Two months ago my husband, a dear friend, and I made the trek down to Florida. It was a spur of the moment few days away in the midst of a Pennsylvanian winter. We returned home to a snow storm that left us without power for six days, but the week that we spent in Florida was a much needed rest and retreat in the midst of winter.
I've been learning a lot about rest over the past year, and something I keep thinking about is how vacation and rest are actually good for the soul and help us to flourish in the work we are made to do. Work is not a bad thing. Our souls and bodies were actually made for fruitful work and labor, but we often work to the point of burn out and exhaustion and we lose sight of the joy and blessing of fruitful work. Taking time to rest actually helps us to be refreshed and gives us a fresh perspective on our work.
In my case, taking time to rest gave me the refreshment I needed to continue discipling students and leading Bible studies in the midst of a busy semester. Sometimes a good rest is needed.
In celebration of rest, here are some photos from our recent trip to Florida and our time at Disney and Universal Studios. (These are primarily for you, my family!)
Leave me in a historic house with a cup of tea for a day and I will be quite content. I think this is why I enjoyed the television show Downton Abbey so much. It combined a number of my favorite things: historic homes, afternoon tea, heartfelt story lines, historic fashion, family life, and British accents. While this television series isn't everyone's cup of tea (see what I did there hehe), it is one that my husband and I enjoyed watching together in our first few months of marriage. Which is why I was so thrilled to get to go to the Downton Abbey Exhibition in New York City, a museum of sorts based around the television show.
Since a number of my dear friends will not be able to see this exhibit with it's location and limited engagement in NYC, and I thought I would share some of the photos we took while there, so that others can enjoy it as well.
If you have a chance while in NYC, I would definitely recommend going if you're an avid Downton Abbey viewer.
Here are a few of the highlights:
We thoroughly enjoyed it!
Foreign cultures fascinate me, and my friend Dara spent her summer in Denmark studying abroad. So I asked her to share some of her experiences in Denmark and among the Danes. Enjoy.
Let me preface this post by saying that this was my first time out of the United States. I was a part of a study abroad program put together by my University for its Master’s students in the summer before their last year. That’s the main reason I picked this program for Interior Architecture. I would be spending seven weeks overseas, immersed in a culture unlike my own. Six of those weeks would be at our home base of Copenhagen, Denmark and one week was taken to do a study tour, visiting Norway and Sweden.
Being a city girl, I adjusted pretty quickly when I got over there. I became acclimated to their metro system which became my main source of transportation, along with the bus, but I loved the metro more. Since I rarely use underground transit in the city that I’m from, I took the opportunity to use this beautiful, clean and fairly new mode of transit.
Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the happiest city on Earth, a healthy portion of the population rides bikes (and by healthy, I mean 75%). There are bike lanes all throughout the city, and the bikes even come with car seats for your little ones! Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered the art of riding a bike yet, so I used public transit, which definitely made me feel more like a city/local girl.
There are two big rules when using the metro:
1) Always get to the right of the escalator.
Whether you’re going down or going up, there is always going to be someone rushing to get to their train or get to their next destination.
2) Don’t be loud.
Danes are very much a refined set of people (at least until about 10pm), and being loud will get you nowhere with them, except for some strong side eyes coming your way.
Another mode of transit that I had the pleasure of experiencing is a ferry. Copenhagen does have a canal system that you’re able to explore via the ferry or you can take the tourist route and do an actual canal tour in which you’re able to see the major sites of Copenhagen.
While I was away, I had to remind myself constantly that I was in the capital city. There are no skyscrapers over there. But there is medieval, classical architecture. That’s something that I miss the most about Denmark.
Schools, retail stores and even restaurants occupy these classic buildings, and people living right on top of them. This doesn't bother a lot of Danes because most of the stores close at around five or six because they actually want to get home to their family and friends and live their lives. I respect that so much.
One of the hardest challenges was meeting some Danes.
