Heat and Snow

“Why are you here?”

This was by far the most-asked question of what I was doing in Mannheim. You see, there are no Americans there, or at least very few of them. It used to be that Mannheim had a large US military presence. Before the base closed, that is. But even that was in the far outskirts of the city. I was living in downtown.

After a few weeks things started to become familiar. Maybe not as unfamiliar is the better phrase to use. At least for the first couple of weeks.

Southwest Germany in the summer is about as hot as at home, maybe slightly cooler. But my arrival in late August corresponded with the time the temperature started to drop. Where I was is about the same latitude as southern Canada, which I initially didn’t realize. A couple of weeks in, the weather started cooling. Trees began to lose their leaves, the sidewalks became awash in a sea of golden brown, red, and yellow. Shops, many of which don’t have air conditioning, began to leave their doors open all day. I left my windows in my apartment open, the cool breeze blowing in as the end of summer blended in with the beginning of fall. My apartment didn’t have air conditioning either, by the way. After a while you get used to it.

One thing I forgot to bring was a thick jacket to deal with the winters, mainly because I’d not paid attention to how far north I actually was. Southwest Germany is described by some as the hottest part of Germany. I’d prefer to think of it as the least cold part of Germany. Soon enough, I ran to H&M to get a thick jacket. It snowed on Halloween. Then when there’s too much ice on the train tracks the rail system shuts down.

It’s strange how when you move to another country to really truly live there, things start to evolve. At the beginning everything is new, and it’s exciting. New place, new language, new this, new that. When things begin to become normal and you still like where you are, that’s what really matters.

I paid my health insurance every month, I paid my rent every month, and the recycling goes out on the curb every Wednesday. Nothing different than at home. Things are so different, yet at the same time so much the same.

A few weeks in after all of the administrative things were finished, I could finally start to truly settle in to what was going to be my home for the next 5 months. Not only did I settle in, I became comfortable. More comfortable than I can probably tell you.

Living in a country not your own can be very rewarding, but only if you make it so. Things will be done in ways that you are not used to, and you have to accept that. In order to be happy, you have to realize that there are things that are not fixable in any situation. The things you need to focus on are the things that are fixable and within your control.

Things will be different. Things are different. Things are not as you are used to from home. There is a lot that you don’t know. There is also a lot that you’ll learn.

I was fortunate to realize all of these things, not immediately but pretty early on, and it made my transition a lot easier. So what if the refrigerator in my apartment isn’t the size of an American refrigerator? I’m in Germany, and Germany is not like the United States.

Language was the most obvious difference. Since Germany does have a large English-speaking population it is possible to get by with English only, especially in the bigger cities like Frankfurt or Munich. But I’d decided that I was going to learn as much German as I could. After all, it would be a shame to live here for 5 months and leave knowing nothing.

Learning a language is made a lot easier (though not really “easy”) when you’re literally surrounded by it every day and you are willing to put in the work. Very, very slowly I started picking up phrases. Numbers. Directions. Greetings. Other words. How to say a sentence in the correct order, since the word order in German is backwards compared to English.

Being American in a town with no Americans trying to learn a language that no Americans typically want to learn makes for some interesting experiences. People would ask me why I was making an effort to learn it, everyone speaks English, you shouldn’t bother. But I wanted to learn it, I said. Why live here for 5 months and not try?

It first snowed in October. On Halloween, actually. I begin to wonder how far up I can turn the heaters without going over my Nebenkosten amount, the average monthly cost of utilities like power, water, and heat/gas that are factored into my rent every month. Anything more than what I pay each month and the end of my lease I’ll have to pay the extra cost once the bill comes in from the gas company.

The best time was late fall and early winter when the Christmas markets opened. Decorations were everywhere. Christmas is also my favorite part of the year, so I’m biased.

Mannheim is a pretty big place, and there were 3 Christmas markets downtown. All of them were within walking distance of the enormous former royal palace on the southern edge of downtown on the banks of the Rhine River that served as the headquarters for the University of Mannheim. Students and businesspeople alike would frequent the markets after work or after classes had finished for the day.

A rebuilt 1700s palace where only one room was left undamaged after the many bombings Mannheim suffered during the war bordered blocks of post-war 1950s apartment buildings. Across from those were huge houses that used to serve as residences for the French officers that occupied Mannheim after the end of World War 1. In the middle of those 1950s buildings were three Christmas markets where food and mulled wine made with recipes maybe older than the country itself were served. One of these Christmas markets surrounded the water tower that was built in the 1800s, another historical relic that survived the bombings. Sprinkled among all of those buildings, no matter the age or when they were built, were countless hatches leading to bomb shelters. Today, many of them have been turned into underground parking garages but many that haven’t sit unused, their hatches sealed shut, reminders of things that happened long ago when the world was a very different place.

Three periods of history blanketed by layers of ice and snow. One country where an entirely different language is spoken is about an hour west. Another country where there are 4 official languages is about an hour and a half south. One of the most famous cities in the world was 2 hours almost due west of me. A city that was literally divided by a wall for 30 years is 5 hours northeast.

So much history. So many differences.

