Monday, June 6, 2011

The Hills Are Alive!!!


Summer.

Is there a more beautiful word in the world? It's amazing how much joy can be compiled into six little letters! I'm so excited to start these three months of bliss because...well, two reasons. 1) Time off of school and 2) *drum roll*

I'M GOING TO AUSTRIA! *crash* I can hardly believe it, but it's true. And I'll be there for not, one, not two, but THREE months!!! Almost. ;)
I will be working at a retreat center for missionaries seeking rest and relaxation. Lest anyone should think I'll be living in a shack for three months, the facility is a converted castle! Yeah! ;) As the team is always understaffed, they're asking for volunteers to come and help out during the busy months: wash dishes, wait on tables, do laundry, maintain the grounds, etc. My duties will probably entail the following: 

I can't wait! Not only have I been crazy to travel to Europe ever since I can remember, but I think it's a good opportunity to expand my horizons, meet new people, and see how the Lord would mature me in my walk with Him!

Now for any concerned parents reading this, rest assured: I'm not traveling alone. ;) In fact, that was one of the contingent factors for my parents in letting me go. It's quite a story, actually, so I'll start at the beginning. ;)

It all began one Sunday morning on a bright, blustery day in March. ;) My family was sitting in church, just minding their own business, when all of a sudden, I caught sight of this announcement in the bulletin.

"Short-term Mission's Trip to Austria."

Well, suffice it to say, the wheels began turning. I leaned over to my mom and asked what she thought. "Sounds interesting. Let's talk to your dad."  My dad was very supportive and agreed I could get more information. I called the church the next day and after asking some questions, began filling out the application.

As God-incidence would have it, my mom met that week with a friend whom she hadn't seen in several years. This friend, upon hearing that I was going to Austria, said: "Why don't you have Talia do the Summer of Service program instead?"

It sounded like a good idea. Cost-wise, it was only a bit more for the three months (as opposed to eleven days). The only problem was, I didn't have anyone to travel with. The 11 day trip provided a group from my church flying both there and back. The SoS (I purposely did NOT capitalize the "O") program left me completely responsible for my own transportation. My parents didn't feel comfortable with my roaming about Europe alone (obviously), so we prayed and asked that if this was the Lord's will, that He would please open up the door for a "traveling buddy." I guess the more accurate story would be my parents prayed. I was pretty discouraged and resigned myself to the original plan A.

Well, the next day, we got a phone call... (Don't you just love how the Lord works?)

My mom had, unbeknownst to me, e-mailed her friend asking if she knew of anyone else going to Austria. Turns out, she did. A guy and girl, both of whom had done this program before. Both came highly recommended, and my mom contacted them for more info. Bless their hearts, they were totally cool with my tagging along and asking a million-bazillion questions. The girl lives out of state, but we met Josh, and he seems like a very capable, travel-savvy kind of guy.

There was just one problem. Josh and Julia weren't returning to the States at summer's end. They were staying on in Europe (for different reasons). This threw a major spoke in my wheel. Here I thought everything was going like clockwork, and instead I found myself without an escort home.

Long story short, I contacted the castle director and asked if he could hook me up with anyone from California. Unfortunately, the girl he recommended to me lived about 7 hours away which meant that one of us would have to take a connecting flight home. As the cost of airfare is already expensive, neither one of us were willing to fork out the extra dough. So that was strike one!

Things began to look brighter though, when the director put me in touch with another gal heading the church Children's Ministry. Her group was flying to England on the way home and would be stopping in London for two days of sight-seeing. Now for those of you who DON'T know me, I love anything and everything British! To give you a minuscule idea, I was one of those girls to stay up until four in the morning to watch this! ;)
Pathetic I know, but that's the honest truth. (As opposed to the dishonest truth :P!)I've always said that once I graduate from grad school, I'm going to take a tour of England/Ireland/Scotland and see all the places I've only ever read about.

Well, the Lord decided to make that future day even sweeter. The gal couldn't get me on her flight. ;( I wasn't traveling TO Austria with her group and therefore wouldn't qualify for the the discount. *sighs* So that was a very disappointing strike number two!

By this time I was starting to clue into the fact that all of these "road blocks" were really spiritual tests to my faith. It's hard to explain, but when this opportunity first presented itself, I just felt as if the Lord was calling me to go. I know a lot of people don't agree with my decision, but as strange as it may seem, the more something wouldn't work out, the more I felt like I was in the center of God's will. It's as if He was saying, "Talia, you're going to Austria. But will you trust Me through this...and this? How 'bout this?" ;)
Anyway, much as I would have loved to go to England, I also knew that the extra expense would be considerable. You wouldn't think that a flight from Munich to London would be that pricey, but when you need a specific flight for a specific time for a specific blah blah blah...guess again!

Thankfully, this gal presented me with an alternative solution. Why don't I return home with the original 11 day group? They would be leaving at the end of August and might just have enough room to let me tag along.

Thus began three weeks of painful, anxious waiting. Because people register late for these mission's trips, the church couldn't book the flight right away. This was fine for them--they're not leaving until mid-August. But for me, who is leaving in less than four days, it was a slight problem. ;) Just slightly....

On top of that, do you know that a one-way plane ticket from Germany to the US is $4,500?????!!!????

Let me say that again: $4,500!!!!!!

Shoot. me. now! I couldn't believe my eyes. If anyone is so insane as to buy a $4,500 ticket, don't talk to me 'cause I'm sure we share nothing in common! :D

So that was strike three. "You're out!"

But just when it seemed all hope was lost (don't you love that phrase?), God provided me with another answer.

I called church travel agent asking if I didn't need to have my vision checked, and she suggested I buy a round trip ticket (discarding the first part). That brought the cost down to nearly a 1/4 of what it had originally been.

Praise God! After much faith, trust, and pixie dust...everything's finally settled. My flights are booked, my sim cards, visas, and passports are all in order, and I leave in--a very short time. AAAHHH!!!!

You guys should really see my packing list. It's three pages long, and next to each item I've drawn two boxes: one to check everything I packed going there, and another to check that I packed everything coming home.

Mia and I spent a couple of days making a paper link chain. That way, she'll be able to rip off one link for every day I'm gone.
And how, you might ask, are my parents dealing with all of this, their firstborn traveling overseas for the entire summer? They're freaking out, as they should. ;) But they're also VERY excited for me and VERY eager that I experience what the Lord would have for me in this season of my life.

I must say I'm looking forward to it myself. I will be posting from Europe, and sending e-mails to my mom which she will forward here. I'm not abandoning you (the few readers that I have)! And I look forward to sharing all my adventures.

So, after that long-winded post full of more details than you'd probably care to know, I guess there's just one thing left to say.

Auf Wiedersehen!!!!

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