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Monthly Archives: September 2012

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Grasp

So every Friday, my friend Lisa-Jo writes for 5 mintues unedited. And then she challenges her readers to do the same. Sometimes I take the challenge. Usually I don’t. Today — it’s on.

The word is GRASP.

I only hoped I could grasp the gist of what would happen. No idea how this morning’s first class would go. My husband had gone to the same level German class two nights ago and left wondering “What the heck just happened?!?”

We’d signed up for the same A2 level German class at different times. Because we want to learn German. Because we want to leave this land knowing how to communicate with the people here. Because we want to grasp all that it has to offer, this living here for one year adventure. And knowing the language seems to be a big component for that. It wasn’t until after he got home that night that we discovered his class was a “Konversation Sprechen” kind of class (forgive my way-off German grammar and spelling, I am only at the beginning of my learning curve). Mine, however, is the “Standard Kurs” for level A2. Therefore, when I walked into the building this morning, I had no idea how much I would understand. I had no idea how much, if anything, I would grasp.

But — here’s the awesome part of this story — I think I got it! Turns out the Standard Course is less, well, conversational. And, although it took all the concentration I could possibly muster for an entire 90 minutes, I was able to grasp at least some of what the teacher and the other students said.

I’d call that a good day.

Learning to Let Them Grow

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Before I got to motherhood, I really thought I’d be good at the tough love thing. You know, so that my children would grow into mature adults who know how to handle things they don’t necessarily like.

As it turns out, I’m not. I mean, I’m good at a lot of things that motherhood requires. Like hugging and kissing and cuddling them. Like praying with them and teaching them about Jesus and how crazy about them He is. Like laughing at them with them. And taking them to the doctor when they’re sick.

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As it turns out, I’m really not good at making my kids do things that are good for them unless they agree and want to do it. Right about now, I’m guessing that about half of you just had a grumble in your belly at the thought of such spoiled children as this. Go ahead and let yourself feel upset by the fact that this momma has such a large void in her mothering skills, and then when you get over it come on back and I’ll tell you what I’ve been learning about letting my kids grow even when they don’t want to.

Since we’ve been here in this foreign land and the reality of it’s-hard-to-live-where-we-don’t-know-the-language-or-culture has set in with my kids, the growing has become somewhat palpable. I mean, seriously, it’s like watching the clouds move — something you feel like you shouldn’t be seeing in its progress, but you somehow can.

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And it’s not just them. The first time we rode our bikes in the city, through the traffic and all of the people, it was all I could do to not turn us all around and ride home before we even got to the corner. My youngest looked wobbly. She rode way to close to the parked cars on the street. And I was right behind her, imagining only the worst of every possible outcome. I kept thinking about the lady we saw who fell when a man walked in front of her. I kept begging God to please just get us to our destination without any falls.

Then they started school, and I had to cheer them through doors with whose other side I was only vaguely familiar. I had to start getting up when the clock still had a five in its foremost position. (Yes. I did. And I still do to this day.) I had to create a new routine in which my kids get out of bed before the sun leaves the other hemisphere and they only want more of the comfy that bed provides.

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Since we have moved to this land of the Deutsch, I can honestly say that I have had to learn how to encourage my kids to do the difficult. I am learning to push them as a mom who loves them so much that she only wants what is truly best (not necessarily most comfortable or easy) for them. I am learning to see that, for them and for me, the best any kind of gift anyone could give is the one that points them to Almighty God as the One true Everything and Strength for every part of living. I am learning to let my kids grow.

Our Friend The Lady

She always beats us to the bus stop. Every morning. Even the day we missed the bus because one of us was on the potty, and, well, the buses here don’t wait for things like that. She sits on the bench under the little bus stop covering at the Haltestelle down the street with her black messenger bag and candy in her pockets. Today it was in her hand already.

“Morgen,” she says as the three of us approach the bench at the stop. We smile and greet her, and she hands us each a piece of candy. Every single morning she gives a piece of something to each one of us. Usually candy, but one day it was prepackaged Rice Krispies treats. And not just for the girls. She gives me one, too. We always accept and thank her, kind of shy-like. And I always feel sort of bad, and wish I knew something to give to her.

