Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Relaxed Evening

Tonight is the first night that I've been home (and awake) in a few weeks. I haven't felt like myself lately; so I'm making a conscious effort to get back to Sarahness. My boss-friend Kristi pointed out that I don't goof off as much as I used to, and that's sad because silly = fun. I've also not been spending quality time in the Word, working out, cooking, reading, telling silly stories, dancing, playing soccer, singing at full volume, having one-on-one conversations and prayer time with people...basically the things that make me happy. I don't really know what I have been doing that has taken up so much time...working I guess? I really enjoy working, but not having stuff outside of work makes a pretty sad life. So, anyone who reads this, please take this confession as a request to keep me accountable.

Since Saturday I've made time in the Word and prayer priority.
Working out: I went for a pretty humbling jog today and seriously thought about lifting
Cooking: I made a pizza... it's a start. Better than just bread and chocolate.
Reading: I tried tonight but just couldn't get into the only genres I had on hand
Telling silly stories: Yep, definitely haven't told any stories lately :(
Dancing: I did lots of that over the weekend while by myself in the Sonne laundry room
Soccer: haven't played in weeks...maybe Sunday night if not too tired from a weekend of hiking
Singing: I just took a break from typing this so I could belt out some tunes, so I could write that I'd done it. Life feels constricted without stretching the lungs once in a while.
One-on-one conversations and prayer: I'm trying to engage people in real conversations and am asking for specific prayer requests from people. I feel like I get to talk with God about my friends more than I get to talk with my friends about God. I'm not sure if that's good...or if that's just the nature of the busyness beast of BFA.

As you can see, I'm working on getting back to me and living a meaningful life worthy of the calling. Friends, please check up on me every once in a while to help keep me on track to being a healthy, well-rounded person.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lessons from Sonne

I got to spend the weekend at one of the guys' dorms, Sonne (I have already gotten an earfull from the Maugenhard family). And I count myself blessed to have been able to work with the staff and hang out with those great guys. I'm going to try to articulate the immediate lessons I learned from the staff members.

The first lesson came from Tommy. I really respect his wisdom in keeping things private that should stay so. "When words are many, sin is not lacking. But he who holds his tongue is wise." He knows how to deal with people appropriately and speaks with grace and wisdom!

The next lesson came from Sharon. When I got to the dorm Friday night, there were a ton of things to be done for the boys. So after we prayed together, she delegated the work to me so that she could have time in the Word. She recognized that it was more important to take care of the condition of her heart than to do the running around stuff. Very Mary-Martha. Very cool.

The conviction stick was wieled by the Spirit in Andy, unbeknownst to him. When asked why I live the way I do, I gave a shallow, earthly (although legitimate!) answer, to which he replied, "is that it?" Line drive to the chest. The question stuck with me throughout the day, and I rolled it around as I rolled cookie dough. The decision to live a "good life" during and after college was made from a mostly shallow thought process that went something like "the type of man I want to marry deserves someone better than me, so I'd better straighten up so he likes me when he comes around." Although that's a valid decision, it's not enough. That puts way too much emphasis of my significance in that relationship instead of in Christ. So, I once was living for the approval of man, but now I live for glorifying God. Andy wasn't trying to convict me, but that's the Spirit working through him.

And, finally, CB. From her I learned about boundaries, a prerequisite for being the only single female in a guys' dorm. During a campfire, the boys wanted to have manly bonding time- haha, which I guess just means taking off their shirts in the freezing cold. And despite my saying "what's the big deal!? If you want to take your shirts off, take them off! I don't care," they waited until CB and I left. As we were leaving she told me that she instilled a shirts-on policy for the guys when she's around. Not only do I respect that that is important to her, I respect that she has communicated that to them well enough that they respect her wishes even with another adult saying the opposite.

I definitely feel blessed and challenged by my time in the dorm. It's a bit sad to come home to quietness and just cooking and doing laundry for one, but I've got plenty to think and pray about now. So, thank you to Tommy, Sharon, Andy, and CB for challenging and encouraging me just by being yourselves. And thank you for trusting me with your Sonne fellas.

Much love for a Spirit-filled weekend with Sonne boys and staff.

