January 21, 2015

To a dear old friend

Old friend,

It's been far too long since last I wrote. There is no excuse that will make up for my silence, for my absence. Truth be told, I have thought of you often, perhaps more often than I should, but I simply could not find the energy to reach out and face the reality of our separation. And honestly, dear friend, the longer I've waited, the larger the expanse has grown, until it seemed nearly impossible to span.

I do miss you, though. That's the truth. I miss our adventures together, but more importantly I miss our time. I miss the infinite possibility our existence held. Now, our time together has slipped away and I find myself once again surrounded by the familiar, only now I carry an unfamiliar feeling of loss in my soul.

I feel as if someone has taken my emotions and tossed them like confetti to the breeze. My heart beats in slow flutters as the pieces fall. There's nothing I can do but watch them float aimlessly until they have nowhere left to wander, finally meeting the solidness of the earth. And then what, friend? Do they find rest, do I find rest?

Has it really been so long since I last laid eyes upon you? Some days I don't believe it. I still feel as though tomorrow I will see your face full of laughter and friendship, feel your arms of comfort and support. I'm still not sure how to rectify the fact that we may never see each other again. Will your hold on me ever dissipate? Do I want it to?

And what of you, dearest friend? Do your days notice where I once strolled alongside you, soliloquizing on meaning and purpose, dreaming of perfect moments brimming with contented nothingness?

Those moments were my joy, you know. They reside with me still and embrace the impact of new memories that have found their way in. It seems you are there every day to accept all my new experiences with outstretched arms of unending welcome.

What a perfect image, don't you think? You returning my embrace as I hold you in my heart.

Perfect, indeed...

                                     With all of my love and much more,

                                                                                     Your old friend

May 6, 2014

Perfect faith?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a short reflection on a John Calvin quote for the Hungarian reformed newspaper, Reformátusok Lapja. This was my first experience with Calvin. It's nothing special, but fun to share just the same.



“A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”
― John Calvin

When I agreed to write this reflection, I foolishly thought it would be easy. Choose a quote. Reflect. Done. This of course is not what happened when I sat down to begin. I read and read but never felt that spark of excitement in finding just the right message. As it turns out, I blew right past the quotation I would end up choosing. I looked it in the face and just kept moving. It wasn’t until re-reading those so unceremoniously passed over that I found something that truly spoke to me.

At first glance, this quotation may seem overly simple. No one is perfect. Got it, great. It’s so easy to skim over these words without a second glance, but that is such an injustice to the beauty, intelligence and maturity of this short sentence. Isn’t it true that the very basic truths of life, faith, love, whatever, are always the things we take for granted?

This quotation reminds me of myself and so many of my peers – young adults just trying to find their place, their identity, their voice. And for some reason we are convinced that we should always have things figured out, or have at least the pretense of. We should be self-assured and motivated, never lost or confused. I’ve spoken to so many people that have backed away from the church because they don’t feel like they have enough faith; that somehow they are worse for their doubt.

This is the injustice we do ourselves.

It is a great comfort to me when I read Calvin’s words. Struggling with faith is not a new concept. Am I somehow less of a Christian simply because I have doubts? Of course not. Indeed, are we truly Christian if we never question ourselves in our faith and service to the Lord?

With one sentence, John Calvin has reassured and challenged us to see the truth and goodness in ourselves amidst our unbelief, just as we must see them in the midst of others’ unbelief as well.

I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Bonus! This is what it looks like in Hungarian.

Special shoutout to my dear friend Dia for the awesome (I assume) translation! Thanks for making me somehow intelligible in Hungarian.

March 13, 2014

May my heart always be open to little...

This letter is a "spring newsletter" I wrote for Global Ministries, which gets sent out to my friends and family back home in the U.S., but I thought I'd share it here as well, so all my friends could catch up with me.

At this time last year, I was just settling into a new world – assuming four months in Budapest constitutes “just settling.” But now, how have things changed? How does my life look now that I’ve been settling in for 15 months?

The best way to put it, I suppose, is to say I’ve found my place here. In the beginning, understandably, I was a bit lost (literally and metaphorically). A new place is hard to adjust to but a new city, job and culture is a whole other ballgame. Eventually though, I found my footing. And more than that, in this new place I found newness in myself.

It never ceases to amuse me the blindness people have to their own worth or goodness or strength, even in spite of the constant assurance from those loved and trusted most. The letter I sent out last year is a great example of this. I was questioning my usefulness or purpose here in Hungary; needing to remind myself that the work I’m doing is meaningful and that by offering myself in honesty and true intention, I am enough to walk along this path with my partner in a valuable way.

