Friday, May 29, 2015

Adventures in Bavaria

I am currently studying abroad through John Brown University in Germany during May and June. I have the fantastic opportunity to receive upper-division core credit in theology by studying Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (and more) in the country where they wrote. Also, at Karstadt, a fabulous German three story department store, I bought this wonderful German flag blanket. 

We are spending two weeks in south Germany (Bavaria) before moving up the north for another two weeks. The city we are staying in is Landshut, one the most idyllic cities in the world. This is my view from my hostel room.

Most of the buildings in the older part of Landshut are painted pastel colors.

Landshut is gorgeous at sunset.

Sunday, the second day after we arrived in Germany, we went to Munchen, the capital of Bavaria. We attended an English-speaking church that serves refugees, visited beautiful cathedrals, saw breathtaking old architecture, ate at a world-renowned wurst restaurant, and visited the Alte Pinathek museum. This adorable German couple are looking at my favorite piece in the museum, which was Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert by Claude Lorrain.  

On the next Tuesday, we visited the concentration camp in Dachau. It was haunting and bizarre. Especially difficult was realizing that there were citizens in the city of Dachau who lived right outside the walls where 30,000 people were killed. The gate at the entrance reads "Arbeit Macht Frei / Work Makes Freedom," reflecting the chilling philosophy of the Dachau work camp. Remembering those who suffered and reading passages from a memoir about life in a concentration camp made this an unforgettable moment. 

On Friday, we returned to Munich to visit the YMCA there. We learned about the Christian history of the YMCA and the ecumenical ministries that are still happening in Y's in some parts of the world. We visited a YMCA house that ministers to children and met amazing God centered people from across the world. 

While in Munich, we also attended a short meditation
in St. Michael's cathedral, a breathtaking structure that reflects the majesty of God in a way that I have never experienced before.  

The next day, Saturday, we went to Augsburg. This city was mind-blowing: founded in 15 B.C. by the Romans and heavily bombed during WWII, it seemed to be dripping history. The Cathredal of Augsburg was my favorite piece of architecture we have seen so far. Some of stained glass windows inside were 500 years old during Luther's time. 

While in Augsburg, we learned about the history of the city from Rolf-Dieter Braun, an expert on Luther and an extremely sweet German gentleman. 

This past Tuesday we went to the Alps in Mittenwald. This was the first place we went that showed the amazing scenery of Germany rather than the architecture. Unfortunately, it was raining, but we were still able to walk around the city and see the amazing Alps. The city is famous for its violins. 

In addition to the surreal landscapes and historic buildings of Germany, the German people are simply fantastic. On trains, in cities, and in the hostel we have met a series of fantastic, caring, friendly, and wonderful people. The stereotypes are mostly not true…not everyone is as serious as this man I photographed on the street in Munchen. Also, alle schnitzel (all the schnitzel) is serh gut.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Words I Would Say

Why do we talk about other people?

I don't mean talk like, "Do you know Sarah? She's got brown hair and she's a Biology major."

I mean talk like, "Do you know Sarah? She's really annoying. In the class I have with her, she always acts so pushy."

I mean talk like, "Do you know James? He's really not that attractive. But Susie though. She thinks he's all that and a bag of chips."

I have to put my hands up now and admit that I have said those very words (disclaimer, I don't know you, Sarah). I have said them flippantly. But why? How do they come rolling off my tongue so effortlessly when they are poisonous and ought to stop violently in my throat?

They may seem harmless, those above comments. But I know--you know--that they're not harmless. I've been around campus. I've heard stories about almost everyone. I'm sure there are stories about me. And I'm not saying this because I want people to stop doing this to me. I'm saying this because I want to stop talking about other people.

When I hear a story about someone, it colors in a bit of their image in my mind without allowing them to tell me what that bit really looks like in their story. Does that make sense? Stated differently, when you tell me something about someone behind their back, you give me a piece of them--whether real or unreal, true or untrue--without their permission. Sometimes I may ask for a piece of this person, but that doesn't make it right for you to give it away on their behalf.

And in our culture of instant communication, Facebook stalking, and's so easy to refer to other people that talking about them basically feels guilt free.

But then you hear the stories about yourself.
And it really does change your perspective.

What if we stopped? What if I refused to say anything about anyone else that I didn't know they were fine with me sharing? What if I kept my thoughts about others nonintrusive and stopped trying to find out their story by other means? What if stalking turned to conversation? What if gossip turned to pure talk? What if tearing others down turned to building others up?

What if we actually lived out the verse in Ephesians 4:29 that has been so oft-quoted that we forget there's a reason for its rabid popularity--it's essential for true community.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

Lord, let no words I say corrupt anyone's view of another. Let me build up rather than dismantle other's reputations. Let my words be gifts of grace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Recovering Childhood Memories / "My Diary" #1

I was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers in the world ( to recount some journal entries from my childhood. These are found in a pink notebook with a piece of paper glued to the front labeled "My Diary." Just so you can imagine, I wrote in perfectly girly cursive with all the i's dotted by hearts. My commentary from today is in {braces}. I was a strange child. Be warned. 

