It’s been four years since we left Lakewood, Colorado and the life we had there in my little dream home in a quiet neighborhood where our kids could walk to school a few blocks in one direction, or we could walk to Target or Hobby Lobby in the other. Four years since I left behind the world of scrapbooking with friends, volunteering on the PTO and co-leading a Girl Scout troop. We knew and expected our new life in Hungary to be vastly different, we imagined it slower, but still filled with some meaningful time commitments. Before moving to Hungary we’d spent the previous eight years in Colorado, in the same city, six years in the same house. I read somewhere, many years ago, that it’s not until the third year after a move that roots have really been established, that the first two years especially are a time of transition. We spent our first two years in Hungary in Norbert’s hometown of Szeged – a ‘home-coming’ of sorts and a much needed time of closure and moving on from our past there. Szeged is my heart home in Hungary, and it was an easy and natural choice to land there when we came in 2011. But for our kids it was never an easy transition, it never replaced Lakewood for them. And so we made another move, to the big city, to the International community and the English-speaking options our kids and their non-Hungarian learning brains (and hearts) needed. This was not an easy or natural move for me. Easy in some respects because there were suddenly so many social options in English – not to mention the Mexican restaurants. But making another transition when we’d barely recovered from the first was hard, I’ve been exhausted from the emotional toll of another ‘cross-cultural’ move. And yes, there is the whole of Hungary, and then there is Budapest – and we’ve settled smack dab in the center of Budapest, as Budapest-y as you can get, not out in the suburbs, we are IN the city. It’s been four years since we first embarked on this crazy adventure with our three teenage kiddos, and I’m feeling like we’re finally at that point where life can really begin for us, where things can begin to happen and I’m ready for them. I’m feeling like we’re getting past that period of transition.
It’s been four years since our kids left behind all they knew and really remembered, and their adjustments and trials through this transition have been much more all-consuming than we could have ever imagined. It was never our initial plan to move with teenagers, we didn’t plot out a life plan and decide that was a chapter to our life we just had to experience. I had many tense conversations with God as to the timing of it all, not to mention the conversations we had with each other and the myriad of conversations with many well-meaning friends and family – no one thought it was a ‘good time’ for our kids to move. But God, through so many obvious and amazing open doors, had clearly shown us it was the ‘right time’ for our family to move back to Hungary. It was hard, but I had to trust. I’ve always believed that God planned and gave us our children, especially as our first two were surprises. If He’d planned the timing of their arrivals, and as it seemed He was planning the timing of this move, I was not going to question any longer that He also knew their ages and how this move would affect them. But yes, I did spend some time reminding the God of the Universe how math works, and pointing out how old my kids were, and how hormones and growing up happens…in case, you know, He forgot that stuff. And then we took that leap four years ago, and in the midst of all the regular adjustments to living overseas my family also began to spin wildly out of the planned pattern – not ‘out of control’, because I held on to my belief that God was still in control, but wow, nothing was going as we’d expected, at all.
It’s been four years since we took our kids out of regular public schools and began the ‘schooling experiment’. I’d spent the better part of the year before our move researching our schooling options, so when we settled on Online School we all initially felt confident. We also have exceptionally bright kids, so I wasn’t really worried at how they’d learn, I was more worried about how they’d make friends. That initial year of school was, really, a huge failure. I don’t use that word lightly. I had two boys in High School classes who had all their lives been Honor Roll students, with nary an average grade between them – and they were failing courses. My body had also decided it didn’t like all the Hungarian germs and viruses and so I spent the better part of our first six months sick with one cold and flu after another – the bulk of the kids’ school year. By the time I realized how little oversight the Online program we’d been paying for was actually providing my kids, they were all months behind. I would never have imagined, just months before, that my kids who had always enjoyed and excelled in school would all be hating the very experience, begging through tears for a way to ‘enjoy school’ again. We trudged through that year, passing and getting as many credits for the High Schoolers as we could, while looking at other options for the next year. We also learned that what worked for one student would not necessarily work for another – something new to our parenting knowledge at that point. It was a painful lesson, for everyone. And so, over the next few years we tried everything – Homeschooling, different Online Schools, classes at the bi-lingual school in town, a different Homeschooling program. We also made the horribly difficult decision to let our oldest son go back to the US for his Senior Year of High School, as for him, none of the options were working well. I often questioned God’s plan, if He was even in control anymore – and yet I clung to His promises, to the obvious guiding and open doors from before we ever left Colorado.
It’s been four years since we took our emotionally stable, fun-loving and joyful children and sort of spun them like tops, often feeling helpless to do anything but watch and pray as they struggled to right themselves and figure out their new world. Two of our three struggled with depression, I suspect the third did too but he hid it well. None of them were really making friends, at least none in flesh and blood and able to hang out with them in person – they all made and kept some special friendships online, but there was a serious lack of someone to go to the mall or the movies with. Our daughter’s emotional struggles were real and deep, she had counseling and we all thought things were improving…until they weren’t. And then her body wanted in on the fun and her struggles went from just emotional to physical. I thought we’d already gone through all the scary doctor visits and hospital stays when she was tiny and had food allergies, eczema and then asthma by age three. None of that prepared me for clinical depression and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This past year has been incredibly hard, dealing with our Danny’s health issues. Anna Daniella wanted to change her name to Danny when we moved to Budapest and she began a new life in a new school, with three other Anna’s in her class. Danny is a fun name, a happy, bouncy name – and I think now it’s a perfect fit for the young lady our little girl is becoming – a girl who has found her bounce again, and is having fun and seriously enjoying life for maybe the first real time in at least three years. Danny is reminding me of a little girl I once knew who had so much infectious joy that her itchy skin and wheezing breath could never slow her down or wipe the smile off her face, a little girl I’ve missed greatly for several years now. Her name was Anna.
