Half adult week.


I turned 20 and a half years old this week. And no, Mom, this post isn’t to shame you for forgetting to send me a half a cake.
I feel like I just turned 20. Have I said before (or three thousand times)  how quickly time goes by? I have to stop blinking.
I celebrated my half birthday by spending the whole day either in class or at my internship. Then I came home and found out I’m not as tough as I thought I was when a cicada invaded. There was much folder wielding, small yelping, and terror.
“Cicadas are too crunchy,” I told Liesel. “That scares me.”
Yes, apparently I’m afraid of crunchy things, although I do quite well with chips and granola and fall leaves. Perhaps it’s just big, angry bugs that would crunch if I squashed it.
That’s probably an irrational fear.
Some days I feel more adult than others.
I suppose today was a more adult day, as I completed office tasks and redeemed my four free books for the month at the bookstore. I picked Faulkner, L’Engle, Dickinson, and a poetry anthology my professor wrote. How incredible to find your professor in a book store.
Then I ran to the L stop because it was raining and joined the masses of after-work commuters. I sat next to a woman who turned out to be a fashion designer. She gave me her card, “because I know you need alterations.”
Yes, I do. I’m tall. And thin in some places.
I made a few phone calls and sent a few emails, some with mildly fighting words. I’m a midwesterner, so simply standing up for what I understood to be the situation when someone contradicts it feels like picking a fist fight.
No fist fights, just carefully worded and researched emails.
And now I’m accepting responsibility for an oversight that wasn’t mine.
This feels like an adult day, doesn’t it?
Compromise and keeping on seem to be the themes of adulthood. At least, as much as I understand it.

10 weird things.


You wanna know what’s weird? There are actually a lot of strange things I’m thinking about today.
1. I will be on my way back to school this time in two days. Already.
2. I can’t find my pots and pans from last year. We packed them up in December, and either I or my roommate took them home, but somehow they went AWOL. Do pans go on strike from disuse? We’re hoping they’ll show up.
3. I’m babysitting a little girl today who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly. She only likes butter sandwiches. As much as I love butter…
4. God asked Isaiah to wander around naked for three years in order to get the Israelites’ attention. If that’s not strange, then I don’t know what is. I’m kind of wondering what a modern day equivalent of that would be, because though streaking is kind of an attention-getter, I don’t think it would make people take your message seriously.
5. A week from today I start my new internship at Open Books. Say what?
6. My sister has been a Mrs. for 7.5 months.
7. A Pocahontas 2 exists. I’m guessing it’s about as historically accurate as the first one.
8. I’ve been up before 8 for the past 4 days. This is not how people typically spend their last week of summer vacation.
You can imagine all the dissonance and strangeness going on in my head from that sampler. There’s more, too.
9. My friend sent me a picture of a woman walking on the street yesterday from Google Maps and said, “Is this you?”
10. There is also such a thing as turtle balloons. You can blow them up to unnatural sizes.
Here’s to spending another day with a six year old! Here’s to butter sandwiches! Please come home, my lovely pots and pans!
And cheers to another semester in Chicago.
May normal never be the norm.

So far.


I’ve come up with a few things I’ve learned since I’ve been here. So I’m listing them here, in no particular order, before I’m done learning.

