Things you should bring to Austria

We all know how much anxiety I had over packing, how long it took me, and how messy it was. Yes, it was a long, drawn-out process. I have most of what I need, and the other things I’ve been able to either buy here or live without. It’s okay to be a vagabond in some ways.

I’m realizing that some of the things I brought are invaluable, and some things – had I known to bring them – would have been fabulous to have here. So, I’ve compiled a list.

1. Peanut butter – thank goodness someone told me before I left that Europeans aren’t crazy about the sticky, nutty substance. I packed a jar in my suitcase, so I have been just fine with my Skippy. You know how in America we have at least 5 different brands of peanut butter at the grocery store, and a few different varieties between them? Well, at my Spar down the street (and the other one I went to), there was one brand. You could pick chunky or creamy, but there was one brand, in small jars.

Nutella, on the other hand, has multiple sizes of jar, off-brands, and knock-offs.

2. Your self-deprecative sense of humor, for use when you have to communicate in English with people who speak German.

Real life example:

*Enters cafe*

“Grüss Gott. Something in German we can’t understand?”

Every single time, I’m sure I flush. “Uh, sorry, I speak English.” Make that face that you would normally reserve for when your parent or small child is doing something slightly embarrassing, but you want to make sure you’re spared the judgment of the other person. It’s the I’m-on-your-side-sorry-about-them look. I use it to apologize for my non-German-speaking side.

*Proceed to ask a stupid question about something that’s right in front of me. Make the face again.*

“Danke Schön. Tschüss!”

Ahh, a word I know. “Tschüss!”

Sometimes, if you can laugh at yourself, it makes things a lot easier. Then, as soon as you leave the cafe, apologize to yourself for acting like the part of you that doesn’t speak German is embarrassing. You do other things well.

3. Liquid vanilla extract. It’s unheard of. I’ve already asked at least three Austrians if it exists here. Twice, I got a confused, “Liquid vanilla?” and once I got a, “Oh, we don’t have that here.” Welp, that settles it. I’m going to ask my parents to bring some with them when they come. And another jar of PB.

4. Good walking shoes. I know people typically plan to bring good walking shoes with them when they travel to Europe, but really… bring the shoes with the most support and comfort you can find. I’m so thankful to have Superfeet insoles in my little sneakers, so I had little trouble walking a few miles around the city today. I walked to school, and I purposefully got lost after orientation so I could see another part of the city. If I didn’t have good shoes? None of this would be possible.

5. Your Bible. I mean, that’s such a gimme. Really, why would you go to a foreign country for 4.5 months without the holy Word of God? For one, it’s usually pretty heavy. For another thing, it’s not really light reading.

For all the reasons you might not bring it, definitely do. I brought my smaller copy so that I would be able to carry it through all the airports in my backpack. There’s just something about being in a completely different place and reading the same words and truths that changes how you see it. I’m here, and I feel different. And everyone else is different than I’m used to them being, but this is still how I’m supposed to live, this is still how God sees me. This is still true and relevant. 

I need to be reminded every day that God is for me and with me and that He’s called me higher. It’s so easy to forget that when I almost feel like I’m on vacation from my regular life. So few things are as they were last week that I could so easily leave my God behind as well. So easily. Without much effort at all. But the efforts to invite God into the newness and unknown make me feel more alive and more like myself.

Or maybe just more like who God wants me to be. I wonder if that’s why we feel such peace in obedience – because we’re one step further into our Godly identity? That’s where I want to be. That’s who I want to be. Funny how it sometimes takes a journey to think of these things.

Judging the Psalmist.

At the risk of making you think that I’m a liar, I’ll tell you that it’s hard to be honest. But you already knew that.

I know I’m not the first to walk a road where I’d rather not be. I’m not the first to think that when I’m somewhere I’d rather not be that I should simply tell myself that it’s temporary. I’m not the first to think that I have to just keep speaking truth to myself, even though my heart doesn’t believe it. I’m not the first to think that I have to just keep pressing into the challenges until they give way.

