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Monthly Archives: June 2012

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And So Begin The Inevitable Changes

It’s only been a little more than three weeks since we left our own continent and landed on the one where the hills are actually alive, and the word that sounds like “odor” has nothing to do with smelling. Only three weeks, but it feels like several months. The other day, I caught myself thinking that I was done, ready to go home now, thank you very much. And then I realized that I’ve hardly begun to learn the things I have to learn from this whole living in Germany thing. I’ve hardly begun the change inside that I know is inevitable. Like when I moved into our flat in Paris a scared almost-thirty-three year old and left four months later as a grown-up. Indeed I have much to learn, much changing to abide.

And still, barely three weeks into it, I must say I’ve already noticed some transforming. Admittedly, it mostly has to do with laundry habits, but I’m learning that’s not all bad.

I mean, I have always been one to not be annoyed when my children put their not-really-dirty-only-worn-once clothing in the dirty hamper. Because I have always valued that fresh Downy scent more than the time it takes to get it. But now that my washing machine holds relatively fewer items than I am used to, and the dryer depends on air temperature and the stamina of the beloved drying rack (which holds considerably less than an actual drying machine), I have instituted the sniff-test rule. Lest you let this go unnoticed, let me assure you, my friends, that I have never been a fan of the sniff-test. Ever. Because, really, if there’s even a question of odor (the English word here), I say just wash it. Well, I used to say that. Now I say, “Does it stink? If so, put it in the hamper. If you don’t know, then put it away and wear it again. Or ask your sister. I’m telling you you, it holds value in both the entertainment realm and the decreasing of the work-load realm.

That said, another thing is changing in the cleaning category. I’ve been making my kids actually make their beds every day. I know, right? And, since we basically have zero things to do on a daily basis besides figure out how to live here in this beautiful land of the Deutsch, they are actually doing it. I started it after a few days here. Then Monday, I got really bold and had them start straightening their room after making their beds! Oh yes I did!

Big changes for us. Huge!

Another thing I’ve found is that the nightly dinner routine has become a lot less annoying. By this I mean, I actually make dinner. Every night. Except the other night when we went out for pizza. And last night when we were at the mall, so we ate at Burger King. Okay, so I guess I should say “I actually make dinner. Sometimes.” And when I do, I kind of enjoy it. I think it’s because there are so many fewer distractions here for me. Like the television. The telephone. The grass that needs to be mowed. You get my drift, no?

The winds of change, they are blowing, my friends.

Finally, I would like to note the change in my Diet Coke drinking habits. Due to the lack of freezer storage (or, for that matter, the lack of freezer!) in our current habitat, I no longer drink my Diet Coke after cracking open a can of it and pouring it over my glass full of large crackling ice cubes while it screams refreshment. And yet, I find the Diet Coke here quiet satisfying. Maybe because it’s called Coca-Cola Light here? Perhaps Diet Coke by any other name actually tastes sweeter? Just sayin’.

So — what’s new with you?

The Road Beyond the Road

I needed to get out. By myself, if you know what I mean. Because even out here in this great big world, the flat’s walls threaten to close in and every word spoken within the family relationship starts to sound like an annoying creaky door that needs oiled.

So I took the road, shoed and ready for a run in hopes of clearing my head, breathing in deep the country I am learning to love.

I took the road off the road that we’ve begun to know so well. A dirt road just to the right of the one we travel when we need bread. Or the sounds of civilization.

It led to more roads off the road. More journeys to be had. The road beyond the road led to more roads.

I ran until I needed to stop, until I couldn’t breathe in deep. I even ran up a hill. It felt good and difficult all at the same time. Good to be outside. Alone. Amazed at the beauty that lies just outside my front door right now. Just beyond the road beyond the road.

I turned around when I was ready. No sooner than that. Turned around and walked back to the place we call home for now. I soaked it all in, the colors and the hills and the new whatever kind of crop that grew just beyond my fingertips. I soaked it in and thanked God for the now.

I thanked Him as I looked over the wheat field just beyond our home in the country. And that’s when He playfully moved the wheat stocks like I play with my daughters’ hair. That’s when I saw Him move them all crazy and beautiful-like as if tousling their hair and showing them off. The hand of God, the soft breeze He blew, made me realize the pride He takes in all that He has made. The love He has for His creation. The playful, I’m-so-proud-of-you spirit of a Father Who had so masterfully created a field of wheat reminded me of His delight in me, too. His I’m-crazy-about-you spirit for even little me.