And don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s difficult to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Being away from friends, family, food, pets and your own personal normal is hard. But for me, I simply had to keep moving – keep walking forward even when I didn’t feel the self-assurance or courage that I wore on my face, and eventually the world became a little less scary. The constant symphony of my pounding feet was all the support I needed to keep stepping a little farther away from my comfort zone.

Time has a way of changing us without fuss or celebration. It’s one of the most amazing things about life and one of the scariest, too. Time moves us even when we feel cemented in place, petrified of the future and of the changes that come along with it. Time comforts us during the growing pains and homesickness. It heals us after heartache. It shares in the joy and happiness of a moment, but it also moves us farther away from moments we want to hold on to forever.

I’ve grown into my life here. Better yet, I have made a life here, and there are several factors that have aided in this “nesting” process, most notably the unbelievable warmth and welcome I have felt from my friends in Budapest. I’ve heard many stereotypes about Hungarians since I moved over here and one of them is that Hungarian people are not very friendly or they’re somehow closed off. Now, on a superficial level this may be true. Perhaps people walking down the street may seem a bit cold, and you definitely don’t really see people being overly friendly on buses or undergrounds (really, who is?), but I have seen firsthand that Hungarians possess extremely warm hearts and that they will walk to the ends of the earth to help those they care for. I cannot express how honored I am to be considered a “friend.” I can only hope through my friendship I can somehow reciprocate their generosity and express my overwhelming gratitude.

In addition I’m extremely blessed that my Global Mission Intern position has allowed me the freedom to learn, grow and truly stretch into this experience. I realize opportunities like this most assuredly do not come around every day and I’m beyond lucky to have such a tremendous amount of support and trust coming from my sending organization. I have always felt like a colleague in their eyes instead of an inexperienced twenty-something, and when you build on a solid foundation of mutual-respect, which I feel is represented so well in Global Ministries’ mission and core values, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish.

I still have until the beginning October but I can’t help feeling that everything has turned on its axis. My perspective is no longer counting how long I’ve been here, but instead counting how much time I have left. It’s hard to believe that I flew over to Hungary in October 2012. At the time I knew very little about my position at the Reformed Church in Hungary and even less about the place I was going. I feel as though the glimpses I found on the Internet were just that: glimpses. I was never going to get a true feeling for the culture or food or language by reading words on an electronic page. But fortunately for me, one of the first things I learned upon arriving is that the Hungarian people love their culture, their roots, history and language, which I will freely admit I love as well (even if on a lower level of understanding). And as soon as I arrived, I was caught up in a whirlwind of history and stories. I couldn’t help feeling like a child sitting on my grandfather’s lap listening to stories about the way things used to be. My imagination was, and still is, entranced with the history of this place and these people; with the Istváns and Bélas, the Turkish occupation, the Habsburg Monarchy, the freedom fights and revolutions and the intense impact the reformation had on this country.

Throughout this experience, learning has been my immense pleasure and the best possible gift I could have received. My eyes have been opened in a way I never could have imagined when I first set off on this journey, and as I inch ever closer to the end of this adventure, I must intentionally and purposefully keep my heart open and accepting to every experience – let this place imprint on my soul and in the process maybe a little of myself can find a home in the hearts of others.

may my heart always be open to little... (19)

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

-  e.e. cummings

February 18, 2014

A day in the life

In honor of Week of Compassion, I made a video for you! Enjoy!

P.S. Sorry for the shaky-cam work. Turns out it's really hard to film anything on an iPhone...

February 2, 2014

That is happiness

I've been back in Budapest for three weeks now and I'm finding it incredibly easy to slip back into my life/routine here in the city. Normal life for me has returned.

But, the flip side is that now I see the end. This adventure that started out with endless opportunity and a seemingly endless lifespan has slowly yet ceaselessly progressed until this very moment, when I look up to see myself on a plane and the pulsing lifeblood of Budapest painfully slipping into my past. And this realization, that really I've known all along, is a hard pill to swallow - a hard reality to accept. However, I can't continue my days with a cloud of dread hanging over my head. I can't take this precious time in this wonderful place for granted. Instead, I'm challenging myself to live in the moment; let every experience seep into me until they become a part of me.

Tonight as I write this blog post, I have just returned from a birthday party where, in spite of feeling sick and exhausted, I fell in love with a moment in time and with the people who filled it with laughter and joy. I was a part of something and now it is a part of me.

And I am happy.

"I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

Willa Cather, My Ántonia