Discovering the Isteiner Klotz

Discovering the Isteiner Klotz

Today was a German holiday: the 3rd of October is the day we celebrate the reunification of Germany in 1990. In Pakistan this was usually a special day for us – here in Germany I often feel that people don’t think much about it, its just a day off work. I had spontaneously gone to visit my brother Sunday evening and wanted to head back to Freiburg today after lunch. The train wasn’t too full, despite the holiday – but we ended up getting stuck in a small town called Efringen-Kirchen, about 60km away from Freiburg. I seriously considered cycling home…but was discouraged by the fact that I had no food and hardly any water and all the shops would be closed. In the end, after waiting for about half an hour, we were informed that our train could not continue and we would have to get off and wait for the next train, due in about 30minutes. I took my bike and decided to explore Efringen-Kirchen. I soon realised that everything was indeed closed – not that there were many shops to start with, but both the bakery and the one or two other shops I passed by were shut. I saw a sign saying “Istein 2km” and figured I might as well enjoy the sunny day going to the next station by bike instead of waiting around. I had always wondered about Istein – going this way by train countless times I always heard the town announced over the loud speakers when we stopped, but I had never visited the place. It didn’t take me long to reach the little town and it struck me as quite pretty – lots of vineyards, beautiful little half-timbered houses and the backdrop of a hill with large boulders and cliff-like rocks. It reminded me of some of the landscapes I had seen in the Danube valley.
I stopped to take a picture and shortly after spotted some people going for a walk in a small graveyard. Right behind them was a little chapel, up in the cliff. I parked my bike and climbed up some stairs to check it out – a sign informing me that I had discovered the 150m high limestone rock “Isteiner Klotz” and the small chapel of Saint Veith, apparently dating back to the 12th century. (Sorry, I didn’t actually take a picture of the chapel…next time)
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It was pretty fascinating, although the way to the top of the rock was closed off and part of the area designated a nature reserve, so I couldn’t actually climb up to the cliffs or go into some of the caves. I had to be content with looking inside the little prayer chapel and enjoying the view of the rocky hill from below. After a few minutes I returned to my bike and made my way to the Isteiner train station to catch the next train to Freiburg. This time the train was extremely full and we had to figure out a way to fit rather a lot of bikes in a small space…but most people were in a good mood, despite the inconvenience of the cancelled train. When I mentioned my unsuccessful attempt to buy food a lady even offered me a Landjรคgerย  ๐Ÿ™‚ What happy misfortune, that a train malfunction led to a beautiful bike ride, discovering a pretty new place and meeting friendly people on this holiday. Happy 3rd of October everyoneย  ๐Ÿ˜€

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Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord

My favourite way to start the day is when I manage to get up early, go outside and have some time just me and God. Go for a walk, a run, a swim – whatever. Just enjoy being out in the cool morning air, hear the birds chirp and maybe even watch the sunrise. When I was in Ulm two weeks ago I did just that – one morning I jumped in the Danube and another I cycled up a hill to the Wilhelmsburg, an old fortification with a tower that offers a great view of the city.
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And the sun was just rising as I reached the top – it was beautiful. I had my Bible with me and randomly opened it at Psalm 113 – and it couldn’t have been more fitting!

Praise the Lord.
Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.
He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.

Praise the Lord. (Psalm 113 NIV translation, emphasis added)

It is truly good to praise God! It is the best way to start the day and the best way to finish the day. No matter what is going on, there is always reason to praise God because HE is good. Because He is just. Because his love never fails. His mercy is new every morning.

I was so happy that morning – happy for the sunrise, happy to be cycling, happy to spot a hot air balloon in the sky. Happy because it was the day we were making parathas for breakfast and going climbing. Seemed like the perfect start to a perfect day. And I thanked God for it. But even though in every day life I don’t always take the time to go out first thing in the morning – either because I’m too lazy or because I feel like I have too much stuff to get done…I realise that taking time to at least thank God for a new day and recognising how much I have to be grateful for also contributes to cultivating a positive heart attitude, changes my perspective and automatically makes my day better as I am reminded of God’s goodness in the big and little things.

