About a year ago, I moved to Germany.
Looking back through my blog posts, I saw how I was going to try to write about all my travels… and to be honest, I’m kind of disappointed in myself for not keeping up with that. But I won’t dwell on that for long, because it has been a crazy year. With that said though, I want to document my last travels before moving back to the states next month.
So many things have happened and changed over the last year and I think that later on in life, I will appreciate having the beginning and the end of my time in Europe saved in writing. And I think it will do me good to dwell on the goodness of God in all that He has allowed me to see and do in the last year. I truly believe He orchestrates everything in my life for a specific purpose. This year of travel and exploration and adventure and seeing new things and experiencing different cultures has opened my eyes to the world. It has been a truly incredible journey.
But it is not over yet. In the next couple of weeks, I will be doing some day trips in Germany and France, a trip to Italy, Poland, and Spain.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of Kara’s adventures in Europe…
Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.
“…so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)
It is difficult to love or please someone if you do not know them. “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know” (Women of the Word, pg. 31).
In cross-referencing this verse, I found many things we can gain from “growing in the knowledge of God.”
- “God is able to make every grace overflow to you” so that “you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
- We are told that eternal life is knowing the “only true God, and the One [He] sent – Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).
- Knowledge of God causes “grace and peace [to] be multiplied to you” (2 Peter 1:2).
- We cannot know love if we do not know God, as John says, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Growing in the knowledge of God is important because it is how we become more LIKE God. God grants us more and more of Himself, His grace, His peace, His life, and His love, as we get to know Him more and more.
We are to boast in our knowledge of God, as Jeremiah 9:24 states: “But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me – that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things.”
But not only do we know ABOUT God. We are not limited to “mere knowledge of facts about God” (Systematic Theology, 152). We have the privilege of a personal relationship with the Lord God, our Savior and Redeemer.
Praise God for His kindness in showing Himself to us!
‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ saith the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6)
This verse and the context around it pierced my heart. The Israelites are in the midst of their enemies, trying to rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel’s leadership after returning from Babylonian exile. They are faced with discouragement, lack of supplies, bad leadership, and fear of the surrounding peoples who do not want them to continue in the Lord’s work.
And the Lord shows up in a vision to Zechariah and says, “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit.”
Not by any human resource. Not by an individual power. Not by anything BUT My Spirit, says the Lord.
I think we often dismiss the power of the Holy Spirit. We see Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who entered history to die and then be raised up as a Savior for those whom the Father loves. We see God the Father, as the Judge and as the merciful one who sent His own Son to save us. But who is the Holy Spirit to us?
In Zechariah’s vision he sees a lampstand with a bowl connected to the lampstand and two olive trees on either side. Oil is needed for the lampstand to shed any light whatsoever. Without oil, the lampstand can never shine light, and without a continuous flow of oil, the lamp’s light will sputter and die out. The Holy Spirit is our oil. He is our connection to the eternal light. Without Him, our flame will die out. He is the oil that keeps our flames shining!
“By My Spirit,” saith the Lord.
In the midst of the worries and fears surrounding the future, we must remember that our Lord supplies every spiritual blessing under the heavens to us. It is by His Spirit that we will continue in faith.
By Your Spirit, Lord, we will walk in Your ways.
In Judges chapter 6, God calls Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord greets Gideon, calling him a “mighty warrior,” and declaring that the Lord is with him. However, Gideon responds with several reasons he believes he is incapable of doing what God asks (Judges 6:11-16). We see this same response from Moses when the Lord calls him in Genesis.
Gideon is concerned that he will not be able to do what the Lord has called him to do. He does not have the skills, the position, or the qualifications for doing what God has asked. He realizes how inadequate he is. The beauty of this exchange is seen in God’s answer to Gideon’s list of shortcomings…
“But I will be with you,” the Lord said to him.
God’s answer to our weaknesses, failings, and faults is a redirection. “BUT. It’s not about you. ON THE CONTRARY. It’s about Me, Yahweh. It’s about how I am capable when you are not, how I am strong in your weakness, and how I am the success in your failures.”
I am a sinner. I am selfish. I am a lacking prayer warrior. I am unkind. I am impatient. I am unqualified. I am a failure. I am incapable. I cannot be good enough.
BUT. I am God.
YET. You are not alone.
ON THE CONTRARY. I am with you.
Nothing we say, nothing we are or are not, no excuse we have, matters when held to the fact that God is with us. “I will be with you.”
