lovely apartment with two bedrooms and walking distance to their school. The girls aren’t thrilled about sharing a bed, but they are learning to make it work. I think the fact that the bathroom is the largest we’ve ever had makes the bed sharing more manageable!
We have quick and easy access to the buses and trams, so we’re becoming well versed in big city transportation! We have many shops if we need something quickly and only a 4 minute drive to the nearest Auchan (think Super Walmart). Location fits our needs very well! One of Kaylor’s closest friends doesn’t live that far away, so they’ve taken advantage of spending extra time together. Ahhh… it’s just nice to be settled once again!
Lauren is now attending the same school as Kaylor and is making new friends. This came as a result of the British International School asking me to come teach and help at their school. After receiving the green light from ProEm, I am now teaching there three days a week. The school has grown by 30% just this past year. They have 22 different nationalities! I’m enjoying getting to know the teachers there and have such lovely students as well. Because the school is growing so much, they are requesting Josh to come in and help, so perhaps after the start of the new year, Josh will be able to help out there, too! Never in a million years could we have imagined our lives to change in this way! But being part of the Łódż team now and living here, we hope that our presence in the school will aid in God’s purposes for this community.
Josh returned to the school in Tomaszow before I did (I wanted to get settled in to our new apartment and get a week under by belt at the British school), but we have really enjoyed reuniting with the students there as well. I won’t be teaching the primary level, but I did get to substitute for one of the 3rd grade classes and that was really fun to have that opportunity. I’m teaching grades 6,7,9 and 10. I am also taking 1/2 of grade 5 and 4 when they meet, but I don’t have to plan the lessons. They have realized the need for smaller class sizes when trying to teach speaking and listening skills, so I’m happy to be able to help in this way.
Winter is a busy time of year in the life and ministry of ProEm. We are full throttle with the Journey to Bethlehem outreach out at the camp and this year the Łódż team has been busy helping the Gingerbread House at the center of the mall at Manufaktura 10-8 every day. Josh has been the one working shifts there and providing much needed help.
Helping at the Gingerbread House!
The first weekend of Journey to Bethlehem we hosted a women’s event at camp as well. I was in charge of cookies as we had three stations for women to do things. My station was where women could roll and cut-out cookies and decorate them. I prepared 6 batches of sugar cookie dough ahead of time and managed keeping up with frosting! I invited my good friend who teaches English in Łódż to come and we made some great memories together that Friday night and Saturday! This was her first time to camp and meeting all these crazy women! Needless to say, she’s ready for the next one!
I’m writing this post as most people are busy making last minute trips to the stores for Christmas or on the roads traveling to be with family. There’s always a sadness during the holidays, particularly Christmas, when we are not with family, but we can skype and be included in the family festivities afar. My parents are alone for Christmas for the first time in 44 years as well, so I’ve got nothing to complain about!! We hope to make the drive to Tomaszow to attend Christmas Eve service, but Lauren has been sick with this virus that is going around. I haven’t felt great either, so we shall see. Otherwise, our plan is to have an evening of Christmas movies and a choice of soup. Christmas Day we will head over to one our teammate’s apartment and celebrate together as they are also without family from the States.
Kaylor’s back is to us, but she is going out for her tap dance performance for the school’s Christmas event. (pictures of the Christmas Event courtesy of someone from BISUL)
You can’t see Kaylor in the back, but Lauren is in the front row and these are year 7,8 and 9 students.
I had to include a snapshot of this crew… they are the primary students (Year 3-6) and all whom I teach! Their performace was a song that was hilarious!
We were all excited the other day for the snow at BISUL (the international school)! Sadly, it melted by the evening as it turned to rain, but in the moment it felt like a Christmas wonderland!Our Christmas tree that we finally bought and got decorated only a few days ago. Guess a year of living in Poland has rubbed off on us as this is the time most Poles go out and buy theirs!
This is at the women’s event on Friday night… lots of crazy activities and my friend is in the hat!
My friend and I just having some fun! She’s such an inspiring person!
We had a special treat… American pancakes! The men from two teams from the States (Mosaic Christian Church in Baltimore and Southeast Christian Church in Louisville) treated us women to pancakes Saturday morning!
Even Lauren joined my friend for the cookie fun!These are two of the cookie helpers! Genesis, in the peach sweater, is one of my teammates here in Łódż and we’ll be spending Christmas Day with her family.
The above two photos were taken a day before my friend came to our women’s event. This is her classroom and shows how we ended up meeting! She participates in a program where she has her Polish students video conference another school from around the world. Prior to our moving to Poland, my colleague from Nashua had joined the same program and our two schools were randomly chosen! This is the most recent video conference and you can see the students from my old school! I always am invited and get to say “hi” at the end, which is really fun to do! How cool is that?!
This is the front of our building. We are in the “orange” apartment complex, but our flat is in the back. I still need to take pictures inside, though!
