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Monthly Archives: August 2012

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Bench

We arrived eleven weeks ago with over 500 pounds of luggage and about 1000 tons of unknown expectations. Eleven weeks of forging new paths, finding new-to-us ways of doing everyday activities such as laundry and grocery shopping and going to the ATM. We have nine months left in this foreign land where Hondas are so few that my kids go crazy when they see one, and Volkswagons are so abundant that they barely even notice them. Where good wine costs less than a gallon of gas and water comes with bubbles unless you think to ask for it without. As of this week, we are officially 1/4 of the way through our one-year adventure here in the land of Deutsch.

We will go home for one week in just three days. Home to Ohio, where we can understand the people at the table next to us in any given restaurant and not have to confess our foreign / little-German-speaking status everytime a stranger approaches and utters three words. Es tut mir leit, we say. Ich verstehe kleine Deutsch, we confess with eyes pleading and sometimes defeated but always smiling.  (I’m sorry. I only understood one word you just said to me because I’m a stupid American who is only just learning German. But, oh if you only knew how badly I wish I could understand. Perhaps someday. Hopefully sometime in the next nine months. Do you think maybe you could approach me in May of next year and try it again?) Yes, three days, and we will be home for a brief visit in which we will seek to store up as much love and hugs as possible from our families and friends in hopes that it will get us to December when we go home again. Seven days during which we will see as many of our friends as we possibly can and soak up Ohio air and let our minds relax a bit as we find ourselves not working to always, always find just one word — on a street sign, in a store, from a conversation — just one word to know. We’re excited, can you tell?

Excited and, well, a little bit scared. Because deep down in the bottom of the I-don’t-wanna-admit-this-but-I really-probably-should part of my belly, I wonder if my kids (or I) are going to want to come back. I’ve been praying about this for months. Literally, since we booked the tickets for our flight. So — I guess I should see it as yet another opportunity to watch God work.

I find myself looking toward our trip home to Ohio and feeling like I’m in a half-marathon in which I need a break. I say half-marathon because I have no idea what a full marathon feels like. No. Idea. Ich habe keine Ahnung. I feel like I’m tired and need some cold water — to drink, to pour over my head — and a bench or a curb to stop and tie my shoe and catch my breath. I feel a little bit scared, though, because what if I get to the bench and sit down and lose my momentum and can’t get myself to stand back up and finish the race?

I said this out loud to my husband yesterday, and then I remembered that this is a gift, this getting-to-go-home-thing. And I remembered that God is the One Who gives good gifts. I read His Word this morning, and He reminded me that He knows what He’s doing. He’s the One in charge. And He is always good and kind and enough. He is always enough.

So I look toward the bench around the bend. The bench that is our very short but ever so lovely upcoming trip home and, as much as I long for the time to sit and take in all the scenery around and drink coffee with my fellow bench-dwellers, I know that God will give me the will and the everything-I-need to stand back up again and return to the race. I trust that He will remind me of how awesome the race itself is, how amazing that I get to even be in it at all. (Because, seriously, I get to live in Germany for a year, right?)

So I’m pushing myself to the bench, even while I remind myself that it is just a bench. Even while God reminds me that He is the One Who put the bench there. And I will enjoy the resting and the coffee and the visit, but I will get back up off what will likely be my bench-imprinted butt and I will see it all as an undeserved and treasured gift from God the Lord.

And I will keep counting gifts and looking for the ways that He has gifted so much. And I will watch as He works to show me each gift.

56. spotify

57. a kindred-spirit friend who even speaks English and goes to Hugendubel with me

58. Hugendubel book store

59. a friend who prays for me

60. a card in the mail signed by lots and lots of friends

61. a tweet just for me

62.  thermal pool swimming

63. chicken noodle soup on a rainy day

64. lunch with the whole family. Every day.

65. fog in the morning

66. a bench on a hilly trail

67. moss-covered rocks in the middle of the woods

68. alone time

I’m linking to Ann Voskamp’s blog again this week. Because, well, counting God’s gifts helps me to really, truly live.

Stretch(ed)

Every Friday, my friend Lisa-Jo the Gypsy Mama  hosts this fun little 5-minute dealy called “5 Minute Fridays.” The challenge is to sit and write, unedited (yikes!) for 5 minutes on a word she provides. I’ve only participated a few measly times (like 2). Because, well, editing is my friend. My really, super good friend that I don’t ever leave out of my writing endeavors. But today, well, I like the word. So I’m gonna’ try it.

