Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I marveled at the hills until I saw the mountains.

I have quite a lot of catching up to do. It's been weeks since I last posted. Since then I've traveled through many more cities of Germany, spent five amazing days in Switzerland, and had a whirlwind of a trip in Italy for three days. In addition to that little adventure that I spent with my roommate from FSU, Lindsey, I've successfully made my move to Holland. I've been here for five days now and it's been like living in a dream.

First let me say a few things about the trip to Switzerland and Italy. It was by-far the most amazing trip I've been on yet. It was beautiful, liberating, and brilliantly soul-restoring. I was hit between the eyes with God's love once again, pierced by His beauty, and was gently reminded of his goodness. It's impossible to look on the landscapes that we saw and still think that He is an angry God. I sat on a grassy hill one night and watched the sun set on the Swiss alps that postured themselves before me and wept. I wept because God spoke to me so clearly by what I was seeing, by what he had promised me before I left, and by His Spirit speaking so incredibly clear. I am always floored when I hear His voice and it is unmistakable. These are the moments when every struggle in my walk, every dry season, every frustration and question become so insignificant. That's when I remember completely why I gave myself to Him in the first place and why it was the best decision and will forever be the best decision of my life. You could say that this experience and the weeks leading up to it was a downpour after a season of drought. So in light of that fact, my appreciation for His speaking was even greater.

Before I even left for Europe (and I believe I mentioned this in a previous blog) God gave me Psalm 23. Well...every line and that chapter has been, in some way or another, manifested to me through events or experiences; incredibly blatantly some times. It was after I had spent one evening laying in a green grassy pasture, and while I was sitting beside the most beautiful and peaceful, clear-blue lake I've ever seen that God reminded me of the verses in that chapter. ok...i'm realizing that I could spend an entire blog on just that verse and how God presented it to me so I will skip ahead and come back to that next time.

SO. Got completely floored by the amazingness of God all over again, had a fun and chaotic time in Italy (getting lost, meeting interesting people, jumping from rocks into the clear mediterranean sea) and had a peaceful and relaxing time under the hospitatlity of my brother's future in-laws in Germany.

Now I'm in Holland, have had three days of classes, and feel like first day of 9th grade all over again. I am meeting some cool people though and the Lord has already brought me to some people who are believers. I am enjoying it and really soaking it in. My cup is truly overflowing.

I hope to have time to share more detailed accounts of my experiences here. Right now I have to get ready for a social event with one of the campus ministries here. Until then.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Over the river and through the vineyards to Rudesheim we went!

Our first day of sight-seeing in Germany was yesterday. Mr. Horst and Mrs. Monika took us to Rudesheim, a neat town about 45 minutes from Leeheim, to see the river Rhine and the village there. It was a cooler day. Cool enough for pants and a light jacket, but of course we were wearing shorts and t-shirts because every other day we've experienced so far has been warm and nearly hot.

The day began with waking up to a BIG german breakfast. We actually decided it was Germerican because it was a little bit of both. We had scrambled eggs and bacon and then broetchen (yuuuummy german breads of different sorts). You can put either cheese and meats on the broetchen or you can put nutella and jam. I opted for the sweeter choice: )

After breakfast we cleaned up and got ourselves together to leave. We arrived to Rudesheim and bought tickets for the ferry boat to take across the river. We had ice cream and ate it on the boat. Once we made it across the river, we walked a little through the adorable, but tourist infested town and then got our tickets for the gondola. We took the gondola up the mountain, passing over acres and acres of vineyards. It was an amazing sight the perfectly groomed rows of grape vines that covered the mountain. On the gondola, you could see not only the entire vineyard, but the entire town of Rudesheim as well as the Rhine. We happened to be going up at exactly 2 o'clock and were serenaded by the melodic chimes of the church bells striking the hour. It was more than picturesque. Germany, it's sights, sounds, smells, everything seemed to be crooning me. No doubt, I could get used to Europe.

