Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Memories

My first Christmas spent without my family. It is quite odd, to be honest. I've stayed with Amy so that neither of us are lonely. Today we wrapped presents and watched Christmas Vacation. I've been thinking a lot about some of my favorite Christmas memories from years past.

- Making dough ornaments with my mom
- Decorating the tree as a family, while listening to Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas albums
- Having three Christmases with all of our family on both sides!
- Watching Saved By the Bell Christmas Special with my brother
- Watching It's a Wonderful Life with family
- Christmas Eve services
- The Living Christmas Tree at Calvary
- White Elephant gift exchange with my youth group
- driving around Savannah and Jacksonville and Rome looking at Christmas lights
- the live nativity in Rome
- A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve
- My dad reading us the Christmas Story before Christmas dinner
- my grandmother reading me 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
- playing with my grandmother's nativity set
- being with my family

Merry Christmas from Germany!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pause

My heart hurts for them. For their parents. For their families. These little children - 20 of them at least - didn't get to see their parents ever again after they left for school. It was just a regular Friday. Maybe it was the last Friday before Christmas break and the kids were excited for class parties and school letting out at the end of the day.

The pictures I've seen from the horrific events of today only remind me of the depravity we live in. My heart breaks for the families who will never see their children again. For the season of joy and festivity that will never again be the same for them.

I pray that I will never take my family for granted.

Prayers tonight for those in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From the Heart Tonight

My parents have been traveling around parts of Austria and Germany with my dad's choir from FPC Jax. It's been a little sad for me this week knowing they are on the same continent, in the same time zone, but I won't get to see them. I knew in the back of my mind how hard it would be to be away from them on Christmas for the first time in my 34 years, but I don't think I realized just how much. Tonight I was able to FaceTime with them for about 20 minutes while they were on their cruise ship and docked in Nurnberg. They were having fun, but while talking, it really hit me hard that I wouldn't be back at their house. That this year I would begin traditions of my own with my "family" here.

I think you realize the differences in being a single on the mission field as opposed to being a family or a couple on the mission field especially around the holidays. It is not easy. This isn't a cry or a plea for a husband, because I know that God is weaving an intricate quilt for me filled with different patterns and pictures and that one day I will meet that person who will share life with me (hopefully here). It's just a fact. Being single right now tugs at my heartstrings. A lot.

Yet, in His way, in his perfect and always pleasing way, He brings me friends that are like family. He reminds me that I am not alone and has given me more than enough invitations for Christmas dinner, plans with friends throughout the next three weeks of break, and an evening of fun on New Years Eve. I am blessed beyond measure and as much as I am really, really missing my family, there is comfort in knowing He gives me family wherever I go.

So I close tonight, a few tears in my eyes, but knowing I am loved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Christmas Concert

After months of preparation, my kiddos pulled off their best performance yet. The Christmas Concert was on Sunday and the Choir, Bands, and Orchestras all participated. It was the moment we'd all been anticipating since the beginning of the semester. I was so proud of the effort that went into it and even more proud of my kiddos for how well they did!!

Middle School Choir singing their hearts out!

My High School kiddos about to sing some Les Mis!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Blumenplatz & Basketball

In the midst of auditions, the High School and Middle School Choir were invited to sing at the annual Weihnachtsfest in Kandern at the Blumenplatz, which is where all the action happens in this town ;) We sang a few Christmas carols and in the middle of one of our songs, it started snowing! Afterwards, we walked around trying to get warm. There were little fire pits here and there where you could roast dough and then eat the delicious bread. It was good, but I'm too impatient to do it again. By the end of the festivities, I couldn't feel my feet and by the time I got home, it was so cold I couldn't feel my legs! Nonetheless, it was a fun and eventful way to end Thursday.

Choir caroling

Some friends and a student roasting bread!

On Friday, the first BFA home games were played and what an intense game the Varsity girls played! We lost by 1 in overtime, but it was a great time for all of the BFA community to come together and cheer on our kiddos! It also made me feel right at home because my brother is a High School basketball coach and since I won't be able to see any of his games for a while, I can get my b-ball fix with the students :)

The students lining up to cheer on the Varsity girls

...and later on, the boys

It's B-Ball time!