I love mountains.
I enjoy a good cup of tea, though it can’t replace my coffee.
Trains are my favorite way to travel.
Packing light is always the way to go.
Yes, you can wear that again before washing it.
How to navigate a foreign city.
Staying in people’s homes is such a beautiful thing. (also, I look forward to hosting when I have my own home)
Often the most beautiful things come from the most unlikely places.
Four and a half months just barely scratches the surface. It would take years to know this place.
It’s not “tsv-eye-bul”, it’s “tsv-ee-bul”. (zwiebel)
You can’t make everyone love you but you can show love to everyone regardless of the way they feel about you.
Jesus never leaves my side.
Community is essential.
Prosciutto is not a cheese.
Going broke can be worth it to have adventures.
Realizing that it’s hard and trying anyways is half the battle.
Be over prepared but still pack light. It’s a delicate balance.
Love finds a way.
Cultural boundaries are not high walls. They are gates.
European chocolate wins.
Strudel is possible to make. Difficult, but possible.
Love is always worth the effort.
Sometimes you just have to put your fork in your mouth and try whatever’s on it. Literally and metaphorically.
When in doubt, walk somewhere.
Life isn’t about how you look.
Smiles are pretty universal.
Even if the person doesn’t smile back, it doesn’t mean it didn’t touch their heart.
Tram drivers will not wait if you are ten meters away when the doors close. Even if you run.
There are worse things than being late.
Be alert when walking at night.
But don’t be paranoid if you can help it.
I love old stuff.
Austrian homes are just about the cutest things ever.
I like eggs.
A lot.
A little dancing can make your day brighter.
Ballet isn’t easy.
You see stuff differently when you walk. You can get away with being strange when you’re foreign. “Oh this is my culture.”
There are some incredibly kind and selfless people in the world.
The world is both enormous and tiny. Enormous because there’s so much going on and tiny because what? You know them too? How? That’s crazy!
Bikinis aren’t for me. Especially when they’re pink and sequined.
You don’t need to buy stuff to be happy. FaceTime and Skype are God’s way of reminding us that we are not alone.
T-Mobile is the best phone company ever for having international data and texting roaming included in their plans.
God meets you when you’re feeling low. God meets you on mountains.
God chases you down roads when you’re started walking without you.
God sends random people to change your life.
God loves me and you.
The amount of good food in the world is proof of that.
Jesus is worth my time.
And I love Austria.

Soaking.


I’m training into the Alps right now, taking my second to last trip on the tracks. And my heart knows it. I can feel that slight heaviness that says this is ending.
I know I keep saying that the hills really  are alive, but they do feel alive. Even to without music. They’re all green and covered with trees and little tiny bits of snow in some places. In the sunlight they’ve got a bit of hazing right up at the top, too, like they’re still waking up.
I love Austria.
I love the mountains and the grass and the buildings that have been here longer than any person has been, or even longer than their ancestors. I love the way the train charges through valleys and mountains and past little villages and herds of sheep and brown and white cows.
There are still so many things I don’t know about this place. If I’ve been digging for information and experience while I’m here, I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I love it. It feels like it’s mine like I’ve got a very small bit of ownership here.
There, that little pile of dirt. I dug that up. I own it. That’s my Austria. That’s what I know about this place.
I’m trying to be less of a digger and more of a sponge in my last month here, to just soak up anything I can rather than try to dig as deep as possible. Soak up the people and language and sunshine and mental pictures.
I’m soaking it up and breathing it in. What other ways can you absorb a place? Oh yes, eating. Zwei Semmel, bitte. Two of those amazing rolls, please. I’ll take them on the train with me and miss them dreadfully when I leave.
And maybe someday I’ll get to come back. Maybe I’ll live in a little village by a mountain and own cows. Or bring my American family back some day and say, hey I know this place. I own a little pile of dirt here. It’s small and it’s old, but it’s mine.

Doors.


I’m back on the train, headed back into Graz with my parents. It sort of feels like heading home, which is strange because I’m from Minnesota, which is at least 20 hours of travel away. But it does feel like home. I live there, for now. I walk there. I learn there.
Today, I listened to some more of the Love Does audio book because you should do stuff like that on the train. Bob Goff was talking about how sometimes doors close, but God wants us to kick them down.
It makes me laugh because doors are one of the difficult things about being abroad. That’s not something people prepare you for. They tell you about language and cultural barriers and all the food and personal products you can’t buy there. But they never tell you how hard it is to open doors.
Ziehen and Drücken. Pull and push. So easy to get mixed up. Also, sometimes the doors aren’t labeled, and it isn’t obvious which you should do because the handle looks like an American pull handle, but that could be a push handle here. You just never know. Sometimes you think the door is locked, but it’s actually just the opposite kind of door. And then the Austrian inside looks at you with pity, thinking you’re quite stupid. (I speak from experience)
Then there are the automatic doors. Some of the ones here will open when you’re still 7 feet away. And some of them won’t open til you’ve nearly got your nose pressed against the glass. So you run the risk that the doors might not open, and you’ll just smash yourself against them.
Either way, doors are a challenge.
I choose to not break down the physical doors in my life because I don’t think most of the people who own them would take kindly to it. Also, it’s just not worth it.
But those not-physical doors – those are worth thinking about. Maybe we’re not supposed to break down every door that closes in our faces. I mean, I do think that God lets us fail or turn another way for a reason sometimes, maybe even often. But I don’t think a closed door should immediately turn us away.
Perhaps we’ve just been pulling when we should have been pushing. Or maybe the automatic doors are just locked. They’ll open again at 9am, perhaps. Or maybe someone lost the key, but the room is worth getting into. When there isn’t a window, break down the door.
Take it off of its hinges because getting into the place God has for us might not be as simple as crossing the threshold of a door. Maybe we need to learn how to read the signs that say push or pull. Or perhaps our lesson is in waiting for it to be unlocked. Perhaps we need to know what it feels like to be on the outside so that when we get in we will leave the door open.
It’s another reason to live in community with Jesus, another reason to never let go of his hand so we can ask about each door we come to.
Push? Pull? Wave arms? Wait? Or break down?