So here are some things I want to praise God for this week:

  • Last weekend we had a leadership retreat from my church and it was so encouraging to spend time together, read the Bible, pray for eachother.
  • We were in Breisach, right next to the Rhine river – and again I managed to go for an early morning and evening walk and enjoy the beauty of the moment. (I had to skip the slackline for three days – didn’t have one there! Really noticed it on Monday…)
  • Work was good last week, I enjoyed the tours with my tourists and had good weather, a friendly group, not too much traffic – and generous tips ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I found out when my last exam is going to be (mid November) and have three more weeks to study than I expected ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I found out a friend from church actually goes rock climbing and we went climbing last week which was pretty cool – hope to go again these next weeks, so climbing partner prayer answered ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I’m doing some teaching at a discipleship school these next few weeks and am excited and encouraged to see God at work in the students’ lives
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Praise the Lord from the rising of the sun…
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to the place where it sets. (Rhine river, Breisach)

30 Day Challenge: Conquer the slackline

30 Day Challenge: Conquer the slackline

So I’m home again, my muscles were sore for two days after going climbing – but it was the good kind of sore that makes you feel happy and accomplished and impatient to go out again. I went climbing again on Saturday on my own, just to some rocks near where I live – but without a climbing partner (I don’t recommend that, there were others out there too though so I wasn’t alone) so I was limited to choosing a really safe route I could do without rope. It was still fun though, the view was beautiful – and got quite exciting later when a team of firemen showed up! Another climber had called to warn them of a fire that hadn’t been put out properly. I had heard the call being made and ended up going with two other climbers to show the firemen the spot so they could put it out. It probably wouldn’t have been enough to start a forest fire, but it was still good to be safe and a good reminder to think twice before foolishly starting a fire in the woods!

I’m pretty motivated to keep climbing, but the weather hasn’t been so good and I have to organise myself with gear and climbing partner – but after a week of lots of sports and being outside and realising how amazing that was I decided I have to make it more of a priority in daily life. I know its something that helps me focus, clear my head and is simply super enjoyable and a good balance to studying – so instead of thinking I have no time due to studies (I do have to study A LOT these next weeks!) I want to make a bit of time every day. But since I can’t exactly go climbing or on a bike tour every day, I have instead opted for conquering the slackline! You know how teachers always tell you that practice makes perfect? Its supposed to apply to learning your French vocab words, your creative writing skills, solving maths problems, singing in choir, playing an instrument, reciting poems, cooking, sports and most things in life. Well, I have decided to put this claim to the test for a specific time period and see what improvement I can witness in just thirty days of practice. Of course, the idea is NOT to give up doing something after trying just thirty days โ€“ I am fully aware that real learning takes longer than that and requires a bit more effort, investment and perseverance โ€“ but when you are trying to start a new habit, the decision to follow through for a month is a good place to start.

I have been thinking about slacklining for a while, always amused by how popular it is here in Freiburg and how silly people look trying to walk across with their arms in the air. It is good for balance, focus and body control, though โ€“ and actually quite a challenge to master well and a lot of fun! It is also extremely accessible for me right now since there are two slacklines permanently installed on the lawn in front of my house. So, what’s the plan? I intend to go slacklining 10-30 minutes every day for the next 25 days* and see how much I improve. I must confess I am a complete beginner and look like a fool trying to take a single step, but hey – that’s what practice is for, right! So I started this four days ago – what’s my progress so far? When I started on day 1 I went from not being able to balance at all to being able to balance on either foot and count to 20 and take seven shaky steps! Yeah! Today I was up to 40 and felt more confident getting up on the line, especially with the right foot.

