Thursday, June 23, 2005

Forgotten Dreams

Hello! Nice to be back. I've been waiting two days to tell you some pretty cool things that have happened on our cross-country trip. So, I'm going to put the European stories on hold, for just a bit. Funny thing is, in some ways our past experiences there have tied into this trip. That's what I want to tell you about.

First, I want to share an amazing thing God showed me at, of all places, Meteor Crater. Seeing the Grand Canyon was amazing, but what I learned at Meteor Crater was precious.

At one point I felt drawn to go to one part of a small amphitheater, which sits on the edge of this massive, mile-wide crater. Most of the other visitors had gone off to the observation area or back into the semi-cool building housing the museum.

I stood in the corner against the railing. All the noises around me fell away, becoming distant. Suddenly I heard…nothing. Complete silence. No background hum of interstates, neighborhood cars, or daily life. Just that silence that almost makes your ears ring. Do you know what I mean?

Guess what I did? Like a child, I asked, "God, are you there?"

I'm laughing at myself as I write this. Such pondering. I guess somewhere in my mind I thought without all the background noise, God's voice would boom out like a man on a speakerphone.

He was there…is there. I loved that moment. I loved the silence. But what I loved most of all was knowing that God is there no matter what the "noise " is in my life. One day, I'd like to spend more time in the desert like that, away from all the hum and just have a conversation with God. I know He's there. I just want to hear him better.

Now, some fun stuff happened after that. Later in the day (Tuesday), we stopped at a comfy hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, another state I wanted to see. We were just leaving the restaurant in the hotel when we saw the waitress struggling to understand a party of eight. Can you believe they were German? Yep, I played translator that evening. Both the party and the poor waitress were relieved to be understood. It was such a joy to help, and fun.

So, the next day we head father into New Mexico and hit…guess where? Uh-huh, Roswell. I have a confession to make. No, I am not an alien nut, but I loved the TV show, Roswell. We drove down Main Street and got to see the area the TV set was modeled after. And get this. I went into three different shops and two were Christian run. Didn't expect that.

And onward we drove into the evening, until we stopped at a Best Western in Pecos, Texas. We chose it because the restaurant attached was called the Swiss Clock. It even had a bunch of the kanton (region) flags hung on the hotel front. Kind of corny but cute. In the morning we had breakfast there and found out the owners were Swiss. How funny!

Where am I going with all this rambling? Back to God, of course. It's all about dreams. God makes dreams come true, even the small ones that don't really seam like a dream, but more like a "maybe," like going to Roswell, New Mexico.

God loves to delight in us, and I believe He likes to delight us. I think He likes taking those forgotten dreams and making them a reality. And at the same time, it makes Him seem even more real…more present…more involved in our lives.

My trip is turning into a reminder of forgotten dreams. Here's one delighted traveler saying, "See ya soon."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Tests & Trials Along with a Few Surprises (part 2)

Hey there and welcome back. I'm sitting in a hotel in Williams, Arizona as I type this. My family and I are on our cross country vacation. Yesterday we saw Las Vegas, today it was Hoover Dam, and tomorrow it's the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater. What a whirlwind tour! And how wonderful to see some of our own country! Here's a picture from today.

The desert has such an errie beauty. I'd forgotten how beautiful Arizona is. Of course, I'm partial to the desert and the southwest.

Now, on with the story. There I stood, looking at the glass doors of what used to be my bank, my Mom and daughters still with the groceries I didn't have enough money to pay for. In desperation, I knocked on the doors, hoping I might be able to make a withdrawal inside.

A tall, nice-looking gentleman came to the door and explained to me the transition taking place. In my feeble German, I explained my plight. He must have seen the panic in my eyes. He switched to English and asked me a question I never expected.

"How much do you need?"

I vaguely remember stuttering a moment, unsure why he asked. I told him the amount I needed, which was close to a hundred Franks. At the time that was about $75. Now get this. The man pulls out his own wallet, hands me a hundred Frank bill, then gives me his business card and tells me to just drop it buy when I get a chance.

Shock. Pure shock. I couldn't believe it. This guy didn't know who I was, or if I would even pay him back. Yet he still pulled out his wallet in good faith. I could have kissed him…but I didn't.

I went right to the store and paid for our groceries, determined to show this wonderful man-angel that I was as good as my word. Not only did I find the atm machine in the next town over, which was a huge step for me to drive in an unknown area. I returned to the shopping center, and knocked on those glass doors again. The very glass doors I had stood in front of just a half hour prior.

I wish I'd had a camera to take a picture of his face when he saw me standing there. The smile that lit his face was priceless. Just as he had surprised me, I had surprised him. I left the shopping mall walking on air that day.

And praising God every step of the way.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Tests & Trials Along with a Few Surprises

Hi there! Thanks for coming back. I'm sorry I've let a week pass by. My family and I are getting ready to go on vacation, so things are a bit crazy at the moment and will remain so through mid-July. I plan to keep posting while on vacation, so be sure to keep checking back.

For those of you regualar returnees, thank you. My prayer is that this blog will bless you as you see the mighty hand of God. And a mighty hand it is indeed. If you're a first time visitor, my prayer is the same. May you all be richly blessed by God. He is AWESOME!

