An American’s Thoughts From Germany

For almost two weeks now my husband and I have been on vacation in Germany visiting our sweet foreign exchange student we hosted a few years ago. To say we’ve had an incredible time so far wouldn’t even come close to describing just how amazing it’s been. This place is remarkable! When we get home (to the states) and time is on my side I’ll do a follow-up-post filled with pictures to hopefully convey bits and pieces of the experience.

But right now I have to write…

We’re traveling by train (currently) from our girl’s village to a larger city a few hours away for some last minute fun with her before we head back to the U.S. in a few days. I have downtime so I’m reflecting on moments from our time so far in Germany and there’s a reflection I just haven’t been able to shake…

We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Berlin while we’ve been here and one of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the large amount of homeless people. I know it’s common in larger cities but being on a longer vacation caused me to take more notice. Even while walking through packed sidewalks and crossing busy roads it still can’t be overseen. I couldn’t help but think what their story is, how they ended up this way..no doubt some of these very men and women had it together at one point of their life. **If you ever need practice on not judging others spend a few days in the city and consider the fact that even Jesus was homeless. (see Matthew 8:20)

Our time in Berlin was an eye opener for sure…to be honest I struggled a bit…you’re surrounded by both wealth and poverty, but it was the latter of the two that choked me up—because every time I’d cross paths with one of these homeless people, scripture would graze across my heart yet I felt so helpless. The Bible calls us to care for the homeless (read James 2) but when you’re in an area where it’s sooo heavily saturated with homeless men and women who have little to nothing, and there’s a language barrier to top it off, what can you do???

Recalling our last evening in Berlin…we left the busier downtown area of the city and headed toward the tram station—a rough-looking, middle-aged man in dirty clothing could be spotted resting on his knees rummaging through the bottom opening of a trash can.

Enna (our foreign exchange student) had told us days before that the homeless people will collect empty plastic and glass bottles from the garbage and then deposit them into recycling bins in return for cash.

This man was clearly doing just that as he meticulously filled a rickety cart with other people’s “trash”. And then, just as we were about to slip past him, like we had so many others in similar situations, he turned his head and made eye contact with us and I could see the look of humiliation and desperation across his face…and I couldn’t even offer a smile, I chose not to because I felt shame for our complete opposite circumstances. Smiles are a beautiful and contagious expression, but in this moment my lips wouldn’t allow me to go there…and all I could give was a silent prayer in my heart over this man as I quickly moved beyond him.

Some guilt has claimed over me on that deal, but I know that’s part of Satan’s lies; and in the days since, the Holy Spirit has reminded me that prayer has power even when the one you’re praying for never knows ‘you’ are doing so. It’s Jesus who deserves the glory over a right heart anyway, not me, so I can’t pat myself on the back for praying even, but Jesus can take that prayer and do immeasurably, remarkable things with it.

I have to remember that at times all I can offer is a prayer—but prayer is huge and it points to Jesus…

He can move mountains by our very prayer. And since He’s the living Stone (see 1 Peter 2:6) we have to trust He’s fully in control when our help feels inadequate.

After all, in the moments leading up to Jesus’ death, and while He was hanging on the cross, Jesus relied deeply on prayer— and His obedient, sacrificial love landed Him at the place of highest honor in Heaven next to His Father. (see Philippians 2:9, Mark 16:19)

I want to choose prayer above all—especially in the moments when nothing else seems tangible—because prayer is the one thing that’s always readily available and worthy of remembrance, leading us straight to God! (see Philippians 4:6)

What about you—how do you respond or interact with the homeless? Or do you notice? What lengths are you willing to go to offer compassion if so?

What about in bigger cities where it’s so common, what’s your response to homeless men and women then?

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I’m More Concerned Over Your Heart

This will be a vulnerable post—but since I’ve gone down the “vulnerable path” in many of my other blog posts I figure what’s another? Besides, most generally, I get someone who thanks me for being real and raw and for helping them sort out some part of their own mess, plus writing out my thoughts helps me process…and if there wasn’t a devotional reflection to go along, I wouldn’t bother making a post at all.

With that, here it goes…

I hate debt!…There! I said it.

We don’t have a ton of it—no student loans, no credit card debt, no lines of credit, etc…BUT we do have a vehicle loan and a house payment. And for nearly two years my goal has been to power pay that car loan off. I “planned” to make the last payment in February 2019, but unexpected medical expenses came about last year when my oldest daughter ended up with a ruptured appendix. Our kids’ health always trumps all. That being said, any money that was to go to the car loan went (instead) to a high insurance deductible…five digits high. That bill is now done and over and we’ve moved on…

This year I planned (once again) to power pay on the vehicle loan, hoping to pay it off sometime next year. But another wrench was thrown into the mix when our youngest daughter ended up sick. This Monday we’ll head to a GI specialist where our girl will have a double scope. They’re checking for Chrons or Celiac, so prayers for answers are seriously appreciated.

I’ve been on edge because she’s been feeling and looking great the past month so I don’t want this to be a procedure that could’ve been avoided. We’ll hit that very high insurance deductible once again. Peace of mind will make it worth it and I’m holding onto the hope that they’ll find the reason to the positive celiac blood-test results from last month, but if they don’t, I’ll be frustrated…I know myself well these days.

