Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A New Attitude

Photo credit: grietgriet from

Last Friday, we completed two weeks of PILAT training at MTI, which stands for "Program In Language Acquisition Techniques". The training was not specific to the language we will learn (German), but instead, focused on preparing us and equipping us to learn another language. The training was absolutely invaluable. We learned about phonetics and linguistics, practiced language learning activities, and discussed the process of language learning, including how to best reach fluency.

One of my biggest takeaways was my attitude change. Going into language learning up to this point, I was nervous. Although I was a good student in school, learning a language to actually use and communicate is totally different from language learning in high school! And fear of the unknown was getting the best of me. I was also going into the adventure with a "grin and bear it" attitude. If I hunker down and study a lot, like I did in school, I can get through...right?

But PILAT completely reframed my attitude. I now have an entire workbook of activities I can do in the community and with a language helper that will help me to actually use and speak the language, not just read and write. I now have confidence in a method that has stood the test of time. I have practical steps to take, which reduce my fear and uncertainty.

One of the lessons from PILAT that really stuck with me were their "5 premises":
  1. Language is a natural himan capability.
  2. Language is a person, creative production.
  3. Language is a social, interactive activity.
  4. Language is a cultural, historical expression.
  5. Language is a structured, governed system.
These premises really get at the core of language and, surprisingly, brought me comfort. They reinforce that my brain has been made to learn a language! God created us to communicate and our brain is capable of so much in terms of language use. I'm excited to discover that!

When I learn German, I may learn differently than anyone else because language is personal and creative. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone speaks their own language a little differently; this is another place where my personality can come out.

In the end, language will help us discover and understand Austrian culture in a deeper way. It all comes back to our motivation - why are we on this journey? To communicate the gospel. We are not learning German to buy bread at the store or to read the Austrian newspapers...we are learning to interact with Austrians and communicate God's love. When we continually go back to the importance of communication in ministry, we are motivated to continue in language learning.

Which language learning premise resonates with you and why?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Arm of the Lord

One of the great things about our time at MTI was the location of the training center. It's in Palmer Lake, COwhich is a beautiful little town tucked right up against the front range of the Rocky Mountains. The property sits up on a hill overlooking the whole valley of Colorado Springs.

While we were there a massive storm roll through. We didn't get a ton of rain ourselves, but there was a lot of hail down in Colorado Springs. It was pretty amazing to see to see these massive clouds right across the valley from us.

One cloud in particular ( the 2nd and 3rd pictures below) looked like a giant fist in the sky. It was pretty amazing to see. It reminded me of Isaiah 51:1 where it says:

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.

It was a reminder to all of us there how great and powerful of a God we serve. Check out the pictures below to try and get a sense of it. 

(Hint: click on an image to see a full screen slide show)

The giant fist of clouds in the sky

Close crop of the fist

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Most Important Word in Language Learning

Nate making vowel sounds into a mirror
Our last week and half has been something 'totally different.' We transitioned from SPLICE training, where we talked about animals such as owls, turtles and ducks to gaining tools to learn a new language at the PILAT program.  The program has been very valuable as we pursue learning a new language in Austria. We now have many activities to explore the language and the culture with child-like eyes.

Recently in class, someone said, "I can't say that word." The leader of the PILAT program, who has an immense wealth of experience, responded, "You cannot have incomplete sentences in language learning. You must instead say, 'I can't say that word yet."

He went on to explain how important the world 'yet' is in language learning. When you tell yourself, "I can't say that word", there is a finality to it. It communicates to yourself, "I will never say that word right."  

But when we add 'yet' to those statements, we add hope. When we say, "I can't say that word, yet" or "I can't make that sound yet", we look forward to a time when  we can make that sound. We look forward to when we can hear the difference between those two sounds. We keep working on making that sounds, because we are confident we will get it right eventually. Hope looks to the future; it looks to possibilities. 

This hope is really exciting for us. It looks into the monumental task of learning a language with an attitude of hope. We are excited for the possibilities of learning and growing when we arrive in Austria! And when we get discouraged in the long journey of language learning, we will remind ourselves, "We are not there...yet. But we will be."

This applies to many other areas of life. When we say "I'll never learn to do that" or "I'd love to try that, but it would be too hard for me", we remove the possibility of ever achieving our hopes and goals. But if we add 'yet,' we have continual hope of learning something new, venturing into uncharted territory, making new discoveries, and allowing God to use us in ways we never thought possible. In situations that seem too difficult or too scary, let's try the word 'yet'. It brings hope for the future!

What statements do you need to add a 'yet' to? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Experiencing Community

Over 40 adults and 30 kids that attending SPLICE training with us
Last Friday, we finished up the SPLICE training at MTI and said goodbye to most of our fellow missionaries (just a few are staying on for the next two weeks with us). It is amazing how close we got to these new friends during our 3 weeks at MTI. We lived in community together, which meant we ate all 3 meals together everyday, lived in the same building, and spent time hanging out and playing games nearly every evening. We also went through very emotional times of processing together in class, sharing our hurts, fears, grief, loss, joys and anxieties. We worshiped and studied scripture together. We bonded over the fact that we don't have homes to go back to, we don't know what our futures hold, and we are in transition. We identified with each other in the challenges we're facing and those that are ahead.