If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? (Luke 12:28, MSG)

I walked back home in the light of the reminder. God delights in His creation. He delights in me, too.

And the road beyond the road led me straight back home to the truth.


And Then She Drove The Autobahn

The way of our home here in Heroldsburg has been slow. Which is good. Right now, in this unknown land of really big snails and tiny little towns and showers that happen in bathtubs with no curtains, we need slow so we can catch up and figure out how to do, well, just about everything.

But today, we had somewhere to be. At 2:00 pm (that would 14:00), we needed to be at the husband’s work for a meeting. So we gave ourselves plenty of time and left about 13:00. That is when today’s adventures unfolded before us.

We took the same walk yesterday and found two snails, well, loving on each other or something. But I had no camera. So today when we saw this rather large (but alone) snail, I had to document it for size.

Horses stand behind the fence and watch us go by everytime we travel through. I think they would like it if we paid some attention to them, but I’m just not sure of the protocol here. So we just say hi to them as we walk by, and today I took their picture.

The slugs are also quite large in this land, and apparently determined. The girls adamantly argued that we saw this very slug yesterday when we walked the road. Adamantly.

So the eldest found a stick and decided to adopt him and name him Hercules. She carried him down the road a while before dropping him off in a cave by the road just before we got to the town. We all agreed he probably traveled the equivalent of a few countries in slug-life.

We worked our way down the hill and found new benches and stair-filled alleyways adorned with overflowing flowerboxes. We found new challenges and adventures, too.

So we jumped on in.

We made it to our appointment with five minutes to spare. Then we ventured more into the town, and found some more fun.

We stopped at the bridge over the Weisent River and watched the ducks swim against the current. We watched other ducks slide in as they landed. Really, the ducks were quite entertaining.

And then we thought we’d see just how cold the water was and decided it would probably be too cold to swim in right now. (Thank You, Jesus!)

After our adventuring, we picked up Husband from work before finding our way to Bayreuth for some banking and some dinner. We decided on pizza.

Turned out to be a good choice.

And then . . .

 the real adventure began. For I found myself driving and following my new best friend who has yet to be named, but we shall call Garmin, when she led me straight to the Autobahn. Yes, you read that correctly. My new best friend made me drive on the Autobahn. And it was kind of fun.

And so the day of adventure ended with more adventure on the day I drove the Autobahn.

If you can guess how fast I drove, I’ll send you a Mars Bar.

Only Today


The sign reads like an anagram my brain can’t help but solve. A riddle set before me the day our adventure detoured through Disneyland Paris, and left unsolved until this day in Germany. Three weeks into our journey. I see the picture now, and read “Adventure Lies . . .” as if God had placed my family right underneath that “Adventure Isle” sign for this day instead of that one. This day when I can see the riddle, solve the anagram, rearrange the letters. So that I can remember that this is an adventure. The adventure of a lifetime, really. Even in the thick of weary and unknown.

It’s easy to forget that I’m on an exciting adventure when I go to bed weary every night. It’s exhausting trying to figure out life in a country I have only just begun to explore and whose language I am only now just learning. Right now, nothing comes easy. Not the laundry or the grocery-getting or the measuring or figuring out what temperature to bake my cookies on. Nothing. Comes. Easy.

I find myself working my way through this adventure day-by-day. Sometimes it leads straight through wheat fields and into a quaint and beautiful German village in the hills. Other times it leads to the basement wasch-maschine and its foreign-language instructions, complete with celsius grade temperature readings.

And when I enter a public setting, the adventure in my spirit feels more like a dreaded run up a hill. I kind of tense up and hope that nobody talks to me, and hope that somebody talks to me — all at the same time. Because I will likely not understand what they say and I so desperately want to. I find myself working to avoid public settings from a right-in-the-middle-of-it kind of way. This is new for me. Instead, I’m trying to soak it all in, listen to as much German as I can and try, try, try to understand even a word in a conversation between two strangers. (And so the adventure leads me to eaves-dropping in whole new ways.)

My kids are doing awesomely. Truly amazing all day. They get along so well, thanks to God’s amazing and completely undeserved grace. And they love the lazy of summer in this foreign land. But bedtime comes, and it’s not so easy. Ever. For there are new sounds, new bugs, new shadows to get used to. And it wearies me more. And bedtime is a difficult time to see the adventure for what it is. So by the time I go to bed each night, I am ready for the soft of the great big square European-sized pillow that I will be taking home with me (make no mistake!).