Danes are very reserved and can come off cold. Small talk does not exist in Denmark which is one thing America relishes in. Danes can speak English as they are taught from a very early age in school. I was able to meet a wonderful woman at the church I was attending who opened up once I told her that I was studying abroad from America. My suggestion if you want to make friends with the Danes, frequent the same coffee shop or restaurant or whatever else you like to do. You won’t find people wanting to talk to you out of the blue, say on the Metro or on the bus, but once you become familiar to someone, they’ll begin to open up.
If you want to know some more of my personal experience for my first time overseas, I made some Youtube videos you can check out here.
For something more in depth, head on over to my blog: www.brknground.wordpress.com. Check out the Breaking Ground section, and you’ll find all of the posts telling of my fears, triumphs and amazing food that was had overseas.
Eat Well & Travel Often.
There is one word in Polish that I find myself using more than the words for "Thank you" and "Sorry," and it's ciekawy (chi-ka-veh).
Sample instances of the usage of this word include:
Person A: I just saw a man walking his cat. (This is a true story)
Person B: Ciekawy.
Person A: In Poland, it is perfectly acceptable to eat sandwiches for breakfast.
Person B: Ciekawy.
Person A: The only difference between a pierogi and a dumpling is that pierogis are made in Poland.
Person B: Ciekawy.
Person A: I told someone that I sat on their sandwich. ( A common language blunder considering the words for "sandwich" and "couch" are "kanapka" and "kanapa".)
Person B: Ciekawy
Ciekawy (adj): Interesting or Curious
This word gets throw around like candy. How else would you respond to a man walking his cat down the street? Ciekawy.
Or even the fact that Poles think that having ice with your drink will give you a sore throat. Ciekawy.
There are over ten words that mean 2 in Polish. Ciekawy.
You can buy a pastry from a stand by a bus stop. Ciekawy.
They serve hot dogs in a pocket bun. Ciekawy.
Stores here have a lot of nonsensical shirts. Ciekawy.
Besides "Please," "I'm sorry," and "Thank you," you only need to know one other word in Polish. You got it. It's...
Lody. (Ice Cream)
I bet you thought I was going to say ciekawy.
Recently, my team here in Poland joined forces with a church a few hours away in a town called Novy Sącz (pronounced Noveh Shontz). It was an outreach event intended to build contacts in a town where a church plant is taking place.
This outreach, unlike other outreach events I've been a part of here in Poland and at home, was an interesting experience.
This is mainly due to the fact that it was a multicultural experience with five Americans, over seven Brits, and many Poles.
My team's role in the event was to provide face and nail painting.
Now, I'm sure that you're probably sitting at home wondering, "How does face painting and nail painting lead to building contacts for a church plant?"
Well, I'll tell you. Because I had the same thought.
But when you offer free face painting and nail painting, people are bound to come to you.
And they did.
As soon as little old Polish ladies saw nail polish on the table, they came over and asked what we were doing. And oczywiście (of course) we told them that we were with a local church in Novy
Sącz trying to get to know people in the community, that we were offering New Testament Bibles in Polish, great worship music, and prayer as well as free face and nail painting.
Many people did walk away. But a good number stayed.
Some people stayed to listen to the music. Some people stayed and received prayer. Some people accepted a New Testament. Some people even let their children play on the bounce house. Some people let their children have their faces painting. And some women even sat down to have their nails done.
This is where I come in. Somehow, I ended being the primary nail painter. And honestly, I had no idea how to paint another person's nails. I've painted my own nails since I was a kid, but painting someone else's nails is a completely different story.
So, my first customer was an elderly Polish woman. She sat down in front of me, and began speaking to me in Polish. All I could do was kindly smile at her and say, "Dzien dobry, Pani. Nie rozumiem Polski. Amerikanka." (Good day, lady. I don't understand Polish. American.)
She then smiled and nodded and said something to me in Polish. I smiled and nodded in return. And pointed at the nail colors and said, "Prosze," which means "please." She then proceeded to pick a lovely purple color.
And so I proceeded to paint her nails.
A few fingers in, she began speaking Polish to me. I kindly smiled and responded, "Nie rozumiem, Pani."
Luckily, my team leader was by the table and was able to translate for me.
The woman had asked me what I thought of Poland.
"Bardzo ładna (very beautiful)," I responded.
