Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rest

Every so often there is a German holiday on a random day that forces us to take a day off from school. Today is one of those days. To be truthful, I don't know what today's holiday is, nor do I know why everything is shut down. But, I'm not going to complain. I'm going to enjoy the day off and the opportunity that it presented to do a whole lot of...nothing.

Today I did something that I have done maybe one or two other times this whole semester: I took a nap. The fact that I have taken so few naps is not because of any dislike I have for them, but more so because I simply haven't had many opportunities to take a nap. Life has been fast-paced and has not allowed for a lot of rest or down time recently.

At the start of the week I was originally planning on trying to organize a few different social activities for today. It was a free day and seemed like a good chance to hang out with some students and/or friends. Nothing was really panning out - which truly turned into a blessing.

This morning I was very productive with things around our apartment. I did what I called a first wave of cleaning and packing. Nothing made it into a suitcase yet, but I looked through my closet and gave away any clothes I no longer use. I kept decorations up on my walls, but threw away any little nick-nacks I know I don't need to tote back to the States with me. It will be tough trying to fit five years into three suitcases, so I am trying to start that process sooner rather than later.

After feeling quite productive in the morning, I noticed the sun began to hide behind some clouds and the rain started to fall, making it a perfect time for an afternoon nap.

With how busy life has been recently, and how fast these next two weeks will go, it was a true blessing to have a day to; mentally, physically, emotionally...rest. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The 5 keys to the game

When I coach, prior to each game I find it helpful to list five different things our team needs to focus on in order to be successful. I'm not quite sure when/where/why/how it started, but I have found it beneficial to try and simplify the game, and give us a few things to focus on.

Today while on my run, I started thinking about the blog I wanted to write for today. Recently my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place. Knowing I wanted to write about this soccer season, I thought it would be fitting to write about five things that have left a memorable impact on me this season.

1. We are one.
All season long I encouraged the guys to be one. A team not of 15 individuals, but one team that is headed in the same direction. Always willing to sacrifice for the team, able to push each other, encourage one another, be there as teammates and friends. Each day after practice the guys were encouraged to go around and give high-fives to all of their teammates. It was a way to show unity, but also ensure we leave any hostility on the field.
Following the game that marked the end of our season we gathered in a circle one last time as a team. After a few words, I encouraged the guys to finish the year with one last round of high-fives. After my suggestion a player spoke up and said, "I don't think we should give high-fives, we should give hugs." As someone who is not a very huggy person, I really enjoyed the suggestion and thought it was a great suggestion. Each member of our team went around and gave everyone else a hug. Even in the middle of the sad realization that our season was over, it was a beautiful scene to see everyone going around with appreciation for the way their teammate had walked through the season with them. Personally, I really appreciated the opportunity to give a hug to everyone, and thank them for all they had given to the team.

2. We gave everything we had.
I cannot write this one without tearing up. The night our season ended I found myself sitting in the bleachers of the gym in which we were staying. One of the guys came up to me, a guy who received an an award for being an All-Region player, and said these words to me, "At the beginning of the year you said you wanted me to give you everything I had. I did. I gave you all I could give. Thank you for pushing me and for helping me grow more and more confident. Each game I knew you believed in me, and it gave me the confidence I needed. It gave me the strength to keep going when I was tired. Until this year I had never received any kind of award or recognition for sports. Because of your belief in me, I did."
I had no words at the moment, and still can't fully express what my heart feels as I replay those words in my head. Naturally I want to win. I am competitive. But more than winning, I want my players to give all they have. He did. He gave me everything he had. You can keep your championship trophy, and I'll keep his words, and the knowledge that he gave everything he had to give.

3. Sometimes words are not necessary.
Following our game I was walking back to the gym and saw two of our guys sitting in the stands. I had such a great time coaching these two. I learned a lot about them as players throughout the year and thoroughly enjoyed coaching them. Even more, I enjoyed getting to know them as people. As I was walking by, I could tell they were struggling with the realization that our season just ended. I didn't want to simply walk by without acknowledging them, but fully realized I had no words that could make any difference. So, I walked over and shook each of their hands, gave a little pat on the head, and tried to give a little smile to accompany a head nod. I didn't use any words but hoped they felt the love I was trying to communicate. I trusted they knew what I was communicating to them. I was there for them, still believed in them, was proud of them, loved them.
A few hours later, I was talking with a different player in the gym. It was an emotional conversation and tears were pouring from my eyes. Out of nowhere, one of the players from the scene mentioned above came walking over and handed me a gatorade. As he did, he used no words, but gave a little smile and a similar head nod to the one I had given a few hours prior.
Words were not necessary, and it was amazing to communicate and connect in a unique way.

