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Monthly Archives: July 2012

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What I Know of Comfortable

I wake up Sunday morning and gaze out at the sunlit meadows outside the living-room windows, and I just stare. Mostly because I just woke up, but also because I know that this is beauty defined and for whatever reason right now, I get to live here. Right in the middle of beautiful. Smack in the midst of serene.

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I wonder where the horses are, the ones that usually graze that meadow just south of our flat in the country, and I think about how much I don’t know of this place I now call home. I realize I have no idea where that road beyond the meadow leads. I don’t even know if that’s really south. Maybe it’s east. Or west. Maybe when I see those horses, I look towards home.

I open my journal to the next empty space, grab my Bible and a pen and my copy of Jesus Calling. I come back here every morning first thing. Not because I feel like I should or because I want to impress God or anything. I come back here every morning first thing because in all honesty I know I will face all kinds of uncomfortable today, and I don’t know how I can. And coming here, “relaxing in the company of God” is really the only comfortable I feel like I still have. And that is how I want to start my every today. In the lap of comfortable, even here in this land of so much uncomfortable.

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Don’t get me wrong — I have my family here with me in this land where dogs don’t need leashes and people keep track of them anyway. I have the other half of me, in the form of my husband, who stays constant and faithful and loves me always and no matter what. And I have the two girlies whose giggles and kisses and naked Barbies keep me sane and insane and laughing, too. But the comfortable of life that I knew just six weeks ago, the stuff I didn’t even know I relied on to make me feel “at home” is mostly gone for now. So I open my Bible to hear God’s familiar voice, and I can relax in the company of God Himself.

In quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

And six weeks into this adventure, what I know of comfortable has become words on a page. Word of God on pages.

I feel many emotions as I walk this adventure. Invigorated. Breathless. Excited. Amazed. Afraid. But rarely do I feel comfortable. Because, although so much is the same in this land of the Deutsch, nearly everything feels different. Because tiny details like how to get gasoline are foreign and different, and some days I just want it to be easy. Like asking for the bill at the local pizzeria. Or ordering 800 grams of ground beef from the deli counter. When I face these everyday tasks, I remember that what I know of comfortable is nowhere near me for now.

I realize that this is a gift — this opportunity to live here in this beautiful place where the people are so kind and the hills are so grand. Believe me, I know this. But please realize for me that leaving what I know of comfortable was one of the most difficult things I have had to do in my adult life. Because I like my life in the States. Oh, and I really like to be comfortable. Stretching is hard, and I don’t like exercise. And that is what many days feel like. The kind of exercise that builds endurance — the running up hills kind that hurts the lungs and the quads and the abs (thank you, my friend, for that perfect analogy).

But what I know of comfortable is now gone forever. Because, although I will go home next year, I know that the stretching and the endurance-building and this vacation away from comfortable is making me okay with living outside of my comfort-zone. Forever. It’s tearing away the roots I have grown in the comfortable that I have sadly come to rely on. If I am completely honest, I have to admit that what I know of comfortable has held me back from what I don’t know of living. And I am not okay with that.

So I look for comfortable redefined until what I know of comfortable one day becomes uncomfortable. And I look for the real living even as I linger outside the comfortable, and I know I will find it.

Running Up Hills

I took a run the other day. A run. As in, I mostly ran the whole time, which I have only before really wanted to do. I ran because I know now that I can go farther than I think I can. That I can go farther than even the hardest I can push myself. Because I know now that running up a hill feels more doable than teaching my kids German, and I have to do that. So I ran the hill.

When we first heard about this opportunity, to live in Germany for a year, we thought we would homeschool our two kids. Well, we though I would homeschool them while my husband went to work everyday. Because my kids don’t speak German, and the thought of putting them in German school scared the poopy out of me. And them. Then we found out that homeschooling in Germany is illegal. Even the kind of homeschooling where they attend online academies. So we found an international school close to where we would live, one that teaches in English. But it only goes up to the grade below my oldest’s current grade-level. No can do. Still, the thought of putting them into a state school, where teaching German-as-a-second-language is not widely available, was not an option for us. That’s when we found the Montessori school. The one where the teachers speak English, and they start teaching it in 1st grade. The best fit for us.