Friday, December 7, 2012

He Knows Better

Yesterday, I held auditions for the Middle School play that will be put on in March. I have two student directors and together with the Stage Manager and three Middle School teachers, we got to work on casting. In college, I sometimes thought I would go onto be a casting director. I really love and hate that part of theatre. I love it because it's fun to see the character in the play come alive and the script becomes more than just a story on paper. I hate it because I do have a sensitive spirit and I know the heartache that is caused when you don't get the role you want or that you had your heart set on. I remember all too well the anticipation of waiting for that cast list to be put up on the bulletin board and then the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when your name doesn't appear.

Yet, just like when I didn't make cheerleading in 9th grade and just like when so many other disappointments came and still come, God always, ALWAYS has a plan. I'm praying that those Middle Schoolers who didn't make it, will come to that realization in due time. I'm still coming into that when things don't go as planned, when God decides to take me down a path I wasn't expecting. And even still, I'm reminding myself that His ways are always higher and better than anything else.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Weekend in Switzerland

Going to Switzerland is really like crossing into a nearby state or even just getting out of the suburbs into the big city! This past weekend I got to go "home" to Ramlinsburg, the village where I au paired 10 years ago - yes, it has been 10 years! The snow had covered the ground and it was a beautiful sight. 

Lucia, the youngest, is now 12 and she got home Friday evening. We made chicken and broccoli casserole for dinner and then watched A Muppet's Christmas Carol. She'd never seen it before and really liked it! SCORE! How can you not like that one, though ;)






Saturday was a lazy day with the oldest, Coleton, coming back from a friend's house and all three of us just hanging out in our pjs and doing homework (yes, teacher homework for me!). We made lunch and dinner and Lucia and I tried our hand at a sugar cookie recipe online which was an epic fail. Oh well, we still had fun!


Sunday morning I said good-bye and headed back into Basel for church. It was the first Sunday of Advent and a beautiful service followed. Afterwards, Amy, Rachel, & I wandered around the Basel Christmas Market for a few hours before heading back to a snow covered Kandern.









Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent

Today is the first day of December (HURRAY!!!), which means it's the season of Advent yet again. I love Advent and am so grateful to have grown up in a family that celebrated it! I follow Scotty Smith's blog online -pastor at Christ Community Presbyterian in Tennessee- and he is doing Advent devotionals on it. I'm giving you the link incase you would like to do them as well :)

Scotty Smith's Advent Devotionals

Happy Advent Season :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sometimes I'll Be Torn

Being in America so close to Christmas was somewhat bittersweet. There is nothing like my parents' house at Christmastime, especially because my father is the decorator and makes the house so warm and cozy both inside and out. I realized when I was sipping on a Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks how the flavor immediately takes me back to Jacksonville and shopping at Target. Memories abound with each ornament on the tree, wrapping paper Mom has used for years, and Christmas china placed on the table. This year, we had Christmas early because I won't be there and my brother and sister-in-law will be with her family. As we were coming home from church today, I began to notice the familiarities around Jacksonville that remind me we're in the Christmas season. The nativity scenes in front of churches, the decorations (albeit tacky) that light up a neighbor's yard, Advent festivities taking place at my home church. All of these are reminders of what I'll be missing for the first time being away from my family at Christmastime.

Yet, I can't help but look forward to what new traditions will be taking place this year. Spending time with new friends in Kandern, reconnecting with my favorite families at ACB and how I'll get to be a part of their Christmas traditions, and of course going to as many Christmas markets as I can before they close on Christmas Day!