I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile, but not sure how to best articulate all that has been inside of me for the last 2 1/2 months. I don’t want to spend much time on this as I’ve been wrestling with the monster called “disappointment” for far too long and I’m ready to move beyond it, but to not address it and not speak of it would be hiding behind a facade. When you are a “missionary” living abroad, there are a lot of spoken and unspoken expectations placed on you. Wrestling with disappointment can be tricky business. Your life is on showcase whether you like it or not.
I have come to learn that we all create a lot of expectations about our lives, no matter where we live, but when our expectations are shattered, what happens?
Well, I can only speak for myself… and this is my story: When my family and I moved abroad to be a part of God’s story here in Poland, I brought with me wonderful, really good spiritual aspirations, you know? They were packaged in beautifully wrapped expectations, too.
But I quickly discovered that those beautifully wrapped expectations would never be quite as beautiful as I thought. In fact, many expectations turned into disappointments and those are the kinds of gifts no one wants to receive. Mainly because they hurt so darn bad and you don’t have a choice in receiving it.
The choice rests in how you handle it.
So, what does an optimist like myself do? I repackage a new set of expectations with hope that things will be different. AND things WOULD indeed turn out to be different, but not in the way I was expecting and well, the weight of it all was too much to carry and I broke down. But in my bitter disappointment, I have learned a great deal and will forever be changed because of it.
What I’ve learned is that it’s nearly impossible to opearate and function well from a place of hurt. So being around people was really hard for me, and I basically holed up. I feel I have reached a new level of empathy for people who are in an intense place of hurt and feel more compassionate for the hurting.
I also learned that I had to face all my disappointments and that the life I had envisioned here in Poland was not going to be what I had expected. I had to face them head on. I had to process a gamet of emtions such as anger, shame, and grief and I’m incredibly thankful for some recommended authors and books to read as they have been great therapy for me!
Also, I have had an incredibly rich time with God this past month in my brokeness and what I’m discovering is this:
Perhaps… just perhaps what God had envisioned was something entirely different than my really wonderful and good spiritual aspirations and being broken meant He can now do something infinitely greater?
I am typically a happy, energetic optimist. I’m a risk taker (with limits), but I don’t shirk away from adventure. I’m organized, a planner and like order and I’m definitely appreciating more simplicity. I guess I could honestly say this season of brokenness is good for the soul, but I’m ready to move on with life.
Yes, just as Martin Luther King Jr. has said:
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
This past weekend, our lives have taken an unexpected change. We no longer have the home we’ve loved living in due to a water hose breaking. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty scary arriving home to water dripping down the walls and ceiling in our front door entrance. Upon further investigation, there was almost ankle deep water in our kitchen with water in every room of our second floor home. We made frantic calls and tried to reach our landlord who had been staying at his parents home to take care of the animals while they were on vacation. Josh managed to shut off the water valve at the kitchen sink which was the location of where the water was spewing out of, but sadly, extensive damage had already been done.
In a moment of opening our front door, daily life is now chaotic with a slew of unknowns. We are approaching almost a week and we still don’t have answers. Insurance and procedures just work a lot slower here and we’re at the mercy of others informing us and taking care of us.
We try to be optimistic and positive for sure, but it’s unrealistic to think tension in a changed life’s situation won’t creep in and try to settle. The effects of this change have created more challenges and obstacles and frankly, there are times it’s quite overwhelming.
Here’s what sustains us through this :
We serve a God who knows, who cares, and is relentless in pursing our hearts.
We fully know God will meet all of our needs and it’s not even about us, truly. Most importantly, it’s about Him taking this situation and using it for His glory! We are praying that God will use this in an amazing way in our landlord’s life, in his girlfriend’s life, in his family’s life. We have group of guys from the Tomy Chuch “biting at the bit” to get in there and help him in any way they can. The church has rallied as they should.
This… THIS is what I’m reminded of when I want to feel sorry for myself!
So for now… we wait.
We have the things that we “need” and at least have the assurance in knowing the rest of our stuff sits at the house unaffected by the water. Because we live on the second floor, only items touching the floor were affected. We have damage to some personal furniture, but not to the extent we can’t still use them (as far as we know!).
BUT… it’s all material things anyways, so we focus on what’s most important and that’s relationships. It’s now only showing love to our landlord through “help, but it’s showing greater love and grace to one another as well. 🙂
We are a few days away from a significant change in our lives… our oldest daughter starts high school. We went over last week to practice the walk to and from our friends’ apartment where she’ll stay a few nights a week. I was a little shocked at how long it actually took us to walk from their apartment to the school: a good 30 minutes. Łódż is a very large city with well over a 1/2 million people. We are grateful our friends actually live that close to her school.
A few things happened that I want to quickly share. First, I was not weirded out by my 14 year old daughter walking 30 minutes alone in the huge city. Of course there are the safety phrases of : “Stick to the busy streets” and be “constantly aware of your surroundings.” Her school is located on the campus of the University of Łódż near the University Hospital where I had my back surgery 5 years ago! How ironic that she’ll be walking past it every day! Needless to say, there are a lot of people in that particular area who can speak English should she ever need help. (We also, much to her happiness, finally got a SIM card for her phone with a phone number!)
