It's Summer Time

It's summer time, and the days are overcast, cool, breezy, and just a little bit more relaxed. I am thankful for the natural air conditioner given by God during these first few summer days and am full of anticipation of the coming scorching sweltering heat soon to arrive. That summer heat must be braced for with reinforcements and supplies stockpiled at the ready. You know the kind I'm talking about...the inflatable backyard pool, water guns, spray bottles, popsicles, smoothie blender, ice cube trays, large pitchers of cold drinks, and as many fans as possible. Since we do not have a home air conditioner, this is what is takes to remain sane during the short season of extreme heat. That is what it make life bearable. In other areas of life it takes some soul-searching, thoughtful preparations to not just survive, but also make life bearable, enjoyable, livable, and wonderful. I want to find purpose, unity, organization, reason, and beauty in life, and it is not found inside of me naturally, it is found in knowing Jesus Christ. Our blog is back on the a very long hiatus....we are bracing for the heat, ready, prepared, and even excited about what is to come.

Are We Home Yet?

"Thank you for flying with Jet Blue. If this is home, we welcome you. If not then safe journey to wherever you're traveling." These parting words from the pilot on a recent flight in America reminded me that even though I arrived at my destination, I wasn't really home yet.
We have spent five years living overseas and the moving, packing, flying, and transitioning have never gotten easier. The saying hello and good-bye only gets harder. Our job makes us feel like permanent travelers. And, traveling with children is always a FUN adventure! Stephen enjoyed singing for all the passengers (above). When we first moved to Hungary, one of our children asked with a trembling voice at bedtime, "Where is home?" I explained that home is wherever we are - together. Home is not the location, the house, the rooms, the is the "us." Our home is our family, and that means wherever we are, we can be home. But the truth is that we really are just travelers in this life...on a journey to our real eternal home with God in Heaven. There is a longing to be in that perfect place, a longing that this earthly home doesn't fully satisfy. How can we long for a home that we have never seen? Because it isn't about the location, the home, the rooms, the is about the "us" - that perfect relationship we have with God. A longing to be fully at rest and in union with our Father. We enjoyed our time at home in America. Everyone in Florida, Texas, and everywhere in between were so wonderful to us. The time really did go by so fast. But for now, we are back at home in Hungary, and time is not slowing down.
"Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." - Jim Ellliot

Life in America

So, what's so different about living in America? Many people have been asking us that question. After living three years in Hungary, we are readjusting to life back in the States. We've been here 3 months already, and by far the best thing has been reconnecting with our family and friends. We have also had fun watching the children react to all the "new" things in this culture, and I've had a few laughs at myself too. Here's a quick run down of some differences:

- how to flush an American toilet,
- grocery carts that don't require a deposit. (In Hungary, they require a 100 forint deposit)
- free condiments and free drink refills at restaurants,
- the churches are so HUGE here, so large, so many resources, so many people, so many staff,
- comments like this, "Mom, everyone speaks English here!" and "Do we have to show our passports in Texas?"
- dealing with the American healthcare system, UGH!
- trying to figure out how to pay in the check-out line, "Which button do I push?"
- enjoying having someone bag my groceries after check-out & take them to my car!
- having to cut coupons in order to save money at the store (a necessary evil which I never liked)
- sudden craving for Krispy Kreme
- introducing the kids to things like Dairy Queen, Pop Tarts, Doritos, etc..
- and having trouble making decisions in the grocery store...there are too many choices
- people leave their shoes on inside the house

It is so automatic now to remove our shoes when we come into a house that we can't stop doing it no matter where we are! We had to explain to our children that here it's not rude to leave shoes on inside the house! I know, these are just tiny differences, but what we really have experienced is the sameness - the same love for Christ and the same need for Christ is evident everywhere we go. And that is what life is all about!

Fun Fall Festivities

Recently we attended a Sunday service at which five Hungarian Baptist churches joined together for worship. It was a really special time to see these five churches together in one place. There was even a bouncy house, face painting and crafts for the children. The girls (above) are pretty princesses, puppies, and butterflies, while the boys (below) are fierce wild animals!

The children's school held a fall festival with games and loads of candy. Our two grade schoolers were the baker and the princess. Kind of reminds me of a scene from Despereaux.

I absolutely love the fall leaves! And I am so glad I get to witness the beauty of such splendid colors.....and watch the kids play in them!