So I think it's normal for me to be torn. I want to be with my family, but this year it's just not feasible and in my heart, I've already prepared to be in Germany/Switzerland for the holidays. I'll of course be thinking of all of the sights and sounds mentioned the closer it gets to Christmas, but I'm glad I got to experience a little taste of them while I was in Jacksonville this week.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Quick Trip Stateside

My dear friend, Tammy, got married this weekend and I was the Maid of Honor. The wedding was extra special because my dad officiated and my mother played the piano and sang, so it was quite the family affair! It also meant that I was able to be with my family for Thanksgiving, which hasn't happened in a long time. It was a great trip to Florida & Georgia, but I am excited to return to Germany on Monday! Here are a few pics of the wedding weekend:







Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving at Storch

I love dorm subbing. I especially love dorm subbing at Storch Girls Dorm! Last Thursday was Dorm Thanksgiving and I got to participate in sharing food and fun with the staff and girls there, as well as the other subs.

A few pictures of our night:

Lexi and some of her girls

Love them!

Me and one of my choir kiddos

Enjoying some yummy food!

Dorms staff and subs

Dorm Mom Stacey and me. Love her!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The What-ifs

Do you ever sit and wonder "what if" something had or hadn't happened in your life? Basketball tryouts are this week and it got me to thinking about when I was in high school and tried out for cheerleading in 9th grade. The reason it made me think on this is because I know not all the students can make the team and some will probably be devastated and wonder what good will come out of not making the team.

In 9th grade, I didn't make cheerleading and I was devastated. I cried for days. The first pep rally seeing all of my cheerleading friends - including my best friend - out on the court made my heart sink. I thought my world had ended.

But that was the year I started an acting class. It was also the year our high school began its drama and choral program. And even though I could have done both, it would have been difficult. I wasn't the best student in the world and it took a lot for me to make a B sometimes. But theatre and choir became my outlet. It became the thing I flourished in. And ultimately, it was because of that that caused me to study it in college.

And now, I'm the proud choir director of 26 awesome kids and just finished co-directing a play.

So the what-if? What if I had made cheerleading? What if I had given up singing and theatre to devote 4 years of my life to something I probably wouldn't have continued in college. I wonder if life would be different now?

In the coming days, I hope I can use this story to be an encouragement to my kiddos who will be trying out for basketball. Some making it, some not. Either way, God will use it in their future. He always does.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Doing What I Love to Do

This week our High School play, Quiet Summer, opened at BFA. We just finished our second run tonight and I have to admit, I'm starting to feel a little sad that tomorrow night is our final show. I have grown to love these cast members and have enjoyed getting to work with them everyday after school. It's been tiring-but theatre is tiring-and so worth it. I am reminded so much of just why the Lord has brought me here to BFA. I love getting to teach choir and I love getting to work in theatre again. I am ecstatically happy. These kids bring me so much joy!

I'm sorry if this post is a little choppy. I've been dealing with a bad back all day and exhaustion so instead of rambling on, I leave you with some pictures of my awesome actors...






Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I'm Published!

My friend Carrie Beth introduced me to Single Roots a few months ago. Single Roots isn't your typical singles website. It's not a 'woe is me I'm single and life sucks' type of place. It's simply a place where singles can go and live life together.

I was privileged to be a guest blogger on their website today!

GO HERE TO READ MY POST!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Herbst Messe

A night filled with rides, food, & just getting to hang out with my friends/colleagues & kiddos. We began the evening with dinner at Munsterplatz, then a few rides on the ferris wheel. The tradition at BFA is to ride bumper cars together and so at 8:30, the High School met up at the bumper cars and it was fun getting to run into the kids and have the ride to ourselves for a good amount of time. Afterwards, a few of us ventured over to Kaserne where we rode swings that swung you over the Rhein and then tested our stomachs on a ride called Meier that swung you all over the place! We finished the evening getting 1/2 price Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks and then heading back to Kandern.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening. I loved being back at Herbst Messe!!!!





Saturday, October 27, 2012

SCHNEE!

"Schnee" is German for "snow" and today we had it from about 8am and it's still going. I find it somewhat humorous that normally snow this early would bug me. But for some reason, I'm loving it! I went to play practice earlier today and then came home and listened to Christmas music while cleaning house. In a matter of about two hours, my front yard went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

It's still going, so I'm interested to see what it will look like tomorrow morning! Tonight is also Daylight Savings Time over here, so I'm grateful for that extra hour I get to sleep in tomorrow.