It was sad to see our many friends leave, but we are so thankful for the chance to live in community with them. After being "nomadic" for so long, Nate and I were really refreshed by times of just having fun with friends! We haven't lived near close peer friends for awhile, and this was a void we didn't realized until we got here.

Lord willing, we will get the chance to meet up with these friends again in cities around the world, as we continue in our missionary careers. We look forward to seeing how God will keep us connected and use us all in our respective ministries!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Beauty of Colorado

It has really been a joy for us to complete our training in the great state of Colorado. When free times come (which sometimes feel few and far between), we have really enjoyed getting out and exploring the sites with our new missionary friends. Here are a few shots from our time here over the last 3 weeks!

Posing at the top of Pike's Peak (which we drove up...not hiked!)

Mountains on the way up to Pike's Peak. The tree line you see near the bottom is around 12,000 ft, but the top is over 14k!

Beautiful mountain wild flowers

Our MTI group at the top of the Peak. I have my sunglasses on because this was moments before a bug flew in my eye! The photos preceding this are quite entertaining :)

Did you know Big Foot was a threat in CO?

Exploring Garden of the Gods

Cactus flower

Nate caught this photo of a beautiful butterfly!

Hiking the Reservoir trails in Palmer Lake, just a mile from our training facility.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Processing Grief and Loss

During the third week of our training out here in Colorado, we spend time acknowledging and processing the grief and loss that we are experiencing as we move overseas. Unexpectedly, this ended up being one of the most valuable parts of the SPLICE training for me.

First, we spent time discussing these main areas of our life that we will experience loss:
  1. Stable Nest or Home - a loss of the familiar, of a place offering warmth, comfort and safety
  2. Safety - a loss of physical and emotional safety and comfort
  3. Competence - Who are you when you are stripped of your ability to contribute? This is a loss of being able to be competent in the presence of others
  4. Identity - a loss of how you identify yourself in roles here in the States, whether that be family relationships, job, areas of skill and gifts, etc.
  5. Support system - A loss of the relational support system we have here, as well as entering into a lifestyle that is a revolving door of relationships
  6. Quickly and easily attained goals - Entering into a new culture and ministry means a loss of control over being easily effective in your vocation and quickly attaining your goals
After we discussed these areas, we had the opportunity to walk around the room and write down on large pieces of paper the specific losses we were feeling and anticipating. It was an emotional experience, as I acknowledged my fears and the losses that make my heart ache...the loss of close friendships, my skills and abilities, having my family close by, having the close and in-person support my mom when I become a mother someday, the loss of a home for what will eventually be nearly 2 years in transition, and lots of other losses. Although it was hard to talk about these things, it was also very healthy and cathartic for me to share them with a group of people who are experiencing the same griefs. There was freedom to share in a place of safety and understanding.

We also meditated on scripture that bring comfort and understanding in times of grief. Psalm 139 is one of my favorites, reminding me that God understands my heart and my thoughts, and no matter what side of the ocean I'm on, He is there with me.

Psalm 139: 1-10
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before, 
   and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

How can you identify with these feelings of loss when you've gone through a time of transition?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Living in Paradox

Nate mentioned a few posts ago that our MTI training introduced us to the important concept of a "pair of ducks". With every big transition, we experience paradoxical feelings - positive and excited feelings and difficult, hard feelings. To represent this paradox, we have two ducks - a "yay duck" and a "yuck duck". The yay duck represents the positive feelings we're experiencing and the yuck duck represents the sad, hard feelings that we feel at the same time.

When we were visiting Manitou Springs last weekend, we stumbled on a great discovery - a rubber ducky store! So we picked up these two ducks to represent our "yays" and our "yucks". When we're struggling with paradoxical feelings, we can use this concept to discuss and explain how we're feeling.

As we've been processing our yays and our yucks these past few weeks at MTI, here are some of the feelings I've been experiencing:

  • After anticipating our move to Austria for over 3 years, I'm excited to finally take the next step!
  • I'm eager to learn about Austrian culture and to develop relationships with Austrians.
  • Being able to communicate in another language is something I've always longed to do.
  • After living in transition for a year, we look forward to finally settling down somewhere and having a place of our own.
  • We are excited to join our WorldVenture team and to meet other missionaries in Vienna!
  • We feel that God has clearly called us to Austria. We're eager to move closer to our calling there. 

  • We have to say goodbye to family and friends, knowing we may not see them for 3 - 4 years or more.
  • We have to start over with building community in a new place that is completely foreign.
  • I'm afraid to learn a new language, knowing it will be hard and I will make LOTS of mistakes.
  • I will be stripped of my identity in all of the areas where I now feel competent. 
  • We hope to raise children overseas. It's scary and sad to think that our kids will grow up without their grandparents close by and that I will learn to be a mom with my own mother far away.
Both of these lists could go on. It's been really helpful for me to acknowledge the existence of both categories, rather than focusing on one or the other. It's ok to feel excited and heartbroken about the transition all at the same time.

When have you experienced a "pair of ducks" in your life?