. . . and then some more . . . More life. More Jesus.

Category Archives: Germany

How To Have A White Christmas {German Snow Revisited}

It’s been snowing here these last few days, and I keep thinking about this post I wrote last December. During one of the first snowfalls we endured enjoyed in Germany. So I thought we could re-visit it today. You know, to remember the amazing that is truly White Christmas.

God shook the snow globe yesterday. It fell hard and beautiful, and we watched with wide eyes and gave updates through the day. Look outside! It’s still snowing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s called Schnee in Deutsch. As in Let’s go build a Schneemann. And Wanna’ have a Schneeball fight?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The snow falls through the night, and the globe keeps shaking through the morning commute. I watch in the dark from the bus stop. See the different trajectory each snowflake follows.

I get soaked on my way home, even from inside the hat and scarf and gloves and warm winter coat. But I’m walking, so I’m not that cold. The little tiny snowplow attacks the parking lot across the street. And the sandwich vendor on the corner’s shoveling hard when I pass by. Trying to keep up with the falling snow. Trying to stay ahead of it.

But nobody can keep up. The snow just keeps piling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Huge snowflakes hit my eyelashes and my cheeks, and pieces of my hair are soaked, poking out from my hat. All I can think is how fast the snow falls. How nobody can get ahead of it.

Then it hits me, that verse I read at the beginning of Isaiah.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This piling snow, it’s grace from God. I cannot keep up with the clean forgiving He lavishes. My sins, oh how dark like scarlet they are. As red as the blood that flowed down Jesus’ face from His thorn-crown-covered forehead that Friday we call Good.

But His snow-piled grace turns them white even now. I walk in the snow and I am clean in my heart. New. Because He’s turned the dark red stains of the sin in my soul into snow-white piles of undeserved favor. Unmerited grace.

And this is the white of Christmas. I realize it as I traipse through the slush and into my building. The gift of the snow white clean for which Emmanuel arrived.

I don’t have to dream of a white Christmas. I live it every year.

But, it’s nice to have the snow piles outside to remind me.

**Have you subscribed to my blog yet? You will receive an email any time I post something here. Click this link, and you can sign up immediately. Or you can click up there in the top right corner where is says . . . Like what you see? Subscribe here.

How Timber Changes Everything {Thanksgiving 2012 Revisited}

I find myself thinking a lot about last year. Especially lately. Trying to remember or imagine exactly what we would have been doing at this point in our time overseas. We were almost halfway done with our 365-day adventure. About four weeks away from a trip home to Ohio for Christmas. And visiting our dear friends in Vienna for an American celebration of a holiday Germans don’t do.

In honor of that awesome memory we made 365 day ago, I’d like to re-visit this post with you. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Because it reminds me of what I am deeply, beyond-words grateful will all my every ounce of who I am. I hope you’ll find that deep-beyond-words gratefulness in it too.

Also, Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!!

 

We meet our friend at Starbucks in Vienna. She studies there in that amazing city just hours west of Budapest and worlds away from my Amish-land home. We drink cappuccinos and tea and hot cocoa under the Starbucks lady in green. Then we walk.

She takes us to St. Stephens Cathedral. We admire its Gothic beauty and tall towers surrounded by scaffolding. And merchants looking for tourists who’ll pay to make memories from a horse-drawn carriage ride. We take pictures of one side. Then another. And again. My mouth gapes open when we step inside.

It’s so tall. So beautiful.

We walk some more through the city. Make our way to the famous Manner waffle cookie store. Then towards Hofburg. I don’t know much about Hofburg, but I know it houses the Spanish Riding School. And the Imperial Treasury.

I’m not a big museum-goer, but this I want to see. It holds crowns and regalia and treasures of kings. Stuff royalty used back in the day. Hundreds of years ago.

We say goodbye to our friend and then head inside. Picking up an audioguide, we decide it might deepen our appreciation for the treasure we find inside the treasury.

We come upon the first case of royal fortune. A king’s crown and his sceptor. Legend says it’s made out of a unicorn’s horn. I have my doubts. But its intrigue proves hard to withstand. I mean, truly, we behold real royal treasure with our very own eyes. So we gaze and we stare and we try to capture its beauty even though we can’t use a flash and the lights are so dim.

We move through the exhibits. Many of them pull me, and I find myself loving this museum as much as the Georges Pompidou in Paris. Not at all the same. But equally enamoring.

