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Monthly Archives: May 2013

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To Actively Remember: Honoring The Ones Memorial Day is For

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My parents came to visit us when we lived in Paris, France. We took a day-trip to Normandy. It was Memorial Day Weekend, 2005.
We’d been on this side of the Atlantic for about three months, but it felt good to be on official U.S. soil. The American National Cemetery at Omaha Beach is officially the United States of America.
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It is dedicated to the soldiers who gave everything they had in order to protect everything they knew.
They gave it all to defend the freedom of those back home. The liberty of those of us who were not yet born.
We walked around, peered over the edge and imagined the terror that had happened on the sand in front of us. The bunker in the hill made my heart beat hard, as I imagined the fighting, the death, the spilling blood, the loud screams.
My dad fought in Vietnam. His dad fought in the war that made the place where we stood U.S. property. He wasn’t there in the fighting. My grandfather was stationed far away from the D-Day horrors in the land of Burma, where he secured more of our freedom.
Still, all I could think about was the courage it took for each one of my patriarchs — my dad, my grandpa, every soldier approaching those Normandy beaches — to give what they gave. To shun their fear for the sake of my freedom. To face untold horrors on my behalf. So I might not have to.
We walked among the white crosses. They beautifully lined the entire plot of land. My then three-year-old skipped in her little Gymboree red white and blue dress as her ten-month-old sister watched and giggled.
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I felt bad about that. Because it’s such a solemn place. So serious. So much blood in the soil on which our feet now stood. Skipped. Ran.
Then I looked at my dad, who’d known the realities of war. I remembered that was why he did it. So we could stand there that day. So they could skip and run and dance. Freely.
He survived the war in that Asian land a true hero. Injured by shrapnel from an exploding bomb.
He is my hero. He is America’s hero.
My dad’s courage inspires me.
That I could stand there on U.S. soil won with lives whose memories marked the land, stand there with my hero whose bravery secured my footing — I will never forget that moment.
And today I will do more than not forget those who gave their lives so I could live as I do today. I will actively remember.
*I’m pretty sure my dad’s going to be reading this today. (Hi Dad!) He knew so many who gave their lives for our freedom. Would you be willing to leave a quick note in the comments honoring their memories and the memories of all who have?

Random Thoughts and Twenty-Four Days

I haven’t been here in exactly one week. I’m back today with a few quick thoughts that don’t feel quick because of the overwhelmed they make me feel.

  • I counted the days again yesterday. In 24 days we will be ready to land in our home country on the other side of the great Atlantic Ocean. Ten of those days will not be here. Next week we’ll be at the beach in Italy (!!) and (:>). The week after that I will travel with my kids for two days to another part of Germany to visit a friend.
  • Suddenly I’m faced with the reality of fifteen days left in this beautiful place we’ve called home for a year, and I don’t quite know how to process that fact.
  • I want to buy gifts for all of my friends. Both here and there. And for everyone I know at home who has any connection to this Land of the Deutsch, because they’ve been here with me in my spirit all year.
  • Shopping feels like therapy.
  • You might think the two previous facts combined would lead to some sort of resolution. However, the overwhelmed saturated brain waves will not allow it. Thus, I am faced with a constant feeling of nausea every time I find something I might want to get for — well, anyone — and try to think if it’s good enough, if they’ll like it, if I should buy it. The answer is always “I don’t know.” So it ends with me returning the thing to the rack before finding something for myself, like the ten Euro shirt I just found. Because I know I will like that. And I don’t have to worry if it’s special enough. Even though I probably don’t need it. And my eleven-year-old will no doubt point that out. And I know I’m teaching her bad habits when I lose myself in such pointless retail-therapy. So I pay and walk out and feel even more overwhelmed because I still want to buy gifts for those special people at home. But I don’t know what to get. So I go find a croissant and a cappuccino and sit down with my notepad so I can make a list. Only the list turns into doodles of overwhelmed.
  • I cleaned out my closet and filled a huge bag with clothes I don’t wear. Now I need to figure out where to take it. so we don’t have to pay to move it back home.
  • Yesterday, I started an 8-week Bible study by Katie Orr and Lara Williams called Love Like Him. Because I’ve been realizing lately how much I don’t really do that — love like Jesus. And how much I need Him to love through all my ugly cracks that make me oh-so-weak.
  • I believe God is using His Word to make me more like Him. More of the loving like He does. Less self-absorbed.
  • God used my friend, Sundi-Jo to help me realize how much I need to learn what it means to walk in the Spirit if I have any chance at all of loving like that.
  • She wrote a book about how God took all her horrible brokenness and turned into this beautiful masterpiece of a woman who loves just like He does. It’s called Dear Dad: Did You Know I was a Princess. I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for the last week. It’s totally worth the read. You will not be disappointed.
  • Last night we went to our oldest daughter’s goodbye-party, which her class gave her. We wandered through the mountains. Literally, over two mountains. For two-and-a-half hours. And ended up at a restaurant/brewery in the middle of nowhere, Germany where we ate some really amazing Bavarian food. I took some video footage. Look for it soon on my facebook page.
  • I have many, many thoughts flying aimlessly through my head. (I’m guessing you can sense that?)
  • I am finding it difficult to express those thoughts. Thus the randomness of this post.
  • I could use a little help getting out of this tunnel of swarming randomness. Can you help? Just answer me this:m How are things in your world? 

How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work (Pt 2)

Yesterday I started to tell you the story of the landlords who turned into our friends. Even though we shared very few of the same kinds of words. One word we did understand was “Scheist.” Only, I’ve since learned, thanks to one of my beautifully awesome German friends, that I can’t even cuss correctly in German. For the word is actually “Scheisse.” But, well, you get the drift. You can read that post here to catch up.

