Sitting down to write about the past year and… whoa, – anyone else get dizzy thinking back on all we’ve done and all the places we’ve visited? It brings to mind Madame Blueberry from my favorite Veggie Tales, when she’s in Stuff Mart and gets overwhelmed, “I feel woozy”. We left Hungary last summer with so many unknowns before us, especially that big one – when we’d be able to return full time. We had visits planned right away, but when we’d come home to stay? That we didn’t know. And it was gut wrenching. God in His gentleness, and fun sense of timing and humor, allowed the purchase of our apartment in Budapest to finally, after years of waiting, go through just as we were leaving. I admit, that was a huge encouragement – for us, and our friends here, that we WOULD come back. It was also hugely annoying as we had to give Norbert’s sister and brother-in-law power of attorney for us and deal with paperwork from across an ocean. Annoyances aside, our home here is such a blessing and we love visitors and company and are in an amazing location right along the Danube, if you’re ever in town or passing through, we love showing off Budapest.
Last summer we left with four key items on our agenda: 1. Help our youngest child Danny transition to life in the US and on her own as she began college at Concordia University in Irvine, CA after 6 years living in Hungary. 2. Help our oldest child Josiah move from our old home in Colorado to live alongside us in California to pursue his dream of working for Disney, while also savoring a time of living near Siah again after four years of his being in CO on his own. 3. Live with Rachel’s 90 year old Grandma Willson, her dad’s mom in Reseda, CA for a time to assist her and just be with her while we can. 4. After six years in Hungary, five of them dealing with Danny’s mental and physical breakdown and rebuild, four years of another child across an ocean from age 17, three moves within Hungary from two apartments in Szeged to the big city Budapest, Rachel having health scares and just life parenting teens – we were TIRED.
We know moving physically back with your teens to help them transition is just not an option for all Expat and missionary families, and we feel so blessed, and thankful, that our family has been able to do that, at least with one of our three. Norbert’s job remains that blessing that it’s always been, not just enabling us to live in Hungary, but to live anywhere he has internet. Through all the craziness of this past year, he has worked. True, we’ve maxed out his vacation days and done as much actual travel as possible on weekends, and his co-workers have been great in dealing with his various time zones and work schedule adjustments due to that. And so we jumped off last summer, and have been dizzy and sometimes barely treading water since – but we’re at a sort of half-way point now, able to catch our breath and looking ahead to the end, at least of this season of this adventure we call life following Jesus.
After much consideration and many conversations, especially one important one with Grandma last month, we are planning to return ‘home’ to Hungary next summer. There is much we don’t know about that new season looming in our distance, it’ll be an empty nest, and we’re feeling some new directions from God that we’re excited about, but also much we just don’t know and won’t know until we get back here in 2019. But what I do know and can share, is how faithful God has been this past year, and the amazing places all of our kids are in right now.
First, the kid not mentioned in my ‘agenda’ list, and the middle child who never gets listed first – Joshua. Joshua was entering his 2nd year of Bible College at the end of last summer, after his 2nd summer on staff at Schloss Heroldeck, Calvary Chapel’s Conference Center in Austria. After a first semester in Italy, Joshi transferred to the campus in York, UK in 2017. Part of our many travels last year was going to see him graduate in York in May. After graduation Joshua had to decide on his next step, and after spending a couple months home in Budapest he moved to Norwich, England (near Cambridge) in July where he’ll have a year internship at the Calvary Chapel there, under missionary Pastor John Brown. This is the first time Joshi has had a plan beyond a few months out; he was that Bible College student who kept attending for ‘just a semester’. He’s living with two other young men, one is also an intern and the other owns the house, and so far it seems a great fit. With schooling done for now, Joshua has also been able to work more fully part time for the same internet-based company his dad works for, doing a lot of the late night, after hours work (in the US) from his European time zone, and it’s been a great fit with his intern responsibilities. He timed his move to be there in time for the all-church camp that was just the other week, and it sounded like a great time to get to know his new church family. It’s not on the calendar yet, but we’re hopeful to visit at some point, plus he’ll be joining the family in CA for either Thanksgiving or Christmas this year.
Danny loves Concordia! As she recently turned 19, she looked back at the many ‘firsts’ her 18th year produced for her: first year of college, first Disneyland annual pass, first relationship, first time living alone, first dog, first job, first tattoo, first road trip with friends. It’s an impressive list; made more amazing as we look back to all Danny has overcome during her High School years. No one, Danny included, really knew how she’d handle college and life on her own and we’ve all, again, Danny included, been so amazed at how she has not only survived, but thrived! At the center of that thriving was Danny finally letting go of her anger at God back in the fall, of acknowledging who He is and how He has always gently pursued her. Her tattoo is a reminder of that pursuit and of God always being there for her. Her first dog came at Christmas and was a total blessing, another smack in the face that God loves Danny. You can read my blog about her dog BB-8, here. Concordia has also been a blessing and a safe place for Danny as she’s made friends, seen an on-campus counselor regularly, jumped into a mid-week Bible group and basically found a new community. As she enters year two she has her first job, working with on campus security – if you visit the campus chances are Danny could be the one to let you through the gate, or not. She holds great power. She remains an English Major with hopes towards creating the stories behind video games. Besides school, a goal of this coming season is getting Danny driving, something we’d thought to have accomplished or at least begun more than has been possible so far. California does not make it easy to prove state residency for a kid, with the coming first pay checks hopefully, finally, giving us the final paperwork needed to get that ball rolling. Prayers appreciated, for the residency paperwork, and then for the actual driving.