My daughter isn’t a little girl anymore. Now I don’t necessarily get to say that she’s a “freshman in high school” as that’s not a phrase that is easily or automatically understood. Polish high school starts at grade 10 and they don’t use phrases like “sophomore, junior, senior.” The British International school doesn’t use those phrases either. She’s in Year 10 (but not equatable to being a sophomore), so it’s a little weird to get used to this new verbiage. Nonetheless, that day walking to her school, past the brand new train station, next to a beautiful government building with a water fountain, and through the beautiful gardens on campus, I saw her growing up. AND I was at peace.
The second thing that happened was the experience of “God’s Messengers”. We (K, I and our friend who walked with us from her apartment) decided that since it was a good 30 minute walk, it would be useful to learn how to use the tram. Our friend had yet to use it on her own herself, so I really encouraged us to “learn it together”. There’s less fear in numbers! I hate standing out as the obvious foreigner/tourist, but you have to suck it up from time to time to be able to move from that status to the one who knows what they’re doing. Well, we definitely didn’t know what we were doing, but as I told K (while trying to figure out exactly which tram to take, from which platform and from which side of the street), God always sends His Messengers to help! And, He did!
After determining the correct tram to take, we got on. We were armed with the correct change, but after looking and looking, we could not figure out where or how to deposit the change! We were CLEARLY “not from around here”. Do we get off? Do we stay? What DO we do?! I quickly glanced around and saw a guy in his 20’s. I stepped up to him and asked him if he spoke English and if he could help us. Jack pot! He spoke English and he showed us the sticker on the machine that basically said that this tram does not take money. We had to either pay by debit card or have the tram ticket already purchased. Bummer. Neither of us brought our wallet as we were just doing a practice “run” for K… no purses…no wallets! K just happened to have enough change in her iPhone case that we could use to take the tram back, which is why we could even entertain the idea.
All of a sudden, an older Polish lady stood up from her seat and offered her debit card and offered to pay for our tickets. A few side notes from what I’ve learned having shared this experience with others. First… many people get on trams and don’t even pay. There’s always a possibility of getting caught, apparently, as it just depends if there’s someone on board to catch people doing something of this nature. The guy helping us? He didn’t pay. He was just riding it. Not paying and riding the tram is pretty common, which is why my second note is even more poignant! Second, an offer to help is HIGHLY uncommon. It’s the mantra of ” You’re on your own kid. Good luck!” Yet here was this woman who offered to pay for all three of our tickets! While the transaction was taking place, K and I looked at each other and smiled. See?! See?! God sent a Messenger to help! **
For me, to experience that with my daughter was pretty darn special. I find I’m having to reflect on that more this week as the days get closer to when I’m actually going to be dropping her off and not be there at her side. My heart flutters a little more with anxiety about her truly being “on her own” with no Mom or Dad by her side.
She will be on her own…. but not really.
God’s with her. He’s been with her this past year when she struggled with her life turning upside down. He is with her now as she processes new emotions in prepping for yet another totally new experience, and He will be with her when she is no longer in our watchful eye and care. He’s got this. Perhaps He needed to show me that more than He needed to show K!
Yes… yes, I think so…. just when I think a lesson in God’s provision and love is for someone else, He shows me just how loving and caring He is towards me!
** Before leaving the apartment, I had grabbed a 10 zloty bill out of my wallet and stuck it in my back pocket…. for “just in case” we got hungry and wanted to grab a pastry! Thankfully, I was able to pay the lady with the bill, rather than the loose change K had on her! Also, once we got off the tram at our stop, we found a ticket booth that takes change. This is where we can get tickets for each week and all she has to do is have it validated once on the tram!
I think this picture is fitting for us as we head into our second year of ministry here in Poland. ALL the paths point “ahead” or “this way”… there’s no sign for “going back”!
This picture was taken in July when we were able to steal a few days away and go camping in New Hampshire with good friends. We went hiking and Josh snapped this picture. Little did I know how symbolic this picture will be for us this year!
First, our 6 weeks back in the States was NOT a 6 week vacation. So let go of any “envy” anyone might have in hearing that. There definitely were days and moments here and there that resembled a vacation, but I’ve come to learn that returning to the States will not be the time of “refueling and refreshing” in the sense I thought it would be. It was non-stop and it felt non-stop!!
First we visited family in WI, then family in IL, then drove out to NH and back after two weeks, and wrapped up another week with my family coming down to IL. We had back to back days that were literally packed with places to go and people to see. Don’t get me wrong, we have been craving it; we cherished it in the moment, and we LOVED it; NEEDED it; but all at the same time dying because of it! It’s the double edged sword! We now know and we can make adjustments and changes based on this first year’s experience.
