Thursday, November 29, 2012

I wish you could sit in my seat...

I walked through the door last night and said to my roommate, "It's 7:00pm and I don't have anything I have to do for the rest of the night. That's exciting." It's been a while since I've been home that early with nothing on my plate for the rest of the evening. It was a good night to relax and just chill out. Knowing tonight was going to be quite a bit busier, I tried to plan ahead a little and write a blog for today. So I sat down and typed up a blog that I thought was pretty decent and would give you some good information. As I finished writing I jokingly said to myself, "Man, I hope nothing happens tomorrow that would make for a better blog." The fact that I am writing again today... means that something did happen, and I am quite excited about it.
I chose the words for this post's title because I honestly wish you could have been in my seat today seeing and hearing what I got to hear. It was one of those moments that fills you with excitement, energy, joy, and purpose. I apologize in advance for being a bit vague in telling the story but I promise to explain more about it later.
Over the past month or so I have been dialoging with my closest friends about helping a student raise funds for an upcoming mission trip. I had an idea in mind but was missing the biggest piece to the puzzle: which specific student to support. So I emailed these guys and asked them to join me in prayer for a week. I gave them a list of 87 names and asked them to pray that one particular name would come to their hearts. After a week of prayer I checked back in with the guys and unfortunately nobody felt strongly about one name in particular. Yet each guy I emailed had sent me a specific qualification they thought would be important, such as: having been on a trip before, a student I already have a friendship with, a student who will take the trip seriously, if possible a student who I have coached as my friends often hear about my players. As the emails from my friends started coming back, I felt as though the 87 names were quickly dwindling and finally pointing to one student.
Two nights ago I sent an email to the parents to run the idea past them and make sure they were okay with my idea. After getting the green light from them, I approached the student today and gave my pitch.
This is when I wish you could have been sitting in my seat. As I spoke I could see the student's eyes forming tears of joy. I could see a smile that was beaming from ear to ear. I could see a student that was taken back and in shock, and overcome with happiness. Following my pitch the student explained in brief the reason for such joy, and tears. The student has been praying specifically for the doors to be opened to go to this one particular country, for over a year. Way before the trips were announced and the destinations known, this student knew where they hoped to go. But they also knew a major hurdle to get over before landing in country, would be finances. The first answered prayer was that our school is sponsoring a trip to this specific country. Another answered prayer is that a way has been paved for part of the finances. The student was blown away. And I had a front row seat to see it happen. It was awesome.
It was incredible to see a student overflowing with joy - but it was also really encouraging to see perseverance, patience and persistence lived out. As I mentioned in last week's post, I don't know what I am doing next year. At times that can be a really daunting thing for me to think about. Yet, today, I heard about a student who has been praying for the doors to be opened for over a year, and they are finally starting to creek open, and the massive hurdles, are being overtaken.
It was a good reminder to have faith and trust. It also got me excited to think about where I will be one year from now, and to think about the doors that will have opened to get me to where I will be. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