Also, everyone who has been to my apartment has said something about the tiny little spiral staircase that goes up to my room. We all knew it was just a matter of time until I went tumbling down, and today was that day. My teeth are still in my head, so I'm ok!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The girls at Laura's not-so-surprising birthday party

My new room!

The curtains chose the floor over hanging on the wall one night while I was sleeping.

I would like a life-size cutout of Lucky the Leprechaun to put on that little attic door.

And they said Germany didn't have closets...

One of the more random facets of my job is ordering mass quantities of peanut butter and brown sugar that is imported from Holland. I put one of the 10kg "pales" of peanut butter next to my laptop for size reference. At Laura's party, see picture of beautiful ladies above, Laura and I stirred and divided up this pale of separated natural peanut butter. And we only broke one huge cooking spoon in the process!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I love the RAs

Before coming to Germany, people told me that moving overseas would teach me things about myself. Here's what I've learned: I am much more extroverted than I ever knew. I always knew I was energized by being with people, but now, I crave being with people! And the RAs have been so wonderful. Today 3 of them came by my office & 2 left a "love note" (females) on my car. Aww... It's a good combination that when they get time off they need a place to go and that I have a place and love people using it! The last several Mondays (the day they get off every week), people have been at my apartment with and without me there- which makes me really happy to know that they are comfortable enough with me to know that I like them being there even when I'm not. And this weekend I got to hang out with the guys that had the whole weekend off. It was so nice to spend some time with Y chromosomes. Friday we got Doner (*meat happy dance*) and watched a movie. Saturday we spent a leisurely hot chocolate afternoon at a cafe and went to Freiburg for Mexican! Then another movie and some good talk time. So wonderful, but now I recognize what it is I miss most about the United States...not my family (I'm sorry! I love you all!!!), not food, not being able to laugh at jokes...I miss having guy friends. I'm not sure why I can't seem to make solid connections here, but just trying to have a real conversation with most leaves me feeling like they think I'm trying to flirt with them (does that make sense?). And the few that I have been able to have meaningful conversation with have been subject to the wagging tongues of destructive joking and gossip. So right now, I'm bummed. I have some excellent girlfriends here, but I feel lop-sided without my guys around to balance out life. Please pray for some quality friendships.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Embassy Adventure

Once upon a time my friends Lane and Michelle realized a few days before their visas were to expire that they were completely out of pages in their passports and could thus not get new visas before going to an embassy to get pages added. Unfortunately, things at their dorm have been a bit crazy and a day trip to the embassy was difficult to plan. When Lane finally created the opportunity, he drove a couple hours to the embassy with both their passports as well as a few of the students who were in the same predicament. Embassy denied his request since he was not the power of attorney for any of the passports. So he drove back home, a day wasted, only to break the bad news to an already overwhelmed wife who just wanted the mess to be done.

So the next day I went to the embassy with letters of "power of attorney" in hand for all of the passports. I thought the embassy closed at noon and was traveling quickly down the autobahn to get there asap. I ended up getting into the city about 10:45am- gas light going on as I went into city limits. Found the embassy and proper parking garage- no problems until I tried to walk out of the parking garage the way I drove in. But there were no doors! I had come in through a censored door that closed behind me. I looked around, saw no exit signs, felt totally stupid, cursed the unrelenting doors and proceeded to run through the parking garage like a crazy woman. Some man found man and must have recognized the panic expression on my face and said something like, "you look like you need a friend." I think I said something really classy like "or a door out of this place!" He befriended me by showing me the exit. Too bad it put me out on the wrong side of the building with fences all around. So...basically, it took me about 10 minutes to find the other side of the stinkin building. I asked 2 people for directions, and they both gave me directions to the old embassy in French. I knew it was the wrong place because the directions were way too long and involved busses. One lady scoffed at me when I tried to explain that that was the wrong embassy as if saying you're the one who asked for directions.

