Monthly Archives: July 2015

How I Met the German Transit Authority

Two days in Germany and I already broke the law. There we were, midnight, filming a short skit between trains. A train had just arrived so we stopped filming and waited. I was on one side of the tracks, my colleagues on the other, when two transit authority officers stepped off the train on their side. They looked at them, they look across at me, and then slowly began to make their way to the end of the track to cross over to my side. Everyone tried to look busy, tried to look innocent, tried to look anywhere but directly at them. They approached me. “Was maschst du?” (which is actually a simplified version of what they said…not that I actually know) I’m smart enough to assume they asked me what I was doing so I told them we were filming a short student film. They asked if I spoke German I said no, they asked if my friends spoke German I said some. FINALLY one of my colleagues came over and talked to them. Apparently it is illegal, without permission, to film or photograph on transit property. So we packed up, while they watched, and finally they got on a train and left. No major trouble, but now we know! You live, you learn.

After, at about 1am two friends rode the train home with me. Frankfurt at night is very quite. There are one or two people out, but not many. Everywhere you go there is silence. It’s quite nice actually. I feel safer on the streets of Frankfurt than I ever have anywhere in the US. I could live in Frankfurt and be very happy.

My favorite part of the day is my morning commute to Konstablerwache, which is a central square in town. There is  Starbucks and loads of shops, and a huge mall, home to the world’s second longest elevator which I had the privilege of riding. I like my commute because it’s one time of the day that I don’t have to be an American. I don’t have to be just another tourist, because as long as I have my headphones in, I know which train to get on and off on, and I don’t speak, no one knows. It’s nice to just be a fake German commuter for twenty minutes every morning. At least until I order coffee an butcher every word.

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Planes, Trains, and Standing on my Own Two Feet

I got on the plane in Denver, Colorado at 4:30PM, got off in Reykjavik, Iceland At 6:00AM, back on at 6:30, and then off the plane in Frankfurt, Germany at 1pm. We gathered our things and went down down down into the train station beneath the airport, where the only relief from the heat is the trains rushing by.

After being in a hot, crowded train for about fifteen minutes, we made it to the square where we were meeting our contact. We walk up from the station into a huge outdoor shopping center complete with McDonald’s and Starbucks. We got the boys a soda which they were very much confused over (they use less sugar in Germany), and then we went our separate ways. My God family to their apartment, and me to my room.

Another train later I found myself walking up four flights (not including the landing) and confronted with a smiling German face. He explained that I was to live in the attic room, which is a nice little room with a comfy bed, three tables, a dresser, and a water heater for tea and coffee. There is no air conditioning, but I assured him that my time in Sutton Hall had prepared me for that.

Back on the street minutes later I was led to a coffee shop called Awake where I was to meet my God family again later. My guide said goodbye to me then and I was left alone in the city of Frankfurt.

As I walked back to my room I begin to get a little nervous. I have never lived on my own before. I’ve never had to pay for rent, or buy groceries, or navigate a foreign city, let alone one where I don’t speak the predominant language. But I got back fine and I dragged my sleep deprived body (I hadn’t slept on either plane) up the four flights. After the day of traveling I was very excited to be able to crawl into the shower and just be clean. After which I proceeded to take a half an hour nap.

I awoke, got ready, walked back down to the cafe and met my God father who told me, quite understandably, that the boys had passed out and were happily sleeping as we spoke. I then spent my evening sitting outside and talking to new friends.

