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

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 🙂 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 you make“, saying 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 🙂


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 🙂 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 🙂


  

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
– 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 – who will undoubtedly not always be charming.
This Ms. Beautiful – who will not always look or act beautifully.
I do. I do promise to be there for him, for her – 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 – and the creator of both the husband and the wife.
And HE is the first love. The first Husband.

In my post Unfaithful love  I already wrote about how in the Bible, God’s relationship to us is compared to the relationship of husband and wife – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – but that does not mean being single is second best and you should hope to one day be “promoted” to married. (If you’re interested in this topic I recommend the book “The single issue” 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 – 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 – like an expectant bridegroom – 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’?

Discovering: High Class Camping in the Black Forest

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Camp site in St.Peter

A week ago I experienced another first: I booked a camp site for the first time in my life! It really was quite a mile stone, considering that I had been wanting to go camping forever and finally managed to plan it all. Two friends and I had been talking about meeting up during the summer and I simply suggested: let’s go camping. Let’s go to the Alps, let’s go somewhere in Germany – let’s just get a van and some camping gear and head off into the wild. That was the idea. And to my surprise and delight – the proposal was accepted!

A few obstacles did arise, as was to be expected. We had no van. Some of us had to get holiday off work at short notice. One of us had invited a guy friend along so we had to find a second guy to balance the guy-gal ratio. One of us had to study for her final exams and was a little bit stressed…but hey, obstacles and problems exist so that we can find clever and creative solutions for them! And so we did 😀

As I wasn’t able to get off work and was also the individual presenting her exam…we decided to choose a location that would make this possible: the Black Forest. Since I work as a tourist guide for the Black Forest and happen to live there, I took it upon myself to do some exploring and felt responsible for finding a suitable location in this beautiful forest for our adventure. In recent years I had only ever gone camping without a tent – just found a nice spot to put my sleeping bag and enjoyed sleeping under the stars (see previous post). It is harder with a bigger group and a tent – I would still have loved for us to give it a go…but it is sort of illegal in Germany…in the sense that you could get fined if someone took offence and had the authority to fine you…and you do need to know where to go. So I asked around for camp site suggestions, went on some hikes, visited a couple of villages all in pursuit of the perfect spot!

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one of the spots I found – an old sawmill. I’m sure it would make a great shelter…

To my dismay I realised that camping on an official camp site is not as “wild and adventurous” as I had hoped. There are luxurious washrooms (not that I’m against cleanliness…but you know) There is a fireplace to have a BBQ. There is a playground and often a village with bakery and bus connections or train. There are neighbours with lawnmowers. And the price is a bit higher than what I would have expected…my first reaction was – dude, I just want to pitch my tent on this piece of grass…how much is that gonna cost? In the end I spontaneously chose a camp site I hadn’t even seen. Why? Because my friends were gonna arrive the next day and August is high season – everything is overbooked. I chose the campsite in Kirchzarten – because it is quite close to Freiburg and would make going to work and attending my exam a lot easier. And it included a free ticket for the whole Black Forest (KONUS Karte) and free entry to the swimming pool. I know, that doesn’t exactly sound like wild camping – more like high class camping…but hey, you have to alter expectations according to the situation, right?

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Camp site in Kirchzarten

 

In the end, it was a really good choice! We soon fell in love with our new home 😀 I realised that camping on a camp site simply cannot be compared with camping in the wild – it belongs to a category of its own and has to be appreciated as such. You cannot go to a campsite and expect quiet and solitude and only the sounds of the wind and birds in the trees – its more like a little village with lots of neighbours and charming village life. Most other holiday campers had come with their caravan or camper plus giant house-like tents, had lots of cooking equipment, fridges, gas stoves and plenty of comfortable lawn chairs. Kids were running around with fancy scooters, playing games or being entertained by the daily kids program, which really was lots of fun to watch. Some campers even had a TV and were following the Olympics and watching movies. We had decided against the extra fee for electricity and tried to keep it as simple as possible – but didn’t mind enjoying the pool next door 🙂

There are some beautiful walks around Kirchzarten, but we ended up going a bit further and doing a tour near Titisee, visiting the Schluchsee and hiking up the Schauinsland (1284m). Will post some more pictures and holiday hike suggestions soon 🙂

And in case you were wondering, my exam went well – maybe not in spite of but because of the fun, laughter, hikes, swimming, good food and company that were all part of the special camping experience and managed to distract me and make me feel relaxed instead of nervous 😀 would do it again any day.