But my kids will need to know German if they want to make friends, or watch a movie. Or order a pretzel at the bakery. So this summer, I teach them German. Yep. I. Because, although we have a tutor, two hours a week doesn’t cut it for the intense learning curve we have to turn. Here’s the catch – I really don’t know German, either. So we get kids magazines and come up with questions using google translate and play memory games for vocabulary words, and we continue to work through Rosetta Stone, and all of the sudden I am teaching my kids a language with which I am only barely familiar.

Running the hill was easier, I think.

I am learning that God’s strength is really the only kind that can get me up the hills. I started running up the hill because I wanted to know that strength that can only possibly come from Him. The living He offers every morning when I get up and first-thing ask Him to somehow speak life into my soul with His Word, is the only way I can really live while I’m here running hills and teaching kids to speak what I myself cannot.

And He keeps reminding me that those who fear Him lack nothing. He keeps whispering, as I run up the hills, that trusting Him is the key to this living. The key to this year. The key to running up this hill. He keeps pointing me back to the verse I found just before we left, the one I find myself clinging to time and time again.

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.  (Isaiah 33:6)

So I run, and I look for the rich stores of the wisdom and the knowledge and the salvation for this living I know I want to do. I plan a German lesson for my kids, and I wonder what God was thinking when He moved us here with such little understanding of this German-speak. I start to think He might have overlooked this (rather large) detail when He plopped us here in the middle of these beautiful hills. And then I remember the key to the treasure of the rich stores.

The fear of God.

So I run some more, and I tell Him I trust Him, and I realize I fear Him more than I fear ordering a pretzel at the bakery. I fear following His way for me, the way I know He has laid out right before my eyes for now, more than I fear not knowing exactly how the German-speaking hairstylist will use those scissors on my long locks. I fear God and trust Him more than I fear the burning lungs at the top of that hill. And that, my friend, is when I find myself running up the hill.

When I Don’t Know What to Write

I sit down to write and struggle to land on a topic. I want to write about last night’s meeting at the school and the way God totally hooked me up with a translator so that I could understand at least the main points of what I need to know as my kids enter school in September.

I want to tell you about the things I’m learning about all-out-letting-go-trusting God with not just the pace of this whole year but with the everything of my life, trusting that He’s got the best of the best kind of life for me just waiting, if only I will let go of my pretend-control and the fear that often accompanies it.

I want to tell you about Legoland Deutschland and the total blast we had celebrating my kids’ courage for last week’s school trial.

I want to tell you about the pretzel bread I finally tried, the kind with the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds all over the outside, which I adored.

I’d like to tell you about the grocery-store lady who is starting to recognize me and my silly American quirks, like how I put my debit card in upside down. Every. single. time. without. fail. And how she has to tell me when to swipe it. Every. single. time. without. fail.

And then there’s the every-once-in-a-while lonely that lurks just outside my heart some days. Especially when I see pictures of friends doing normal summertime things and think about how I’m not doing normal summertime things. It’s crazy, I know, because, really, who wants normal, right? Only — to be quite honest, well, sometimes, I do.

I really want to tell you about our landlords/neighbors who have had us over for “grillen und trinken” twice. How amazing it is to laugh and enjoy each others’ company even with the incredibly limited common vocabulary we share.

I want to write about how we only five weeks left before we make our first trip home, and I’m so excited and scared to do it. Excited to hug and see and physically talk to in person the people I love. Scared I might not want to come back.

Truly, I can’t land on a topic. So for now, I will just write that somehow in the midst of all the difficult and the fun and the lonely and the beautiful, I am starting to really like it here.

Five Days

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9 msg)

I walked away with peace beyond my own comprehension last Monday, the day I left my children in the hands of foreigners whose characters I did not know and whose language I barely understood. It was the only choice I had, really, if I wanted to give my children their best shot at a good start to the next school year. So I let God lift me up high enough to stare that challenge in the face unblinking.

