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Fernweh Collective – The Beginning

The truest words to describe my childhood are comfortable and safe. Growing up I lived in a bounded social mold, leading a life that, for the most part, was shaped by the circumstances of my existence. As I navigated through high school a longing to break free of everything I knew, or thought I knew, began to emerge. I often found myself sitting at home, daydreaming about living outside of my element, as a stranger in a distant land. This unidentifiable yearning consumed me—for I didn’t know what I was looking for or where I longed to go, but I knew I had to get on my way. So I traveled across the earth, leaving behind the confines of my secure and limited reality in search of something, somewhere else.  

I now know the ambiguous feeling of the German word, fernweh; a word with no equivalent in the English language. When broken down, fernweh literally translates to, “farsickness,” and is often unsatisfyingly paraphrased as, “an ache for distant places.” Despite the translational shortcomings, and whether explained in German or English, the word remains difficult to grasp, perhaps because the feeling fernweh aims to describe is inherently ungraspable.  

The best way to understand fernweh is through analyzing exactly what it is not—homesickness. A familiar term and common feeling many have experienced at some point in time, homesickness is an acute longing for one’s home during a prolonged time in its absence. While homesickness can lead to distress and suffering, it is nonetheless, in most cases, a mendable ‘sickness’—we can always return home. Fernweh, or farsickness, is also a suffering, but is less clear cut. It is a consuming longing to be somewhere you’ve never been; an aching to be in a distant and unknown land, an ambiguous yearning for anything, anywhere else, as anyone else. But how do we go about searching for a place we’ve never been? How do we fulfill a yearning, the source of which is unknown to us? And the most pertinent question remains: why do we ache for places we’ve never known?

When we are homesick, we long for a place known to us, a place of safety, comfort, and stability. On a surface level, we miss a physical structure with walls, a front door, a place filled with objects, memories and people whose faces are as familiar as our own. Home is a place we can touch, smell and see. Fernweh is an ache for experiences never had and sensations never felt. Where homesickness is a yearning for the familiar, fernweh is a yearning for the complete unknown—a place free from the limiting confines of our familiar society and home. It’s a purposeful desire to recognize nothing and no one.  Instead of longing for a physical structure, it’s a desire to discover home under the wide open sky in a far away land, where the front door is the expansive sea and the bedroom, its sandy shores.

But the question remains: why do we yearn for unknown experiences in unknown lands? The unknown is a place for reinvention. It’s a space of limitless possibilities and, as such, an opportunity to wipe our slates clean and begin anew. It is a chance to relinquish confining mental constructs of the self—how we view ourselves and how others view us. The formlessness inherent in fernweh allows us to re-conceptualize and re-create our being in any way we choose.

But, in the end, homesickness isn’t really about home at all. When we are homesick, we miss the feelings and comforts that the physical environment inherently provides. We miss the feeling of belonging somewhere. The root cause of fernweh is also fueled by a desire to be somewhere you belong—the somewhere that allows you to be the truest expression of yourself. Fernweh is also about finding home inside of us, anywhere in the world—on a mountain peak or winding road in the middle of the earth, recognizing nothing, but being part of everything. 

We can come back home, but how do we amend fernweh? Maybe it can never be permanently relieved because when it strikes once, it will strike again, perhaps even harder the second time around. But fernweh is a feeling for dreamers—where we imagine endless possibilities and realize how limitless the conditions of our existence really are. And the world can always use a few more dreamers.

2018…here we go!

well 2018 is here and it’s going…it came quick and hit the ground running.

I can’t believe it’s already 22 days into the new year, time stops for no one. But in the start of the new year I’ve finally found the time to reflect, pray, and dream for 2018…a few days late, but hey life happens.

I have a friend who introduced me to this practice of adopting a word for your year. A word to hold onto for the whole year and see what God does. As I began to pray for 2018 and the world that God has for me I couldn’t help but look back at 2017.

2017 was a hard year. One to bury in a box, to never look back on again. It threw me off course more times than I would like to count, but somehow, I am here in 2018 knowing what it means to dwell in a place of self-grace. What is self-grace? It is my word of the year and means to simply allow yourself to be who you are…all of the crazy, the pain, the dreams, the confusion, the joy, the restlessness, the doubt…it’s accepting what you are feeling, recognizing what brought you to this point and truly believing what you are going through to be valid. It’s knowing we are exactly where we are supposed to be no matter the circumstance because our mighty Author won’t lead us astray.