I met a girl named Hannah who is part of a church group that sometimes does church services at the coffee shop. She told us about her upcoming trip to Africa to do some outreach, and about how her church has been moving in Germany. Hannah told us that at a certain point her church realized that people weren’t coming to church buildings anymore (sound familiar?) she said that they realized they couldn’t just have a church and expected people to show up, they had to go where the people were. So they started having small services all over in different towns and cities at coffee shops, hospitals, movie theaters, anywhere they could one a venue and people who needed to hear about God. They opened up the floor to hear from the attendees what they wanted to see done in the world. If someone had a heart for prostitues, they set up an outreach group, if someone wanted to reach the elderly, they set up a coffee outreach. And not only dos the members of the church start mobilizing, they opened it up to non believers who wanted to work on a social project. In this way they have been able to reach not only those they are serving, but those they are serving with. They even opened their mission trips up to secular participants which I think is revolutionary in our age of religious exclusion. It was amazing to hear how God has been moving in Getmany and I heard a lot of things I can’t wait to take back to America and maybe shake things up a little. Hannah told the story of the 101 year old woman who had come to Christ last month. Who says it’s ever too late to except the love and mercy of Jesus Christ?

Mercifully, after our chat, I was finally able to go to the little discount store across from my building, buy some water and some dehydrated noodles, and crawl into bed at about 9:30pm.

As I got ready for bed I started to realize that maybe this is a great chance for me. Maybe this is my chance to live alone and support myself and learn to be a functioning human being. If everyday German woman can wake up, get on a train to work, go shopping, walk all these place alone, then surely I can handle it too. I’m excited to find my own capabilities through this journey. I didn’t come on this trip as a journey of self discovery for me, but that seems like it’s going to happen whether I want it to or not.

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European Adventure: Day One

As I type I am currently sitting at a gate in Denver international airport, under a sign that says, “Reykjavik” in red. If you asked me what emotions I’m feeling right now I suppose I would have to answer that I am feeling an odd mixture of excitement, fear, anxiety, restlessness, and just the tiniest bit of childlike wonder, at the fact that I am finally headed to Europe to live for six months.

So many American talk about being world travelers, or wanting to go places. And I must confess I agree with Sartre when he said he wished people would stop saying, “I haven’t gotten the chance…” When it comes to things they desire to do. I am finally taking my own advice and being a doing instead of a dreamer. Because the world has enough dreamers, it’s time some of us take some action. And though I’m not sure I ever thought I would be taking a ten hour flight to Frankfurt via Reykjavek, I know this is something that I’m going to get to tell my children about someday.

Two lovely things happened on the way to my gate today that I wanted to share. Firstly, DIA has installed tubes along the lines as you wait for security that say, “Change for change, helpDenver’s  homeless”, which I greatly appreciate because goodness knows the growing homeless population is becoming an issue that can no longer be ignored, but one that needs to be dealt with. Preferably with compassion and love. Also it’s just perfect. My father was even saying as we drove to the airport that he always get stopped at security because of the change in his pocket. That’s a perfect way for men and woman to empty their pockets and help their neighbors. 

The second thing that happened is that there were two just absolutely delightful TSA agents. One who was doing the initial announcements, and one who was checking bags. They both smiled, and wee kind. They joked with people and seemed like they actually wanted to be doing their job which is just great to see because, and I hate to stereotype, but a lot of time TSA agents are just….kind of…unpleasant. So overall this has been, so far at least, a stress free start to a grand adventure. Prayers are appreciated and much needed.

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You Believe What Now?

I found out today that if you type, “The Holocaust d…” into google, it will automatically finish that with “didn’t happen” and come up with 7,560,000 results. I stared at the screen and the only words I could process were I…what…just…what? People actually believe the Holocaust didn’t happen? I mean, we’re not talking about a faked moon landing, or Walt Disney being frozen under Disneyland here, we are talking about the murder of 6 MILLION PEOPLE! Why on Earth would one person, let alone hundreds and thousands of people lie about something as horrific as that? And I’m sorry, but if you have ever seen any video or pictures of starving, wounded, sick, beaten, dead, jews how could you dare to even have such a thought? How can you look at the corpse of an innocent human being and say their life, their death, is a lie?

I decided that I was going to read what some of these people had to say and you know what I found? 32 different people who are just racist conspiracy nuts. I found no real evidence because most of it was hateful opinions, and the rest was easily refuted. One of these people had the audacity to proclaim himself a Christian and then proceed to call Jews the K word. If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s people evoking the name of God to fuel their hateful opinions. Not sure if this guy noticed or not, but Jesus was JEWISH. You can’t be anti-Semitic and a Christ follower…I mean, you can…apparently…who am I to judge his relationship with God? But really who the heck says “I hate Jews” and then turns around and claims to live their life by the words of a Jewish carpenter? It sends mixed messages, but I digress. The point is, while I firmly believe in the freedom of speech, I am astonished and disgusted by what some people do with it.

