Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hold your tongue

The further south the worse it got. I looked over at Christoph who's hands were kept from shaking by the stability of the steering wheel. His quivering breath gave the dire situation away. One more hill to go and we would be clear of it. Driving the whole length of Germany a couple days before Christmas in a blizzard would have never crossed my mind as something I would be doing 3 years ago. But indeed here we were. It was a rare occasion that this particuclar part of the autobahn located in the dead center of Germany, the Kassel Berge(Mountains) would be slick with ice. Don't be deceived by the name. These were not exactly mountains, but very steep extended hills. Have you ever in your life when given a difficult situation felt like if you believe it hard enough, and hold your breath you would make it through? I felt this way on this specific night after almost pooping my pants. We were dodging cars, gliding in awkward directions, avoiding going anywhere near the struggling semi's beginning to shift sideways. Poor Chrsitoph was holding his tongue from profanities being conscious of my parents in the back seat. I was still holding my breath and now my bladder, praying. My parents probably doing the same.

It's interesting to think of what people do or how they react in a crisis. Some people pray, some people think, some people's bodies react in strange ways, like peeing their pants, or even worse. I can't say I have ever been so scared that I would pee my pants. Christoph the other day pretended he cut his finger off. I started crying and shaking uncontrollably and almost ran out of the room. My mind was not prepared to think of such a thing happeneing being this is my worst fear, and I almost had a nervous breakdown. Christoph regretted teasing me in this way after he calmed me down from crying and shaking. Horrible joke. Goes to say, everyone is different when it comes to when your adrenalin kicks in, giving sensation to a whole new mechanism in times of crisis. In this situation of almost getting stuck in one of the biggest backsliding traffic jams I have ever seen, all I could do was hold my breath, Christophs leg, and pray.

This was it. The last of three hills to struggle our escape would let us continue our journey to Gerstetten. Like a dream when you try and you try to get somewhere but you cannot, was exactly how I felt. The car in front of us began to stay in it's place. We had been behind this car since the beginning, and it had struggled just as hard as we had. The success of this car would be our success as well. They finally gave up and swerved to the right to let whoever could make it through pass by. We were one of the last to make it out. All of our prayers were answered. We made it! About fifteen minutes passed and I really had to pee now. We finally stopped at a Burger King, where they had a delicious greasy bite to eat while I had the worst salad ever created by any fast food restaraunt. Then it was on the road again. We had been driving for about 5 hours by this point. A distance that should have only taken about 2 hours. Bored from letting time pass, I decided to play a game on Christophs Iphone. Minding my own business, my parents minding theirs, Christoph still cruising along, everything seemed to be going ok. Instantly I felt a jerk creeping from the car to my stomach. We were sliding....bad. This time we were just struggling to get up a hill, we were speedily and rapidly getting out of control. Luckily Christoph like every other German driver that had to go to a driving class, knew what to do in these situations. All of us were silent as Christoph slid and corrected, slid and corrected. Finally we were going straight again. All of this happened within seconds and we were back to normal again, just a little bit more freaked out then before.

We made it to Gerstetten five and one-half more hours later, ready for bed. The next day we would venture to yet another Christmas market in Ulm before we made our way to the mountains to go see the family. The previous week was spent with my parents parading them around the city I know pretty well now. If we are not going to some random store in the outskirts of Hamburg, I know my way around. My parents were proud of me and had nothing but good things to say about my temporary home. Upon their arrival from the US they brought to me my cat and my keyboard. Just a couple more things to keep me occupied.

The time in the mountains is a whole other story I am going to have to tell next blog.

I hope all of your Christmas's weren't failed expectations or coal filled stockings, but a reminder of Christ's birth and all that He has done for us, as well as time well spent with family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Priceless life

23.93 Euro-Edeka grocery store

Banana's, apple's, carrots, cottage cheese, yogurt, butter, cheese, milk, eggs, rice cakes, rice, Hella Wellness mango drink, chips, flour. To keep us from going hungry and to fill my day with one of my favorite things to do. Cook.

