refreshed in Vienna

Hello friends! You may have wondered where I am and if I made it back to the States. Yes, I made it back on Saturday evening after 22 hours of traveling starting with a taxi in Vienna to the Floridsdorf Bahnhof (train station) and ending with my last flight from Chicago to Louisville, barely making it out of the icy city. I’m quite thankful to have made it back safely. However, I did acquire a sinus infection, which is why I’ve delayed in writing this blog. Since I got back on Saturday night I’ve been trying to sleep while coughing and blowing my nose. Thankfully I have some antibiotics and am headed toward full recovery.

Being in Vienna, felt like being home. There was an encouraging familiarity that grew my excitement for what’s ahead. I applied for my visa soon after arriving (the 007 story) and then a couple days after that headed to the Austrian mountains for our GEM Austria retreat. Here are some photos from our retreat.

This is the Gasthof Schmirl, which is the hotel-like place we stayed. Schmirl is the family name that owns this property. We stayed here from Sunday evening until Tuesday afternoon. Besides sleeping here we were also fed authentic Austrian cuisine.

Here’s my room. Notice the Manner cookies they put close to my pillow (if you can see them). Manner cookies are those hazelnut wafer cookies I mailed to some of you. They are yummy!

Here’s a view of Schneerberg, the mountain we were closest to. You could see a few ski runs coming off of this mountain. Too bad I didn’t bring my ski gear. 🙂 In the photo is Jim and Kristiana Hatcher and Christy and Elena (in the stroller) McCauley. Jim and Kristiana are father and daughter and Christy and Elena are mother and daughter. We were all out for a brisk walk.

During our retreat we had times of spiritual reflection. Here Devere Curtiss shared about the overwhelming grace of God. I felt like a sponge, just wanting to soak in every moment and teaching.

Most of our times together were used for strategic planning. We divided our strategic planning into segments of our own personal growth, non-structured ministry and structured ministry. We began to write down plans and goals for the next 12 to 18 months. Obviously some of those goals for me include being completely funded, language and culture learning and being available for the ways God brings ministry opportunities in my life whether in the States or in Austria.

Here’s our team photo. I couldn’t have asked for a better time to visit Austria and get to know this team. I think they realized my journalistic tendencies by the time the retreat was over because I constantly asked questions about life in Austria, their experiences and for their words of wisdom.

After the retreat I had three more days of enjoying the city. I spent time with dear friends and felt like we picked up right where we left off even two years later. I also visited Mödling where I lived in 2006 and spent time with a GEM couple who have been living there. I wanted to visit the youth group they worked with, but unfortunately my sense of direction got in the way of finding the church. That wasn’t the first time I had been lost in Mödling. Those of you who have been reading this blog long enough will remember that Goethegasse saved me last time. This time after 45 minutes of aimlessly walking, I headed back to the train station and called it a night.

why do I try to be the glue?

Well, it’s Day 80 in the 100 days toward 100%. I wish I could say the gap is narrowing, but I’ve hovered at about 65% for the last few months. Unfortunately this means that I’m not qualified to attend training in February and have to wait until the next opportunity at the end of May.

As this journey continues to play out I see more of my brokenness and ugliness surface. I know that God desires to use those moments, so I can deal with my brokenness and ugliness and draw near to Him. However, it doesn’t make the process any more comfortable or enjoyable. Yesterday I talked with GEM and confirmed with them that I’m not at the monthly support percentage which would qualify to attend training. Having that conversation was so hard. The response that first surfaced was that of disappointing so many people. It was my people-pleasing tendency that rose above the call God has on my life.

Sometimes I feel I have to prove to you what God confirms in my heart again and again. But God never asked me to do that. He doesn’t expect me to go into “glue mode” in trying to hold everything together, but to trust Him. I have to trust Him with every detail even in bringing and maintaining the support I need on every side.

I may lack monthly support progress, but I can sure tell you that I’m learning what living a life of faith is all about. I’m learning that this really isn’t about God wanting me in Austria, but wanting more of me. And I’m learning about dependence as I struggle to wait on God and living in that tension.

As I said at the beginning of this 100 days I will choose (even when I don’t feel it and regardless of the outcome) to say, Blessed be His name. And I pray you will join me in that too!

Please pray as I have two opportunities tomorrow to share my heart for Austria. Pray that God would speak through me and would be glorified.

Thanks for your overwhelming generosity this season!

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