Friday, April 24, 2015

Our New Worship Space

As we've shared before, our church is moving to a new facility. Because Vienna is a city of catholic cathedrals and not evangelical churches, finding a new worship space typically means converting an empty facility into something suitable for a church. God was so faithful in providing us with a space that will be a great fit for our conrgegation. The new building....
  • has huge windows across the front, making it very visible to those walking by
  • is located in a residential area full of apartment building and pedestrian walkways. We hope to welcome and invite our new neighbors to join us!
  • has large space suitable for a sanctuary, which will accommodate at least 80 more seats than we currently have
  •  is a big, open, empty space which we can renovate to suit our needs
  • is located at the bottom of a building that has a swimming pool on the roof. We can do baptisms up there!
  • boasts lots of storage space
We are currently working with an architect and contractor to renovate the space. Here are some photos of it as it currently looks:

Where the sanctuary will be located
Several bathrooms, which will be renovated and expanded to meet code

An example of how the space will be laid out. This is an old plan, but you get the idea!
We are so so thankful for this space and look forward to seeing it transform over the next few months! Church members are currently donating their time to help with the renovations, scraping walls, painting, repairing and a whole lot more. This is a beautiful example of our community coming together and working together!

Minnesota Highlights

We flew back to Minnesota in April to celebrate Nate's brother, Neil's wedding. It was such a wonderful time with family and friends, and we were so thankful for the opportunity to be there! Here are some photo highlights from our visit.

We remembered to take a family photo!

The Wedding Party on the Big Day

Nate and his brother, Evan, with Grandma

Cutting the cake. What a beautiful couple!

The Best Man Toast
The Mother-Son Dance

Ellie in her flower girl dress

The three Johnson brothers at the rehearsal dinner
Caitlin & Neil
Ellie, rehearsing her flower girl entrance
We visited my (Bethany) family in Chaska and met my cousin's Fiance

Family photo with Grandma

Ellie explored the kitchen!

Selfie with Oma & Opa

Celebrating Nate's birthday at a mexican restaurant

Riding the rides at the Mall of America

The big Lego Store

Selfie with Opa

Crawling around an indoor playground

Ellie's first time meeting Nana

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Comparing "Home" to "Home"

The longer we live in Austria, the more of an adjustment we go through each time we visit the States. Austrian life, culture and routines have become our new normal and as such, returning to the U.S. has begun to feel "foreign". In some ways, American routines and ways of life are still a part of our DNA, and we do settle in after a period of time. But this takes longer and longer with each visit.

The things that we notice to be different between our former "home" and our current "home" also change. During this most recent visit to the States, there were differences that stood out to me that hadn't been as noticeable before. Here are a few...
  • The Egg Yolks - Yes, the eggs are different in Austria (and perhaps Europe in general?) The egg yolks are bright orange. When we first moved to Vienna, we found this to be odd, but now, it is totally normal to us. When I first cracked open an egg in Minnesota, I exclaimed, "The egg yolks are so yellow here! How weird!" I had totally forgotten that this used to be normal to me. It may not seem like much, but it represented to me how much we have adjusted to our new home and how foreign our former country now seems.
  • The Toilet Paper - The toilet paper in the U.S. is so soft! Enough said.
  • The Restaurant Experience - This is a big one. There are several things about eating in a restaurant in the U.S. that are very different and have been difficult for me to get used to. Specifically...
    • The cost of eating out is higher. Drinks are more expensive, food is also pricey, and you are expected to tip 20% (for a good reason...the servers depend on this for income). In Austria, drinks are cheap and tipping is more like rounding up. 
    • There aren't coat racks everywhere. In Vienna, I always hang up my coat by the door. In the US, I have spent time looking for a coat rack in several restaurants, finally to realize that it's not very common.
    • The bill! In Austria, you must ask to pay and sometimes track down your server to do so. I have come to appreciate this so much! But you can also sit and wait for awhile, before finding your server to ask for something. The benefit is you can take your time eating and are never rushed out the door. When you are ready for the bill, you ask for it. In the US, your server brings your bill as soon as you are finished and also checks on you often. After getting used to the Austrian system, this gives me the impression that they want me out the door as soon as possible, and I find the interruptions a bit of an inconvenience.
  • Talking to Strangers - I have mentioned this before in previous blog posts, but it continues to astound me. People are so chatty in the US! I find myself being startled when strangers talk to me in public places. I should remember that they are just being friendly, but I'm no longer used to it.
  • The Size of Things - In the US, everything is bigger - the cars, the open space, the stores (can we say "Target"?), the food portions, the houses, the highways...and I'm sure I could list many more. In the US, "bigger is better" is king, whereas in Austria, bigger can be considered wasteful or over-the-top.
  • Where "Home" Is - In some ways, the US still feels like home to us. It will always be our native culture and after a period of time, we can slip back in. But now, we proudly and comfortably refer to Austria as "home" when we are talking to friends and family. Hearing someone say to us, "Welcome home", when we visit the US feels odd, because this is no longer our home. Home is now Vienna.

Photo credit: 5demayo from 
Photo credit: DMedina from

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We're Still Alive

Sorry for the recent blogging hiatus! Life was quite hectic in March and at the end of the month, our time was filled with getting ready for our second big trip over the ocean (read about the first here). We flew back to the States on March 31 and are staying for two weeks to celebrate Nate's brother Neil's wedding. We are so thrilled to be here celebrating with Neil and Caitlin, and it's been a really special time connecting with family.

In other news, things with our church relocation back in Vienna are going strong, and this is still a big prayer request. When Nate returns on April 14th, he will hit the ground running with this, attending meetings with the contractor and architect, coordinating volunteers and helping with the renovations himself. He will also be preaching in May, so you can pray for him as he prepares!

When Nate flies back to Vienna, Ellie and I will be staying two more weeks in the States visiting my family in CT. Ellie still flies for free (since she is under 2), so I figure this is probably the last time we can take a trip like this. We are looking forward to seeing everyone out there again! Ellie did really well on the flights here and has adjusted well to the time change. She has warmed up to Oma and Opa (Nate's parents) and has enjoyed some great one-on-one time with them on our trip. She is not walking yet, but getting closer everyday. She is now regularly standing without holding onto anything, so that's a "step in the right direction".

Just for fun, here are a few photos we took of Ellie today. Thanks for your prayers for us!