15,30 Euro-Apoteka (Pharmacy)

Mascara for my eyelashes. Cat food for my cat coming tomorrow. Toilet paper for you know what. Carpet cleaner to clean up the coffee I spilled everywhere. Tea light candles to light up the kitchen every evening for dinner. Marzipan balls for Christoph's little pre Christmas present. Cheap windex to smudge the mirrors.

31,00 Euro-monthly metro/bus pass

To go downtown, To listen to the two homeless santa clause guys serenade me on the train, I payed them one Euro for one minute of a horrible version of Felice Navidad. To go see my friend on the other side of Hamburg, eat junk food all night and cry a little bit together. Read at starbucks to feel at home for an hour. Benni and Lea's to play the train game and watch the guys make us dinner. The Christmas market to drink hard apple cider and meet some Canadians. To pass by the homeless man singing on the curb with his dog. To try and get a job at American Apparel. To look at the beautiful Christmas lights reflect off of the harbor. Benni and Lea's again to accidentally scare Lea by saying we were someone else at the door. To go to my favorite coffee shop ever, occupied only with ancient couches and dim lights. Down the Sternschanse Strasse to look at all of the independent clothing designer stores. To go see concerts, then take a taxi home because riding the metro late at night you might get mugged by Turkish punks. To have awkward conversations with 3 drunk guys trying to speak English to me. To smile at people downtown and have them give me a strange look. To be held by my husband alongside the Harbor listening to a homeless guy play the acchordian.

800,00 Euro- Plane ticket to Germany

Be married to my love. Live and learn from my mistakes. Being terrified. Crying. Laughing at Christoph. Laughing with Christoph. Taking care and cooking for a man who would otherwise buy himself only Nutella and bread. Learning German. Writing in my blog. Reading. Laughing with friends. Laughing at Christoph. Talking about how I don't have any friends. Crying. Yelling at Christoph. Slamming the door. Leaving to buy wine and accidentally bought Champagne instead. Saying I am sorry a million times. Learning how to respect and love unconditionally. Talking to Mom on skype. Crying with my Mom on Skype. Happily crying with Christoph thinking about how we can grow old together. Complaining about the long days. Making dinner. Watching the Office. Laughing together. Reading our Bible every morning together. Being excited for our new business. Being excited I get to work again. Shopping once again for another apartment. Crying. Thinking all is meaningless. Finding hope in Christ. Doing Billy Blanks in the small section of our living room that I have to work out in. Buying grocery's. Hanging out till 1:30 am drinking wine and talking with friends. Freaking out about money. Rejoicing about even having money. Talking about getting a dog. Deciding we didn't want a dog after all. Had no money. Never seeing the sun for two weeks. Today I saw the sun. Tomorrow I probably wont. Who cares. My parents are coming to see me....

Living life-Priceless

Ok, scratch that it's really cheesy. Only if I had come up with it instead of the Visa Card company.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Independently broken

Have you ever felt you understood something with your head, but not your heart? It's as though many have shared it in different ways, and you have heard it so much it now has become the reality of other people's words in your head, instead of the actually acceptance in your heart.

Christoph asked me something the other day when he got home from work that devastated me. "How come you always seem so sad?"
First of all, I have a wonderful husband who in retrospect could have been angry or upset that I am always sad, but instead asked me lovingly how he can help and why is it that I am sad. Second, I did not realize the impact my sadness could make on someone else.

Funny thing is, I had no idea why I was sad other than the obvious. Different expectations I had were not met. I was feeling sorry for myself upon not having any friends here. I was missing my family. The list could go on and on really.But this goes deeper, as usually everything does. Perpetual bliss, I have realized is a thing of a past that never existed apart from God.

You see, in order for someone like me to learn, I have to first understand I cannot do it on my own. Being in a world that is practically fashioned from achieving things on your own, it is becoming less and less of a realization that dependence on anything other than yourself is false truth. Christoph just pointed out this morning, most people can't even share their last name upon getting married anymore. Not that this is wrong, only that it shows our independence as a person. I don't believe independence is wrong, at all, only by means of taking it to extremes does it have ground to be destructive to soul and spirit. My point here is that the underlying problem has to do with not only our need for physical independence, but also spiritual.

