For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It may come as no surprise that I love coffee.  One of the greatest smells in the world is the aroma that fills the room when a new bag of coffee beans is opened.  During my last year of college, I wrote reviews of coffee shops for our school newspaper.  One of my good friends had risen to the position of editor, and she needed some less-serious writing to fill a couple columns.  She loves coffee and the city, and during our last weeks of freshman year, she asked if I wanted to start going to coffee shops around the city when we got back after the summer.   And so, every week we would get on the el, a bus, or just walk to the new coffee shop we were ready and eager to experience.  I don't think I can actually name all of the coffee shops we went to in those three years, but nearly every week we would find a new one, and sometimes even dance and jump around on the el (if it was empty) on the way back.  No matter what assignments we had, frustrations with group projects, or any other challenge, we would always be in really good moods after our coffee adventures.  Now, this could be because we were super caffeinated, but I think that was only a part of it.  In the somewhat chaotic lifestyle that comes to all college students (or dare I say, Americans?) we would take time to just leave and spend an hour or two just enjoying life.  We often wouldn't bring homework or books, but if we found a place we really liked, we'd do back to do our assignments later in the week.

It is probably because of this that I found myself most productive in coffee shops.  They aren't like libraries where you can just sense how anxious and stressed out everyone is.  Coffee shops are calm, the people who stay aren't rushing around, they are just relaxing and hanging out.  During my junior year, I actually started to write all of my papers and take my take-home exams in coffee shops with the sweet sounds of N*SYNC pumping through my ears.  I can easily get lost in a book, a drawing, a journal, letters, and whatever else when I'm in a coffee shop with a latte or a mocha or even just a basic coffee in my hand.  I just love coffee shops!

When most Americans envision the French, they have this picture of people sitting at an outdoor cafe discussing philosophy while smoking and wearing berets.  That isn't exactly true.  The sitting in cafes part is completely true.  People here understand how to enjoy life and steal away moments- or hours- with a good coffee in the company of a friend or just a good book.  When I studied abroad here, I went to the same coffee shop every week, but when I returned, I was so sad to find that it had been closed!  Thanks to a friend of mine here, I discovered another one and I am pleased to tell you that I go there every week.  Hard wood floors, big windows, very friendly staff, and delicious coffee and pastries.  I just love going there.

Monday, January 7, 2013

For years now, I've had a list of things that I want to do in my life, ranging from skydiving to doing The Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, to re-learning both piano and guitar, and a myriad of other things.  As I've said, I had the amazing opportunity of doing the tour in Salzburg, and as I was on the train back to France, I was thinking about all of the things, both big and small, that I keep saying I'm going to do.  As I looked out at the German countryside, I thought "Why don't I stop talking about these things, and just do them?"  Don't worry, Mom and Dad, I have no plans to go skydiving anytime soon, but the other things, yes.  I have a piano available to me, so why not practice?  I have stationery, so why not write a letter every week? 

There are all kinds of things that I could easily be doing but I'm only stopped by my own laziness.  What kind of a reason is that?  I'll tell you: a stupid reason.  If you think "Man, I should really exercise more" and then help yourself to another cup of coffee and sit on the couch for the rest of the day, clearly you have the time to go do that.  If you think, "Wouldn't it be great to get back into the creative stuff I loved when I was younger?" and then watch TV, all you are doing is hindering yourself from doing what you really love.  If you loved something as a kid, it's likely that you'll still like it now.  Well, not all things.  I liked eating straight sugar as a kid, but I'm not such a fan of doing that these days.  But you get what I mean. 

Earlier in the year, I had a conversation with a friend about Pinterest.  We talked about all of the really spectacular things we had pinned, and then I told her about a Pinterest party that some friends of mine had.  She asked if they hung out and pinned things or actually made those pins, and when I said they were making things, she said "I really need to do that sometime."  Pinterest is a great place for ideas for things, and dreaming about things is also wonderful, but if that's all anything is (references to blogs, recipes, clothes), then you'll just stay in the same place. 

With that, I'm going to apply the "So, go do that" theory and make cards.  That way, when I tell people that I like doing crafty (or, I suppose I should say craftsy) things, I'll have something to show them.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

You know those mornings when before you even open your eyes, you know you're in a bad mood?  Well, I had one of those this week.  My cat decided to become an owl and he thinks the prime time for playing is between four and eight in the morning and he just stands outside my door meowing, leaves, comes back and meows for a while, goes away, comes back and meows, etc.  So, right away when I woke up, I was far less than chipper.  When I was getting ready for the day, I kept telling myself, "Come on, you don't have to stay in a crabby mood, you can change that."  But, it didn't happen.

I then went into town, and my plans got changed around, leaving me in an even crabbier mood.  When I finally got home, my cat wanted to play with me while I was trying to eat lunch and when I wouldn't let him sit on my lap, he went and pouted in the hallway.  After a few hours of reading and working, I decided to take a Pinterest break and I went through my Quotes board.  I came across a number of wonderful ones I'd forgotten, including:

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. -St. Augustine
Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.- C.S. Lewis
Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got. -Robert Brault
Be who you are and say what you lean.  Because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. -Dr. Seuss
Never leave the house is sweats.  A girl must be prepared to meet a dashing stranger or old enemy.