As I was walking to school this morning I suddenly realized that today in America, everyone will be celebrating Thanksgiving. I knew it was coming up, and I knew it was happening soon but, I didn't go to bed last night dreaming of what today would be like. I didn't wake up salivating wondering what kind of delicious food I was going to eat today. I didn't do any of these things, because today is just a normal day here in Germany. We had school today, just like we do every other Thursday of the year. There were tests and quizzes given today. After school the basketball teams were in the gym working on lay-ups and polishing up their defensive skills. Tonight the students will be completing homework and preparing for school tomorrow. It is a normal day.
During my walk I had convinced myself I would treat today as any other day. Twitter and facebook are bombarded with Thanksgiving Day messages, but I was determined to carry on as normal. Almost trying to act oblivious to all that is happening in America. Why? My thought was that if I try to carry on normally, I wouldn't get homesick and wouldn't feel like I am missing out.
This is my fifth year in a row being in Germany for Thanksgiving. I wasn't with my family for the two Thanksgivings prior to moving to Germany. So I know it has been at least seven years since I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. Some may think you would get used to it, and it wouldn't be a big deal. Yet every year it is hard. It is difficult being away from family and friends on holidays. Rather than face these discouraging feelings, I chose to try and avoid them.
I walked into school and we began the morning with a school-wide professional development. But that was cut short as the entire staff were invited to the cafeteria where a couple of local families had put together a Thanksgiving brunch for the staff. When I walked in, I seriously almost started crying. It was moving. It was beautiful. It was thoughtful. Not to mention, the food was pretty amazing. They had a more traditional German style breakfast, and a few American treats thrown in there (aka strips of bacon...I can't remember the last time I saw strips of bacon). Some of the students came in early and served the staff. It was such a blessing and such an amazing thing.
As much as I was hurting for not being able to be with family and friends today - I looked around the room as I shared a meal with; teachers, coaches, colleagues, I knew I was surrounded by family and friends. We do life together here, and it is a beautiful thing. For that, I am thankful.
I ate so much at breakfast that I didn't need to eat again until dinner, which proved to be another meal of giving thanks. Every Thursday I have a group of seniors come over for dinner and we sit around the table talking, laughing and simply hanging out. The group came over as usual tonight and had a great time. I even made them sit down with me and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. As I sat at the table I looked around and smiled at the fact that these students have become my brothers and sisters. For that, I am thankful.  
To finish the night off - I got a little piece of American Thanksgiving. I worked it out to do a skype video with one of my closest friends and his wife. They set me a place at their table as they enjoyed their Thanksgiving meal. I don't know how everything tasted, but it sure looked good, and I got to join them. For that I am thankful.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Individuals here, who have become family and friends. Students who have become brothers and sisters. Friendships that continue despite distance. For all of these things, I am thankful. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where are you headed?

It has been quite a busy day, and it is almost eleven at night and I am just starting to sit down and write this blog. I originally was thinking about heading in one direction with today's post, but after a few conversations I had tonight, I am deciding to change directions. Most of this will honestly be me processing, but it will hopefully give you some insight into what is happening here, and where I am headed.
Three different people came up to me tonight, none of who were really connected and asked me, "What are you going to be doing next year?" For those who don't know, because of my visa situation here in Germany, I will have to leave the country for at least one full year. So at the end of this school year I know there is a big door that is shut - no chance of me staying in Germany again next year. Which prompts people to ask the question, "What are you going to be doing next year?"
The simple and honest answer is, "I don't know." I truly do not know where I will be one year from now. On a few different occasions I have tried to sit down and envision where I want to be in a year. I have ideas, plans, and thoughts, but as of now nothing has become anything solid. I have sent out a few emails and chased a few leads, but haven't landed anywhere yet. I don't know where I'm going, and I don't know what I will be doing.
In some ways that thrills me. I am looking forward to the adventure and the unknown. In some ways that terrifies me, as I like to plan ahead and know where I am headed. At the same time, it deeply saddens me as I realize this is my last year here in Germany.
This has become such a special place to me and a place I truly love. I have been here ever since graduating from college, so in a sense all I know of "the real world" is here in Germany. Right now, I truly look forward to going to work in the morning. I enjoy being at work. I love what I do, and love who I get to work with, both staff and students. Life here has not always been easy - there have been many, and continue to be many, difficult moments. Yet it is a place where my heart is happy. Where I feel alive and I feel purposeful. I truly am passionate about the ministry that happens here, and want to play the small role in that, that I can.
As a coach it is not uncommon to tell your athletes, "Leave everything on the field." I am sure many of us have heard the speech, "I don't care if you win or lose, as long as you give it everything you have. Don't come off that field knowing you could have given more." That has been my mentality while being in Germany - to give it everything I have. I truly hope those who see me, and know me, recognize I have poured my heart and life into this ministry. And I love it.
Some hear me talk about BFA and say, "Well why don't you go back after being away for a year?" That is definitely an option, but something in my heart is telling me I won't be here in two years. I don't know why I have that feeling and I can't fully describe it, but the one thing I can't do is deny it. Some people hear of my thoughts/ideas for next year and say, "That makes sense, I can totally see you doing that." Others may hear option B and respond, "That sounds right up your alley!"
There are a couple different directions and a couple different options, and all seem possible, fitting, and good potentials. But right now I don't know where I will be headed. I don't know which option will work out and which doors will be shut. So right now, I'm simply walking in trust and faith. Trusting that doors will be opened as they need to be. Having faith that doors will be shut in my face when I have gone as far as I should.

