Tuesday, September 30, 2014

31 Days :: Snapshots :: the Soul of a Nation (intro)

I am clasping my husbands’ hands and we are giving a humble offering of the life we have entered here.

When Kate Motaung, who I join every week for Five Minute Friday suggested 31 days of Five Minute writes, I knew I wanted in. She is doing ’31 Days of South Africa’ which gave me the idea of writing for 31 days about Hungary.

Then I thought of how I could include my husband. He has a great photographic eye and is all around the city many days, so I am having him do five minutes of pictures using the same word prompts that I am. 

I am looking forward to seeing what we come up with together ;)

I hope you will see our love and deep respect for our new home. It is complex and beautiful. We have lived here with our kids for two and a half years, but our journey here began in 2003. That was when we first heard about the opportunities to work with high school students that seemed to patch together each of our journeys in ministry and missions. 

Our son began the first grade in an entirely Hungarian school at the beginning of this month. Our church is 100% Hungarian as well.  Yet we remain novices on so many levels. This is the beauty, wonder and mystery of living life in another country. It is a journey full of differences and yet learning about ourselves and how the decades of our lives have prepared us to uniquely be here…right now.

It’s our great delight to invite you to these 31 days and these homespun snapshots of the nation of Hungary.

sharing with Jen, Laura, Kelli, and the #FMFParty People


Friday, September 26, 2014

because of you... #fmfparty

 FMF - Because


Of you

There are colors in their season
We anticipate the bright changes
Of Fall and have learned to love
The gray of winter.

The sun dances in varying brilliance
Across the patios, terraces, yards
And gardens this world over. The
Rain covers and gives drink
To the thirsty.

All of the moments are given back.
All of the things that can turn us
Away can bring us Home.

The messy of LEGOs big and small
Reminds me of healthy playing
And breath that is a miracle.
The cries of wanting their own way
Of my own desperate search for
Meaning and why to life.

And the struggle we all have since
That fruit, the Garden and a bite.

The wind in the trees reminds me
Of how far I have come. In miles from that
Farm in Pennsylvania, yes, but in the
Ways of the fragile, the sickness that
Wanted to take me and smear its
Dark label over me. 

Of all of the over
Coming that brought me here. 

The fight is far from over, and I still
Before me. But the looking, the complete
Transforming of your face that gives everything
I need, yes…

It is all because of You.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When your story finds you... #TellHisStory

I am walking with Viki on the Strand in Keszthely, Hungary. She is telling me how interesting it is our talking this week about 'story' and how our lives are a story. I start to tear up as I talk about my own love of story. I share how knowing our stories leads us to the God who has always been and will always be there. 

Each week of Speakout, our annual English Camp, I am sharing with groups of Hungarian teenage girls about the gift of our stories. I say the story of our life is a gift only we can give. It is precious and when it is lost or held back, the world loses an exquisite piece of beauty.

was a girl no more than 10 when I first had the dream of writing down my life. My family still lived on a dairy farm but our days there were fleeting. I suspect I had a hint of the compounding of tragedy that would take us from this home to never return. There was this desperate soul reaching with arms squeezing tight to preserve this life I loved and I would use words and story to do it.

So as a part of a seventh grade project I wrote a collection of stories that I brilliantly called 'Down on the Farm'. Sounds a bit like 'HeeHaw!' That TV show my dad still loves. Those vignettes were lost somehow after mama died and my stepmom, God bless her, took on the task of sorting through nearly four decades of the life my parents had together. We were in our first intership in Hungary and I have a vague recollection of being asked what I wanted to keep.

That burning desire to write the stories from my life which had consolidated to the idea of 'my story' came again in my early 20s when I read 'The House on Mango Street' to my Spanish students. I thought I had arrived.

So, when life took a turn and I was seeking direction, I thought maybe it was time to become a writer. I sent away some poetry, studied Soren Kirkegaard and embraced the existential bent of my life on the cusp of newness. I was ready to leap into the dream, or so I thought. One rejection letter and a job teaching math later, I gave up my quest.

Then Mom died and I stopped writing anything. No journal. No poetry, my go-to. No stories. Life just happened all around me. I got married and was teaching full-time. I moved overseas for a year. I began a journey with my husband that meant a nomadic life with kids coming all along the way. 

