Saturday, July 27, 2013


Over the past few weeks I put together a video with pictures from the past year. All you have to do is click on the following link below and insert the password.

Click here for the link
Password: BFA2013

Hope you enjoy! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


This past week I began training for my next marathon. Over the past months I have consistently been running but it was not until this past Monday that I began to follow a training regimen. The race will be on the 20th of October in Columbus. I chose this race in part because of the proximity, but also because the time of year seemed to be ideal. As I have grown accustomed to doing, I wrote the date of the race on my shoes, and also wrote one word on each shoe that I want to focus on throughout my period of training. The two words I chose for this race are relax and community.

Why the word relax?
As I prepare for teaching I have been bugging a lot of teachers I know for advice and insight. My paraphrase of one nugget given to me is, "There will always be more you can do. You need to set up boundaries and make sure you always have time to do something to relax. Mentally and physically you need to be able to shut off and take some time for you. If you're not healthy, you won't be a quality teacher." As soon as I heard that, I knew running would be the ideal thing for me. It offers me time to myself. Time where nobody can bug me. Time to think, to pray, to get away, to release stress, to be rejuvenated. I knew that if I signed up for a marathon I would have a daily run I have to do.
With this in mind I want to focus on allowing my runs to be chunks of time in which I can relax. Time that I can protect and come back refreshed.

Why the word community? 
I chose this word with two different trains of thought - one that looks backward and one that looks forward.
Through my years in Germany I found myself a fun running community. Our experience was as varied as our pace. Regardless we still had a unique bond that was shared on the running trails, and as we gathered for "pasta parties" prior to races. Each fall there is a race in Basel that many in this community will run. Even though the date of that race and my race are different, in a small way it makes me still feel a part of the running community. As we train (thousands of miles apart) we will maintain a point of connection. It brings me peace knowing I can train with them, even if we no longer are passing each other on the trails.
I am walking into a new situation that will offer no immediate community. That will be tough. My mind and my heart knows I need community. I also know that community does not always seek you out, you have to go out and create it. So each day as I put on my shoes to run, I will see the word "community" and remind myself that I need to be actively pursuing community. I will look back at what I had, and look forward to what I can create.

Let the fun begin.

I love how beat up my shoes are from all the miles I've put on them. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Extended Layover

By week's end the number of planes I have been on so far in 2013 will reach 18. Some of those have been direct flights but the majority of trips have included multiple planes, ushering in one of the most agonizing words of air travel: layover. I have firmly concluded that my least favorite airport to have a layover in is Paris (CDG) but after recent experiences I am finding that London (LHR) is a not so distant second. Thousands of people go through these airports daily and for the amount of people coming in and out of the airport they do a decent job, but it can still be a massive headache.

A week ago I had a multi-hour layover in London. As I spent my time in the airport I came up with a few observations...
1. You can be productive but cannot accomplish a whole lot during a layover.
Sure it feels good to walk around a bit, you can stretch your legs, get out of the plane and get some 'fresh air.' But with somewhere between one or two hours, you are limited on time and space. You can get some things taken care of but you are limited in what you can accomplish.

2. You cannot fully relax because you are not yet at your final destination.
A layover is a pit stop. A pause. The layover spot is not where you finish, it is a stepping stone in getting you to your final destination.

3. Not everything about a layover is negative.
One of the redeeming factors of stopping in London is that they have Cadbury candy bars in the little stores as well as a cheap newspaper in English. Both things that make a layover a little more bearable.

4. Nobody fits in, and that is completely normal.
Especially when flying through such an international airport such as London - passengers are coming from all corners of the globe and they all look different. Nobody fits in with the thousands of other passengers sharing the terminal, and that is completely normal.

During my first week back I have come to feel as though I am in an extended layover.

1. You can be productive but cannot accomplish a whole lot during a layover.
I am here for about three more weeks before I begin to move again. Weeks are obviously longer than hours. Yet, I still cannot accomplish everything I need to do. I want to move into my apartment. I want to make sure I have everything there I need. I want to feel settled. I cannot do any of those things at the moment so part of me feels unproductive. Yet, there are certain smaller things I have been taking care of (getting a phone, getting my bank situation taken care of, visiting friends, etc.) I am definitely taking care of some things, but there are other things I can't check off.

2. You cannot fully relax because you are not at your final destination.
This is actually the observation that helped connect the metaphor. In some senses I don't feel as though my transition has begun, because I'm not where I will end up. I cannot fully relax because there are still unknowns I cannot tackle until August. I am not in my new environment yet, and am just waiting for that time to get here.

3.Not everything about a layover is negative.
I have hung out with my sister and parents every day since being back. I get to go for runs by the ocean. I get to laugh with and be around,people I love. Being here is not a negative thing. Plus, I get to read an English newspaper daily! Not everything about this extended layover is negative.