From the fall of man, we have gradually shifted into an even more independent generation than sometimes I would like to realize. I will go further to point out that this has personally effected my life in more ways than one, negatively promising that in my self sufficiency I can accomplish life on my own.

On the other hand, I don't think we all know how naive we are thinking we are independent in any situation. I can't even even get up in the morning without being dependent on the person who invented alarms, on the people who harvested and roasted my coffee beans, on whoever it was that made my peanut butter. Sorry to say it, but the Quakers show us all up on independence.

Believing we are all independently living, the most distressing is in thinking we are independent of the One who created us.

Take for example a child. Near our apartment building there is a little park accompanied daily by children who probably wake up in the morning just so they can go play on the swings. To them, this is the biggest part of their day. It's cold outside, and them being helpless on what to do when it comes to keeping warm, their parents layer them from top to bottom so they can barely move anymore. These stuffed waddling sausages are now prepared to run around and enjoy life at the playground, not realizing had their parents not bundled them up, they would probably freeze to death. Children are absolutely helpless upon being born and then slowly progress into individuals that can enjoy their own lives without the help of anyone else. It is in the nature of man to find his or her own way.

In my sadness I am realizing that it is derived from something much deeper. It is in myself I am fighting the spiritual battle. Today I realized that once again as much as I have heard from others what to do in this situation, my head is willing but my heart is not. I am doing it on my own.

So how do we get to a place of absolute surrender and reliance on God? By realizing that we do not have control. That we need to look at Christ as already have accomplished what it is we need to do. That no matter if we let ourselves down or whoever lets us down, we know that we have Christ. He is now the very essence of glory and honor at the throne of God, making it possible for us to be in a relationship with God. To be obedient in doing this goes against our fleshly nature as man, and causes friction in our hearts. Much like I have right now. I find it ironic that I can speak about this and believe it to be true, yet my feelings do not always follow. My will does not always comply. I am human. And I am once again brought to amazement that it is not what I can do to make myself happy, but only the Lord.

When we don't realize this, I believe bitterness and resentment then find their way into your independent mind, and set up camp until the next breakdown. My advice to myself and others who are going through the same thing...let go and let God, don't let resentful harboring thoughts set up dock. Pray, and give it all up to the One who has done it all. Much easier said than done.

Now let me go yell at my husband for always leaving the milk out. Just kidding. But really, he always does that.

To those who are reading this that do not believe in God, may read these words as nomadic rubbish. It is simply what I believe.

I am surprised on how philosophical I have been lately.

On a different note, I believe that when a woman feels more naked than without lipstick is when she is without mascara. Especially me because I don't wear much lipstick. When I don't wear mascara I feel like a 12 year old boy, and I just cannot go in public without it. Hence my problem today. Our sink in our bathroom has been leaking, and so I of coarse independently tried to fix it. This is bad when this happens because me fixing things turns into me breaking it even more because I believe it so true in my head that this is the problem. I broke it more of coarse so Christoph took out the drain plug, leaving any valuable things at a high risk for dropping down into the evil abyss of slimy drain sludge. My ring tried to jump in, but Christoph saved it just in time before suicide. There must be a couple bobby pins down there, eyeliner caps, and yes of coarse my mascara. Christoph laughed at me when I asked him to get it out. Seeing that his gag reflex is at a pitiful low it was probably not a good idea anyways. We would be cleaning up vomit as well as drain sludge. We were left with no choice, we had to leave it in there forever. I later on dared to walk to the store without any mascara and found myself staring at the ground the entire way. It seems silly that something so small could make you feel so much more beautiful.