But I got there. Running. I enter and the woman nonchalantly asks, "are those all yours passports?" Yes! All 8! With 8 different names! Whew, I tried not to be sarcastic since I was asking her to process 8 passports in an hour's time. I waited an hour taking note of how many American passport holders don't speak a lick of English. After a while I started guessing what kind of accent people would have based on how they were dressed. Sometimes I was right, some wrong. But my favorite guy of the whole day strolled in wearing an all white suit. Security guard asked him to remove his belt and SNAP! It was like lightning! And immediately "Billy Jean" by Michael Jackson started playing on the soundtrack in my head. I laughed aloud. I'm not sure why that song apparently goes with my stereotype of that guy, but who am I to fight the music playing in my head?

Noon rolled around and the nice embassy lady told me that they hadn't started working on my 8 passports because their computers were down, but to come back at 2:00. She'd tell the guards to let me straight in. I was excited! Special treatment from embassy people is always nice!

I got quite bored walking in circles. Switzerland is too expensive to buy the fun European shoes I've been seeing about, but I found a big sports store that kept my attention for a while. But not long enough, so I went back to the car in the devil parking garage for a nap. And guess who left the interior lights on! Ding Ding!! not only am I out of gas, but now it might not start. I turned it off, waited a bit, prayed, cranked it, let it run, then the car and I both took a little nap. Thank you God.

2:00 I went to pick up the passports to find a line of about 25 people outside the embassy, because you know what? They DON'T close at noon! I didn't have to rush to get there afterall! But the nice guard man did let me go straight back in, and by 3:30 they were finished.

Yay! It worked! Now everyone can get their visas and be in Germany legally. Now only 2 more hurdles to overcome: filling the gas tank and finding my way back to Germany. I had passed a few gas stations on the autobahn on the way into town, but not only did I not know which autobahn I was on since I was just following signs to get to the booming metropolis of Bern, but I came in on a one-way, and I couldn't remember how far away they were. And the car was sputtering. I asked for directions at the embassy, and none of the workers had vehicles and therefore couldn't tell me where one was. Finally, they pulled a man in who gave me directions to an "underground station." What?! I tried to find it, but gave up after a while. Stopped again. And got more directions in French. Ahh! I don't speak French! So a woman hopped in my car and pointed the directions for me to go. I got there; she left. Enter gas station man who filled the tank completely for 89 Swiss Franks (CHF). I had 72 CHF. If this had happened in the States, where I usually felt in control of my life and everything going on around, I would've been mortified. But here, it was a bit humbling, but not too traumatic. I'd never filled the tank before, and didn't know how much it would take. I made a mistake, and won't do it again. He wouldn't take card but unhappily accepted the deficit in Euros.

So with a full gas tank, I ventured back onto the road. It was easy to find Bern; there are signs all the way there from Kandern, and I'd been there before. Unfortunately, there are no signs heralding traffic toward Kandern, Germany. I slept the entire way back from Bern last time I went. And I had neither directions or a map. But, praise the Lord for giving me a decent sense of direction, because I got back to Kandern with no wrong turns (although I questioned myself multiple times).

And thus, concludes my adventure to the embassy in Bern, Switzerland. Michelle was very happy that neither she nor Lane had to go. And I'm happy to have learned the flow of things at the embassy, how to get in and out of parking garages, the hours of the embassy, the procedure of filling up a gas tank, and the overall joy of being a foreigner.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Meet Mardy

Remember my story teaser? Last Sunday I was cleaning through one of the upstairs bedrooms (which I moved into yesterday), and I found this pretty box hidden back in a corner.

And this is what was in the box...

Check out those teeth!
I laughed so hard my stomach was sore the next day. I wanted so badly to share it with someone else who would think it was funny that I got out my BFA phone list and desperately searched for anyone I thought would not be disgusted. I thought maybe a couple of the guys might think it funny, but some of the guys around here are a strange breed and would probably think I was hitting on them or trying to find an excuse to call them. So, I called the girls who just moved out of this apartment and said “you'll never guess what I found in the bedroom!” I don't think they enjoyed it as I'd hoped. Haha, oh well. Maybe someday I will have a friend that I feel comfortable approaching that will enjoy the humor of things like this with me.

This little creature, a Marder, is a wicked thing that sounded like folklore to me until I saw one. These marders love eating insulation and hoses in cars and houses. The way people talked about these mysterious critters that are too fast to be seen or caught-- you can just see their footprints on your car in the morning or hear them running in the walls at night-- seemed a bit made up. People buy expensive "Marder Devices" for their cars to ward them off, spray pepper sprays on felt pads they attach to their cars...all kinds of stuff. But, now, I believe.

