Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Setting up an apartment in Austria

Nate installing window blinds in our bedroom
Nate is skyping with a friend from home right now, talking about moving in and setting up an apartment. As I listen to the conversation and Nate explain things, I'm realizing how many things are different about setting up a home here than in the States. We've gotten used to all of the differences by now, but it's quite a different experience!

Here are some differences:

  • Apartments here (and I think in most of Europe) do not come with closets. So in addition to buying most of our furniture, we have also had to buy free-standing wardrobes for every bedroom. It's nice, because you can decide how they are laid out and organized, but it's time consuming to buy and build them!
  • We choose our own light fixtures! I've never rented an apartment with bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling before. This makes for a lot more decisions!
  • The windows also do not come with blinds. Needless to say, the first night we slept in our apartment, our neighbors could see right in! It felt weird, so we went out and purchased blinds the next day.
  • Many of the building walls are made of cement, so you need a special drill in order to drill holes in the walls. It's very loud and a little more difficult, but the screws and nails hold very well!
  • In addition to not having bedroom closets, most apartments do not have any build-in storage. We are, for example, installing shelves in our storage closet and buying a wardrobe from the front hallway for coats. We also installed extra cabinets in the kitchen for more storage space.
  • Balconies are important here and growing plants on your balcony is a must here in Austria. We are going to work hard as creating a comfortable balcony with seating, a small (electric) grill and lots of plants! Not to mention, we will also use our balcony to hang clothes to dry in the sun. It will take some maneuvering and planning to fit all of that on our small balcony.
  • Building your own furniture. From what we've seen, there aren't very many affordable furniture stores here that compete with IKEA's prices. Since we were outfitting an entire apartment at once, we needed to buy all of the furniture at Ikea and put it together ourselves, because it would have been too expensive to do it any other way. Although Ikea is popular in the U.S. as well, this is certainly the first time I've experienced starting from scratch and building this much furniture all at once!
  • The last several apartments we had in the States came with a washer and dryer. That is very rare here! We just bought our washing machine last Friday and when we move, we'll take it with us. Also, it's common for the washing machine to be situated in the kitchen or bathroom here (ours is in the bathroom).  And dryers are a luxury - few people have space for them.
All this to say, this is why it will take us weeks months to settle in and make our apartment a home. We make a little progress each day, but there is still much to be done. If you want to come visit, wait until the summer time!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Busy Month!

This month has really been a whirlwind. Here are some of the things we've been up to...

Friday, March 22, 2013

More goodbyes

This is a post I wanted to write last week, but we've been swamped... sorry for the delay!

Although we were excited to move back to Austria this month, that also meant more goodbyes. We know living the life as a missionary will always involve a lot of goodbyes alongside the many hellos, but that doesn't make experiencing it any easier. We were blessed with a wonderful community in England and we're thankful to have spent time there.

Here are some of the things we said goodbye to last week...

Friends from church and our fellow WorldVenture missionaries

Our German tutor, Ulla

The opportunity to teach and preach in English!

Some wonderful kids
Baby sheep! (Many pastures had lambs just born before we left)

Not pictured: 
  • Assembled furniture 
  • Delicious cheddar cheese
  • A proper cup of tea
  • A (temporary) sense of stability!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Significance of Our New Coat Rack

So today was a pretty big day - we got internet and a big chunk of our kitchen additions built! We have had a ton of help, but even with that, we have worked pretty hard the last week (yesterday marked a week since we have been back in Vienna). 

Just a minute ago, I looked over at our coat rack. Sure - it feels good to get something attached to the wall. Attaching something to the wall here can be a noisy process and a mess with a big drill. But this coat rack provides a more important sense of satisfaction.

It is funny, but having a place to put our coats makes this new apartment feel just a little bit more like home. It reminds us that this place will eventually feel like home - our home - and that we can stop flitting from place to place and really settle here. I know we won't be here forever, but it is a huge comfort to not just say, "when I am settled, I want that," but to actually be able to dream and make it a reality.

I think I am beginning to realize that we are finally done with this last stage. We are done with 3 months here or there. We are so thankful to be here and that God has sustained us through all of our wanderings. We are praying that we will faithfully serve him in the land he has led us into, building upon all that we've learned as we've experienced constant transition.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We're still here!

We usually try not to go this long in between blog posts, so we want to reassure you - we're still here! Our apartment in Vienna does not have internet yet (we think we'll receive the equipment in the next few days), so it has been hard to keep up with all things electronic.

We arrived in Vienna last Wednesday and hit the ground running...
  • Visited IKEA and another large furniture store on Thursday
  • Got the keys to our apartment on Friday. Then went to IKEA and ordered all of our furniture, (yes, ALL!)
  • Painted the apartment on Saturday
  • Went to church and cleaned up a bit Sunday. Then moved our stuff over to the apartment and started sleeping there! (And found out the heat wasn't working yet...)
  • Monday morning, our furniture was delivered. And the heater was fixed.
And this has been our life ever since...

We took today as a rest day and are spending time at a friends' house where we can use the internet (they are out of town). It's has been glorious. We really needed to rest and get away from the chaos of our apartment.

