Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh man...

So, clearly a lot has happened since my last post, but I'm not even going to go through my usual apologies at this point. I figure whatever readers I do have are coming to expect these periods of blog silence from me, so I'll just continue living up to those awesome expectations. Bring them on!!

Right now I'm sitting in Zilina at our conference table in Kompas, where we usually have our team meetings, listening to some of my favorite music. At this moment a sweet Under the Influence of Giants jam came on and I'm loving it. My brother just wrote about their awesomeness in one of his bloggings, so you should probably skip over there and check it out after you're done with mine. But not before you're done reading mine, because then I'll be offended.

As I'm sitting here I'm realizing how exhausted I am in every since of the word - physically, mentally, and spiritually. This summer has been thus far the most difficult summer I've ever experienced in Slovakia, for a multitude of reasons. And the funny thing is that I knew it would be. Back in April I was praying with 2 of my friends in Bratislava, about the upcoming summer and what it held, and we all received the same thing from God on that afternoon. He told us that yes, this summer would be very difficult for me, but that I was not alone. And this is the truth that I've been clinging to over these past weeks. I'm not alone. He is with me always. And not only is he, but also a host of amazing friends and family that have me in their prayers. Praise God.

But, although this summer has been difficult, there have also been some really sweet moments throughout. Over the next few days I hope to fill you in on those.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sick and Tired.

Part of the reason I didn't write anything in January is because I was sick on and off for weeks. Then, the mother load hit and I was in bed for a week with some nasty mix of a sinus infection and strep throat. Thankfully the Lord has blessed me with doctors for roommates, so I was able to get diagnosed from home and then treated with free antibiotics. Yay for at home treatment!

The weeks prior to this I had been dealing a lot with feeling like I wasn't doing enough here as a "missionary." I call this the missionary guilt. It's this resonating feeling that you need to prove yourself to everyone who is supporting you at home. That you need to have all these amazing stories to write about in your updates, or on your blog, and if not you aren't doing your job. This feeling was coming to a climax right before I got really sick. I hadn't been very healthy all month, which was keeping me home on the couch when I wasn't traveling, which was then making me feel like I wasn't connecting with people in Bratislava, which was then making me feel like I didn't have purpose... and you get the picture. Then came January 26. I had a fully packed schedule here in BA, and I was feeling really good about that... Feeling like I had purpose. But of course, what happens? I wake up sick... again. I was so pissed. I had to cancel most of my meetings on Monday, stayed in bed Tuesday, Wednesday we had our girl's small group, and on Thursday I was supposed to go out of town to visit a youth group and be a part of their Kecy Club. I totally remember telling the girls Wednesday night, "I'm really looking forward to going to Levice tomorrow because I've felt really lazy all week, and this will make me feel like I'm doing something..." And of course I woke up even worse Thursday morning, had to cancel my trip, and was then in bed for 5 days.

During this forced time in bed God began to show me how ridiculous I had been. How I was working for man, working for my salvation... I had totally taken everything into my own hands and was living in fear of other people's judgment. He reminded me how He is the one who called me here, so I should rest in knowing He has a plan and is in total control of it all. It was a much needed wake up call. And although I can't say now that I've totally shed the missionary guilt, it definitely sneaks up from time to time, but I do remember to check myself each day: I am only where I am because of God, to serve and glorify God, not for myself or for men.
A few weeks ago I received this note from my blog:

Hello, Laura. This is your blog speaking. Please update me because many of your friends and family like to read me. If you don't update me, I will be sad as will others. The fate of many of your relationships lie in whether or not you update me, your blog, your outlet to the world. Thank you and have a nice day.

You know, not many people are blessed with a blog who speaks so honestly. Most people's blogs just feed them complements all day long about how awesome they are, but not my blog. My blog keeps it real.