The Paper, The Pencil, and The Saw

The other day, my dad and I were working on a rental house that he owns. The house was empty and didn’t have a tenant, so we were doing some renovations. One of the projects involved taking down the outdated cabinets in the kitchen and replacing them with new ones. After maybe two hours of taking apart old cabinets and moving them to the side of the road, we moved on to the next project.

We walked into one of the bedrooms in the house to find two large holes in the wall. “I’m going to show you how to fix a hole in sheetrock”, my Dad said.

“Bring me a piece of paper and a pencil”.


If you’re like me, that or something similar probably went through your head. What on Earth could a pencil and a piece of paper have to do with repairing a hole in some sheetrock?

Though I was confused, I did as he said. The piece of paper was big enough to cover the hole, so he put it up over the hole in the wall and began to trace around the edge of the hole. At the end, he had a pretty accurate outline of the hole we needed to fix. But there were two of them.

“Bring me another sheet of paper”

I did. Another sheet of paper, another outline. But what exactly was the point of this?

“Put these over in the corner. We don’t need them right now”.

So we just did this, and now we don’t need it? We have a piece of paper with an outline of a hole on it that we don’t need right now. Two of them, actually.

Next, we cut four pieces of wood out of some two-by-fours, two pieces for each hole. With each piece roughly a foot long, we would put the wood behind the sheetrock and drill screws into the wall to hold it in place. Despite my drilling completely through the sheetrock twice and my dad drilling through it once, we managed to secure each of the four pieces of wood.

“Bring those pieces of paper back. We’re cutting some sheetrock that matches the shape of the paper.”

We grab a piece of sheetrock and a saw and start cutting. Eventually, the sheetrock resembles one of the pieces of paper. We put it up to the hole that it’s supposed to cover, only to find out that it’s too big. More sawing.

Still too big. More sawing.

Still more.

Finally, after the fourth time the sheetrock fits into the hole.

And everything made sense.

What’s the point of all this, anyway?

“Seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came to see if perhaps he might find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.” — Mark 11:13-14 WEB

Notice that this verse doesn’t say figs were never going to be there, it says it wasn’t the season for figs. As in, there is a season for figs, but it’s not now.

The same is true for the piece of paper.

When my Dad and I started to work on repairing the hole in the sheetrock, his first set of instructions to me was to tell me to do something that had no immediate benefit whatsoever. A piece of paper with an outline of a hole on it. By itself, it’s useless. It has no value. My Dad even said as much by telling me to put it away. “We don’t need them right now.” he’d said. So if it has no value now, why did he tell me to do it?

Because it’s part of something bigger. Something bigger that I couldn’t see.

A piece of paper. A pencil. A saw. Some scissors. A piece of sheetrock. Some screws.

Maybe you can draw on the piece of paper? You can screw the screws into the wood? Saw the wood into pieces? Cut the paper with the scissors?

You would never think that scissors could help you fix a hole in some sheetrock. But they do. The interesting thing about all the tools we used is that by themselves they seem to not work together at all. Maybe they seem random, even. But if you take any one of those tools away, the entire project falls apart.

Let me say that again. If you take any of them away, the project falls apart. Think about it, and it’s true.

Even the piece of paper that has a line drawn on it. The one that in that moment in the beginning seems worthless. Because it’s not the season for the piece of paper to be used. It’s needed, it has value. But we don’t need it yet. But the key is that at some point we will.

That is how God works.

God has a plan for us. As Christians we all know that. But sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) we try to make God’s plan for us fit in our boxes here on Earth that we can understand.

But God’s plan for us will never fit into our little understandable boxes. Our minds will never be able to comprehend God’s work and what He is doing in our lives.

In the same way that I had to trust my dad when what he was telling me to do was part of a bigger plan that I didn’t understand, we have to trust that God is always working for the best for us in our lives. Because He is. Even if we don’t want to acknowledge it, He is.

Even if we don’t understand it. Or even if it seems like what just happened was pointless. Or we may even feel like we’re worse off than before because something happened. Like me drilling through the sheetrock, things won’t always go the way you want them to. You’ll get upset. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll get hurt. You’ll feel like you’re not going anywhere. But trust in Him anyway.

A piece of paper. A pencil. A saw. Some scissors. A piece of sheetrock. Some screws.

You’d never think that scissors can help you fix sheetrock. But they do.

The Year So Far

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here. I really need to be better about that. This blog has really been just for me, a journal of sorts for me to look back at what has happened in life. If it becomes more than that at some point, then great. But for now that’s what it is. So here has what has happened in basically the first half of the year.

2020 has been an interesting year, to say the least. My job is going well, but there’s a lot more happening than that!

The whole country shut down in March when Coronavirus started to spread. We were in lockdown until July. As in you had to stay in your house type of lockdown. Nobody could go anywhere. Tons of businesses went bankrupt or just decided to close. Even now with it being early August, things are nowhere near normal, not even close. Places might start closing down again soon. Coronavirus case numbers everywhere are up. About half the states (and maybe more) are setting records for new cases on a weekly basis, if not daily sometimes. Basically every sports league canceled it’s season in March. MLS is back, and the NBA relaunched on July 30, but nobody is sure if or when the college or pro football seasons will start and if they’ll even last a full season. The SEC tournament got canceled basically when it started, and the NCAA tournament didn’t happen at all. It’s been a very weird year, to say the least.