We move past kings’ mantels and royal keys. Some more crowns and a robe. We walk into another room and find a beautiful cross displayed behind glass. Covered in jewels, it catches my eye like the first crown we saw. So I turn on the audioguide and have a listen.

The voice draws my eyes to the less prominent wood laying next to the beautifully adorned cross. It’s shaped like one, too, but it holds no jewels. Just a plain little piece of wood with a hole at the top. It’s encased in metal, but that’s it. Nothing like the big bejeweled one standing up next to it.

It’s a piece of the cross of Jesus Christ, the British-accented man in the device tells me. It had been soaked in His blood as He hung on the wooden cross, the whole from which this small piece came. And my eyes are stayed. I cannot make myself look away from the wood. Can’t force them from the piece of timber that just might know the blood that took my sin-stained self and made me new. The blood of Jesus Christ.

To think the very King Who conquered all that matters may have bled on this lumber that lay right in front of me, well, I cannot fathom.

My family moves on. They find more treasures nearby. I know I should go, too. But I cannot pull myself away from this case. I can think of nothing but the blood that tore me from death and darkness and hate and Satan himself. That very blood might just have stained the wood upon which my eyes now fall. And I cannot peel them away.

I just keep taking pictures. Keep trying to capture the banging beats in my chest cavity with the click of my finger. Trying to grasp the meaning of the blood stains of God.

It’s Thanksgiving Day. We’ll be eating turkey soon with our American friends who’ve made home in this beautiful city called Wien. Eating turkey and talking thanks. We’ll be thinking of home and familiar and all things grateful. And Thanksgiving Day traditions will ride strong.

And tomorrow will be Black Friday at home in the U.S. And crazy will begin. And people will fight at Wal-Mart over an i-Pad 4. And life will continue as it always does.

But I will be different.

Because how can I know the blood of Jesus and not be changed forever? How can I contemplate the wood that bore my Savior’s broken body, that soaked up His very blood, and not be transformed from the very depths of my soul? How can my heart not be remodeled into a thankful that soaks every fiber of my being?

I look for the blood stains on that petrified wood. But I can’t see them. They’re all soaked in. If it actually is what the British man says it is. I wonder. And my heart still beats fast.

Because, whether that piece of wood felt the drips of Jesus’ blood or not, I know what has. My own soul.

Four Ways To Help Find The More That Jesus Promised

Every day last year was a first. An exclusive. The sole September 6th I would spend living in the Land of the Deutsch. The only December 1st, April 13th, May 20th, I would spend in residence in the foreign land called Bayreuth, Germany.

Every day was an adventure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And it was easy to  recognize. Because, well, I was living in Europe. An American mom finding my way through a foreign culture filled with tiny refrigerators, screen-less windows and cashiers who cared nothing for the speed at which I could bag my own groceries, as long as I got them out of her way.

But last year is over, and we are now back home. Back to life inside the comfortable.

Where I know how to do groceries and banks and post offices. I have no problem answering  simple questions from strangers on any given topic. (Where is Chipotle? or Do you know what time it is?)

And it’s easy to forget my life is still an adventure. Because it feels a little less than when I wake up to boxes that (still!) await my motivation to unpack them. Every day seems a bit too normal to feel like adventure.

As I wrote through the journey of our year in Germany, I often wondered what might happen when it led us back to Ohio. Would I still have stuff to write? Would you still want to read it? Would it still feel fresh and interesting and new every time you visited this cyber land place that bears my name?

Deep down, I knew the answer. Because I started this blog long before we ventured into the land of unknown on the other side of the world. I wrote here for years before the everyday held something so new it had the potential of breaking me into pieces.

It’s all a journey, isn’t it? Every. day.

and. then. some. more.

But sometimes the living feels less than more. (Man, I hope that makes sense.)

The truth is sometimes the wake-up in the morning is all it takes to feel alive and find the more that Jesus promised when He said He came so I could really live.

So I could have more and better life than I could ever dream up.

Then other days, it just feels like survival. Many days, in fact, the living and the more He promised looks like a bit of a farce. And it’s tempting to watch other people who seem to have grasped the adventure He promised and settle on living vicariously through them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s why I prayed for you every morning when I walked that Richard-Wagner Strasse after dropping off my kids at that Germany Montessori Schule. I prayed that as you read about my crazy mishaps and hilarious mis-speaks you wouldn’t settle for the idea that I’m the lucky one who gets to actually live.

I asked God to show you the more even as you drove your kids to school each morning. As you dodged cars in the Walmart parking lot while pushing your 300-pound shopping cart with the wobbly wheels that face four different directions.