What gain is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your truth? – Psalm 30:9
What might come across as an arrogant plea for God’s mercy on the psalmist’s behalf, is actually a call for God to act, that there would be no loss in praise and testimony, as would be the case if the psalmist died.
One of the Israelites purposes as God’s chosen people was to be a testimony for Yahweh to the nations by proclaiming Yahweh’s truth. The psalmist is beseeching God and declaring his life to be within God’s purposes, rather than his death, saying, “Who will proclaim Your truth?”
If Israel’s purpose was to be a testimony for Jehovah as His chosen people, how much more should that be our purpose, as redeemed children of Christ?
“The answer to personal suffering is the God who suffers with us.” – John Stonestreet
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
-Jesus of the Scars; Edward Shillito
Thursday, October 8, 2015: Our journey to England began in the afternoon with a whirlwind of packing bags and hopping in the van to spend the night in Frankfurt. The trip on the autobahn was stress-free and we arrived at our hotel excited but ready to get some sleep. While the room had a bed for each of us, we found out through the night that they were extremely uncomfortable… We needed to be up at 04:00 and it was not okay to get less than four hours of sleep in addition to about 3 hours of fitful tossing and turning. But it is what it is.
Friday, October 9, 2015: As were getting ready at 4am, Gentry was not feeling well… He ended up dry heaving in the bathroom and having the sweats. That was not a great way to begin the day. Gentry was well enough to eat a little breakfast and we got ready to hop in the shuttle to the airport. Unfortunately, Gentry started throwing up the little breakfast he had eaten. Momma pulled out her peppermint essential oil (it really does work wonders!) and proceeded to basically douse Gentry with the stuff. There was that moment of questioning whether the trip would continue, but thankfully Gentry felt well enough for us to get on our way to the airport. We checked our bags with no trouble and headed to security. Gentry almost made it through before feeling sick again, poor boy. Another round of wiping the mouth, peppermint oil, and some mint-y gum, and we were on our way to our gate. The weirdest thing about most flights in Europe, unless they are going overseas, is that there is no bridge you walk through to get on the plane. You walk outside and climb a staircase like in the movies!! It’s just entirely novel to me! The flight went smoothly, although to be honest I couldn’t really say as I slept the whole hour in the air. Gentry got through the whole flight without getting sick again, right up until we were waiting to get off the plane. The landing must have upset his delicate-feeling stomach. Once off the plane, again just climbing down stairs and walking to the airport building, we followed long passageways to the UK border control. My dad has been warning us that at most borders they just look at the passport and don’t bother to stamp it. My mom and I were super disappointed at hearing this, so we were stupidly excited when the guy behind the counter stamped all our passports! I officially have two stamps on my passport now. Only a BUNCH more to go! After getting our baggage and some pounds, we made our way to go rent a vehicle. Let me tell you: England is weird. They drive on the wrong side of the road people. How much stranger can they get?! My poor father had to drive us an hour and a half, in the wrong seat for a driver, on the wrong side of the road, to where we were staying for the next couple days. The worst was the traffic circles… But my dad is an awesome driver and adapted pretty quickly. He did great!! We made it to our lodging and thankfully they let us have our room early. It was only 09:00 at this point, and we were all EXHAUSTED. Sad as it is, we didn’t do any sightseeing at all and just laid around relaxing most of the day. My mom and I caught up on Downton Abbey… We were unreasonably excited to be watching it in England. In the evening, we decided to try to find some authentic English food for dinner, so we found a place on yelp and headed that way. Before coming to England I had asked my best friend, a culinary graduate and avid foodie, what we should try while here, and her answer was a sad, “England isn’t really known for its food…fish and chips??” We left the room with that on our minds, and thank goodness, because the place we ate was just okay by all standards. Thank God for comfortable beds and a sound night’s rest!
Saturday, October 10, 2015: Saturday means game day!! Jake’s game started at one, so we walked over to the field around twelve to get seats. It is definitely a real adjustment going from the Texas football scene to the football over here… It’s like a different world! Though the day was overcast and chilly, it was a fun game and was made even better by a win. That evening, we traveled to a small town for dinner at a place called Chequers. The town was adorable and the food was delicious! Good, authentic English food with some delicious Carlsberg beer in a truly quaint little village. It was a nice way to end the day.
