Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in a Nutshell

2014 was definitely a year of changes for many reasons.

At the end of February, we took the high schoolers on their annual High School Retreat. It took place in Nürnberg, which has now become one of my favorite places in Europe. I woke up on that Saturday morning and looked out over the city, telling God that I was ready for whatever he had for me. I was willing to stay in Germany with these kids for as long as he wanted me to stay.


Then, two weeks later, I left for staff retreat in the Alps. But not before checking in on eharmony for (what I figured would be) another eye-roll, oh-my-gosh-is-this-guy-serious-no-wonder-he-doesn't-have-a-girlfriend, profile check. I was introduced to John from Orlando. And then I left to spend a weekend here:

It was easy to get distracted with this view all day that Saturday. But I couldn't stop thinking about John from Orlando. Sure enough, when I got back on Sunday, there was an email from him waiting for me. A few days later we were texting, but not before I left for Prague with this group of awesomenesses:

Well, then we started Facetiming after I got back from Prague. But our time was cut short because I left to go to Tanzania on a mission trip with yet another group of amazing kids:

The Facetimes and texts and phone calls continued. But yet again were interrupted, this time by a four day vacay to Croatia with Lexi:


And so we continued this "relationship" and I was more and more beginning to find myself wondering what in the world God was going to do. And I hadn't even met him in person!
Graduation came and went and I cried lots of tears saying goodbye to my sweet kiddos, who were going onto college:

But then the day came. The day that we went on our first, real date that didn't require technology. A lovely dinner at a riverfront restaurant and a walk around San Marco, thus starting off a really fun summer.
God, for whatever reason He saw fit, used this whole relationship to tell me - "It's time. You've done what I called you to do. Now, come back and see what life holds."

So, I came back to Germany for the four months I committed to completing. I directed one of the most fun musicals I've ever had the experience of directing


I traveled to places I hadn't been before - Scotland, Spain, & Ireland - all with dear friends who've walked through a lot with me in the last 2 1/2 years



















And how could I forget that I got to spend most of the semester with an incredible Family Group?




A week ago, it came time for me to leave Germany. And the first thing I thought back to was that trip to Nürnberg where I told God I was basically ready for anything He had for me. I guess you can say he answered it in more ways than one. For now, anyway.


                                                              Happy 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Last Day in Germany

I woke up at 7 and walked to the Rathaus to get a copy of my de-registration form to take with me to Lörrach so that I was able to successfully cancel my cell phone plan.


This is the view from the Rathaus back into town. Walking under the covered bridge brought back so many memories of my first few days in Kandern 2 years ago.

I stopped at the "new cafe" in town to get a latte and then went home only to be picked up by Kim McKell a few minutes later. We drove to Lörrach, I canceled my cell phone plan, and then came back to Kandern to finish last minute packing and cleaning at my house. I walked to the Martins and said a tearful goodbye, then went to Rachel's house for lunch and another goodbye, and once more went back to finish laundry. After my goodbye with the McKells, I walked back to my apartment and was met with the most beautiful sunset on the Hauptstrasse and the path by to my place.

 I did one last walk-through, finished cleaning, and Ellen came over to help me organize my carry-on's, and then we said our goodbye. A last goodbye at the Watsons followed and I snapped the picture below of the fountain in the Marktplatz dressed as an Advent candle on my way.

 Joy Watson took me to the Antrims where I'm staying tonight. The goodbyes were not getting easier and I was sobbing by the time I entered the house. However, a lovely meal of homemade sushi was waiting for me when I arrived.
The last three days have been the hardest of the goodbyes. Yet, I'm so thankful that I was able to do them in this way. I feel ready. I feel prepared. And I can't wait to see John tomorrow.

So long, Germany. I will always refer to you as my other home, my other country, and will smile whenever I hear your language, which I've still yet to become remotely fluent in at all.

Auf Wiedersehen

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My City

"Basel is so expensive!"
"There's more to do in Freiburg."
"Basel is so small compared to Zurich."

All of these statements are quite true.