We arrived at the top of the hill to visit a very large stature perched on the side of the mountain, overlooking the Rhine. It was a monument built in the late 1800s in remembrance of a war with the French, fought and won by the Germans. The were the watchmen of the Rhine. Though the sight was one to see...there was a sight nearby that was one....well...not to see. While I was making a film with my camera of the river and the vineyard, we heard a gentelman near us shout, "Halloooo!!" There were trills of laughter as people pointed toward a row of grapevines below where we stood. There, directly in front of us (but far enough away) was a man standing just off the trail. He was very still and the rest of his party...three girls...were walking ahead of him. They were all on a hike that takes about 4 hours in total. Apparently, there weren't any bathrooms along the way! He was peeing on the vine!! I was in the middle of filming anyway, so I got him on film as well. hahahahha! So if you ever buy wine from Ausbach vineyards and it tastes a little strange, then it was probably seasoned by the tourists of Rudesheim!

So...we stayed up on the hill a bit longer, then took the gondola back down to the town. We toured the little village some more and finally took the ferry back across the river to head home.

Once home, we had another fine meal and then Logan, Sabine, and I took a romantic walk around the town; ) hehe. I've been the third wheel for most of my life, I'm beginning to be used to it. hahah. We came back, had coffee and watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding with the Appel family: ) It was an absolutely complete and wonderful day.

Today we had church. It was very nice. Pastor Hans Yurg spoke and worship was very good. The newly married Sabrina Appel led it. After the message we had German cake and coffee and fellowshipped with the people in the church. The people are so wonderful. I do have to admit that it made me miss home a little because of how it reminded me of it.

After church we came home, ate some take-out Chinese food and then I took a niiiiice nap. Waking up refreshed, I got some coffee, grabbed my computer, and came outside to join Mrs. Monika and Mr. Horst in their quaint back-yard garden and that is where I am now. The air is light and breezy, the sun ten times gentler than Florida's, and the birds sing all around us in the trees. It's common to have a small produce garden in the back yards. Their neighbors beside us have a very nice one with tomatoes and other vegietables. Right now they are watering it and the air is filled with the rich scent of wet soil. This reminds me of childhood summers in Sopchoppy...but without the heat!

The Appel's are two of the most generous and hospitible people I've met outside of my family and I know it's because of the Holy Spirit in them. They are so giving of everything they have and refuse any type of reimbursement. The entire trip yesterday was paid for by them. And they only continue to give! Mrs. Monika is loving and loves to give me hugs which is nice because I certainly need that! This will definitely be my home away from home while I'm in Holland.

Tomorrow morning, we will pick Lindsey up from the airport and then our adventure will begin!

Until next time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I am a German princess: )

I've been in Germany for about three days now and I've enjoyed every moment of it...well besides the excruciating hours that Sabine forced me to stay awake when my body was screaming GO TO SLEEP YOU IDIOT! haha. For future reference, don't take two tylenol PM to sleep on an overnight flight to Europe. Bad idea. Actually let me tell you about my flight:

First of all, I boarded the plane and put my hiking pack in the overhead bin over my seat. There was a lady there preparing to sit down in the seat next to me when I heard her say, "OK yeah, you want to sit here?" So then she switched seats with a guy and it did make sense because he was sitting next to her children, but he seemed a little excited about sitting there. He was 21 and also going on a Euro-trip backpacking adventure, but alone. He was studying to be a rocket scientist at a university in San Diego and well...he was nice but I didn't really want to talk to him too much so I jumped at the opportunity to watch the movie they were showing, 17 Again. He watched it too. haha. Anyway, after that I popped the two tylenol and tried to sleep. I was out in a blink but woke up about 30 minutes later with a stream of drool pouring out of my mouth and my blanket a bit wet. He was still awake and no doubt he say my little puddle and probably took some pictures with his fancy little phone. I'm sure they will be up on the internet soon.