Life in skin and toenails


You are going to think I’m so weird. Oh, you are just going to be so weirded out.
Are you ready for this?
I love clipping my toenails. Whew. There, I said it. (you do think I’m weird, don’t you?)
Something about it is so satisfying, getting rid of part of the old, dead toenail. (you may never read my blog again)
And being sure to cut straight across to avoid those ingrown toenails I’ve struggled with for so long. I actually get excited when I see that my toenails need clipping. (you’ll never speak to me again. Didn’t want to know that, did you?)
Goodbye, toenail clippings. Goodbye old. Goodbye, dead. (well, it was nice knowing you while you thought I was normal)
I found myself rubbing off dead skin tonight as I scrubbed my feet and ankles after a long day of walking and sight-seeing in Vienna. It was like when you trying to use a tissue to wipe up a spill. It just sort of crumbles into a wet, fibrous mess. But it was satisfying to get rid of the old, dead skin so that the new can breathe.
Newness is the theme of my semester. New place, new language, new friends, new school, new experiences, new adventures, new spirit. So is freshness. Fresh face, fresh air, fresh faith, fresh boldness, fresh energy.
Re-newed.
Re-freshed.
Cut and clipped and rubbed down to the part of me that should be here. As it says somewhere in the new testament, get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch…. As you really are.
Be as you are.
He makes me as I am, the part of me that has been dormant inside, waiting to be found anew. He makes me as He made me. Fresh and clean, with a history but without shame.
This is what holy week is about.
He makes us new. We are new because He was willing to do whatever was necessary to make us new. He was willing to make us new because we have to be new to know. To know Him.
Only when I scrub the dead skin off can the skin underneath be alive and be seen.
In the words of Jason Gray:
I’m not who I was. I’m being remade. I am new. I am new. I am chosen and holy and I’m dearly loved. I am new. I am new.
Too long I have lived in the shadows of shame, believing that there was no way I could change, but the One who is making everything new doesn’t see me the way that I do. He doesn’t see me the way that I do.
Forgiven, beloved, hidden in Christ. Made in the image of the Giver of life. Righteous and holy. Reborn and remade. Accepted and worthy, this is our new name…
This is who we are now.
This week, I scrub off dead skin and cut my toenails to take off what is dead. I drink in His holy presence, inviting Him to make what is dead on the inside new. I invite Him into my deafness, my deadness, my darkness. Because He doesn’t ask me to clean it up or to light candles before He comes.
He is light. He is healer. Hope. Redeemer.

Habit hike.


I’m pretty sure that I started a post in my head earlier today, before my three cups of coffee wore off, but now I haven’t the faintest idea what it was about. Hopefully it wasn’t the start of a Freshly Pressed post.

Since we last talked, Graz had another beautiful day of sunny weather, which I celebrated by going for a hike with my friend up to the ruins of a castle built in the 11th century.

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There’s something so fascinating about old stuff. When I was in the castle, I was mostly preoccupied with taking pictures of all of it and making sure I didn’t miss any good views, but now I’m wondering about all the people who lived there til it was struck by lightning and burned down.

What’s it like to live in a castle on top of a tall hill?

Lonely? Exhilarating? Cold? Beautiful? How do you get your food? Do people come to see you? What do you do with your life?

What am I doing with my life?

Since I’ve only had one class so far, I’ve basically just been walking, seeing, taking pictures, cooking, and eating. Primary emphasis on the cooking and eating. I’m not sure what being hungry feels like anymore – and I know I need to scale back. I think my new philosophy will be “If I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it.” And I won’t resort to theft.