But I didn't move to Freiburg or Zurich when I came over to Europe 12 years ago.

I still remember the first day I ever stepped foot in Basel. I was with Paula,  my house mom (what we au pairs referred to our bosses as), and the three children I would start looking after later that week. It was a Saturday and I was literally right off the plane just a few days. I remember the feeling I got walking across the Rhein River for the first time. I was mesmerized by this city that not many of my friends had even heard of until I told them where I'd be living.

Basel became my retreat. My getaway for when I needed a break from the small little village I lived in. I would meet up with other au pair friends and eventually would come to find a church to attend as well. On Saturdays, I would drive into the city center, get a Cafe Mocha from Starbucks, and sit on the steps of the Rhein and journal. Several times I'd venture into the English bookshop and scour new titles of books that sounded interesting. Of course I visited Luzern and Bern and Zurich, but there was just something about Basel.

Yesterday, I needed a retreat for myself. In the chaos of packing and getting ready for our upcoming Christmas concert and Actor's Showcase, there had hardly been any time for me to have that coveted "me" time. This time was a little different than most. I knew that this would be the last time I'd spend an entire day in the city for a long, long time. I could've taken the tram from the bus stop into the main part of the city, but I chose to walk across the Rhein and soak in the view of the Münster for a little while.

I took my time walking down each familiar street and going into shops that have become a favorite. I walked into the Rathaus courtyard and stood for a little while, remembering that a picture of it had become my desktop background the summer before I moved to Switzerland.

I call Basel "my city" for many reasons. It was the city that I really first navigated on my own. It was where I learned to be independent. I would get lost in it on purpose just so I was able to find my way around and I'm so glad I did. There are many memories with friends there, some of which I'll probably never see again because of time and distance and losing touch. In essence, it was like saying goodbye to a friend I knew I wouldn't see for a long time.

I leave you with this picture. It's my favorite view, the one of the Münster. I know it's expensive and not as fun as Freiburg or what not, but it's still my favorite city and will always and forever hold my heart.


Friday, November 28, 2014

The Book I Never Read

“It turns out that playing it safe, at least in matters of the heart, is the most dangerous thing you can do. By that route, you become a butterfly pinned to the wall, with wonderful colors and all kinds of potential but going nowhere. Your wings are clipped. To really fly you must claim the courage to live out of your real self, the one God called into being.” - Paula Rinehart, Strong Women, Soft Hearts

So the above quote comes from a book that I've had on my bookshelf for two years now. Notice I didn't say I read it. It was a gift from my mother right before I left for Germany and it's one of many that I've been "meaning to get to." But when I moved to Kandern I was also taking two seminary courses and acclimating to life at BFA and the books that I meant to get to became decoration for my bookshelf. 

Two weeks ago, I had to clean off the bookshelf so that my friend Dani could buy it for her new baby girl. After sorting through the books, I came across Strong Women, Soft Hearts and put it on my nightstand because just from the title, it intrigued me as it did 2 years ago.

Wanting to know more about the book before I started it (and I haven't because have you noticed my life's been just a bit crazy? ;) ), I googled Paula Rinehart and was met with the above quote. 

To really fly you must claim the courage to live out of your real self, the one God called into being.

My mother has always called me her "butterfly" because unlike the one in the description, I rarely stay pinned down anywhere. I love to explore, I love to travel, I love going and being and doing. I don't doubt at all that I've lived out of my real self, especially since I was 23 and first came to discover what living abroad was like.

There was a reason I wasn't supposed to read that book 2 years ago, at least that's what I think. I think this book will take me on a journey of seeing what adventures God is about to take me on, to once again experience living out of my true self and discovering a new path on this journey.

I'll let you know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sufficient Grace.

I'm not going to lie. Yesterday was rough.

I woke up not feeling rested at all and immediately began to survey the chaos that is now my bedroom. There are piles placed not so strategically everywhere indicating what is to be sold, what is to be given away, what goes with me to Orlando, and what goes in storage to Jacksonville. Then there’s my furniture consisting of a mattress, a bed frame, two night stands, a very large shrank (German for stand-alone closet), a dresser, a desk, and a desk chair.