As I finish up my 20th century history course and get on a plane bound for Germany in a few days it’s hard not to think about the atrocities of the two world wars we have had. It is unfortunate that such a beautiful country has to be associated with an ugly act. I hope when I am in Europe I get the chance to visit some WWII memorials and remember the victims and soldiers of the war with the respect they deserve. I hope that for every one person who stands up and says “I don’t believe this happened” a hundred will stand up and say I do, and agree to help history live on in the minds of future generations so that never again will the world have to suffer through such great atrocities.

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There is Kindness in the World and why I will never be a Duck hunter

Being home is weird because when you don’t live there most of the time, but you’re not really living elsewhere, it’s hard to figure out how things should go. I’m not sure my parents have quite figured out if I’m an adult or not. It’s like it’s instinct for them to tell me to put the glass in the dishwasher while I’m still using it, and for me it’s like I live on my own 90% of the time and you don’t think I know where a cup goes? But we’re figuring it out, and I do enjoy being home but for everyone’ sanity, maybe it’s a good thing I leave in a week…

This last week I got to vacation in Steamboat Springs which was lovely. The mountains are great winter or summer. On our way back home we passed through Denver to look at a wedding venue with my sister for her upcoming nuptials. We go there early so we decided to get coffee and sit outside since it was such a nice day. Well while we were sitting there chatting I saw a young man with a tattered coat and worn backpack walk up tot he trashcan  outside the coffee shop, lift the lid, and start going through every bag looking for uneaten food. He searched and searched and I found myself hopelessly wishing I had some food, or at least some cash to give him when he seemed to give up and start to walk away. Well, dear readers, I was not the only one watching. At a table near us there was a little family of grandma, mother, and two little girls eating an afternoon snack. As the young man began to walk away she hurried up to him, reached out a hand, and gave him a full sandwich and a banana. He smiled gratefully, almost a bit apologetically and walked away with the food in hand. The thing that really touched me about this, besides the fact that that man got to eat that day obviously, was that the woman gave up her own food, and no one saw it. I’m not saying that she should be given a parade for doing the right things, what I’m saying is she didn’t do the right thing and expect one. She did an act of kindness, in front of hundreds of strangers, and I don’t think anyone noticed but me. In fact, until she got up I was sure I was the only one who noticed the man at all. I wish we could all be like that woman. Because the problem is not homelessness, it’s the avoidance of things that make the rest of us uncomfortable. If we payed more attention maybe that young ma wouldn’t have to root through the garbage to find food. The war on poverty shouldn’t be relocating the homeless somewhere where we can’t see them. The war on poverty should be taking steps to see them relocated somewhere permanent and safe.

On a lighter note I went clay shooting with my father on Saturday and I still can’t raise my arms…

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“Break my heart for What Breaks Yours…”

I cannot sleep tonight. I went to bed fully intending to get a good nights rest and wake up bright and early tomorrow morning. But as I lay there sleep evaded me. So I arose and turned on the television in hopes that it would put me to sleep. Three hours and one whole season of a show later, here I am.

I watch this silly show on Hulu called Rev. It is an odd comedy about a Vicar of the Church of England who runs a failing church in the inner city. We follow his slightly ridiculous life, and listen to his prayers to God. He struggles with his faith, and he gets into trouble, and he struggles everyday. While there are parts of the show that are obviously silly and parts that are probably a bit irreverent, I enjoy it because it shows the struggle Christians are all afraid to admit they have. It shows a Vicar who is supposed to be a shining example of God, who struggles in his faith, just like the rest of us. Tonight I watched the entire last season of it in my restlessness.