Sleeping underneath the stars

  One of the things I remember from when I was quite young is that I was always fascinated by the stars. If I was in a place without much light pollution where the sky seemed so much fuller than in the city, I could gaze up at the sky for what seemed like hours, just looking, taking in that beauty, letting it amaze me, take my breath away. I would hope for a shooting star or try to recognize a cluster of stars that I had seen before. I always felt so small underneath a starry sky, and yet also free – like somehow there was more room to breathe. That’s also one reason I love sleeping outside. On a balcony, in the garden, in a park, on a hill or in the woods – just about anywhere as long a I can see the sky above me. And so a couple weeks ago, while visiting a friend with a beautiful large terrace, I didn’t hesitate to spontaneously stay the night and sleep outside, enjoying the view of the sunrise over the rooftops in the morning. Right now, I’m out camping with friends (in the Black Forest! More on that later) – but somehow staying in a tent, though awesome, still isn’t the same as being outside for real. So last night, I put my sleeping bag next to the tent, looked up at the stars, and felt a sense of capturing beauty and a little bit of freedom at the same time. And a little taste of home.

Discovering: the famous Blautopf

There are so many places in the world that I would love to visit! During my last few years of university I often found myself wishing I could just leave my studies and daily life behind for a little while, grab my backpack with essentials and go on a trip around the world. Of course, common sense and a sense of responsibility set in and kept me from carrying out that plan. Instead, I would just go on shorter trips over the weekend and often stay within my home country. Why not? Living in Germany, I realised that there are some really beautiful places to discover right here, on my doorstep. It isn’t always necessary to cross a border, walk through a desert or do something exotic to experience beauty and be enchanted by a new place. I started making a mental list of places in Germany that I wanted to get to know. This included the Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland), Fränkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland), various villages and mountains in the Black Forest, cities like Berlin, Nürnberg, Bamberg, München, Bayreuth, Dresden, Lake Constance…the Swabian Alps. Some of these places I have by now seen, others remain to be explored. While planning a visit to some friends in the city of Ulm, I looked up the region around the Danube valley and found out about a place called “Blaubeuren”, where apparently there was a spring called the “Blautopf” – the “blue pot”. I was intrigued – is it really that blue? It sounded like something out of a fairy tale…How big is it? Is it in the woods – can you hike around there? Is there a legend or story connected to this strange blue pool of water? I was determined to visit the place and find out for myself! Unfortunately, despite visiting Ulm a couple of times – my detour to the Blautopf never quite worked out. Ulm itself also has a lot to offer and so I never made it to the mysterious spring. That is, until a few weeks ago: I attended the wedding of a friend in Neu-Ulm and was spontaneously invited to the evening do in the village of, you guessed it, Blaubeuren! There was some time to spare between arrival and dinner, so I set out with my sister and a few other wedding guests to find the Blautopf. It was a short walk through a little forest to the pool I had heard so much about – it wasn’t as wild as I had expected, there was a café nearby and a well made path with lots of other curious tourists, but still very pretty. At last I was standing right above the Blautopf with a good view of the pool and the beautiful mill behind it. And indeed, the name was not exaggerated: the Blautopf really was blue! Apparently the Rayleigh scattering of the light is responsible for the distinct blue colour and is caused by tiny limestone particles in the water. (according to Wikipedia 😀 ).

Blautopf_Muehle

The pool is shaped like a funnel and measures 21m at its deepest point. The Blautopf feeds into the river Blau which flows into the Danube. According to legend, the depth of the Blautopf actually could not be measured, perhaps because the pool contains an entrance to the Blauhöhle, the largest cave system of the Swabian Alps, that only very experienced divers dare to explore. Some legends also mention a mermaid that was banned to the Blautopf but eventually managed to escape with the help of a local woman…

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no mermaid…but what marvellous blue 🙂

So if ever you are travelling near Ulm and not sure what sights to visit – consider including the village of Blauberuen in your travel plans and catching a glimpse of the blue pot. It is also a great region for hikes or cycling, if you want to leave the car at home and forego public transport, just pray for sunshine and enjoy the day 😀

What’s your favourite place in Germany? Feel free to share in the comments below and maybe I can add it to my list of places to discover 😀

Loving at a distance

I’ve been thinking about how we show love to people we care about when they are not with us. When you love someone, you tend to smile when you see them, be generous with hugs and kisses (depending on who it is perhaps :D) and try to show in lots of little ways that that person is important to you. Maybe by taking the time to listen, to help out with something, to give advice or just spend time together doing nothing in particular.
What if you’re not together, though? How do you show love then?

I’ve witnessed several friends in long distance relationships and must confess that I found their daily phone calls a bit amusing. Seriously, every day? Is that really necessary? Don’t you run out of things to talk about? Don’t you have lots of other things to do?
But in a way, that is one thing you can do to show love at a distance: take the time to at least talk. Make that phone call a priority. Spend money on the phone bill.
They would also think of creative ways to surprise each other with a special card or a package, which honestly was pretty cute. But then love isn’t really just signs of affection, is it?

How about loving someone by being faithful? Faithful both to the relationship and faithful in the responsibilities you have.