Then, one night, in the spring of 2010 through a comment on my dutifully-begun family blog with pictures of my kids and their lives I found Ann's blog. As I read her words, I knew it was time to start releasing my own into the world. I wrote her an e-mail about that dream and began 'Fan the Flame' to stoke the fire of the gift of writing.

I was absolutely terrified. I didn't know my story. It had gotten swallowed up along the way. I didn't know which words would come from me. I had lost the anchor to my past with the death of my mother. My present was full of being a mom and transitions that affected everything.

But slowly and in a dance that is as much a part of my story as the events and circumstances in which I have found myself, the words began to sing, stutter, spring, sputter and stop again. 

Through it all, I've been missing a thread that would lead me to the depth in all of its beauty and tragedy from which I would write. And so over the past year I have re-engaged my story. It's been a re-kindling of a love affair that began as a little girl. My husband and I began reading Dan Allender's book 'To Be Told' together. One of the first exercises is to develop your well of stories. I couldn't stop adding, filling pages and pages of things from my life that I longed to weave into story.

I hoped my hubby and I would keep walking this together, but I found I was holding back waiting for him. So I have finally given myself this permission I've been dying to have. The freedom to write my story in the way I have always wanted. To hallow the beauty. To grieve the loss. To find God in each page. To become whole in a way that is uniquely intended for me as I journey Home.

It Is no surprise to the Great Author that this ripening would happen now. The labor to bring forth is bound no longer in a dairy farm in Pennsylvania or a wings-spread starry-eyed girl making her way in the world. It encompasses those things and the life of wife and mother but also the yearning to make a Home in a foreign land. 

This new way of seeing story is a calling. It is alive. It strains to grow in ways that integrate my story with the story of the nation where I live and raise little ones. I have come to know it is the only way to become what I must to fight for the chapters to yet be written in every story of which I am a part. Mine, yes. But, also, the stories of my husband and kids and family and friends and the community of Christ-followers. Then, too, the stories of the students amidst whom we minister which is wrapped by their country's story.

I was blessed with a touch of it that day with Viki. I would share the part of my story filled with the pain of losing my mother to cancer. And how I never let go of God and more, He never let go of me. I found out later that Viki gave her life to God. In part because my own dark days and the faith that could not be quenched gave her hope for the jagged grief of her story and that maybe God really was there and wants to be there always.

There is risk in learning, loving and sharing our stories. We re-enter what we thought was healed only to experience the wound afresh. It takes courage and the serenity of the gift our stories are from God to us as the firstfruit. From this gleaning we lay down what was never really ours to begin with and we offer up this sacrifice before God to the world. We become a part of something so much greater that is like an ancient song woven into our lives.

It with this lens I walk the path of my story. So different yet so like when I first began to dream the telling.


Friday, September 19, 2014

these hands that hold this wide world over...#fmfparty

FMF - Hold 
It’s calloused and rough, this hand.
I am a little girl and I hold the swollen of this farmer.
We walk the green grass and mud and manure
As he yells ‘C’on, C’on, Let’s Go!’
Callng the cows in for the milking.

I hold this hand too in that old canvas recliner
As we spend a late night in the language of our hearts.
We pray to God for His love & Gospel to go into
The world and the broken of these years somehow,
Somewhere heals.

I see these hands clasped in prayer. Rivers of grief
Inside just days after mom’s passing.
The callouses are heart deep but the softening
Yet deeper. The hands you hold out to
The God who is like the summer sun and the spring rain
That make the crops grow in season.

On Sundays now I imagine our hands held together
Familiar and heady, I feel the rough plains that the farming
Has formed on your weathered exterior in the
Steady way of faith that finds its rutted roads on this
Wide world all the way Home.

Joining all the brave of the #FMFParty on a sunny, warm midday in Budapest


Friday, September 12, 2014

Ready to see... #fmfparty #giveaway

Go ::

I am pregnant with this life.
It's not a baby, just in case you wonder.

It's something more and something less.
I am ready to slip into this skin of 
Woman that's been forming these 40 years.

Ready to live like it is all real.
To pray like never before 
And live with confident
Anticipation of those prayers.