Unless I think about tomorrow. That’s when the adventure turns sour in my mind, and I want to throw in the the Handtuch and go home. If I let even one glimmer of “How in the world am I going to wake up tomorrow and do all of this again?” enter into my weary-minded state of being at the end of a day, the weary turns to worry and the pillow feels like rocks.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

And so each day, each night, I realize in a whole new way the how-to-live-today-and-not-worry-about-tomorrow thing that God has been trying to teach me for ever so long. I am learning that today is all I have the strength for. And that’s okay. Because I don’t have to do tomorrow yet. Only today. I am learning to trust that God will give me whatever energy, strength, determination I need for tomorrow’s part of the adventure  just like He gave all I needed to get through today’s.

And in letting myself forget about how to do tomorrow, I find a new way to rest and a new way to live. I find new things to adventure in. I find all sorts of beautiful that I otherwise would not have had the energy or the eyes to see. Because I can put my every ounce of everything into what God has given me for right now.

Even if it does involve a bottle full of something that I hope is laundry detergent and a washer laden with instructions I do not completely understand.

Perhaps today the adventure will bring suds?

How To Say Ausfahrt (or not)

The drive-through was not an option. It required speaking without gestures. And, goodness knows, we need those gestures if we are going to survive these next several months in this foreign land. So we walked up to the counter at the McDonald’s in Bayreuth, Germany armed with our tiny German vocabulary and our  hands ready to point to the pictures of McMenu cheeseburgers and Happy Meal toys.  Thankfully, the guy behind the counter was nice (as I find most Germans to be), so he smiled a lot as my husband and I worked our way through the order. After we got past the we-want-a-four-piece chicken-Mcnugget-Happy-Meal-not-four-actual-Happy-Meals correction, we were on our way to a lovely meal in our hotel room. That is, until he asked if we wanted it to stay or for carry out. And that is when the broken-German/English-accent stepped in and taught me some things about German pronunciation.

See, we’d been driving all day from Paris, France to our new hometown in Germany, which required much time on the Autobahn. It also allowed us time to switch from trying to figure out words in French to trying to remember words in German. Along the way, we learned the word “Ausfahrt” among many others. Go ahead and say that word out loud, as you think it should be pronounced. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Ausfahrt.

Okay. That’s funny, huh?

Well, as we drove across Germany, we saw many Ausfahrts to the various villages and cities along the way. It means “Exit.” And “fahrt”, well, that has to do with driving. So, in my awesome I-am-learning-this-language sort of way, it made sense to answer the nice McDonald’s man with the word I knew. So I told him we would like to take the food and fahrt. Totally. Not. Kidding.

And that’s when the giggles popped up all around. Giggles from the depths of my husband’s belly. Giggles from inside the girls. Even a giggle from the guy behind the counter. I had to walk away as the tears started flowing from my attempts at keeping the giggles down inside of me. Thankfully, the struggle did not cause the other kind of fahrt (he he). We walked out of McDonald’s with tears flowing down my cheeks, laughter waiting to erupt as soon as we stepped foot outside.

And the amazing thing is, they got every single part of our order correct.

Oh my!

When You Can’t Pretend You’re In Control Anymore

I let my hair down today. First time in more than two weeks, really. It’s hard to do when I’m learning life all over new. Hard to be myself, I mean. Hard to let the hair flow and blow in the wind when it blows everywhere and in my eyes and all over messy-like, making me realize that I have absolutely no control whatsoever over any part of this new life. Making me look the part, too.

The truth is, I really never had control over the life back home either. I was just much better at pretending I did. The truth is, I handed over that control many, many years ago when I gave my life to God and promised to follow Him to the ends of the earth. It’s just that now, He’s led me to what feels like the actual ends of the earth.

Four thousand two hundred eighty-six miles ago, I said goodbye to life as I knew it for one whole year. And now, two weeks later, I find myself in the thick of unknown, remembering Who really holds the key to my life. To real life the way I want to live.

whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39)

It came to me last night, this freedom to let my hair down. The ability to find the okay in it, to enjoy it somehow, even. When I read this post by a favorite author and remembered the truth about why I’m here in this place where washing machines are the only laundry appliances and beer is cheaper than water.

When the learning curve feels more like an impossible-to-conquer climb than a gentle inclining curve, I remembered the why of the climb. He led me to here. And now I have lost my life in a very real sense. In the following, I am finding that the daily steps He shows, the every-ounce-of-energy He asks of me, lead me to the life that He wants for me.