After 30 days I would like to:

– be able to balance on either foot for as long as I like (say count to 100)
– walk the length of the slackline and back again (need to measure it…)
– get up on either foot without losing my balance
– change direction midway

I have no idea how quickly I will achieve this goal, that’s what makes it interesting. Maybe this is super easy and I will make it after ten days โ€“ or I’m underestimating the slackline and require longer.

In case you don’t know how to slackline, here’s a nice video to teach you the basics ๐Ÿ™‚

How to slackline

and in case you think slacklining is dull, check out this competition and maybe you’ll change your mind…

2016 GoPro Mountain Games Slackline Highlight Reel

*every day unless its raining A LOT or someone ate the slackline, then any other sport can serve as a substitute for that day. Day 3 I went cycling ๐Ÿ™‚

Discovering: 3-day bike tour day 3 – from Sigmaringen to Ulm

 

Passing through the village of Munderkingen

On Monday my brother and I rode from Sigmaringen to Ulm. It was a beautiful bike ride – we passed through some pretty little towns and villages and also had some nice paths right along the river. I would say I probably preferred day two with the impressive rocks – but both was beautiful and very much enjoyable in it’s own way ๐Ÿ™‚ We stopped in a small town called Ehingen to have a late lunch break – it was a nice stop and a well needed rest to get some food and refill our empty water bottles.

Ehingen

ย We arrived in Ulm and spent two days relaxing and playing tourist which was a lot of fun ๐Ÿ™‚ we were able to stay with a friend which was cool and he welcomed us with a splendid dinner. Enjoying good food together always has a high priority – and we had plenty of that!

Pakistani breakfast of parathas and fried eggs

What can you do in Ulm? Lots ๐Ÿ™‚ ย  ย  ย  ย  My favorite spot is probably along the river Danube in the Fischerau – there’s a bridge there that leads to Neu-Ulm and it’s a great place to go swimming and jump into the river. Very refreshing after a long bike ride ๐Ÿ™‚


The city centre also has it’s charms – with some pretty half timbered houses and little alleys and of course the Mรผnster – the church with the highest steeple in the world at 161,53 m! We went all the way up (costs 3,50-5,00 Euros) and had a sweet view of the whole city – was definitely worth the climb!

Tuesday afternoon we went to a small lake to go swimming – it was a really sunny day which was great. Ulm tends not to be known for it’s good weather – I did pray for sunshine though ๐Ÿ™‚

Wednesday was quite a sporty day with cycling and rock climbing on our agenda! I’ve always loved climbing and as a kid I would climb up any wall or tree I could – at school I spent many a break time or afternoon up my favorite tree on the playground. I also went rock climbing a few times and always wanted to do more but it wasn’t til recently that I finally signed up for a beginners course at my uni and spent a weekend in a climbing gym and out in the Black Forest to climb some rocks. It was amazing. Of course you’re up there and there’s the feeling of – “why am I doing this?” and “this is incredible” at the same time! I like the challenge, the team work and the time you get just you and the rock, your head and muscles. Or lack of ๐Ÿ˜‰ And that’s what led to us going climbing in the Blautal near Ulm.

ย I had heard that there were some places around for climbing, some friends of mine are passionate climbers and go out a lot – so I had asked our host, also a climber, if it would be possible to organize a rope and go climb. It all worked out and was pretty sweet! We cycled about 20km to the cliffs and hiked up a little way up a mountain and then our friend climbed up first lead climbing so that my brother and I could climb top rope. It was challenging – the rock was real slippery in some parts and I must admit I fell a lot! But I was always caught safe by the rope and it was a good exercise to just try again and work a bit harder. In the end I also got to do a short climb doing lead climbing which was especially cool – it was a totally different feeling to know that I really shouldn’t fall or at least to be aware of my climbing higher and securing more rope making a fall safer. Even then I did fall and get a few scratches – but it was worth it!