I left for school (slightly later than I wanted to leave because I hit snooze due to the lack of sleep I got) and thankfully God gave me strength for teaching Choir and Acting before heading home and getting someone from BFA Housing to look at my room and tell me what needed to be done before I left.

Please don’t say I have to re-paint my room. Please don’t say I have to repaint my room. I kept repeating this silently over and over in my head.

“It looks like you’re going to have to repaint your room.”

UGHHHH!!!!

“I hope this doesn’t cause anymore stress.”

Too late.

After debating about whether or not to have students come over and paint or if Christine and I should just knock it out together over Lorenzo’s pizza, we decided on the latter.

Thankfully, I had a re-entry counseling session yesterday and was able to flesh some of my frustration out. I felt a little better upon leaving and enjoyed my usual Monday evening of dinner with Amy and Rachel at the McKells and watching Property Brothers.

When I came home, I sat in the living room and worked on my talk for Friday’s Middle School chapel and that’s when I heard a drip-drop-splat sound coming from the kitchen. Our refrigerator needed to be defrosted, which isn’t a huge deal, but you know after you’ve had a stressful day, it’s just one less thing you need, right?

So Christine came home from dorm subbing and we sat on our kitchen floor and watched as the ice slowly melted in our frig, laughing about the fact that we were, in fact, sitting on our kitchen floor watching ice melt. I have the best roommate. Seriously.

Finally falling asleep last night, I reminded myself that even though five weeks isn’t a long time and even though I feel like none of this will ever get done, I know it will. I will sell the piles of stuff. I will sell my furniture. The German Salvation Army will get a plethora of my clothes. The room will get painted. The refrigerator will defrost. I will say a farewell to one of the most wonderful places in the world and be OK. And five weeks from today I get to hug John. So there’s that, too ;)

Within the chaos of moving internationally once more, I’m constantly reminded that God has always supplied me with what I needed. There are always friends who want to help, who offer that shoulder to cry on, roommates who choose to paint your room with you on a Friday night, and people God puts in my path that remind me his grace is sufficient, even on the rough days.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

In the Alps



Back in August, Amy asked me a few things I'd like to do before I left in December. Among going to Barcelona, Dublin, and Christmas markets, there was also going to see the Alps one last time. So, she set up a whole trip for us at a chalet in the little town of Adelboden, Switzerland. It literally looks like all those postcards and pictures you've probably seen of the Alps before.

There were eight of us total and we all planned meals together and brought plenty of food, drink, and even the entire series of Friends. On Friday night we enjoyed dinner together, then watched the newest Romeo and Juliet. Saturday was filled with a small hike to the waterfalls, hot chocolate in town, and then back to the chalet for lunch, hot tea, and a six-hour Friends marathon. After dinner, we watched The Holiday, which solidified our girly-girl weekend.

I haven't slept in on a Saturday in 2 months. Yesterday I got to sleep in and enjoy breakfast in my pajamas and relax with a cup of coffee in hand while practicing my love language of quality time with those nearest and dearest to my heart. It was truly something of a God thing because everything was just so laid back and relaxed.

Leaving today was very bittersweet. I admit, I've taken the Alps for granted. I've been more times than I can count and each time I'm more amazed and awed than the last. It's something that takes my breath away when I'm in the midst of them. I know I won't be back for a long time and instead of the two hour drive it takes to get there, I'll be a good 9 hour flight away. I'm so thankful to Amy who got this trip going and to the seven friends who surrounded me this weekend with just a bunch of fun and laughing. Lots of laughing.

Four 1/2 weeks left here. Enjoying it to the last drop.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

High School Musical

In the busyness of life in the last 2 weeks, I haven't been able to post anything about how awesome and amazing my cast and crew of High School Musical was last week! 