JA SCHNEE!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Energized

It was another one of those days. It's the end of the quarter. Grades are due. Kids are getting restless. Teachers are getting restless.

So by the end of the day, I wanted to crawl into bed and go to sleep. Then, I went to play practice (I'm the assistant director) and as soon as I walked into the auditorium, felt energized. Even as soon as I sat down, one of the kids came up to me and said, "Miss Stroud, can I go get you a coffee at Hieber's?" Like he needed to ask (ok he actually did have to ask, since he's one of the main players). Needless to say, coffee + doing what I love doing was enough to wake me up from the 2pm slump fest I'd been having.

At small group tonight, we joined forces with another guy's small group and did pumpkin carving at the Stemple's house. It was awesome. The kids carved pumpkins and we munched on homemade chocolate chip cookies and hot chai tea and listened to music (these kids love "Party Rock" and "Gangnam Style"... it's played at every BFA event/get together!). It was so much fun getting to be with all of our girls and the guys who joined us!

After small groups are over, we meet back at the school. I was able to chat with a few of my drama and choir kids and felt a little honored to be asked my opinion of how one should ask his girlfriend to the Christmas Banquet :)

So yes, it was one of those days. In fact, it took a lot of energy out of me. But it's when I'm with these kids that my energy is revived and I get this peaceful, content feeling just knowing this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.







Monday, October 22, 2012

Feeling Like Dad


My dad has been a church worship pastor/choir director for over 40 years. Yesterday, my high school choir had the privilege of singing at Black Forest Community Fellowship and they did wonderfully! I was so proud of them and it was a bittersweet moment wishing that my dad could be over here to see them perform.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Party

Last night was BFA's annual Fall Party. It was a blast and a half! I don't think I stopped smiling the whole night. Just watching the kids have fun and getting to have fun right along with them was fantastic. The theme for the night was "My Favorite Things" and so we all dressed up as something we really liked. I couldn't choose one thing, so I just picked Pinterest and pinned a whole bunch of pictures of things I like on me from my Pinterest boards! I was also a judge for the Costume Fashion Show which was hilarious watching all the kids (and some RAs!) parade around in their costumes.

The Fall Party is just one of the many great events I love about BFA. I can honestly say without a doubt that I am having the time of my life doing everything I love doing!!!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Do You Need Some Chocolate?

It's the middle of the semester and we can all feel it. I know many of my friends/colleagues are a bit more sluggish (I'm including myself in that mix for sure) and the kids for sure are dragging a little more. The newness of everything has worn off and life has begun in full swing. There are multiple activities after school: High School play, volleyball, tennis, club meetings, etc. And of course on top of it they've got normal amounts of high school homework.

So today as I was in my planning period, it was no surprise that one of the students who stopped by our faculty room kind of dragged himself in looking for one of his teachers. He looked tired and as if he wanted to go to sleep. I couldn't blame him because today I've felt tired a lot myself. I keep a stash of dark chocolate in my desk for those days when I need a pick me up and since this poor kid was looking as though he was wishing for a nap, I said, "Do you need some chocolate?"

His eyes got big and he immediately answered me with an emphatic, "YES!"

Sometimes, all it takes is a little chocolate ;)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Birthday Love

I had one of the best birthdays ever this past weekend. Lots of love from my students & co-workers, a 90s themed party, a day trip to Titisee/Freiburg, and dinner w/my Basel besties...


Thursday, October 11, 2012

#34

Tomorrow is my birthday. I love my birthday. I think everyone should be just as ecstatic about their very own day as I am. But that's just my opinion.

I'm going to be quite vulnerable and honest here. There are a lot of things I thought I'd have by the time I was 34. One of them was a husband. The other was a few kids. Now, please don't go and get all "delight yourself in the Lord" or "don't worry, the Lord has one right around the corner." And please, please don't say, "Paul was single, too!" This isn't a post about that. In fact, it's just the opposite.

A few years ago, I probably would have cried if you had told me that when I was 34 I would still be single. But I probably wouldn't have had a clue what I was going to experience, either. I am living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, near some of my favorite people, I'm going back to the church that has always held a solid place in my heart, and above and beyond that, I get to teach something that has always been my dream to teach. I get 26 of the most amazing high schoolers everyday and have the best time with them. Sometimes, I still can't believe I'm living out my dream.