But, the one that struck me in light of my foul disposition was from Abraham Lincoln: We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

I then, of course, laughed at myself because I woke up cranky simply because my cat wanted to hang out with me.  This in turn negatively shifted my outlook on the rest of the day, which made me miss out on who knows how many laughs and smiles!  Emotions are good things, and God gave us a spectrum to use, but don't let the negative ones cloud your view of the beautiful things around you.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas this year was different than any other year.  For one thing, I've never spent Christmas in another country, and for another, it was the first time I didn't see any of my siblings in person on Christmas.  I also know, though, there will never be another Christmas like this one.  My parents came to visit and we got to spend about a week together.

We went to the Christmas markets, spent a full day at church eating, communing, and singing with my church family here, we watched many a good film, we went to see castles, we walked along lake shores, and...we went to Austria.  My family loves musicals, but none love The Sound of Music as much as I do.  In fact, one of my brothers can't stand the movie because I watched it every day for a year when I was 3.  Sorry about that, Matthias.  It has always been a dream of mine to go to Salzburg and see the places where they filmed the movie.  This always was just a dream, though, and I never thought it would happen.  So, when my parents asked if I wanted to take a trip somewhere, I thought, "Sure, France has many lovely places to visit."  After discussing it for a while, my mom said "What if we go to Salzburg?" Without a moment's hesitation, I said YES.  So, the morning after Christmas, we got on a train that would bring us to that lovely town nestled in the Alps.

In the morning, we were picked up at the hotel along with another family to go on the tour for The Sound of Music.  This other family was an Argentinian woman, along with her mother, and her Dutch husband whom she met in Antarctica.  How's that for a story?  We joined with three other buses and headed through the lovely town.  Because I'm a bit of a dork, I had already known that the interior of the house was a separate location from the front of the house, and the terrace and lake and the backyard was also a separate location.  I still cannot believe how beautiful it was there.  I mean, seriously.  Look at this!  When I see places like this, I am just struck with how great a gift God gave us when He created the world.  And that beauty still remains, even if it hard to find sometimes.

After we saw the back of the house, we headed up to the lakes and mountains region.  On the way, we stopped at the site of the front of the house, the lane where the kids were up in the trees while the captain, the baroness, and Max drove by, as well as THE GAZEBO.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the scene in which Liesl and Rolf sing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen".  That dance is one of my favorites, and I've always wanted to learn it, not to mention wear Charmian Carr's dress.  I think that may be my favorite place we visited, and sadly it was only for a few minutes.

After we drove through the mountains, listening to the soundtrack the whole way, we arrived in Mondsee.  What is in Mondsee, you ask?  Many things, including delicious apple strudel, but most importantly, the church in which they filmed the wedding scene.  Yes, I was geeking out the entire time, and yes, I did walk down the aisle like Maria.  (And yes, I do realize how incredibly dorky and embarrassing that is, but I don't care)  The church was so beautiful!  It looked exactly like it did in the movie, except that it was decorated for Christmas which only added to its loveliness.

 When we finished the tour, we walked around town, saw the fountain and gardens from Do Re Mi, Nonnberg Abbey, and went on a carriage ride.  I loved every moment- except for when my camera died, so I don't have pictures from those places, but Mom is sending them to me- and wouldn't trade it for anything.  How great is it that I got to be there with my parents too?  We had delicious Austrian food, fabulous coffee, and exquisite desserts.  Those are all being added to my list of recipes to learn.  Especially this coffee ice cream drink.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


As I reflect on this past year, there are two words that come to mind: Rejoice and Thankful.

God's faithfulness has been evident throughout this year, even though at certain times I couldn't see it.  I am now in my fifth month living in France (yes, I know I shouldn't count September because it was only a week, but by the calendar, it still makes it five months), and so much has happened.

Last year began with frustration thanks to a round of food poisoning on New Year's Eve, and unorganized stores that claimed to lose my electronic job applications.  What a blessing not having a real job turned out to be, though.  I was able to spend about four weeks up at Covenant Point in the winter, as well as a week during the summer.  I had the tremendous joy of babysitting for new families and laughing with five year olds as we built forts, played with Legos and trains, and at long last, even one of the two year olds was excited for me to "come play" with her and didn't even notice when her parents left.  My time of waiting for my life in France to start kept me surrounded my loving friends and family, encouragement from different communities, and it really started to prepare me for life here.  I didn't completely know it at the time, but those months were some of the most precious I have experienced. 

In January of 2012, my good friend encouraged me to start a gratitude journal, and being forced to take notice of little-and big- things and thank God for them started to change how I saw trials, triumphs, and relationships.  I was sad when I finished that journal yesterday, but I am so thankful to start another one today!  I often feel a bit like Pollyanna playing the glad game, but why should that be a bad thing?  It doesn't separate me from the reality of what happens, but it just helps to keep things in perspective and give praise in all circumstances. 

As I think about the events that have happened this year, I just can't help but smile and rejoice.  Such blessings God has given me, and such joy that fills my heart.  So, here's to 2013, another year to praise, another year to share, another year to love others.