In going into this production, I didn't want it to stress me out because obviously, I have enough to stress me out as is with moving and saying goodbye and everything. God heard my prayer and even though there were a few stressful moments here and there, the musical went better than I ever could have imagined. Not only that, but I got to direct with my dear friend Dayla leading the pit orchestra! It was fun to look up and nod at her between acts when we were ready to start.

The best part was getting to have my mom here for opening night! She hasn't seen one of my shows since I was in college and we won't talk about how long ago that was now ;)





Friday, October 31, 2014

Every Sacred Second

As of today, I have 53 days left on this continent. Many of you might have noticed that I started a Picture of the Day Countdown. I wanted to be clear on something - I did not start this to countdown my excitement of leaving; rather, I started this to cherish every single day I have left with my kids and this part of the world that has been my home off and on for 12 years.

As the musical draws closer, I know that time will not stop and the goodbyes are inevitable. This is why I want to capture as many special moments in pictures that I'm able to do.

I'm so sorry if this was portrayed as me wanting to "get out of town" faster. That is not the case. I'm simply counting the days so that I'm aware of what I have left here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scotland


"Were you really in the British Isles two weekends in a row?"

Kristi asked me this the other night at small group when we were discussing what we'd done for our birthdays.

The answer is yes, yes I was!

Amy, Christine, & I had been planning this trip since April. I like to take advantage of how easy and close it is to travel to other countries while living abroad. And since I'm only here for about two more months, I knew I had to hit up a few countries that I'd never been to before. Scotland was the first (We hit Spain and Ireland in December).

Despite a few mishaps with our booking reservation, we ended up staying at a lovely hotel right in the heart of the city center. It was within walking distance to basically everything and we didn't have to go far to get to the Royal Mile.

Friday evening consisted of finding Mexican food for dinner (that's a rarity over here and when it's found and when it's good, it's always a good day), buying our Starbucks City Mugs (basically a tradition), and going to see a movie. It kind of felt like going out for a real Friday night because we were in a big city.

On Saturday, we took two walking tours. One was a three hour tour of Edinburgh and the other was an hour tour of Harry Potter. There was a lot to learn about Scotland's history and it was interesting hearing about the religious struggles the Presbyterians faced on and off during wars with England. The Harry Potter tour was OK. I say "OK" because it was really meant for children but everyone on the tour was college aged or up. We ended up leaving a little early because there was this magician who kept popping up and it was a little redundant and boring. But still very cool to see where J.K. Rowling found her inspiration!

Saturday evening we went out for my birthday (this really cool guy paid for us to eat at a delicious Italian restaurant ;) ) and on Sunday morning we ate breakfast at The Elephant House, which is the cafe that Rowling wrote Harry Potter. 

Probably my biggest highlight was experiencing church services at St. Giles, the oldest Presbyterian Church in the world. It was a beautiful service and the whole time I couldn't believe I was sitting in this place on my birthday! 

We left Sunday evening and flew back to Germany. All in all, it was a fun weekend with two very special friends. I really, really enjoyed Edinburgh. 

Spain, I will see you on December 12 ;)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

England

England holds a special place in my heart. It was the first European country I visited when I did a theatre tour back in college. I remember embracing every moment of being in London and thus when I finished my last year of college, it was the country I assumed I'd be working in as an Au Pair.

Except that it's super hard to be an au pair in England unless you a) don't want a large sum of money and/or b) you aren't Eastern European.

So as most of you know, I ended up in Basel and the love affair with Europe really began.

During that year in Basel, I started attending the Anglican Church in Basel and got to know the chaplain, Geoff, and his wife, Marie-Louise. Last year, the Read family moved to England and so this past weekend I was able to go and visit them in their lovely home in Colchester.

It was a beautiful weekend and it was so nice to experience England's non-touristy side as I'd only ever been to London and Stratford. It was also a weekend of relaxation and visiting with dear friends that I have been blessed to know for thirteen years now.

Our goodbye was sweet and I know I will see them again, which was such a reminder from the Lord that even though the goodbyes draw closer here in Kandern, they won't be forever.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"How Are You Doing?"

I get asked a lot how I'm doing. The response lately has been, "That's a loaded question."

