Saturday, May 28, 2005

What was God thinking? (part 7)

My buddy Heather is away, so I don't have someone reminding me to make a new entry! LOL! Hope she's having a great time.

I know we left on a bit of a down note. Brave soul that she is, Mom got on that plane Monday morning and off we went. I was still clueless as to how to help her. We all were in shock, especially Mom.

Well, we came to our new home, bear of furniture. Our possessions wouldn't arrive for another few weeks, since it was coming from Amsterdam. Thankfully, Mike had aquired some air matresses and discovered a place called IKEA. I'm sure many of you know it. We actually have two here in the San Francisco Bay area. Oh, by the way, in Switzerland they pronounce it differently, eee-kay-ah. Took me almost two years to quit saying it that way!

Back to the story. We settled into our new home in a little town, or village, called Sellenbüren. We were one of the first foreign families to come into the area, and it was only about ten to fifteen minutes from Zürich. The community we lived in was nestled in the side of the Ütliberg, a well-known mountain.

At first it was like a long vacation. I had asked the Gemeinde, the local governenment that was in each town, to allow my girls to wait to start school in the fall. They had technically already finished their school year in the US. Even though the german schools still had a month of school left, they allowed it, which I found out later was highly unusual.

You know how they say hindsight is 20/20? It's true. Starting school when we got there may have helped them adjust better, but who knows.

We'd only been there maybe a week or so, and my daughters come running in all excited. They made a new friend. This bright and beautiful young girl was the same age as my oldest daughter. I was thrilled. Then I had the pleasure of meeting this girl's mother.

I'll never for get sitting at this dear lady's table, praising God in my heart that she spoke perfect English. She was ready to help in any way, but what really surprised me was one of the first questions she asked me. I think I had asked her about an English speaking church.

Her eyes lit up, and she put her hand on my arm as she asked, "Are you a believer?"

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What was God thinking? (part 6)

Hello there! Sorry I delayed again. I've got a new writing project that's keeping me so busy, my head is spinning!

Well, needless to say I was pretty confused at this point, but I had a sense of peace about it. I think I was starting to realize I needed to let God take control and back off. That's a lesson I'm still learning.

What happened next? God's timing, of course. I look back at it now and see had we sold our house around Christmas, we would have been stuck with no place to go. Moving to another country involves a whole lot of paperwork. So does selling a house. Things were happening, just not fast enough for me.

Right before Christmas, my mother moved in with us so she could let her apartment go. She was coming with us, after all. That's right. Mom was moving to Switzerland with us. She's a brave soul.

The New Year passed and spring approached. A date was finally set for Mike to fly over ahead and find a place to live. As a contractor, everything comes out of your own pocket. This move was on our dime. We were to follow him over in about two months time.

My girls were pretty young at the time, 5 and 9, so we felt good about them making the transition. The idea was for them to go to German schools, so they could learn the language and the culture. Tons of stories coming about that. Stay tuned.

Once Mike left, I had some pretty large tasks ahead of me: pack what we needed for our new home and arrange international shipping, secure what we didn't want to take in storage, and get our four silly cats cleared by a vet for travel. Yes, I was a very busy person for those two months. But it all got done and, so far, everything was falling into place. Except for one of those cats going AWOL for a day, but she turned up, cranky thing that she is!

I have to confess here that I did push things a bit. I thought staying in a hotel for two week before we left would be a great idea. NOT! You know how they say hindsight is always 20/20? It is, and I should have taken the new house owners up on their offer to let us stay in the house longer. Would have saved me a lot of stress and a chunk of money. Oh well…

One thing I remember clearly from this chaotic and crazy time is laying in the hotel bed and thanking God for all that He was doing. I was so overwhelmed and, well, afraid of what was to come. I was so grateful He was in charge and keeping me from drowning.

We were to fly out on a Monday, my daughters, my mother and I. My poor Mom. At the time, she really didn't like to fly much. She was such a trooper. And her boyfriend, dearest man you'd ever meet and who had encouraged Mom to take this opportunity even though it took her away from him, was strangely unreachable.

This is the sad part, folks. The Saturday before we were to leave, this wonderful man died. My heart breaks again thinking about it. My Mom was crushed.

I was shocked and didn't have a clue what to do next.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What was God thinking? (part 5)

Hi there! Welcome back. Please know that if you are coming back to read my blog, I am so very thankful. My hope is that God will use this to inspire you with His greatness. The one thing I learned in this journey: God is ever faithful. It has become my mantra.

So, God kept very silent after we got back from Switzerland. I was pretty confused…and frustrated. Then, guess what? Yep, the phone rang again. They found another company willing to deal with all the paperwork to bring Mike over as a contractor. Later, when I learned what was involved, I had a lot of admiration for the first company trying and the success of the second company. It was a go.