And the homesickness eases a bit as I recall the reason I am here in this place I neither know nor now find comfort in. Because I know Him Who brought me. Because I find comfort in Him Who holds me here.

I will grow to love this land, I am sure. And I long for that day, without doubt. Already, there is so much to enjoy. The poppies growing wild in the fields outside my window. The rolling hills and quaint little towns. The happy people who smile even when I nod ignorantly and giggle nervously. The old sign that marks what used to be a cafe, hanging right outside my bedroom window.

And someday it will feel like home. But for now, I will rest in the Maker of home and try to enjoy the way His strong arms feel, the way His great big fingers point, the way His loving hand holds mine as He teaches me to climb.



We expected cluelessness and tired, confusion and faux-pas. We knew we would set foot in the land of Deutsch, stay there for two days and then drive to the land of Paris and wine, where the people live as flowy and beautifully as the language they speak. We expected small hotel rooms and little cars, long, expensive meals and pains chocolats. Lots and lots of pains chocolats. We expected Eiffel Tower crowds and lovely flowered parkways, people-packed streets and sidewalks stained with dog pee. But I am learning that what I think I know to expect is not always what will be. For certain, the clueless and tired, the confusion and the faux-pas, will always be part of European living for this expatriate Midwestern family of four. And so, here are some of the unexpecteds from our week in Paris.

1. I did not expect to stay in such lovely hotels. We moved on Thursday from the center of the city, at the Hotel Elysa-Luxembourg, to the Novotel Roissy en France, in the village called Roissy en France. The one inside Paris was absolutely charming. Perfectly located. And it smelled so nice. But here in the outskirts, we have found some room to let our luggage explode. And there is a pool! A spa! Xboxes in the lobby and a lovely restaurant that stays open all day! My husband is working today, so the girls and I had planned to return to the city for one last hurrah with a visit to the Musee d’Orsay. But when we heard there was a pool here, our plans changed. And so, I am lounging in the lobby after lunch and a swim while the girls play Xbox, writing on my blog and processing the week. And loving it.

2.I can’t believe I’m already homesick. Not terribly, mind you. But after having lived in Paris for those few months seven years ago, I really thought this whole being so far from so many people whom I love wouldn’t hit me for quite a while. I kind of thought I was tougher than this. But, alas, I miss knowing that at the end of this part of the adventure (the Paris part), awaits the comfort of home. It’s hard to think about returning to what will be home for a year even though I know basically nothing of it. Knowing the climb is about to get considerably more difficult after this sometimes makes me just want to go home to Ohio. Because I speak more French than I do German, and communicating here in Paris is still struggle.

3. I expected to struggle more with French than I have this week. Despite, number 2 (see above), I must say how pleasantly surprised and encouraged I have been to find myself understanding more French than I ever did when we lived here. This makes me feel greatly encouraged. Greatly. Encouraged. Perhaps the German will come more quickly than I expect?

4. As scared as I feel about driving on the Autobahn and going to the grocery store when we get back to Germany, I am surprised to find myself anxious to get back for the simple fact that we will have a place to settle. A place to do laundry. A place to keep my hairbrush and my deodorant and my glasses. And this, I think, will make our new flat feel like home. This makes me feel optimistically excited.

5. I did not expect European bathtubs to be so awesome! I am so not joking. I am finding that the Europeans leave a lot more responsibility in the hands of consumers than Americans do. For example, I am currently on the fifth floor of a very large hotel with the windows wide open. And there are no screens! This would never happen in the States due to liability issues were someone to fall out said window. In line with this goes the depth of a bath one chooses to draw. Our bathtub at home has this thingy that decides when the water gets too deep. When the decision has been made, that thingy starts draining the water so that I don’t overflow my bathtub, and hence can’t enjoy as deep a bath as I choose. But here in Europe, the bathtub and the depth of the water and the floor on which that bathtub sits lay completely at the mercy of the bath-taker. I like this. Because I can take really hot, really deep baths. Seriously, I think I’ve taken more baths in the last nine days than I have all year so far.

5. Disneyland Paris knocked my socks off. Not literally, of course, which is good because after11 days of no washing machine and only Woolite and bathroom sinks, clean socks are becoming quite the commodity! I seriously did not expect the Disney park in Paris to even come close to the one in California (where I spent so many childhood days when I lived in Southern California). But the magic of Main Street and the thrill of Thunder Mountain amazed me all day yesterday. We had such a great time! And the food was way better than I remember at the one in California.