In the last episode of the series Pastor Adam has found himself without a church, and subsequently, without a purpose. He goes into a deep depression which in itself was very hard to watch since the show has always been rather light hearted. But there was a scene that just absolutely smacked me upside the head. While usually the viewer is privy to the private prayers of Adam, in this particular scene, we become privy to his wife’s prayers. She prays for her husband and for guidance, then we hear the prayers of the Arch Deacon who is so often the antagonist to Adam as he asks God why people don’t seem to understand or like him very much, we hear the prayers of Adam’s second at the church as he tries to reassure himself it wasn’t his fault the church failed, and we hear the prayers of a Collin the homeless church goer who prays for his family, wherever they might be, Adam and his wife, and for the woman he once loved providing that she isn’t already gone. As I watched this I began to cry. Now me crying at a television show or a movie or a book or a…well you get the point, is not a new concept. I cry all the time, I’ve already confessed that. But this was different. I wasn’t just crying because the characters I love were hurting, I was crying because the weight of their prayers was so unbearable.

There is a common saying amongst those who believe in God; “Break my heart for what breaks Yours..” The idea of this phrase, or prayer, is that we ask God to show us what breaks His heart, make us aware of it, and break ours also so that we may start to fix the brokenness of the world. While I think this is an admirable prayer, and while I pray quite often myself, I’m not sure a lot of us fully understand what we are asking.

I am often overwhelmed by my sadness or frustration at the tragedy of our world., but for some reason tonight the weight of the prayers of four fictional people just crushed me. We ask God to let us see with His eyes, to break our hearts, but if the sadness that God feels over our suffering is even close to what I felt tonight (and I imagine it must be so much worse) I don’t know that we could handle it if indeed God ever really decided to reach down and say “Here, feel what I feel, see what I see.” There is a great scene in the movie Bruce Almighty where Bruce receives a desperate prayer from the woman he loves as she cries out to God in her sadness and pain. Bruce is overwhelmed by the pain the person he loves the most in the world is feeling and is desperate to fix it anyway he can. If one human being can be so sad over the suffering of one other human being that they love, how much more must God feel the suffering of millions of His children.

I can’t be completely sure what God is speaking to me tonight, but then again when can we ever be completely sure of anything when it comes to God? What I do know is that as I prepare to leave for Europe in the next two weeks I should always remember that I am there to be used by God for His purpose and to see His children as He sees them, and love them as He loves them, which is no easy feat. I think tonight He showed me that inside we are all hurting and praying for something. We all have a prayer. And that I should remember that, and let my heart break for His children, and let it motivate me in my journey, but don’t let it cripple me in the purpose He has sent me.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad God gives us compassion, and I’m glad He gives us insight into what needs our time and love, but I am also glad that He  helps us carry the burden, because we simply couldn’t do it alone. You wanna know how I know God is divine and that we can never be like Him? Because I could never be in that much pain all the time. I would shut down and stop caring. But God is always there, day and night, all the time to guide us and love us and help us carry our burdens. He never stops caring.

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Coping with Anxiety-A Practical, and Sometimes Silly Guide to Dealing with Crippling Anxiety

I have Anxiety. It isn’t a shocking fact, at least not to anyone who knows me really well. It isn’t even really an abnormal fact, since it seems that more and American adults are struggling with some form of depression, bi-polar, or anxiety. I have had pretty sever anxiety since I started high school, and it’s only gotten worse the more stress and responsibility I have in my life. I honestly think I’m going to have an ulcer someday since one of the symptoms of my minor everyday anxiety is acid reflux, and nausea. The big thing about living with anxiety when you are also someone who refuses to take medication, like I am, is finding ways to cope with anxiety so you can be a functioning member of society. I was talking to a friend recently who has just started dealing with this problem and I was forced tor really think about the little things I have come up with to handle my everyday anxiousness.