Maybe there’s more to be said for giving up and being honest. Maybe there’s more to be said for not pressing into the challenge for just a few minutes and sitting on the floor while telling God why this isn’t fair. Maybe there’s more healing in that.

I’m not saying that we should all sit around and complain all the time. Heavens, no. That only perpetuates the feeling that we’ve somehow been wronged in all this. I’m talking about an honest conversation to God about what’s going on and how we feel about it, telling Him that we’re counting on Him to bring us through.

I know God knows everything about me. He knows who I am, how I feel, what I want, what I need, why I’m here, where I’m going, and what it going to take to get me there…. even when I don’t know, or maybe especially when I don’t know. That being said, why wouldn’t I be honest, at the very least, with Him? Even if I don’ t lay it all out before anyone else, why can’t I tell God?

The Psalmist did. I know I’m not the first to see that and realize that it’s not something to condemn but rather to emulate, but there it is. I’ve got my role model.

I get embarrassed for the Psalmist sometimes when I read the Psalms. I get all Christian-y and judgmental, don’t you know that God will bring you out of your troubles? Don’t you know that He’s present? Why do you tell God what He already knows instead of trying to spout what you think He wants to hear?

Certainly, there’s something to be said for faith under trial, for continuing to believe that God works in difficulties, but isn’t being honest with Him a better picture of that? Instead of saying, I know you’re good, so I’ll eventually be good. Don’t worry about me. I want to say, I know you have better for me and this is part of bringing me there, but this is hard, and I NEED YOU.

It’s another part of the journey, a lesson that doesn’t come all at once or get engrained in my habits in a blink of an eye. If anyone has every told you that walking with Jesus ever gets easy, tell them they need to read the Bible again.

Taking a jaunt.

I forget about walking sometimes.  Not that I don’t do it everyday, for a significant portion of my day, but I forget that it doesn’t always have to be about the destination.

Sometimes, it’s about the journey.

I typically walk to get places.  You could say that I’m not much of a meanderer.  But I had a realization today that walking for the sake of walking is really nice.

Liesel and I walked and talked.  We weren’t going anywhere, didn’t have an agenda.  We just had a half an hour to walk.  And – minus the part where a car inconsiderately sprayed us with slush – we had a lovely jaunt.

Sometimes I think I’m walking through life with a destination, but really, I have no idea where I’m going.  Not for lack of thought or dreaming, just lack of true foresight.  I’m walking with a clear view of the next block, but beyond that, things are fuzzy at best.  And there’s always a chance that someone or something unexpected will cross my path along the way.

Thank goodness for metaphors.

It’s comforting to me that it’s not an all-out-sprint, not a 50-yard dash to get through life.  (to a person like me who hates running, especially on treadmills or for more than 2 miles… I really do wish I enjoyed it)  I don’t even think you could call it a marathon.

I’m pretty sure we don’t run through life.  There are some parts where you have to speed walk a bit – or at least, you want to.  I’m pretty sure it’s a walking pace, sometimes a stroll.  Either way, it’s one foot in front of the other, without knowing exactly what’s ahead, when you’ll turn, when a car will almost hit you (or splash you with slushy water).

We walk by faith, not by sight, right?

I can’t see where the next two weeks are going to take me, much less where I’ll be in five years.  It’s anxiety-ridden, that realization.  It’s wrought with knots in my stomach.  But walking by faith is the way to go.  Walking with Jesus into the future – not the far off future, the tomorrow and the next day future.

Step one: start walking.

Life resolutions.

And just like that, there went 2012.

I know today really is just another day, that we as residents of the world have hyped it up into significance.  But I guess I won’t complain, because any day that gives people pause to evaluate their lives again and initiate change has the potential to be great.

Last year, I resolved to always be able to see the floor of my room, that I was going to keep it clean.  I’ve only achieved this in one of my living spaces – the smaller one I share with Kathryn.  I think I made some significant strides in the area of becoming more organized though, so I’m satisfied with that.