I once tried to go a whole week without wearing any makeup at all. Turns out people don't even care. Imagine that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Echoing Hearts

"It's a Wonderful Life"

Not only is this a movie that reminds you of the importance of your own life, but also bring you to realize just what an impact you may have on others without even knowing it. In this movie the main Character George Bailey, played by James Stewart, exellently executes what it means to put others first before yourself not leaving resentment nor bitterness any room for hostility. So many times in my life I am thinking I am doing something selfless and considerate when really I am expecting something in return, or expecting sympathy. I feel that this can be even more dangerous than outright selfishness. Infact, it is not only worse because it further corrodes your spirit from self pity, but it also puts a burden on others of unattainable hope that you wish them to then offer back to you. I am not simply speaking egotism, but rather of a tainted charity.
George Bailey is not only given the chance to see what life would have been like without him, he was also given the ability to see into how precious life really is upon what we do with it.
Sometimes i find myself thinking that all I am doingl is meaningless. That if I am not out there on the streets feeding the homeless with my own crafted spoon, and self grown food then I am no better than someone who takes from someone else just to show that I am more generous. Where does this madness end, and why have I been given a mind to think these things in the first place?
Many of you have been lead to believe that your heart is portrayed by your thoughts, and your thoughts and how you execute them then shows your character. As I do agree with this statement I am also brought to the consideration that thank goodness no one can know our thoughts! What would be your character then? Would it be rendered the same? Would people see you differently? Of coarse they would. As your thoughts are in fact a reflection of your heart, rarely are we inclined to jump in sharing with others exactly what is it we are thinking about. It's hard to in effect say that you are not thinking of how you can further help others, but that you would like to help others so that people may see how splendid you are. You would never say that, but perhaps in catching yourself thinking that, believing you have a good-willed heart you will then correct your thoughts and sincerely help others with no strings attached. In truth no one really knows who exactly you are, but only the echo of who you are. Now that I have confirmed that we are all echo's of our thoughts, and we are loving echo's for who they are, and working for echo's, receiving from and giving to echo's I would like to complete my echo of a thought with a sincere truth.
God knows exactly who we are, what are thoughts are, why we have them. He created us, so He would indeed know. We are made in His Image. Isn't it interesting that even though our corrupt and vile thoughts are basically spoken to God out loud, He still finds it is His heart to extend His grace and love toward us?
I am not saying that every person is a fiend, only that every person is human. Every person struggles with who they are, bringing insecurity from the flesh, and therefore self pity is emerged.

I would like to tell you something that happened to Christoph yesterday.
Our car does not have an automatic light shut off, so when I parked the dar last week the lights were left on to suck the life out of the battery. It's funny because even though there is a loud shrill when you have opened the door and the lights are still on, I seem to turn a deaf ear to it every time. Yesterday upon realizing our battery was dead we had no idea why this would happen just before we wanted to spend a day together driving to the beach in North Germany. Christoph was not upset, but only called the AAA friendly service to put the annual money he was spending on it to use.

After biding our time for an hour before the service guy to get there, I waited in from the cold while the two of them figured out the whole mess. About fifteen minutes went buy and I decided I would go check on the situation. They were indeed done, and Christoph was sitting in the guys car talking. "Hmmm." I wondered what they were talking about. Christoph eventually got out and we both then sat in our car. He smiled and looked at me and said, "Well, I know why you left the lights on now. That guy just poured his heart out on me."
"Oh really what did he say?" I replied
"Well, the guy asked why the battery was dead, I told him you left the lights on, he said 'maybe you should get rid of your wife then,' and I said that actually I had just found her, he said 'oh I'm sorry.'" "He then continued to tell me about how his wife just left him after 25 years of marriage because she thinks that she would like to enjoy life without him. I stayed in the car and just listened the whole time while he poured his heart out, explaining his pain. Upon leaving I said how sorry I was, and God bless you if I may say that."

My point here is that upon our mistakes in life, I believe that God has greater purposes for our failures. It is in our failures He uses us the most. In our failures He is glorified. This lonely man needed someone to share his heart with. Someone who would not be biased or judgmental, but just someone to listen. In this case, if Christoph was only meant to be a listening ear, then that was worth me leaving our stupid lights on.

And so continues the world each one of us being used by God to bless others. You never know what an impact one kind word, a smile, a listening ear may have on someone's heart. Even if it is only an echo of your heart.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Do you have niiiiiiiiiiiiineteeeeeeeeen cents?"