At this point, the woman probably didn't know what to make of me since I said that I didn't understand Polish, but I was responding in Polish.
She smiled brightly and asked me more about myself. My team leader translated for me, and we carried on a lovely conversation between English and Polish while I painted this woman's nails. Honestly, I made a few mistakes, and there was a little bit of a glob on one of her fingers, but as the woman proceeded to ask me to paint a clear coat of glitter over the purple (mind you, this is a woman that could have easily been a Polish grandma), I realized something.
I couldn't understand a word that this woman was saying in Polish, yet I was having a great conversation with her. I was able to connect with her and smile with her. And I was sad when I finished painting glitter on her last finger.
As she stood up to leave, she started saying something to me in Polish. But of course I didn't understand.
But someone translated, "She wants to buy you lody (ice cream)."
My heart swelled.
I had just met this woman. I couldn't understand a single word that she said. I could only communicate with her via a translator or smiles, yet this woman wanted to buy me an ice cream.
And she did. She bought me lody truskawka (strawberry ice cream). Unfortunately, she messed up a nail in the process, but it was quickly fixed.
And before she walked away, one of the people handing out New Testaments was able to give one to her, and she accepted it.
But while I enjoyed my ice cream, I was told something very interesting about Polish culture.
And it's that while Poles are very gracious, they have a hard time accepting something for free. Poles like reciprocity. I painted the woman's nails, she felt obligated to pay me back in some way, so she bought me ice cream. And then I started seeing the same thing with other people. Poles have a hard time with receiving something free of charge.
They have a hard time understanding, let alone believing that Jesus died on the cross for them because he loves them, that it was a free gift from God. They have a hard time believing that Jesus doesn't want them to earn their salvation, that he freely gave it to them and that all they have to do is believe.
They don't understand this. The world doesn't get this either.
There is no way to pay God back. No good deeds and not amount of giving can out-give God.
This is my prayer for the Polish people and even people all over the world: that they would understand the radical grace of Jesus. He died on the cross free of charge, simply because he loves us and because he wants us to be reconciled with God. All we have to do is accept that gift and believe in him.
The woman that bought me ice cream wasn't my only customer that day. The Lord provided many more ladies' nails for me to paint. Ironically, they all ended up being Polish grandmas.
And it was really humbling, seeing how God could use a person that doesn't speak the language and is simply painting nails or even my teammates painting nails and faces to make them comfortable with talking with others, accepting prayer or even a New Testament.
In the end, it was a successful event. Over 150 New Testaments were handed out, church members were able to pray over people in the community, and some were even able to share the gospel. Not to mention, my teammate Savannah painted some pretty cool curly mustaches and goatees onto pre-teen boys.
But what's even better is the seeds that were sown by a ragamuffin group of American women, British expats, and Polish nationals being faithful and serving the God that they love, because He loves them free of charge.
Photo credit goes to Chelsea. You can check out her blog at peachywhimsy.wordpress.com
This past week, my team took part in an outreach event in a town called Novy Sącz. I'll talk more about the outreach event in another post, but as a fun activity after visiting the church that was doing the outreach on Sunday, several of us went on a hike.
This wasn't just any old hike. This was a hike up a mountain to go to a restaurant that you can only get to by hiking.
Not to mention, the group that went was composed of American, British, and Polish people. It was a cross cultural mix.
From these details it probably sounds like an interesting and fun experience, but I had very different thoughts from the start.
Honestly, I'm not a fan of rigorous hiking.
I like wandering around the woods. I like camping. I like the outdoors. And I like climbing hills.
But for some reason the idea of hiking high inclines through the mountains just does not appeal to me.
Now if I could climb at a leisurely pace, I would probably feel differently.
But we were hiking to get to lunch, which means a hungry stomach, and that means hiking with haste.
Before we even got to the mountain I kept thinking in my head: I don't want to do this. I really don't want to do this. I'm not going to complain out loud, but God, I really don't want to do this. Please let something happen that we don't take the short and fast way up. I really don't want to do this.
And even as we began the hike: Why do we have to do this?? Why couldn't we have taken the other way? Pierogi is definitely not worth this hike. This restaurant better be worth it. Why would anyone enjoy this for fun?