We have so many people to thank, but a special thank you to both our sets of parents for hosting us in their homes, to our friends Chris and Judy for hosting us in their home in NH and allowing us the freedom to truly come and go as we needed and use their washer and dryer! Additionally, a special thank you to River of Life for having us speak from our hearts. No updates needed…. just the good, the bad, and the ugly and how God redeems that in our lives! AND finally, to all our friends in NH who we got to see, but not nearly or long enough. You allowed us the freedom to not feel bad if we couldn’t work out one more opportunity to get together. It just will never be “easy”!
What did we enjoy the most being back in the States? Well, I am not sure how to express it without it coming across that the Polish culture is wrong or bad. So may I preface everything with what I’ve always told my own students who were adjusting to American culture and life. IT’S NOT BAD OR WRONG…. it’s just DIFFERENT.
- smiling and greeting people as you walk by
- smiling and telling the toll worker to “have a great day!”
- smiling and saying “thank you” to the check out worker
- not feeling like the new circus show in town at the grocery store and having people stare and wonder “What are they thinking of me? Am I too loud? Am I smiling too much? etc, etc, etc… your mind rapidly fires off thoughts the other people are more than likely NOT even thinking about you!!
- standing in a line and not having anxiety about people cutting in front or how to “hold my own” in a line! All I had to do in a line was wait my turn!
- washing and drying laundry quickly
- Watchamacallit (yep, those delicious chocolate,caramel rice crispy candy bars I can only ever find at Walmart or 5 Below!)
- daydreaming while driving (you have to be constantly alert here… fast drivers, slow drivers, bicyclists, but interstate driving in the States allows me time to think and daydream while driving!)
- walking around a store and not having to “think” while looking at the price tags or signs!
- hearing English and participating in conversations easily
All of these may seem trivial and even silly, but many are underlying culture norms that can quickly and without warning become a huge heavy load of bricks on the heart, soul, and mind! So the return to our home and native culture in of itself IS refreshing, no matter how busy the time in the day may be!
BUT… let’s shift now to the picture. All the signs point in one direction. There’s no path going in another direction. There’s no going backwards. We have regained our sense of footing, purpose, and optimism. Was our first year messy? Hard? Filled with many feelings of failure? Absolutely. You don’t have to live in another country to feel or experience those things, so I don’t necessarily feel like we have something special going on. The circumstances for all of us are unique.
So let’s face our next steps together. I’m not sure which direction your sign is pointing, but for us, I’m confidant in this popular, yet poignant, verse of Scripture found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
We are wrapping up the end of our first school year with Proem EDU at the school. We’ve discovered that the end of the year in Poland is quite similar to the end of the year in the USA. The kids are restless! The teachers are exhausted!
One big difference and it’s unique to our school here, is that they have these amazing end of year programs for the parents. Teachers create the programs and the students started practicing and rehearsing last week. This week they spend a huge block of time each day at the Tomy church where the performances will be held (another big reason we need the gymnasium built!!). SO, this means last Wednesday (there was a holiday in Poland last Thursday, so no school Th & F), we had our last day of “lessons”. There was such a surge of excitement in the school last Wednesday being the “last day” coupled with the fact that it was going to be a 4-day holiday weekend!
So this week we have not really known what classes we’ll actually have to teach. Oh, and if we do have class, it’s not a “lesson”… it’s fun time… game time! Yeah, it’s more like herding cats. 🙂 End of the year school life.
The homeroom teachers for each grade have much more on their plate than Josh and I, so we’ve tried to be extra encouraging. You can feel the stress and exhaustion in the air, especially in the teachers’ room. The teachers’ social room is empty… no one has time to sit for tea or coffee and relax now. Grades have been finalized (They actually have a teacher meeting where each teacher announces the final marks for each student. It’s a very communal atmosphere!). So we feel we shouldn’t complain too much about going into school and then sitting there half the day not knowing if our classes will be there or not. We also had a 4 hour end of year teacher’s meeting last night! WOW!
Wrapping up also means no more visitors (at least for a while!) as we’ll be leaving for a visit back to the States. May and June consisted of Ann’s father and Josh’s mother and nephew coming for a visit. It was tricky with the girls still needing to do their school work and us having to go to school to teach, but we capitalized on any day off and the weekends! Ann and her father enjoyed a 4-day road trip together to southern Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Germany since the students were all dispersed throughout Poland on an extended field trip. (This is described next)
Greens Schools are field trips, except in Poland, they often include overnights… even up to a full week! Grades 1-3 traveled somewhere together. Grades 4-6 traveled together and then grades 7-9 traveled together. Josh was needed as a male chaperone and enjoyed his time with the students from grades 7-9. They traveled north and visited some pretty great places. He got to see the place where WWII started in Poland, the largest brick castle in Europe (Malbork), and took a ride on an old ship in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea, just to name a few.