It happened again. Upon every excursion I make whether it be to the grocery store, or down town, or even walking down the street, I am approached. I am not just approached by just anyone. It is usually a homeless person, someone who looks like they are in dire need of something, or someone making a comment about something(I usually have no idea what) and my only response is that I smile and laugh and act like I knew what they said.

The other day I was buying my metro ticket, and this drunk, older guy came up to me. He said. "Haben Sie neunzehn cent?" Which means, "Do you have 19 cents?"
First off, I obviously did, as he could see, I had a 50 Euro bill hanging out of my wallet. Secondly, why did he ask for 19 cents when there does not exist a 19 cent coin but only a 20 cent coin. Third, the way he asked it was so creepy because when he pronounced the "neunzehn (nineteen)" part of it he drew it out almost to an extended whiney yell, that caused me to smell his intensely unbrushed, alcohol drenched breath. So it sounded more like this, in German though. "Do you have NIIIIIIIIIIIIINETEEEEEN cent?"
I replied, "Nein" (no).
Then, to make things even better he stood there the whole time I was using my money, taking out all my coins, and then getting all my change back. He just stood there. Staring at me. I then started to feel guilty, so of coarse I gave him ninety cents, even though he asked for nineteen, because at first i misunderstood if he was saying nineteen, or ninety. Ninety cents I gave this drunk mad man. I guess it wasn't enough even for him because he then continued to the next person asking for "NEEEEUUUUUNNNNZZZEEEHHHN cent!"
They of coarse denied him.

Leaving the house yesterday I said to myself, "Ok, as long as no one talks to you, you will be fine."
I had to go down town to get some supplies for my craft project and some Christmas decorations. My first interaction with a German was in the metro station. I was just about to get on the escalator when this guy...let me give you a visual. He was wearing an entire bike suit with his bike in hand, had on sporty looking sunglasses, and a helmet. In the metro station. That already is strange. He came up to me, even though there were many people around and said something. He had a speech impediment, making my understanding him a bit more difficult. He looked like he needed an answer to something and was very frustrated. I said to him once again, like I tell everyone. "My German is not so good, I'm sorry I can't help you." He looked at me after I had said this and seemed as though someone had just died. Everyone was looking at us. My face got really hot, and probably turned bright red. All I could do was walk away. So, here i was. I had no idea what he wanted, people were looking at me like I was a horrible person, and he watched me walk away like I had just murdered his mother. What have I done! All I want to do is go get some stupid Christmas decorations to make it seem at least a little bit like Christmas.

When I got to the store I was in the check out line, and of coarse one of my stockings had no price tag. The cashier lady I think asked me if I knew the price. I said "I have no idea." In German. Then after I said that I think maybe she asked something else because she gave me a strange look and then walked away.

Another time, I was at the grocery store waiting in line. It was a pretty long line and the two women in front of me and this other guy kept leaving to get stuff and then coming back. The guy in front of me and behind them made some sort of comment. I had no idea what it was, but he of coarse said it to me. It was probably something sarcastic like,"Are they shopping from the line or something?" All I could do was put on a smile and laugh nervously. He also gave me a strange look, and then turned around.

Am I wearing a sign that says, "I don't speak German very well" so people see that and say to themselves, "Let's go talk to her because she won't understand what I am saying and it will make her really uncomfortable." I think so! i think I am a walking target. Everyone here I tell this to, they say, "How do these things happen to you, it never happens to me?"

I don't know why these things happen but they do. Even in the states one time, I was checking out at Walgreen's, and the woman at the counter kept me there for about ten minutes telling me her life story. Also this guy at the grocery store, the same thing happened. He told me his life story, what he did, why he didn't like it, all within five minutes. He then asked me what I did, and I said I was a hairstylist. Of coarse after that he wanted a haircut. He then became my client for about a year, and was known as the Sasquatch sized weirdo who wanted to grow out one piece of his bangs so he could someday bead it like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Well, all this goes to say that I guess I don't mind it because it keeps me entertained and breaks me out of my shell a bit. But sometimes I really wish people could just let me be. Or at least after I tell them I don't speak that good of German, they would say, "Oh where are you from? Let's be friends so that you have someone to talk to."
Although I wouldn't want to be friends with homeless drunk guy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Apples galore!