Sunday, October 11, 2015: The day began with a frenzy of people getting ready to head into Cambridge to do some sightseeing. I won’t lie and say the day went completely smoothly and we were the perfect touristy family, but we did have an enjoyable time. We walked around and saw St. John’s, Trinity, King’s, Queen’s, and Corpus Christi colleges among many others. The buildings were beautiful. The history and character in all of them were amazing. Things like Cambridge bring out the nerd in me! I enjoyed it so much! We wandered down trails in the Backs behind the colleges near the River Cam. Call me sentimental, but the canopy of trees with changing leaves were whimsical and romantic. It is truly a gorgeous place. The Mathematical Bridge was interesting. It’s a bridge made completely out of wood and without any nails, held up by its symmetry. We had lunch at a local restaurant and then strolled through the Sunday market going on at Market Hill. The plan was to stay till 15:30 for the Evensong at King’s College Chapel, but we all were exhausted and had to be up extremely early for our flight the next morning. Thus, we ended the day with a couple pictures of the King’s College Chapel and then headed back to our car. It was a privilege to get to see Cambridge. It is a remarkable city, filled with all sorts of history, beauty, and knowledge.
Monday, October 12, 2015: Travels home began at the outrageous morning hour of 03:30 as we all piled into the compact van like clowns. The airport was crazy busy, but once we got through security became slightly more calm. Our flight was a little delayed, but went swimmingly.
England was interesting… I can definitely say that I was glad to be back in Germany. No offense to any British, but I found that England made me think of a not-as-great version of the U.S. It definitely made me miss home, but I love Germany. Germany has become home for now; part of being a resilient military brat. I enjoyed the time in England! The accents were cool, the roads were really weird, and the food was intriguing. And plus, I got a stamp on my passport!!
Sunday, October 4, 2015: It was absolutely wonderful to be at church again. Especially with my family; for the first time since the beginning of June! It was healing to the soul to be able to worship the Lord with the ones I love. On top of that, I finally got to meet some more people that I’ve been hearing about since my family came over. It’s interesting being introduced to people I’ve been told about, but never had a face to put to the name.
After church we went on our first Culinary Beer Hike (Kulinarische Bierwanderung)! It started at the Barenloch Lake in Kindsbach and ended at the Nanstein Castle in Landstuhl. We were joined by some friends from church and we hiked a total of seven miles going up and coming back down. At the start you could buy a beer glass and then there were five different stops you could try bier from different local, popular breweries. It was extremely fun to get to drink with my dad!
This was at the first stop, with our Hefewiezen and bratwursts.
My least favorite of the beers was the Pils. The bitter taste was just a little too much for me, even after adding half of an orange soda to cut the bitterness.
My favorite was at the last stop at the castle: Chestnut bier! It was kostlich!
A few other new encounters of German culture:
At one of the stops, there was a small band with a German rapper! Apparently Germans like rap music….It was pretty hilarious!
On the way back down, my friend and I were oohing and awing at a dog that an older German man was walking with his group. I don’t know what he said, but he walked up laughing and hooked each of his arms through our arms and teased his friends by yelling, “FOOLS” in his thick German accent. THAT was an experience! We laughed it off and it added some hilarity to the adventure.
The view from the castle was truly magnificent.
Thursday, October 1, 2015: Germany has these things called rolladen’s. They are on the outside of basically every window or door (there are a whole lot of windows in our house which I love!) and they can be rolled down to completely shut out the outside light. They are used in the summer to allow for sleep (the sun comes up extremely early and goes down super late) and in the winter to help keep the house insulated. I have two “windows” in my room; one is actually my balcony glass door and the other is the window in the sloped roof. Every morning, if I don’t close the blinds on the window, I wake up with the sun hitting my face. However, this morning I woke up early enough to see the sun coming up…with the windmills and the grassy hills in the foreground, it was breathtaking. My new favorite spot in my house is a little corner in my room situated with a comfy chair, my bright red rug, and a view out the balcony doors. It’s there that I have quiet time every morning and spend time practicing/learning German. That’s another goal I have while I am here: learn German. It’s so intriguing! Did you know that German and English have the same origin? It is so interesting to me!
Anyhow, that night, after spending the day studying and responding to letters, the whole family went to the family-owned Italian restaurant in our village. We grabbed our jackets and walked there, as it’s only about a five minute stroll down the road. Can I just say how quaint little villages are? They are absolutely adorable and utterly relaxing. Mom and I ordered some naturally sweetened Moscato that was made at the family’s winery. Dinner was superb! I ordered Gnocchi al Gorgonzola.