I’ve also journaled every single day. This is unprecedented in my life. Are you surprised? Don’t be. I may be able to blog consistently now, but it was hard enough to me to succeed at doing that on a regular basis. Something about wondering if someone was going to find my journal someday and publish it (how many of you have wondered the same thing? Anne Frank, you’ve set a precedent…) kept me from being able to be honest in there – and thus made me not want to journal. If you can’t be honest, what’s the point?

After I started counseling last semester, I got over wondering if someone was going to find it. It became too vital to write down all the things I was feeling and working through. There was no other way for me to set these issues aside. I had to process them in writing.

Now that I’ve learned that I need to process by writing (and now that I have so much to process – so many new feelings and old feelings in new places and new experiences and old experiences in new places), I’ve clung to my journal each morning like it holds all the answers. In reality, it holds no answers, no words til I write. Really, it’s just the place where I can stop my thought cycle.

There’s something to going somewhere new to start something new. I’m in a new place, starting new habits, and beginning a new chapter.

 

Not there yet.


Hello from Canada. I’ve had quite the day already, and since it’ll be tomorrow when I actually arrive in Austria,  I figured I’d let you know all the wonderful things I’ve already encountered.
First off,  maybe it’s just me, but Minneapolis has the easiest airport to maneuver. Next (again, maybe this is just me), the Toronto airport is not that easy to maneuver.
Anyway, my day thus far has consisted of goodbyes to my dear parents and a two hour flight on a teeny tiny, nowhere near full plane.

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I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me,  which was nice.  And my very full bag (filled with clothes packed in space bags: see below) was already on its way to Europe. I surely hope it actually makes it there.

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I also did things like putting my slippers inside my sandals.

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Dorky but effective.
Anyways,  I arrive in Toronto without a hitch after a two hour flight full of worship music and Fruit Ninja. All I wanted was some guacamole,  so after I breezed through customs, I got myself thoroughly lost looking for a Mexican restaurant.
Eventually,  I found the terminal E security checkpoint. Again,  my applesauce made it through security (score one point for healthy snacking), and I didn’t have to get a pat down.
Now I’m just bumming at my gate with one hour left til the boarding call.  Then I’ll take a sleep aid and snooze my way to Germany. Praying that it helps beat jet lag.
Until next time,  friends.

homonyms are beautiful.


Take three. I started two relatively insipid posts then realized that I didn’t really have anything to say.

So, two hours later, I’m trying again. That’s real life. I was going to blog about why singing in the shower will make you a more efficient person, but that might not be a hard and fast law, so I don’t want to risk lawsuit.

Tonight, my heart rejoices that breaks happen. Breaks as in time off and breaks as in fissures or cracks. Sometimes you need a day off, and sometimes you need to be cracked or for something else to crack. Sometimes a fissure in your schedule gives you the ooomph to keep going, and sometimes a crack in your self just gives you something to focus on.

We can brake and take a break to catch our breath, and we can break and be broken to be fixed up better than we were before. Sometimes you brake to slow down, and sometimes you brake to stop. And sometimes you break a little bit, and sometimes you break down.

And I think they’re all good. And they all have a place, even though we’d much rather brake to take a break than break and be forced to brake because we’re broken.

Homonyms, you beautiful things.

Shameless Sunday


I would so like to win something. One time, my sister won a year’s supply of ice cream (which meant that she got 24 coupons for free half gallons… aka NOT enough for a year) and four tickets to see Doctor Doolittle when it came to the Orpheum, all because she wrote a cute little poem about what she would say to the Kemp’s cow if she could talk to him.

I want to win something. I don’t need to in order to validate myself, but it would be so nice. I kind of would like to win a car. I think that would be great.

Or maybe a reality tv pilot (even though being on a reality tv show is just about the last thing I’d like to do). Or how about a road trip? That’d be second best to a car.

But I’d really like the car.

Oh, hey. It looks like I made a video for this contest to win just exactly one of those three things. It looks like it might be at this link.

I think it might be around 2 minutes and 56 seconds long. I think that you can vote approximately 11 times per day for me if you play the bonus point games. I think that you have until September 30th to repeatedly vote.

I’m shameless. I’m using my little platform for self gain.  But really, vote for me?