4. We got better.
The quality of our performance in our final game was a lot better than our first game. Throughout the season we challenged each other to be better. This certainly applied to our technical and tactical abilities on the field. Better passing. Better chatter. Better first touch. But, it didn't stop there - we were on a team that desired to make each other better people. At the end of the season you can look back at your stats and pretty clearly judge whether or not you got better. You can look at the number of give-aways you have, and pretty easily determine whether or not you improved. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a stat that accurately dictates whether or not we became better people. Despite this tool not being available, I believe by the end of the season, we became better people than we were 10 weeks ago.

5. We had fun.
My players know the fifth and final key to the game is always, "Have fun." That needs to be one of the foci every time. If we are not having fun, we are not doing things correctly. Despite the season not ending how we had desired, we still had fun. On Wednesday morning the guys team was watching our girls play in their final game. After the game we found a random patch of grass with a few goals set up. The guys grabbed a ball and ran onto the field. For a few minutes I stood and watched as it filled my heart with joy. It was fun watching them slide around on wet grass, fun listening to them laugh, seeing them goof around and have fun. After a few minutes I couldn't simply watch, I wanted to join. I ran out there and played with them. Players, coaches, managers. We were all out there...having fun. It only lasted for maybe 15 minutes. But it gave me a feeling and a memory I wish I could bottle up. Tears of joy came as I watched them laughing and running around. I felt honored as I sat and thought about how special this place is. How many amazing memories I have here. I was so proud of who these students have become. After walking through life with them for anywhere from a few months, to five years, I was filled with a thankful heart for the opportunity to be here and share life with them. It truly was a priceless moment. A moment to be cherished, and not soon forgotten. A moment where all the frustrations, difficulties, sadness, pain, from the season was washed away by; laughter, joy, smiles...fun.

When I began planning for the season back in August, I had visions of us winning the championship. I still think we could have, but it simply is not the way things played out this season. Not winning a trophy is a hard thing to swallow. Compared to; being one, giving everything we had, communicating to one another, being better players and better men, and having fun... you can keep your trophy and I'll walk away with those five things completely content. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Family Dinners

Within the past month I was sitting around the table and as the group began to eat, we looked at each other and exclaimed, "We're having a family dinner." The title fit perfectly. Though, it was a new title  placed on that which has been happening for years; family.

While I commonly talk about how much I enjoy what I get to do here, I far too often fail to communicate how much I enjoy doing it with the people that are here. Over the past five years here in Germany I have been absolutely blessed to serve alongside some amazing people. We all tend to laugh as we recall the initial months, as we all entered a foreign country and were randomly placed in a group of complete strangers. The laughter soon turns to joy and thankfulness as we think through the ways in which God has used us in each other's lives. Recently, the joy has been turning into sadness as we realize our time together is quickly coming to a close. In a moment of reflection, it is such a blessing to see the ways in which those strangers have become my German family.

We lived together in the dorm. We traveled together to get away and to recharge our batteries. We laughed until we cried. We celebrated with each other in our victories. Whether it was a successful trip to the German DMV, or a breakthrough conversation with a student. We challenged each other and spurred one another on. We argued with each other. Yes, there have been times of disagreement and arguments. We explored the German culture and surroundings as we adapted to this new life. We celebrated the victories. We mourned and comforted each other during the valleys. We have laughed together. We have cried together. We have called each other to talk. We have listened to one another in moments of pain and confusion. We have spoken words of grace and encouragement. We have walked through life together.

The thing that is so precious to me is the unique bond we share. Each one of us has gone through our own trials, joys, successes, failures, ove the years here in Germany. We live in a culture that is consistently transitional. Things are constantly changing. Yet, through all the different changes and circumstances, this group of friends has been one of the only consistent things here. Because we have shared this time together in Germany, there is an unexplainable bond that has been created. It didn't happen instantly, but over time it was formed. And a beautiful aspect of our family is that it keeps growing. With each new year, new staff have come into the school and into our lives.

I honestly find it difficult to put into words how much I appreciate my German family. Our family dinners have become a time and place where I feel comfortable and at home. I invite myself over when I need to. I walk right into the pantry if I need food. I head to the fridge without asking, if I need a drink. When I have needed a character adjustment, they are there willing and ready to speak truth into my life. When I have needed encouragement or a good laugh, they are abel to provide both. In a foreign country when I have needed a place to feel at home; through them I have found my German family.