It was kind of strange to hear our servers speaking in thick accents, and the people around us speaking in a language I didn’t understand. But I guess it’s something I will have to get used to. The walk back home was cold, but the sky was klar and the stars shining.
As I got ready to climb into bed, I noticed the moon. It was huge, bright, and stunning outside the window in my slanted ceiling.
Saturday, October 3, 2015: Saturday means football day!! Yes, American football. The high school football games are played on Saturdays because the stadium doesn’t have stadium lights. This particular Saturday, my younger two brothers had a martial arts tournament that ran into the football game. However, they won second and third in their age groups for sparring! I caught the last quarter of the football game, and boy, was it good to be inundated with some American culture again. I guess all the parents who are super into football and don’t get to watch it on TV anymore let all of their enthusiasm out at the high school games. Besides a bad throw which resulted in an interception, the team played well and we won against Stuttgart!
That afternoon, my mom and dad took me on some trails through the fields behind our house. It was absolutely beautiful. The neat thing about Germany is that everyone and everything is in the villages, and there are no buildings or equipment out in the fields. Because of this, there are open paths that anyone can take that go through the fields and connect the villages. It is very unlike South Texas, with its ranches and farms all separated and no one daring to trespass on another’s property without permission!
Let it be known: I think I love it here.
I arrived in Germany two days ago…
DAY 1 (Monday, September 28th): After the longest flight of my life, honestly just a measly eight hours (that I was able to sleep about five of), it took what seemed ages for everyone to file off the plane! When the time came, I stood in the passport line anxiously thinking of my family being only minutes away after surviving a whole summer apart. As I rounded a corner right before the officials looked at my passport, my two youngest brothers spotted me through the glass and started jumping up and down and waving excitedly. It took all my self control not to just burst into happy tears of relief and release right then and there; but I had to keep it together at least until I got my baggage. There was no problem with my passport and I was ushered to baggage claim where I was able to get my luggage in a relatively short amount of time. Awkwardly shuffling outside with my two giant suitcases and two carry-ons, I walked right into my family’s embrace. Those long awaited hugs will be cherished until the day I die. After putting my baggage in the car, we all walked to the Post Exchange/Mini Mall to get my phone set up with a new SIM card. Dinner that night was left-over BBQ made by my pit-master of a father. One of the most thrilling things about dinner was getting to drink a glass of wine with my parents. How cool is Germany?! Having arrived onto an Air Force base, there wasn’t too much culture shock that first day.
DAY 2 (Tuesday, September 29th): I woke up refreshed and amazed at the gorgeous view out my bedroom window. I was able to sleep all the way through the night. No jet-lag, thank God!!! I spent much of the day cleaning my room. My mom and I also went to get some in-processing done, such as registering my military ID in the system. We then went to the new IKEA, and can I just say, how COOL is it that the first IKEA I ever went to was in Germany!? Anyways, the hardest thing for me culturally was hearing basically everyone speak German, and even those who did speak in English, spoke with a thick accent. Not only the speaking, but the reading. Everything was in German and it was essentially a guessing game of trying to match the product with the title. It has spurred me on to an even greater desire to learn the native language. Overall, the beauty of the village we live in and the country all around has astounded me. I know for sure that I am already in love with this place called Germany.
DAY 3 (Wednesday, September 30th): Today I sat in my little corner by the balcony in my room after waking up and had a peaceful quiet time with my Savior. I am beyond grateful for His new mercies everyday and for the blessings He has showered upon my family and our circumstances. I know without a doubt that this move to Germany was orchestrated by the One bigger than it all. The morning consisted of trying to figure out the water in the shower, finishing up organizing my new room, and getting annoyed at the recycling system. Which, if I may say, is ridiculous! There are FOUR different trash cans and you have to pay attention to everything you throw away so you don’t accidentally put it in the wrong trashcan… My lazy American side comes out every time I go to throw something away. I even had to rinse out my yogurt cup in order to throw it away! Ugh. Anyhow, it’s been a good day, and I’m excited for the coming weeks and months.
Tomorrow, I will be eating dinner at an Italian place down the road from our house and Friday will be an introduction into a mini Oktoberfest celebration in our village. Keep a lookout for blog posts on those!
Danke und Auf Weidersehen!