We met her the first day we rode the bus to school. 7:21 am. She had candy that day, too. We exchanged greetings, and communicated our lack of German communication skills, and she talked anyway. So friendly and happy, I think, to have someone to wait with on her way to work. The next day we exchanged names. And she told me to address her in the informal “du”, when I speak to her. It changes the way I conjugate verbs and it tells me that she sees me as a friend. I think she would agree that we were friends before that, though. Even before we knew each others’ names. That’s why we called her “Our Friend The Lady.”

And everyday we talk a bit more. Everyday, I learn a little bit more about her. Everyday I want to give her something like the candy she gives us. Everyday, I have the opportunity to show her the real life that Jesus gave me just by the way I listen or show her His love. Oh Lord, may I truly love as You do.

What I’m Doing About Worry

So many times, a worry runs through my mind, and I don’t catch it right off. I don’t recognize it for what it is (i.e. crap), so I start to mull it over and camp there in the anxious.

Like yesterday when I knew it was time for my husband to be driving home. I’d noticed the time and consciously thought to myself, he’ll be home soon. Then I smiled. (Because I like it when my man gets home from work. It’s usually my favorite part of the day.) I sat back down to googletranslate and got back to work trying to understand the letter from school that my daughters had handed me an hour earlier. But a few minutes later, I heard that European siren through the open windows in our apartment (you know, the one that blares nee-naw-nee-naw-nee-naw, etc.), so I stopped and listened (because that’s what I do when I’m in Europe and I hear the cool siren. Because it reminds me that I’m in Europe. Where there are cool sirens. I’m weird like that.) That’s when the cool of the reminding turned into the not-cool of the anxious. Because I realized that my man was on the road, and that someone had called an ambulance. And the two facts scrambled together in my mind to form, well, a bunch of crap that stunk like worry and stress and had me ready to call my friend and figure out how I’d get the girls to school tomorrow when I was sitting in the hospital at my husband’s side in ICU. Seriously, that’s where worry goes when I allow it into my head.

When I heard him turn the key in the door a few minutes later, I ran up to him and told him how glad I was that he was home. Ah, how truly relieved I was that I was hugging him at the door rather than stroking his hand at the hospital. As he settled in, I found myself staring out the kitchen window (because it was time to make dinner, and that’s how I start making dinner. Every night.). And that is when I recognized the crap I had just allowed into my mind. That’s when I remembered what I’ve been learning about God-thoughts and Holy Spirit-powered weapons.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

You see, most of my life, I have struggled with worry, fear, anxiety of some sort. But the truth is, I truly have nothing to worry about. The truth is, because Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life, His Spirit is alive in me — the Spirit of life, not fear. The Spirit of God. The Bible talks about it all over the place. (Like Psalm 91 and 112 and 16 and Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Philippians 4, just to name a few.) And so, I can stand unshaken. Without fear. Without worry about what will happen. That is the truth.

And it’s the only way to combat the worry that meshes with the sounds of a siren to make crap. The weapon of the truth is the only way to not worry. So I am on a mission to know the truth so well that I recognize the crap before it starts to stink.

Care to join me? Is there crap you need to fight with truth? If so, what’s the truth you can combat it with before it starts to stink?

The Streets of Bayreuth

I wonder how long these bricks have been here. The ones that make up the streets of downtown Bayreuth. The ones that line them. What stories could they tell? Did they know the Third Reich and its unthinkable crimes? Did they see the persecution and shame that eventually transformed this country into the respectful, tolerant-of-every-peoples place that I sense it to now be? And what about these days? Do these bricks realize the beauty they display, all together, as they form the streets and sidewalks? Do they recognize famous people whose feet touch down? Do they recognize the trepidation of an American foreigner who is only just finding her way?

