Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update on Life

There has been a lot happening over here, and I feel as though an update on all the random things going on would be a good thing to do.

Soccer:
Our season has been underway for about a month now. This year I am in the same position I was in last year, as the assistant coach for the varsity girls team. It is sufficient to say that I absolutely LOVE the position and love being a part of the team. The girls I coach are talented, energetic, entertaining, full of integrity, interesting comments, and character. We have only played two games so far this year, and are 2-0. We won our first game 4-1 and our second game 4-0. We play again this Saturday and will face our toughest competition in this game. Some of the girls are a little worried, yet I am confident. I have continually been impressed with their skill and their ability to play as a team.
Last weekend we had an away game, which included a 7 hour bus ride each way, and a night sleeping on a gym floor. I love these weekends as they provide us the opportunity to get away, and be together as a team. Friday night we played a traditional game of “Who, What, Where.” I love it. The girls feel completely comfortable to be themselves, and I end up rolling on the floor with a hurting stomach from laughing so much.
Soccer continues to be a great experience and a great opportunity for me. I am getting to know the new girls better, as well as continuing to develop previous relationships.

Our varsity guys are also 2-0. They opened their season with a thrilling 3-2 victory and then won 3-1 in their second game. I have five of my guys on the varsity team, and two on the JV team. I love being able to watch them play, and talk to them about the game in the dorm. I am not technically a coach on the sideline, yet after every game they come to me with questions about how they played, and ways they can improve.

A few pictures from our first game of the year...




Spring Break:
I don’t know where to start with this topic. Since mid-November I have had it in my mind and heart that I would help lead a team to a country in the Middle East for a mission trip. Our team was small, which allowed for us to begin bonding early, and start to unify as a team. When the social unrest began in this region of the world, I became glued to news websites wondering if our trip was in danger of being canceled. About a month prior to our departure riots erupted in the country we were headed to and our worries began. Thankfully they soon calmed down, yet we were on alert. Unfortunately about two and a half weeks prior to our scheduled departure things began to escalate once again. With certain restrictions the government was placing on the residents, the leadership found it best to cancel the trip. This news was met with great discouragement and disappointment. It took me a few days to process the news, as my heart had been set for the students I would be traveling with, as well as the people we would minister to. I still don’t know why it all happened, but I am trusting that there are ways God is moving that are beyond my vantage point.
After hearing this news, I was left to figure out what to do for spring break. I was presented with the opportunity to go to Moldova and join a different team. I emailed a few people and honestly said to them, “can you make the decision for me. Tell me what I am doing.” I knew they couldn’t really do that, but that is what my heart wanted to have happen. After a lot of thinking and praying I have decided to join the team, and will be traveling with three other leaders, and 15 students. We are going to conduct a VBS type program for the local kids in the morning, with some physical labor on a community center in the afternoon. One night we are going to prepare a program for the local high school students, as well as a service for the local church.
It has honestly been a bit difficult trying to so rapidly change my mind and heart from going to the Middle East, to Moldova. From working with high school aged Muslims, to little kids. Yet with each day I am finding a renewed enthusiasm, and more peace. I have been blessed by being shown so much grace and patience from the fellow leaders and students. We will take off on April 9 and return to Germany on April 16.

Next Year:
I continue to move forward with my plans for next year, which is an exciting thing. I have lined up an apartment, and things seem to be falling into place. I know that I will greatly miss the dorm, but I am excited about the new role and the new opportunities it will open up. I have already had multiple students inquire as to whether or not they will be able to come over, hang out, cook, and watch sports. I’m starting to line up a few different groups of students who will come over on a regular basis. I am excited about opening up my apartment to them and engaging them in a different realm. I am still trying to figure out my plans for the summer, though I have told myself that I will start to think about that more in depth after spring break.