If I’m honest I’ve been pretty bitter about all of these doctor bills because it throws off my plan—my plan to finally kick the vehicle loan to the curb—my plan to be one step closer to debt-free—my plan that has caused me to see just how much of a control-freak (about money) I truly am…

My husband is the breadwinner in our house and I take care of the finances, that’s just how we’ve operated and it seems to work. So at the end of last month I toyed with the idea that we should move, and when I told my husband my reasoning he was like, “okay, sure”. Continue reading “I’m More Concerned Over Your Heart”

His Work Was For You And Me

Over the past few weeks I’ve been substitute teaching each afternoon for a woman who’s out on maternity leave. I’ll finish out the school year as long as the kiddos don’t scare me off!

Wednesdays are still my hair day where I go to the nursing home and doll up salt and pepper colored hair, so I’m not at the school that day.

Interestingly the class I’m teaching is music class and my knowledge is slim but growing. I tell the kids I’m learning right along with them. It’s been fun. They’re fourth and fifth grade and easily humored, but can also be a handful some days.

If every day goes like this past Tuesday I’ll probably shed a few tears when it’s all said and done because I’ll miss it. I’ll miss teaching music. I’ll miss the kids.

I’d be lying if I said it’s been peaches and cream the whole time, there’s definitely been challenging days! And it’s on those days I have to take a deep breath and simply and quietly ask God for His help.

I came across Colossians 3:23 recently, which says, ‘Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people’.

I’ve been keeping this verse close at heart. It’s reminding me that even on my most challenging days, my work needs to be for the Lord.

Some of these kids come from bad situations, a horrible home life, and when they show up to school a smile from a clueless, but fun Christian music teacher could be the only love of Jesus they witness…actually the beautiful thing is, this particular school has several Christian teachers. It’s a positive place for these kids to come to, but nevertheless attitudes happen.

On the contrary, and thankfully, working with enthusiasm for the Lord can happen anytime, anywhere, anyplace…in the worst of job conditions. When our hearts are right with Jesus it makes the task of hard work seem like it serves a purpose. But when we’re oblivious to Jesus’ desire for us to be right with Him, our work seems overwhelming and impossible at times.

I’ve heard of Jesus’ crucifixion as His ‘work on the cross.’

Work….

There’s that word again.

When we consider the crucifixion in this way, it causes us to consider the way Jesus handled work, which could easily be named the ‘hardest work ever’. In the time leading up to Jesus’ destination of the cross, we read how He kept in communion with His father through prayer (Matthew 26:36-39). He remained at His Father’s will (Matthew 26:42). And in verses 52-56 we read of Jesus’ humble and faithful attitude through His difficult last hours.

Three components we too can utilize when dealing with hard work:

  1. Remain in prayer
  2. Stay in God’s will
  3. Be humble and faithful

Jesus didn’t finish His work while hanging on the cross though…three days later He rose from the grave victoriously (Matthew 28). Jesus’ work on the cross lead to the glorious resurrection and it paid for the debts of sin— for my sins, for my student’s sin, for your sin…It’s why we can celebrate Easter and it includes work through a right heart and attitude modeled by a Perfect Jesus.

Have a blessed Easter!❤️

Colossians 3:17- And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Romans 3:23- For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 5:8- God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:9- If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

When Our Head and Heart Just Don’t Feel It

This isn’t the post I intended on writing this week, but when I see God working it prompts me to write and share!

My younger daughter, McKenzie, had been sick the past few weeks off and on…headaches, fevers, tummy aches…

The first time it happened I chalked it up to nothing other than the flu and when it showed up a few weeks later I thought ‘ok here we go again.’ After a few days though, when no other family members were getting sick, I began to worry. I loaded my girl up Friday morning and took her into the clinic and asked to have blood work done.

Poor girl, but a mama just knows.248B519C-E29A-4D80-AA81-DAD2BE5532DE

The blood tests came back with abnormal results and the physician grew concerned and referred us to a pediatrician a few hours away…the biggest concerns were weight loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They needed to know what was causing this. Our appointment with the pediatrician was set up for Monday afternoon.

Goodness, I don’t do well with waiting and wondering but I’m fantastic at worrying!! It was an incredibly looooong weekend and the anticipation of that appointment was killing me. Honestly I bet I gained a hundred new gray hairs over worrying and would probably be a perfect candidate to join the “Golden Girls” if they were still casting members, not only because of the gray hair but my dramatic flair too!!

While my girl was experiencing flu-like symptoms I was sick with my own: panic attacks, trouble breathing, pacing…I was a big, hot mess! I think that’s what my husband was getting at when he finally said, ‘Alicia, I don’t understand you; you’re such a strong person, but the minute trouble comes you let Satan right in and you don’t trust God!’ 

Ouch!

He didn’t say it with any sympathy either, it was just short, not sweet, to the point, and just what I needed to hear! But it didn’t change my frame of mind at the time either. Continue reading “When Our Head and Heart Just Don’t Feel It”