November 29, 2004 (age 9)

Dear Diary,
I am going to start this diary whith when I shot my first deer. It was on November 13, 2004 we got up at 3:15 then we had to drive to dady's lease. It was cold as we sat on the stand. My books were in the same pack as the water so when dady dropped the pack they got wet. But it was alright because finally a deer walked out. I tried to look through the scope, found something brown, and shot! Down it went! I had shot my first deer, a six pointer buck!
{what a story teller. I distinctly remember the trauma caused by those wet books. And I'm concerned by my lack of shooting talent and assuming that anything brown should be shot}

December 8, 2004 (age 9)

Dear Diary,
This year at thanksgiving Mama and Bapa and Grandma and Grandpa came to visit and one night there was a tornado warning it was very tight in the shelter but the {arrow indicating to repeat the word tornado} did not hit us; {I used a semicolon at age 9?!?!?} Mama and Bapa left and Grandma and Grandpa left a day then came back, {apparently there was more to the story. Also, this tornado-in-december thing actually wasn't a fib.}

December 11, 2004

{at the top of the page, I added "1st day tralier," in manuscript instead of cursive, because this was the day my family moved out to our property. At the time we lived in a camper trailer}

Dear Diary,
Last night we slept in the Ilasd {Island} of Capi {Capri} Motel, But tonight we are sleeping in our camper trailer. Dady said that in the day we would have use the potty outside {traumatic}. Today Emily and I went to Brittney's house for a tea party we played games and I got socks and in the orament trading I a snowflake orament. the tea was good!

Morning December 12, 2004 

Dear Diary 2nd day traylier,
I woke just now when I looked my window there was alsalute beaty! The sun shining down on the pine trees, the bright blue sky, the tall oak trees. I think I like it here. We are having a Christmas play at our church and I memerized all my lines. {which was impressive since} I am two angles and a shepard.

Night December 12, 2004 {Once a day was not enough diary writing}

Dear Diary,
Today we moved to chickens and the rabbits. At church during Sunday school we padiced {practiced} for our play we did really well so we had doughnuts and juice. This aternoon we had M and Ms I ate 42 {WHY DID I COUNT AND WHY DID THEY LET ME EAT SO MANY?!}. I wish we could have gone to the taste of Christmas but were to busy.



was this ridiculous or should I make "My Diary" a series?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Nightmare City

I'm baaaaaaaack! Haven't posted on here in a whole year. Blogger fail. And all I have to offer is yet another review. Welcome.

The first entry in #ElissaReadsAllTheBooks.

Rating: 4.5/5

But seriously though. I have tons of reading planned for this summer and I'm super excited.

The first book I read was Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan. This is a young adult thriller about teenager Tom who wakes up in a terrifying nightmare. Combining heart pounding action with creepy sci-fi and a wonderful subtext within the metaphor, this book reaches beyond a youth audience with its powerful message about the freedom found in defending the truth. The story also deals with intensely serious themes and appeals to the part within us all that feels like life isn't worth living because we face loss and disappointment. Klavan is one of my favorite authors--and this book lived up to the high expectations his others works have set. He has a way of making edge-of-your-seat action and tongue-in-cheek humor feel natural and realistic--his writing style is addictive. Nightmare City is a quick yet thoughtful must-read for your summer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Tales of the Defended Ones

--About the Book (from back cover)--

Ben and Joseph lose their mothers, but find a family. Antonio is rescued from what seems like a hopeless end. Caitlyn dares to trust in the truth. Jorani is delivered from into arms of grace.

Follow these real-life stories on a journey to foreign places and extreme struggles. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver--our Defender God--shielding and defending the defenseless in amazing ways.

These are the tales of the ones left wounded...

--My thoughts--

~Beth Guckenberger succinctly addresses her target audience of preteens, younger siblings, and their parents wanting to learn about foreign missions and ways in which every individual is capable of making a true impact in other lives.   

~This book's structure is brilliant, with each child's story filling a chapter, and faceted information added as the story progresses, exemplifying as needed on the countries, languages, diseases filling the stories. 

~Subtlety, Beth Guckenberger weaves the interwinding stories of the children and the people that God provides to give each a loving home.

~Rather than merely sharing stories of God's providence in the children's lives and leaving the reader to find their own personal applications, "Remember This" facets give examples for practical action. For example, one chapter shares: "...just remember that you can't outspend God. His economy is different from ours; when you pour out, he more than fills you back God brings them into your path, it's because he wants to bless you in ways you would have otherwise missed out on!" Further, another example states: "Do you want to help struggling families?...check out Safe Families for Children ("

Tales of the Defended Ones skillfully laces story lines of multiple children and families--struggling, fearing, yet remaining faithful--for a united purpose: showing "Their Defender is strong"(Proverbs 23:11).