To see the world through little eyes and big souls
Of wonder. To miss the innuendo
Of the cynical and believe.

I stand on the edge of a world that I can see.
It's been the stuff of dreams...all converging
In this one stilled season after that
Last wilderness trek thirsty and hungry in dry land.
It's here today because the years in far country
And the moments that span so much of 
A grieving daughter whose lost to the way Home
Have made my eyes to see.

 Just Write

Hey you #fmfparty peeps! Check my last post and enter the #giveaway of Lisa-Jo's
Surprised by Motherhood.


Monday, September 8, 2014

My Story :: Mama's Ever-Widening Wings & Giveaway #SuprisedbyMotherhood

I wrote this post as a part of the on-going sharing of my story. Especially, today, I share about the way my mama speaks to me from Heaven as I mother. In the memories, as I am present with them, I see them in a whole new way this side of motherhood.

Today I wrote with a special heart towards Lisa-Jo and her book which also includes her journey through her mother's life as she continues to grieve her loss and find her way. I can relate to her in many ways. Not the least of which is mothering without a mom while also living far from your own home. I am holding a giveaway of her book, Surprised by Motherhood. There is a book club that Lisa-Jo is hosting that starts today. I will run the giveaway through Friday, so come! join in! Whether you are a mother or not, you will love Lisa-Jo's relational style and beautiful writing...
It's a regular afternoon on the farm. Whatever that means. Today finds me inside. I am surrounded by the mustard yellow 70s wallpaper with its matching linoleum counters and floors, My twin and I mirror our mother.

She is with a mom who is new to our church, Donna, as she brings her under her ever-widening wing. So my twin and I do the same thing with her girls. Mom shares recipes and her no-nonsense grit in love, life and mothering amidst the whipping up of dinner. We paint fingernails and toenails and cook up meals with our yellow metal play kitchen.

Donna and her family have moved to Pennsylvania from the Midwest and my mom is doing what she does best. With a heart for the outsider and a soul-deep understanding of the struggle to belong, she reaches out with arms wide, warm and full of come-as-you-are welcome.

Mama holds no title at our church. She has negative time with five kids, their schooling sports, music, etc. duties as chief farm hand and there is always, always the laundry.

Yet she finds time for Donna. Not to check off a box or climb the ladder of self-importance, but because she wants her to know she is loved and seen. 

She pours out the salt that is quintessentially her. No doubt making sure Donna knows she is stronger than she could ever know and 'don't you dare let those kids or your husband push you around!' She has a calling to light the fire in any woman who is in mortal danger of forgetting who she is and what her God has brought her through her whole life through.

I have no idea how rare this is as with little girl eyes I take in the scene.

But I have come to know in places as raw and tender as the child I was then. 

I have born children in three places thousands of miles apart as a strong wind tosses me about this big wide world. 

And in each home, seven in as many years, (though some for mere weeks or months) I have wandered this mommy wilderness. New to places full of moms with kids loaded in and out of mini-vans and the frantic race to do it all. Looking around for someone who will slow long enough to come alongside this mama the distance from earth to heaven from her own.

Where is the Sue to my Donna who will mount up on eagles' wings with her negative time and invite me into the mess and the beauty?

It's a tragedy that compounds my grief at her loss. And its a gift...for the searing has taught me to bleed rather than harden. 

Yet, what I wouldn't give for that pouring forth of gold. To know all that mama said to Donna on that day and many others

As the mystery of the veil would have it, Donna is with mama in Heaven. Now seven daughters roam the earth reaching across thousands of miles and chock-full lives to re-capture what cannot be. To remind one another of the mothers who met in sacred space and forged the way to make it through and a bit stronger each day.

And this daughter is learning that the salty river of her aching memory can preserve the real in a world that has forgotten. Where negative time can be changed into things unseen...things eternal.

 sharing with Jen, Laura, Kelli and Jennifer

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Friday, September 5, 2014

the whisper of the wise #fmfparty

Join me, too, today at alifeoverseas.com as I share about the humility of learning a new language ::

When All You Can Say is 'Si! Si! Si!'

it's the whisper of the wise
I have learned to hear it in the 
whirring traffic of a city of two million

as i walk downtown past new metro 
stops and trams
as i pick up my son at his new national school.
as i look around at all the people

yes, living day to day...

there's a whisper that says to me
'pray, beloved, i want you to pray
i want the only response of your mind 
and heart and action to be prayer.'

it's a world that sees what it sees 
and yet He speaks of things unseen.
A God of hope that whispers in 
the fragile and the frail
who calls to souls to find the courage
to live. 

to ask the questions that will save 
the world and us. to seek a healing that is
as deep as the journey to the center 
of the Universe.

