Hévíz & Keszthely

For the second year in a row, Joanna has made it possible for Laura and I to getaway for a long weekend (she kept the kids).  THANK YOU JOANNA!!!!!  You have REALLY blessed us.  It was a MUCH NEEDED getaway, and we had a great great time.  We truly feel refreshed and refocused.  It was amazing how much I slept on the first day.  I think I hit a wall or something…finally allowing my self to relax.

We can all relate to the constant “outward pull” of life, and it was great to have some extra time to focus on our inner lives together.  Henri Nouwen says, “to reach the inner sanctum where God’s voice and direction can be heard and boeyed is not easy if you are always called outward.”  It was good, not only to have some time to relax, but to have some extra time for “inner renewal” as Nouwen calls it.

We went to the second largest thermal lake in the world in Hévíz, an amazing place which we’ve heard our friend Magdi talk about for three years.  Here’s some quotes from the Hévíz brochure:

“Did you know that Lake Hévíz is the world’s only naturally occuring peat bed medicinal lake that is fit for swimming?”

“The lake of Hévíz is a geological rarity.  Unlike other hot-water lakes of the world located generally on volcanic ground, the spring lake of Hévíz lies in a turf basin.  It is filled with calcium- and magnesium-containing hydrogen-carbonate medicinal water.”

“Enjoy watching the snow-covered landscape through a soft steam curtain while relaxing in the water of a the lake that is as hot in winter as in the summer.  The constant steaming of the water clears the air at the lake all the time, providing opportunity to relax in a dustless and allergen-free milieu for bathers and provides complete recreation for body and mind to people who are simply weary.”


We made a couple outings to the surrounding area (Badacsony and Keszthely).  On Saturday afternoon, we saw the farsang parade in Keszthely, which was a awesome cultural experience.  Here’s a few favorite pictures:

A view of the “soft steam curtain” rising from the “calcium- and magnesium-containing hydrogen-carbonate medicinal” waters of lake Hévíz.

A view of the volcanic hills and Lake Balaton from the 13th century Szigliget castle.

The church sitting below Szigliget castle at the south western end of Lake Balaton.

The beginning of the parade.

Hmmm.  I’ve seen these masks a lot over the last three years.  Can someone educate me?

The drum line was awesome!

The end of the parade.  🙂


Laura and I celebrated our 10.3 year anniversary this past weekend.  Thank you Joanna for keeping the boys and being such a tremendous blessing!!!!!  We went to a place called Bük, which is right in the middle of Nowhere, Hungary.  The big attraction is the thermal spring (you know Hungary has the second highest concentration of thermal springs in the world).  Well, we didn’t actually enjoy the thermal waters, but we enjoyed the country side a lot!  Bük is close to the border of Austria, so we drove across and caught sight of the Alp foothills.  Here’s some pics:

Here’s a view of the abandoned border stations!!

time for each other

Several years ago some dear friends encouraged Laura and I to have a weekly time with each other when we can really talk and share important things.  It’s been so helpful.  But in the past few months we haven’t been making it happen.  One of our resolutions is to re-establish this time together.  With kids, work, and activities, there is always one more thing we “need” to do.  Always one more thing to squeeze into the schedule.  But this is something we love and we feel we just can’t do without.

Our friends P & K also do this, and they have really encouraged us.  Tonight we sat in their kitchen talking about this, and we identified seven things which have made these “marriage meetings” valuable: 1) calendar coordination, 2) parenting plans, 3) express appreciation and affirmation, 4) positively share needs and difficult issues, 5) financial update, 6) share what we are learning, and 7) pray together.  I guess there are 3-4 of these that we make sure we always cover. 

“They say they will love, comfort, honor each other to the end of their days.  They say they will cherish each other and be faithful to each other always.  They say they will do these things not just when they feel like it, but even–for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health–when they don’t feel like it at all.  In other words, the vows they make at a marriage could hardly be more extravagant.”  -F. Buechner

European Values and Family Trends

Recently I had the chance to meet with Vladislav Matej (Family Counselor with Socia) in Bratislava.  He outlined a set of recent sociological studies on European values and family trends.  Here are some of the highlights from Vladislav Matej.   

Prof. Jan Kerkhofs, University of Louwen, Belgium reported a longitudinal 20-year study of European values.  There were five primary shifts:

  • Ethics have entered the autonomous sphere (individually determined)
  • Ethical norms are influenced and created by parliaments and not by churches anymore (there are lots of examples of this)
  • There is a high tolerance to the actions of individuals
  • Individual ethics are limited by the freedom of other individuals

There has been a primary movement toward individualism, post-traditionalism, tolerance, and pessimism.

A report (D. Popeone, sociologist) shows correlating trends between the occurance of the sexual revolution, a rapid decrease of fertility, and a rapid increase of divorce.

A study by G.T. Stanton has found a rapid increase of cohabiting couples (not married) and several trends within these households: an increase in disturbing and painful relationships, an increase of interferance of the successful formation of follow-up partnerships (not sure what this means), an increase of conflict, an increase of domestic violence, and a strengthening of mistrust.

