Birthday in Budimpešti

“But for all our fears we are not alone. Our trouble is that we think of ourselves as being alone. Let us correct the error by thinking of ourselves as standing by the bank of a full flowing river; then let us think of that river as being none else but God Himself. We glance to our left and see the river coming full out of our past; we look to the right and see it flowing on into our future. But we see also that it is flowing through our present. And in our today it is the same as it was in our yesterday, not less than, nor different from, but the very same river, one unbroken continuum, undiminished, active and strong as it moves sovereignly on into our tomorrow.” — A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man

Last week in Budapest, as I sat in a room full of fellow STINTers to Eastern Europe, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed at the work the Lord is doing throughout our region. I listened as the speaker, John, a Cru staff member working in the regional headquarters in Budapest, used Tozer’s analogy to explain how God is moving.

“God’s work is flowing now,” he said, encouraging us to not simply focus on the future, but also to open our eyes to what the Lord is doing now.

I’ve said this before, but STINT can be discouraging at times, especially when you don’t see instant results. And to be honest, I can really let discouragement get me down. It takes a toll on my attitude and can make me think that there’s no hope.

But I’m thankful that God doesn’t allow me to remain in this state of mind. And STINT Weekend in Budapest was just another way that the Lord reminded me that our labor is not in vain and that ALL of God’s promises will come to fruition. Not just some of His promises. But ALL of them. I was reminded of God’s goodness and His desire for Jesus to be glorified throughout the whole earth. I was reminded of the Gospel and my need to depend fully on the Spirit, otherwise I can’t do anything. And I was reminded of God’s love, not only for the world, but also for me, His child.

What a privilege it was to hear stories about life-change and how the Gospel is spreading in Montenegro, Bosnia, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. We were also able to share needs with each other and spend time praying together.

It’s amazing to think that just 20+ years ago, in my lifetime, most of these countries were closed to missionaries and the Gospel. But since the fall of Communism, we’ve watched as the Lord has opened door after door to allow for His life-giving and life-changing message. Just with Campus Crusade for Christ International, we have campus ministries in nearly 100 cities! And we’re praying for another 100 cities to have student-led movements by 2020. We know that the Lord can make this happen.

Even just in the last few years, since we began the partnership in Slovenia, we’ve seen God raise up students to help lead the movement here. We’ve watched as the Gospel has captured the hearts of young people and how God has used these 18-22-year-olds to reach their friends and families.

While the conference was incredibly encouraging, I also just had a lot of fun exploring Budapest! (Not to mention, I got to celebrate my 24th birthday!)

Budapest — or Budimpešti in Slovene — is a beautiful capital city beside the Danube River, with charming castles and glorious Austro-Hungarian architecture. The city bustles all day, but becomes magical at night, especially around Christmas. Bright lights illuminate the most beautiful of buildings — the Opera House, Parliament, and other government buildings — as well as the vibrant and classic Christmas markets in the city center.

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The narrow streets are aligned with stalls of mulled wine and cider, sausages, roasted and sugar-coated almonds, chimney cakes (large cylindrical cinnamon rolls), candies, chocolates, and handcrafted pottery and ornaments. Shoppers, families, couples, and friends happily stroll around the stalls. There’s an air of excitement in anticipation of Christmas.

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And I was even more excited, not just for Christmas and a chance to explore a new city, but also to celebrate my birthday with my team, complete with a gingerbread latte (soy and decaf) at Starbucks on Friday and a day full of dietary cheating on Saturday. (I didn’t go overboard, or make myself sick, but I did indulge a little.)

The best part was dessert, though, at Alexandra Bookcafé, a café located in a former French department store. I felt like I was dining with royals in Paris, just by the elaborate décor. And the desserts were divine — coconut hot chocolate and chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate and vanilla mousse filling. I savored every minute.

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Let’s just say that it was marvelous to feel normal for 24 hours, not concentrating on my restrictions, but enjoying freedom.

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And the next day, I got to relax and detox at the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, a popular destination for tourists and nationals alike. The 100-year-old baths have 15 indoor pools, 3 outdoor pools, and 10 sauna and steam chambers. Don’t worry, everyone was clothed.