I tried to go back to sleep and I did for another few minutes but then woke up again. This time EVERYONE was asleep. But I was awake and feeling drugged out of my mind. My skin was crawling and my hands were tingling. My muscles felt weak and I was going in and out of consciousness with sleep. My only thoughts were, "oh no, how am I going to carry my pack off this will I get off the plane. Oh...they are going to have to carry me off!!!" Between panicked thoughts, I would occasionally start to doze off again. The problem was that this crazy sensation only worsened when I started dozing off so the best thing for me to do to survive my near-overdose on Tylenol PM was to keep myself awake. However, my eyes did not stay open very easily so I fought sleep for the next three hours praying that the meds would wear off. They did enough that I could carry myself AND my pack off the plane without needing a wheel chair. Wheew. I was delirious for the rest of the afternoon though. I don't think I embarrassed myself too bad in front of Mr. Horst and Mrs. Monkia though.

Once I was finished with my sleep ban I crashed at about 9pm and slept for 13 hours straight. The next day, I felt great and was completely adjusted to the time. As far as activities go, Sabine and I have just been hanging out and enjoying each other's company. Leeheim is so cute and so are the neighboring towns. We went to the lake where Logan proposed to Sabine and it was such a beautiful place and a beautiful day. Mr. Horst and Mrs. Monika have been grilling some amazing dishes for us. The food is sooo GOOD! Logan finally arrived today and a little while after he got here I left to go visit with Mrs. Heidi. I ate lunch with her and her daughter and her daughter's friend and then we spent the afternoon talking. It was great. She will be so good for me and I'm so thankful that the Lord has put her as my mentor while I'm here. I am so blessed with good people in my life.

After our time there, she brought me back and we had a big Appel/Crouch family dinner: ) More amazing grilled meats. Mr. Horst loves grilling lamb, steak, turkey, and of course, BRATWURST! It is amazing! yumm: )

They've also been pleasing my tummy with some really good turkish foods. Cream cheese stuffed olives and peppers and seasoned mushrooms and turkish pastries and oh man. savannah would be so jealous. I took a picture just for her: ) The only bummer is that I can't post pictures until I can buy the right chord. I think I brought my mom's or something. I dunno.

So tomorrow we're having a big german breakfast and then we'll be going for some river adventure. I'm excited: ) I'll let you know how it goes.

Above it all...I feel at home and in the will of the Lord. It is so sweet and I will cherrish every moment of this season: )


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Actually AUGUST 4th. "Flying out."

CRAZY. I know I use that word a lot, but it’s pretty much all that comes to mind right now. I’m sitting at the gate waiting to board my flight. It just doesn’t seem possible that today is already here. I’ve been watching it approach for about five months now so you would think it would be a little more believable. But it’s not. It still feels like it should be “that day that’s coming”, not “that day that’s here.” It’s here, though. I just said goodbye to my parents. The airport is the worst place to say goodbye. You can’t cry. You can’t even let yourself feel the goodbye or you will cry and crying is not very convenient in public. I felt like I said goodbye, though, at the cabin.

This weekend was so pleasant and rich. It was a very sweet “see you later” to be with my parents for all that time. It was so beautiful and relaxing. We went to investigate Bust Your Tale Rock (a huge sliding rock in NC), and it was in fact closed. Too many deaths and they decided to build a state park near it. We also went to Telulah Gorge and hiked and saw the beautiful falls. Yesterday morning as we left the cabin my parents prayed for us, (Logan and I), and that was when I felt like we said bye. I cried a little then, but not too much. I really feel good about all this. I feel great actually. I’m excited, at ease, and I know I will see them soon. It is hard to say bye but it’s OK. The Lord has been speaking Psalm 23 over me. I really have such an assurance and peace in trusting Him that he is my shepherd. I feel that this time is going to be very reaffirming how much HE is my father. And there is so much peace in knowing that he goes with me everywhere. He never leaves me. There is no greater peace in knowing God and knowing that he is good and that he will never abandon you. His love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench His love. Not even the entire span of the Atlantic ocean ☺. It is sweet knowing that he has you and you are in His will. You can go anywhere when you know that.