It was hard. Every day. Five mornings of the scariest, most intense thing my husband and I have ever asked our children to do. Five mornings of leaving two huge parts of my heart in the hands of strangers whose vocabulary only partially overlapped with our own. Five mornings of early dropoffs, begging God to flourish them and ground each of my little girls in the absolute certainty of His very Presence. His I-will-never-leave-you promise.

Five nights of early bedtime, pure exhaustion that caused quick-to-sleep. Five nights pouring into each of them the promises of the very Living God. Faithful Friend, Who not only hears every word but understands more than any human possibly could. Creator of the entire world who lives inside of them because of Jesus Christ. The very Word of God alive inside them. Always there. Promises of the Only Real Peace, which guards hearts who trust Him. The promise of protected hearts. And the promise that He is showing Himself true even when they have no strength to do any of it.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Five straight afternoons of thanking Him in the car on the way home. On the way to the park after school. On the way to lunch. Five afternoons of remembering the One Who got us to the moment when I could pick them up and walk them to the car.

And then we celebrated! We praised God in the rest He gave us as we drove three hours to Legoland Deutschland and enjoyed the amazing of the gifts He has given us in each other and in the fun of creation (creation of the Lego persuastion, I mean).

So, I thank you for praying. And I am ever-so-glad to say that God pulled us through the toughest week so far.

I wish I could write that because of those five days, we are guaranteed a smooth start to next school year. That would be nice. Truth is, those days will show His strength even more than last week’s five days. And I could start worrying about that now. But I am learning that He will give us what we need on each of those day-after-days. Because all He asks of us is today.

And so, this today, I will rest, just as I will on those todays. But the rest of this today comes a little easier, I think. Mostly because this one only asks for staying home.

Peace Out, Yo!

The German schoolyear runs from September 13 through the end of July. Every year. So when we arrived here, chances for my children meeting peers their own age were reduced to afternoons and weekends. Having finished their own school year at the end of May in the States, we all found comfort in knowing that we would have three months to learn more German and to adjust to life here before entering what will be the biggest life-change for my two girls and for me while we live abroad . . . going to school.

Except – the school wanted a week to work with them before this school year ended. Just five days. And, well, this is the week. Who knew I’d be taking a (Sort of) 1st Day of School picture in the middle of July?

We chose a Private Montessori School for them because we believe it to be the best choice, given their (great) lack in the German language as well as the inclusiveness and flexibility of the Montessori system, based on my very limited, but growing understanding of it. A good choice, I believe. A choice we actually prayed about for a long time, a very long time, and with fervency. Many of you helped us pray about it, too. Perhaps that’s How I was able to walk away this morning with such calm peace, unlike most emotions I’ve known. (And trust me, I know a lot of emotions! Just ask my husband. Well, actually, if you know me at all, you probably don’t need to ask anyone. I’m not very good at hiding any of them. Duly noted, thank you very much.) If you would have watched me walk away from that school yard this morning, holding my bag in my hand and leaving two parts of my heart inside, you would have seen the peace. No doubt. Because it was hard for all of us. And okay, all at the same time. Because I have no doubt that they can do this. Because God has endowed each of my children with the splendor and over-the-top acceptance and love. Because He gives them courage. Because they have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of them for every single moment of this adventure — 1st (sort of) days of school and all. Because He has already, in just this one month since we’ve been here, hooked us up beyond what we even thought we needed or wanted.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.   Philippians 4:6-7 (msg)

The biggest morning since the day we left Ohio, and we made it through the early hours. I walked away and drove the 35 minutes home a new way (which was not on purpose. My friend, Garmin the Great, told me to turn right, which I did and then told me she had to recalculate the route. She seems kind of moody.). The new route was gorgeous, and I even had my own music as a soundtrack (no, it was not Maria or any of the von Trapps!) thanks to the super cool attachment thingy for my mp3 in the Zafira we are driving. As I came around one of the curves, I noticed a little place to pull off and enjoy the gorgeous overlook of the scene below.

It took my breath away. For real. I wish I could capture it with my lens so that you could expereince the breathtaking, too.

Guess you’ll have to just trust me on this one. That seems to be a theme for today. The whole year, actually.

And so, I write this post with somewhat of an alterior motive. I mean, I do want to tell you all about life here and about school and my kiddos. But I wanted to ask you to pray this week. For peace. For courage. For friends. And I want to thank you in advance.