Green Schools are fascinating to us, but so much work for the teachers as they begin the planning of “where” back in the fall. Then they have a parent meeting and present three different options of where and what to do. The parents collectively decide and then the teachers have to firm up all the details and make all the reservations, etc. Green Schools also can be 1 day field trips and they often take the students places (museums, cinema, theater plays, kayaking, etc.). So this past year we’d get to school only to discover that a class or a few together would be leaving and we’d have no class that period. Thankfully we don’t mind surprises like that, but we’ve had to get used to this type of communication to say the least!
The girls are still knee deep in their online school. Some subjects are wrapped up now, but for both, they’ll be working through the summer. Both grandparents, while they visited, kept the girls focused and working. Sometimes they took a break and walked down to the neighborhood store for some ice cream. This means the girls were not able to go to Green School and in fact, they haven’t been physically at the school for about a month. There were too many interruptions and noise where they would typically sit to do their work, so it’s just been easier to stay at home. Also, having family visiting made more sense for them to be home and doing work.
The girls with their cousin in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia… a weekend away from doing school work… the girls were thrilled!
This past Sunday was the church‘s annual picnic held at the camp in Zakosciele. People from both churches in Tomy and Lodz came together on Saturday to fellowship and hang out. Most stayed overnight and we collectively worshipped together there on Sunday. Following the service, there were baptisms in the river, which is always a time of celebration. One can only imagine the thoughts of kayakers passing by on the Pilica River! !
Summer weather is here, which means more sun and warmth than days of rain and coolness. People are out and about and traveling. Us included! This past holiday weekend Josh and I had the opportunity to join our friends and visit Lublin where they met during their university days. It’s also the area where our friend, Alicja, grew up. After the three hour trip to the eastern side of Poland, they played tour guide. We stayed in Old Town Lublin which is considerably smaller than any other Old Town center we’ve been at in Poland, but it is incredibly beautiful and full of excitement with the shops and restaurants. We had a wonderful three days with them and appreciate all they showed and shared with us!
So, this wraps up pretty much our life here in the last three months since the last blog. School, teaching, and touring! Now we return to the States to visit with family, friends, and churches! It will be non-stop most of the time, but we snuck in a camping trip in NH just to get away! We will return in early August and get ready for year #2!
There’s a lot that’s been happening in the life of PROeM and thus our lives as well this “spring”.
So that means there’s much to get caught up on!
First, the school is opening a high school next year, which means there’s lots of promoting and advertising going on. Open houses…. prospective students and their families, etc. Josh recently met with a student who has an interest in US history and if I’m correct, international politics as well. Since Josh will be teaching a semester course for students on US history and government, students who would like the course need to show a high level of English proficiency or at least have some strong skills in order to follow and participate well in the class. He will be meeting with the student for the next few weeks weekly to talk and help the student build his oral English skills, which is a neat opportunity for not only the student, but for Josh as well.
Josh and his PE colleagues are still eagerly awaiting warmer temps and non-rainy days in order to get the students outside for classes. Sadly, it seems winter wants to drag on and on here and it’s struggling to reach normal spring temps and weather. Ha ha… lucky us! Someone recently told us that there’s really only two seasons here… summer and winter. Fall and spring are so quick and short that one can hardly see it. Having lived here a year four years ago, one would think we would know that already. I think we were hopeful that winter four years ago was as unusual as they all claimed it to be. However, here we are… four years later… and we are all wondering where spring is!
Despite the weather, life goes on and so does serving and ministering!
Easter brought another large outreach event for PROeM : Road to Jerusalem, which is another interactive story from Scripture on a large scale. Since it’s every Easter, you can easily guess what is reenacted. Watch the video and see for yourself! Road to Jerusalem video
It takes place at a castle (not fully reconstructed, but it is restored) in a village right outside of the where we have the camp facilities. It truly is an ideal location. Once again, we all enjoyed participating in it. Josh was one of the 12 disciples and had to thus be at every performance. Again, it was extremely fulfilling to further build relationships with some whom we connected with while volunteering at Journey to Bethlehem! See one such relationship below:
Of course, we took a family photo and I can’t seem to choose which one to use, so I use both in tandem.
Camp season for Zakosciele is gearing up. Although it hosts youth camps and events all year round, by far the busiest season is summer. There is a Fit Camp that is taking place right now since this weekend is the start of a long holiday weekend (more about that later). Josh is teaching golf to those who sign up. We shall see how many show an interest! It’s not a popular sport or past time activity in Poland, so golf courses are hard to come by, but people like to “try it out” when given a chance! No, Josh’s golf clubs didn’t make the move, but he’s now bummed he didn’t make it priority! I still am convinced they’ll be better used in the summer when we go home to visit!
We were blessed to have a former student of Josh’s (who also comes from a family we love!) come to Krakow as she is abroad studying in Austria. It was a delight to go down to Krakow and grab some coffee (kawa) as well as the infamous Polish donut, paczki.
We just had another visitor, a friend and former colleague of Ann’s, who came during her spring break. Ann was able to take a few days off from school to show her sights in northern Poland as well as sights in southern Poland. She was able to experience first-hand the weather-that-keeps-hanging-on, but they did enjoy a few days/moments of sunshine!