Resolutions are good. Maybe it’s just the shift in focus that makes it effective – that even if you don’t reach your goal exactly your thinking and behavior is altered.  I was reading this morning in Matthew 6, the passage about not worrying that you won’t have what you need, but “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

That’s my resolution, to consistently seek God, His kingdom, and his righteousness FIRST.  I’m holding God to His promise, that when I seek Him first I need not worry about my life, what I will eat or drink or wear.

Maybe that’s more of a life resolution, something that I’ll continually be working to implement forever.  Jesus conquers hangups in my life, but when it comes to godly living, I think He continually renews and reshapes what the means for me.  It’s a process, a journey if you will.

He’s taking me on the journey to who He wants me to be.

lights and reminders

Every now and then, you find yourself downtown in Chicago with masses of other people who also wanted to see Michigan Avenue in all of its lighted glory as a way to usher in the holiday season.  It’s not as though Chicago is ever devoid of people, but when I say masses, I mean hold hands, girls, or we’re going to lose each other in this crowd.

Through these experiences, you find yourself noticing that people are messy, as indicated by the amounts of garbage on the streets after the parade and tree lighting.  When a group of people (who we found out later didn’t speak English and might not have understood that what they were doing is considered poor etiquette) stand right in your line of view and women with small children get feisty, it sometimes gives you pause to look at yourself and what you care about, what drives you to action.

Today, I need to remind myself what’s important to me.  I need to remember what I care about, what I stand for, and what takes priority.  And then I need to act like it.  I need to remind myself that love is high on my priority list, that people matter more than things, that I’m in school in order to learn – and that learning requires homework and diligence in reading and such -, and that, more than anything, I want what God wants for me.

And I need to remember that it shows in the little things I do.  In the small responses.  In the seemingly insignificant encounters.

So, maybe this post is more to remind me of what I want to be, to remind myself where I think God is telling me to journey.

Either way, that’s what’s up today.


Enter Title Here.

I love days without classes.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I mean, it’s no cruise to the Caribbean (what my parents will soon be doing to celebrate their 25th anniversary – yay, Mom and Dad!), but it’s nice to be able to wake up an hour later than normal and just have plenty of time to get things done.

I’ve decided that making a list of the top five songs to get you through to Friday might be nice.  Hopefully by making a spotify playlist with a few of these you’ll be energized to get going for Friday.

It’s the kind of day where you might need five good songs to get you motivated to tackle Friday and take the stairs.  

1. Are You Ready? – Three Days Grace  — I am not totally sure what exactly they’re asking what you’re ready for, but we can just say that they’re asking if you’re ready to tackle Friday, to which you must answer a resounding, “YES!” *fist thrust into air*

2. Ho Hey – The Lumineers — If you’re anything like me, it’ll just make you happy.  And happy is a good attitude with which to start a Friday.

3. Under the Floor – Switchfoot — You knew there had to be something from these fabulous guys coming.  Just listen and hear the lyrics.  Such good reminders, and also just great music.

4. Bruises – Train (Feat. Ashley Monroe) — It’s peppy and reminds you that the hardships of the week give you something to talk about over the weekend, a way to relate to people.  We’ve all got bruises!

5. Awake My Soul – Mumford & Sons — Just close your eyes and listen to this one.

I find it kinda funny that I wake up with my idea of what a day holds, but I really can’t put a title on the day until the end of it.  That’s how my blog posts are, too.  I have to figure out what I’m saying before I can figure out what to call it.

You know when people ask you to tell them about yourself?  Isn’t that hard?  Well, you see, I’m not me yet, so I can’t really tell you.  Maybe you are already you.  I guess if you’re over 25, then your brain is pretty much all developed.  What’s that like?  I’m still on that journey.

And if you can’t tell by the spastic nature of these posts, all the hopping around from topic to topic that loosely tie together, that journey includes a lot of coffee.  And music.

Happy Thursday, folks.


Brownies and plans.

Things I’m contemplating at the moment:

– whether to eat raspberries or a Symphony brownie that my mom sent me.  I’ll probably choose both, as usual.

– if I drink coffee right now, will it keep me up past 11? We all know nothing good happens after 10:30pm.