It is how the whisper is calling me Home
though that rounds out my heart on the matter.
I don't want to hear the sweet and simple 
for the neighbor or the city-dweller 
and lay on my bed with the busyness of unrest
the things that I see.


i want to be present with these days in 
a strange new home and find the calm 
of the eye of every storm. To see in 
the profound depth of soul the reality 



Monday, September 1, 2014

My Story...when I almost didn't live

I almost didn't live past the age of four.

One sunny day I was coloring pictures at the kitchen table with my twin sister. I am not sure if I had learned to stay in the lines yet, but I am sure of what happened next. The lollipop popped right off the stick and lodged itself squarely in my throat.

Somehow I got to the living room where my mother was. She was a registered nurse who was highly overworked and severely underpaid. Her job was to keep five children alive in the midst of hayloft stunts and large rusty equipment with jagged blades and tall silos and a mean guard dog. And yes, choking on a lollipop that a nice neighbor gave to small children not knowing how dangerous it could be.

My think-quick-under-life-threatening-pressure mom began with an array of trusted techniques to attempt to dislodge the foreign object from me. Each failed to the point where I was turning blue. My older siblings ran out to the barn yelling 'Abby's dying!!' 

But I didn't die. 

Yet, I wonder, as I write this at 40 years old, if I have lived much more in these years since in the fear of the possibility of dying, rather than in the truth of living.

Defying the odds began for both my twin sister and I before we were born. The hope of life held fragile in the clasped hands of a praying mother who had suffered three miscarriages. My father and she sat in a doctor's office with the sharp opinion-shared-as-fact that it was now unlikely she could carry another child full-term. God smiled upon that scene with a very different story in mind.

It was short months later my mother found herself pregnant. At six months in-utero she would find out we were twins. And three months later we came into the world entirely healthy and weighing 14 pounds together.

And I wonder again, do I really believe I can add a single hour to my life by worrying about keeping it close and safe?

When I was blue on that day in 1978, my mother remembered. She had read in a nursing journal about a new method to expel lodged objects from the windpipe called the Heimlich Manuever. So with arms wrapped around me she pressed tight into my little body.

Fragile hope. Fierce mother love. And the kindness of a nursing journal at the right time. The miracle that a mother of five and a farm wife found time to read.

All pieces of a puzzle that shape one place on a 40 year-old woman's life mosaic.

Its hue somehow reflects that other one when my car missed a tractor trailer and multiple lanes of I-95 traffic as it did a 180 degree turn outside of Boston. Somehow? I landed on the shoulder of that highway strip. A few feet of safety between a 75mph multi-tiered head-on onslaught and a steep bank where my car would surely have rolled. The off-duty police officer who followed me to the side of the road marveled at how my car remained unscathed, and all the others for that matter, as he watched the scene from behind.

From these mirroring pieces irradescent light spreads over tiles of miles in tens of thousands over oceans and through blizzards.

I am here. Alive. Today. By an All-loving hand who numbers my days, writes them in a book, even as he remembers how many hairs I lost in my brush this morning. 

There's an intimacy that I cannot escape.

It compels me into life in all of its frailty. It calls for the surrender of control over three little ones and my husband. It speaks of gifts that I do not deserve. And challenges with the eternal purposes of a life that yet breathes. It beckons me further to an all-of-life why? that compels me toward an all-of-life answer.

I am here. Not by chance nor circumstance. Not even by the action of a remarkable mother. But to live well the story of my one little life with each of its days written to somehow reveal...Glory.

Sharing with Kelli @ Unforced Rhythms, Jen & SoliDeoGloriaSisterhood.com , Playdates with God @ www.lauraboggess.com &; #TellHisStory @ www.jenniferdukeslee.com


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