ย Now our Ulm adventure has come to an end and today we hit the road again – not cycling all the way back, but taking the train via Friedrichshafen, by the Bodensee (Lake Constance). There’s also a really nice cycling route along there – from Ulm to the lake and then even all the way to Basel – maybe something for another time ๐Ÿ™‚

So would I recommend a trip like this? Definitely! The bike tour and discovering Ulm are both worth it – it wasn’t my first time in Ulm but I never get tired of it either. I’ve already decided that I would love to live in a city where I can jump in the river any time ๐Ÿ™‚ though I guess I would really have to pray for good weather all year round then ๐Ÿ™‚

Discovering: 3-day bike tour day two – from Donaueschingen to Sigmaringenย 

  Good morning ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m at a youth hostel in the town of Sigmaringen – and could see the sunrise from my bedroom window, which is kinda nice. The tour yesterday was amazing, I really loved it. It wasn’t too strenuous, really well marked with signs along the way so we couldn’t get lost and I just really loved the landscape of the Danube valley with the river and the impressive cliffs. When we started out in Donaueschingen we saw the river Brigach which later joins with the river Brech to continue as the Danube (or Donau as it’s called in German). We also checked out what they say is the source of the Danube – this fancy looking pool of water in the city centre – and then set off towards Tuttlingen at almost noon.  

 It was an easy start with no steep hills, but I must confess I did stop a couple times for pictures – especially wanted to witness where the Donau disappears into the ground at the “Donau Versickerung”. We had a really great packed lunch in Tuttlingen by the river – my wonderful hosts in Donaueschingen had helped provide for lots of sandwiches and fruit which was really great! And I was even given a helmet to borrow because I had managed to forget mine in Freiburg. Shocking, I know! Who goes on a bike tour and forgets their helmet? Especially since I managed to pack all kinds of other ridiculous things…well, thankfully they were kind to help me out so we were all set and well equipped for the day ๐Ÿ™‚

  Arrived at Sigmaringen around 7:30pm and just checked out the view of the famous castle from a distance before going up a rather steep hill to our hostel. Since there was no dinner we ordered some take away kebab-salad-fries, finishing up the evening outside with a nice glass of wine. 

  
Conclusion: it was a great day and I would recommend the tour – there were some steep parts after Friedingen so it’s helpful to have good gears but it’s a nice little challenge and worth the effort. Pack enough water (I had three liters and then we filled up the bottles twice along the way). And enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Here’s a website with the route nicely explained (in German) 

http://www.fahrrad-tour.de/Donautal/Fertig/Donau1.htm

So today the goal is Sigmaringen-Ulm, about 110km, and I’m already tempted to jump into the Danube when we get there ๐Ÿ™‚   