Marathon:
I probably haven’t talked much about this - other than a few random side notes and comments here and there. But this coming Sunday (April 3) I will be running my third marathon. The race is in Freiburg, Germany, which is a city about 45 minutes away. I have been training hard since Christmas (I actually went on my first official ‘training run’ on Christmas Eve) and am excited to hit the road. It has been a long spell of training, and there have been bumps along the way that have made training quite difficult. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the race, if nothing else, just to get it over with. Growing up my mom made the BEST oreo cake dessert, and I am planning on making that Sunday night, as a reward for finishing. Funny thing is, you cannot buy Oreos over here (or at least at a reasonable price) so for the whole semester I have had people ship them to me, or bring them in a suitcase. This dessert has taken as much effort and coordination as my training has! Come Sunday night it will be so worth it.

Thanks for keeping up on the blog. I hope you enjoyed a brief update on a multitude of different things going on here.
As always I feel blessed to be here, I am excited to be here, and I am thankful for your love and support. I couldn’t do what I do without you.
Thanks.
Tommy

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3.19.04





I just spent an hour or so talking with one of my guys about things he is dealing with. At one point while he was talking he said to me, "The person I miss most back home is my little sister." Instantly a huge smile covered my face, joy bounced in my heart, and a tear fell from my eye as I looked at him and confidently said, "I know exactly what you are talking about. Me too!"
There is nobody I miss more than my sister. She is the most amazing person there is, plain and simple. Today more than any other day I wish I could be there to give her a big hug, tell her I love her, and hang out with her. I know that can't happen, and it hurts my heart.
In a similar fashion to what I did for my dad a few days ago, today I went through my journals to take a few snip-its from notes I have written Whitney...
God has blessed me with the greatest sister in the world. I do not know how I can accurately express how much you mean to me and the happiness you bring to my life. You are beautiful, funny, smart, out going, and down right amazing. I love coming in to Pop's and watching you work. Regardless of how stressful things may be, you always pause to point out your family and say to everyone who is in ear shot, "That's my brother, isn't he so cute?" Haha, I remember when you did that to some old man this past summer, and he looked at me as if to say, "she's crazy" to which I responded, "Yeah. She's pretty rad." Of course, he was completely lost yet we knew exactly what was going on. I love your imagination and the way you can create something out of nothing. I thoroughly enjoy when we get going in a conversation that would make absolutely no sense to everyone else, yet you and I carry on knowing exactly what's taking place. Your spunky attitude and bubbly personality is contagious and affects those around you. You have such an amazing way of getting people to laugh and allowing everyone to feel comfortable. Sometimes you do this by telling everyone a story. However, sometimes your stories fail to include a plot, climax, and conclusion. But that's okay, they are still priceless.

To me, Whitney is a role model of strength, character and perseverance. Her strength and determination day in and day out provides me with energy and purpose. She has been called to run a difficult race, but her character does not allow for her to quit, which bolsters my faith. She has chosen to not give up rather to persevere, which provides me with hope. Her strength, gives me energy. Her character, faith. Her perseverance, hope.
Whitney makes me happy. Plain and simple. Hearing her voice and reading her e-mails instantly brightens my day. Hearing her moo like a cow can instantly place me in a better mood. In fact, I have my Ipod programmed to make a cow noise when I receive a text message, because it makes me think of Whitney, and puts a smile on my face. Whit - there have been numerous times where my Ipod is in my pocket and it starts to moo, and I get a bizarre look from those around me. I simply smile and say, "that's my little sister!"
Of course, you are no longer 'little.' You have grown into such a beautiful young woman. I am so proud of everything you have accomplished and overcame these past seven years. We all know it wasn't easy, but we know how much strength you have. We know that the next seven years do not promise to be any easier - yet we know you will not give up. You have done amazing things, and you will continue to do so. Your smile, your laughter, your jokes, are a blessing to so many. You are my sister, and I am so thankful for that. You are my sister, and I am so blessed by that. You are my sister and I am so encouraged by that. You are my sister, and I love you. You are my sister and I miss you. You are my sister and no matter what, I will always love you. You are my chicken-little, and I am so excited by that.

I hope you have a great day today. Here is a ginormous hug from Germany, back to you.
I love you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

One journal to the next...



