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Category Archives: Favorites From 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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How To Have a 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.

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How To Walk Into a Messy Monday

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Monday morning hits hard. It pulls the eyelids open. Drags the butt out of bed. The hot water of the shower washes away the groggy before I step out into the day. I wake my Mann and find my Bible. I am learning it’s the only way to function through the messy of a Monday.

The kids wake up and find the living room couches. We read together then pray before Mann says goodbye. A new Germany morning routine that works for us right now. Inside the messy of life in a foreign land.

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The youngest is tired, and life looks hard today. From this side of the week, she wonders how will we do it. It’s hard to step into Monday after a weekend of fun and together and easier than weekdays.

We pray words of encouragement. Ask the God of the messy for His strength and His peace. Then we step into our boots and out to the sidewalk.

This is a messy Monday.

The snow that fell yesterday has left rooftops white. Beautifully chilly. But our boots turn the snow into slush, and the pretty becomes less as soon as we step out into it.

That’s how it feels on a messy Monday — like all the perfect gets screwed up as soon as we traipse through it. And the youngest, she feels it today.

Because the different looks bigger when you’re tired. And the unknown feels scarier. And the solitude of learning how to communicate with even one other 8-year-old seems ominous and downright impossible.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She holds my hand, and we steady each other for the slippery sidewalks. We don’t say much as we cross the street. But we are all praying. Asking God for the steady hand to walk us through the day. Begging Him for the might He promised would be strongest in our weak. I remind her of that.

We get to the stop, and can’t find the new bus passes. The oldest has left hers at home. I scramble for coins to make up for the error. She tells me she’s sorry. And I smile and nod.

I am glad to know the German words for one ticket for my daughter. One ticket for me. But I can’t remember how much it will cost for the two. The driver waits as I fumble, tossing coins in the tray. She figures it out for me, as if I cannot add it up. But I’m over feeling stupid, and I grab my tickets and head to the back as we ride away from the stop and into our Monday. It’s messy for me, too.

We hold on to the railing as we surf Bayreuth’s morning bus ride. Fight off tired and messy and crowded and loud. And we pray in our hearts as the people pile on.

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I catch the youngest’s eye, and she’s struggling still. So I pray some more.

We reach school, and it’s time. So we talk as we walk. Praying and struggling and trying to find the strong that God promised. I know it will show up. I just don’t know exactly when.

So I kiss them goodbye. And I leave them in the hands of All-loving, All-knowing Father.

How Timber Changes Everything

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.

How To Watch Your Daughter Soar

She has wanted a cell phone since she could hold one in her hand. So yesterday when I gave her mine for the day, you can imagine her joy.

Her sister was sick. Well, sick enough to stay home from school and convince me that she needed a day to recover. It knocked our ride-the-city-bus-to-school-and-back routine out of whack.

I couldn’t just run her to school with the sick one in the back seat. I have no car. And what about after school? How would she get home?

My Mann did a u-ey on his way to work and came home so he could take her to school. Then my 10-year-old daughter and I discussed the options. How would she get home? She could ride the crowded bus full of all kinds of people. Like we do everyday. My girls and me together. Lots of kids do it without their parents. Even six-year-olds. But, well, being Americans in a foreign land full of people whose language we only sort of speak, we’re just not ready to join those ranks.

We could hope for the best and plan on the usual after school pick-up. Assuming the youngest would be fine by then. But at that point, I just wasn’t sure.

I guess I could walk home. She said it as if it were her own idea. I liked that. Something she refused to consider on days I don’t want a bus ride. But today was different. And somehow her walking the 2.1 kilometers home seemed less scary than switching buses in the central station and having her ride alone.

Really? I asked just to make sure the wax in my ears wasn’t teasing me. I assure you, it was not.

So I happily surrendered to the cell-phone battle for a school day’s time, and we made a plan. Call me as soon as you leave school. I knew she would. She’s a really good rule-follower when it means she gets to use the phone.

When she called me the first time, I could hear the smile in her voice. She was big, and I was helping her with it. A wing-spreading moment I was happy to assist. I could almost hear the growth plates of her heart as they stretched from little girl to prepubescent ‘tween. She filled the role well.

She called again to ask about stopping at the library down the street. More freedom I was willing to give. More maturity she was ready to attain.

You can bet I prayed her all the way home. And without a doubt I hugged her like crazy when she walked through that door. But it wasn’t for the fear of what might happen to my little girl. It was for the knowing Whose hand pulls her along and into the grown-up that she is becoming.

 

One day, I will send this little girl to womanhood. I will wave goodbye as she drives away in a car. I will help her move into a college dorm room. I will stand at the front of a sanctuary holding tissues as she changes her name to become one with a man I will then call my son. Someday my girl will have a life of her own. And yesterday was just a start. Because when that day comes, she will be ready.

And she’ll probably have a better cell phone than me.