Discovering: my first 3-day bike tour OR: What’s next?ย 

So I know I promised some more pictures and details of the Black Forest and hikes…things have been a bit crazy lately and I didn’t really get around to it. After my Black Forest camping trip and super important final exam I had some time with friends and family and actually even spent a day at the North Sea ๐Ÿ™‚ and then had to do a lot of work for Uni, organizing some stuff and actually preparing for what comes next. I’ve talked about finals and how I’m in my finishing sprint for exam but never really mentioned what I’m going to do when those exams are done. Two years ago I shared my post “A choice youย make“, sayingย how in the end, no matter how many things you’re interested in or passionate about or how many options might even make sense – you can’t do everything and have to be brave and choose something while saying no to something else. Finishing Uni the logical step would have been for me to do 1,5 years teacher training at a school in Germany – working and preparing lessons and already with a salary but under supervision and with some additional classes and testing. Another option would have been to take a bit of a break – since the last two years of studies were rather intense – to just keep working as a freelancer and take time to rebalance and invest in church and evangelism and student ministry. But there was this dream I had as a teenager and it never went away – I always dreamed of going back to Pakistan one day, as an adult, not just for a visit – but to stay, for a minimum of two years and give something back to the country and the school that meant so much to me growing up. Of course my childhood wasn’t perfect – there were things that were hard and I might even wish different – but I think that would have been just as true if I had grown up anywhere else. So at some point as a teenager I prayed about this and told God that I didn’t really know where I would live and work and build a family long term, but that maybe two or three years in Pakistan could be a stop along the way? That was about ten years ago. Now, as my studies are ending and I’m ready for the next step, I’m preparing to go to Pakistan for 2,5 years. I’m excited and happy to be going back after nine years and hope and pray that God will bless the road ahead and give me strength and wisdom for my new role and responsibilities in this post-student-life chapter.
So that’s also why things are a bit crazy – in the mist of my exam preparation for my Spanish finals I’m also preparing to move to Pakistan, praying for my Visa and thinking about how I’m going to say goodbye to Freiburg and Germany – a place I really grew to love and appreciate, despite myself! And a place where I was blessed to meet so many amazing people that became friends and classmates and colleagues and neighbours – and family. But that’s not really the topic of this post, because it’s still too early to say goodbye! I still have a couple months and have my own little bucket list of things to do before goodbye really does come. What’s on that list? Well, I won’t share everything…but here’s one for starters: I really wanted to go on a bike tour! Why? Because I love riding my bike and that’s one thing I won’t be able to do in Pakistan – and I must confess I’ve never really been on a bike trip longer than one day…somehow always found the task of organizing that too daunting…
But that’s what I’m doing right now. I talked with my brother about the idea and he had been thinking about doing a tour in Switzerland, in the end we decided on a 3-day tour along the Danube from Freiburg to Ulm via Donaueschingen and Sigmaringen. I’m super excited and happy to be on the road, getting plenty of beautiful landscapes, fresh air and exercise and just hope my bike holds out for the whole trip ๐Ÿ™‚


Today was a light start of just 30km from Titisee to Brigachtal – I took a slight detour but that brought me to some really pretty villages and woods so it was totally worth it. Tomorrow should be about 90km til Sigmaringen and there’s some really amazing cliffs and rocks along that stretch of the Danube so looking forward to a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚ and on Monday we’ll have about 110km from Sigmaringen to Ulm. Will let you know how it works out, but I’m confident that it will be a nice little adventure ๐Ÿ™‚


ย ย 

I do

Wedding_Card
Two simple words that can be used in so many different situations to mean many different things:

I do like strawberry ice cream
โ€“ just prefer chocolate.
I don’t know what to do.
I do love a good prank.

But said together, just the two words, the picture that comes to mind is a wedding scene: the wedding vows. Will you, Mr. Charming take this woman, Ms. Beautiful to be your lawfully wedded wife? To love and to cherish her, honour and keep her…for as long as you both shall live? Such a beautiful moment. I was recently at a wedding and kind of touched by the personalised vows the couple had written for each other. Especially the husband expressing his heart was so beautiful and somehow surprising to witness. He really really seemed to mean it. He was truly in love. I felt so happy for my friend.

But what do these two words mean?
I do. I do promise to love and to cherish this other person.
This Mr. Charming โ€“ who will undoubtedly not always be charming.
This Ms. Beautiful โ€“ who will not always look or act beautifully.
I do. I do promise to be there for him, for her โ€“ in the good times and the bad. Until death do us part.
I do. I am not taking this step lightly, I am trusting in God to help us both and want HIS perfect love and forgiveness to be the foundation of our relationship and marriage.
I do.
In German the phrase goes: Ja, mit Gottes Hilfe.
Yes, with the Lord’s help. With God’s help.

Can we not love without assistance? Why does God need to play a role in our marriage? Isn’t He like a third wheel? An intruder? A cause for strife and jealousy? Why include God?
Because He is the author of marriage โ€“ and the creator of both the husband and the wife.
And HE is the first love. The first Husband.

In my post Unfaithful loveย  I already wrote about how in the Bible, God’s relationship to us is compared to the relationship of husband and wife โ€“ and how often there is unfaithfulness on our side. On my side. But what does it mean that God is my husband? Why does God use that comparison? Why is marriage such a perfect and beautiful illustration for God’s perfect love?