I do not know where I will be next year - you can feel free to email me in a year and hear about all that happened with these 12 months and how I ended up where I am. Between now and then I am going to think about it. I am going to do my research. I am going to do what I need to do. I am not going to sit idly by and wait for the perfect opportunity to fall in my lap. But, I also don't want to focus too much on the future and what is going to happen, so that I miss out on what is actually happening here and now. Right now, I love where I am. I love what I do. And I have a purpose here, and I want to fulfill that. I will cherish every moment I have, soaking in all the memories and opportunities before me.

So when people ask me where I will be next year, I tend to shrug my shoulders a little, give a goofy grin and say, "I truly don't know, but in a year I'll let you know where I am." 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interviews from Rome

As you may recall, a little over a month ago I was fortunate enough to be one of the class sponsors that took our seniors on their class trip. While on the trip I took some time to interview a few of the students. Pretty much every single one was a spur of the moment thing, and each time I gave the students virtually no advanced warning of what I was going to say or ask. Seeing as how it has been a little while since I've posted a video on my blog, I figured this would be a good time to show this.
To see the video simply follow the link below and enter the password: students2012
link: https://vimeo.com/52880115

Thanks for checking out the blog and for taking a look at the video!

Tommy

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The collision of two worlds

It seems as though most often when people say, "My worlds are colliding" it carries a negative connotation. The ensuing collision involves awkward moments, unnatural conversation, and uneasy feelings. Tonight, I had two worlds collide, and it was the exact opposite of what I described above.

I have been fortunate this year to have an apartment that has room to host people. Our living room is more than adequate to comfortably fit a good number of people. Knowing this, it has been a strong desire of mine to utilize the space and make this an apartment where people feel comfortable to come and hang out. For the past four or five Thursdays I have invited a group of students over for dinner and to hang out. Each week the group may differ slightly, but we have maintained the same nucleus, and continue to branch out. Overall it has been a great experience and something I am very thankful to be a part of. Due to other commitments during the day today, I wasn't able to prepare dinner ahead of time, so I was rushing a little bit to get everything together as the doorbell was ringing. As the students trickled in, there were more bodies than chairs in the kitchen. Knowing I would still be making dinner for a little while, I told them to go in the living room and sack out on the couches and relax. After I said this, they looked at each other and then one spoke on behalf of the whole group saying, "We all want to be together. We want to stay in here with you." So they all plopped down on the kitchen floor and we talked, laughed, and joked around until dinner was ready. It was a really special thing. I was blessed, and excited to have them sitting around the kitchen, wanting to be a group and wanting to hang out.
As we were eating they asked me to share some funny stories with them. When asked for a good funny story, one of the first people I think of is my friend Ross. He was one of my closest friends in college and continues to be a vital part of my life to this day. So, I was sharing some entertaining stories from my adventures with Ross, and while sharing got a great idea...let's see if we can skype with Ross. I sent him a text message and asked him if he was around at all and within the next 30 minutes we were video-chatting and my worlds were colliding.
I sat in the background and watched/listened as Ross interacted with my students. It was awesome because Ross asked them, "Who of you has Tommy as his guidance counselor?" and "Who of you has or had Tommy as a coach?" From there he asked more questions and got to hear about their plans for the future, and their viewpoints of life here at BFA. Additionally they asked Ross questions about our friendship and about some of the memories Ross and I have shared together. It was enjoyable and such a blessing. I loved being able to say to Ross, "remember that story I told you about how a kid hid in the laundry room and scared me? This is the guy who did it" My worlds were colliding. One of my closest friends from the States was meeting some of my closest friends here in Germany. No awkwardness, no uneasy feelings. Just laughter, sharing, and good times.