Tomorrow, we are back at it!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One Lonely Sweet Potato

Today is our last full day in England. We have many mixed feelings about leaving. We are so excited to head back to Vienna and begin to make it our home, but we will miss the people we got to know here. At this point, it feels like we have become experts at winding down a home. Bethany expertly planned out our last week of meals so that all we have left is this one sweet potato (and a bunch of very strong English mustard that we won't be eating). She did a pretty spectacular job. 

Usually this sort of sight would mean we are in real need of a run to the supermarket. We do our best to have fresh fruits and veggies in our kitchen to cook with. But today, this lonely sweet potato was another reminder that we are moving on. It reminded me that things are changing again. It reminded me that we won't get to cook in this kitchen again, but that we have new kitchens to look forward to. 

I hope I have come to a balanced view of transition. I have to embrace the good things that are to come: we have so many things to look forward to with our first spring and summer in Austria. But I also have to mourn the losses. Yesterday in our language lesson, our teacher taught us how to say, "if we had had more time, we would have....", and we worked on filling in the blank and then explaining why we didn't visit Stonehenge or go for more walks in the city. (Most of our reasons had to do with English weather, which is a different conversation all together.) I must mourn not having sheep for neighbors, and watching the cats stalk around the garden while I do my German homework.  I'll mourn our time with the church here and knowing that we are really making a difference with our colleagues. These are important things to remember, but we must also celebrate the time we had. 

As we have been planning our new apartment in Austria, I have thought about Psalm 84. Here are the first two stanzas:

 1How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise!

Whereever we live, we need to remember that our dwelling place is with the Lord. 

Ok, off to finish packing! 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Place to Call Home

We officially have a place to call home!

Two weeks ago, we flew to Vienna to pick up our visas. And just to use our time well, we decided to visit some apartments while we were there. I tend to be ambitious, so I set up 8 apartment showings in 2 days (crazy!). We went in with low expectations, because many friends advised us that it takes awhile to find the right place.
Meeting with the "Makler" (real estate agent) in our new living room.
So when we walked into the apartment on Breitenfelder Gasse in the 8th district, we were surprised by how much we liked it! It fit within our budget, was a reasonable size, and had all of the important features we were hoping for. For instance, hospitality and cooking are an important part of our life, so we were hoping for a good-sized kitchen. This one is not huge, but it has enough space for us to add extra storage and workspace. We also liked the layout, with an open living room/dining room and a separate hallway for the bedrooms. We knew we'd be working from home, so we needed an office and were hoping for a guest room. We also really like the neighborhood, with easy access to public transportation and a short ride to the 1st district (where language school is). There is a street nearby with good access to supermarkets and other basic shopping needs. Check, check, check! Everything on the list!

Last week, we put in an official offer and less than 24 hours later, it was accepted! We processed the real estate fees, set-up a date to pick up the keys, and it's done! Phew! We are so blown away by how this all continues to come together. I suppose God wants us there, right? 

The kitchen. We will install more counters and storage on the opposite two walls.
I've been dreaming for so long about the feeling we will have once we're settled in Austria. And as it gets closer, my excitement grows. We've spent the last week picking out furniture online (IKEA!) and laying it out in a 3D model of the apartment using Google Sketchup. It is so fun to dream about our home and know it will be coming to fruition soon.

We get the keys on March 15 and then spend 3 - 4 weeks painting walls, installing light fixtures and buying/assembling furniture. Then our container will arrive from the States early- to mid-April and we'll be ready to unpack it all and move-in!

A "loggia" (covered balcony) where we'll grow spices, dry clothes and eat meals outside.
Thank you for your diligent prayers that have brought us to this exciting point. We feel them and God has made the path clear for us. This apartment is another thing on the long list of answered prayers. But it is not the end - it marks the beginning of a lifetime of ministry in Austria where God will continue to answer prayers and show himself to be faithful!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Answered Prayers

Last week, we received an amazing email. A dedicated prayer warrior on our prayer team sent us a message that really blew us away, reminding us of all of the prayers that God has answered for us over these last 6 months. Reading over the list and being reminded of God's faithfulness was so encouraging! She pointed out that God has answered so many of our prayer requests and in such a timely fashion. Wow - what a blessing to be reminded of this and encouraged by it.

Some of the things on the list were...

  • Finding a buyer for our car in the States & getting everything ready to leave
  • Finding an apartment in Vienna in the fall
  • Adjustments to our new life & team in Vienna
  • Finding Nate's language partner
  • Passing our A1 language exam
  • Leading us to a "home" church
  • Leading us to our England internship
  • Getting an R&R place right near the visa office and having a GREAT place in line
  • The details for our stay in Litchfield
  • A GREAT language instructor in England
  • And now...the obvious favor from the Austrian gov't in the visa applications---even the "surprise of receiving them early"
And I'm sure there are many more that we are not remembering. Praise God! I write out this list not to boast, like we have some "special favor" with God. We don't. We give God all of the glory, and we feel very humbled and blessed that He has answered so many prayers. This is not our doing.

In the future, when ministry is challenging and we are especially prone to discouragement, I want to go back to this list. I want to remember that God has very clearly opened the door for us to be in Austria. When the enemy wants us to back out and run away, we will cling to God's provision and confirmation. This is where He wants us!

What memories of God's faithfulness and provision do you turn to when times are hard?

Photo credit: jdurham from