Anywho, I'm sorry dear blog that I have ignored you so for the past 2 months, and therefore have ignored updating many of my friends out in cyberspace. I will try to sufficiently give an update of what has happened these past 2 months in the following few posts. I hope you can forgive me.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas in Slovakia

This year I celebrated my first Slovak Christmas. Last year, I went with Katka to Paris for the holiday, which was super fun, but this year it was nice to stay in Bratislava and be with "family." I spent Christmas with my Slovak family, the Kriska fam, whom I'm incredibly thankful to have in my life here. I first met them in 2005, when I moved in with them for the whole summer. I had no idea then that they would become an integral part of my life, and love looking back at how God has worked through these relationships. Especially my relationship with Noemi. She has definitely become the little sister that I never had. Anyhow, I could keep going, but I'll stop. Basically, just know that this family rocks and are part of what makes my life here in Slovakia so beautiful.

SO, Slovaks do a few things differently at Christmas than we do in the States. For example, their main celebration is on the 24th of December, not the 25th, and many consider this Christmas day. Also, their traditional meal on this day consists of fish - more specifically, carp - and potato salad. As an appetizer to this meal, they eat honey and fresh garlic on top of a big piece of wafer (kind of like Baptist communion wafers). This is for hopes that the next year will be sweet (honey) and healthy (garlic). It wasn't so nasty as one would think, but I didn't go back for seconds. However, the tradition with the carp has to be my favorite. They'll buy the fish, living I might add, a few days before they intend to eat it, and will keep it swimming around in the bathtub until cooking time. This is to insure it is as fresh as possible. I'm bummed that I didn't get a picture of the fishies hanging out in the tub for you, but they were already in the fryer when I arrived on Christmas eve. Sorry to disappoint.

However, I did get plenty of other pics from the night! So here you have it,

The Feast... and you can see some of those carp bones on Noemi's plate. Poor little guys didn't even see it coming.

The Kriskova women checking out Noemi's Christmas gift from her boyfriend:

Isn't Grandma Kriskova (or as they call her, babushka) just too cute?

Tomas sharing some wisdom with me, Jakub, and Noemi:

Gimme those tasty Christmas treats!!

Jakub is amazing on the piano. One of my highs that night was just sitting there in a food induced coma listening to him play.

Ester and I. You have no idea how hospitable this woman is.

That night I stayed at their home, intending to go to church with them the next morning. Unfortunately I woke up with a nasty cold and was instructed to take some meds and get back in bed. When I woke up a few hours later, a full spread of breakfast was prepared and waiting for me right beside my bed. It included orange juice, hot tea, a freshly peeled orange, and a stack of blueberry pancakes - which don't really exist here in SK. The night before Ester had been asking me if we had any special breakfast on Christmas day, and I told her that sometimes we had pancakes, and just mentioned that my mom made some mean blueberry pancakes. That Ester is sneaky! And I don't know how she made that happen - I'm telling you, you can't find pancake mix over here - but the whole thing was truly one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. So, although far from home this Christmas, God certainly made sure that I felt very loved. And I did.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yep, I'm a quarter of a century old...

Throughout high school and college, my friends and I have been big birthday people. So I've had all kinds of things happen for me on my birthday. A few of my favorites include a surprise party when I turned 17 (I seriously had NO idea), a birthday WEEK when I turned 19 (which included a scavenger hunt all around Columbia, many celebratory dinners, and 4 of my friends from out of town coming to spend a weekend with me), and being kidnapped (literally blind folded and shoved into a car) and taken to Atlanta for my 21st. Since moving to Slovakia, I've had to readjust my expectations for this day, knowing I'm not going to be surrounded by my best friends or family. And last year was pretty miserable to be honest. It included my friend's dog leaving a big pile of crap for me to clean up on the kitchen floor, a morning of staff meetings in Zilina, me missing lunch because I had to rush to catch my train back to Bratislava, subsequently starving through small group, and then pretty much going to bed hungry because I was too tired to bother with going to the store for food. It was a little depressing.