I still have the desire to be married and to have children. But I'm OK. I can honestly say that right now, I'm OK.

...oh and also, we're not 100% sure that Paul was single or not...he could've very well have been a widower...thank you Dr. McDonough for sharing that last year.

Here's to 34 years of a wonderful, blessed life. Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, October 8, 2012

All We Like Sheep



These are the sheep who graze literally right in my backyard. I've named them. From left to right - Mumford, Adele, Eponine, Liesl and Gretl. I can tell them apart because Liesl and Gretl are always together, Eponine is always on her own (haha hence the name) and Mumford and Adele usually stick close together. I was curious about these sheep. They are white with black faces. They're always out in the morning and more recently the afternoon.  When I pass by them, they will stop chewing their cud and watch me walk past them. I kind of feel like we're friends.

So I googled "facts about sheep" today and found out some sad news:  they are Suffolk sheep. And Suffolk sheep are used for meat. Which means, in a few weeks my sweet little sheep probably won't be out there anymore.

I continued reading more about sheep. We all know they are not the smartest animal in the world. Did you know they will not graze without another sheep present? If they can't see another sheep, they will start bleating until they find them. This happened this morning as I was getting ready. I looked outside and either Gretl or Liesl was bleating every other second. I saw her by herself, bleating at the fence. If she'd only turned around, she would have seen the other one right behind her. Again...not the smartest animal in the bunch.

Another sheep fact is that when one sheep starts walking to another part of the pasture, inevitably, the others will follow. Apparently back in 2006, this was the cause of death for an entire herd when one sheep led the flock off the side of a cliff and into a ravine. This is why sheep need a sheep dog or shepherd because without them they'd be lost.

Sound familiar?

Ever since I was a child, I'd heard the analogy of how people are just like sheep. After reading both of these examples, I can see why now we do need that gentle shepherd to lead us and guide us so that we don't fall into a ravine.

I'm still trying to concoct a way for my sheep not to be led to the slaughter. I'm taking it it's not a good sign that Mumford now has a yellow tag on his ear....

Friday, October 5, 2012

My First BFA Field Trip

Since I'm one of the Freshmen class sponsors, I went on the field trip with them yesterday to the WW1 trenches in France, just an hour from Kandern. After loading the bus with 31 eager freshmen, telling them to keep it down (the bus driver's over here DO NOT like noise and we had already gotten yelled at in German once), we started off towards France. After the bus made it to the top of a (very) windy, hilly road, we got out and walked through the French cemetery. The view from the top of the cemetery was gorgeous!

We walked up through the forest and my legs got a GREAT workout going up and up and up! Once we were at the top, there was a large white cross we met under. The cross was on the plot of land right near No Man's Land, between the German and French trenches. The kids were broken up in 3 groups and heard two different accounts of life in the trenches, an excerpt from All Quiet On the Western Front, and actually walked through a very large German trench. As someone who is just still getting used to outdoorsy things, I wasn't so thrilled about the last part. I got stung by stinging nettles and tripped more times than I would like to count! I also kept thinking to myself, "This is definitely NOT a field trip they'd do in America!" 1) because we were letting these kids go through a LOT of rough spots and patches and 2) because after lunch we basically said, "Go have fun and explore! Don't fall into the barbed wire!"

I went off with some of the other chaperones to explore more of the trenches and the German side. We found tunnels and secret passageways and even a spot that was used for Polish P.O.W's in WW2! My camera died right at the beginning and I was super bummed because I missed a lot of great photo ops!!!

At the end of the day, we headed back to the bus and I could already feel the soreness creeping in. I realized I'd done a lot of climbing, ducking, falling, and walking since about 10am that morning! It was a great experience and I hope these kids will one day recognize just how cool their field trip was and the things that they actually got to see were something that not many people will ever experience in a lifetime.

French cemetery

The white cross that marks where the trenches were

French trenches

Some of our fantastic freshmen!