Sunday, June 7, 2009

A message even without a church service

I had made plans last night to go to and attend the local church service. I found, in the hotel booklet, a Lutheran service in English! How excited was I? It said it was at 9:00 AM. Great! That forced me to have a normal evening and bedtime so I could get up at a reasonable hour with reasonable amount of sleep and leave time for a nice breakfast downstairs.
I enjoyed my evening knowing plans were in place and fell asleep pretty quickly around 12:00 midnight. I woke before the alarm that I had set for 7:00 AM. That gave me plenty of time to check email, take a shower, eat and walk to church.
You should know that I do not enjoy eating alone in a restaurant. I have done it quite a few times and I am not sure why, but it just doesn't feel comfortable. I can eat alone at home in my house, and completely enjoy it by the way, but eating out alone is a different story to me. Since I was going alone this morning to service, I assumed I would be eating alone. Okay. I got my head in a different space so I wouldn't feel so uncomfortable. There weren't any other guests at the restaurant yet. So not only am I eating at a table alone, I am the only one eating! I asked if I could sit outside. The hostess said the tables were not set up but she would be happy to set a place if I wanted to eat outside. I was grateful. That way I thought I could enjoy the weather and sounds of Sofia on a Sunday morning.

The setting of this patio is very pretty. The area is secluded from the streets with walls only high enough to block the view and trees to buffer the noise. But on a Sunday morning, there is much less hustle and bustle from a work day. I was able to hear more of the birds which is one of the things I was looking for. Along the back edge of the patio was a nice wooden fence that was lined with roses. Most of them were in perfect bloom and they were a very pretty color.
I made sure that I took the time to enjoy eating my food and not hurry through the meal so I could just leave. The fresh squeezed orange juice is wonderful! There are machines at the local grocery stores (and assuming in the restaurant too) that make this juice. Mentioning again from my post about the food, that they eat well here. Nothing is added to the orange juice. I had a cup of coffee (there are some things I am not changing just because I am in another country!!). I do have my coffee with milk or cream because guess what, they don't have Coffee Mate fat free french vanilla here! I took some mushrooms, tomatoes (cut in half and grilled), scrambled eggs and a couple pieces of bacon. The food is in buffet containers as you would expect but it isn't piping fact it isn't really very warm. I was enjoying the simplicity of the food and beverages and the colors of the roses and sounds of the birds. I was relaxing and thankful that I was making positive changes about my attitude of eating alone. It turned out to be a nice experience.
I was looking forward to walking to church. I came back upstairs and did a few things and then decided it was time to start my next journey. I had to walk under the boulevard (underground stairs to walk under the busy street). There weren't many people around which was okay. People were walking their dogs, others were going somewhere else. I was conscious about how I was carrying myself and pretending I had a clue where I was going and not looking like a lost tourist! No one approached me so I guess I did okay. The tunnel was quiet. There were shops there but all were closed since it is Sunday (I miss that about home. I remember when stores weren't open on Sunday.) There was a lot of graffiti on the walls too - more than what is around the streets we have driven on. There were many points to take the stairs up so I took the first set I found. Hummm...not far enough. I was still on the same side of the street but in the next "lane" so to speak to catch a trolley maybe. So I go back downstairs and take the next set of stairs up. Would you guess? Not far enough. Now it was in a different "lane". I go back downstairs. I am laughing to myself. I didn't know I was going to get some exercise in on my trip-walking up and down stairs is good exercise and I looked good too in my church outfit! I finally go up the set of stairs that brings me to the other side of the boulevard :-) Now to find the street that the church is on. The brochure in the hotel is in English. The signs on the buildings and streets are in Bulgarian. Feeling a little lost and unprepared. I continue on and pray along the way for a divine nudge to go the right way.
I do end up finding A church. That was too easy. I walk in and hear male singing in a language that I don't recognize. I am a little confused and besides the brochure said the service was on the 2nd floor. There isn't an upstairs to this place that looks like it is what I am looking for. The church is very detailed inside. It is small and has maybe 20-30 tall wooden chairs. People are coming in and going out and performing some routine things like walking to the center and kneeling, blessing themselves and kissing whatever it was in front of them. A few people did this. Others came in with sticks. I watched a few people take their sticks and put them in an area where others were lit...kind of a candle area. I am not sure what it was for. So clearly I am not in the place I planned to be so I left.
I walked a little further and found a street sign that looks like what I wanted. I followed along until I got to the house number 4. Hummm...doesn't look like a building that would have a service in it and besides the iron gates were locked. My feet hurt because I have my heels on. It's warm out and I am starting to sweat. I am now sad. Should I have gone with someone? I think no because it wouldn't have turned out any different up to this point.
I asked a few people if they spoke English. They said no. I walked across the street to the 345 store (this is a local chain of market/grocery store). I asked again if someone spoke English. She said no but she motioned to me to follow her because someone else did. Good! Now I can ask where the church is. The cashier was the one I asked about the church. She pointed to the church I just came from. I explained further that I was looking for an English service but she said she didn't know of one. Now I am almost in tears! I leave the store and plan to go back to my room and sulk!
As I am leaving, a man calls to me. He spoke a little English and asked me what I was looking for. I told him and he motioned to follow him. He pointed me in the direction of another street and told me the Lutheran church was down a few doors in the right. I wasn't convinced but I was hopeful. I walked to where he pointed me to and sure enough...there it was! There was even an English sign with the name of the church! The entrance had iron gates as do most of the houses/buildings along the street. The one that looked like the entrance was locked. Had I missed it? If you are late, do they lock you out? I tried another gate. It too was locked! What was this message? I saw a sign in Bulgarian but it had numbers on it - I figured it was clock times. 10.45 and 11.45...okay. There goes that plan as I had made plans with the group to go sight seeing at 11:00 this morning.
So I didn't get to go to church service as planned but I did grow and I know God was with me. I felt protected. I did this planning and journey alone. I found the church. I saw some of the neighborhood where people lived. I was happy at what DID happen...even without a church service.
Lessons are in the journey.
It isn't always about the destination.

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