Developing My Writing...

Those of you who know me well, know that I enjoy writing. I've expressed my writing through two consistent pathways - my personal journal entries and this blog. One of the things I'm doing in this new season of life is to zero in on some personal development in this area. It's something I've been praying about. How do I hone my writing skills in Europe?

In a round-about way I discovered Christin Taylor - writer, author, and professor - who is launching an on-line writing workshop, The Blank Page Writing Workshops.

For all my writing friends, I encourage you to check out her site and if interested, sign up for one of her summer workshops. Christin is making it very doable for those with busy lives (which is most of us) to develop their writing skills in a simple, yet effective format. With grace and ease, Christin's style will empower the writer to express themselves freely, without intimidation.

I'm a part of her current workshop and wrote the following 500-word-max introduction describing my writing history.

Sitting at my third grade desk conveniently overlooking the playground was a perfect seating arrangement for my daydreaming. I'd tune my teacher's voice out or take a break from an assignment to look out the row of windows simply to think about whatever my little 8-year-old mind was pondering at the moment. It was a consistent parent-teacher report. If I just daydreamed less – a lot less – I could be a better student.
Growing up in the country supported my habit. My world of pastures, creeks, and country roads provided a natural habitat for my contemplative get-aways. Soon I was keeping a diary. Keeping track of life, even if it was just daily happenings, was good for my soul. Those daily entries began to evolve into thoughts and feelings, reflecting on life, relationships, and God. Now, twenty-some years later, my life is summed up in an entire bookshelf of journals.
Not too many years ago I discovered my daydreaming was a strength! Thanks to Marcus Buckingham's book, Now Discover Your Strengths, I realized that what was once considered a detriment to my learning has become a window into my writing world. My daydreaming has been sophisticated to that of "intellection." Simply put, it means that I think all the time. There's just so much life to ponder and wonder about. I actually need to build time into my week to muse. If I don't take time to think, I would go crazy! This quality of mine is aptly described as my "mental hum."
And that's where my writing comes in. All my thinking gets sorted out best when I put pen to paper or fingers to keypad. Then, somehow life makes sense and there is purpose to my daydreaming. I love to learn about people and places, and have no problem asking lots of questions. I'm curious about the world around me and love to make it come alive with words.
Speaking of the world… my husband and I are currently serving in a role that has us living in Budapest, Hungary and traveling to all parts of Europe. My world has expanded and so has my thinking!
My most consistent writing flows out of my journal entries and a blog that I began in 2007, but I have a desire to develop my writing, taking it beyond journals and blog posts. I'm not discounting my journals – they are my life – but I want to write with a more purposeful focus.
My favorite book on writing is Anne Lamont's Bird by Bird and if there's anything I've got to overcome is trying to be perfect the first time around. That's why I'm excited about Christin's workshop on writing "lousy first drafts" because after all daydreaming isn't perfect and it took me way too long to write this intro.


Exploring Budapest...

Last Sunday after church we took the day to check out this wonderful city we live in. Dennis had the day mapped out as he does so well :).

First stop was the Grand Synagogue. Budapest has the second largest synagogue in the world next to NYC. So beautiful, yet sad stories of the brutalities and mass burial of thousands of Jewish people when Hitler vented his rage in his "final solution" near the end of WWII. So many untimely, unnecessary deaths. It grieves me so when I see the injustices of the world. Interesting enough, the Germans set up office in the balcony of the synagogue which protected it from bombings.

The engraved leaves of the weeping willow tree are in memory of the thousands of Hungarians who died in the Jewish "ghetto" or concentration camps in 1944-45.

From the synagogue we grabbed some lunch at a hummus restaurant and then headed to St. Stephen's Basilica, named in honor of Hungarian's first king. A beautiful building ornate with many statues, paintings, mosaics, icons, plus the actual mummified fist of St. Stephen.

Our final stop was at Heroe's Square where statues of leaders and other historical figures of Hungary stand. Fascinating to look at these leaders and warriors of Hungarian's history.

