Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Birthday Blessings

Hello and Happy Birthday (to me, that is - ha!) from Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

From SoCa BoLa 2009

I am a palindrome this year: 22, and beginning that wonderful phase that Americans like to call "the twenty-somethings". From now until I am thirty, no one will know or care exactly what age I am, because it's not as important as 21, and it's not yet (the dreaded -- oops, I mean awesome) 30.

But I'm not complaining.

A family of artists/circus performers from the Y in Esslingen gave me a ride to Holland yesterday (they were on their way here for vacation) so I could be with my parents on my birthday. I can't get over how generous some people are.

Dordrecht is beautiful. The weather is typically gray and drizzly today, which made it perfect for a long run through the dykes and polders. Dordrecht is such a great place to live. You can walk one way out of your driveway and be at the grocery store in five minutes, walk the other and be in cow field or tree-arbored path. Cool. The house has enough of our furniture and stuff in it (I slept in my OWN bed last night!) to make it feel like home, enough new accents to make it hip and cool. I'm a fan.

Going on such a long run let me think about the last year, and made me realized how incredibly blessed I am! Indulge me as I share with you a few of my birthday blessings:

-Being healthy enough (and in shape enough!) to go running on my birthday

-Going running on my birthday in the Netherlands (who would have thunk?)

-Watching Palestinians and Israelis grow in friendship with one another through the trialogue pace trip that Evangelishe Jugendwerk hosted and I got to be a part of

-A safe trip to and from the US, where I got to celebrate my birthday (early) and Halloween (very early, but true to form for BZ and DZ) with my grandparents, brother, and his girlfriend. Seeing friends that care about me in Michigan and Chicago; spending time with professors who are making huge contributions to their own fields and believe in my ability to succeed in the graduate-level world.

-Celebrating in person with two good friends: one engagement, and one wedding! (I got to read scripture, Romans 12, at Laura and Anders' ceremony -- this was a privilege that floored me)

-Taking part in the YMCA's SommerCamp on Lake Constance. God is crazy sometimes, but he placed loud little Amanda in the middle of a group of German teenagers who didn't know what was about to hit them. The first night, we played a few Young Life skits, like the "one guy catches everything" classic, that had kids rolling. That, accompanied by my jubilant exclamations anytime someone got picked to clean the bathroom (I was the leader in charge of delegating bathroom cleaning - yum) and my cool American accent added up to a star quality that I could have never earned in America. (White, from Grand Rapids, attending a Christian University? Give me a break. Like that's going to make kids from Chicago think you're cool). Germany is different however. I woke up one morning, and on the way from my tent to brush my teeth, I had about 10 kids say "Hey Amanda, what's up?" "Hey Amanda, good to see you!" "Hey Amanda, want to hang out with me later today?" It was like one of those movies where the wallflower with glasses dreams that everyone in school suddenly recognizes him and he gets held on the shoulders of the football team at the pep rally as everyone chants his name...well, almost. At the very least, it was like all the dreams I had as an awkward 13-year-old were finally coming true.

-In addition to my "star quality", I got to work with a PHENOMENAL volunteer leadership team, 15 people that put together and successfully carried out 10 days of fun in the sun at our campground.

-Best part of camp though? The relationships I got to form with kids, and watching them grow from not really caring that we leaders were Christians, to asking us about our faith. One afternoon, we had an hour of quiet time, where kids could visit different stations and ask us leaders questions. I got the privilege to hear these, among others:

  • "Does God really go with you everywhere -- to the bathroom, even?"
  • "Does God really know everything I think? Even when I'm deciding between buying a PlayStation and a cell phone?"
  • "Why did God make us?"
  • "What does it sound like when Jesus knocks at your heart?
-Even though I've heard people say this before, I learned for myself through this experience that nothing I do leads people to Jesus. His ways are mysterious and good, and he tugs at hearts when it's time to do so.

-And finally, I am blessed by my Facebook wall on my birthday! So far I've received (and counting):

  • 13 greetings from the USA (one from an American currently in Holland, one in France)
  • 14 greetings from Germany (one from a German currently located in Thailand) (Germans are really good at remembering birthdays, I've discovered -- this is a major plus to living here!)
  • 2 greetings from Palestine
  • 2 greetings from Belgium
  • 1 from France
I'm not lying, I'm enjoying this birthday, and feeling blessed! I have a lot of fears as I head into the year ahead: Grad School and post-German plans are looming, and a lot of it is unplanned and unsure. But today, I'm living it up. If you're reading this, you're a blessing in my life - thanks for who you are!

Photos of SommerCamp on Baden-Wurttenburg's Bodensee, Germany. Roll your mouse over the screen to pause, move backward or forward. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

Glad you came for a visit!