For more information, visit or check out the leader's guide.

I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

unbeautiful alien --> without blemish & unaccused

I do not feel beautiful. I feel that I am overlooked and unimportant. Lord, please show me the answers.

"how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" Ephesians 3:18b

"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together...once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now, He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body though death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven." Colossians 3:17, 21-23

"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together...I need that. I'm falling apart, fading away...I have no confidence in myself so I need to take confidence in Him. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. I am fighting a battle against myself every day.  I AM evil. I have sinned and I have caused very significant pain and damage and I am a ruin. But now, He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body though death to present you holy in his sight, To have a chance to be seen with Christ's pure white in front of all my blackness and guilt, to receive GRACE that doesn't depend on me...insanity. without blemish and free from accusation I am so afraid of being condemned. I live in fear of it every day, and I'm going to have to deal with it in real life and I am so afraid. I thank You so much that somehow You won't? --if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. I have to live it; live the fact that Jesus is alive and He died to set me free. Live the gospel, wear it on my sleeve as I proclaim: I'm not alright, I'm crushed and bruised, and there is a God that takes even me. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven." Colossians 3:17, 21-23


I wrote this post a long time ago, back in August, and didn't publish it. What's crazy is how much I needed to read it today. Maybe it will help you too?


Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! (12 things I learned in 2012)

Happy New Year, readers! Thank you for everything: every comment, page view, & rating means so much to me...seriously, thank you so much! 

I thought I'd look back, nostalgic as I am, on my post at the end of 2011:

11 things I learned in 2011

1. It doesn't matter how something feels. It can feel right and be wrong...and vice versa.
2. There is never, NEVER a point when He isn't there for me any longer.
3. He will lift the heavy burden and give me rest.
4. Pride is the most addictive drug and the most painful living death.
5. Even when I begin to doubt the most fundamental of my beliefs, there is hope in a single cry, a single prayer.
6. When I find my happiness in something other than God, I become bitter. But in Him, not sin, is pure joy.
7. Emotions just plain stink.
8. I want to fall into the space in between me and God.
9. Worship is a way of living, not being on a stage.
10. You never know whose life you are reaching if you are simply living in love.
11.  Life comes down to the fact that God holds the future and we must trust Him.

And, now...

12 things I learned in 2012

1. Life is not always what you expect.  In school, I've had to realize that there is much more to strive for than what you hoped for--working hard may not always give you what you want, but it's still worth it. Also, I was in a car accident in 2012 that, though minor, had some frustrating and painful effects on me. I learned that God's plan may include very much that is unexpected, and unexpectedly rewarding.

2. My heart is treacherous. However, God is greater than my heart (1 John 3:20) and knows everything.  He's got a plan, and it's not my place to try to rush it.

3. Being a Senior (especially if you still have 5 classes to take) is not all the fun it's chocked up to be (*cough chemistry: it's awful cough*). However, it IS a time to appreciate everything you've learned over the past 12 years.

4.  Family means more than words can express.  It's never about whether they are your favorite people, or whether they are nice to you, or even whether they treat you right.  It's about the unusual and beautiful love that you share with them. It's a gift that I've too long ignored.

5. Dreams are good, but they can't overtake reality.  It's hard to let go of the fairytales and romantic ideals and cloud-9 moments, but real life is down here on planet earth. It's okay, and valuable, to find the strength to have faith when feelings are gone.

6.  It's not about what people think.  I've been a people-pleaser for a long time, but I'm realizing it's about having 1 Corinthians 13 love, not about making everyone like me.

7. Anger, hate, grudges, irritation, and resentment are poisonous.  Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13).  I won't pretend that I haven't argued and fought far too much this past year.  There are many things I regret and I wish I could take back.  But, forgiveness and love can cover many wrongs.

8. Music (like most of life!) is not always going to be fun or easy or feel like playing bagpipes in the park (uh...creativity is leaving me).  In fact, it can be extremely frustrating.  But if you love it, it's worth it to you. 

9. Math really isn't a plague like the Moses and Egypt one. It's actually alright (here's to hoping I don't eat my words...).

10. It's not about winning.  This is something that's hard to cope with for me (very, very, very hard...).  For example, at the state championship show this year, my horse and I placed 11th in one class. We were a couple tenths of a second away from a trophy (and we've never got one).  But the funny thing is, a trophy is nothing but a piece of metal.  What matters is the strength, the courage, the sportsmanship...the things that aren't so visible and won't fade.

11. God is awesome.  I hope you realize the power packed in those 3 words.  This God  created a galaxy beyond what my mind can grasp.  He created me. And He poured out His son's precious life-blood to save the scourge of the  And not only that, He gives me opportunity after opportunity to feel His love and to be changed.    

12. Life is urgent. We are not guaranteed another day.  There's just so much more that I could be doing with my life. So very much that this world needs to know, needs to be shown. I can and will use my abilities to do something about it.

I'm ready to live much bolder, love much louder, and write much stronger in 2013.