How about loving someone by investing in working on issues you might have that burden the relationship? Becoming more reliable, honest, serving and kind?

How about loving someone by working hard in your job or studies and thereby investing in your future?

How about loving someone by working ahead so that when you do get to spend time together, you’re not stressed and distracted by all that needs to be done.

How about loving someone by praying for them and asking God to work in both your lives and to guide you in the relationship?

I think these things are just as important as a phone call or sending chocolates – and can really have an impact on how a relationship develops. They take discipline and are less “mushy-feely” – more practical and purposeful. But then that’s making love something that lasts and something that is seen and felt, even at a distance.

Thinking about love at a distance also made me think about my mom and dad. I went to boarding school for eight years – and my parents got really good at figuring out how to love at a distance. I didn’t always get it at the time, but looking back now I am overwhelmed by the effort my parents put in to love on us kids and show us that each one of us is important and precious to them. Not just through phone calls or E-mails – but also by making sure that the time we did spend together was real quality time. My mom would even prepare meals and bake our favourite cakes beforehand to make sure things were ready when we got home. That way she wouldn’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen. My dad would also organise his work in such a way as to maximise the time he could spend with us. Being on break, we kids would often sleep in while my parents would get up early to do some work and then have fun family time when we got out of bed. I sometimes wonder, would I be that disciplined? I hope so. I hope I would have that same love for my husband and kids to be willing to really make things work and invest in loving on them in every way.

Two days ago, I found a letter in my mailbox. It was a love letter – from my mom and dad and two of my brothers, congratulating me on passing my exams and graduating from University. The ceremony was just a week ago and no one had been able to come. I ended up being sick in bed. Not the ideal scenario – but I was happy, because as cheesy as it sounds, I knew they were with me in my heart. And when I found that letter, it just made me smile and realise how right I was. They told me how happy they are for me. How proud they are of me. They told me to celebrate and that they’re looking forward to seeing me soon. Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks brothers. Thanks family, for being so amazing at showing love at a distance. We’re all spread out all over the world – but I always feel your love and support. You’re amazing and I love you all.

If you have more ideas on how to show love at a distance, feel free to share below 😀
We can all use some inspiration now and again!

On writing, life and blogging

Hello again! No, I have not stopped writing. Yes, I stopped posting – for a while. At first I stopped because I was preoccupied and then also because I wanted to figure out my blog and somehow get more order into it. I wanted to restructure and determine for myself what my goal is, my target audience, my topic…was considering switching sites. But then I just stopped. Well, not quite – I continued having ideas but just didn’t finish them. It’s like I was worried the plurality of topics and thoughts and ideas would be too much for one blog. Can I do that? Can I just write about my exams one day, travelling the next and then share how I experience God or post something philosophical, before going on to tell a random story or joke? Should I stick to one thing and not mix it all together? Would someone get annoyed? But then I realised, this being my blog, I shouldn’t worry so much about all these questions – but just continue to write and be brave enough to post. And I also remembered what I wrote in my description when first starting this blog – I said, “I tend to write what’s on my mind – be it funny, sad or serious – this blog reflects a journey and a mix of all those things that make up my sort-of-nomad-life.” Isn’t that what life is? A mix? Whose life is ever completely categorised? So here goes to continuing this journey – after six months – and continuing to share what’s on my mind and what mundane or crazy things make up my sort-of-nomad-life.

My last post was on January 27th – The Snail Challenge – That was lots of fun!
What has happened since then?

I turned 27. I moved house – first time living in a student residency! (yes, I got the room!) I presented my Staatsexamen in biology and passed. Yeah! I flew to Northern Ireland to spend Easter with my siblings. I celebrated graduation for my English major and wore a funky hat and gown just like at my high school graduation. I fell in love with Pakistan all over again – long distance. I helped out at our church conference and got to translate Jake Hamilton. I organised a second evangelism workshop at a church near Munich and was so excited and touched to see God at work in the young people’s lives. I met some pretty amazing people. I had a little personal crisis…and found God really does catch me, renewing both joy and strength. I continued working as a tourist guide – was asked to pose for countless pictures in my traditional dirndl dress and black forest Bollenhut (red pom pom hat) and was even mistaken for a souvenir (can I take you home for my grandson? He’s about your age – and a marine.) I visited my sister. I watched football during the EM. I went to Ulm and jumped into the Danube. I saw the Blautopf – a special pond in Blaubeuren. I missed a bus. I learned that improvising isn’t always the best option. I learned that if I want something, I have to work for it – and if I want to end up somewhere, I have to start taking steps in that direction.

For some of the above I might share an extra post – a strategy I tried before without much success but I’m determined to make the catching up work this time 🙂 I intend to post at least once a week from now on to get back into writing, probably Mondays. Thanks for being a part of my life and accompanying me on this journey 🙂