Because God’s love is a love that seeks the good of the other person. A love willing to sacrifice. A love like the love described in 1. Corinthians 13: patient, kind, humble, not envious, not proud, not self-seeking. Keeps no record of wrongs. Does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. God’s love never fails. That is how GOD loves. And that is HIS DESIGN for marriage. He longs for us to love each other with the same pure, joyful, selfless and generous love that HE has for us. Imagine if all marriages had that kind of love? There would be no room for pride, for manipulation, for unforgiveness and bitterness. It would be a truly joyful and love-filled marriage. That is God’s heart for ALL marriages. He wants us to first experience HIS love โ€“ to understand what the love of a husband means for God. HIS heart. To really feel that love that is unconditional. And to take that love into our marriage. To let the unconditional love of God empower us to love our spouse unconditionally too. To love in the good times and the bad. To forgive and ask for forgiveness, even if it is humbling. To admit mistakes. To encourage and build up. To seek the best for the other person. To keep no record of wrongs. To always hope and trust and persevere. So that our love never fails and our marriage becomes strong.

But God first. God is wooing for my heart. God is lavishing his love and attention on me. God’s heart is like that of an expectant bridegroom โ€“ eagerly awaiting his bride!
He is so proud, so happy, so thrilled to see me walk towards him!
The king is enthralled by my beauty!
And he asks me โ€“ will you say ‘I do’?
Will you commit to this journey with me?
Will you commit to trusting me?
Will you commit to loving me?
Will you commit to getting to know me more every day?
Will you commit to protecting our relationship
and putting it above all else?
Will you commit to being faithful to me?
Will you commit to opening your heart to me?
Will you commit to letting me into your life?
Will you commit to not hiding anything from me?
Will you commit to not trying to cheat me?
Will you commit to staying, even when doubts arise?
Will you commit to fighting for us, for this relationship?
Will you commit to letting me help you?
Will you commit to letting me protect you?
Will you commit to letting me love you?

And with my heart beating faster than normal and my eyes moist and a joyous smile on my face I realise, wow, he really really loves me. And without hesitation I say ‘I do’.
Yes God, I say yes to you.

Whether you are married or single, God wants to be the first love in your life.
As a married person, if both husband and wife love God first โ€“ it is the best thing you can do to grow in your love as a couple, because God would never separate you. He loves marriage. Honestly. Get this: God LOVES marriage. He LOVES when husband and wife become ONE. He LOVES when husband and wife do daily life together. Cook. Eat. Work. Sleep together. Make love. Dance around. Sing off tune. Argue and work it out. Build marriage. Because marriage HONOURS God.

If the husband puts GOD FIRST: He will love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. He will love his neighbour as himself. He will love his WIFE like Jesus loved the church โ€“ by dying for her, giving everything for her!

If the wife puts GOD FIRST: She will also love the Lord her God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength. She will respect her husband and choose loving submission rather than nagging and strife.

This is not only true for married people.
Yes, God LOVES marriage โ€“ but that does not mean being single is second best and you should hope to one day be โ€œpromotedโ€ to married. (If you’re interested in this topic I recommend the book โ€œThe single issueโ€ by Albert Y. Hsu)

The single person who puts GOD FIRST: Will also love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind soul and strength. He will love his neighbour as himself. And therefore love, respect and serve the people God has put in his life with that same heart of love that God has โ€“ because in seeking God first, you begin to discover God’s heart and your heart becomes more like his heart.

God is faithful. God’s love is pure.
God’s love is truth and hope and light and peace and joy that overflows to transform not only your own life, but those around you.
God is waiting at the altar โ€“ like an expectant bridegroom โ€“ eagerly awaiting his bride!
He is so proud, so happy, so thrilled to see YOU walk towards him!
The king is enthralled by your beauty!
Will you say ‘I do’?