Ready. Go…

Stretch

9:45 I sit and write for this unedited 5 minutes of stretching. Yes. Stretch. I like the word because I can say it like it means. sssstrrrreeeeetchhhh. See? Kind of quirky like that, I am.Stretched is what I know I am right in the middle of. I used to want to be called “Stretch” when I played softball in elementary school and was the first-baseman. Someone mentioned that 1st basemen often have to stretch to catch the ball and that they were usually tall. Well, I am not tall. But I can stretch. And I did so love playing first base.

Now I’m stretching in an altogether different way. Stretched from home in Ohio to finding home in a foreign land. Stretched straight off of comfortable and into what I’ve never known, like taffy on the dashboard on a 90 degree day. Sometimes that’s how I feel, too, like taffy all gooey and gross and messy and impossible to chew. But God, well, He’s the one pulling, so I’m good with it. He’s the one intiating the stretch, so I know the stretch will end up transforming me into something even better than the taffy I started out as. So I’m good with the stretch.

And I guess you can call me “stretch” after all.
Five Minute Friday

Where I Will Stay

We sat on the border of the concrete planter and ate our ice-cream cones. Best ice cream in Bayreuth, we all agreed. We spoke with excitement about our upcoming trip home and of our soon-to-be move to the city when we come back. Watching bicyclers and pedestrians as they moved through the pedestrian zone of the city, we imagined out loud riding our bikes to this very spot, eating the best-ever ice-cream, stopping at the toy store, carrying our stuff home in our baskets. Fun moments with my girls filled with wonder and hope.

And then we saw it about 100 yards away. The crash of an elderly woman who couldn’t keep her bicycle balanced as a man stepped in front of her unexpectedly. She fell hard, face first, onto the brick walkway, and my heart fell hard into my stomach as it unfolded right in front of us. “Don’t look!” I said to the girls. Because I figured she’d be all bloodied. Because I didn’t know if she would even sit up.

After the collective gasp from all around the marketplace, people stepped into action. They grabbed her bike. They helped her sit up. They walked her to the nearest table at the cafe in front of which it happened. They called the ambulance. From where we sat, it looked like they worked together, all in crisis-mode to help this poor lady in her agony.

We prayed from where we sat. After I told the lady sitting next to us in my broken, thick American-accented German who asked what happened. After she made many comments about it. After I nodded and agreed with her, cluelessly hoping I actually did agree with whatever it was that she was saying. We prayed.

I’ve kind of lost my appetite, my youngest told me. Yeah, me too. I would have made a terrible paramedic. Or a skinny nurse.

And my stomach churned and my heart grew unsettled and suddenly I just wanted to go home. Suddenly the life in which I had been growing more and more comfortable became scary and disconcerting as my mind replayed the scene over and over again. What if that happens to one of my kids while we’re riding to the toy store in a few weeks? What if that lady is not okay? What if I, or one of my kids, kills somebody just because we didn’t see the bicycle behind us when we turned into the ice cream shop? The what-ifs grew exponentially, even as I assured my kids that she was okay. Even as I watched the lady stand up and walk herself into the ambulance. Even as I prayed that Almighty God would heal her pain.

I couldn’t shake the unsettled for the rest of the day. Every semblance of peace that God has grown me into over the last several years, the kind He has used to heal me from my anxiety issues and obsessive-compulsive tendancies ran straight out of mind as the adrenaline deceived me into believing that this living here thing is, in fact, too dangerous. That we really should just pack up and go home.

I cried tears that soaked my husband’s t-shirt when he got home. Sobs that cried “I’m done here. I wanna’ go home now.” He held my shaking shoulders and prayed. He prayed. And then I cried some more.

Because the truth is, I cannot do this adventure on my own. If it were up to me and my own fortitude, I would be on a plane to Cleveland right now instead of sitting in this kitchen in the middle Upper Franconia, Bavaria writing about it. The truth is, finding the end of myself is exactly the thing God wants me to do. And it’s exactly where I ended up after the fall of that woman, after the return of the anxiety-stricken me, after the sobbing of the “I-can’t-do-this” tears. Right smack at the end of me.

It’s where my own things in which I find comfort run away and the truth of what God says is the only thing left standing. It’s where the very Spirit of God, alive in me because of what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross and in the tomb, proves Himself true in power. In love. In self-discipline.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

The end of myself is where I remember the truth of God and claim it over and over again, trusting Him to prove it, to show it, to live it through me.

