it's all grace

a journey with the Thomason family

Month: September 2014 (page 1 of 6)

Vienna Day Two and Why Funerals are Better Than Festivals

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

Today was our last day in Vienna. We only spent about three hours touring the city and had to start heading home in the afternoon, shortly after lunch. Mostly we spent our time touring around the downtown area where the all the museums are. It’s fun just to park the car and walk around and just see what we can see. As we meandered around we found ourselves in a few new places, with lots of new things to see. It’s a bummer to be your own guide because you don’t always know what you’re seeing and have to hunt to figure it out. Bethany actually knew a few of the sites because she had seen them on Rick Steves’ Europe.

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

I think the highlight today was St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This amazing place was built from 1137 to 1160 and is definitely a wonder to behold. I realize I’m not Catholic, but you can’t help but want to worship God when you go inside. Those cathedrals were constructed so you would want to lift your eyes and that’s exactly what this one did to us today. You’re overwhelmed with awe as you look around. As I looked through my photos I realized that’s all I did was look up and snap photos. I couldn’t help it! Look at this place:

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

Vienna Day 2 (9/30/14)

The more you stand and look at the cathedral, the more amazing it is. “How did they build it?,” “Look at all the detail,” and “This is unbelievable.” These are all the thoughts that were running through my mind as I’m standing in a building that’s over 800 years old. You can’t help but think about God and what He has done over the course of history and you start to think about what He’s doing today and how He’s working. I even found myself looking around at all the people near me, wondering about their spiritual states and the spiritual climate of which they find themselves in Austria or elsewhere.

It wasn’t just the building that was refocusing my mind, but also the email I had received early this morning from a friend and former coworker in the States. She was forwarding me news that another coworker of ours had died over the weekend. That man who died had the office just down the hall from mine, was very kind, and was very good at his job. I was told he had gone in to the E.R. just 5 weeks ago with a headache only to find out he had a brain tumor and even though he was in recovery he died this past Sunday.

Even though I was in a house of worship today I was thinking about death. I was reminded early this morning of Ecclesiastes 7:2 which reads, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Or, as one of my friend’s has written in his commentary, “A funeral is better than a festival.” Why? Because the people at the funeral will think about their own lives and what happens when they die. I know that’s what I was thinking about today. I was, as Ecclesiastes says, “laying it to heart.”

It’s a reminder to my own soul that I need to continue to live my life for the cause of Christ no matter where I live. God has given me today and I have no guarantee for tomorrow. I loved being in Vienna the past few days and enjoying the life God has given me, but as much fun as we’ve had and as amazing as that city is, those things are not as important to be pondering as death is. It’s a sober reminder that I only get so many days to do the work Christ has called me to. May I do them with His strength and in His timing no matter how many days I have left to do them.

Taking in Vienna

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Today was our first and only full day in Vienna. We’ll leave tomorrow to head back to Czech Republic, so we really tried to make today fun and special. One thing that Bethany really wanted to do was go and see the Schönbrunn Palace. I didn’t know much about it until I stayed up last night researching and mapping out our course to make sure I knew how to get there and what it would be like. The more I read online last night the more excited I got as I knew it would be a fun day for all of us.

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

It’s an amazing place. The size is almost overwhelming, and I don’t just mean the house itself, but the estate. It must be a quarter of a mile from the front gate to the house and then it’s completely surrounded by huge garden areas. The back yard has it’s own hill with an entire other structure that top. When you stand and look from top you can see all of Vienna. I joked that we think the White House is a big deal, but it might as well be a guest house compared to this palace. In one entire section of the grounds there is a zoo. Yes, a literal zoo that was honestly the highlight of the day for our kids. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to so many exotic animals, and they were very active today so it there really wasn’t anything we didn’t see. Here’s a bunch of photos from the zoo.

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Another part of the gardens include human size mazes. We spent the first few minutes in the maze worried we were going to lose our kids, but then Bethany ran after Titus and at one point he came flying by me from the other direction (apparently doing a circle) and I just started laughing. It was crazy in there and finally Titus ran all the way back to the entrance and we could hear him yelling “I found it! I found it!” We couldn’t convince them to try to do it again, so Bethany took the kids to the play area right next to the maze and I went back in. When you reach the end you go up the stairs to overlook the entire maze. It was actually a lot of fun. There’s a short exit to get out of there so I did that and joined them at the park.

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

When everyone was winding down we decided to go on the audio guided tour of the palace house. I thought for sure the kids were going to melt down as we had been walking all morning, but to my surprise the tour people gave our kids headsets and they thought it was great. People were staring at Avery because she was holding the headset to herself just like everyone else. “This is the ‘millions room’…” the guide would say, “…and everything in here is solid gold.” Imagine a two and four year old listening to that, but that’s what our kids were doing.