To my German Family: Thank you for all you have done in my life. Thank you for all the memories and for sharing in this amazing journey we have been on. You have been more valuable than words can express. I am eternally grateful for the role you have played in my life. Yes, Erin, this includes you. You have finally made it into a post! Not only that, but you get your very own picture.



A recent day trip out to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle 






We had the camera set on a self-timer and moments before this picture, something accidentally came flying out of someone's mouth, and the timer went off and beautifully captured everyone's reaction. A priceless picture. 




Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bangladesh video

As many of you may know a few weeks back I helped lead a trip to Bangladesh. It was quite an incredible adventure that I am thrilled to have been a part of. As I came back from the trip, I put up quite a few posts describing the things we did. If you did not have a chance to read those, I would encourage you to do so. Today, I wanted to upload a video our team put together to help put pictures/video with the stories we have been sharing. Take a few minutes to watch the video below, I am certain you will enjoy it. 




Also, I would encourage you to visit my other blog and see a note from the trip: http://runningthroughlifeblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/a-few-words-from-katie/

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Another Day. Another Hat.

I am nearing the end of what will most likely be the busiest two weeks of the semester for me. I would love to be able to say I am finishing this strenuous stretch with energy and strength. Yet, the truth is I'm not quite at the finish line and I'm dragging. The past three days have been jam-packed with a lot of different activities. Ironically, each day proved to be a magnificent blend of the different hats I am wearing here...

Tuesday:
The whole day is what we call, "Senior Day." In the morning I was wearing my 'guidance counselor' hat as we gathered all the seniors to an off-campus location. For a few hours we had different guest  speakers from our community come in and share different tools and strategies they can use as they prepare to leave our school and enter into a new community. This day is something a co-worker and I have diligently been working on since November, so it was a day that required a lot of planning. Thankfully the morning went extremely smooth. We believe it contained a lot of practical information the students will be able to walk away with and implement into their lives.

The afternoon ushered in the second half of, "Senior Day" a class trip to a nearby picturesque town in Switzerland. When we finished with our morning sessions I put on my 'class sponsor' hat and went with the seniors. Thankfully the rain held off which enabled us to walk around the city and enjoy the sights. I enjoyed walking with different students and processing what they heard in the morning. We also spent a lot of time playing the game "remember when" as we walked down memory lane and talked about different memories we shared through the years. The night finished with a traditional German meal in a local restaurant. Here, I found myself sitting with a different group of students and was really encouraged by the conversations. I also really enjoyed just sitting back in my chair and watching all the students interact. The laughter. The smiles. The joy. The friendships. I just sat back and soaked it in.

Wednesday:
Off with the class sponsor hat, and on with the 'soccer' hat. Due to inclement weather, earlier in the season we had a soccer game postponed that got rescheduled for yesterday. My alarm went off shortly after 5:00am as I had to get into school early to get all our paperwork in order and make sure we had everything we needed for traveling. The bus rolled into school around 6am, and we traveled close to 500km (it took us about 7 hours). We got three and a half games in, before a thunderstorm barrled through the area - multiple flashes of lightning brought our final game to an early end. We finally got off the field around 9.00 and after some good times with the teams, we got to bed around midnight.

Thursday:
Since we sleep in the gym of the host school, we had to be out the door by 7.30 so they could use their gym for classes. Waking 60+ students up and moving them out of a gym and onto a bus takes some time, so the alarm clock was unnecessarily early again. After getting everyone up, it was back on the bus for the 7 hour trek home.
Following a short and light practice, I gathered all my gear and headed home - as I was getting to my front door, I ran into a few students who were on their way to my place for dinner. Another day, another hat. Referring to my post a few weeks back, Thursdays are the night for my small group. Tonight seven different students showed up, and we sat around the table for a while and enjoyed some home-made pizza. Everyone was pretty tired, so everything we said became infinitely more entertaining than need be. After a couple long days, it was great to burst out in laughter.

Thankfully tomorrow will be fairly normal before another full day of soccer on Saturday.

It has definitely been a pretty busy and tiring couple of days. I cannot deny that I am tired. I absolutely love everything I do, and am thankful for each and every day. It has been a busy stretch, wearing a lot of different hats. Yet, each day, and each hat, enables me to reach the students in a different way. For that, I am grateful.