And I asked Him to show me how to find the more even after I got home to Ohio.

So here I am, exactly three months after landing on this side of the Atlantic, looking for adventure of a different sort. And asking you to join in.

It’s taken on a different flavor than the one that smelled like bratwurst and beer and apple strudel. And lots of bike rides and walking and German-speaking bus-drivers.

But it’s still the flavor of living more. Still the finding and the wanting to know Jesus so well that we can’t help but chase Him hard into whatever He leads us into.

Finding the more. In Jesus.

And here’s how you can join in…

Join in the discussion right here or on the facebook page. Let’s help each other find the more and better life Jesus promised by talking about it when we catch glimpses.

What’s the more Jesus showed you today?

What adventure has He led you into? What’s He showing you about Himself that has you floored? Confused? Amazed? Enamored?

Maybe it’s in the form of  holding a barf-bowl for your 9-year-old. Or remembering the way your dad always pointed you to Jesus.

Maybe it looks like quiet morning coffee alone on the back porch. Or a 15-hour drive to a friend’s lake house in Montana.

Maybe it’s in tears shared with a friend whose husband just left her with three kids and a hamster.

I do not know what it looks like for you. But I do know this:

Jesus promised more and better life when we follow Him. And I believe Him.

So I’m gonna’ search until I find that more and better. And I could really use some company. Because sometimes the search gets hard and dark. And I’m going to need reminding sometimes about the promise and the chasing and the finding.

How about it? Will you join me? Here are 5 quick ways you can help find the more Jesus promised…

1. Ask God to show it to you. Then commit to looking.

2. Join the discussion here by leaving a comment or sending me an email.

3. Come over to my facebook community page and talk about it over there.

4. Tweet it or Instagram it and us the hashtag #moreinJesus.

Let’s search for more in Jesus. Together. I know we will find it. He promised.

In Which I Confess I’ve Not Yet Found My Footing

I wake up around 9am. It’s Thursday, July 4th, and I am home in my bed in Ohio.

A year has passed since my family and I spent our first holiday away from the normal of family surrounding us, cooking out with friends, watching fireworks, grilling hot dogs, eating watermelon and red-white-and-blue Jell-o molds.

It was on a Wednesday last year. My husband had to work. Because, strangely enough, Germans don’t call the 4th of July a holiday. They just treat it like any other day.

I felt a bit lost last year in the newness of that strange-to-us place, celebrating the birthday of my homeland from the other side of  the ocean.

But that pushed me into a plan. We made the most of our Americanness and celebrated with paper-made fireworks displays and a parade in our tiny German living room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Somehow, though, I feel lost this year too. Even though I am now safely Stateside. And the 4th of July has now passed in all its glory. Fireworks, friends, bbq’s and all.

It’s not that I don’t want to be here. I do.

I am so happy to be home. Continually amazed at the growth I’ve been able to see in both of my kids. Deep-in-my-heart encouraged by the mere gathering I get to do with other Jesus-followers now on a weekly basis. Sleeping on my own long-lost pillow in my very comfy king-sized bed.

I do want to be here. Right here at home.

But something is amiss. I can’t seem to find my footing. Can’t grab hold of the comfort and relief I thought I would feel the minute we stepped back into our home. Or at least by now, a whole month later.

We go shopping for a few things, and it hits me just how grumpy I am. How unsettled I still feel.

And I realize I am angry.

Angry at myself for taking so long to re-enter life here.

I try to figure the depth of the issues. The anger. The grumpy. I can think of only one solution.

The one I am fairly sure will not bring instant relief.

I pray.

I go back to this morning, and every one of the last 71 mornings, when I laid on my face and begged God to help me remember He’s Who is in charge. Plead with Him to help me trust His ways again today. Tell Him again I will follow if He will lead.

It’s become more than habit for me. More than just discipline.

Laying myself out before the God of my life has become my foundation.

The only piece of Rock my feet can seem to find. The only solid piece of anything from which I can find enough balance to even sort of stand up in this midst of the unexpected wobbling caused by this whole re-entry thing.

It sometimes feels like the only place that hasn’t changed since walking back into life over here is the laying on my face, wholeheartedly confessing my absolute need for God to walk me through the day that awaits me on other side of my bedroom door.

So many of you ask “Are you all settled in?” I love seeing you. And chatting. And hugging you.

I want to say “yes! We are so glad to be back. I so badly want to tell you how our lives are changed forever. I want to invite you over to my completely settled home, free of all the clutter we threw out after our year of not needing any of it.

