Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Preparing for J-baby

We haven't posted about the baby in awhile, so I thought I'd give an update on how preparations are coming for her arrival! We have less than two months (probably) until she joins our family and with the holidays here, the time is whizzing by.

As far as she's concerned, J-baby is doing her part by developing and growing! She's 32 weeks along and is just the size she's supposed to be. Her legs are especially long, according to the doctor (probably inherited from me!). We went in for a high-resolution ultrasound last week and all of her organs look great. She's moving and kicking and seems excited to enter the world :)

J-baby's closet, full of pink!
On our end, we're just about ready for her to get here. We painted the baby room last week and will be getting a crib from some friends next Sunday. Then we'll be able to hang up a wall cling above the crib with a bible verse from Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:11 (NIV):

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

Me at 31 weeks. And of course, Mozzy snuck into this photo, too...
 The theme of the baby room is sheep, so this verse fits perfectly! It also has cute little sheep around it. J-baby's closet is stocked with clothes, because we've been blessed with friends here who have loaned or donated many items to us. We are just lacking a few basics, which we registered for on amazon.co.uk here. 

We are so excited to meet her, and we marvel at God's workmanship as He crafts her in my womb. We truly are beautifully and wonderfully made!

I See the Lord

These past two weekends, I had the privilege of singing in two gospel choir concerts, planned through a partnership between Christian musicians in Vienna, Christian organizations and the Music University of Vienna. The music was beautiful, the spirit of the Lord was clearly moving and the gospel message was clear through the words sung and the messages spoken.

Click the video above to watch a full recording of the second concert performance

Something like this could not have happened in years past - namely, a partnership between the secular music university and Christian musicians in the city. God is clearly opening new doors in our city, and I was really excited to be a part of what He was doing. The concerts were planned in conjunction with a "spiritual emphasis week" at the Vienna University, organized by the on-campus student ministry. The last week of this sort happened 30 years ago! Clearly, God is working here and breaking down barriers.

In Vienna, quality music is highly valued and celebrated. Music can be a valuable gospel-communicating tool here, because many Viennese are open to attending a music concert but will not step foot in a church. Having this experience these past weekends has led me to think differently about music as such a tool, and I look forward to more opportunities to use music to share my faith.

Here are a few photos from the first concert at the University:

A view of the crowd as they entered

The choir and orchester

Our conductor

The group of soloists that provided lead vocals. They were all so talented!

Proof that I sang! I was tucked in the back row (typical fate for us tall folks).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Last Day of Class (for a while)

Last Friday was our final day of formal language classes for a while. It was bittersweet as we said thank you and good bye to the teachers we have worked with for so long. It is amazing to think of how fast the last 12 months has gone and how much we have learned.

So the question out there is, "what do you do now?" The answer is complicated. We are working on self-study tools like flash cards (my favorite app is Anki), duolingo.com, livemocha.com, and homework sheets we get from our private tutor. We will also meet with our tutor and language helpers during the week to increase our conversation and communications skills. We'll transition towards learning more about cultural values and practices. This dives into my (Nate's) background and degree at Moody, and I am very excited to continue to explore these concepts. And it is possible that I will take another course in the spring after our little one arrives just to keep sharp on my grammar.

We are nervous and excited to start this new chapter in our learning. Would you pray for us?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

A wintery fall has come to Vienna, like many parts of the US, as well. Leaves are changing and falling from trees and the air is crisp. I personally love this season. As a warm-blooded person, it is nice to move out of the dog days of summer and be able to put on sweaters and long pants. I also love making tea and feeling cozy warm instead of sweltering hot. I am getting carried away here, but you understand where I am coming from.

Another part about fall here in Vienna is that it  brings back all kinds of memories for us. We arrived last October and began getting used to life here. Since then, a lot has changed. We have learned and experience so much. It is amazing how God has provided for us. We are so thankful for all the people who have welcomed us with open arms and helped us to understand this new and different world and for those that continue to lift us up back home in so many ways.

Thinking back to those first weeks and months here in Austria, I don't think I could have possibly imagined what it would be like to be where we are today. To be honest, I had a lot of doubts and fears that went along with this. Most of these spanned the unknown between imagination and reality. By that, I mean that we had spent a great deal of time preparing for this transition. We had attended hours and hours of training, read books, and talked to so many different people that had been through the language learning and cultural adjustment process. It is one thing to talk to others or imagine what it will be like, but it is an entirely different thing to strap on your big-boy-boots and get to work. As I think back on that person and that time, I really believe we had no idea what this was going to be like. This is the reality in most areas of life, but after a year in the middle of this transition, I have seen this sharply. My perspective has changed, and yet I am still me. My marriage doesn't feel completely different, but the miles behind us have driven us closer together as we have shared defeats and victories together.

The key phrase here is, "I couldn't have imagined." I couldn't have imagined what the last 12 months would hold for us. And now we stand on the edge of another big step: finishing up "formal" language Formal here is in quotes, because with a second language you never really stop learning.  But we will move out of the phase of ministry where our primary goal is learning language and culture and move into the next phase. We'll be talking more about this in the coming months, and we covet your prayers about this, but I (Nate) will hopefully be starting an internship in an existing church here in Austria.

This will be a chance for us to work within the existing church and get some valuable ministry experience before we join up with a church planting team in the future. We'll also have the chance to learn from those that have been in fruitful ministry for a long time here. Needless to say, I am really looking forward to this next stage! But I also know that there is no way I can truly know or imagine what lies ahead.

In the face of all of this, we can finally "see the light at the end of the tunnel." It is both very exciting and a bit odd. It feels like so long ago that we left the States, and even longer still that we began this process. God has been so good and faithful to us. Join us in celebrating what he has done in the past and the wonderful future he has for us! To HIM be the glory!

Photo credit: nazka2002 from morguefile.com