Obviously, I had a sour attitude.
And I realized it when we took our first break.
You see, being with a group of Brits and Poles makes for an interesting cultural experience. That means that they ask a lot of questions about America and American culture, and we get to ask a lot of questions about British and Polish culture.
Everyone else was taking the time to enjoy the hike, even slow down a bit, and ask questions, get to know each other. But all I cared about was complaining in my head.
When we finally came to a meadow overlooking a great view, I realized that I needed to change my attitude.
Yeah, climbing a mountain is hard work, you have to take it one step at a time, and you need to take rests every now and then. But you climb a mountain for a reason. Usually it's to get to the top. But most of the time the real joy comes from the journey.
The meadow was only half of the way up the mountain to the restaurant, but the view from the meadow was worth the climb.
It honestly felt like a scene straight out of The Sound of Music or even a Lord of the Rings movie.
The view from the meadow gave me hope. It helped me shift my attitude and keep climbing.
And it made me think.
There are times when living life feels similar to climbing a steep mountain. The terrain isn't level, and there isn't always an easy path. You get hungry. Your legs get tired. You slip on a couple of rocks and cut up your knee. And you're not sure if the climb is worth it. Climbing a mountain is hard work. Just like living life can be hard.
All you can do is live life the way that you climb a mountain: take it one step at a time, rest when needed, check your attitude, and take time to enjoy the view.
After an hour or more, we finally reached the restaurant, and we were greeted by a cute little lodge that serves traditional Polish food.
Of course, I had pierogi. And we even had a cake called szarlotka, which is like an apple pie. Our group was even able to chat for a while, and I learned some very interesting things about British culture from a visiting Brit (maybe I will share those factoids in a later post).
The climb was really worth it. And as I repented from my sour attitude at the start of the hike. I realized something else.
At the top of the mountain of Life, there isn't a restaurant that serves pierogi. The end of the journey means coming face to face with our Maker. And for those that believe in Jesus, the end of the hard climb, the rigorous work, and the struggle, means an eternity with Jesus, which is an eternity free from pain, tears, and strife. Eternity with Jesus is the final rest after the long journey. Knowing Jesus is worth climbing every mountain.
All I can say, is when given the chance to climb a mountain to get to a Polish restaurant, do it! Especially when freshly made pierogi is waiting for you at the top.
All of the images on this post were taken by Chelsea Hoskins. You can check out her blog here: https://peachywhimsy.wordpress.com/
But the photos can't show just how beautiful the Polish countryside truly is.
Upon first arriving in Poland, my teammates and I made a very important cultural discovery...
Hot dogs here, for the most part, are served in pocket buns.
I know, I know.
Some of you are probably asking, "What's the big deal? It's just a hotdog."
Some of you are probably saying, "Hot dogs are disgusting." And I would agree with you to a point. American hotdogs can be disgusting.
But Polish hot dogs (not kielbasa) ... and in a pocket bun = a magical experience.
For one, Polish hot dogs are very different from American hot dogs. Food is less processed over here. So, the hot dogs are just different. I don't know how to explain it, and I don't know how they are different. BUT they are different.
Secondly, they serve their hotdogs in pocket buns (primarily at gas stations and movie theaters). But it's a thing here.
They put the ketchup and mustard into the pocket bun first, and then they put the hotdog in. And then bon appetite!
It's a beautiful thing.
However, some cultural blunders did occur during the purchase of one such hotdog.
For one, I learned that if someone doesn't understand the word that you're saying because it's in a different language (in this case the word was "mustard"), then saying the word slower ("musssss tarrrrrd") does not mean that they will understand what you're saying.
I didn't realize that I kept repeating the word mustard slowly until Savannah told me so. We had a laugh about it later.
Luckily, a man who understood English was kind enough to tell the clerk the word for "mustard" in Polish for me. I now know that "mustard" in Polish is "musztarda". There isn't a big difference in the word, but it's enough to confuse someone. So thank you kind Sir for translating! (I'm pretty sure he had a good laugh too.)
At least ketchup here is still pronounced like ketchup.
