Now that I’m back on US turf, I had to give the journey a new theme and take the parenthetical [In Austria] out of the title. It’s just a journey now. Doesn’t matter where I physically am.

Well, it sort of does matter where I physically am though. Because my heart is so happy to be home. And I love my own bed, that doesn’t sag in the middle and has my pillows and sheets. And I love being back with my parents and in territory where people speak English consistently. Being in church this morning was pure joy. Oh Jesus, thank you for my church back.

But my heart misses Graz and all the people I met there. The girls in the photo are just a couple of them. I’ve got new friends from all over now.

It’s not even just missing the tangibles though. I miss my life there. I’d just built one. I know now why people say you should go abroad for a whole year. I’d really just settled into my routine and my life when I left. Five months really isn’t long enough, but let’s be honest, I would be so much less than broke right now if I had been there a year. Also, I would miss America and my American people so much. Maybe when I’m not 20 I can do that. I do have limits, contrary to popular belief. ;)

I can think of all the cliches to talk about how I wish I could be in two places at once, to lead a double life, to bob my head like Jeannie and be back in Graz then come back here again in the blink of an eye.

So much better to leave wanting to be there than to leave thinking, “Whew, glad that’s over.”

I’m lagging. My heart and head are still in Graz, I think. Or maybe they are starting to migrate home, but it will take them longer than my body. I also got a huge wave of exhaustion when it hit about 4:00pm today and my body thought it was 11:00pm. That’s another type of lagging.

But the good thing about lagging is that it’s curable. Little more sleep, little bit of rest, little bit of contemplation about how I incorporate my two lives, little bit of coffee, lots of bits of Jesus, little haircut, and I think I’ll be good as new.

New. Because I am new. Newer. New and improved, for the most part. Just lagging.

A week in France.

Sometimes you’re spending a semester in Austria, and you remember that one of your favorite childhood playmates is living in France for a year. You think, wouldn’t it be nice to have somewhere to stay in France? I do want to travel… So, you send a Facebook message and look for a flight.

Then you think, Well, it has been a few years since I’ve seen her. She might not really want me to come. What if she didn’t really mean it? What if it’s weird and she doesn’t want to do stuff with me?

But she says, “come! it’d be fun! I can show you around!” so you book the flight. And you keep talking to her, and she really does mean it. She checks in on you every few weeks because she understands what it’s like to be alone abroad, sometimes just at the right time.

IMG_20140427_140949Turns out to be better than you ever expected. These are all the things you do:

– are met at the airport by an excited hostess and her French friend, who hosts you for a night in Paris

– quick tour of Paris in the morning, just hitting the highlights and taking pictures, buying a few lil souvenirs

– carpool to Rennes with interesting people

– sit in on an English private lesson with an adorable 15-year-old French girl and drink delicious tea while you’re at it

– she takes you grocery shopping and lets you pick out whatever you want (kind of like when you’re at Grandma’s house, but this is Europe, and you’re with a friend you’ve looked up to for ages)

– she gives you her bed while she sleeps on an air mattress that she pumps up with a hair dryer every night.

– you see Rennes, meet her co-workers, buy more souvenirs, tour the Parliament building, have a cheese party with the most lovely people

– she has a job to do on Friday, so she enlists a sweet friend to take you to Saint Malo, a beautiful town on the seaside. You walk and talk for hours and thoroughly enjoy every moment… and buy more souvenirs

– eat great new French food, talk about faith and studying abroad and what both of you have been doing over the past few years

– watch “Call the Midwife” together and talk about movies and literature

– be geeky together, since it’s rare that you can really be a geek with someone

– Visit the Rennes farmer’s market, buy the perfect elements of a picnic lunch: Comté, baguettes, avocados, tomatoes, special French pastries, strawberries, apples and eat it with friends

– meander around a beautiful garden that happens to have a waterfall

– get fancy hot chocolate and play cards at the cafe

– make more delicious food together

– visit the most beautiful abbey on an island, Mont Saint Michel (and you have The Beatles’ song “Michelle” stuck in your head for about half the trip), walk around, get nearly blown away by the strong bay winds, and come home feeling saltified and happy

– eat Ratatouille

– eat at least a little chocolate every day

– drink lots of coffee

It was a full week, but I never felt like we were running around, chasing down experiences. Instead, we just did what we felt like doing, which made for a lovely getaway. I’m treasuring these memories.


Square inches and sweet sadness.

If Europe has taught me anything, it has taught me to pack light because you will be walking with your bags and will wish you hadn’t brought the heavy things.. It’s taught me that every square inch in my bag is necessary, so yes, we’ll consolidate pills into one container so that you get three more inches. That way you can bring shampoo and conditioner.