Dear Mother-to-Be,

Dear Mother-to-be,

Four times I have been pregnant. Four times I carried a child nine months inside my body. And four times I had a c-section. I did not plan the pregnancies, nor could I control the outcome, but I was eager to become a mom. During each pregnancy I looked forward to the routine sonograms to watch the beating heart, tiny arms and legs kicking and punching, and even the occasional thumb-sucking. During the waiting and anticipation I really didn't like surprises, as any woman understands. Maybe your pregnancy was a surprise, or maybe there was a surprise in the sonogram.

You may have just discovered that there is something wrong with your pre-born baby through a sonogram or blood test. Whenever you receive such news it isn't easy to understand and the shock will resonate for a long time. It is difficult to could this be possible? What went wrong? Whose fault is this? That "something wrong" really means that there is something your child has that will make them very different from other children. Five months into one of my pregnancies I learned that something was very different. My genetic counselor offered abortion as a perfectly normal choice. Abortion had never crossed my mind, but now I understood the choice that women must make. One must consciously and unselfishly choose to keep the baby, and even pray that the baby survives the pregnancy. No one wants to be called selfish, after all, we all have rights....? It is no easy decision to sacrifice our plans, our money, our lifestyle, our career, our time, or our comfort to accept something different into our lives. You will forever be walking down a different path, and what is normal for others will not be for you.

Please understand the doctors and genetic counselors are simply doing their job, but they cannot possibly, accurately predict the outcome of any single pregnancy nor the degree of challenges your child will face. Sonograms and lab tests should not be relied on for making a decision regarding the life of your child. It is your child.

I am glad I did not have an abortion. I cannot imagine life without my beautiful daughter. Regardless of how many doctor visits, medical tests, treatments, difficulties, and emotional trauma that we have been through, she has made this world a better place. She is a normal girl with an extraordinary intelligence, endless affection, and passionate personality. Really....abortion a normal choice???? Consider what you might be missing if you choose to end the baby's life.

A Mom full of joy and peace

New Life

Almost one year ago, Monte missed the bus and had to wait for the next one. While waiting for the next bus, an elderly man walked up to wait for the same bus. They began a conversation and continued it after boarding the bus. Then the bus was stopped because of an accident ahead on the road, which caused the bus to take a thirty minute detour. They had more time to talk because of the delay, and they became friends, exchanging phone numbers. Gyuri (pronounced Jury in English) is Hungarian but lives in Norway, and travels back and forth for various reasons. Even though Gyuri was agnostic, he acknowledged that it was not by chance that he met Monte. Gyuri is 78, he escaped communism and found asylum in Norway, and has lived his whole life in search of peace and joy. In his search he acquired many things that he thought would bring him happiness. Over and over he and Monte had long spiritual talks, but he still had so many questions and much opposition to accepting Christ. He asked us to pray for him because he was "haunted" by this decision to accept Christ or not. So, we sent a prayer letter to our praying friends, and we continued to wait.

July 31, Sunday evening, Monte went to visit Gyuri in his home, and stayed 4 hours. Monte came home after midnight, and said that Gyuri had prayed at 11 PM to receive Christ. Gyuri had said, "I don't know what I'm waiting for, this is really a simple decision!" Now the really amazing part is this - We had just received an email that night from one of those praying friends, telling us how burdened he was for Gyuri, and that he was prompted to pray for our friend.

We are so encouraged that God raised up someone across the world to pray at the right moment, and that that our dear friend put his faith in Christ. He said that he now has Jesus with him, before him and behind him.

In Self We Trust?

After Steve Jobs died last week, I couldn't help but notice all the news articles which highlighted not only his company's achievements, but also his personal philosophy. I can appreciate all his hard work, his technological advances, and his motivational ideas that led to the success of Apple. I personally benefit from his life's work, as do millions of other people.

Many people find purpose for their lives in their work. Good works are marvelous, but I tend to compare myself to Jobs and other successful people. Then I realize that I will never change the world to the same degree that he did, I will never invent something that will benefit the entire world. I am not nearly as intelligent, experienced, or as motivated. I will never amass great wealth, nor be able to give away wealth. My own competitive spirit and personal motivation to be "the best" only leads me to self-pity. My achievements are no match compared to theirs! I am sure others feel this way, and this even leads to depression, low self-worth, and lack of purpose in life. It can even be the reason people step back and don't get involved.... we feel too small, too insignificant, too weak, or too unimportant to make a difference. At my high school graduation, I heard the same moving speeches that were meant to spur young people on to make a difference in the world, because life is short....embrace it and live life to the fullest!

Most people believe that if they do enough good on earth, then they will have a good afterlife somewhere. But what scale is God, karma, or any other thing using to decide this? In the end, how is success measured? Did I do enough? Did I do enough good? Do my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds? Did I make a mark in the world? If the value of my life is measured by my works, if the purpose of my life is shaped by my works, and if my hope and trust lie in the scope of my achievements, then I am indeed to be pitied the most. The truth is that earthly successes are short lived and only provide temporary relief to our insatiable appetite to excel and be a cut above the rest. One must continually seek purpose and salvation in the next big thing.