And that leaves Josiah, and his precious daughter Aubrieanne as our last kid to update you all on. We could not be more proud of this kid, well, this young man who has worked his butt off since moving to CA – taking on two part time jobs, plus sometimes picking up Uber Eats drive jobs as well. He regularly had stretches of 10-12 days without a day off, often opening at Chuck E. Cheese, home for an hour and then off to close at Disneyland, home in the wee hours and doing it all over again the next day. The energy of youth and the drive of a father to provide! And his hard work has paid off in amazing ways. Everyone warned him that getting hired at Disneyland could take multiple tries with the requisite three month wait between them, often taking people years. He applied a couple months before moving just to start that process, and applied again just a month after arriving in CA in August – by October he had an interview and then began working by November. His first job was in the food sector, at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square – not his ideal position, but an exciting start. Siah’s real goal was to interact with the guests more, and he dreamed of being a costumed character – but again, everyone warned him that those jobs take years to get. Still, all employees can apply for other positions within the park every 4 months, and so, when his first chance came, he applied for a position in the Entertainment sector, this time it was a try out against 80 other applicants with only 11 chosen, and you guessed it, he was one of those 11! Disney is very hush-hush about their costumed characters, especially on social media where I plan to share links to this, so…all we can say is since June Josiah works in Entertainment and is often found on Main Street and Toon Town, and he’s Loving It! From Grandma’s house it’s a brutal 2-3 hour commute, one way, he’s gone through tons of audio books – but is living his dream and making kids smile everyday. Also when he got that position in Entertainment it came with a raise and more hours, not quite full time with the perks, but much closer, and it finally enabled him to quit Chuck E. Cheese and work just one job, plus have actual days off, even more than one together! His days off have also always been cherished for what he’s always managed to fit into each month – a trip to Aubrieanne. She came to us around Christmas with mommy, and then, just in July the first overnight stay without mommy happened – little Aubrie will be two in October and she did awesome on that momentous visit! We had her for four wonderful days and can’t wait for future visits, it was especially precious to see Aubrieanne and her great-great Grandma Willson become fast friends.
We are often in awe at how faithful God has been, as we’ve been blessed to already see the fruit of leaving our home and putting our lives in Hungary on hold to pour into our family in the US. Besides the time with Danny and Siah, we’ve also gotten to spend countless evenings playing Yahtzee with Grandma and Rachel’s cousin Richard and his growing family who live nearby and come almost once a week to see Grandma and throw those dice. Grandma’s house is also the location for lots of family gatherings, from joint birthday celebrations to Easter and Christmas times together, and we’ve been so thankful for the time with cousins and their families. It made for lots of crazy travel this year, but we also felt we were to come back to Hungary in both the spring and now late summer/fall to still host the two retreats we’ve been doing for the past six years. After our spring trip back to host the Serbian pastors’ retreat (and see Joshi graduate in York then bring him home to Budapest) we filled our summer to overflowing seeing what family we could in the US before ending our summer on the high note of the Calvary Chapel Missions Conference, now re-named Refresh Conference, in Austria. And then at the end of September we’ll host the pastors’ wives retreat before heading back to LA for the rest of this school year. Making two, two month visits back this year has seemed crazy on some level – but it’s also kept us connected to our home here, and been a good test of leaving Danny on her own across an ocean. But yeah, it’s felt like we’ve not stopped since April! Looking at our blog, I realized my last posts were in May – and that’s not from lack of things to share, just lack of time to collect my thoughts and write it out. We had a week in June in Colorado, taking care of our house we still own there, plus a dinner and a glorious full day with Aubrieanne. Norbert’s work had their annual company party at the end of June, and as he’s now a new employee, Rachel’s brother Zac got to come out to CA from Maine for a long weekend for it. It was a precious and rare time with Zac that we all treasured. We flew to Maine for the 4th of July (sort of, a canceled flight messed up our schedule and we didn’t arrive until late evening of the 4th, sadly) along with Grandma Willson and Danny. Rachel’s sister Sarah also flew in from Oregon making it a mini family reunion that was only missing her brother Noah and his family (whom we got to see at Christmas though). Rachel’s parents and brother Zac and his family call Maine home, and we made many special memories. And then, just a week after getting back to CA from Maine, sweet little Aubrieanne came for her visit – and I’d not finished going through the pictures of our time with her before we set off for this visit back in Hungary. All that to say, our time at the Refresh Conference in Austria was truly that, Refreshing. We missed a bit more of the fellowship time than we usually like to do, but we needed the Rest, even Norbert took a couple naps, that’s usually only Rachel who does that, so you know it was needed. I’ve always said Sunday afternoon naps are Holy, and I’m going to add that naps in Millstatt are Holy too.
Beyond Rest and Refreshment in Millstatt, God spoke to our hearts, as He always seems to in that special place. Every teaching seemed just for us. Several conversations were amazingly God-ordained. But more than anything, we each, individually and together, felt the Lord leading and directing in powerful ways, and in Rachel’s heart, deeply comforting as she’s also taken this season back in the US to seek out counseling and deal with some life-long and some more recent struggles. We were given more than just physical Rest at our Austrian castle, our hearts were lightened and burdens lifted. Maybe even, finally, finding that Rest we’ve been looking for and thinking we’d get in the US. (Yeah, no one really goes to LA to rest, it’s one crazy busy place!) We still have another year of this strange season, but we’re ready for what God wants to do in us during this time we are seeing more and more as a time of preparation. And we’re ready for what He wants to do through us when we come back next year, and even before that, during the next 8-9 months we have left living in LA with Grandma.