Oh my, it suddenly hit me. We're moving to Europe. Wow. That took a while to sink in. And when I told my friends, it was like listening to someone else. That's not me you're talking about. Oh, wait. Yes it is!

The next task was selling our house. We decided to have an open house the weekend after Thanksgiving. Life became a whirl of packing unnecessary items and putting them into storage. The For Sale By Owner sign went in the yard, and we were ready.

Let me tell you, this house was our dream home. We'd built it four years earlier on two acres of land on a cul-de-sac in the country. It was truly idyllic, but leave it to God to shake things up when you get to comfy. I know that's why He moved us. I had gotten way too comfortable. Too comfy means no growth.

The day of the open house came, and I was really stressing. I have a tendency to push things through, (yes, control freak here, thank you very much) and that's what I was feeling I had done. I remember going to sit out on the deck to pray. I'll never forget that prayer.

"Lord, if this isn't your will, I pray no one comes."

I was exhausted, to say the least. Life had been in high gear for weeks. Packing, painting, cleaning. And there we were, house decorated, candles burning, and little lights in the trees in the front yard. It all looked so pretty, despite the dreary, dismal, rainy day. One o'clock came, and we waited for the door bell to ring.

The four hours passed. And not one single person came.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

What was God thinking? (part 4)

Thank you so much for the comments. They are encouraging and wonderful, like water for a wayworn desert traveler. Oh, before I start, dear hubby clarified that it wasn't a hurricane, but Tropical Storm Francis. Sorry about that. So, onward we go.

Let me tell you, this was one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had. As we got on the interstate, Mike hands me the map and says I need to help him pick the best way out of there. We had two choices. If we took I10, which went around the city, it would put us closer to the storm. The other route went directly over Lake Pontchartrain, which was shorter but put us over water the entire way. We reasoned it out and went for the shorter route.

Visibility? None. Traffic? Bumper to bumper. Everyone was fleeing out of the city. We moved at a snails pace but at least we were moving. The storm was blowing in and there we sat on this long waterway bridge, surrounded by water, rain and wind. It reminded me of the Seven Mile Bridge out to the Florida keys. Low and long!

Then traffic completely stopped. I kept looking to the left and the right, praying and hoping nothing was coming our way. Never did I expect to see siren lights behind us. Cars started pulling as close to the cement walls to let the ambulance inch slowly past. Could this be the reason for the slowed traffic, I wondered. What if we're stuck here for hours? The idea of sitting in a car on a bridge in the middle of a tropical storm did nothing for my already wound-up-tighter-than-a-spring nerves.

Honestly, from that point on, it's a blur. Whatever happened that day on the bridge, we never found out. Traffic started moving again, and we slowly made our way back to Memphis. I was so grateful to God for busting down those walls and keeping us safe in the storm. What a relief it was to get home.

Then the objective was to pack, because in four days we had a plane to catch to Switzerland. Was I ready? Yes. Did I want to go? Yes. Did I know what God was up to? Definitely not.

Why? Because after we got there and ewed and awed over all the wonderful sights, the gorgeous city, the funky grocery stores and flats, the whole deal fell through. It wasn't looking good. All that rush for nothing. For nothing? Ah, come on, God. What's going on here?

But He didn't say a word.

Friday, May 13, 2005

What was God thinking? (part 3)

Hi there! Thank you for coming back. Please leave me a comment, too. I'd love to hear from you.

So, to continue. New Orleans had been hit by a hurricane and most of the city was flooded. We couldn't believe it. Had we come so far with our Act of Congress for no reason? My mother had taken a day off work to watch our kids, we'd driven over five hours, and now it looked as if it were all in vain. The offer the senator's office made to do it for us was looking mighty good.

I started praying. God, did I read this all wrong? If this is your will, knock the walls down.

Or maybe move the water just a bit?

The building we needed to get to was on the main drag, only about two miles from our exit. It took us almost two hours to get there. Our journey became a maze of flooded streets that had to be carefully chosen lest we became one of the many stranded cars. We could only judge if a street was passible by the amount of cars stuck under the water and how deep the water came above the wheel wells. Thankfully I had recently changed from a sedan to a SUV. That truck saved us, literally!

We finally got to the street and found the government building. Mike managed to find a place I could get out without getting too wet and dropped me off. I dashed through rain and puddles, finally making it into the building. As I came into the doors, I had to pass the usual security baracades and police security. One officer was telling another they were about to shut the building down. I started to panic again.

I went to the man and asked for clarification. He said I had about ten minutes. My gaze shot to the elevator that was just opening. I dashed in and punched number eleven. Up I went, wondering if I would leave with passports and worried if Mike had found a safe place to leave the car.

And what if the people at the passport office were already leaving? I prayed more. The elevator doors opened. I ran out and flew through the passport office door. There, behind the counter sat a man reading a newpaper, looking bored as can be. Whew! I trotted to the counter and handed him my paperwork, along with my Act of Congress. Then I waited for the shocked reaction I anticipated this paper would surely get. The document was basically an order to give us passports without argument.

