Thursday, October 31, 2013

Homesick

On my drive home tonight I must have come up with at least five different ways I wanted to start this blog. Yet each one left a little something out. Therefore, I decided to come home, turn on my "writing music" and type whatever comes to me.
I don't have too much pride to admit that the past few days have been pretty rough. In fact, last night I had one of those breakdowns where something just clicked, and the dam of tears broke. I think I have been stuffing emotions down, and forcing them to stay inside, and last night it was as if most everything finally spilled out. As odd as it sounds, it was refreshing. It was good for me to let the tears flow. It was helpful for me to get on my knees and with raw honesty, pour out my heart to God. Prayers of, "God I don't understand this..." or "Lord I can't see where you are..." and "Why..." leapt from my heart. There were no immediate answers and no guarantees answers will ever come, but in a generation that seems to glorify wearing masks, it was freeing to be so honest with God, and with myself. It was humbling and refreshing to come before my Savior and say, "I need your help."

I have been deeply missing the students and friends that are still in Germany, and all those that recently graduated. Thankfully this past weekend I was able to visit a BFA alum and had a phenomenal time with him. At one point in our visit he said to me, "Tommy, I hope you sing like this every day." It was a serious comment, but it was in reference to the goofy and childish way in which I was singing. That comment stuck out because it has actually been a lengthy time since I have sung in that way. I know singing seems like a surface level thing, but his comment brought out something deeper.
While singing, I understood I was known, I was with a friend, I was comfortable, I was free to be myself - as goofy and childish as that may be. I haven't reached that point yet. I am still in transition. And the phrase that brings more anger than comfort (so please don't say it to me), "it just takes time" has failed to be satisfying. With that on my mind (and a few other things that would prove to be another tangent) I simply stuffed the thoughts and emotions away. In fact, on Wednesday I had planned on going for a simple and easy four mile run but ended up doing closer to seven because I wanted to give my mind more time to process things. My mind thanked me...today my legs hate me.

Then yesterday as I was texting with a friend from Germany, and the dam broke. He was a day away from going to Herbstmesse and wanted to know if there was anything he should focus on prior to the day. I started to text back with a few suggestions, but couldn't immediately finish because there were too many tears streaming down my face. Herbstmesse is easily, without a doubt, my favorite day in the BFA calendar.

The whole day is simply magical. After school, the entire school piles into buses and invades the city of Basel. For the next few hours the city is yours to explore. Herbstmesse is a carnival, so there are booths where you can win prizes, rides that will spin you around and around until you throw-up, fried food, random pictures of American celebrities (just for you Brandon) and of course...the bumper cars.
The bumper car time was literally my favorite hour in the entire school year. Usually from 7.30-8.30 the entire school congregates at the bumper cars, and goes crazy. In my opinion it is the perfect picture of community. While at the bumper cars there are no boundaries between people. Teachers are riding with students, trying to bump into other teachers. The principal is ramming into teachers, dorm staff, and students. Juniors are riding with freshmen. 7th graders are riding with their senior buddies. No barriers between people, just relationships. If you are not in a bumper car, you are on the outside of the "course" watching, cheering, laughing, dancing. All the "walls" that sometimes separate people come crashing down, and it is beautiful to see.
In addition to this, I think part of the reason why I enjoyed Herbstmesse so much is because my first year in Germany I was a bit homesick for America at the time. Yet, as I stood on the side of the bumper cars and watched all of the interactions, and saw the beautiful picture of community, it was as if I felt the Lord saying, "This is your family now. This is your community. This is your home." Each year, I looked forward to the night, and anticipated seeing everyone around the bumper cars. I still have a mental image of Amy D dancing on the side, that I pray I'll never forget. Each year, I would make sure I took a couple of minutes and stood by myself so I could sit back and watch everything, and soak it all in. It was one of my favorite moments of the year. A time where I could be reminded of the purpose, passion and joy that being in that place brought me.

Today is the day the school went to Herbstmesse. First time in five years I haven't been there. I have purposely been avoiding facebook all day because I really don't want to see people posting pictures, or talking about their time. It would be too difficult. I'll admit, at different points in the day I looked at my watch and said, "They're all getting on the buses now... They're an hour away from the bumper cars..." It was tough. It is tough. I'm homesick.




Friday, October 18, 2013

#6

For roughly the past 100 days I have been training for my sixth marathon, and it is only a few days away. It is a funny thing - I have been training consistently and every time I have gone on a training run, I have had this race on my mind. For all of those runs it felt as if the race was just a few moments away. One more run, one more corner to turn, and I was there at the starting line. Yet, now the gun will go off in less than 48 hours and it feels further away than it ever has.

