Sudden Death, Sudden Glory… Sudden Greif, Gradual Strength.

Sudden Death, Sudden Glory!

Words penned by Charles Spurgeon and echoed yesterday by our pastor in Budapest have scarcely seemed so real and close. Pat Curby, a quiet, faithful, selfless servant of God suddenly passed from life, to death, to glory while at his home in Érd, Hungary on Friday night.

And yet while we know that Pat is finally where he was eternally meant to be, the grief is still heavy, real, and ever-present.

Death may be sudden, and glory may come in an instant, but God gives strength slowly. After 2 and a half days of shock and processing what had occurred, many (myself included) are just now beginning to feel the real effects of loss. Pat was a good friend, the Curby family being a kind of second family for us in Hungary. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, holidays when those closest to you are in the same room with you, were spent with Pat, Tina and whichever family members of theirs were in the country at the time.

For those like me who know the Curby family so well, the heaviness of grief is two-fold. First, the loss of Pat… but second, the deep sadness felt for Tina and their daughters. All Friday night, all I could think of after hearing the news was Tina, Cassie, Alli, Erin, and Anna. I count Cassie as one of my closest friends during my time in Budapest in 9th grade, (10 years ago!) and I taught English alongside Tina just this past year. I haven’t cried a whole lot yet, but I can’t make any promises when I see them in the coming days.

Most of the reason I’m writing this is to get it off my chest. I process things like this internally, and it takes something like writing to get it out. (I can thank my dad for sharing that quality with me!)

However, if there’s anything I’ve learned (and there’s much more learning to go) in the past couple of days, it’s that God uses everything for good. With sudden grief is coming gradual strength and comfort, even to the precious middle-schoolers we teach. On this, the first day back to school since Pat’s death, one girl is struggling during the 6-year anniversary of her mother’s death from cancer. Another 8th grade Hungarian girl approached Ariel today wanting to talk about a friend she lost to Leukemia last month, something we didn’t even know about. She came with questions of why, and Ariel was able to explain that even know we don’t know why, we know that God is good.

So we praise God for the slow movement of strength, encouragement, and love he is bringing many people through this tragic event. We also pray for those who bear the greatest load of grief, for it is certainly not me. May those of us around the family gather God’s strength, so we may pour it on them in prayer and fellowship and love. Amen.

A Critical Time!!! (Update!)

Last week, we shared with you that we had received 15% of our support.

We also told you that the International Christian School of Budapest greatly needed us in August.

A few (okay, a lot) of things have happened this week, and we want to share the wonderful things that God has done for us!

1. Our Support Level Has Changed.

Last time, we told you that we needed to raise $4,500.00 per month in order to live and teach in Budapest. After a few adjustments, we were able to cut that down to $3,450.00 per month. This is a big adjustment, bringing us much closer to the full amount! We have also made some large adjustments to our one-time cost as well, bringing it down by a few thousand, with the potential of bringing it down even more.

2. We Have More Partners Joining Us!

We have been at an international teacher conference in rural New York the past two weeks, which means we are unable to meet personally with people to share our story and look for partners to join us. However, God is faithful, and we have received monthly commitments while we have been away! Also, teachers at the conference who are being paid by their schools have been generously giving us donations as well. Our home church began supporting us this week, adding much to our monthly total. Although we were at 15% last week, today we stand at nearly 40%!!!

3. We Are at a Critical Time!

This is the beginning of July. ICSB opens its doors in 8 weeks. We firmly believe that God can provide our support in time. If you are currently supporting us, please pray that other supporters would partner with us during this next month. If you are not supporting us, I invite you to pray about the possibility of partnering with us! For those that want to be financial supporters, we would love to hear from you! There are MANY people that we are still looking to approach about partnership, and we can only talk with so many people per week. It blesses us richly when others who are aware of our situation approach us about giving, no matter the amount. Time is of the essence, so we ask that you don’t delay if God is calling you to give!

The Christmas Post

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Ariel and I in 2011, enjoying some rare Tennessee snow.

Four days ago, I wrote an update for this blog, in which I made the comment that I might be writing in the future about our observance of Advent this year.

Well my friends, the future is now! (see what I did there?)

In all seriousness though, let me just take a second to tell you how wonderful a decision we think this was.

Have you ever felt the tension of balancing Santa, presents, Jingle Bells, snow, Christmas trees, lights, stockings, Charlie Brown, Bing Crosby, and Jimmy Stewart with Baby Jesus? If you say you haven’t, I don’t believe you.

My wife and I LOVE Christmas. The appreciation of “It’s a Wonderful Life” was one of my father’s greatest gifts to me (along with Duke basketball, but that’s irrelevant… right now), I check the forecast for snow constantly, and I still have trouble going to sleep on Christmas Eve. Ariel loves to decorate and bake cookies and buy presents for anyone and everyone. And we both love God fully and completely.

So how can we celebrate “the true reason for Christmas?” I try every year, and this is what it always looks like.

First week of December: “Christmas lights! Christmas tree! Christmas music!!!”

Second week of December: “Hot Chocolate! Christmas parties! More Christmas music!!!”

Third Week of December: “Oh my gosh, I need to get Christmas presents!!”

Fourth Week of December: “It’s almost here! *sees nativity scene* You know, I can’t forget what Christmas is about. I’ll say a prayer of thanks and read the Christmas story after opening presents.”

Sound familiar?

So it’s not really a balance. Actually, it’s just annoying tension for the whole month of December. How can I be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ when I’m so excited about the other part of Christmas?

While I’m sure I can still improve, I think I can truly say that we’ve figured it out this year; or at least, we’ve begun to.

I’ve heard and seen the full spectrum of reactions to the “Christian Year” or “Christian Calendar,” from near “calendar worship” to outright refusal and condemnation. I’m not here to give my two cents on that subject. However this year Ariel and I, having no background in the subject, constructed an Advent wreath: a wreath with four small candles around it (one for each of the four Sundays of Advent) and one larger white candle in the center. Every Sunday, we light the appropriate candles and read from the book Living the Christian Year, by Bobby Gross. Ariel reads the Scripture readings, and then I read the book’s response to each passage. We do this for about 30 minutes and then close in prayer.

So to put it simply, our suggested solution to Christmas tension is this: Celebrate two holidays.

That’s really basically what it is! We spend December decorating, buying gifts, singing White Christmas, watching the Grinch, and frosting cookies,  but we also spend it reading and thinking and talking about the coming of Christ, before in the manger and later as our king. And when Christmas comes, we’ll celebrate with gifts and carols, but then later in thankful prayer, and celebration for the truth of Christ. They don’t have to mix… I don’t try to force the attitude that my new coffee mug is a symbol of the gold, frankincense, or myrrh,  but we also don’t let Santa or stockings into our Advent either.

Before I leave this, I want to make sure I clarify a few things.

1. I’m not telling you to kick any and all spiritual elements out of gift giving and holiday cheer. Gifts are a great way of showing love, being thankful for God’s blessings, and expressing selflessness. In fact, everything we do should be touched by the effect of Christ in our lives. Just don’t feel like you have to mix Frosty with the nativity, or ascribe spiritual meaning to Santa Claus.

2. You don’t have to celebrate Advent, per se. All I’m suggesting is doing something that keeps the coming of Christ on the forefront of your mind throughout “the season” and keeping all other “secular” Christmas elements far away when you do so.

So Merry Christmas! Play Carol of the Bells, enjoy family, open presents, and eat candy canes… but also spend the month waiting, praying, anticipating, and then celebrating (cliche aside) the very best gift.