But the truth – oh the truth — holds me back.

Because I am nowhere near being settled. My heart is stuck somewhere between Bayreuth, Germany and Northeast Ohio. Iceland, perhaps?

And I feel like a total Drama Queen for it.

Because, really, isn’t a year long enough? Isn’t twelve months an ample amount of time for unsettled and moving and figuring out how to be and who to be? Honestly, nobody wants to hear more drama.

Not even me.

So here is where I tell you how dear you are to me. And I ask you for even more grace than you all have already given as I figure out how to be me, all changed and upgraded by the uncomfortable and awesome or our year abroad.

In the meantime, I will keep waiting for the God of all I am and all I know to show up and point me in the way I should go.

 

 

 

 

The View That Never Changes

I’ve come close a few times. Sitting on the back porch, pen in hand, journal and Bible open. Ready to put words to the processing I do as I unpack a box, lay in my bed, drive across town, throw a load in the washer.

We made it home to Ohio ten days ago. After a year living abroad, we now move back into our real home. But the clear processing and writing hasn’t actually started.

Somehow the words haven’t made it to my fingers quite yet. The thoughts haven’t formed into actual words.

I know they will. In time.

So much that fills my brain that tries to escape but can’t find words. Memories of there. Pressures from here. Excitement about things like cashiers I can chat with and drive-thrus I don’t have to build up courage or plan out vocabulary for. The strangeness of re-inserting ourselves into life as we knew it, only we’re different and it somehow all seems new.

So for today I will write about how it’s not yet ready. And I will show you the view that I pray my eyes never fail to find, now matter where I live or what I do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s your view look like today? (Beyond the Word of God.) I would love a peek into your world as my eyes re-adjust to my own.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

40

I got to chat with one of my favorite friends last night on facebook. She asked me how many days now. How many days until I’m home sitting in her house eating tacos and drinking coffee. (First tacos. Then coffee. Or vice-versa. But not tacos with coffee. Just to be clear.)

I knew it was two days less than six weeks. So I did the math. It took a minute. Math has never been my strong point.

Forty. I realized last night that I have forty days left.

So I typed it out for her and we both said how spiritual that sounds. And Third Day started singing in my head, and now I can’t get it out.

I did a quick google on the significance of forty, and learned some interesting things. For example, forty is the only number word in which the letters are presented alphabetically. How cool is that? Also, how crazy is it that someone figured that out?

But I was thinking more along the lines of 40 days in the Bible. Like how Jesus was in the desert, fasting for 40 days. Or how it rained on Noah and his family in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights.

So I narrowed my search a bit and found this list that reminded me of so many different times the number shows up all through Scripture. I learned that God used the number to represent periods of judgment or testing.

Um. Okay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But I was kind of looking for stories that took forty days to unfold.

Then I saw Exodus 24 on the list and learned that it took God forty days to give Moses the plans for His tabernacle. Moses was up on top of a mountain alone with God for 40 days, learning how to build God’s home for, you guessed it, the 40 years it would take them to get to the Promised Land.

So, I was thinking, what if these next 40 days are like my mountain time alone with God? No, I’m not gonna’ go find Maria and camp out on top of an Alp until June 6. (As awesome as that would be.)

But what if God wants to get me alone and teach me more of Him for the next 40 days? What if He just wants me to shut up and listen to Him in the quiet of rightnow before I get back to my life on the other side of the world?

What if, for the next forty days, I just shut up and look for what He might be using to prepare me for whatever’s next. What if I give up the platform-building and the seeking fame as a writer and the doing my best to present myself as a social-media performer? And what if I just listen. For forty straight days?

It’s a little bit scary because what if my blog falls apart in my focus switch? Or what if you all get bored with whatever it is that shows up here in this little land called briannaRwasson(dot)com?

I’m gonna’ try it anyway.

And, while I realize that you are probably not at the end of some across-the-world journey that has a mere 40 days left, I invite you to join me in the quiet. Forty days of zero fame-seeking, platform-building, plan-making or jumping ahead of God trying to figure out on my own what’s best for this thing called my life. And I’m going to just listen.

I’ve started by looking for what might be hiding inside a certain Psalm I’ve been recently intrigued with. I’m going to ask Him to show me all its treasures. Gonna’ beg Him to help me know Him so well I can’t help but be madly in love with Him.  Pray for Him to prepare me for whatever waits for me at home.

And I’ll check in here time and again. I hope you will too.  It’s kind of weird because I don’t know exactly what it will look like. If you subscribe, though, you won’t miss any updates.