So, it's time to transition into a slightly different direction. You've read so far how my family and I wound up living in Switzerland. Now I want to tell you about some of the amazing things God did while we were there.

Here's one of the first ones.

Shopping in Zürich can be a real challenge for an American. We have grown accustomed to getting what we want when we want it, even at all hours of the night. This is not the case in Switzerland, and in most of Europe for that matter. Shops close early during the week, though some might stay open until 8pm on Thursday evenings. This is a recent consideration to accomodate the working class. Otherwise, the main day for most people to shop is Saturday. And only until about 4pm. Needless to say, if you work full time in Switzerland, your Saturdays are spent fighting crowds, and I do mean crowds, just to get your staples for the week.

I don't like crowds. I don't like grocery shopping. I was very thankful I could do it in the morning during the week. Lighter crowds then. Let me expound on crowds a moment. You know how your favorite mall gets so crowded at Chistmas time? I mean, December 24th-crowded in a densley populated US city? Well, guess what? That's a normal Saturday in Zürich to shop. What's it like at Christmas time? Ever opened a sardine can? I think you have the picture. And I can reassure you, I am NOT exaggerating.

Okay, back to the first of these interesting stories. I was, guess where? Yes, grocery shopping. Mom, the girls and I found this shopping-mall-like-place (malls are a fairly new concept there). We shopped a little, then went to do our grocery shopping at the Migro, which is like saying Albertsons or Kroger.

Funny thing about Migro. They came in all sizes. If the store had a single large M outside, is was a basic store. Sometimes as small as a large living room. Two Ms meant a bigger store with larger selection. Three Ms was a superstore, which included household items as well. This was a two Mer. I was actually relieved to find a bigger store with more choices. Our US grocery store aisles devoted only to hair products would be considered outrageous there.

I happily filled my cart and got in line to pay. This was one of my first times to shop without the security of my husband, so I really wasn't completely aware of how things worked. And I had no clue how much money I was spending since I still was unaccustomed to the Swiss Frank. I went through the line, and guess what? I didn't have enough money. And all I had was a bank card, which was only usable in an ATM machine.

I knew how this worked in the US, but what about in a foreign country? Did they arrest you, get mad at you, throw you out? I tried not to panic. I looked the young woman in the face and did my best to explain what happened. Well, you don't put things back there. I couldn't anyway, because I was way over the cash in my wallet.

Luckily the mall we were in had a branch of the bank we dealt with, and ATM machines. I only had a bank card at the time, which meant I could only use machines that belonged to my bank, UBS. I asked if I could quickly run over and get some cash out of the machine. The cashier told me, no problem. She even smiled at me. Whew! I left my girls with my mother and trotted off to the ATM.

Relieved that a potentially sticky situation had been so easily diffused, I stuck my card into the ATM machine and got my finger ready to punch in the code. The machine promptly spit out my card and told me I couldn't use it there. Why? I had before. I looked at the bank doors and saw they were closed. I walked up closer to read the posted sign.

My heart dropped. The bank was no longer UBS, but CO-OP. There I stood, stranded. No money, a basketful of unpaid gorceries waiting with my family, and absolutely no idea what to do next.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

What was God thinking? (part 8)

Hello all! Sorry for the delay. It's been a really productive week. Got a lot of writing done. Woohoo!

What an awesome Saturday. Went to a book signing (no, not mine…but hopefully soon!) and met Brandilyn Collins. What a fun lady! I so enjoyed meeting her, laughing with her, and getting my copies of Stain of Guilt and Dead of Night signed. She is such a gracious person.

Ok, back to the story.

Here I sat at this lovely Swiss lady's table, never expecting to get asked a question like that. I told her, yes, I was a Christian. She then asked, "No, are you a believer?"

Well, needless to say, I was confused. I asked her if there was a difference. She told me that in Europe they believe they are Christian simply because they were born there. I guess this goes back to the early crusades and such. A believer is someone who follows Christ, what we call a Christian here. I found the distinction very interesting.

I told her I was indeed a believer and was rewarded with a very happy smile and an excited, "Me, too!" I couldn't believe it. I'd only been there a week and the first friend I make is a Christian, I mean a believer.

Folks, that's what I call a God-incidence. I was so humbled, grateful and thankful all at once. God was there, looking out for me in the smallest details.

In the weeks ahead this dear woman and I got to be great friends. Her daughter and mine became fast friends, as well. My days were spent amidst a pile of documents to translate, and there were many. I spoke the language (German) fairly well, so, of course, I was the one to do it.

It was a wonderful summer spent exploring castles, hiking in the gorgeous Swiss countryside and mountains, exploring Zürich, and getting the lay of the land.

We met our immediate next door neighbors and discovered he was English, and she was Swiss. More English speaking poeple! Praise God! Then the neighbors put together a little party to welcome us. I was so surprised. What kindness. I felt sure this was a sign of things to come. We were thoroughly welcomed in our new home.

Then summer ended, and so did the tranquil days. We got to meet our oldest daughter's teacher, who also spoke fluent English. Then came to find out, our youngest daughter's teacher was a Christian. Again, I was amazed and blessed. That first day of school was so hard to send them off, but we did. And off they went to a school taught in German. I can only imagine what their first days were like, but we felt confident things were going well.

And they did. For a while. Then the real tests and trials came.

And my question. God, what were you thinking?