Nope, he stayed bored. They get them frequently. He said to give him a few minutes to run them through the machine. No big deal.

No big deal? Did you take a look at the streets in the last hour or so?

Mike finally made it up to the office, thank goodness. They hadn't shut the building down quite yet. We sat and caught our breath as we looked out the window over the city to a very dark and threatening sky. A shuffle of papers and a few stamps later, our passports were ready and we were on our way.

We did it. Or should I say, God did it. The wall fell down. We had only one other challenge left to face. Not only were they about to close the building but the entire city. We ran to the car and drove to the freeway as fast as we could, considering all the flooding. We just managed to get on the interestate before they closed it. Now the question was, could we outrun the second hurricane that was about to hit the city harder than the first?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What was God Thinking? (part 2)

Hey there! Welcome back. Well, to continue this story, first I need to backtrack a little. Before all this happened, God had already told me a change was coming. He impressed upon me he had plans for a move, but I thought he meant to another church. At the time I was serving as a Stephen Minister, and I just figured God wanted to bring this ministry to another church. I guess I wasn't thinking big enough. Nor had I made a connection yet to what was going on.

So, back to the phone call. My husband (Mike) and I talked, and agreed it wouldn't hurt to look into it. These kind of things take time due to the waiting periods for work visa approvals. Yes, we'd be willing to go over. Mike sent his lastest CV and we did what you can imagine.


Then another call came. Sun Microsystems, Switzerland, had implemented a hiring freeze. Okay. There was our answer, at least that's what I thought at the time. Everything went quiet for a while. Toward the end of the summer, the phone rang again. The freeze was still on, but they really needed Mike's expertise. Could he work through an independent company as a consultant?

Sure! They went back to the proverbial drawing board and developed a plan with an outside company to hire Mike as a consultant, who Sun could hire as an independent contractor. That was no problems for us. We were already accustomed to the independent contractor/consultant life.

Then they called back. Could he come to Zürich for an inteview? Definitely! And can he bring his wife, so she can look around with an eye for living there? Oh, yeah! I'm there. Could we get there by the end of next week? Gulp…sure.

Only one thing. We had no passports. I had less than a week to get something that normally takes six. I went to a friends to cry. Oh well…nothing I could do about it. My friend picked up the phone and dialed our senator. "It's an election year, and he wants your vote."

Wow! She has guts, I thought. I got on the phone and answered some questions. Yes, this was an employment opportunity. Yes, we would lose it if we couldn't go next week. No, my husband had no other contracts lined up as of yet. My mind reeled. This seemed like a spool of redtape larger than the one we already faced, but then it was done. With an offer. We could Fed Ex our paper work to the senator's people and they would walk it personally into the main post office in Washington themselves, or they could fax an Act of Congress, done on our behalf, to take to the nearst state postal office that was set up to produce passports.

Again, wow! An Act of Congress? (I still have a copy of this thing.) Mike wanted to keep control since we were down to the wire. We'd make the five hour drive to New Orleans (from Memphis) and do it ourselves.

Off we went on our fun little road trip. Kids were with Mom. Papers in hand, including our Act of Congress. As we got closer, we noticed a storm had come through the area, but not worries, we could manage. Got off the right exit and came to a stop. It wasn't just a storm but a hurricane. And the city was under two feet of water.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What was God thinking?

Well, I am long overdue to post something, but I promise it hasn't been wasted time. I've been seriously considering running a series, an ongoing story, about how I wound up living in Switzerland for three and a half years. Let me tell you, the year prior to this move all they way through to moving back to the States, I have never seen God more tangibly active. God-incidences and miracles abounded. So, this will be the first installment, and I promise to post more often so as not to torture you.

First let me set the stage. Spring 1998. Two dear friends came over to play Spades. We loved getting together whenever we could to play this lively game. It was an enjoyable evening like so many others we had spent together. Then they dropped the bomb on us. They were moving to Switzerland. Needless to say my mouth dropped open to my knees.

My first thought? Whatever for!?

They wanted to live abroad. I didn't know that. He'd been looking for a job in France, their first choice, but his one presented itself first. I didn't know that either. Wow! Okay, I can see this could be a really cool experience.

My brain went to my second thought. I'm going to miss you terribly, BUT have a wonderful time. Keep in touch and let us know when you're moving back. Finished. What else could I say?

We had a final evening of Spades, said our farewells, and off they went. I was amazed. A move like that took courage in my book. We kept in touch. Learned the hard way you should sign up for a foreign long distance calling plan before contacting friends in Europe. A very expensive lesson, but oh well. They were so far away.

Then Summer came, and so did the phone call that would set into motion a trip I never imagined. Our friend called my husband at work with news. They needed more people. How soon could he get over there?