I’m also learning front-end development. So HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I haven’t gotten to Javascript yet, but I could put up a website with HTML and CSS if a client wanted one. I may very well end up turning front-end development into a side business at some point. There are a lot of things I learned from starting (and closing) a business last year that I would take into any new one that I started. Mainly, don’t try to do everything yourself, and delegate certain tasks to people who know what they’re doing so that you can run your business. I enjoy learning, and I enjoy that you’re able to create things through front-end development. I’ve spent I don’t even know how many hours at nights and on weekends learning front-end development. It almost doesn’t feel like work to me. Of course, I’m not getting paid for it at the moment.

That’s about it so far. I may very well think of things later and edit this post to add more things. Because this blog is supposed to be something that I can look back on years from now and remember things. I really need to get better about posting here.

Anyway, that’s it for now!

When Things Get Difficult

God never promised us that things would be easy. But He did promise us that through it all, we would never be alone. He doesn’t promise us an easy path, and there are plenty of stories in the Bible where people went through a lot of hardship. Paul wrote most of the New Testament and was arrested multiple times, for example, but never lost faith.

One of my go-to verses for when I’m going through something difficult is this…

“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose” — Romans 8:28 CEB

Another favorite of mine (which I may have already written about on here) is…

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you” — Isaiah 43:2 CEB

The Beggar

“Peter and John were going up to the temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the established prayer time. Meanwhile, a man crippled since birth was being carried in. Every day, people would place him at the temple gate known as the Beautiful Gate so he could ask for money from those entering the temple. […] Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise up and walk!”. Then he grasped the man’s right hand and raised him up. At once his feet and ankles became strong.”

Acts 3: 1-2,6-7 (Common English Bible)

Peter did not have any money, but he gave him something far more valuable. Most of us would want money, worldly things. Peter let Jesus flow through him and gave the beggar something far more powerful.

I read this verse several times before I interpreted it that way. Not because I was looking to interpret this particular verse a certain way, but because sometimes there are multiple ways that things can be read.

The beggar had something that he wanted (money), which I feel is pretty normal. We all have an income, and our incomes allows us to have the lifestyles that we have.

What struck me about that verse eventually after I read it a few times is that the beggar didn’t get what he probably initially wanted (money), but God was able to provide him with something far greater than money, the ability to walk. And the beggar can do far more and have a lot bigger influence with the ability to walk than he could have had if he’d gotten what he initially wanted. He didn’t get what he wanted initially, but his life was far better off for it.

Which leads me to this:

Not getting what we want may not look like the greatest thing at the time, and it may not be the greatest thing at the time, but sometimes not getting what we thought we wanted can be one of the best things to happen to us. I can say that that is definitely true for me. There are a lot of things that I wanted (or thought that I wanted) that I haven’t gotten, and God has turned what I thought were failures into far better things than I ever could have imagined for myself.

On Why It’s Not Good To Be Alone

One of my favorite verses goes like this:

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 CEB (Common English Bible)

On Failure and Hard Times

There are a few verses in Luke, one of the Gospels, that go like this:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything”?

“Nothing,” they answered. — Luke 22:31-35

This is only 5 verses, a lot can be taken from it. Jesus knew Peter would deny that he knew Him three times that day. But that didn’t change how Jesus saw Peter. Jesus also was making a point to the disciples that Jesus will provide everything that they need, and that they shouldn’t focus on worldly things.


Sometimes things that we don’t expect happen to us. After all, that’s a big part of life. And life is unpredictable.

Something was said to me earlier today actually that fits very well in situations where life throws you a curveball. It’s good to remember even when you feel like everything is going just fine. Really, it should be a “go-to” mindset, for any situation and for life in general.

God doesn’t want us to know what our next step is going to be. God wants us to take that first step by surrendering our situation to Him. And when we surrender to Him, that’s when He can lead us, in His timing, to the best that He has for us.

Why I Decided To Start This Blog

The reason I decided to start this blog is pretty simple.

I like to write. That’s it. I’d been thinking about starting a blog for months before I actually decided to do this. I’ve long thought it would be a fun project to have a place to collect my thoughts. I thought that setting up a blog would be a good learning experience too. You never know how useful learning a new skill can be. So I thought I’d try it.

Why did I think about it for so long?

Procrastination. Fear that I didn’t know what I was doing on the technical side of things. Fear that my writing wouldn’t be any good. The fact that it does take a bit of a monetary investment to set up and run a blog. The cost isn’t very high at all, but it still held me back.

And, oddly enough, I thought I wouldn’t have anything to write about. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I always have. Even writing papers in school. I feel like most people don’t like that at all, but I did.

It is a little scary, doing something like this, because it’s almost a given that not everyone is going to like what you write. I don’t really have a plan for this blog right now, it just is a place for me to write. Something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but have held off on actually doing.

I’m looking forward to working on this.