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Thankfully it wasn’t a really long tour so when we finished we ended up leaving the entire facility. Avery fell asleep in the stroller on the way back to the car and they both were out by the time we drove back to the hotel. Bethany and I joined in the napping fun too and we all woke up again around 5pm. I did some hunting online for good food and we were amazed to find a Mexican restaurant called Fresco Grill! It’s owned by Americans, and they serve really great burritos (very similar to Chipotle). Honestly, I was so excited to have Mexican food and the cherry on top was that they had Dr. Pepper! Dr. Pepper in Vienna! Cheers!

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

After dinner we finished things off by going on a giant ferris wheel. When we bought our zoo tickets this afternoon they offered a discount to buy the tickets combined with the ferris wheel so we did it. It’s a really fun little 10-15 minute ride and you’re inside a giant box thing. Unfortunately, it was a little dark to really see, but I bet in the day time the view is spectacular. Here’s a few shots of and from the ferris wheel.

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Hanging in Vienna, Austria (9/29/14)

Although we had some time off right before we came to Czech, we haven’t really just vacationed as a family in a really long time. It was a lot of fun to just be together and enjoy a new place in this land they call Europe. It’s been a very relaxing and fun trip, and we’ve trie not to tie ourselves to too much of a schedule. We’re thankful for this time as a family and praise God for this little trip and some time of vacation, or as they say here, holiday.

Looking for more photos of our day today? Look no further than right here. Enjoy!

Bethany’s Birthday In Vienna

Today is Bethany’s birthday, so I decided to take her to Vienna, Austria. Yes, those two things are real and I honestly can’t believe I get to write that last sentence.

We have been planning for a few weeks now to get away after fall conference was over. Because of the number of hours our team works during conference, everyone usually takes a few days after conference for a little rest and relaxation. Since it was Bethany’s birthday weekend and we had the time off anyway, we decided to make the three and a half hour drive down to Vienna.

Bethany's Birthday in Vienna (9/28/14)

The drive was really nice today. It’s been raining all week, but today we had full sun the whole way down to Austria. Right before the border we have to stop to buy a highway tag for our car, so we went to pretty much the only place available–some little shop called “Travel Free Shop.” It was packed with people when I went inside and there’s basically three things to buy: cigarettes, alcohol, and candy. And you better believe people were stocking up. The funny thing to me was that it’s not like those things are behind glass, you just grab whatever you want and pay. I took a photo of the wall o’ cigarettes just because I think it’s crazy.

Bethany's Birthday (9/28/14)

Once you get in to Austria you really feel like you’re in Europe. All of sudden you’ve been driving on a highway and now you’re on narrow roads with old buildings, statues, and old men outside building wooden benches by hand. Most of the drive in is rolling hills and repeating grape vines, but as you approach Vienna the big city starts to take over. We made to the hotel in the late afternoon and after getting settled we ventured out for something to eat. Bethany found a place online that had good reviews and was supposedly some of the best pizza in Vienna. The reviews were all in German (which is what they speak here) so we figured if the locals enjoy the food then it must good. They were right! The food was great and we had a fun time at the outside tables on the sidewalk. When I asked the waiter if he spoke English he said, “Of course, or we could talk Italian, Serbian, German, French…whatever if you want.” He wasn’t joking! He could speak five languages with no problems and I heard him speak at least three while we were there. Here’s a few photos from dinner:

Bethany's Birthday in Vienna (9/28/14)

Bethany's Birthday in Vienna (9/28/14)

Bethany's Birthday in Vienna (9/28/14)

Bethany's Birthday in Vienna (9/28/14)

After dinner we grabbed a quick dessert, some ice cream from a gas station of all places. We stood outside of a big church and enjoyed that, and then we drove around town just to get a feel for Vienna. It looks like this town has a lot of different things to see and I’m excited about tomorrow. More than anything it’s just nice to get away and spend some focused time with my family. Hopefully Bethany feels blessed today on her birthday and that the next few days will be really fun and relaxing. We don’t have much of a schedule, but have a few things in mind to see so we’ll see how tomorrow goes and hopefully have lots of fun stories and photos to share.

Bethany's Birthday in Vienna (9/28/14)

A Reunion With Friends

I slept for eight hours last night. That’s a rare feat, especially this week when I was averaging around five of six. It was so nice to sleep in a bit today and Bethany blessed the whole family with another round of Swedish pancakes this morning. After breakfast we picked up Cory and Kristine Cramer (and baby Shiloh) and headed for the Ostrava mall. They have been in Czech this past week for the conference and are waiting on Kristine’s parents to finish up some meetings here so they can spend time together with them in Prague early next week. Life in Albania is much different than here in Czech, and I think going to the mall here was really relaxing for them.

At the mall we met up with Daniel Reimer and Jenny and Landen Llamas. Daniel and I work together on the JV Creative Communications team and Jenny and Landen literally just moved here a few weeks ago, but we have known them for some time now. We all had a fun time shopping and hanging out and even enjoyed an extended lunch this afternoon at a place in the mall. After lunch we all got a photo together. As we were taking the photo I was thinking to myself that it felt familiar. It wasn’t until later that night that Cory and Kristine realized we had taken a similar photo almost a year ago. Upon a little checking on Instagram I realized that it was almost exactly a year ago to the date that we all took a photo. Here’s the photos:

This first one was on October 1, 2013. We all had dinner together (minus Daniel) in Santa Clarita, California.