My own list of achievements - education, family reputation, marriage, children, jobs, awards, experiences, etc., can cause me to be covered in pride, temporary happiness, and self-exaltation - certainly nothing that brings lasting joy, peace, or hope for the future. Besides, my failures often overshadow them. The Apostle Paul had a great list of achievements, Philippians 3:4-9. However, he called them all trash compared to knowing Christ! He found the secret to living well now, and to living with eternal peace. It was not based on his achievements, but on Christ's achievements. Christ was the object of his faith, and gave him a "right standing" with God. Like it or not, we all put our faith in something. If our faith focus is not in God, then it is usually on self. I agree with Paul, the value of knowing Christ is far greater than all my works, and my righteousness is not based on my good works. I am not "good enough" because of what I have done. I cannot find salvation in my work, marriage, or in any other successes. Contrary to popular belief, it's not what you do that makes you successful, it's who you believe in. I have found that nothing satisfies like the resting place of Christ. Good works are simply that - good works. But they should not be a resting place for our faith.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith....not as a result of works, that no one should boast." Ephesians 2"8-9

A Little Child Will Lead Them

Two of us Bakers just took a quick trip back to the States to visit family. Stephen is three years old, and even though he is so little, I see God using him and leading through this little child. While we were visiting Mimi and Poppa's house in Florida, Stephen suddenly said, "We need to worship God. Let's go!" I asked him what he meant by this, and he said, "We need to sing, let's go to Poppa's room." So, the three year old led Mimi and I to my Dad's room, where he was sitting. We each pulled up a chair, sat down, and chose praise songs to sing. Jesus Loves the Little Children, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, Lord You Are More Precious Than Silver, and The Lord Is My Shepherd, were just some of the favorite songs that we sang together. He didn't ask to sing the ABCs, Twinkle Little Star, or Skip to My Lou, or much less the latest song from a pop star. There was no music, no instruments, no great harmonies, just our simple voices stopping in the middle of the day..........together.........praising our great God. I am still amazed to understand that within each of us, is a built-in longing to be in relationship with God - whether or not we realize it. Even a small child can sense the divine, the closeness of God, and desire His presence. And even a little child can lead us to worship in the simplest way with quiet songs full of great theology.

Heroes' Square

Heroes' Square is such an iconic place in Budapest.....everyone really needs to see it up close and marvel at the sheer size of the statues and be amazed by Hungarian history. We've driven around it and around it many times, but we finally stopped to let the kids run around in the square. There is a great flash mob Christian video on YouTube that was filmed here, and a scene from the movie, An American Rhapsody, was also filmed here.

The archangel Gabriel is actually at the top of this column holding St. Stephen's crown and a Christian cross. All the figures pay tribute to renowned Hungarian leaders, and was completed in 1929 to commemorate the Millennium Celebrations of 1896.

Our kids always enjoy statues, especially when they share a name with one of them. This is our Stephen standing below King Stephen with his left arm raised, holding the Christian cross. He is the one who transformed Hungary by converting the country to Christianity, at least a form of it.

While we ran around, we also ran into many people to talk to about real Christianity - which is about knowing Jesus personally. Wherever we go, whether as a local or as a tourist, there are always opportunities to pray as you go and tell what you know!

Vajdahunyad Castle

This summer while we do still have language study, the children are enjoying the relaxed routine of not having school and ovoda. We have tried to do some fun outings with the children that have been on our to-do list. Budapest is such a great city for families to vacation in because there is so much to see, experience, and even taste. It's really nice that we can enjoy such interesting places on a Saturday morning! So, become a virtual tourist and join us during the next few posts as we explore some more of Budapest.
Since I grew up with Disney World, Sea World, and other entertainment parks, I didn't realize how much children could enjoy just architecture, ancient history, statues, and art. When they see that we, the parents, are fascinated by such beauty, they too become enthralled.

This castle is surrounded by a real mote, and a bridge must be crossed to reach it.....imagine that this is a fairy tale you can experience. Instead of a sea monster in the mote, there were friendly mother ducks with their ducklings who were quite happy to eat some of our morning rolls.

This castle is actually a series of pavilions designed for exhibitions in 1896. Each section of the building showcases a different style of architecture, from Romanesque to Baroque. This is a part of Varosliget, one of the largest city parks in Budapest.

Beauty is all around us....take time to enjoy the view!