I also want to just share a little testimony about this trip. I am an International Affairs major at FSU and it is highly recommended (basically mandatory without being officially mandatory) to study abroad. I’ve been wanting to do this, however, the cost of the international programs at FSU are extremely expensive. The only program I thought I MIGHT have been able to afford was a six week summer semester in Istanbul, Turkey. I was interested but it would have cost about $8,000 for just 6 weeks. For an entire semester in Europe, it would have cost me about $16, 000. I started seriously praying about the semester in Turkey but I kept feeling that the answer was “no”. I couldn’t ignore it and so I gave up on that. Then, I stumbled across some “exchange programs” that I found on a website for FSU students. They offered an exchange for people with my major in Holland. I did a rough estimate of the cost and it came out to about $7, 000 for the entire Fall semester. I started to get really excited and so I looked into it some more and the things I thought might keep me from being eligible for the program were one by one eliminated. The door looked very open so I started praying about it. I prayed for a couple of weeks, sought council from my parents and Mrs. Lee and after all…it was a “yes” in my spirit.

This program is not advertised or talked about much because it doesn’t bring in revenue for my school. I just happened to come across it and all of the road blocks were cleared. It would be too long and boring to explain each of them so just believe me when I say it is a miracle that this program became available and came to my attention. It also happened in the perfect timing. God is such a good father and giver of good gifts. Western Europe was my preference but it was too expensive so Turkey was going to be the next route, but he said “no” not to keep me from doing that but to let me do something better. Something he knew was in my heart. Now it works out that my brother is moving to Germany and I will only be 3.5 hours from him and our sister church in Germany. It’s amazing how obvious God is sometimes. You just have to have eyes to see.

So here I am. And here I go. Crazy is a good word for all of this, but I’m sure it’s not the last time you’ll see me say it.

Until the next reportable adventure.

Actually JULY 30th. "Goodbye Home"

July 30, 2009

Today happened really fast. Everything about today. It’s arrival was fast. It’s duration was just a blur. And it’s close came in an instant. Although I shouldn’t say it’s completely over. As I write, we’re making our way to the mountains. My ears are popping in adjustment to the altitude changes. Despite the discomfort, they’re quite entertained as the dynamic sounds of my dad’s favorite group, YES, streams through the speakers. Change is a very real word to me right now. It feels like everything is changing. Ironically, the song playing is titled “Changes” Very appropriate.

Today I said goodbye to some very dear people. I really don’t know how else to describe them. I should use phrases like, “my favorites”, “those I love the most”, “those who I’m most thankful for”, “the most influential people in my life.” But I’ll just stick with “dear people.” Besides, after that little rant I think you get the picture.

A small crowd of women saw me off today. I was glad to get another chance to really say goodbye. Last night was good, but it was also too much. Too many people to say goodbye to for it to be real to me. It was a little too ceremonial to feel like a goodbye. However, I don’t think “goodbye” was the intention but rather send us off with their blessing and good wishes. So the small crowd of women consisted of my grandmother, my two aunts, and the four most wonderful married girls I know. Jess, Sarah, Savannah and Sarah Kate all came at once to say bye. The inevitable happened. I cried. Not too bad. I cried more in the car after saying goodbye to Brenna. That was difficult because, as I mentioned yesterday, she and I have a bond that I have with no one else. We’ve done school together since first grade and now that’s over. Also it was difficult because I don’t know what she’ll be doing or where she’ll be when I get back. She may already be moving away. The married girls are settled. It’s a guarantee that they’ll be here when I get back. Not so with Brenna.

I know you may think I’m being dramatic with these long, teary goodbyes. You may say, “It’s only 8 months. Get a grip.” If you are saying this, then maybe you’re right. But you have to understand that I’m from Sopchoppy. And that I am a girl. And both of these factors, especially put together, are perfect explanations of my sappiness. I guess for the sake of the rest of my fellow femaies I shouldn’t neglect the fact that I can be exceptionally nostalgic and sentimental when it comes to leaving loved ones.

Regardless, I said my goodbyes, and my journey has begun. The first leg is this little family road trip ending at my Aunt’s mountain cabin in North Georgia. We’ll be there for the weekend, then it’s to Atlanta to see my dad’s brother and his family, then Tuesday they’re dropping me off at the airport. I’ll be in Germany on Wednesday morning. A long trip, but so good already.

We’ve just spent this whole time talking and reminiscing and enjoying each other. (And of course the traditional stop at Striplings as you can see in the pictures. not posted yet but will be when i can buy a new camera chord!!) I’ll definitely be soaking up these moments with my sweet parents.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Countdown: Tomorrow's it.