Of course, you need your toothbrush, but two pairs of shoes is plenty for a week of travel. You can be a vagabond for a while. Vagabond, meaning that you don’t take all your colors of eyeshadow, bring one lipstick instead of two, don’t pack the kitchen sink, and plan to re-wear everything you bring at least once (except undies).

I feel kind of vagabondish today because I’ve been running all over Austria with my parents over the past week. I took the train to meet them in Salzburg, rushed around pointing at all the dirndls I wanted,


Ooooohed and aaaaahed over the gorgeous views around every corner,DSCN5745

And was ultra-touristy.DSCN5788Then we went off to Vienna, where we had another whirlwind adventure, seeing old stuff up close,


and from up high,


And eating… duh. You knew that was coming.DSCN5896

And holding up bags that have cake in them in front of the Hofberg palace.DSCN5898It’s still not over.

Then we went back to Graz, drank coffee at my favorite café by Uni,DSCN5906

ate amazing street food outside a lot,DSCN5907

saw another palace because we just hadn’t had enough,


and made friends with the peacocks that roamed the grounds.
DSCN5929That’s just the nutshell version. We also went to Slovenia for a picnic, because you can do that kind of stuff in Europe.

There was so much joy in the past week, so many new images stored away into our brains. It should have been enough for my heart to have 7 days and let my parents fly back home today without any fuss.

But of course, you can’t tell your heart when and when not to fuss.

I’ve been the one leaving, the one being picked up, and the one picking up, but I’m rarely the one dropping off. Today, I dropped my parents off at the airport, knowing that they would enter a plane soon afterwards that would take them to Minnesota. I hugged them both, then hugged them again because it wasn’t enough to just have one (when you’re away from home, you never know where your next hug is coming from). I played the mother and told them to text me at every juncture, then waved them off to security before I lost it.

It’s easy to say hello. It’s so hard to say goodbye. Not because we didn’t have a good time, not because I feel like I’ll never see them again, but just because “parting is such sweet sorrow” (Thank you, Shakespeare). Sweet because the sadness means we love each other, sweet because we plan to see each other in two and a half isn months. Sad because it just is, because there’ll be a gap between us.

For now, I pour my energies into packing into the red and pink bags, the ones that will clash so terribly as I walk through train stations and airports tomorrow. I’ll make myself an omelet because that’s what the grocery supply dictates, and I’ll watch Parenthood and be thankful for mine.

Wedding day beauty.

Walk in my front door (take your shoes off), go up 7 stairs, head down the hallway on your left, then enter the first door on the left. Oh, wait. You can’t because the floor is completely covered in wedding presents and decorations. It’s a glittery, snowflakey, boxy, bow-y, magical wonderland that gives a small glimpse into the beauty that was yesterday.

On January 10, 2014, my sister became a wife, and it was beautiful.

On normal mornings we don’t wake up with smiles and immediately listen to a sweet song about having a marriage that cherishes your spouse and looks ahead rather than behind. It was a beautiful moment, a pause for excitement in the quiet of 7:00 am.

It was beautiful.

With coffee in hand, she drove off to get her hair done while I pulled blueberry scones out of the oven and the family sat around drinking coffee. Then we pulled out our curling iron to bring our hair up to par. We added sparkly things to it and an inordinate amount of bobby pins and hairspray.

It smelled like caustic aerosols, but it was beautiful.

Then Brooke sailed in the door with curls pinned up on the back of her head. “I know how to put my veil on; you just stick it in then put two pins on the sides. She said it’s really easy!”

The photographer arrived with her cameras in holsters on her hips, like the artist version of a old west gunslinger – but with curled hair and red lipstick. She orbited around us while I dressed Brooke’s eyes with browns and tans then hung around the house, snapping pictures while friends and family came over for soup. We were warm and smiling and eating with people we love.

It was beautiful.

Then they all departed to leave us to our last minute preparations. I finished pinning my hair up and dressing my face, and Brooke and I sat at the kitchen counter as we had done so many other times throughout our lives, eating cucumbers and hummus and talking about how we felt like we should have something urgent to do. But it seemed the most pressing need at the time was snacking. We planned out our departure time and what we needed to make sure we didn’t forget to bring with us.

At 1:40 we started to get bags put together and hang garments in the backseat of her Hyundai. We put honeymoon luggage in the trunk and every little thing we could possibly need, including fancy shoes and mittens in the backseat. We hugged Mom, Dad, and Grandma goodbye then set out… to buy gas so we could make it to the chapel.

It was beautiful, something as normal as pumping gas, because we were together. Neither of us had to go through the day alone or without someone to be there for the little things.

I drove. We sang along to music, talked, and laughed. Something about the finality of an era has made every moment together during the past month even sweeter, more beautiful.