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We showed up at 3, because I did my math and figured out what 15:00 meant in German. (Who knew Germany would help strengthen my math skills?)

We brought gifts for each of them. So they would remember. So they could know how special they will always be to our family. What an integral part of our time here they were. Even if only for those first few months.

She made two cakes and coffee. I learned the name of the bundt-cake looking thing, but I’ve forgotten already. So you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it was beautiful.  But the one with the strawberries and the cream and the almonds – that’s the one I chose.

They offered coffee and tea and water and beer. We offered our friendship and support in the form of sitting with them at their outside table, on the top of a mountain in Northern Bavaria. Our Deutsch a bit better, we conversed a little and laughed a lot.

Still, there was so much we could not say. So many words I wanted to share. So many questions like how long? What happened? When did they find the tumor that now grows inside of her brain?

I honestly did not expect her to look so good. I had even prepared my children for the way she might look. The sick she might portray.

We had prayed before we went there. Prayed for healing, of course. And for Jesus to shine through the words we did not know.

Somehow not knowing the language freed us up to just sit and not feel like we had to say things we wouldn’t have known how to express anyway.

I’ve been with dying people before and felt this guilt for not saying what I think they need to hear. Because I have no idea what they need. No idea what I could possibly say that might help them as they deal with inoperable cancer, impending death.

But this time, my reason for silence had nothing to do with choice. I literally did not know the words.

And somehow that helped me just enjoy our German friends’ company. Just talk about what we could. Say words we could actually communicate. Laugh with them and enjoy the sunshine we sat under.

When we gave her the scarf, she broke down and cried. I wanted so badly to let her know we were praying. To talk about her fears. To say something profound that would point her to Jesus and let her know death doesn’t have to be scary.

But all I could do was sit there. Pray silently that somehow in the void of my word-less company, God would speak. That He might point to Himself. Pull her into His peace.

We sat there and watched. And she cried. And our hearts poured out in the form of love we could not put into words. We didn’t even try to put it into words.

I did say what likely sounded something like “You so special us to. We pray.”

Then I shut my mouth because, really my wordlessness was better.

And what’s the difference between a foreign-speaking German who is dying and a native American who understands my every word? I mean, what do you say to anyone who faces such numbered days? Even if I spoke fluent German, what the heck would I say?

I tend to believe words would not have worked whether in English or Deutsch or Mandarin Chinese.

The conversation turned to kangaroos. (Because, really, doesn’t every afternoon Sunday visit include such topics?) And we decided together to take a drive to find the kangaroos that live in the middle of Bavaria. “Only 10 minutes’ drive.” He assured us.

The adventure that ensued will someday be another blog post, no doubt.

But love grew more clear as we drove those back German roads to Pottenstein and Gossweinstein, me in the driver’s seat, our German-speaking friend driving from the back shouting “left, no right” in his Franconian-dialected German. Our friendship no doubt deepened in those hours together. The words left unsaid spoke more clearly than the thousands of German words I do not know.

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When we said goodbye later, she broke down again. I hugged her and told her “We pray. You special.” And she spoke about the living she will do in these days. I did not understand any but one of the words.

“Schwer.”

It means heavy. Difficult. Hard.

I agreed.

So, so schwer. In so many ways.

How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work

Eleven months ago, we landed in Germany and set up camp in a local hotel.  No place to call home, we quickly found a place, but it was occupied until the end of August. We needed a summer dwelling.

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That’s how we ended up on top of the mountain in a tiny place called Heroldsburg. Population approximately 100. That grew to 104 the day we moved in.

We lived in an apartment above an amazing couple who took us in like family.

She spoke no English. He knew a little. So when they invited us to the Johannis Feuer approximately six days after we arrived, we figured that would be the end of a short-lived friendship. We thought the language-barrier would necessitate a mere landlord/tenant kind of deal.

We were wrong.

All summer long, they kept inviting our company. Kaffee und Kuchen at least once a week. Grillen und Trinken more than a few times. (Translation: amazing grilled brats and steaks and drinks — water, beer, apple juice, lemonade, whatever you want.)

When my youngest turned eight on the first of August, we invited them up for her birthday meal. They gave her a gift and a card and a hug.

They treated us like family, even though different languages forces us to  leave so much unsaid. We could use our words to communicate little.

Our lives became our voices.

We learned that he had an older son who lived far away.

We found out she’d had a brain tumor that had been removed several years ago. It rendered her unable to drive. So she took the one-hour bus-ride to the city for work.

We met their extended family who lived atop the little mountain as well. They shared their garden and didn’t let me only take a little when I helped tend it one evening. Zucchini. Black green beans. (They were green beans, only black.) Potatoes. Oh, the potatoes!

We called each other friends. Then we moved to the city after three months’ time.

We exchanged phone numbers, birthday dates (birthdays in Germany are a really big deal), and email addresses. But, really, how do you call someone whose words you can’t really understand?

So when I passed him in the city-center last week, I greeted him with a huge hug. We had lost touch by virtue of the language-barrier that rendered us un-phonable.

“We must visit you before we leave!” I said in my thick American accent.

“Sunday!” He said. “Fifteen o’clock.” (Because they keep time like the army here in this land of the Deutsch. It means math in my head, but I’m starting to get it.)

“And how are you?” I wanted to know.

He answered with news that made my heart sink down low. Karin has another tumor. This one’s inoperable. They can only try with radiation to make it go away. He told all about it. Details I did not understand. And not just because he delivered them in German.

And then he said the word we knew was one of his favorites. He’d said it a lot when we lived near.

“Sheist!”

And all I could do was say the same. Because sometimes the only word you can say is the one you never do.

There is more to this story. So much more I have to tell you. But you’ll have to come back tomorrow. For I fear this post is turning into a book. See you then!