Reunion (9/27/14)

And here’s the photo from today (with Daniel now) in Czech Republic and it’s almost exactly one year later. Isn’t that awesome?!

Reunion (9/27/14)

While at lunch there was a helicopter literally hovering outside of the window where we were eating. The restaurant is on an upper level and outside some medical guys were doing drills jumping out of the helicopter on ropes. I grabbed a quick photo and even though it looks further away, this helicopter was so close to us.

Reunion (9/27/14)

We have been slowly trying to find more clothes for our family and so doing some shopping today was great. There were a few sales going on, and we found some warm things for winter, but Titus and Avery tried to sneak in some hats. Here’s a photo of how we found them today while they were doing some shopping of their own.

Reunion (9/27/14)

With lots of shopping and a nice lunch, Avery got a little sleepy at the restaurant. Here she is laying on the bench while we all were still talking and enjoying time together.

Reunion (9/27/14)

Our little reunion ended around 4:00pm today and we headed back to our town. Cory and Kristine are staying in a hotel near us so we dropped them off and all of us got a late afternoon nap. Tonight the Cramers came back over for some dessert and we said our goodbyes. It was fun to spend time today and last night with them and a privilege for us to call them our friends. If you think of it, pray for the Cramers as they return to Albania and begin to settle in. They have had a very full summer with ministry and lots of things going in their house so now will be the time where they can begin to find their new normal. We’re thankful for their friendship and will continue to trust the Lord to use them mightily in Albania.

Tomorrow is Bethany’s birthday! We have something special planned, but I don’t want to give it away now. I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow for all the details. Until then, from Czech Republic I’m Shay Thomason…back to you.

The Last Day of Conference

The conference that I have been serving at all week came to a close today. With around 280 attendees from all over Central and Eastern Europe, it was a full and fun week. I was especially moved today by of the very last things we did. The Josiah Venture country leader in Ukraine, Ben Williams, came to the front and shared a little bit about the unrest in Ukraine as well as a verse from Scripture. He then showed a news footage clip on the screens from a few months ago about a ministry tent that was down in Kiev, Ukraine. The news showed a prayer tent where they were passing out tea and Bibles. It also showed a couple being interviewed and they were sharing about the tent and their belief that God could change their nation.

Last Day of Fall Conference (9/25/14)

As the video ended Ben called that young couple to the front, and I realized they were attendees of this week’s conference. Ben asked Oleg and Oksana to share some prayer requests, which they did, along side a few photos of them with gas masks and army gear at various times around their tent. Some of their requests included prayer for the soldiers to hear the gospel before they died, the churches to stand strong during great affliction and destruction, and finally that people would read the more than 50,000 Bibles that have been handed out over the past few months. Ben directed those standing around our team in Ukraine to just lay hands on them and he began to pray. The whole time I was in tears and just trying to take photos and listen. I was overwhelmed with emotion, but thanking and praise the Lord for people like Oleg and Oksana who are staying faithful to Him during real, serious affliction. Oh that God would call more souls to Himself in Ukraine!

Last Day of Fall Conference (9/26/14)

Once the conference ended, my team and others helped tear down the equipment. Bethany and the kids drove with me early this morning to the conference, so they were around too. I was wrapping up cables and helping put things away so the kids joined in on the fun too and started copying what I was doing. Titus kept saying, “Look daddy, I’m doing it!” Here’s a photo Bethany got of the three of us “working.” You’ll notice the kids are bundled up…it was a bit wet and chilly today.

Last Day of Fall Conference (9/26/14)

I got home around 4pm this afternoon and tried to spend a little time with the kids. At one point tonight the kids and I took out the recycling to the dumpsters down our street. Both our kids get really excited about it, especially when we recycle the glass bottles because they put it in and hear the CRASH of the glass breaking. Tonight we did all three recycling bins–paper, plastic, and glass. Here’s a photo of them putting some paper in to the big blue bin.

Last Day of Fall Conference (9/26/14)

We actually had our friends Kristine and Cory Cramer over this afternoon and evening since they were in town for the conference and won’t be flying back to Albania for a few days. We had a great time with them and will hopefully be spending a lot more time with them tomorrow so I’ll definitely write more about then. But Bethany took our kids and the Cramers to Tesco, a local grocery store, and they used the little car cart. In the photo below you’ll see the Cramer’s daughter Shiloh and our daughter Avery enjoying some cruising time at the store.

Last Day of Fall Conference (9/26/14)

As we conclude a busy day and week, I’m thankful to the Lord for his calling on our lives. It was a joy to serve so many different missionaries, both nationals and Americans, and by His grace they will all go out and serve the Lord better because of the time of training they had this week.

I’ll leave with this photo I took of the tent where we had all of our sessions this week…so fun.

Last Day of Fall Conference (9/26/14)

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