Today marks the beginning of our third week of life in the city of Bayreuth. We moved here from the tiny town of Heroldsburg-Waischenfeld for Phase 2 of our Germany adventure. It is the city of August Festspiel and Richard-Wagner Operas and a park called Hofgarten where beauty oozes behind every tree. It is the city we now call home, with it’s beautiful Pedestrian Zone that runs right through the middle of town and construction-workers that start work every morning at 7:30. Coffee shops and clothing shops and pharmacies and bike racks line the streets. We walk or ride our bikes everywhere. Unless we ride the bus to school. I take the girls to school on the bus and then walk home for the exercise. It’s a different life from any we’ve known. Even Paris. More comfort-zone stripping. More adventure. More believing that God has put us here because He loves us and wants us to rely on Him alone.

So many things about home and easy and comfortable make it natural for us to put our confidence in things that are not worthy. Like knowing how to do stuff and secretly relying on ourselves to get things done. But when all the easy gets stripped away, we realize that all we really have, all we truly need, is God and what He decides to give. His guidance to show us His way to do stuff — because we really have no clue. His peace to get us out of the apartment and onto that bus where we are only pretty sure it will get us where we need to go on time. His love to ensure us that even when we look like fools, He treasures us and laughs with us and only want what is truly the best for us. I firmly believe that is one big reason why we are here.

And I am so, so thankful for the opportunity to live it! To know God more. To live in this land where strangers give Gummy Bears to kids at the bus stop and outside restaurants are a way of life. To learn a whole new language and grow big-time courage in my kids.

Yes, so very thankful.

 

Phase Two

We arrived in Washington, DC somewhere around 2pm. Walking off the plane and through a window-lined hallway, we eventually found the U.S. Passport Control where we read out loud every single sign we saw, thrilled that we didn’t have to try to translate anything. We just instinctively knew what each word meant. I actually teared up when we entered the big room where we would wait for passage into our homeland. (Secretly teared up because, seriously, who in my generation calls their native country homeland and who cries when they return?)

Like a family of four little ducks we filed in, excited to be able to follow directions confidently, without wondering if we correctly understood what the signs or the people instructed. We filed in as I fought off the tears, and I found myself laying out every minute of the next seven days before Almighty God. I wished it could be a longer visit. I feared the end of the time week we’d just begun. I craved refreshment. I needed reminding that this adventure is a gift and a good thing. I hoped that we would be able to get back on that plane in seven days and enjoy the next nine months in the land of the Deutsch.

The next seven days proved all that we’d hoped. We hugged and loved on and were loved on. We ate Chipotle and cheeseburgers and watched Disney Channel shows.

We hung out with friends all day on Sunday and celebrated my Grandma’s 90th birthday and kayaked and swam and visited school friends and had playdates, and we soaked in the love and the easy of home and of our dearly loved. And then we came back.

 

 

It’s difficult to imagine a seven-day period as jam-packed with activity as our week in Ohio being refreshing at all. (For busy-ness in my experience almost always brings me burnout.) But not this time. I can truly say we were each renewed that week. People would ask us what we had planned for the remainder of the week, and I would reply, “Which hour?” because each hour had a plan to visit someone else. We literally made the most of every minute of our trip home.

I made a sort of vow that week in Ohio. A realization that led to some sobering thoughts about how I’ve been treating this living in Deutschland thing. And I gave it a name, which I made up myself.

Burdenizing.

It means taking what God has given me as a blessing and turning it into a burden.

Somewhere in the midst of the uncomfortable of living in a foreign land and the homesick of being so far away from what I know, I forgot the awesome of the adventure I have been allowed. Somewhere in the three months of living in Bavarian farmlands and hills on which Maria would love to run and sing, I let the uncomfortable deceive me into complaining through the time rather than seeing the gift for what it is and making the most of it. And somehow, in the middle of making the most of those seven days in Ohio, I realized that I have not been making the most of these 12 months in Europe.

So I decided to just let go of the stuff that troubles me. (It’s not like I didn’t know it was going to be hard to live here for a year.) I am choosing to open my hands and trust that God knows good gifts when He sees them and that, for whatever reason, He is letting me live inside of this one for an entire year.

And so begins Phase Two of our year in Germany.

Do you have a fresh start you’d like to take? Maybe you could start fresh with me. Oh, how I would love that. We could like do this next phase thing together. You on your adventure called life, and me on mine.