It’s been four years since we jumped into an adventure with Jesus, four years since I’ve even had the energy to catch my breath and consider what could be down the road. We spent so many years looking ahead to being back in Hungary, and then we get here and nothing happens like it was ‘supposed to’. I had no plan for living in an International community in a huge city, our life right now is so far removed from what I’d envisioned. And yet, I can’t help but look back and be in awe. I shared all the hard stuff, the struggles, to make the wonder of where we are right now more real. Josiah has grown and matured in his faith in ways we never could have imagined, he’s flourished in Colorado, mostly all on his own. I still miss being near enough to physically help him, to cook him a good meal or bake him his favorite cookies. But we love Skype video calls, and we’ve all been faithful to ‘see’ him once a week. He went back to Colorado and graduated from High School, taking extra classes for credit he needed as well as jumping into Choir and getting his first job. He found a home church and got involved in a youth group, and when he got too old he went back and is assisting to lead that youth group. He followed a dream and went to college for broadcast and media and will graduate soon with an Associates Degree. He got baptized a couple weeks ago, in Austria, in the same lake his dad was baptized in over twenty years ago. And then he went forward for prayer and told us later he felt God called him to be a Youth Pastor, and so he wants to follow up his media school with Bible College. For the past couple years he’s been shining as an older example at the missions conference we attend, hanging out with the younger missionary kids, empathizing with and encouraging them, because he’s been where they are and knows how hard it was, but now gives God the glory for bringing him through it with a stronger faith. I’m just in awe – because none of that seemed probable three years ago. And it was just two years ago that I was crying over his leaving, frustrated at our family being torn apart so much earlier than I’d ever envisioned, even a bit mad at God for, again, the timing of our move and our first teenager failing to thrive. I didn’t see how any good could come of Josiah going back to Colorado on his own, it only felt like a failure to me as a mom and a huge signal that all those friends and family had been right, the move with teenagers had been a horrible idea.
It’s been four years since our Joshua entered High School, and maybe just a tad longer since he left behind his elementary-school years’ personality of the aggrieved middle child who could never agree with anyone about anything. Many of our friends and extended family who have not spent much time with Joshua recently are not aware of his huge and sweet shift in attitude, something I realized when we talked of the possibility of his following his brother and having his Senior year also back in the US – our family who had housed Josiah were much more nervous about housing Joshua, and were sort of hinting at his being difficult, because that’s how they remembered him. That was when it hit me how much our Joshi really had changed, and what a blessing he’d been throughout our rough seasons – he was the calm in the house, ever patient and even tempered, the one always with a smile and quick-witted joke in the midst of the many stormy days. My prayer for Joshua, for at least a few years now, was for God to bless his socks off. And then came his own Senior Year of High School – he didn’t follow his brother, but instead was able to attend the International Christian School of Budapest….and God went above and beyond. I’d been praying for a good school year, for one friend, for maybe something special just for Joshi. He had an amazing school year, with a network now of 23 friends – his graduating class, and he was blessed with not one special trip, but two with his class – to Israel and then the annual class trip to Cyprus. Joshua is heading back to Colorado now too, to get a job and figure life out a bit before going to college, a gap year that he has more than earned.
It’s been four years since I’ve looked ahead with serious hope to our future. Oh, I had trust, I clung to it blindly, and faith that somehow God would bring my family through and settle everyone down right where He wanted…but I didn’t really see how, or have the emotional energy to imagine specifics or even dream much for myself, at least, not new dreams. I clung to my old dreams…I’d catch up on the scrapbooks, I’d finally write that book, I’d relish just being in Europe again…and yet my creativity seemed to crash as my emotions and energy reacted to everything. My body has had some ‘fun’ too, I got to have two cysts removed while in Szeged, one that also gave us a cancer scare. And then this past spring I had four days in the hospital and then a couple months of recovery due to an Ovarian Infection, the extra gift I brought home from our anniversary getaway and my soak in the hotel bathtub. In short, while there have been highs, it has mostly been a long four years of exhaustion. A season that has challenged my faith many times, that has changed my views in some areas, strengthened them in others but has had me on my knees in prayer more than any other time in my life. And we stand now at what feels like a cusp of something new. And I’m ready. It will only be three of us here now in Budapest. Danny and Norbert love city living, and this city especially. Danny remarks often on how much she loves where we live, and oh how that touches my heart. She also exudes school spirit for her beloved ICSB (International Christian School of Budapest), our schooling experiment has landed her exactly where we know she needs to be. And as that has become more and more obvious, it just stands to reason that I’m also exactly where I need to be, that as a family we’re exactly where we need to be. It’s been four years since I’ve had that assurance from the Lord, and this Peace is amazing.