Be where you are. Someone very wise once told me this.
To understand the depth of this way of life is a day to day struggle. Once you leave something you thought was not what you wanted, you look back to realize it was not so bad. To stop looking back you have to realize where you are now, and be there. God wants us to live in the present. To not worry about the future nor look back and wish we were there again.

Do I miss life in the states? Everyday.
I miss my family, my friends, my cat, my church. Almost everything. But where am I now? I am here. I love it here. If I were still in the states it would mean I would not have the wonderful husband I now have been so graciously blessed with. I would not know what bread should really smell like. I would not know how to say, "I love you" in a different language. I would not have learned that I cannot rely on anything but God when all seems hopeless and meaningless.
I am here, and I am so glad I am here. It has been nothing but a beautiful challenge that is meant to shape and mold me into who I am today. Today I am happy, and I can find joy because I know God has me exactly where He wants me. Helpless in myself, and hopeful in Him. Surrendered.

Friday we drove eight hours to southern Germany to help out in the annual Christmas exhibition for the Gruener company. One of those eight hours was spent in line at McDonalds, and unintentionally driving down the wrong autobahn. McDonalds was a prime time for people watching. Not to much different from the McDonalds in the states, it brought a sense of childhood back to my mind. I looked to my left and there was a little boy wearing True Religion jeans with flowers on the pockets, clinging to the leg of his father yelling, "I want my chicken!" To my right were construction men devouring their cheeseburgers, observing the backside of every woman that walked by. Straight ahead the girl behind the counter was flustered with the long line and kept walking back and forth not really accomplishing much. I on the other hand was content sitting on my stool watching people take a break from their lives to eat a greasy cheeseburger.

Arriving at almost twelve o clock exactly we hurried to bed to get some sleep before the craziness began. I really had no idea what to expect from this weekend as it was my first time doing such a thing. To everyone else, it was the same old thing done in appreciation for all of the business the clients have provided for us. I must say I am amazed at the preparation, and the creativity that was put into such an event. My brother in law Phillip spent his last couple weeks making about 72 drawers out of about 12 different kinds of wood. The dressers they created were a beautiful work of craftsmanship, given names such as "Rudolf" and "Jakob."

A Swebian man who was a professional apple taster sat all day tasting people's apples, brought from their backyard apple trees to find out just what kind of apple they had. Apples were everywhere. I probably ate more apple this past weekend than I ever have at one given time.

Real trees were cut off to look like they were growing out of the factory's floor. Table's were set up for people to sit down and enjoy some appetizers and cappuchino's. This was where I was stationed the duration of the time. I made many cappuchino's and liverwurst covered bread slices. Ewe. Not my choice food.

I spoke German most of the time. I probably spoke some pretty silly, offensive and horribly executed German. But that's ok. I have to start somewhere. I met a couple dentists, goldsmiths, doctors, family friends, all of which were clients of the Grueners.

It was truly a wonderful time that only brought a personal and caring touch to the business. You can really tell that the business is not only a professional and mastered one, it is all brought together by the creativity and freedom of everyone involved. I enjoyed myself very much.

We were then sent home with a basket full of apples that will last probably only a week for someone like me, and an arrangement of food that my mother in law always gives to us at every departure.

I have attached some pictures of the event to give you more of an idea. I am so proud of the family I married in to.

Yesterday I was in such a foul mood. Poor Christoph woke up to a monster ready to eat him. Strangely enough the only thing that really cheered me up after Christoph attempting the whole day to cheer me up, was him letting me flat iron his hair. We are also thinking about getting a dog to keep me company. The only dog that we both like, because we both aren't huge fans of dogs, are Irish red setters. They are beautiful, but expensive. We will see. I made Christoph watch Marley and Me to make him want to get one more. I think it made him want one less.