Moving forward into 2018 though…it’s on my heart to encourage you (and myself) to keep accepting yourself and smothering yourself in self-grace. (this is what I’m learning) What does that look like? Well it’s different for each of us…

Maybe it’s quitting a job or asking for a raise.

Maybe it’s packing your bags or deciding to finally sit still.

It could be learning a new skill or giving one up that doesn’t make your soul feel alive.

It might be deciding to stay with that person despite everything or knowing the healthiest thing is going your separate ways.

Perhaps it’s deciding to start your family or changing directions on how you go about doing that.

It could be changing majors in university or taking the risk to walk away from what you thought your future was always supposed to look like.

Moving back home or to a new city where you know no one.

Maybe you finally make that appointment with the counselor whose number you have been holding onto forever.

Maybe you finally call that person who hurt your heart so badly once, but you are ready to tell them you forgive them.

Your sight might be set to touch the highest of mountain tops or to take that literal jump out of the plane to feel your body soar through the sky.

Maybe it’s allowing 2018 to be the year of saying no or possibly finally saying yes…

Whatever it is for you, LET IT BE. You do you. Allow yourself to be inspired, but don’t conform. Take that leap or actually… let yourself sit still. (sounds harder than you think) When you feel lost, know you are far from alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and a unrelentless God who will be with you no matter which direction you choose to go.

Cheers to a 2018, a whole new year ahead of us…we still have 343 days this year to make them look like however you dream of them looking like and when they start to look different, embracing them and yourself anyway.

-S

Dance This Christmas . . .

This Christmas, give yourself permission to not be merry or bright. Excuse yourself from the manufactured pressures of Christmas cheer.

 

The holiday season comes sharp and brittle for some. Maybe even for you, if I’m being honest this season has been a whirlwind for myself. Be gentle with others. Be gentle with yourself.

 

Finish with your frenetic shopping and buying and list-making, and be done. Let what you are giving be enough, even as every billboard and commercial and email promotion makes you feel as though it’s not. After all, the gifts themselves were never really the point. The point is the reaching across the room or across the country or across the neighborhood toward someone else. The point is, To you, from me: I see you. I love you. You are my people.

 

Call your grandpa. Call your grandma who sometimes can’t remember who you are. Ask the  Walmart greeter how she is doing today. Look into her eyes. Learn her name, and remember it.

 

Put a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, not because you feel guilty walking by it or because it’s “the right thing to do,” but because this is where we find God: in the eyes of the large man ringing the bell, his face wrapped entirely in a scarf so all you can see is his bulbous nose. His shifting, holy eyes.

 

At the Christmas Eve candlelight service, notice the shadows cast by the flames even as you sing “Silent Night.” This is the purpose of those candles, with their paper collars and dripping wax: not to make you feel cozy and Christmas-y and merry, but to reveal something about the nature of Immanuel, God with us: a flickering flame that contains both shadow and light.

 

Sing the songs even if you’re not sure if you believe them, if you ever believed them, if you ever could. Don’t worry that it’s inauthentic, that it’s some kind of lie to join in the song, to let the impossible words fill up your mouth. In the Thomas Kinkade version of this thing, the whole world is pristine and cobble-stoned and lit gently with streetlamps, and everyone singing believes perfectly. But this is not the truth of Christmas.

 

Beside you, around you, the chairs are filled with shattered people, with those whose hearts are filled with doubt and darkness. People who are singing anyway. Join them. You belong to this broken chorus.

 

Don’t be surprised when Christmas Day comes with interruptions and inconveniences. The serving dish full of mashed potatoes will fall on the floor and shatter. The new toy won’t work like it’s meant to. You will have forgotten to buy batteries. Someone you expected won’t show; someone you didn’t expect will…and the whole thing will feel different than you wanted, than you expected.

 

Don’t be surprised to find yourself thrown off-balance. Don’t shame yourself for that moment of sharp disappointment that pierces the manufactured bubble of “Christmas magic.” Notice what it feels like when the plans spin out of your control. Look around from the shifted earth on which you are standing. There is a good chance it is holy ground.

 

If there are children at your gathering, pay attention to their wonder, to that Christmas-morning look on their faces. But notice, too, their ingrown selfishness as they rip into their gifts and have to be reminded to say thank you. Remember that when Jesus said to receive the kingdom of God like a child, he knew about both of these things—the awestruck wonder, the acute self-centeredness—and still he said, “Let the children come to me.”

 

So come.