4. Nobody fits in and that is completely normal.
In the airport nobody fits in and it seems normal. Outside of the airport not fitting in as a bit abnormal. Socially, culturally, technologically, I do not feel as though I quite fit in. It is increasingly difficult to explain how it affects me mentally and emotionally.
Here is an example: A man just sat in the chair next to me and started eating a sandwich and drinking a soda. I found myself taking three glances at his soda because I was strangely fascinated by the size of his soda. After three glances the light bulb went off, it was a 20oz bottle. Pretty standard and typical for the States, right? There really shouldn't be anything too strange or fascinating with a 20oz bottle. However, the sizes in Germany are different and this sudden appearance of a "new" bottle size caught me off guard. The size was new and seemed out of place. But it wasn't the bottle that was abnormal, it was me and what I am used to. It makes me feel out of place and abnormal...and it's only a bottle of soda!

Ironically, I am sitting in an airport as I finish this blog. The boarding process has just begun. Time to take one flight, then I'll have a 90 minute layover before a second flight that will eventually take me to my final destination.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A beautiful place. A beautiful time.

The city of Kandern's emblem. 

"29F. That's where this journey starts. I don't know every where it will take me. I don't even know who is picking me up from the airport on the other side. All I know is that it starts here in 29F..." 

- The beginning of a journal entry from August 1, 2008 as I sat on the plane to come to Germany for the first time.  

I had a long internal debate as to whether or not I wanted to put up a post the day I left Germany. After much thought, I decided it was what I wanted to do. But then I couldn't figure out how I wanted to go about it. Should I write it a few days before and simply post it in the morning? Should I write a long thank-you? Should I be short and simple, and try to hide all emotion? Just post pictures? None of those completely satisfied me. So I decided I would carve out 30 minutes the morning I leave to sit down and just type. No editing. No major thought beforehand. Just me, my keyboard, and the thoughts and emotions that are running through my mind and heart as I spend this final morning here in Germany. 

When I think through the past five years and the time I have spent here, the first and most accurate word I can think of is; beautiful. This truly has been a beautiful place, and a beautiful time of my life. Why the word beautiful? It obviously incorporates the presence of beauty. To say the least, this has been a beautiful time/place of my life. The green hills, the amazing trails through the woods, the babbling creek, the Black Forest is full of beauty. But it's not just physical, the people here are truly beautiful. People here have made this experience what it is - both staff and students. Stick this school in the middle of an ugly desert, and I am certain I would still find it filled with such beauty because of the people. 

I also like the word beautiful because in my opinion beauty allows for the presence of pain and difficulty. Beauty does not mean the absence of pain. In many ways, it is the pain, sorrow, hurt, difficulty, that helps create the beauty. This place has not been without its pains and difficulties. Give me ten seconds to talk about my experience here and my face will shine and light up - I cannot hide my excitement for these five years - but that did not come without its difficulties. My years as an RA were not always peaceful and easy. My being here, did not come without a cost of leaving loved ones on the other side of the ocean. In behing here, I have felt waves of loneliness like never before. But all of those things combine to make something beautiful. This is a beautiful place. These past five years have been such a beautiful time. 

In some senses the reality of leaving has not fully hit. I knew a year ago this would be my final year, so I have had it in the back of my mind all along. But even in the past month, and weeks, the reality has not sunk in. Mainly, because I am still here. Even now, I am typing from my living room, having just eaten my normal German breakfast, and after I finish typing I will walk to the local bakery and pick up a little pastry. I have gone to bed every night knowing the next morning I will awake and still be in Germany. Honestly... I am dreading and fearing the feeling I get tomorrow morning when I wake up knowing I am no longer in Germany, and do not have any firm plans as to if or when I will ever be back. This transition brings about some fears in me... 