For me, the emotions prior to a race are such a bizarre and scattered smorgasbord. Last night I was talking with a friend and in answer to the question, "how are you feeling about the race?" My response was something like, "Excited. Nervous. Anxious. Scared. Ready. Determined. Worried." A wide variety of fairly opposite emotions.

Some may get tired of me writing about this, and I apologize about that, but it is still heavy on my heart... This race will add a new emotional challenge in that it will be a reminder that I am no longer in Germany, which as you have probably learned, is a very sad realization for me. I don't know how it started. I don't know when it started. I don't know who started it. At BFA, over time there became a small band of runners who would run together, talk running, encourage each other, and have pre-race pasta parties together. Since the race options were somewhat limited everyone ran the same race. Therefore the question was less of a "are we going to carpool and have a pasta party?" and more of a "who is hosting the pasta party this time, and what time are we meeting to drive down together?" The excitement wasn't just in the pre-race activities, it continued throughout the race. So much so, that during my last marathon in Germany I saw so many friends that were consistently cheering so loud, at one point I jokingly said to them, "Leave me alone!" The running group ran a race about a month ago and it was a difficult day for me. I didn't want to be here, knowing they were all over there. In the same way, I know Sunday will be difficult as I turn the corner and don't have anyone I know spurring me on. To the running crew...you can smile knowing I'll fix up some pasta tonight and watch Cool Runnings. 

Each race brings its own challenges and difficulties. Yet the beautiful thing about each race is the choice you make to take step after step. With each step, no matter how fast, you are inching closer to the finish line, and overcoming all the challenges.

I'll see you in 26.2 miles.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dear Jon

Dear Jon,
No. This is not your typical “Dear John” letter – I simply thought it would be a catchy title that would pique some interest. That said, I have had a few things on my mind and was trying to figure out how to organize all the random ramblings bouncing around in the ol’ noggin. Sitting down and writing a letter to one of my roommates while in Germany, proved to be a unique and fun way of accomplishing the task at hand, so here it goes…

Dear Jon,
Do you remember sitting in our living room exactly one year ago today? Life was pretty hectic for both of us – I had just returned from Rome and you were about to head out on another recruiting trip. The busyness of our schedules did not allow as many opportunities as we would have liked to just sit down and talk.  Despite this, 365 days ago we made the time. After finishing a round of Wii golf (and, I am extremely thankful neither of us ever got that elusive hole-in-one!) we enjoyed some German chocolate cake to celebrate, and engaged in conversation. After destroying much of the cake, you looked at me and said, “Where do you think we will be one year from now?” Over the past 365 days that question has come to the front of my mind a lot. At times it haunted me. Other days it challenged and excited me. And some times it devastated me.

I remember the conversation like it happened just one day ago. My honest answer was a simple, “I have no idea.” At that time I wasn’t just exploring different States to work in, I was searching different countries. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but no idea where I would do it. You were in a similar position, not knowing where God was going to lead you. So we sat and talked. Ate more chocolate cake. Laughed. Wondered.

A few days ago I was teaching one of my classes and within the context of the class, a student burst out of her seat and started quoting Jeremiah 29:11. Her enthusiasm shed some much needed light into the verse. Without meaning to, she heavily emphasized the second and sixth words of the verse – ironically it is the same word both times, I. God is reminding His people that He knows the plan He has. As I heard that familiar verse, it brought a renewed sense of peace over my heart. He knows, His plans.

Jon, you and I sat down 365 days ago, and had NO idea. Yet at that time, God did. He knew how many times we would send off our application until it landed in the hands of the ones He knew were going to become our new employers. He knows. He knew where we were going to end up and He knew how He needed to orchestrate things in order to get us there. It hasn’t been easy, and we would both acknowledge that. Different trials for each of us – yet each is part of His plan to bring us to this place. A place where He will grow us and use us.

Jon, thanks for the cake and the challenging question. You may not have anticipated the question would stick with me in such a way, but I am thankful that it did. As I sat down to write you a letter tonight, I once again thought about your question. As we joked about a few days ago, it would be great to be having these conversations in person again in “our” seats in the living room. Tonight, I repeated your question, “where will I be in one year from now?” The funny thing is that my answer is still the same as last year, I don’t quite know. But if it is anything like the past 365 years, I envision it will have its’ ups and downs. Moments of joys and laughter, followed by days of heartache and pain. Days where the path seems foggy and unclear. Yet…we can rest in knowing that HE has HIS plans…and we are witnesses to the fact that a year later, those plans have brought us right where He wants us.

Looking forward to talking to you soon. You need to get me caught up on all the technological advances I am too lazy or too ignorant to figure out on my own.

Lots of love,

TB