Last night I got home from dinner with a friend and sat down in the kitchen with Christine and Sandra, who were cleaning up from their small group. I began to process with them about how I was really doing, stating over and over again that I really didn't know how I was.

Within five minutes of our conversation, I was crying and opening up about my fears and my excitement for what the next few months would bring. I'm not just saying goodbye to my friends and students at BFA; I'm also saying goodbye to a continent that I've called home off and on for the last 13 years.

Rest assured - I know what I'm doing is the right thing. I have no doubts at all that leaving mid-year, as crazy as it may seem to some, is the best thing for me in order to cultivate my relationship with John.

However, with that comes the inevitable feeling of a loss and the realization that the goodbyes are coming soon.

I know God's going to give me the grace I need to get through these three months here and then the re-entry back into life in America. I know it. But it's still a matter of processing all of that and then being able to respond appropriately to the "How are you doing?" question.

I guess that's how I'm doing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lauren Elizabeth Stroud

My niece was born yesterday. Call me biased, but she's the most beautiful baby I've ever laid eyes on. We won't get to meet until January, but we had a FaceTime date yesterday and she was looking at me wide-eyed (actually, they were a little cross-eyed) and super excited to see her favorite aunt ;)

Welcome to the world, my sweet Lauren. I can't wait to meet you.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Lasts Begin

This weekend was the Kandern Pottery Market (Töpfermarkt). This is a weekend I've looked forward to every year because you get to see some really cool pottery and it's just a nice time to hang out with your friends while looking at beautiful art.

Yesterday Rachel, Amy, Christine & I went and had a great time walking around and hanging out.


However, today after church, I decided to go back and take it in one last time by myself. I was a little sad only because I knew this was the first of many lasts that I will begin to experience in the next three months. I made sure to capture pictures of favorite pottery booths, of things I could never afford, and stared longingly at a mug that was just too expensive in the long run.

As I left, I ran into a few seniors who were also experiencing the loss of the pottery market. One stated that he wished he could buy something from every stall to remember it by. I felt his pain.

The lasts are only just beginning. I still don't know what to really make of this.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Process of Transition

Transition is a word that all of us living over here are quite familiar hearing. There's the transition of moving to a new country, adapting to a new culture, and making friends. There's the transition of saying goodbye to those who leave at the end of the year - students and friends - and then adjusting to life here without them. And then there's the transition you start to feel when you, yourself, are on your way out.

Yes, that's me.

I am asked a lot how I'm doing. It's a loaded question. Because there are so many answers, I really don't know how to respond to it. I'm trying to soak everything in - last Budenfest, last Pottery Festival, getting to a certain part of France or Switzerland one more time, checking easyjet to see if there are cheap flights to a European country that I want to get to before I go.

I'm trying not to let myself get too caught up in the "lasts" just yet. That will come when in a few weeks when we head to Herbstmesse with the kids and it's my "last" bumper car ride, my "last" ferris wheel ride seeing Basel, not to mention my "last" Herbstmesse.

I am doing my best to be intentional with my friends here and with those who are dear to my heart. I know I stay pretty busy but I want to leave well and in doing so, I need this time with people who have poured into my life these last 2 years.

Of course I can't help but get excited for going back. I'm excited to live in Orlando, excited to see what life looks like with John not only in the same time zone and continent, but in the same city!

However, I've done this before and I know how painful the re-entry process can be and I know there are going to be plenty of times where I'll suddenly think about this sweet little town and begin to miss it all over again.

Transition, you are a necessary evil sometimes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wisdom from Clive Staples

From Mere Christianity and something that I must remind myself of on a daily basis, if not hourly:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

There's been a lot of change going on in my life lately. Some I am enjoying, some not so much. But reminding myself that this change is ultimately for His good and never something I could've done on my own brings me a lot of comfort.

Besides, who wouldn't want a mansion instead of a shack?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to School

Christine and I were all ready for the first day of school today...