The incredible florist and her team turned the chapel and reception room into a wintery wonderland (in the truest sense of the word “wonder”) while the bridal party donned charcoal dresses and suits and ventured outside to capture the moment. The photographer stood in the snow, dancing a little every time she got a particularly good shot and promising us that the pictures looked so good they’d be worth the cold. The personal attendant ran around giving people mittens and checking on things, communicating and rearranging the train.

The bride was beautiful, the groom – dashing, the bridal party – elegant.

Later we all sat in the dressing room, re-fueling with turkey sandwiches and – in my case – pretzels, grapefruit juice, and granola. Once our blood sugar levels got back up, so did our excitement. The groom and groomsmen left, and it was just us ladies, talking, taking turns holding the bride’s heavy bouquet which had a shape that didn’t lend itself to being set down. Then, before we knew it, it was 6:45, so we gathered around the bride to pray.

It was a holy moment.

The next thing we knew, we were walking down the aisle in twos then standing, waiting for the doors at the back to swing open and reveal Brooke and my dad.

The organ signaled, the doors opened wide, and even though I know exactly what I was going to see, it took my breath away. My lungs got all tight because there’s something so beautiful about watching a proud father escort his radiant daughter to her new husband, walking in between crowds of people who love them.

It was so beautiful that tears crowded my vision.

The tears came back, too, when they started to repeat their vows. I had to start blinking fast as Alex stared into my sister’s eyes without once looking away, vowing to love and cherish her, forsaking all others for her until death separates them. I think it was then that I knew just how beautiful it was – how beautiful and good. The whole evening felt like a prayer and blessing over Brooke and Alex’s marriage. As Lloyd talked about how neat it was that all these people had stopped what they were doing to come show their support and love for Brooke and Alex as a unit, I watched many of them nodding their heads in agreement.

Relationships are beautiful.

Lloyd prayed for the couple at the end, and I know the breath of God descended on them. It was impossible to be present and not experience Heaven’s love and see a glimpse of what the kingdom of God is like.

It was beautiful.

I ended my evening by waiting in Brooke’s car for the couple as they walked through the crowd who had stayed til 10:30 to wave goodbye with glow sticks. May your marriage be filled with light, it seemed to say, and color! 

At so many times that day, I found myself pausing for a deep breath, because there’s something about beauty that makes it hard to breathe. There’s something about seeing the holy and sacred that makes your lungs seem temporal and unnecessary. There’s something about watching your sister make a huge life change that causes you to gulp for air, but the thing I keep finding impressed on me is how every aspect of their wedding day sparkled: the people, the interactions (because who’s going to be nasty at a wedding, especially one that has this aroma of Jesus?), the outpourings of love, the gifts, the beautifully dressed people, the glittery flowers, the Holy Spirit, the love between two wonderful people.

It was beautiful.

Remembering love.

Today’s a day that threatens to make my heart ache with memories of shock and grief, but instead I’m choosing to remember love.

When my Granddaddy passed away suddenly in the middle of the night four years ago, it knocked the wind out of our lungs. How do you stand and walk when you can’t breathe? It’s easy to just remember the pain since it was so acute – and still is most days.

But today I’m going back to the afternoon when I sat on the end of my bed with one of my best friends, who had come over immediately when I called and brought chocolate and her ears. She walked into my grief with me and didn’t try to fix it. She let me cry and cry and cry.

I remember when the doorbell rang, not someone we were expecting, and a friend’s mom was there, holding containers of homemade soup. I remember how she cried when she hugged us, and it wasn’t fake compassion. I remember tasting the compassion in the soup.

I remember when our friends from church came over, how their hugs squeezed tears out of me. I remember one of them saying while he hugged me, “Is this your first grandparent to lose?” When I nodded, he said, “It’s so hard,” and his validation made my enormous wave of grief leak out onto his suit coat.

I remember countless containers of food at my grandma’s house, how she wouldn’t have to cook for at least two weeks after the funeral. I remember that my volleyball team had sent beautiful flowers to her, all the way to Oklahoma to show solidarity.

I remember love. Those are some of the most Christlike examples of love I’ve known. And I think Granddaddy would want me to remember that, even though I could just as easily talk about how much I still miss him. How we all do.


Chilly winds and gray skies are ushering in the new season with pomp and colder temperatures today. Leaf tornadoes are everywhere, and I can feel the shift in my ears and the tip of my nose.

It’s a good day to be going home, to reorient myself in the familiar to gear up for the change. I’m hearing An Affair to Remember play in my head, “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.” Indeed, it must.

I talked to someone this week who said that it only seems like change happens as an event. Really, change is constant; we just hang on tight to what we know until we can’t know it anymore. Sounds like we’re all living in denial when we think life isn’t changing and uprooting around us constantly.