Just Use Turkey

I knew the word for chicken, so it should not have been difficult. I had planned homemade chicken nuggets for the evening’s meal, my own **original recipe** that is serious goodness and true simplicity all wrapped up in one yummy main dish. (Pronounced: my kind of dinner!) Anyway — Hühnerbrust is what I needed. Chicken breast meat.

Not being brave enough to approach the metzgerei counter, which would require a conversation with the butcher, I decided on the prepackaged variety. I opened the door of the refrigerated meats section, confident in my search. I mean, even if I hadn’t known the word, I could certainly pick out a package of chicken breasts in a lineup, right? My eyes scanned the perimeter, certain with the hope of a yummy American-style dinner for my family’s July 4th celebration in the land where they don’t celebrate the 4th of any month. They fell upon a package that resembled the picture I had drummed up in my memory banks from a month or so ago, when I last saw raw chicken and knew that was what I was looking at, so I grabbed the package and searched for any semblance of the word I knew. I saw the word brust, and knew I was onto something, so I put it into the cart and finished the day’s shopping.

As we walked the 2km home, grocery-laden and hot, we discussed topics such as slugs and weather patterns (regular walks with one’s children bring a whole new dimension to motherhood). My mind wandered to dinner and wondering if the improvising I had to do on the breading ingredients would fare well with my unsuspecting children. I could only hope that the crackers and little tiny breadsticks in a crouton-like package tasted like the croutons I normally use. I thought about the size of that chicken. I mean, judging by the size of that brust, one might conclude that Germany grows some pretty well-endowed chickens, if you know what I mean. And then I remembered the word for turkey.

It was the word before the “brust” right there on the package.

“Ohhhhh….”

The lightbulb came on as the sun beat down on my head.

I didn’t tell my kids (you think I’m crazy?) until after they’d tasted and admitted liking dinner. Phew, I dodged that bullet. And now I have a new way to make chicken nuggets. Just use turkey.

 

**Mama Bria’s Homemade Chicken Nuggets**

1 bag of flavored salad croutons, crushed into teeny-tiny crumbs (It’s fun to beat the bag up before you open it. Or let your kids do it.)

some melted butter (I never measure it, but it needs to be enough to dip the cut up nuggets into before you put them into the crushed up croutons.)

package of chicken (or turkey if you want –now I know it’s good) skinless, boneless breasts or wings, cubed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (or about 230 degrees C)

Dip cubed chicken into melted butter.

Put chicken into crumbs and cover the cubes.

Place onto cookie sheet. (I always use my stoneware, so I don’t grease it, and I have no idea if you should grease a metal cookie sheet or not.)

Cook for about 20-25 minutes. Or until the biggest nugget is not pink in the middle, of course.

That’s what I do. Obviously, it’s not real scientific or precise, for which I apologize to those of you who require more details. I hope you can understand and enjoy the yum anyway.

Sometimes we serve it with ranch dressing (when we’re in the U.S. and can actually find the ranch dressing at Wal-Mart). That’s really yummy, too.

4 Juli, 2012 in Deutschland

We’ve not hit any kind of a stride here in this land where the potato chips taste like loaded baked potatoes from Applebee’s and the flower boxes overflow with beautiful. Unless, of course, you count the unfathomable amount of screentime my children have been alotted each day for the weeks since we’ve been here.

So I figured the day would bring more of the same. Unless, of course, I devised some sort of a plan, which, to be honest, has never really been a strong skill set in the motherhood realm. Not for me, anyway. But the day before had been lonely, mostly because there’s currently not a lot to do where we live right now except figure out, well, how to live. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to begin this adventure. Slow and steady, with time to figure stuff out and not be constantly faced with unknown people after unknown street sign after unknown background noise from a larger city. But the slow pace sometimes lends itself to, shall we say, a certain kind of bored that isn’t always bad. That said, I knew it was time to kick in some we’re-gonna’-actually-do-something-today kind of plans and make it special in some sort of way. A task that required me to step it up alone, since my husband had to work. (Because, although every country in the world does have the 4th of July, only one finds it celebration-worthy.)