In a sense, posting blogs on a weekly basis is a way for me to journal about my experiences here in Germany. Every so often I find it important and helpful to include a few things from my personal journals on the blog, and this week is certainly one of those instances. Scattered amongst this blog are quotes from my journals. Whenever I start penning a new journal, I write each member of my immediate family a love letter. They haven't read the letters, but I hope they know the words I've written by my actions. Today I want to share a few snip-its from a few of those letters.

Today is a great day. Sure, many celebrate St. Patrick's Day today, I however, find it more entertaining and fulfilling to celebrate my dad's birthday. Knowing I could not be in the presence of my dad to celebrate with him, earlier in the week I smugly asked him if he would like for me to send him flowers, his response was that he would rather I send him love. So, from half a world away, Dad, right now I want to send you my love.
You have no idea how much I look up to you and how blessed I am to have you as my dad. There are so many things about you I admire, a multitude of things I hope people one day say about me. You have always been there for me, regardless of what I have done. You have never stopped showing me love, support, and continually shower me with wisdom, affirmation and encouragement.
I remember growing up looking up to you and always wanting to be around you (though I am older, this hasn't changed). The way you took me to Brewers' games, Lambeau field, and many other places and events was amazing. I love how we can get together and witness an event or see something and then say, "Remember when we did ____ that was pretty cool!" There are so many cool memories and experiences we have shared. Haha, remember trying to get Philip and I to Milwaukee County Stadium to see Robin Yount get his 3,000th hit?
One of the other important things you have taught me is to have goals and a vision for where I am going. Though I probably disliked it at the time, I vividly remember you sitting me down to write out my goals to ensure I am going through life with a focus and purpose. Whether it was in regards to; academics, athletics, employment, relationships, spiritual life, you sat me down and made sure I had a vision of which direction I wanted to head. These would then serve as checkpoints along the way, to ensure I was on the path I wanted to be on. That is something I still do to this day, and don't ever see myself stopping. In fact, with our BFA soccer season getting underway, just the other day I sat down and typed out my goals for our soccer team this year!

It would be impossible for me to write and neglect to mention your humor. As soon as I type that, I can hear mom saying, "oh brother. Tommy, don't encourage him!" And you responding, "what? I'm funny!" Enjoy this for a moment, but don't let it go to your head, you are funny. Your humor is very much appreciated and has always helped our family through difficult times. Through our trials your humor kept everyone in a good mood and kept everyone at peace. There have been some scary moments for us, yet you used your humor to relieve us of stress and worry.
Most recently I have been very grateful for your wisdom. I am very blessed to know that I can ask you questions and get your opinion on any topic. Whether it be while we are golfing, or via skype, you listen to my questions and pass on your wisdom to me. Commonly your advice is spread over a few words, though minimal, they are powerful. Knowing my current circumstances I have found myself repeating advice you gave me a few times before, "Take a deep breath. Relax. Smile. Have fun."
This afternoon I was driving a few students back to the dorm and I was listening to country music. I asked if they enjoyed country music and the response was, "Ugh! No! My dad listens to country and it drives me nuts!" I couldn't help but share how when Philip, Whitney and I were all young, we would say the same thing. You wanted to listen to country, we wanted anything BUT country. As I type this blog, I'm listening to a little Travis Tritt. Hey, remember that time we saw him in concert? Pretty cool, huh?
I don't know how to best affirm your ability to raise me and guide me to the man I have become. you have been a hero, a fan, a man, and a father. I am eternally grateful for the parents I have been blessed with. I love you and I thank you for all you have done. I apologize I do not have the words to completely tell you how much I love you and how much you have been there for me.
Happy Birthday dad.
I love you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

His Story

The other day I was off on a run and my mind started to wander. I love studying history. It fascinates me. The world's second war - even with all the tragedies intrigues me. Amongst the ugliness of those years were some great individuals, such as Winston Churchill who aroused a nation, refused to give up and strove to live each moment as their finest hour. Since then, stories have been written and biographies have been created, all coming together to tell history and his story.

