Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WHERE: Bratislava, Slovakia


"Here's the truth about telling stories with your life. It's going to sound like a great idea, and you're going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you're not going to want to do it. It's like that with writing books, and it's like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”

-Donald Miller A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:How I Learned to Live a Better Story

One of my friends Chelsea lent me a book by Donald Miller titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story.  It's a wonderful story about story and I've enjoyed reading it throughout in-country orientation.  Miller, the author, contemplates the fact that he himself writes stories for a living in which he dreams of characters, scenes, transformations and life lessons.  Yet, he realized while writing a script for a movie that the story he was writing for himself was not as fulfilling, not as moving, and not as meaningful as the stories he wrote on paper.  So he began to view his own life as a blank page upon which he was to write his own story, one with meaning with characters that matter and scenes that are memorable.

It is interesting to be reading this book at a time in my life when I feel for the very first time I'm doing something that matters that will also make for a better story.  For most of my life, I've taken the easy way out on everything and have been very timid to try new things.  My mom's go-to example takes place about 17 years ago when it was time for me to go to my first swimming lesson.  I refused to go, and when my parents asked me why I did not want to go to swimming lessons, I replied, "Because I don't know how to swim."  See, I don't usually like doing things I'm not good at, I usually don't play games I know I can't win, and I don't usually put myself in uncomfortable situations.

But, this year I have begun a story I'm excited about and one whose pages I can not anticipate.  All I know is I'm up for the work to make this story interesting, because I'm convinced the characters, scenes, and life lessons the YAGM story holds will transform me.  Ironically, sometimes this blog can feel like work, like a chore.  Don't be offended, it's not painful, it just forces me to take time to comprehend what is actually going on around me.  It gives me an opportunity to take a look at the story I'm living, and more importantly, it allows me to share my story so that others can be a part of it.

What can be painful though, is learning Hungarian.  That's what I've been doing every morning for three hours the past two weeks.  Let me update you on some of the characters and memorable scenes that have been a part of my YAGM story so far.

Characters and Scenes:

YAGM Central Europe being sealed with the Holy Spirit
and marked with the cross of Christ forever!
Ole, Chelsea, Mari, Thad, Me
On August 21, YAGM dispersed across the world to various countries to be begin a year of service.  Four headed to Central Europe with me.  Chelsea, Mari, Ole, Thad, and I make up the Central Europe  YAGM program.   We represent the North American continent pretty well, claiming home in Washington State, Arizona, South Dakota, Canada and Louisiana.  We get along very well, and enjoy the tight knit community such a small number of people can facilitate.  Thad, Ole, Chelsea, Mari, and I will be together for in country orientation until September 10.  Then, we will be sent to our placement sites all across Hungary.  We are enjoying our time together now, knowing that there will be 2 or 3 months separating an opportunity to see each other again. 

On a mountain top in Hainburg, Austria with a view of Bratislava, Slovakia
behind us.  Me, Chelsea, Mari, Miriam, and Ole
Our Country Coordinator, Miriam, and her family picked us up from the Vienna airport and drove us to a café for coffee in Hainburg, Austria.  We hiked up to a lookout and marveled at the incredible view of Bratislava, Slovakia.  The capital city is home to Miriam and Jeremy, and their two adorable little girls Ursula and Esme.  Already they are family.

The skyline view of Bratislava, Slovakia with a grill
going for dinner that night! Mari, Chelsea, Me

The first few days of  our time in Bratislava included getting acclimated to the time change, worship, and a little bit of exploration.  We were lucky to be surrounded by a great community that included other ELCA volunteers who are teaching English in Slovakia and Poland this year. One of my favorite nights consisted of fellowship with this group of teachers and Holden Evening Prayer on a rooftop overlooking the Bratislava skyline.  It was heaven.  It was a memorable scene because of the beauty of the rooftop skyline, the fellowship of the people, and the familiar music singing praise to God.  I am very thankful for that memory.
YAGM volunteers, ELCA teachers, and Miriam's family
join in Holden Evening Prayer before dinner.
After a long weekend in Bratislava, we finally crossed the border into Hungary, the country I will be calling home for the next year!  Currently we are staying at a Lutheran retreat center on Lake Balaton for intensive Hungarian language training.  The area is beautiful and our brains are able to take  a break from all the crazy Hungarian suffixes while we explore the lake and mountains.  More later on exactly what we’ve been up to!


1 comment:

  1. Meredith, I so appreciate you sharing your experience! I look forward to spending this year with you as I read your blog and revel in your growth as your story unfolds! May God's many blessings be upon you and those you will be serving! Much love, Sarah