Malbork Castle was our first stop and is the largest brick castle in Europe. Then we went to Gdansk and pictured above is a picture of us after we climbed 400 steps of St. Mary’s church which is the tallest brick church in the world.
In southern Poland we stayed in Krakow and took mini trips to the Wielicka Salt Mine (which boosts the only underground church) and Auschwitz/Birkeneau concentration camps. It didn’t seem fitting to take a picture of ourselves at Auschwitz as it’s a sobering place to say the least. When we came up out of the salt mine the sun was shining (see picture above). I think I have convinced Sam that Poland is indeed a hidden gem to come and visit.
Sam brought with her amazing and thoughtful letters from my former students as well as new students I’ve never even met. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that the new teacher would even do something like that for me and thus I sent Sam back with Polish chocolate. I wish I could’ve written letters in time for her to take back, but I’ll be busy writing letters these next few weeks!
This week I mentioned constitutes three days off of school for us. Monday is Labor Day, Tuesday is Flag Day (although most places aren’t closed), and Wednesday is Constitution Day. I recommend this website if you want to read more about the history behind these days. read more It’s thus a long weekend and many people go away and travel. It’s thus a perfect time for PROeM to host a camp!
Finally, this week is also important for us as we are taking another step in trying to figure out our educational plans for the girls. K will be shadowing/ attending an international high school on Friday to get a better feel for it. We’ve met with them one time already and now K wants to have a “taste for the day” as they call it. We truly would covet and appreciate your prayers for us and her as she goes for the day on Friday! It seems the most promising at this point, yet not without many sacrifices and challenges itself.
Blessings to all of you who have found yourself able to read all the way to the end! We appreciate you!
We remain honest with the joys and challenges living abroad. Winter months bite, but you hibernate with friends and drink coffee.
Outside of trying to learn Polish… understand Polish… speak Polish one of our biggest struggles recently has been grieving what the girls have lost. There’s absolutely no doubt of all the amazing things they’ve gained through our move, but it’s still important to grieve when necessary. Better to do it instead of burying it as if we shouldn’t. We are blessed to have received the gift of free education through an online school. It was a gift through friends as their partnership with us. This makes it all the harder to grieve the education they had at NCA, actually, because our friends’ have made their own investment in our daughters. In so many ways, they have gone beyond what I think any other online school may have done for us. For that, we are so humbled.
Originally, we thought a year of online school would serve as a great bridge to them moving into more Polish classes next year. We thought it would be easy for them to be in art, music, and PE here. Seriously, what were we thinking? Of all people, in my line of work, I knew better. I think I was so eager for it to work beautifully that I pushed away the reality. All things are possible with God, right?! The reality is the girls won’t be attending college or university here in Poland; and the reality is this first year has just been messy with trying to work out our schedules to their schedules to everything else. Having never done online school before, we had a HUGE learning curve! I seriously didn’t expect it to be this hard on them nor realize how quickly they could fall behind in their course work. The girls have really, really missed the classroom learning environment so much more than the last time we lived here. They miss the text books, the hands on work, and the interaction between teacher and students collectively inside the classroom.
As a teacher, it grieves my heart to see them only do work dutifully as a chore rather than be excited to learn. As a teacher who has only ever had a class of students, I grieve their loss of learning through and with others. As a teacher and a parent, I feel embarrassed that it’s just been such a bumpy and messy experience.
The school year isn’t even over, but we’re panicking about what we are to do about next year. Yes, I use the word panicking. I’ve had some pretty strong anxiety about it and it’s mind consuming for sure. But let me just share something pretty beautiful in the midst of this.
I’ve prayed lots about this. God, provide us clarity. God, give us wisdom to know what to do. God, I trust you will take care of this. God, I know you hold their future and care so much more about their future than I even can. You get the picture. I’ve pretty much had silence from Him. This is normal. Not to worry. Keep praying…. yet there’s always this little whisper that I know is the craftiness of the Enemy…. and it whispers, “See, He isn’t there… He’s going to just let you continue bumble your way through this… you’ll never get the answers you seek…. He will leave you to do this alone.”
Whispers, after being whispered long enough can be incredibly powerful and devastating if you don’t recognize it. I “know” those are whispers from the Enemy and I dare not make any agreements with those whispers. Friends, there’s a spiritual battle we are so not wiling to accept.
The beautiful part of this story is I was awoken to these words: “I will never leave you. I will never leave you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Three times with the last adding forsake. Oh, God, what love you have for me to share that with me right now. Thank you, thank you for speaking in such a loving and gentle way.