– why do I feel the need to plan out my entire life right now?

People ask almost every day what my major is.  It’s a popular question on a college campus when you meet someone for the first time.  It gives you a glimpse into who the other person is, knowing what they want to do with their lives.  Granted, it’s a glimpse, but it says something.

Hang on, gotta get those brownies.

And I’m back, with both brownies and raspberries in tow.

I would like to clarify something to the world at large (or maybe just to the twenty people who will see this today): I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 years.  Actually, I don’t know where I’ll be next year.

It’s funny; I’m a really good planner.  I’ve got my major all planned out (co-constructed, remember? that communications/writing/philosophy mixture) and my study abroad picked and my advisor assigned and my dream job in mind (sort of, even though there isn’t really a good paycheck involved).  But let’s get real folks.  I’ve done that sort of planning my entire life.  And I definitely didn’t end up where I thought I was going.

For example: Four years ago, I thought for sure I was going to go to Wheaton.  And study English so I could teach.  Then I was going to go to Grove City (two years ago) and study psychology so I could be like the people on Criminal Minds.

I’m in neither place, studying neither one of those fields.

I imagined that I wouldn’t date in high school.  I did.  I didn’t know about the journeys God would take me on – literally – and the ministries and people I’d meet.  Heck, at the rate that my plans turn out the way I make them, in three years, I could be pre-med with a music minor and married.

[I’m pretty sure that the pre-med won’t work out, for a lot of reasons.  But, mainly, blood. Also, not really feeling the married at 21 vibe.]

I have a friend (won’t name any names, but you know who you are) who has planned out all her kids first and middles names, has dictated that her husband WILL drive a pickup, and she knows where she will live.  These are non-negotiables.  She’s probably picked out her death date, too.

It’s nice to plan.  I’ve made plans.  I like my plans, but I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure that they will even come close to happening.

It’s an exciting ride, this life journey.  We think we know what’s ahead, then come twists and turns and an ending no one expected.  I’ll keep you posted.


It’s about time, right?

Since I haven’t really updated the look of this here blog for quite a while, I decided that today was makeover day.

So, I got out my brushes and put my thinking cap on.  I’ve been wanting to change my site name for a while now to something in English that more people can understand.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a rather devoted Switchfoot fan, and I have been for about 9 years now. I love how much meaning their songs have, how each album is better than the last one (even though that one was great), and how simply sitting and listening to their music often confuses me and makes me think.

I like it when things aren’t easily figured out, when people don’t just lay out the meaning for you.  Sometimes I feel like the world spoon-feeds me ideas, meaning, principles, and that I just swallow them.

“Stop” on those red octagons – I know exactly what that means.  And that’s good.  It’s good that it’s direct since traffic needs direction.  But when we’re talking about ideas and innovation and changing the world – I think we need a little bit more room for people to get the gist, put in their two cents, and emerge with a better idea.

That said, the whole purpose for mentioning Switchfoot was to give credit where credit is due – Journey to Who I Want to Be comes from the challenge they offer in their album, The Beautiful Letdown, “This is your life; are you who you want to be?”

Every time I hear that, it’s a reminder to check myself.  Not only, am I who I want to be, do I have reputation that I want to have, but am I someone that God is proud to put his signature on?

Those moments of reflection aren’t U-turns.  It isn’t a moment where I think of who I want to be and who I am, compared side by side, and mentally highlight the things that I need to do differently.  No, it’s more of a meandering.  I wish I could U-turn sometimes, since that’s the more direct route to where I’m going, but the extra-long journey helps me to shape and mold the image of who I should be in a more complete way.  Like all those times that I’ve taken a wrong turn while driving or missed my turn.  I end up seeing a neighborhood or cornfield or a stretch of highway or row of shops that I’ve never seen before.  Sometimes it changes my destination, and sometimes it changes how I’ll get there next time.  And sometimes it simply changes how I feel about the place I mistakenly encountered.

Either way, life really is about the journey.  So, thanks for being here – whether you’re a long-time companion, a one-time visitor, or the occasional drop-in.  I’m glad to have you here.