I don’t really do this very often, but today I have a guest post for you! Y’all know of my current German obsession, and one of my friends from college is currently living in Germany. I love reading her blog about living in another country with her husband Cody and boys, Sebastian and Bruno. I approached Mary a little while back and asked if she would mind guest posting about what she has learned from this time in Germany and I am happy to share her thoughts and photos* today!
I sit on our bed—simple striped linens, borrowed, covering a folded out futon that tips on Cody’s side if you get too close to the edge, and begin to be overwhelmed by the flood of thoughts and images that I associate with the past 8 months.
Eight incredible, full, hard, and enriching months.
I became obsessed with German culture and language when I was in middle school. No one remembers why or how exactly it happened, but those closest to me remember that phase of my life, much like the phases we all have as children, longing to know something special, and be the best at that something, and achieve a uniqueness capable of allowing us to put a definite stamp on the world.
In college, there was a 3-semester language requirement for all BA students, and I chose German. At that point, however, my obsession with the language had waned considerably. By my third required semester of German, I was hooked, and remember exactly where I was when I decided to be a German major. I studied in Germany twice during my college years, both month-long programs.
The 4 years following graduation brought a marriage license, two baby boys, a master’s degree for my husband, and absolutely no German practice for me. I cut my hair into a pixie shortly after the birth of my first son, became absorbed in learning to be a wife and a mom, and sought to find what time I could for any kind of artistic pursuit I could get my hands on. Those years were rich and full years, but they were so full it was hard at times to see quite where we were headed. Caring for children has never been my strong suit, and these years of babies and toddlers, though so very sweet, were (and still are!) filled with many many challenges for me.
But then last Spring, things started to come together in a way that only God can orchestrate. My Theology-studying husband decided to apply to an exchange program in Baden-Württemburg, Germany. He was accepted, we left our North Carolina home, spent the summer in Southern Ohio with our families, and here we are—8 months in.
Although so much of what has led to us making the move to Germany makes sense and is, we believe, where God has led us, I can’t ignore that the fact of me living in Germany also carries with it the unmistakable ring of irony. I am, at face value, one of the least adventurous people you will meet. But I have also always craved adventure, and now realize that there is no set prescription for what adventure is or what being an adventurous person looks like. For years, I have felt stuck in the monotony of life, craving the thrills that so many enjoy, and quite foolishly have overlooked so many of the unique opportunities for adventure that have stood right in front of me. And even more foolishly, I’ve failed to recognize the adventures that I have engaged in as being true adventures.
Our family has come to consider all actions that break into our routine or expectations for our day as bite-sized adventures. A new park, a stop at a cafe for Brezeln, a short train ride to a neighboring city just to look around, a hike to a nearby mountain, and a detour down an unknown street or path are all adventures in our house. This is the first thing that living here has taught me. Living in Europe is not inherently adventurous (or at least after a few months). If you crave adventure, but find yourself constrained by finances or toddlers hanging onto your legs, or babies who must be fed every 2 hours on the dot, find it first in the little things—weave it into your daily routine, and pretty soon… bam. What an adventurous life you’re leading.
Sometimes, amidst the haze of routines and demands on your time and body, it can be difficult to know where to start. Start by putting your shoes on. I am convinced that adventure happens as soon as you step outside. Reason No. 2 that my life is a study in irony. As a child, my paralyzing fear of tornadoes meant that I hardly ever went outside to play (at least during “tornado season”). I am not an outdoorsy person at all, and yet, I realize now that I am happiest when I am outside and in nature (even though my hermit tendencies always try to convince me that this is not the case). Moving to Germany has kicked us out the door, and continues to push us outside on a daily basis. When you don’t have a car, walking outside happens no less than twice daily. Walking places and being outside is now one of the most amazing things about my life. We push our bodies every day and make them work for food, literally, and as I look at my boys so glowing with health and good exercise, able to walk for miles every day, my heart fills with joy. We are met with disbelief every time someone sees how far Bruno, at 22-months-old, can walk. Go, Brunsy, go! We are engaging with the world in a very tactile way, and experiencing the beauty that God has given us to enjoy—sun! wind! rain! stars! moon! trees! birds!—just call us the “German Family Strecker.” All we need now is a treehouse to live in, and bad pirates to “fight down,” as Sebastian would say.
Under this larger umbrella of redefining and embracing adventure are a myriad of things that have enriched our lives. If we hadn’t taken a risk and embraced this opportunity to live in Germany, I think we would have missed out on a lot of things that have molded us more into the family that God has designed us to be. It has been a difficult challenge to be so removed from our families and culture, and yet the difficulty of it has brought us together in new ways. We are not simply offshoots of two families that had a couple kids together. We are our own family unit—an admittedly terrifying and also liberating thing. Faced with all the differences in tradition and culture that come with living in a foreign land, we have had to examine more closely why we do the things we do. We are weaving German culture into the way we live, and into our family traditions, and that is such a special gift.
We have also been given the gift of learning a second language. I can’t tell you how mind-blowing it has been to watch my sons learn to speak German. How can such a little 3-year-old grasp the nuances of such a big language, and with no studying, reading, explanations or grammar help? Wahnsinn! Unglaublich! Two words we hear and use often when discussing Sebastian’s quick grasp of the German language.
Through our experience of living in Germany, God has stripped us of so much foolishness and immaturity. I have become a better mother, wife and woman. My pixie cut is a thing of the past, and as my long hair reaches down past my shoulders, I feel myself again (nothing against pixies!). My closet doesn’t bulge with unworn clothes, but houses a simple and satisfying wardrobe made possible only by the necessity of packing light. We have hosted our families numerous times—a huge blessing—and through many of my own horrible failures, I have learned important lessons about being a good hostess. Our children are growing in mind and body, and aren’t constrained as much by my “stay indoors” tendencies, but climb and run and explore daily.
We sleep well with tired bodies. And day by day, with ironic twists, and sometimes painful breaking and reshaping, we live adventure.
*All photos are by Mary, except for the first two which were taken by her talented sister Joanna.