As is every year at BFA, teachers were to be ready to go at 8:45 in front of the auditorium. But first,we had to take a selfie with Dayla


"Where are the seniors?" I asked after we were lined up.
"They're waiting outside," said Kristi.
So I got out of line and briskly walked to where I saw them all lined up with their flags taking pictures with each other. I immediately ran to some of my senior girls and got a few pictures before I had to get back in line




And then the opening ceremonies began and soon we teachers were filing in. I expected to cry when I saw the seniors walk down the aisles with their flags, but I was so excited or them that I couldn't help but clap and cheer as they took the stage and placed their flag on display.

The normal charges were given - Director's charge, Principal's charge, and the Student Body President charge. This year's was a little different with Brenton, the President, ending his speech by challenging us all to branch out and then finishing off with the ALS ice bucket challenge.

The ceremony ended and the students filed out to say goodbye to their parents and younger siblings who would be leaving for their homes. It's one of two emotional goodbyes at BFA, the other being after grad when the students say goodbye to each other.

We had the usual announcements, I talked about auditions for the musical at the extra-curricular meeting(and then had 65 kids sign up! Oy!), and then the kids rotated through their classes. Currently I have 38 in Choir and 8 in Acting. Tomorrow we'll get to go through the syllabus and have actual instructional time. Note to BFA peeps: if you hear a lot of laughing and yelling from the Auditorium at 3rd period, it's just my Acting kiddos ;)

All in all, it was a perfect first day back.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Scenes from a Walk

A few pics I took last week while walking the path from Kandern to Hammerstein...






Friday, August 29, 2014

Pigeons Again


If you've followed my blog long enough, you know that God often uses pigeons to remind me of how he takes care of us. I don't know why he uses pigeons and not a prettier bird. I'd much rather write about flamingos or ibis birds but no, he's decided to use pigeons.

Yesterday, I was walking to school and passed by these pigeons in the little creek that runs through Kandern. I didn't have much time to observe them, but earlier that morning I had been worrying about little things here and there. In fact, they were so little that I can't even remember what I was worrying about anymore. But then I came across these pigeons and it was then that my Father reminded me how they know exactly where to go to get food and water.

Pigeons. Nasty, dirty, rats of the sky pigeons. And God takes care of them. So obviously, he's going to take care of me, one of his chosen and his beloved.

Seriously, though, couldn't he use a prettier bird?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back Across the Pond

The other day I walked out of my bedroom dressed and ready for the All Staff Conference.

"You know it's 59 degrees outside," said my roommate Christine, observing the white sundress I'd worn all summer in Florida.

"Oh. So I guess I'll be changing." I turned around and went back into my bedroom, beginning to wonder if I should go ahead and get out my box of winter clothes.

Welcome back to Germany. Summer is slowly fading into Fall and even though the days can get a little warm (and by warm I mean maybe 75ish), I'm pretty sure the sweaters and the leggings and the boots are about to make an appearance.

Being back has been a little bittersweet to be honest. I miss John and although we do a good job of texting and FaceTime and phone calls, there's nothing like being with your significant other in person.

But school starts in less than 2 weeks now so very soon I'll have plenty to occupy my mind.

So lots of changes taking place and lots more to come. But I thought I'd update and fill you in on life so far back in Deutschland....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Chronicle of Summer So Far


I got to hang out with Bailey, Taylor, & Nicole my second night back in town.
Me & Bailey





















And then John came to Jacksonville that Friday and took me out on our first date to River City Brewing Company. On Saturday, we spent the day in St. Augustine.

Our first date!
Watching the Germany/Ghana match in St. Augustine
On Sunday, I met up with Erika and we left for our Disney cruise to the Bahamas




 After our cruise, I went to Orlando and got to spend the weekend not only w/John but with Lexi as well!



















It was a great week to meet John's friends and get to hang out with one of my friends from BFA as well. The best was getting to go to DISNEY WORLD on Saturday with John, Lexi, and other friends.




And finally, I got to spend more time in Orlando over 4th of July week. John and I along with another couple spent the weekend in Ft. Myers, Florida.

                                     Needless to say, it's been a pretty great summer so far.....