Some other random unexpecteds this week:

  • I did not expect the girls to get along so well with each other and with me all week, especially in such tight living quarters.
  • I did not anticipate cold, rainy weather everyday of the week. Thus, I did not expect to wear the same two pairs of jeans every other day this week. Nor the same sweatshirts everyday. You get the picture.
  • I did not see nearly as many dogs as I remembered seeing when we were here 7 years ago.
  • I did not expect to be so looking forward to washing machine access.

So many surprises still await us, I am sure. Only God knows what they are. So for now, I’ll just hold on and keep trying to expect the unexpected.

Because Sometimes He Doesn’t Wrap the Gift All Pretty

I knew it would be all kinds of difficult mixed with all sorts of awesome. When we set out on this journey, we had little doubt about the inevitable stretching growth and the absolute fun of the all-around adventure. To tell you the truth, I’ve been afraid to expect the best for fear of being let down. For several months, I’ve been holding back on my excitement about moving across the world for a year because I didn’t want to get over here and find that all the fun and adventure was actually only hard work and misery. It’s a little mind-game I’ve played with myself for decades — the less excited I was before I left on an adventure, the more pleasantly surprised I would be to find out it wasn’t as bad as I though it would be. Oh, the mind games I play with myself!

So here we are, one week and two days into the adventure, and I must say that the all sorts of awesome have been more abundant so far. Although, personally I am embarrassed to admit that I already feel homesick, I believe that God is walking me from every last bit of energy to each very next step, and He’s been pointing out glimpses of His gifts all along the way.

Sometimes the gifts have been wrapped up all pretty and perfect. Like the view outside the window of our hotel room of the Parisian flower shop that explodes onto the sidewalk and smells like the perfect mix of potpourri.


Or the sweet voice of my 10-year-old offering me her train seat after a long day of stair-climbing and sight-seeing in one of the largest cities in Europe.


Still, sometimes He wraps up gifts like a Starbucks coffee cup with my name spelled correctly right there on the front.


Other times, I have to pay more attention, keep an eye out for the undeserved that I know God is giving.Image

Like the peeling away of the false security I find in small comforts I am used to. The knowing that my only real and true help comes from God alone.

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

Like making me want to find Him first thing in the morning, to find just one nugget of His truth, just one promise of His goodness to cling to for the day. Because I wake up in the morning already exhausted and unsure of how I will deal with the many uncertainties that are now par for the course. And, the realization that this amazing 10 days in Paris will not return me to the comfort of what I know as home, but will actually propel me into further unknown, deeper uncertainty. For I really only have a day and a half of German living under my belt.

The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.  Proverbs 13:4

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  Jeremiah 3:25-26

And then there are times He gives very important gifts wrapped not so nicely, but perfectly-timed.


And I am learning to trust His choice of gifts. I am learning that He knows best. And, with that, I know that this adventure in itself is, without a doubt, a gift.

A gift for which I am ever so grateful.

Learning to Follow

I’ve been wanting to write here for days. But in all truth, I can’t lasso all my processing thoughts into words or sentences. There are so many.

We’ve only been in Europe for six days, but it feels like we left every comfort of home about a year ago. Everything stretches us like a pair of biking shorts that are already too tight. Thankfully, we’re in Paris for the week and we feel like we know a little bit about stuff here. Not much, but more than we know about Germany for sure.

Neither one of us has a phone yet. And, I’ll tell you what, that’s a little bit scary when I’m walking around Paris with my two beautiful little girls hoping we don’t attract the wrong kind of attention. Or get stuck somewhere with no way back to the hotel we call home for the week. My husband leaves for work not sure what time he’ll get to leave the trade show each day. And the girls and I still sleep when he leaves. But he and I make plans to leave notes in case we’re not here when he returns.

And every single “at least we can . . . ” that I didn’t even know I had before, is just gone. The only thing I can fall back on is the knowing that the Lord of my life is in control and that He is good and always, always hooks His children up with what He knows is absolutely best.

And so we are learning to follow Him for real. Like the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan River to go claim the land God had already claimed for them. (See Joshua 3:1-4.) They had no idea where they were going. They just had to wait for God to move. And follow.

So that’s where we’re at. Following the God of all of life. The God of our little lives.

And He is totally taking care of the every single detail. And He is totally hooking us up.