I think she’s right, for the most part. Change is always, maybe even a constant if we want to be paradoxical. But not everything is changing all the time. Sure, maybe so many things change at once that it seems nothing is constant, but they take turns.

The leaves are on the ground instead of clinging to branches, and the wind has a harsher feel, but the sidewalks that take me home to my apartment are still flooded with children with backpacks at 3:30, and there’s still a brick wall out my window. And the trains still run all the way to the airport.

Morning singing.

This morning while I talked to God about life and the people I’m praying for today and how much I need Him, I had a flashback.

I don’t know how many times this happened, but I remember it like it was regular. Perhaps because I’m longing to be back with my family so much, it’s more vivid. I must have been at least 3 since my sister was already in school, but no older than 5. Maybe my mom will remember.

I remember creeping down to my parents’ room in the morning, where my mom sat reading her Bible. My dad was already at work, so it was just the two of us. I remember sitting on her bed and singing the songs from Bible Study Fellowship together:

Good morning, God! This is your day. I am your child. Show me your way.

O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Oh Lord, we praise your name. Oh Lord, we magnify your name, Prince of Peace, Mighty God. Oh, Lord God Almighty.

God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me. He answers prayer, He answers prayer, He answers prayer, He’s so good to me. I love Him so, I love Him so, I love Him so, He’s so good to me.

There were more, but memory fails me. I remember looking at the music and lyrics she had with her, but not actually being able to read them. It wasn’t a problem, though, because I knew the tunes at least.

It was the most natural thing to sing with my mom about our Lord in the morning, together, on her bed. It’s one of the most beautiful snapshots of my early childhood that I can remember.

I bet that’s a tradition that doesn’t have to stop.

Lullaby time.

I’m just wondering how you get into the business of singing lullabies.  And that’s not a euphemism for motherhood.  I mean, how do you get into the business of recording lullabies for other people’s children to fall asleep to?  I suppose it takes a love for sleeping children, a desire to play dreamy, sleep-inducing music, and some cheesy lyrics to want to do that.

I’m transferring all my cassette tapes to MP3 format just in case something happens to my cassettes.  Part of the process includes listening while the tape transfers onto the computer, so I’m fighting sleep as I type this.  I just finished reading Brave New World, so naturally I instantly think that’s my conditioned response.  

Either this tape has slightly warped, or this woman perpetually sings flat.  I think it’s the former.

I remember playing these tapes when I went to sleep.  They worked – I hardly ever heard the click that indicated the end of the tape.  Granted, that was a simpler time of life where there wasn’t much to think about when I went to bed other than my exciting day and the one to come when I woke the next morning.  Funny, I’m getting to the end of the tape, and though I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this song before, it isn’t as familiar as the other ones.  This must be past the point when I usually fell asleep.

I have a better lullaby tape than this.  Actually, two.  (Joel, if you’re reading this, Joel-a-bies are DEFINITELY included in that) The other one had James Taylor, the Carpenters, Emmylou Harris,Aretha Franklin, Hall & Oates, and other greats on it.  I feel so young, listening to this.  If we can’t ever successfully travel in time, this will be the next best thing to get back to my childhood.

It’s telling me to close my eyes and dream now.  Close your eyes. Close your eyes. Close your eyes and dream.  Like it’s a last-ditch effort at getting the kid to sleep.  It’s the last track, so if the rest of it hasn’t worked, this soothing admonition to go to sleep will do the trick.

Please excuse me while I obey.


It’s my anniversary today. Thus, my blog and I have been going steady for two years.
This is the part where I give a teary speech about how much I love my partner, Journey To Who I Want To Be and recount all the good times. This is the part where I say, “you…..complete…” and beam.
You could say it’s like a relationship, me plus this partial, public extension of my brain. We’ve had ups and downs, good days and days where I just sat and stared at my computer screen. Sometimes I fought with WordPress to make my posts look like I wanted them to, and it took me a few tries to find a theme that I like.
Have you been with us these two years? If you have, I have to extend my heartfelt thanks to you. I’ve received so much support and affirmation about my writing from you. You have confirmed my calling, over and over again. Jesus said, Write. And so did you.
I hope that your experience here has been as affirming. I hope that I’ve probed into your mind a bit, made you laugh, brought something new to light, or shown you beauty. The best thing about this blog is that it truly is a journey to who I was to be – which is the person that God wants me to be. I’m not pulling posts from my endless store of knowledge and insight, which you could probably tell since they often end in questions, and I’ve likely changed my perspectives over these two years. I’m journeying. Usually even a single post is a journey. I start with a sentence and a vague idea and end up somewhere I didn’t plan to be. Often I proofread and find that there’s a deeper meaning than I intended, which just shows that words have a life of their own.
I thank God for you today and for this blog. I can’t imagine a better group to have an anniversary with. Cheers.