How the Lens Changes Things

When I’m having a hard day, I look through the lens of my camera. Somehow when I look at ordinary things from behind my camera lens, they  stop me in my tracks and make me realize the beauty of all that I have. The true gift of the right now in which God Himself has placed me. Somehow, the lens transforms dreary days into beautiful snippets of tiny little beautiful moments that end up making my day. I find myself looking for the everyday pieces of amazing that I didn’t recognize before. Somehow, the lens of of my camera changes the way I look at things and helps me find God’s truth, His beauty.
 
So I start to notice the simple beauty of a bench in the park. And suddenly it’s a gift.
And the amazing of a bunch of tables awaiting connection that will take place over beer steins and brats at a community festival.
When I look through the camera lens, I notice things like a reflection on the water, and I thank God for the gift of right now, for the gift of my man and his love. And it makes me want to kiss the love of my life and capture it for the beauty of the moment. Well, that, and for the sheer fun of grossing my kids out.
I get excited for a bee stopping at a flower and finding nectar for its own beautiful creation. Somehow, even a bee is a gift from God, that I might see it for its beauty rather than fear it for its sting.
When I grab my camera, I start looking for photos, beautiful moments within the whole day, to document. Because, broken up into little tiny pieces, the whole of the moment, the entirety of the big huge incapturable scene becomes so much richer, so much more abundant. Because my camera can’t capture an entire scene’s beauty, but it can magnify the smaller, grasp-able pieces of the scene and reveal layers of beauty that I might have otherwise ignored. In the same way, my soul can’t fit its arms around the whole of a moment. It sometimes struggles to find amazing in the right now. Until I let God uncover the layers in tiny little snapshots of the huge gift He’s given me called life.
The gift of my camera lens helps me count the gifts one by one, right along with Ms. Voskamp and the beautifully amazing community of gift counters who look for ways that Almighty God has graced them in the very right now. So today, I’m joining in the counting. You too? Click on the link and be inspired by others to find the joyful thanks in every right now.
 

No More At-Least-I-Haves

I dreamed the other night that we went home for a visit and I forgot everything I knew of German. When we returned, I had to start all over again. It was scary. I actually woke up afraid.

I find myself sometimes struggling to remember a word in English and forgetting how to spell things like “recommend” (did I spell it right?), and this troubles me. Because, you may not know this about me, but I am rather verbal in nature. (I know, shocking! I’ll give you some time to recover from the news. Go ahead and let it soak in .  .  . Okay? You good?) I love things like grammar. (Remember diagraming sentences? Yeah, totally. loved. it. My heart beats fast just thinking about it.) I usually don’t have to wonder how to spell things because I just know it, and when either one of my children needs a word spelled, it’s me they ask. Because they just know I’ll know. So when things like the proper usage of a good word and its correct spelling escape me, something inside of me sends alarms through my veins alerting me that this is all wrong.

Perhaps it’s some kind of phenomenon that has to do with crash-coursing a new language through immersion. I  think that must be it. So much stuff in my brain trying to figure out how to get itself out that it just spills forth in whatever form it can find, whether it’s correct or not. I guess this whole adventure is stripping me down to just raw who-I-am-and-all-I-have-left-at-the-core-of-me in every area of my life. Even the verbal part.

It’s not all bad, this stripping. In fact, it’s sometimes refreshing. Knowing that God is using this place, this time in my life, to solidify my true foundation. To prove to me that He’s the only One that can hold unwavering and always strong. Remembering hour after hour that God Himself is the only Real worth standing my life on. Because I can’t find my life in the place I call home — it’s too small and bugs get in too easily. And I can’t find my life in my relationships with my friends — most of them are thousands of miles away, and that would completely freak out my new friends here. I certainly can’t find my life in my marriage — oh that would be so not fair to my husband. Not in my job as a mom, either — that would so not work when my kids are so unsure and have so much to learn. And now, I can’t even find my life in my communication skills — I mean, really, I can’t remember how to spell “withdrawal.” (I think.)

So, here I sit, stripped of all my “at-least-I-haves” and clothed in the only coverings that can really cover anything anyway.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under  his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart (Psalm 91:4).

And, you know what, I’m good with it.

How about you? Are you being stripped of something you’ve always fallen back on? Leave me a comment, and I’ll pray for you if you pray for me. 🙂