After an afternoon of hot-tubbing, the STINT teams gathered together for a traditional goulash dinner, singing Christmas carols, and just spending time with each other before we all left Budapest.

I’m so thankful to have been able to spend my birthday and the weekend being encouraged, not just in ministry, but also in the little things, like chocolate cake.

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Fighting for Joy: It Continues (Update Part 1)

I’ve been pondering this post for a while, and honestly, I’m embarrassed for my 5-month writing hiatus. I’ve been learning a lot this summer, and I know it’s time for me to get back in the swing of things and start sharing my heart with you again.

So, what’s happened throughout these past few months? I last talked with you in March about my battle to see God’s goodness in the midst of my circumstances and how that fits into the greater battle of fighting for joy. I wish I could say that I’m done with this fight because I’ve mastered the art of finding joy. But that wouldn’t be true. The fight hasn’t necessarily been easier, but it has been different.

If you remember from my previous post about God’s goodness, I was struggling to see that God was not only sovereign and in control of my life, but also that He’s good at the same time. We tend to separate these two attributes of God, when instead they both make up who He is. For a long time, I’ve teetered on the side of God being in control, but with the idea that He’s just an angry disciplinarian. When I realized that, I started to pray that God would correct my view of Him, and that I would see His goodness.

In fact, I took my prayer from Psalm 27:13-14, which says, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

And the Lord really has been faithful in showing me that this summer. Honestly, I was surprised that He answered this prayer, but that’s just another sign of my incorrect view of who He is.

For the past few months, I’ve seen God’s provision in a multitude of ways, but these two are pretty significant (and they’re related).

First, my health.

For more than two years, I struggled with persistent exhaustion and a number of other symptoms, but every doctor I saw passed me off like nothing was wrong. Finally, in September of last year, I found a doctor who listened and was able to get to the root of the issue. He found lead and mercury toxicity. In January, I began my road to recovery by making drastic dietary changes and by adding over a dozen medicines, detoxifiers, and supplements into my daily routine. And by God’s grace, my body started to detox the metals, energy began to come back, I started to sleep well, and I was even able to start exercising again.

I can’t tell you how significant these seemingly small things are to me. Take exercising, for example. Prior to this treatment, when I exercised, I felt completely drained of energy afterward, I had a terrible time breathing, and I even had a metallic taste in my mouth. Before, running was completely out of the question. But now, in two weeks, I’ll be running my first 5K!

In June, I was able to start adding foods into my diet (chicken, chickpeas, peas, corn, bananas, strawberries, lemons, limes, coconut and onions), which allows me to eat out occasionally now! It feels good to be somewhat normal again!! Just look at how happy I am…

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And in July, I saw a holistic dentist who specializes in mercury removal. I had five old fillings that had been depositing mercury into my system for about 15 years. The process of removal was really a surreal experience. I was hooked up to oxygen, I wore a hairnet and goggles, and there was a contraption in my mouth blocking the mercury from going into my body. Not to mention I had to drink a mixture of charcoal and water as a preventative measure. And the dentist and her assistant both wore full body suits (like haz-mat suits) and large gas masks to prevent them from breathing in the mercury vapor. I also had three vacuums placed around my mouth. This is how toxic those fillings are. No wonder I was sick! So, in two long, intense sessions, taking about five hours total, the mercury was finally removed. I got a pin to prove it!

No Hg

Though this strict diet is still ongoing, this whole experience with my health and diet has really taught me to appreciate the goodness of natural, non-processed foods and also taught me about how the body works. I’m so thankful for that. Now, I’m just waiting for the day when I can add cocoa, coffee, and spices back in. It’s amazing how much I’ve taken these simple flavors for granted!

One more thing, I celebrated my final round of extensive bloodwork on Thursday! And by extensive, I mean about 20 vials taken. I’ll have my results and follow-up with Dr. Waldo in 10 days.

(For the full-length explanation of my health issues and my treatment plan, check out these previous posts: Fighting for Joy: Discouragement and Fighting for Joy: Attitude)

This leads me into the other significant way I’ve seen God’s provision: Spending a year sharing the Gospel overseas. But I’ll share more about that in the next few days.