Happy 40 days, my friends.

When Terror Hits Home and You’re Not There

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last summer when America went crazy for chicken (or at least about it) as Dan Cathy proclaimed his belief in the Biblical definition of marriage, I read about it on facebook. I watched through the eyes of a foreigner as friends fought with words and took action both for and against the stand of Chick-fil-A.

I read in July about a man with a gun in a Colorado movie theater. And my heart broke for the fear of those nearby. For the horror of those affected. I watched from afar, an onlooker glad for the non-option of taking my kids to the movies last summer, living in this foreign-speaking land in which we only knew a few words.

In mid-December, when a shooter walked into an Oregon mall and started shooting, I was checking up on facebook and noticed my cousin’s status. She lives in Oregon. So I did a quick search and found news of a man in a Christmas-shopper-filled mall walking in and shooting three people, including himself.

Two days later I was sitting on my couch when I first learned a 20-year-old man had wreaked havoc at an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 27 people. Again, it was facebook that informed me of the horror.

I cried.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When my kids saw me crying I realized the blessing of the built-in filter through which they could learn the news. No picture-filled newscasts. No background screaming and crying as news anchors interview parents or friends or teachers.

Then I read status after story after blog post and more about the fear such news evoked in my friends at home in the States. Afraid to send their kids to school. Not sure whether homeschooling might be an option.

Being 4284.8 miles away from home gives me a different, almost detached perspective on national tragedies.

I have to choose my news sources. Have to seek it out. Often I can’t find more than a few sources to choose from, so I read what I can find. Of course we get German news, but we understand little, so we mostly avoid it.

As such, I find myself in a unique position.

I see my friends react from inside the fray of the ever-so-close terror, and my heart reels  as I watch somewhat objectively from these thousands of miles away.

I understand the fear. I used to live inside it.

It’s the kind that holes you up, leaves you lifeless and shaking, pretending for your kids that everything is fine. Begging God to protect you, to protect them, from the evil that seems to be exponentially multiplying, getting closer by the day. Lurking just behind the gun laws and the new alert systems and the border patrols.

I know that fear well.

And I am tempted to let it back in when I see my friend’s status Monday night asking for prayer for a friend running in Boston whose safety is yet unknown. It prompts me to search twitter then CNN.com.

Yes, fear knocks loudly when I read about bombs that take lives and limbs and the joy of the finish from both runners and loved-ones alike during America’s iconic marathon in Boston.

Suddenly those less-than eight weeks left here in the Land of the Deutsch sound less appealing, and I wonder if we should just stay here.

Do I really want to return to that place where people get shot just for going to a movie? Or Christmas shopping? Or school? Where bombs blow up people just cheering on their dad who’s running the race of his lifetime?

I am tempted all day to re-think my excitement. What if we just stayed here? Maybe we could avoid the terror that might happen when we get home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then the bobbling buoy of truth takes an above-the-water swing, and I grab it long enough to remember. It’s the truth about fear and afraid of which I cannot lose sight.

There is a certain kind of afraid that will actually lead us into more life rather than keep us from it. It’s called the fear of God.

With all that I am, I remember that God is worth fearing because He is good. He Himself is real life. And if I bank on that truth, I will only live.

He is good enough to know what’s best. Good enough to not let me go where He is not.

I can say boldly that somehow, even in the middle of that summertime movie theater, that elementary school hallway in Newtown, Connecticut. Yes, even in the midst of that Boston street yesterday — God is still good. He is still worth fearing.

He is so good that He grieves with the victims. Stands by and listens as they yell at Him for letting such a horrible thing happen. So good He will wait and keep loving. Keep grieving.

I don’t know why He let it happen. But this I do know: God is good. And He is worth all of my trust because He is Who He is.

So I will trust Him enough to follow Him back to the States just as I have trusted Him enough to bring me here to this foreign land. I will take Him for Who He is and trust that He somehow knows best. That He sees what I cannot.

Because I know Him, I know He can be trusted. Even in the midst of the terror-ridden races and the fear-laden newscasts.

I do not understand. And I do not like it.

But I have nothing to fear.

Because God is still good.

Maybe you don’t get it from deep inside the fear. If that’s the case, might I suggest reading this short little book called Life Unafraid. Perhaps it will give you some needed courage to really, truly live. Or maybe just remind you of a truth you’d forgotten from long ago. You’ll find it in the top right-hand corner of this page. Or you can click right here. Type in your email, and I’ll send you the link to the book.