This last picture reminded me of The Lord of the Rings :). We walked around this particular area for quite some time taking in the sights of a castle and the beauty of a large park area. It looks like a great place for warmer weather DAWG days :). Come to find out one huge yellow building we wandered into was a thermal bath with a large lap pool, other smaller thermal pools, spas, etc. There are 50 thermal baths in Budapest. We would love to try them some time.

So thankful for the fun day and the sun was out for most of the day. It truly was a much needed Sabbath!


Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

I'd have to add buses to this 1980's movie title in order for it to fit into our modes of transportation over the past couple months.

Keleti Train Station in Budapest

As we make our travels across Europe, I have often thought of Paul's missionary journeys. During a significant time in the early days of the church, God used Paul to plant churches and then return visits to bring encouragement and direction to the new believers and to strengthen the church. Paul traveled by foot and at times by boat, but in this day and age we travel further, faster.

In two weeks time we covered more miles than Paul probably traveled in a year to Albania (see last post), Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Austria to encourage our M's, focus on leadership development, and give direction to the work.

During the training sessions with our M's, Dennis taught what he calls a "stack," giving 13 different word pictures - from a teenage girl with 5 colors of hair to a mummy (some may know this better as a MUME:) and balloons - all to help the teams understand the dynamics of Kingdom growth. The stack begins with the world, illustrating that God's world-wide resources are always available to us, giving energy to His work and ends with a globe with a basket of fruit on top to demonstrate Paul's words of encouragement to the Colossae church: All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing (Col. 1:6). This is what it is all about. Bearing fruit.

These, too, are significant days in the life of the church in Europe. Pray with us for much fruit.

We are home for a week to recoup and catch up before heading out on the 6th journey - this time to the countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia - not in a plane, or train, nor bus, but a rental car.


The Kenet...

One step in the wrong direction and I knew immediately I had stepped into a mud puddle. This was no easy walk in the Kenet - the Albanian word for swamp - as we made our way back to our lodging from an evening in the home of one of our missionaries. Watching every step, we made our way by the light of the moon, following close behind the person in front of us who was navigating this obstacle course called a street. Finding a semi-dry area where the mud didn't squish around your shoes was an impossible task, especially in the dark. Puddles filled from recent rains seemed to connect like a collection of small lakes. The mini-light on a cigarette lighter served as my flashlight, but it didn't prove useful in differentiating between a slight mound of rocky soil, which I preferred to a puddle or wet squishy area.

A quick lunge to get myself out of the situation wasn't quite far enough to keep my other foot out of the same murky water. Once on drier ground, my flashlight revealed brown slimy mud coating my shoes like the chocolate on a candy bar.

Walking through the streets of the Kenet is an everyday occurrence for our M's. Free land was the appeal of building homes in this swamp land for those who moved from the villages and small towns in hopes of finding a job in the city of Durres. Unfortunately the city does not recognize those who live in the Kenet as resident's. Infrastructure is practically nonexistent. Open sewage runs in canals. The water is contaminated. Electric wires are strung up in dangerous fashion. Black plastic water pipes run on top of the ground directly into the canals. Streets are a muddy mess when it rains and full of ruts in the heat of summer.

Choosing to live among the marginalized, overlooked, and oppressed in this community of over 50 thousand people; sharing the same day-to-day surroundings and circumstances common to the Kenet is something I admire. My best word for it is incarnational. My little incident with the muddy shoes was a minor inconvenience compared to the overwhelming needs of the Kenet.

Our M's are the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of the Kenet. A daycare for widows so they are able to work knowing their children are properly cared for. A medical clinic. Friendship. Doing life together. Isn't this the very heart of God - choosing to live among those He came to serve?

Pray for our M's who serve so selflessly in Albania. Pray for fresh strength for each new day. Pray that many would open their hearts to the One who offers Living Water that quenches all thirst.