All in all, if you ever get the chance to come to Poland, do yourself a favor and try a hot dog in a pocket bun.
I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
This past Sunday, I attended my first Polish church service at a local Christian church. It's a very small church in comparison to American churches with an average attendance of twenty. But while it's small and the service is in a language that I barely understand, Jesus shines in this small group of believers.
The worship is in Polish. The sermon is in Polish. The announcements are in Polish.
But language doesn't matter.
Jesus shines in the people.
That's what matters.
When Chelsea, Savannah, and I walked into this church for the first time, we were instantly greeted. People said hello and introduced themselves in Polish and gave us warm smiles and a lot of grace as we tried introducing ourselves in Polish. Despite the language barrier, we were warmly welcomed into this body of believers from a different part of the world.
Eventually the service started, and everyone began praising God in Polish. I could only make out a few words like dziękuję (thank you) and a few others. But I can't tell you how beautiful it was to be surrounded by people praising Jesus in another language.
Since the sermon was in Polish, I had some time to think. And I thought about something that I had never thought about before:
God speaks and understands every language.
Think about it.
God invented language. Genesis even says that He created the world by speaking it into being.
God transcends language. He transcends culture. His love and His truth are universal.
One day, every nation, tribe, people, and language will worship the Lamb, Jesus, like it says in Revelation.
One day, all believers will be praising God in heaven together and united. Language and culture will no longer be a barrier.
I was reminded of that promise this Sunday while worshipping with twenty or so believers. While Poland has very few true believers, people that believe in Jesus as the Messiah, these twenty people show God's faithfulness. That one day, EVERY nation, tribe, people, and language will worship the throne of God.
And that includes Poland.
You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway.
Take the lead, and I will follow.
Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That you won't lead me where you don't go.
When my faith gets tired,
and my hope seems lost,
You spin me around and around
and remind me of that song
the one you wrote for me
and we dance.
WE DANCE by Bethel Music
I'm in the home stretch. I leave for Poland in about a month. There are so many thoughts and feelings bubbling up inside me at all times.
Anticipation, excitement, anxiety, fear, hope, wonder, and so many more.
This trip will be my first time out of the country, my first time traveling by myself, and my first time being in a foreign country.
Unlike Ron Weasley, I don't have the emotional range of a teaspoon. I'm more of Rapunzel from Tangled right after she leaves the tower. In a short amount of time, I go through a wide variety of emotions. Especially when I start thinking about the fact that I will be leaving for Poland soon. In this sea of conflicting emotions, the only thing that seems to steady me is God.
I was feeling a whirlwind of emotions when my friend Faith sent me a link to the song above. You can listen to it here as you continue reading this post.
You steady me. Slow and sweet, we sway. Take the lead, and I will follow. Finally ready now to close my eyes and just believe that you won't lead me where you don't go.
For the most part, I'm really excited to go to Poland, but there's also this fear and anxiety that keeps creeping up.
A few weeks ago, I felt like all of the people around me kept bringing up people that were martyred for their faith, so I started thinking to myself: What if I die in Poland? What if I'm martyred? What if I'm going to die young? Especially with everything going on in Ukraine, these fears seemed plausible and I started to feed them. If it wasn't for a friend, who went on a similar trip last summer, speaking truth into my life and gently encouraging me with, "Madi, you're not going to die in Poland. No one has ever died during this program," I probably would still be convinced that every time someone brought up suffering, that was a sign from God preparing me for martyrdom.
The human heart likes to tell lies. But God and His Word are the truth.
In a sea of fears about being martyred or about support raising or even sharing the good news of Jesus with people, God is steadying me, slow and sweet, we sway.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise -
In God, I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56: 3-4
To close my eyes and just believe that you won't lead me where you don't go.
When I go to Poland in a month, I'm going to one of the most spiritually dead areas in the world. It might look beautiful, but spiritually, it's very dark. Apart from my team, there are very few believers in the town that I'm going to. The community of believers is small, but we're not alone. I won't be alone. God won't lead me where He won't go. God is going with me, and that gives me so much hope.
When my faith gets tired, and my hope seems lost, you spin me around and around and remind me of that song the one you wrote for me, and we dance.
