Spring was just pushing its way through one of the severest winters Hungary had seen in ages—my tulips were showing through the dirt and clusters of ho virag (white snowdrops) were being sold by the old ladies in front of the stores or on corners. Evenings were still cold, but the sun was shining brighter every day, leading many to shed layers and be in just shirt sleeves in the afternoon. A walk to town meant you would have to carry your jacket (you could need it later), but ah, no more scarves wrapped up to your ears, or so many layers to wear!
I will forever be grateful my family had those last warm days—a chance to walk into town and by the river—to be able to stroll and look, look, look, without freezing in the process. When you know you are leaving a place, not to be back for a very long time, you tend to almost inhale the memories—the feel of the sun, the smell of the fresh-baked kiflis floating from the bakeries. These memories are not just pictures but are robust, involving all the senses. And so I was blessed to be able to roam over our city in those final weeks, no longer house-bound by the weather.
Interesting, how one of the hardest Hungarian winters was also one of our hardest winters to get through. The fierce snow storms seemed to mimic our heart storms, with the extreme cold temperatures mirroring our dearest friendships. All the special winter holidays and birthdays were so devoid of the normal joy; they were events to just get through for the sake of the little ones. Winter months full of heartache, gossip, confusion, cold shoulders, and freezing isolation. Cold days of desperate prayers, aching hearts full of questions, yet clinging to faith and promises. Just as spring follows winter, we knew our lives could not go on like that forever.
It was a winter of immense pain with many little glimpses of grace, love, and miracles. Yes, friends close as family hurt us, and yet at the same time old friendships grew more special as the few who reached out to us proved their true love, loyalty, and bond in Christ. And there were my ‘Burger King Mondays,’ the bright spot each week that really kept me sane. A dear lady, barely an acquaintance at first, saw my need and was obedient to the nudge of the Holy Spirit to organize an English-speaking Women’s Fellowship that met at the Burger King.
For winter meetings it was perfect, as it had the only indoor play area in town; all the children could play while their mothers talked, shared, and prayed in English. At its largest there would be five or six women, all from different churches—Canadian, American, and British—all Christians who spoke a common tongue and had common needs for fellowship. Only the lady who began it knew of my personal struggle, and that only vaguely. For that winter, those ladies were my church, my companionship, my connection with a world outside. Hearing of their needs helped me get my eyes off my problems—praying and interceding for them really strengthened me. It was an extra blessing.
The end of February found us again in a winter of events, with our three-year-old daughter in the hospital for a week with her first terrifying bout of asthma. We did not know so much pain could come at once, like wave after wave. Anna’s asthma almost sucked us under, the last in a seemingly endless supply of hurt. Maybe it was the distance from our normal day-to-day life, but we had some of our greatest and deepest talks and prayers in those hospital hallways and in her tiny narrow room.
Like the ho virag outside, we were poking through the layers of winter, toward our Son up above. We still had more questions than answers, but there was a plan, a direction to move toward, seeing where God would lead us next. I cannot honestly say we had light even for that first step—it felt more like a leap in the dark. But we had to move, for the path we were on totally crumbled beneath our feet.
It was spring, a time of new beginnings, a perfect time for our next chapter. To take that step in the spring felt so much better than if we’d jumped during the winter. We had survived the harsh, cold storms. We had all those little miracles in the midst of so much pain. And while I didn’t feel like blooming that spring, I knew our roots were still intact, having sunk even deeper into Jesus. We had lain dormant for a season, but we would bloom again.