welcome home sky soldiers!

Nine months ago some of my closest friends here went to go fight in a war. Today we welcomed them home. After signing on my German friends (and one Irish friend visiting one of them) to the post, we arrived early, expecting it to start at 1500. False. Then we realized that most welcome home ceremonies end up being late, because we have to wait for the soldiers to get there from the airport. The ceremony didn’t start until two hours later. We were getting anxious! However, I can’t really explain to you what it was like to just sit there and people watch at something like this. Moms herded their children to a seat, some kids had made signs for their daddies, some were carrying balloons, and some were wearing t-shirts with their daddy’s photo on it. They handed out American flags and pins to the crowd, and even my German friends waved theirs proudly. I saw a couple of my high school kids there too, getting ready to welcome home their dads. It was an amazing sight and an amazing feeling as the anticipation and happiness in the air was contagious.

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My high school friend Tori and her family

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Setting up

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Kat, my new Irish friend, Salome, and Jess, having fun “being American”

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DSC_0020The German/American crew waiting patiently

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Suddenly and without warning, the curtain slowly went up, and the sight of over 100 combat boots standing in formation representing friends, daddies, mommies, husbands, and wives was enough to make me tear up and get goosebumps. As they stood right in front of us, they weren’t supposed to smile and we had to wait. It was torture! My friend Chaplain Martindale offered a prayer and the post Commander said a few words but dismissed us fast! I took a video- the whole ceremony was only about 3 minutes long (sorry for the blurryness):


It’s impossible not to be proud to be an American after that. And to enjoy the glorious reunions!

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DSC_0031Jonathan came bearing German gifts 🙂

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The Huisjen kids (whose missionary parents run the Hospitality House- a ministry to soldiers) missed Karl

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Monte and Brook

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He sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

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Snapped this one as we were leaving- don’t know them but this was beautiful.

So grateful to God for bringing my friends home safe, and grateful for what they do for us. Being in the Army is hard in many ways, but these guys do it with an incredible reliance on God to get them through each day. So glad to have them back with us! The reason I think things like this strike at our emotional core is that we are relational people. We are not meant to be apart. This ceremony was a reminder to me of the beauty of the reunion we will have in heaven one day with everyone we love. The anticipation builds.

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Frohe Weihnachten!

Some things I loved about my German Christmas:

The woodstove:

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Putting together stars:

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Family piano playing:

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The confusion that ensues when you mistranslate baking soda to baking powder, then have to Google what is equal to baking soda in German, then have to find it in the kitchen after momma has already gone to bed:

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Real vanilla:

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Providing the egg nog from the base commissary:

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A gloriously successful cross-cultural attempt at baking American cookies in a German kitchen:

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Going to a Big Band Christmas concert…

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…with a Santa from America

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The outdoor Christmas tree tied to the roof:

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Learning how to play “Stille Nacht” on the…wait for it…accordion:

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The children’s choir singing to Jesus in German:Image

Going to church in the industrial area of Wurzburg:

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The gifts on Christmas Eve:

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Scarves:

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Exchanging culturally unique gifts:

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Playing with die Katze:

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Tacky singing Christmas ties:

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Christmas dinner, with duck, sauerkraut, potato dumplings, etc.:

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An incredibly comfy bed where lots of sleeping and napping and movie watching happened:

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An unusually warm and sunny week:

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Hiking up to this castle tower with lights around it to make it look like a candle:

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Playing Carcassonne (and Rummikub):

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Taking the ::cat:: for a walk in the rain:

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do you realize?

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — Every, every minute?” -Thornton Wilder, Our Town

This was the gorgeous view of the sunset Saturday from the 5th floor terrace at my friend’s apartment where I spent one of my favorite evenings. We ventured out to just sit and marvel. Just inside in the commons room,  Iranians celebrated the Muslim holiday Ramadan. As I sat outside with my German friend, a German homeless woman with flowing gray and white hair and a timid smile, and an outgoing, extremely intelligent Brazilian professor who spent 10 years living in America as a journalist joined us. He made the homeless woman dinner out of the fish she’d brought to him, we ate German plums and French baguettes, and talked about the state of America after 9/11, working on a military base, American politics, and he practiced his German. Later, several German friends joined us, so we got out the nice wine glasses, and put on some Brazilian music I’d bought in Italy.