So, obviously, I'm not throwing this little guy away. They're too fast to be caught, but I have one in a pretty floral box! The hard work is already done! Some day, some punk high school boy will pull a prank on me, and I will be ready with my retaliation. Katie was not a fan of my keeping him, so I took him to our scary shed.

And now he can be friends with the other things people are scared of that also live in that shed, like Natasha here:

So, now that you've seen what I saw that day and have either laughed with me or are now too disgusted to eat anytime soon knowing that I held a petrified nasty animal, here's the best part. I ran into the family who lived in this apartment before the last pair of girls and told them about it. I was definitely not expecting to hear "we left him there?!?! Honey, Sarah found Mardy!!!!" Elation ensued. WOW. The mother of the family proceeded to tell me that this apartment used to be infested with marders, and just a few years ago the roof was removed and the generations of marders extracted from the walls. They found this petrified one and kept it as a show-and-tell item for the kids. His name is Mardy...and they want him back... to take him to their home in the States. I'd like to see them explain him at customs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Today's Thoughts

A few things I've pondered today... 1. I wonder if compulsive email checking will be included in the DSM-V? 2. Having a roommate is good practice for a future family. Katie has been asking me to read over some papers for the last week, but it (along with much of my personal life) has consistently taken a backseat to work. Living by myself for the last few years allowed me to be the occasional workaholic, but I can't do that and give enough time to maintaining our home. So, I'm learning a lot about priorities and boundaries. 3. God loves us to love others. I'm working on checking my motives- trying to avoid things of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility considering others before myself and loving. Someone asked me a few days ago if before I came to Germany I'd anticipated it to be a time of healing and significant growth. I never had mentally set this time apart as a special opportunity for Him to do works in me that He wouldn't have done otherwise. But, if things keep progressing how they are now, big things in my heart and life are going to happen while serving at BFA. I'm excited to experience even more of His plan, joy, and peace.

And because today was a workaholic day, I didn't take a picture to go along with that story I left hanging. Maybe tomorrow ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Life Soundtrack

I've been working on compiling my life soundtrack for a few years. I think it would be fantastic to have some kind of chip embedded in my head that would track my emotions and play the perfect song to match appropriate moments just like a movie-- Nickelback "Far Away" when being swept off my feet, Norah Jones or Amos Lee when walking through the hills enjoying the breeze by myself, Dane Cook telling the occasional joke, some Mortal Kombat soundtrack when needing to get out some frustration, Panic! at the Disco or Ludo after I realize my eyes have glazed over and I need to wake up, Marc Broussard when walking in the rain, Josh Groban when cleaning the house on Saturday mornings, Slipknot when in a cage fight (I try to be prepared for every situation) get the point. But tonight, I've decided that as great as it would be to have my personal soundtrack (with an off switch behind my ear of course), I would settle for Jon McLaughlin following me around with his piano. He is just so talented! It's a shame I made this realization after moving to Germany--I mean, we were living in the same state. We could've had some good times--him melting my heart with every smooth note he sings and me offering nothing but the joy of my company. Sounds fair :)

The past couple days have been the busiest yet at work, but I've also had some great time with friends!! There's not a whole lot I can tell about work that would be interesting to read; as exciting as the ins-and-outs of visa applications are, I'll spare you the details. Last night some RAs came over on their night off, and it was a blasty blast. Sam, Steph, Candy and I got some Asia Wok (yum) and brought it back to my home...dinner on the balcony was nice and great for relaxing after a week full of change for all of us. Then we hiked up to "my" gazebo. I can really only claim it because I live closer to it than any other BFA people, so I get the joy of early morning and late night visits (my 2 favorite city views, sunrise and city lights at night). Then today Nathan and Tim, my saviors of the day, offered a much appreciated break and let me have some good ol dorm food :)

I am very tired right now, but want to give you a story teaser-- Sunday afternoon while working around the house I found a very pretty floral box hidden under some flooring way back in the corner of a room- obviously a special treasure hidden by a child. I'll share what that special treasure is after I take a picture of it tomorrow...