The following stats are taken from Eurostat.  The average age of men/women at first marriage in 1980 was 26/23.  In 2003 it was 30/28.  The percent of children born outside of marriage in 1980 was 8.8%.  In 2005 it was 33%.  In 1980 the number of divorces that occured in Europe was 672,917.  In 2005 it was 1,042,892.  Today, 2/3 of households in the EU live without children.  16% of families have one child, 13% have two children, and 4% have three children.  In the next fifty years, the population of the US is expected to increase by 150 million.  In Europe it is expected to decrease by 40 million.

Ten Year Journey

My Dear Laura, on September 20, 1997, we were married in Blacksburg, VA.  Today, Sept. 20, 2007, we have a wealth of wonderful memories, and I love you more than ever.

In the mountains of Virginia
We fell in love, and
Our journey began

We couldn’t have guessed
That before too long, we’d
Be driving a family van

It began in a kitchen
After Ané’s Turkish meals
“Innocently” washing dishes together

Remember the music room?
Wind Rock?
The drive-in theater?

You drew me in with your beauty, your sense of purpose, your depth of character.

And you couldn’t resist my pick-up truck, my guitar, my fancy beard.

We have shared the journey, traveling into unknown territories.
As citizens and sojourners, the destination has become clearer and clearer,
And we’ve been in it together.

You have been my companion, my treasure, my best friend.
And your faithful, gentle love has made me a better man,
continually pointing me toward the love and grace of God.

We’ve been given three gifts along the way
Who have taught us
The value, the quickness, the thrill of life. 



I just cannot imagine the past ten years without you.
Laura, you are more beautiful, more wonderful,
more precious to me than ever.

I love you!  Happy Anniversary!

Thoughts on “Being Present”

Recently Laura and I have been talking with a couple friends about “Being Present.”  Here are few summary questions: (Thanks P & K!)

  • Do I have mindfulness + willfulness?  Or do my actions reveal a lack conscious submission to what is important? 
  • Am I aware that I can influence the outcome of this situation I am in?  Or am I just a product of my circumstances?
  • Do I have that “Burning Yes” in my spirit, a deep sense of commitment and purpose?  Or am I just busy staying busy?
  • Am I giving attention and thoughtfulness to the present details of life?  Or am I too focused on the future or the next big thing?
  • Am I careful about that which enters my mind?  Or do my present words and actions reveal an careless and unfiltered life?


Had a good talk with a couple friends recently about marriage, personalities, values, and differences.  Someone once told me that we often have a process in dealing with our differences in marriage or relationships.  Ignore, Reject, Accept, Celebrate.  At first we tend to ignore our differences.  When we can’t ignore the differences, we consciously reject them.  Eventually we come to accept these differences (they are not necessarily better or worse…they are just different).  And finally, we are able to celebrate these differences, embracing and cultivating them and allowing them to flourish.

the ratio

This has been a good week.  Last Friday three friends from the US came and babysat the boys while Laura and I went to Lake Balaton for the night.  We had a blast!  (Thanks Liz, Katherine, and Kami!) It was a really great time of relaxing and talking by the lake.  It has been a year since we’ve had the chance to get away like that.  What in the world? 

This getaway prompted us to think about marriage this week.  It’s easy to let our home-life revolve around the kids and around parenting.  Life keeps moving and it is also easy to neglect or overlook the importance of our marriage.  I’ve said it before, but it is easy to let marriage slip into “cruise-control.” 

Today I spent some time with a friend thinking about what makes for a healthy marriage.  John Gottman has a fantastic book entitled “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” which sheds some unusual light upon this subject.  Gottman writes, “…happiness isn’t found in a particular style of fighting or making up.  Rather, our research suggests that what really seperates contented couples from those in deep marital misery is a healthy balance between their positive and negative feelings and actions toward each other.”

In fact, after studying 2000 married couples, Gottman found a very specific ratio for healthy, lasting marriages.  That magic ratio is 5 to 1…..as long as there is five times as much positive feeling and interaction between husband and wife as there is negative, we found the marriage is likely to be stable.”  He continues to say that based upon this ratio he is able to predict, with a high degree of accuracy, whether or not a marriage will endure.

Well finally, we have a mathematical formula to solve the problem of marriage!  🙂  Actually it makes a lot of sense, and this is why “cruise-control” is so dangerous for marriages. 

Now my friend had a good point today.  He said, “This seems a little artificial.  I can imagine a wife becoming overwhelmed or irritated as the husband is attempting to throw so many positive things her way and keeping track of his “ratio” all the while.”  Yep.  Great point.  Laura never likes it when I pull out my “ratio” chart.  🙂  Just kidding.  I really don’t have a “ratio” chart.  But this raises the question of authenticity and how marriages change for the better.

For me, even an akward, somewhat forced positive gesture comes from an authentic desire to grow and improve.  With time and practice these akward and seemingly inauthentic acts can become genuine expressions of the heart.  We’re talking about the heart afterall.

So we’re having a great time nurturing our marriage this week, learning and re-learning, and accentuating the positive.