Four different languages danced around the table with the occasional phrase in French, and Portugese between two. We toasted in multiple languages, translated back and forth for each other, and spoke of violence and war and philosophy and media influence and God and relationships. The evening was cool as we wrapped blankets around our chairs. Hours went by that we didn’t even notice. It was deep conversation at its best, and most culturally diverse.

It was one of my favorite nights since being here. Hands down.

God. Is. So. COOL.
and…
so, so much bigger than we know.

One of those days.

Well.  Here’s a newsflash for all of you: This job, that I love, in the country, that I love, sometimes sucks.

What?

Sometimes there’s one day when suddenly, nothing is okay. You get a notice of another upcoming goodbye, and it piles on top of the fact that you’re missing one of your best friends’ weddings. And your heart was still reeling from the countless other goodbyes and just a hard week in ministry and you just spent a week dealing with your ID card so when this happens it adds some extra weight and it just collapses. Shatters. Explodes. Whatever verbage you prefer. Life is all of the sudden totally unfair, unstable, and unpredictable. Yet, you chose it, so you feel like you’re not allowed to feel that way. Guilt. But you’re tired. Putting on an Okay Face does that to you. So the other day I forgot to put on my Okay Face. Oops.

Then a good friend reminded me in the midst of my meltdown that I was allowed to have those days. That she knew it didn’t mean I hated Germany, or my job, but that today I did, and that was normal. The way she sat and let me cry and said it was okay for life to suck kind of reminded me of the way Jesus hung out with the people he knew that were crying over his friend Lazarus dying. He was totally in control of the situation, knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but he still had emotions. He cried. He understood the pain of loss. Not only that, but the whole time he was on earth he dealt with people who left him, or people he had to leave as he traveled around doing what God told him to do. How the heck did he do that??

I remember reading the gospels and being struck by how sassy Jesus was. Yep, sassy. (According to Mirriam-Webster, i.e. lively, bold, and full of spirit; cheeky.) He wasn’t afraid of anything and he didn’t let people dictate his reactions and just said it like it was (like a Northerner). There were so many times when he could’ve changed his plan to hang out with his friends or he could’ve let peoples’ critical attitudes toward him change how he felt about himself, but he was just. so. grounded. He constantly talked about what his Father wanted, and how that was his one and only purpose. He lived with direction and when he felt overwhelmed he retreated to talk to his Father. Sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane he was freaking out about what God’s will was, knowing his purpose was about to be literally as painful as hell and just plain didn’t want it at the moment.

Some days I sweat drops of blood, in my car, on the autobahn, while I hit the steering wheel and tears I’ve held in for quite some time come bursting forth like they are coming up for air. Some days I just want to go home.  The problem with that is, however, I’m homesick for a place that’s not my home anymore.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
-Matthew 19:29

He still has to hold me, as I’m driving with my sweaty drops of blood all over the car seat. He has to hold me while I’m kicking and screaming and wanting out. He calms me because he knows me, unlike everyone who has come and gone in my life, he knows every single thing that makes me who I am. Every place I’ve been, every person I’ve loved and lost. That kind of dedicated love is empowering beyond anything I’ve ever known. It’s amazing what you feel like you can handle when someone loves you that much. Even when you can get frustrated and mad at him and confused with where the heck he’s going with your life.

My Okay Face betrays me in this. It makes me look all calm and together and in control and perfect, when actually I am weak and exhausted and sad and failing and angry and have trust issues and blah blah blah.

My Okay Face keeps Jesus from wedging himself in and sitting there with me, in the dark, and letting me rest my head on his shoulder. His strong, strong shoulder. The shoulder of the one who is In Charge. I identify with this dude Job in the Bible, who lost everything, and ranted to God for hours. God finally gave him a talkin’ to…

Look, who made all this AWESOME stuff? Who put you in freaking Europe? Who gets to have this life?? Who gave you a friend for this moment of breakdown and who provides for your daily needs so you are never hungry? Who designed the universe in the most creative, specific way? Chew on that one for awhile.