This caused me to think, in the future what will be written about my story? In one of the opening scenes of the movie, "Gladiator" we find the Emperor aware the final page of his life will soon be penned as he states, "I am dying Maximus, when a man sees his end he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in the years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant?" Though I do not know when my final breath will be - I know that how I live today will impact what is one day written about my life.
Winston Churchill grew up with the belief that he was destined for greatness. I believe that I can identify with Sir Churchill, as I too believe I am destined for greatness. I do not know where this charisma originated from for Winston. However I know that my aura is founded in Jesus Christ. Some may deem a belief in greatness as arrogance, pride, haughtiness. Yet I recognize, and believe that the only Son of God came to earth to save me from my sins. He who was without sin, came to take the place of one who is full of sin. The greatest of all, became least of all so that the price could be paid. These facts provide me with the confidence I need to believe in what I can accomplish.
World War Two provided Churchill the platform that catapulted him into a world wide household name. I am no where near being a household name. I am still waiting for that platform to present itself. While I wait, because I cannot control when that will happen, or even if that will happen - I have a desire. I crave to ensure that every house I am in, every house that does recognize my name, is left with no other choice but to acknowledge that I am a follower of Christ. May the story of my life, tell His story.
I may never have a biography penned in my honor. I may never give a rousing speech that ignites a fire and passion into the hearts of a nation. Yet, every day I am given the opportunity to live a life that preaches His story. My desire is that my history will be His story.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quote

Right now I don't feel as though I have any words to offer, so I am deferring to my favorite author, Max Lucado. I read these words in one of his books over the weekend, they hit my heart and caused me to pause and think. So I share them hoping they do the same for you.

Do me a favor. Pause for a moment and think about the people who make up your world. Take a stroll through the gallery of faces that are significant to you. Mentally flip through the scrapbook of snapshots featuring those you deal with often.
Can you see their faces? Your spouse. Your best friend. Your golf buddies. Your friends at PTA. Your kids. Your aunt across the country. Your neighbor across the street. The receptionist at work. The new secretary in the next office.
Freeze-frame those mental images for a moment while I tell you how some of them are feeling.
I went to our family doctor not long ago. I went for my first check-up since the one required for high school football seventeen years ago.
Since I was way overdue, I ordered the works. One nurse put me on a table and stuck little cold suction cups to my chest. Another nurse wrapped a heavy band around my arm and squeezed a black bulb until my arm tingled. Then they pricked my finger (which always hurts) and told me to fill up a cup (which is always awkward). Then, with all the preliminaries done, they put me in a room and told me to take off my shirt and wait on the doctor.
There is something about being poked, pushed, measured, and drained that makes you feel like a head of lettuce in the produce department. I sat on a tiny stool and stared at the wall.
May I tell you something you know, but may have forgotten? Somebody in your world feels like I felt in that office. The daily push and shove of the world has a way of leaving us worked over and worn out. Someone in your gallery of people is sitting on a cold aluminum stool of insecurity, clutching the backside of a hospital gown for fear of exposing what little pride he or she has left. And that person desperately needs a word of peace.
Someone needs for you to do for them what Dr. Jim did for me.
Jim is a small-town doctor in a big city. He still remembers names and keeps pictures of babies he delivered on his office bulletin board. And though you know he’s busy, he makes you feel you are his only patient.
After a bit of small talk and a few questions about my medical history, he put down my file and said, “Let me take off my doctor hat for a minute and talk to you as a friend.”
The chat lasted maybe five minutes. He asked me about my family, he asked me about my work load. He asked me about my stress. He told me he thought I was doing a good job at the church and that he loved to read my books.
Nothing profound, nothing probing. He went no deeper than I allowed. But I had the feeling he would have gone to the bottom of the pit with me had I needed him to.
After those few minutes, Dr. Jim went about his task of tapping my knee with his rubber hammer, staring down my throat, looking in my ear, and listening to my chest. When he was all done, as I was buttoning up my shirt, he took his doctor hat off again and reminded me not to carry the world on my shoulders. “And be sure to love your wife and hug those kids because when it all boils down to it, you’re not much without them.”
“Thanks, Jim,” I said.
And he walked out as quickly as he’d come in - a seed sower in a physician’s smock.