Archive for September, 2012


“Soak it up”

Sponge!

A very wise professor told me before I came to München to “soak it up”  – to take it all in and to simply soak everything up.  In the hustle and bustle of school and internship, these were grace-filled words for me to hear.  He didn’t say “you have to do this, this, this, and this while you’re there.”  He just said “soak it up.”  And with that, I was free to get into anything and everything! (There are, of course, still some requirements for studying!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “soak it up.”  About what I want to learn here, about what I want to return home knowing.  About what it means to absorb life to the fullest.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.  A dear friend gave this to me as a gift before I left and I’ve been slowly reading and chewing on Voskamp’s poetic and insightful words ever since.  The book is about the author’s journey towards living a life of eucharisteo (“to express gratitude for benefits or blessings – ‘to thank, thanksgiving, thankfulness.'” – where the word “Eucharist” comes from!).  Her journey is about learning to give thanks for the little as well as the big things in life.  To give thanks for the good things, as well as learning how to live a life of thankfulness in the awful, difficult things.  At the urging of her friend, she begins writing a list of one thousand things she experiences as gifts.

After reading the book, I’ve been inspired to take up such a practice and it’s made me sit up and pay attention.  Each day, heading to my German course, I have a ten minute walk to the bus, a ten minute ride on the bus, a five minute wait for the U-Bahn, a fifteen minute ride to one station where I change trains and then ride another ten minutes to the stop for my class.  Finally, it’s a three to five minute walk to the building where the class is.  I say this not to point out that it’s a complicated commute, but to show that that’s a lot of time and many different places in which to see the gifts of God.  Thinking about gifts, giving thanks, and soaking up life, I’ve been keeping my eyes open to see what God is up to.  And it’s not just about seeing either – I’ve been paying more attention to sounds, to the feel and texture of things, the taste of delicious food, and even to different smells!  It’s been working on my heart, too – keeping it open to the possibilities, the unexpected, the things that I normally miss.  My heart has been more open to seeing things in a different light – maybe even in God’s light…

Back to this idea of “soak it up…”  Sponges soak things up.  The German word for “sponge” is Schwamm.  It’s a pretty fun word.  But as I think about it, it seems to be connected to the word for “swim” (schwimmen, schwamm, schwomm, geschwommen).  Ok, sponges come from the ocean – that much should be clear.  But more than that, sponges seem to passively absorb things.  Swimming, on the other hand,…that’s active.  That means diving in, moving through the water, swimming to the bottom and coming back up for air to see where you are and what’s going on.  Swimming is actively engaging in an environment.

And there’s another connection I’m seeing with this soaking up life idea, giving thanks, being fully present and engaged, and swimming.  Any guesses?!  It’s baptism! In baptism, we were washed clean and freed through Christ’s death and resurrection to engage fully in the world.  To really live – to engage in the world.  To soak it all up.

So that’s what I’m trying to do while I’m here – to try out as much as I can, to embrace the opportunities life presents, to live fully present and in deep gratitude and appreciation of all that I’ve been given – of all that we’ve been given.  In Christ, we all have been freed to dive in and experience life as it’s happening.  I can dive in and accept the invitation to drink Korean tea with my housemates or have wonderful spontaneous conversations with people from all over the world.  I can dive in and join fellow theology students for translation sessions.  I can spend a few moments in a busy day looking at gorgeous red flowers peeking out of window boxes.  I can smile at a child’s laughter on the train or a tired dog sleeping at the sun.  I can soak up München.  I can soak up Frederick.  I can soak up life.

There’s a blessing I have loved ever since I read it in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

“May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.”

To me, this speaks not only of bringing me home to America rejoicing at what I’ve seen here in Germany, but also to one day (when the time comes!) bringing me home to God.  A journey home that involves rejoicing and giving thanks each and every day of my life.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Die Gnade Gottes

Grösser als ich mir vorstellen kann…
Niederknie ich vor Gott…
Arm, aber in seiner Barmherzigkeit so reich…
Dankbar für das Geschenk eines Lebens in seiner Liebe zu leben…
Ewig möchte ich hier in dieser Gnade bleiben.

The Grace of God
Bigger than I can imagine
I kneel before God
Poor, but rich in His mercy
Thankful for the gift of living a life in His love
I would like to stay here in this grace forever.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

The Importance of Expression

Grüß Gott!  That’s “hello” here in Bayern (Bavaria) 🙂 Things are going very well thus far and I’m hoping I will be able to write updates and thoughts each Sunday while I’m here in München (Munich).

On Wednesday, I began my German language course (Sprachkurs).  It’s three hours daily, Monday through Friday, and we are covering a lot.  So far, we’ve been doing some review, which is really great because it looks like I’ve forgotten quite a bit! Oh, and as a side note, please forgive me if my English is a bit weird…I’ve been speaking a gemischte (mixed) German-English (Denglisch) for a week and my brain is kind of scrambled!

In my language course, as well as where I live (Das Collegium Oecumenicum), there are students from all over the world and it’s been marvelous getting to know them over the past couple days.  It’s always interesting to hear about different countries, and I’m fascinated discussing the world situation with people from different cultures and backgrounds.  It makes for such an enlightening and rich experience.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our personalities – who we are as people – are tied up in the language we speak.  At home, I’m incredibly outgoing.  I love to laugh, joke and to make awful puns.  But in German, I don’t always have the right words to express myself.  Or, I might not understand someone’s words, thereby missing what they’re trying to convey.  I discussed this the other night with another student of German and we both expressed how difficult it can be to sit there and absorb when you want more than anything to join in – when you just want to be yourself with these new people you’ve just met.  So, maybe, in a foreign language, it’s hard to not only find the right words, grammar or syntax, but also to find your own voice in that language.  Finding your voice is hard enough in your native tongue!

Words!

How we use language helps us to express ourselves as individuals.  Think about it – there are certain words, phrases and inflections that people you know use (or you yourself use) that are common for that person.  These can be annoying, endearing, or maybe a bit of both, but they help you identify that person, don’t they?

Thinking about all of this, I’ve been pondering the words that I use.  The words we choose help to inform others about us and they shape others’ understandings of who we are.  So what words come out of our mouths?  Are they words that build people up, or tear them down?  Are they words that praise God?  Are they words that show that we care about others?  Are they words filled with the love, grace and mercy of Christ? Or, are they words that lash out at others in frustration and anger?  What are we expressing to the world when we speak?

The following are some helpful passages from scripture to look at and think about:

James 3:1-12 (Keeping the tongue in check)
Ephesians 4:29 (Words that build up and give grace)
Mark 7:1-23 (It is what comes from within that defiles)
Psalm 139 (God knows our words before we speak them; the psalmist praises God)
Psalm 19 (The sweetness of God’s word; our words as acceptable before God)

Appropriately enough, last night I stumbled upon this video, which a seminary classmate had pinned:

I’d love to hear your thoughts about language, words, expression, etc.!  Leave a comment if you’d like to join the conversation 🙂

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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