If you have read an earlier blog from the summer, you know that each summer I take time to allow God to show me Scripture that I will use throughout the year to “claim” in times, just like these. Yes, I’ve had to pour into this Scripture lots this year, but this time, it is my shield and belt buckle of truth. It’s from Isaiah 58: 11
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
I also realized this morning that I’ve missed something big. I’ve been going to God only for something from Him, not for God Himself. He has reminded me that He is with me. He is with the girls. He is with Josh. He. will. never. leave. us. So instead of seeking something from God, I’m seeking Himself. The needs we have… that I have? He knows. And Scripture promises that HE WILL SATISFY OUR NEEDS and not only satisfy, He will give me strength. Maybe it’s strength in the waiting as I wait for answers and clarity, but the strength is found in HIM. I am able to function and continue pouring out to people here, because Scripture tells me I will be a well-watered garden… He pours into me and thus I can pour myself out… no matter the circumstance I find myself in. AND… He is guiding us. Always. The whispers from the Enemy have no claim over me… no authority in my life.
God didn’t just stop there, though, as I have a devotional book that I try and read each morning. Take one guess what it said. Yep, the same exact words “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I didn’t even realize how much I needed to hear it! Fear no longer drives me. I can only continue to press into Him and allow Him to permeate me in a way that steadies the rapid heartbeat. I no longer need to face this struggle or the decisions we need to make fearfully. I do not have to be terrified that we’ll get it wrong or give in to the panic. I don’t have to fear what the girls have or don’t have. He already has the victory.
No matter what happens or what decision is made, He is with me.
Not that these pictures go with this blog necessarily, but enjoy nonetheless!
It’s official! There will be a high school offered next year! Here’s one of the school busses advertising it! We will have the opportunity to teach at that level and excited to meet new students who will attend in the city and continue teaching those we already know.
Josh had a birthday in February and this is the cake he picked out! It’s the closest we could find to a cheesecake, which is his favorite. We hit it big time because it was delicious. In fact, for two consecutive weekends, we had one for our guests whom we hosted for dinner! Consensus is it’s a winner… unless they are all being too gracious!
It’s been a rough past few weeks. We had our two week winter break and had really, really great plans and excitement. Josh was able to go back to the States and suprise students at NCA and relax visiting his family in Illinois. Although the purpose of the trip wasn’t to see everyone, it does make you feel bad when you don’t get to see everyone! However, he was able to make some special Polish chocolate deliveries, so hopefully all is well in the world for many of my former colleagues and friends!
The girls and I on the other hand only had two goals over break: 1) have fun with family in Switzerland and 2) relax in Malenovice, Czech Republic at the ski retreat with PROeM.
Funny how plans can quickly change and nothing is as it was suppose to be!
Not only did I come down with a bad case of the flu at the beginning of the break, the fever lingered so many days that I had to delay our flight out to Switzerland. I have not been that sick in years. Lauren played nurse and enjoyed doing so…. for the first two days… then that got old. I remember laying in bed wondering if we should even go. I feared taking the virus to our cousins in Switzerland. However, we have been looking forward to going to Switzerland for so long and didn’t want to not only disappoint our family there, but ourselves as well! So we went. I was still congested, but without the fever, chills and achiness.
I’m not even sure where to go with the story from this point. Do I start with the fact that we made a dream come true skiing and snowboarding in the Swiss Alps, although it was short lived (for two of the three of us)? Or do I start with how beautiful Switzerland is once you get out of the blanket of clouds that hangs over Geneva? Or how I never knew Switzerland doesn’t export their wine from the innumerable vineyards that lay scattered all over the Geneva area? Or do I start with how my fever came back two days after arriving, which completely and 100% ruined the rest of our plans while there and not to mention the rest of our break?
Hmm.. well, I guess we’ll start with Kaylor. This part of our break is the highlight and lowpoint. Dream. Come. True. Skiing/snowboarding in the Swiss Alps. It was everything I thought it would be…. everything but that it was extremely short lived. We rode the gondola up to the top of the mountains where there is a restaurant for those who didn’t want to ski or just to grab some food or drinks. We left one of our party there since she wasn’t going to be skiing. The rest of us clamped down our equipment and set off. I remember thinking how I really wanted to take a picture of all of us, but knowing how eager everyone was to get skiing, I didn’t make us all stop, pause and take it in. I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m really here… these mountains are gorgeous!” It was so bright and clear and being that we were so far up the mountain, there were no trees on the slopes where we were at.
It went so fast, I can hardly even remember it….but we were quickly back at the top and this time the very tip top of the mountain. The slopes weren’t extremely steep… the snow was well groomed and the runs very wide. I didn’t feel worried about others around me. What I did feel was the sun’s heat and I was baking.
The group pushed off not long after getting to the top, so I came down behind them. We got half way down I think before Kaylor had taken her fall. She was sitting on the ground and I remember looking at her with her hand out of her glove. She wasn’t crying, just sitting and putting snow on her hand. She said her hand really hurt, but I was like “You just gotta get that glove on and keep going… it’s fine.” Well, she didn’t put the glove on, but she carried on and once down at the bottom we had to take this special lift called the “button lift”… which is common here in Europe, but in the resorts I’ve skiied at in the States, I’ve never seen them.
