My days are filled with joy at the richness of the life God is giving us. The city of Prague is cosmopolitan. There's no doubt about that. It's got a lively pace with waves of tourists all over the downtown area, even in December. Yet the Lord has tucked us away in a slower neighborhood at the end of the green metro line. If you've got a map handy, we're right near Dejvicka, the terminus on the north side toward the airport.
The place the Lord has given us to live can only be described as a gift. It is up on the fifth floor of a lovely building and has sky lights galore. There's a clean, well-maintained, and nice size elevator that whisks us to our lofty perch. When we're ensconced inside we take off our shoes and put on our slippers (that's European for welcome) then make our way upstairs. That's where our living space opens out through wide glass doors. The balcony runs across in front of our bedroom and we've already enjoyed a late night dinner out there by candle light.
I want to be sure to mention that there is a guest suite on the first floor where we enter. It's got a nice size bedroom with two skylights, a bath room, and a toilet room (that's European for proper facilities). There's also a nice size guest room on the second floor that has sky lights that shares our master bath. We have two single beds already and as the Lord provides the furniture we'll excitedly welcome the people He sends to us. We can hardly wait.
As for us, we recently replaced the picnic table with a nice dining room set. The six chairs are all sturdy and the table has a leaf for when our guests arrive. We've got two comfy chairs and a low table for the living area so far, a desk for Curt's little, no window office space, a sideboard, and a book case with a fold out desk top for me. It's a slow process this decorating thing, but the Lord is gracious and we know His timing is perfect.
It's been a treat to find our way around public transit; trams, buses, metro. We're even learning to time our departure from the flat (that's European for 'apartment') so that we arrive at the stop without too much time to wait. It sure does beat having a car/cars; parking, gas, etc. We applied for Open Cards which give discounts for transit tickets so the cost is relatively low, especially for pensioners (that's European for 'old folks'). So the pass in my pocket let's me ride anywhere in the city. If I get stopped by an inspector, I just need to hand him/her my card to be swiped in a hand-held machine to prove I've paid for the privilege.
There's a grocery store only one tram stop away that's a good size and has pretty much what we need. Billa (that's European for something like Stop 'n Shop or Kroger) is the chain we've chosen because we like what they carry and the prices are reasonable. Okay . . . and it's also pretty easy to shop there with hardly any Czech language. (little confession there)
God has led us to a church we think we'll settle in and He's opening doors for relationships. We find ourselves drawn almost inexorably to the internationals around us. A Swedish family welcomed us into their home with warm hospitality. A British lady took us to the used furniture barn outside the city. A Bulgarian-married-to-a-Czech mother of three will be coming by this week for tea. We continue in our joy of witnessing the unity and diversity of the Godhead in the brothers and sisters we meet.
There's so much good stuff going on with this whole, exciting move that it was a bit of a surprise to find myself struggling a bit. It's hard to explain what was going on, but I felt a little off-balance somehow. It took me a couple of days to recognize that I was more than just physically tired. Then it took some time to identify the source of the unsettled-ness - for that's just what it was.
Okay, so I'm slow, but it finally dawned on me that moving is listed as one of life's major stressors. I stopped to consider how a change from rural Maine to a European capitol city might appear on that scale, even for someone who loves Europe and is pretty familiar with it. I decided it was probably at the top of the stressor scale. My first step following that conclusion was to give myself permission to be a little 'off my game' during what was actually an adjustment period. Phew, that was a relief!
Then I started to consider some of the changes in my life - delightful, welcome, wonderful changes. I'm grateful for our flat and the ease and speed at which we've been able to acquire it. The practical aspects take a bit of getting used to though. The rent must be paid monthly by bank transfer. The electric and gas bills must be paid quarterly the same way or, as we've chosen, by going to the proper window at our neighborhood Posta. The 'meters' are read only once a year when the accounts are balanced and we receive an additional bill or a credit. There are no checks in Czech.
All of those financial inner workings has required, so far, three trips to the bank we chose. It has a wonderful expat department and all we have to do is email to schedule an appointment with our personal representative. Vladimir is personable as well as professional, but the paperwork we've already generated is more than one fills in for a mortgage. It's really quite intriguing.
Of course the flat also generates day-to-day adjustments. I'm blessed to have a washing machine on the same floor as our living space. It does wash only about a third to a half of what the basic American washer would hold, but that just means I need to watch the hamper more closely. Well, there's no dryer so I guess that's another adjustment. I need to keep in mind that things have to dry on the drying rack so I can't be sure to have dry sheets in time to remake the bed the same night - without extra attention to place them near a radiator, that is. Hey, I'm delighted to have sheets so that's an easy 'exchange', right?
We're very pleased to have a table to eat at, desk space to work at, and two chairs to sit in and relax. The energy and effort to finish the furnishing process doesn't need to take up too much of my life. Well, except that we can't really invite people over when there's no place to sit. We can't really welcome guests until they've got a place to sleep. Yes, but that can only happen as God intervenes so I have to put down the topic more often than not.
The public transit is more than a convenient way to get around. We're learning 'transit Czech' as we practice the words we hear announcing each stop along the way. We're also getting to know the culture as we observe the passengers as well as the people and shops and activities outside the windows. I am especially pleased that there's a fairly level walk that's about a mile to the main tram/bus/metro hub nearby. It gives me/us some exercise each time we venture out. It's just that it's not so much fun on the days when my leg is acting up; more adjustment.
I am really glad our Billa is so close. We'll be going there today. We'll take our shopping cart with two wheels and a handle on the tram with us. We've got a pretty good system going. After we make our selections Curt shepherds them onto the counter and pays while I stand at the end and madly pack the items into our shopping cart. If I don't finish in time we have to throw the stuff into the regular grocery cart and move to the small stainless steel counters provided to finish the job. Then we have to haul what we purchased onto the tram and back home. Now you know why Europeans tend to shop more often than once a week - and so do we.
Yes, there are adjustments galore going on. The Lord's graciousness to show me the reason for the unbalanced feeling and its understandable nature has been a huge blessing. It's caused me to reinforce my commitment to begin each day with quiet time in the Word before His throne of mercy. My heart pours forth anew with thankfulness for the peace and power the Father provides without demanding some undefined, amorphous repayment. I am honored to offer Him all the love and faith, confidence and joy I can muster by the Spirit's comfort and counsel.
Oh, I didn't tell you about the Hussite church that's right down in our courtyard. It's a very old building but its facade is brand new and modern. It actually looks out on the little park with fountains and bronze horse statues at the end of the block. When we were weaving our lights into the balcony railing the other day we heard the organ playing Christmas hymns. I guess I'll have to save that for another time. I need to get ready to go to Billa.
May God also meet you right where you are - in the world or in your heart. He is the One who sustains.
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:22