And Job does and I do. The next morning I woke up to new mercies. I remembered that gratitude precedes joy, and that thankfulness is really all that God requires of us. It’s funny because not only does God delight in our noticing His gifts, but it delights us, too. How easily I forget.

A friend once wrote in her blog when she was having a similar day, something she heard God say– The perfect and glorious Ruler of the universe is your best friend. This means     you never have to fight for my attention. You never have to wonder how much I might love you today; you never have to try to recapture my affection. I died for you. That is ALWAYS your answer.

That is always my answer. His Love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me. Even on the Not Okay Days.

Birthday celebrations

This has been one of the best weeks ever. Not only was it a great week of ministry, and not only did I have 3 people randomly contact me to send support after a dry period, and not only did God provide a new used car for me after finding out my current one is not worth fixing…BUT I also had one of the best weekend celebrations of my birthday ever.

As some of you know, my laptop computer is old and broken. I resolved to have my next computer be a Mac  so I was trying to save. My parents, combining Christmas and my birthday, sent me a Macbook pro that arrived on my birthday! I was very surprised, and very grateful for God providing yet another huge thing I needed this week! Then I had a small group meeting with my middle school girls who gave me a huge picture frame with a ton of photos of us from sleepovers, Adventure Camp, chapel, etc. and it was so sweet! I ended the day with dinner with 2 good friends on post at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

The next day Josiah and Storey (Club Beyond staff) came to visit for the weekend. Storey got a recipe for my fave dessert from my mom and made it for me! Then I gave them a short tour of Bamberg. Right as we were about to go to our dinner reservations at the famous smoked beer restaurant, I saw the couple we’d noticed wearing Chacos in the monastery we’d visited earlier (no one wears Chacos in Germany) and LO AND BEHOLD he was wearing a Young Life fleece! I turned to Storey and said “Should we talk to them???” And we all walked up and started a conversation. They are YL volunteers in Minnesota, and are traveling the world for a year together! We had such a good conversation about places they’d/we’d been that we invited them to dinner with us, and then to dessert at my apartment! Afterwards, we played Dominion together and then exchanged Facebook info. It was so cool to randomly meet members of our Young Life family in the middle of a city in Germany. If you want to follow their adventures around the world this is their blog: http://jdtraveljournal.shutterfly.com/

We ended the night with doners (delicious Turkish food) downtown after venturing out to see all the St. Patrick’s Day excitement. The next day they came to chapel with me, we went out to eat at my favorite Italian restaurant, and then went for a walk in the park.

It was a great weekend with good friends and just what I needed. God has provided so much for me lately and I’m overflowing with gratitude.

pod day 40 – rothenburg

I went to Ansbach to meet up with several awesome Club Beyond friends in the area to celebrate Storey’s birthday. We spent the evening in Rothenburg, which as I found out AFTER I left, is where they filmed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! My Aunt Lois would have appreciated this. She always brought awesome old Disney movies like that one over when she babysat my brother and I. Thus, I am fully educated on the wonderfulness that is that movie. ANYWAY. We ate dinner and took a night watchman tour. It was cold. Fall is here. Rothenburg was a beautiful way to welcome in fall and celebrate the birth of a friend I love so much!

A Jewish memorial

Josiah and Storey trying to figure out what this scene is. It’s a fun game.

The bells rang and these little windows opened up and these little figures came out drinking beer.

The Night Watchman tour. This dude was funny.

Aretta noticed these wine bottle characters in a window. Hahaha

We walked around the city walls. It was kind of creepy and yet cool.

The birthday girl blows out her animal print candles.

pod day 39 – first home football game

I met up with Kenzie and Tori, two awesome high school girls that I know, and we made the boys a sign for their first home football game of the season! It was extra funny because we had to look up the other team’s mascot…but before we did Tori joked about it’s too bad they don’t have a mascot like Dragons so we could write “Slay the Dragons” or something clever like that. Haha! We destroyed the Alconbury (England) Dragons so bad that it should’ve been mercy ruled at halftime. We had fun 🙂