 

Bring your own complicated, disappointed, self-centered, wonder-filled, jaded heart to the manger—the one you have read about year after year after year, but never really paid attention to. Sometimes worship looks unremarkable. Sometimes it’s only just showing up at the same place again…because where else would you go but the stable? Where else but to the manger-bed of the unlikely, impossible King?

 

When all of it is done—when the presents are unwrapped and the living room floor is covered with paper, when the leftover gravy is congealing on the counter, when you are so tired you want to curl into a ball in the corner—then, just then turn on the music as loud as it goes. And dance.

 

Dance badly. Dance wild and silly. Dance in your living room or your kitchen, or haul yourself to the nearest Christmas celebration and kick up your heels. Spin your children in circles, throw your arms around your sister, push the coffee table out of the way and breakdance on the carpet.

 

Dance not because you’re merry, not because it’s bright, but because if Christmas is anything, it is the most audacious kind of hope. It is that teenage virgin-mother singing a revolutionary song: The lowly are raised up! The hungry are filled with good things! The world is being made new! Love has come!

 

Dance for Aleppo and for the refugees; dance for the depressed and the downtrodden; dance for your own broken heart during Christmas.

 

Let the song fill you up—every valley shall be exalted! Dance until, for one breathless moment, you believe it all.

Reminiscing A Wandering Heart: The Boy in South Africa

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My time in South Africa was something that I have yet to completely process…it’s something that is always on my mind and something that I am ever grateful to have had the opportunity. But it was only the beginning. So as the days go by and the time passes I find it useful to write out my experiences and the emotions I felt and since I was not on this journey alone, but I invited many to walk along side me I thought I would start a series of post reminiscing my heart and the memories of South Africa. This experience was rather life changing and my hope in sharing it with you is simply give you a glimpse of the work God did in my life with the hope that you can recognize the work He is doing in your own life.

In South Africa there was a little boy the age 7. He was like any other 7 year old boy, rambunctious and fearless, yet he captured my heart like no one ever had. He had a smile that won my heart the second I saw it. He was as most people call, my one. The one who was always sitting on my lap; the one who I was always holding; the one who I clung to as we said goodbye.

Our time together while he attended the VBS/camp we hosted in South Africa is something I’ll cherish forever. There was one memory I have when the group was playing on the field, kids running all over playing dodgeball, soccer, and picking flowers. I was sitting with a group near the bags and the kids were playing and climbing on us, the the boy climbed inside the bags and started to zip himself up, so playing along I grabbed the bag and told him he was coming home with me back to the states; he literally fit inside our bag. It was that moment that I really struck me and made me think…I really love this little boy. He laughed and had the hugest smile on his face it filled my heart with overwhelming joy.

As the week went on my love for this little boy continued to grow and I dreaded the idea of him leaving. Although there were times when he was up to trouble and I would have to tell him to stop doing something, he would turn around and look at me with a huge smile from ear to ear that totally won my heart. There wasn’t a chance that I could be mad at him, but simply give him a big ‘ol hug!

The relationship that was formed in a matter of only a few days is that of one that often takes years to form. But this little boy was so accepting of the love I had to offer and craved that love, he changed my life in more ways than I could ever offer him. It wasn’t till just a few days ago that I realized why God had put that boy in my life and the relationship that was formed with him. I was with my mentor walking through a prayer exercise of how I see God and my relationship with Him.

As I was in this prayer state of just me and God, He gave me an image…an image I was very familiar with that I often have when I reminisce my time in South Africa. It was the image of my relationship with that boy in South Africa; playing with him, holding him, sitting with him, and simply loving him. A huge grin on both of our faces laughing as I held him in my arms. This was so significant because God revealed that this was the way He wanted to love me. For so often I forgotten to come to God as my Father, simply for Him to hold me tight and whisper in my ear…”I love you.” This was a moment of complete and utter joy, so overwhelming I found myself in tears. God took a moment that I cherished so much and reminisced about often to give me a glimpse of a tangible relationship that He wanted with me. It was simply beautiful, just as the the little boy in South Africa was.

I was reminded that God wants us to come running to His is arms simply to be held by His sweet embrace. He wants to hold us and laugh with us through every good and bad experience. He wants to love his child unconditionally. My prayer is that you would not forget this and that you would accept this love God is offering to you. The relationship I had with that little boy in South Africa is something I can only describe, but I hope that you may feel that type of love someday and maybe some of you already. But I hope you get to feel that love with our Almighty Father because who knows it just might change your life…

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