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.

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Homage to a month gone by.


Happy October, folks!

It seems like the weather in Chicago has finally settled into an autumnal rhythm.  It’s chilly and a little overcast, and the leaves are starting to change.  People started breaking out the Uggs and North Face jackets when it was 60 degrees, but now they’re coming out in earnest.  I, as a tough and proud Minnesotan, however, have been wearing my Jared Allen t-shirt today with my pink capri pants.

I refuse to give in to cold weather until I can’t stand it any more.

Since it is the first day of October, I want to dedicate this post to paying homage to September and the good things it brought:

1) Good new friends

2) Numerous adventures that included food

3) A 3-1 start to the Vikings season, giving me some hometown pride

4) letters, cards, care packages, and emails from wonderful people back home and from family

5) A whole jar of peanut butter.

And I don’t think this will be surprising, but God was good in September.  And August.  And July.  And I’m betting 100% of everything that He’ll still be good in October.  He was good last year, and He’ll be good next year.

I had one of those experiences in church yesterday where I felt like the pastor had been following me around all week reading my thoughts and hearing what I was telling Stephanie the night before.  That sermon was spot on what I needed to hear.  Spot. On. (whatever that means) I felt almost guilty, like sorry all you other churchgoers…  I’m sure this only applies to me.  (though I’m sure many of them felt the same way or at least could apply it)

I’ve been looking back at my pictures from last week, and I don’t see Pastor Al popping out in any of them.  Nope, I’m pretty sure he just listens to the Holy Spirit.

It was a good end to September.  It’s so hard to believe that I’ve been here for almost a month and a half… yet I feel in some ways that I’ve been here much longer since the process of applying and getting accepted and getting ready to come took so long.  It’s good to have arrived.

Welcome, October.

Hearing appreciation day.


Today is Labor Day (aka, no classes or anything else day, woohoo!), but I have also dubbed it “Hearing Appreciation Day.”  Why? you may ask.  (go ahead, ask)

Remember that time when I thought I was dying of cancer? Click the link if you don’t.

Well, today my over-active imagination has convinced me that I’m going deaf.  It’s really just sinus issues that are clogging up my right ear, or something of the sort.  But in my mind, there is a small faction that says You’re going deaf.  You won’t be able to hear at all out of that ear by the end of the month.  What will you do in choir?  How will you survive your classes?  Well, obviously they’re going to have to do some major surgery.  You might end up with some horrible consequences.  Then, after about 5 more years, your OTHER ear will lose hearing too.  You’ll live in silence for the rest of your life.  Or you’ll have to get a special surgery to hear (needles!!!) and go broke because of doctor’s bills.  It’s hopeless.

My imagination isn’t very nice to me, sometimes.

So, while I can still hear at least partially (really, I don’t think I’m going deaf.  I’m sure I’ll be fine in a little while, once I get some sudafed or another decongestant in my system), I’m going to appreciate it.  I’m going to listen to beautiful music, listen well while my friends are talking to me.  I’ll be grateful that the busy street outside my window is so loud.

I should appreciate my hearing and eyesight and sense of smell and touch and taste and all that much more on a regular basis.  It shouldn’t take a temporary loss to realize how much I love being able to hear.

But, then again, that’s kind of how I learn.  When people are far away (as many are right now), I am reminded of why I love having them around me.  When I’m hungry, I’m reminded how much I appreciate having food around.  (don’t worry, Mom and Daddy – I’m eating plenty.)

Isn’t that typical? It takes a threat or a crisis to remind us to be thankful.  (Hey, it’s not even November and we’re talking about gratitude! what???)  Today, I’m going to make a list of things I’m not usually thankful for, and be thankful for them.

You could do it, too.  just an idea.

My List:

1. Deodorant.  It’s part of the reason I can feel confident in myself as I meet new people.  It’s the assurance that I don’t repulse them by smell.

2. Peanut butter.  It’s so versatile, and it offers the protein that I don’t get enough of.

3. My stuffed bunny, Bunny. It seems silly, but hugging that inanimate object brings so much comfort in the midst of stress or sadness.

4. Facebook/my phone/skype.  Keeping the far away people nearby.

5. Prayers.  I forget how often people pray for me.  I have some incredibly faithful prayers warriors in my life, and I’m so thankful that they lift me up.  Thanks, guys.

And thank you, Jesus, for all those things.  And more.  That’s the short list.

Happy Hearing Appreciation Day!