Right now, I'm at the end of the semester. I am tired. I'm ready to be done. The only thing getting me through is the fact that summer is so close and that Jesus suffered far worse than my measly papers and films due. But I think this "suffering" and exhaustion is preparing me for Poland. I'm guessing that there will be times this summer when I'm exhausted, believing lies, tempted to despair, and afraid. But God will remind me of that song that He wrote for me then as He reminds me of it now.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead, the battle was won. It was finished. God is victorious. He is the hero of the story. He has won the battle. But the Enemy doesn't get that he lost, and he's still trying to fight the war. So until Jesus returns to show the Enemy once and for all his rightful place, those that believe have an opportunity to share the good news, the gospel. And the good news is that Jesus has won. He is victorious. He defeated sin and death, and he died for the sins of the world so that we could be made right with God. This summer, and for the rest of my life, I get to share that message. I don't have to, but I want to!
Why? Because wouldn't you want to share really great news?
So in the moments when my faith gets tired or my hope seems lost this summer, I will have to be reminded of the gospel and the good news! And that will restore my faith and my hope.
And we dance
When I imagine heaven, I honestly imagine dancing with God. When I sing to worship music, I imagine dancing with Jesus in a field of flowers. Why? Because dancing is AWESOME and it just gives me this overwhelming sense of peace and rest. But I also dance with Jesus in real life, let me explain before you start thinking I'm crazy.
When you dance with a person, you are connected with him/her. The two people have to be connected in order for progress to be made in the dance, and for them to move smoothly and in unity. In that case, dancing with Jesus looks like finding ways to connect with Him. That means praying and talking to Him, journaling, reading God's word, and just worshipping Him. These are the ways that I can dance with Jesus now and how I will stay connected to Him in Poland, or else I'll stumble during the dance.
This song's lyrics are so helpful as I prepare for Poland physically, financially and spiritually. And it really hit on the main things I need to focus on as I prepare to go.
1. Only God can steady me.
2. God will be with me.
3. There will be hard times.
4. In those hard times, remember the gospel.
5. Just dance with Jesus.
I have no idea what God is going to do with the two months that I'm abroad, but I have no doubt that He has a lot of things in store for me. Who knows how God will use a weak, emotional creature like me? But I'm excited to find out!
I love houses. I just absolutely love them. I love seeing pictures of them. I love walking through them. I love pinning pictures of them on Pinterest, and I love being invited into them.
There is just something so compelling about a house. I mean, it's just a building, but the people that live in it give it character and life. That's what I really love. I love seeing how a family can make a house a home. How a building with four walls can become a place of peace, rest, and warmth.
If there is one thing that I really hope my future includes it's owning a home and having the freedom to make it inviting and comfortable.
I was reminded of my immense love for homes while visiting America's LARGEST home, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC over my spring break. This "home" is huge, absolutely huge. But it is also absolutely breathtaking. George Vanderbilt dedicated his life to this estate, and the amount of work that went into its completion is astounding.
Needless to say, I was in awe while touring this home. I'm pretty sure my mouth was agape while walking through the banquet hall, dining room, the extensive entertaining hallway, and my personal favorite, the library. However, halfway through the tour I realized something that only elevated my enjoyment. As beautiful as this home is, God's house in heaven is even more beautiful.
As beautiful as the Biltmore estate is, God's house is more awe-inspiring. It's more beautiful. It's more elaborate. It's more welcoming. It's more inviting.
Can you imagine? I honestly can't, but the more I tried, the more it made me excited.
The best part? Jesus is preparing a place for me in God's house. After seeing all of the lovely opulent rooms in the Biltmore, I can't even begin to imagine what my room will look like in God's house.
"In my Father's house are many rooms.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"
Touring the Biltmore was a pretty cool experience, but I think what made it so great was touring it with eternity in mind. As beautiful as the home is, it's going to collect dust, fall apart, and decay because it was built in a fallen world. However, God's house in heaven will stand forever. So here's to looking forward to my room in God's house in heaven!
P.S. Jesus, can my room please have one of those cool hammock chairs?
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