There is the fear of failure. I want to do the best I can in whatever role I find myself in. Yet, I am scared of failing as a teacher. I am scared of whether or not I will be able to do what it is I have been called to do. There is an unknown, an unsettling feeling, and a fear of failure. 
One of my other fears as I look toward the future is reverse culture shock. It honestly feels as some people make light of the situation. Let me assure you, it is a real thing, and it is not the most enjoyable thing to go through. People have told me, "You are coming home to. This is a place you know. You know the language, you know the way things run." No. I don't. I realize I have lived in America for 20+ years, but I have been outside the American culture for the last five, and I have grown accustom to the way Germany does it. The pace of life, the size of stores, the presence of technology, the consumerism, the reliance on self, to name a few are all aspects of life that will catch me off guard. I no longer feel at home in the States. 
Off of this, I fear that people will not understand. This, is perhaps the greatest and most devastating fear I have. Not everyone understands what this place means to me. I can show pictures, I can tell stories, but some will fail to understand me, and this place. That is a terrible feeling. To some, all my pictures will simply be pictures of random places or random people. They won't know the stories behind each person, the meaning behind the significance of each place. That's hard. I don't fault anyone for not being able to understand. It's not any one person's fault, it is simply the reality. When people don't understand the culture shock I am going through, or why I am having a difficult time leaving, it makes it hard. It becomes really difficult to not be understood. 
There is also a fear of lacking community. This place is so beautiful because it forces us to rely on each other and to rely on community. People here have graciously waited for me to strip off the Superman "S" on my chest as I was humbled and needing to ask others for help. "Where is this store?" "How do I register for this?" "How do I fix this?" So much of life here is spent leaning on one another, and it is incredible. Within the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time with family and friends as we spend our last minutes together. There is an incredible bond. A phenomenal understanding of one another. All my friends here are so random and honestly, very different than what I would probably normally "choose" if I had the option. But here, I didn't have many options for friends - so we made the effort to truly get to know one another and appreciate who we are. And I am so thankful we were forced to do that. It has been an incredible lesson and a phenomenal blessing. 

I feel as though I need to publicly make an apology and ask for forgiveness. In talking to people about what lies ahead I have heard myself use the phrase, "some of my closest friends are going to be nearby." As I thought about that I began to realize it could be a slap in the face to my friends here. Because the truth is, some of the greatest friends I will ever have are here. I apologize about slapping you. People here truly are friends who... 
... let me invite myself over whenever I needed to talk or read and get away
... invited me over every Saturday night for a game of hearts and good conversation
... came over on Sundays to watch the NFL, even if you weren't cheering for the Packers
... turned Wii golf into a friendly competition and a time of fellowship
... rode a bike while I ran and offered encouragement, support, and a helpful word
... opened up and shared of grief, loss, and struggles 
... come over for some Grub N Fun every Thursday - (even if they can't remember that you went to Paris and Rome together!)
... imitate you in an iconic rap battle
... chase zebras with me in the Kenyan wild
... attack a wilde fox attempting to steal food from my backpack as we hike through the Swiss Alps
...  come to my office every fourth period to hang out, laugh, and share life 
... laugh at my attempted Irish accent, in a conversation that is deep and meaningful
... go on runs and provide a runner's vault that is trusted
... who will be on the sideline cheering me on during a marathon - even jumping the fence to offer a word of encouragement when necessary 
... will sit around and talk for three hours without any need for technology to be entertained
... pray for you. encourage you. cook for you. 
... celebrate the victories, cry with you in the valleys, walk with you through the struggles

The people here are truly amazing and make this place beautiful. It is going to be extremely difficult to be apart from you. You have made this adventure what it is. Thank you. Thank you for being some of the greatest friends I will have. Thank you for equipping me, sharpening me, being patient with me, and aiding in the transformation of my character. 

It is not easy to leave, but there is one thing that provides me with peace and excitement, it is a theme I have seen over and over again in the past six months; the knowledge that God is faithful. I find it impossible to see the way my job fell in my lap and not see God's hand throughout the process. I cannot look at my new living situation, without recognizing God played a role in that. I feel as though God has blasted through some massive hurdles and paved the way for me to go to Pittsburgh. I don't know exactly what my purpose there will be - I don't know why things came together in the way they did. But I trust God, and I trust that His hand has been moving in this situation. I trust that if He brings me there, he will not abandon me once I get there. There is an incredible excitement and curiosity as to what God will do within the coming months. I get the feeling God's hand is in this, and I am excited to be able to be a part of His story, and to have Him directing my story. It doesn't mean there will be a complete absence of pain - because even though I am a pretty optimistic person most of the time, I do not envision the next six months to be easy at all. But it does mean that God will be faithful, He will be present, He will be with me, and that is all I can ask for.

One final note: for my friends and family who will see me in the next chunk of time - please be patient and graceful with me. I have shed so many tears recently, and will continue to do so at the most random times. I may not be very talkative, so please show me grace if my answers only contain one or two words. There is a deep sadness in me as I leave here. It will take me some time to process through it. Germany has become the place where I feel most at home. This place. These people. It is home. And, I am leaving that home. Knowing that, I give you a heads up knowing I may be a bit abnormal for a bit, and I appreciate your grace and patience.

I want to close this post with the lyrics of a song our church has been singing recently called, "Sovereign" The lyrics bring such peace to my heart. We sang it yesterday but overcome by emotion, I ended up crying through most of the song. Here is a segment of the song:

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me in the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
I can trust you
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

This journey started five years ago in seat 29F. It truly has been a beautiful adventure.

It's been great. It's been beautiful. I'm going to miss it here.

Tschuus out Deutschland. 

I took this yesterday as I went through one final walk through Kandern. This is by the monument overlooking Kandern.