When I announced the first part of the plan to my offspring, however, the delight waned when I told them that the it included no more American television on youtube. In fact, the first part of the plan required no screentime at all. (Gasp!) So they got dressed and cleaned up their room (the one piece of routine that we have actually adopted) before the most amazing thing happened! My kids came up with something fun to do all on their own! And it involved being outside! (I know, right?)

They took the little tiny toy cats and animals and lego people and created parachutes for them out of tissues and napkins. Then they took turns testing airflow and gravity by tossing them over our balcony to the porch below. Garfield the cat helped by retrieving some of the fallen heroes.

The creativity was flowing, I tell you! So we took our energy and studied some German before walking to the store to get some craft supplies for our Independence Day Celebration on 4 Juli, 2012 here in Waischenfeld Germany. We got other things too, such as food supplies and drinks. Then we packed up our approximately 20 pounds of groceries and, well, we walked back up the hill to home.

We did a 4k on the 4th of July! With 20 pounds of groceries and horses to greet us along the way. And I thought it was gonna’ be a boring day!

Our 2012 fourth day of July ended with a celebration of sorts. We ate homemade turkey nuggets (which were supposed to be chicken) and mashed potatoes along with the best zucchini I think I’ve ever tasted, before enjoying an array of homemade fireworks in our living room.

Those fireworks techs were brilliant! They dazzled us with splashes of red and white and blue. They even brought the “ka-booms!”

It was a 4th to be remembered, no doubt. At least by us.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Walk in the Rain

The rain, it falls because the wet is heavy and it needs somewhere to go. Tonight it falls in Germany. And the thunder, it echoes through the hills and the lightning lights the sky in the dark night as the lamps flicker and then go flat. The youngest, she cries for unknown storms, and she knows these storms from home and she doesn’t like them there either. But the lights return even as the wet keeps falling and the lightning show outside announces its lingering with loud claps and strong wind that blows over the chair on our balcony. I can’t hug away the tears because fear, it holds tighter than my arms can squeeze. So we pray. And then my man announces a sleepover in our bedroom for our first stormy night in this foreign land.

We wake up to more rain in the new of the day. Calmer, subdued wet that slides down window panes and readies these hearts for a day inside. Sunday in Germany brings new church time routine. One that allows pj’s and bare feet in the middle of the living room. So we find our way through the rainy from the dry of our sanctuary. And we welcome it wholly, distant thunder and all, as our hearts wonder at the rain of His love and How He Loves Us. Amazing what True Love will do for fear. Amazing what rain will do for soil.

I walk when the rain stops, soak in the after of the saturated land in the hills above Waischenfeld. It feels good to get out from behind the windows, to walk the outside and breathe in the fresh of the wheat fields and wildflowers. I walk my new route, then another one to the right.

I see clouds beyond the fields and wonder if I’m walking in one. Am I living in the clouds right here in Germany?

I see snails, so many snails, big ones, fanning themselves, creeping along my new path. Eating.

I find another crossroads. It leads through the forest. I wonder if this is the one Red Riding Hood found before she met that nasty old wolf. I wander in a few steps and look up. Then around. I decide to wait on the Little Red Riding Hood part of this adventure, so I turn around and hoof it back to the other new road.

I walk all the way to what seems like the end before I turn around. So many rolling hills filled with wheat and who-knows-what. I think about dancing in the middle of the fields, twirling about and singing about the hills and how truly alive they feel right now. Then I wonder if Maria ever worried about ticks. So I laugh and I look and I find another snail. I giggle with delight because these snails, they are so big.

And I think about the rain and the soft ground and how rain makes it easier to make a mark in the ground. And the rain, when it falls and it scares my little girl, it makes for better soil in the ground that is her heart.

And I think about the rain and how sometimes it falls hard on my life, and I forget that it’s a good thing and that God makes His mark in such soil as this. So I thank Him for the wet that falls, even when I don’t like the storm that brings it.

It starts sprinkling again, and I am almost home now. But my heart, it is full, so I try to capture the awe of the beauty surrounding me. But I can’t possibly. So I just walk home. And my feet, they are dirty with the soil I have trod.