Tonight was the farewell service at my church. It was really great. The whole church came together to "send off" my brother and I. My dad anointed me and my brother with oil and blessed us and prayed over us. It was incredibly powerful. The first time my father has ever done something like that. It was amazing. My mother then read the scripture that she's been praying for me for years and it was perfect for the timing and situation of me leaving. It's amazing how timeless God is. Mr. Pete and Mrs. Mel also gave us words as well as Mrs. Debbie (all amazing people from my church). I just felt so encouraged and loved and really just saw that people cared about me. That alone can uplift a heart. There really is nothing like community and fellowship and it definitely makes me thankful for the people and leadership there. If you don't know, my church is a home church consisting of about 35-40 people who really just want the heart of God and love his precepts. We may be small but we do have a website!

Anyway, the night was wonderful. I really will be taking to heart all the words spoken to me tonight. Some were uplifting, some really sobering, but all bore witness with my spirit and THAT is awesome.

Another cool thing that happened was that the wakulla newspaper came out with the front page being dominated by my picture. Ha!! So crazy! The article is online too at . Also, I saw the CDs and they're really cool: ) I attached a photo of the cover artwork that Savannah did.

I was able to spend some good time with Brenna (my cousin) today too. I really will miss her so much. She's incredible. We had a chance to talk a little about our friendship. I was telling her how I don't think anyone 'gets' me as well as she does. We've truly been through the majority of life as we've known it together up until this point. It's a rare thing to have someone like that who not only knows you, but who knows you and genuinely likes you. AND understands you. I really treasure that in her and treasure HER. If you don't know Brenna I truly feel bad for you because you're missing out.

FINALLY. I got bangs. heheheh. Despite what everyone else thought, I decided to go for it. And I like them: )

Goodnight, goodbye. Farewell Tallahassee.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Countdown: 2 days left in Tally, 7 left in the States

"My room is empty, my bags are packed. I'm a goings away from coming back."

I'm almost completely finished packing up my room. It's a strange feeling to be leaving Amelia Circle. It's been my home away from Sopchoppy for the last three years and I've enjoyed it so much. This past year everyone clicked so well. It was such a great experience living with those five awesome ladies. But the timing is funny because I'm moving out as Brenna is moving in. Isn't that life?

As for my belongings, I'm selling almost everything that I'm not taking, minus my furniture which will be staying in the Tally house. The rest is getting stuffed into my two suitcases and my hiking pack. It's pretty crazy when you can put almost everything you own in a few bags. It's also somewhat liberating knowing that I'm not really tied down to much. could say I'm weighed down. My bags don't exceed the weight limits, but they're not far from it!

I guess it would be good to give a little background and description of this adventure. I'm 22 and a student at Florida State University. I'm studying International Affairs and my final semester will be spent at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands as an Exchange Student. I leave on August 4th and I'm not exactly sure when I'll be returning to the States. I bought a one-way ticket to Europe. HA! Cross that off on my "bucket list." I will be backpacking in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy with my roommate, Lindsey Vinson, for two weeks in August. I'll then be at school by about the 28th of August to study from September to December or January. (I'm not sure because they still haven't sent me a schedule of my classes so it could be until the end of January.)

After my studies, I'll be finished with my undergraduate degree and will most likely be staying in Germany until my brother's wedding in April. Then it's home to meet the real world I suppose. Yikes!!

Hopefully, if you're following this blog, you can get a glimpse into what these months will be like for me. I really have no idea what to expect, but my eyes are open and I'm ready for some challenges and new experiences. Whatever comes, I have confidence and hope in the Lord; that his Spirit hedges me in before and behind and that He goes before me. My prayer concerning my time in Holland is that He will guide me to the right fellowship of believers. You can pray that too if you want:)

OH! One last thing. In June my father and I worked our BUTTS off to put together a CD. "The Beauty of Life." The first shipment came in today and they look and sound great! They're also available on iTunes. This project is a big part of what's supporting me financially as I study abroad so check it out and if you like what you hear, buy it! : )