  1. I never go anywhere that I can’t leave whenever I want to
    1. If my friends want to go somewhere, I will almost always drive myself so I know that at any moment I can leave if I start to feel overwhelmed. I don’t leave early most of the time, but just the idea that I can leave allows me to enjoy social situations more. The truth is, if I let you drive me somewhere, I really trust and feel comfortable with you. That’s the nice thing about college, most things happen within 500 feet of my room.
  2. I have safe spaces
    1. I am very careful to make sure I have a space that I feel safe in wherever I happen to be. At school those places are my car, and my room. If you know me you know that my door is always unlocked, and that most times of the day, if I’m not in class or at work, I am sitting in my room, and that I am always happy to have visitors. This works really well because I get to see my friends, but I’m not anxious because I’m in a place I feel safe. My car is another place I feel comfortable. Often when I get worked up I will take a drive which helps me calm down.
  3. Crying is not a sign of weakness
    1. Holy Cow I can’t tell you how many times I cry during the week. And that may sound silly or weird, but in all honesty, it’s just a coping mechanism. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed I don’t know what to do, so I cry. Crying helps release tension and emotion, and often ofter I cry for a few minutes I’m totally fine again. So don’t be afraid to. Who cares if other people think you’re silly or weak? It’s not their body or brain or emotions, it’s yours. Take care of yourself however you need to.
  4. I talk to my emotions like they are separate people
    1. Ok, so this is the slightly coping mechanism I use. I find that if I can personify my emotions and make them into little people (Pixar totally stole my idea) then I can handle them better. For instance, if I wake up feeling really sad, I might have a conversation like this while I get ready: “Now sadness, I know you are feeling a lot today, and that you just want to come to surface and express yourself, but I have a long day ahead of me where I need to interact with people and not be sad or crying. Can you just control yourself for five hours and then I’ll crawl back in bed and we can have a heart to heart?” I know it sounds crazy but it really helps me deal with my emotions if I can separate them from myself and make them something other than a part of me I can’t control.
  5. Incentive
    1. This is one of the most important ones in my opinion. When I am having a bad day I use personal incentive to keep me going. I often have things to do from 8am to midnight and if I can’t find a way to keep my self in check, I would never make it through. So I tell myself something like, “Ok, if you can get through all your classes, and eat a little something, then you can go take a nap until that meeting.” Or “If you can get through all the obligations you have today you can binge watch Netflix and worry about your paper tomorrow.” It is important to have something to strive for you’re likely to get pulled down by the weight of responsibility,
  6. The Room
    1. Lastly, and my personal favorite is The Room. This is something that happened on accident when I was trying to find a way out of insomnia without pill sin high school. I got an app on my phone, which Is till have to this day called Relax Melodies by Ipnos soft. It is basically an app with ambient sounds designed to help put you to sleep. Now I’m a person who usually needs complete silence to sleep, but I was getting desperate and so I thought why not go ahead and try it? After a lot of trial and error I finally found a combination that worked for me; soft rain, ocean waves, and wind chimes. It put me to sleep in no more than a half an hour every night, still does. Well after a few weeks I started to realize that as I fell asleep every night, I was imagining the same thing. It was a room. This room was little, and white, and consisted of a bed, a dresser, french doors, and a little window. I saw it exactly the same in amazing detail every night as I fell asleep. I started to understand that this was someplace  my subconscious has created for me to go to at night so I could sleep. The thing about the room is there has never been anyone or anything in it but me. It is a safe place for my mind to go at night where I don’t have to worry about the coming day or stress over a conversation or interaction from the day before. It was just a place of rest. As I have gotten older I have found I can conjure the room on my own. I simply put on my sounds and think, “You are in a little white room, there is a white bed with a wicker headboard. in front of you is a little white dresser with a mirror and little knickknacks like shells and bottles, there are french doors that open out onto the ocean, and above the doors is a little window that is open, that has wind chimes settled in it. You crawl into bed, and go to sleep.” And simple as that I’m off to sleep with no anxiety.

Now obviously I’m not saying that these things have cured me. They are just simple ways I deal with anxiety and stress, and they won’t work for all people. Everyone’s anxiety is unique to them and their life, but I thought maybe by sharing some of my tips, it might help someone who is struggling with no idea what to do.

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