I stayed behind Kaylor and good thing I did, because she couldn’t grasp to hold on to the lift. After around the 5th attempt, we decided we should have someone take a look at her hand. At this point, I was still unconvinced someting was “wrong”, but wanted to appease her. Fifteen minutes later after a quick examination at the aid station, we were taking the train back down the mountain into the town where the doctor was expecting us. I snapped some pictures from inside the train thinking this might be the last I see of the slopes.
What more do I say? Two runs and our dream of skiing/snowboarding in the Alps came to and end for Kaylor and me. Thankfully Lauren got to continue skiing with our cousins and had a delightful day. Down in the clinic in town, the x-rays showed three different fractures on her right wrist. Cast goes on and we go on our way. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to pick up the rest of the crew. It was late afternoon and everyone was ready to head back to home.
The evening was spent relaxing and enjoying one another’s company. However, it wasn’t long before I started feeling achy and feverish and thus the rest of my time spent there was in bed. Not exactly how I expected that to go down… nevermind that Kaylor was laying around with a cast on her arm.
What are the odds? I get sick prior to leaving and had to delay our departure and then because a fever returned, we had to delay our departure again and scrap the rest of our plans for break. We may have made more of an effort had Kaylor not had a cast on her arm. No relaxing down in Malenovice, Czech Republic… back home to Poland we went.
There are times when disappointments occur and you just go with it… when the disappointments are crammed in a short time span it doesn’t take much for one to feel overwhelemed and dare I admit a little depressed. When you are physically healthy, I think it’s ten times easier to deal with disappointments and rebound mentally. When your body is fighting some type of virus or infection, it seriously impedes your ability to do so.
My vacation was two solid weeks of fighting “something”. I’ve been trying to focus on the positive experiences and things we saw and did do, yet it’s hard to not to feel very, very disapppointed.
Tis is life. It’s clearly not what I hoped or expected our break to be like!
I finally went and saw a doctor this past Monday morning as my body was clearly not able to kick this virus without some help. After a third round of a low grade temperature accompanied with chills and the aches over the weekend, it was time. The antibiotics have helped and I feel the infection is gone, however I’m still trying to kick the what’s left in my respiratory system.
Well, this wasn’t necessarily a fun blog to write nor for you to read… but this is the life as we know it at the moment! Many have asked how our break was, so now you have the details of it all. You get the ups and the downs following this with us!
It just wasn’t such a great “break”.
Playing with our cousins who have been living in Switzerland for almost two years was for a highlight. Fun to spend time with them outside of the borders of Illinois. We usually only saw them during the holidays or summer, so this was pretty special that we could spend time with them at their home.
Friday morning we went snowshoeing. That’s a tough work-out!
Us Moms had to snap a picture since we were relishing the sun!
The girls, on the other hand, had had enough.
Just another “break”.
After snowshoeing we did some sledding… Kaylor is waiting her turn.
Before going back down the mountains, we stopped to snap this picture because it’s not a lake nor snow that you see in the background, but clouds. During the winter months, there is a blanket of clouds that hang over the Geneva area. In order to get some good sunshine, one must go above the clouds!
After standing in a long line to get lift tickets, we rode a gondola up to the top. Thank goodness we had left early in the morning when we did. We had to drive about an hour to an hour and a half to get to Villars, this one particular resort ski town in the Swiss Alps.
Looking back down at Villars from the gondola.
Had to snap some pictures of the six of us heading up the mountain!
Realizing that our dream of skiing in the Swiss Alps could come to an end after two runs, I snapped pictures from the train which was taking us down the mountain. You can see the button lift in the mid-left part of the picture. The first-aid station is the small building in the upper right and the train station at the top. I was exhausted after trekking from the button lift to the first-aid station… snow boots and carrying equipment didn’t help!
Don’t think this was a slope I’d go down!
The train slowly made it’s way down the mountain.
After they brought me back to Kaylor’s room following her x-rays, I still didn’t know the results, but Kaylor told me that they had put all that stuff on the cart before they left to get me. This is the moment that I realized she truly might be hurt!
How a 13 year old doesn’t cry after three fractures, I’ll never know. Kaylor never cried once… not when she fell, not after all her attempts and falls trying to get on the button lift, and not even it hurt really bad during her x-rays. Yep, all that stuff on that cart was for her cast.
After we finished with the doctor, we were famished and grabbed some lunch. Note that we ate outside. The sun is so intense that as long as you sit in the sun, you can stay quite warm. We, however, did have to battle some shade from the trees.
View from our restaurant. Notice how we were above the clouds.
Meanwhile these three were enjoying their own lunch on the top of the mountain and
enjoying more skiing.
Everybody was exhausted and ready to head back home. We wound our way down through the mountains.
This was looking back at the town of Villars.
And finally, I snapped this picture of my antibiotics and probiotics. Health care in Poland is different in the States with plusses and minuses of course. A huge plus is that my dr visit cost us less than $20… $17.50 to be exact. The medicine cost less than $10. I even picked up a box of Vitamin C and it cost only $1.50. Yeah, I’d say that’s a perk to living in Poland!