This year I was planning to take it easy on my birthday, which was this past Thursday. I was going to finish Christmas shopping, hang up some more pictures around my flat, meet with a few friends... really just enjoy doing whatever I wanted. But then Tuesday evening I received an email about our staff meetings in Zilina on Thursday... WHAT!? I had no idea this was coming, and was super frustrated at the idea of reliving the horrid experience of last year. The reason I didn't know I was expected there was a classic case of miscommunication between my boss and I, so I put on my best happy face and got on my train to Zilina Thursday morning.

The day started out rocky with the crap weather I stepped out into. It was that nasty mix of snow and rain, and it was not only coming down hard, but it was coming down pretty sideways thanks to the constant windiness of BA. So you can imagine what help my umbrella was to me. None. But once arriving in Zilina, my sweet teammates Maruska, Anka, and Janka really tried their best to make the day great for me throughout our day of meetings. Unfortunately for them, my poor attitude was pretty fixed all day, but I really appreciated their effort and need to apologize for my grumpiness. Part of the reason I couldn't shake it was the fact that in the evening we were having a Christmas party with the architecture firm that works below us. The idea of being the only foreigner (Zac and his wife, Kim, couldn't come) in a sea of alcohol and older Slovak men was not what I had planned for the evening of my birthday. Thankfully I was able to side up next to my friend Miska during most of the party, and ended up having a really great conversation with her that made being there worth it. Then I went to bed early, and thus was my the end of the day of my birth.

Last night, my dear friend Noemi threw me and her brother, Jakub, a birthday party. Their mom, Ester, made lots of amazing food, including a sacher tort and tiramisu for desert, which was fabulous because I hadn't eaten all day. The thing is though, I was turning 25, and Jakub was turning 18. So, next to Ester, their MOM might I remind you, I was by far the oldest person at my party. At one point they were playing a Dave Matthews song, and I just laughed and said, "This song came out when I was 11!" One of the girls then said, "that means I was 2!" Oh my.

This post may seem a little bitter to the untrained eye, but really I'm laughing at myself. I know how blessed I am. Especially at how much my life here has transformed over the past year. I'm touched by how many people wanted my day to be great and feel very well loved. However, I must admit that I still have the desire to do something selfish for myself. So, in honor of turning 25 and the desire to celebrate like an adult, tomorrow I'm treating myself to a trip to Czech to visit my close friend Katka for a few days. And I'm desperately looking forward to it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Team Comes to BA

On Monday, my team and I had meetings in Zilina all day long. We started at 10am and finally finished at 10:30pm. I do not lie. Yes, we had breaks in there, but regardless I was a little brain dead by the end of the day. Thankfully, for Tuesday we decided to have a fun day!! So the next morning we all loaded into our van and headed to Bratislava. Woohoo!! It was the first time for my whole team to come and visit where I live, and I have to say it was quite the pleasant day. After visiting my flat, and of course fitting in a quick meeting, we grabbed lunch at one of my favorite places and then headed to the open-air Christmas Market on the main square. Later we came back to my flat, relaxed, ate some ice cream, and then they were off for Zilina!

Peto H. just bought a new camera, so we got some great shots during the day.

Here we are meeting in my flat before lunch...

A cool pic of Maruska taken at the restaurant. This was just one of many taken during the day though... homegirl LOVES to get her picture taken!

A team photo in the empty fountain outside the Presidential Palace... I don't think we were supposed to be there:

We all stared as we saw this little man carrying this HUGE instrument just outside my flat. This photo doesn't do it justice:

Janka caught me taking a photo with my own camera. And you can see one of the many sculptures placed throughout the old town in BA. During the summer there is some stupid street performer trying to mimic the sculpture. He paints his face gold and has this cardboard box that he's made into a manhole... I'm glad it's winter and I won't have to see him for a while.

Here are some of the pics I took...

This is the picture I was taking when Janka caught me:

Michalska Brana/Michael's Gate:

A tram passing by:

Some shots of the Christmas Market: