Berliner Blues

umbrellas

When I started this blog a loooooooooong time ago (in “internet years”, 4.5 years is an eternity), I planned to post here often. Although I started out strong, life got busy, and after a few months I faded off. I had a new burst of energy in 2014 and made a New Year’s resolution to write once a week. However, this soon became “twice a month” and then faded into “almost never” once the semester got crazy.

Sometimes, like when the school year is in full swing and crunch-time is upon me, I simply don’t have the time and/or mental energy to write. This was the case during my first semester of grad school and then during my initial summer learning Polish. It turns out that learning to decipher academic texts and (impossible) Slavic languages can be equally exhausting. During other times of infrequent posting, I simply haven’t had consistent access to the Internet or a computer. My summers working at Kanakuk are the best example of this.

But there are other times when my lack of posting isn’t due to my lack of internet connection or energy. Sometimes, I simply have trouble figuring out what to say. Paradoxical though it may sound, in these moments I feel as if I have both too much and too little going on in my mind. It’s in times like these that I go into “avoidance mode”, looking for every possible excuse to avoid opening up a blank document on my computer screen. For instance, tonight (note: I wrote this post last Friday) I ran 6 miles, skyped with friends, cleaned my room, washed all my laundry, and even baked* a cake (*not from scratch). As I was finishing up all the things, I then tried to find something else to do next. And though I was this close to curling up with an episode of Sherlock (news flash: I finally got Netflix!), I wandered back to the kitchen table and began writing the words you are reading now.

You see, most of the time when sit down to write a blog entry, I have a pretty clear idea of where I’m headed. I’ll already have chosen a funny anecdote for the beginning, and I know basically which point I’d like to make. Which is another reason I was avoiding writing this tonight: I have no idea where this is going and, as you probably noticed, this post isn’t particularly funny. But I sometimes life is like that, and so tonight I guess I’ll just share with you what’s on my mind.

Honestly, the last few weeks have been kind of hard. In theory, everything should be great. After all, I’m a single adult living in Berlin, I can travel around Europe whenever I want, and I have easy access to some of the best culture, museums—and chocolate—in the world. And in that sense, I suppose that I am “living the dream.” But just because it’s a dream doesn’t mean it’s perfect. I miss my family and friends, I miss my church, and I miss my life back home. Yes, technology is awesome, and I am so grateful for What’s App, Facebook, Skype, email, FaceTime, iMessage, etc., but coordinating around time differences can be tricky, and my friends and family have their own busy lives. And, let’s be real, even with all the above resources and apps, they still haven’t invented a way to receive trans-Atlantic hugs.

Here I should pause and say that I’ve met some wonderful people here in Berlin. God was so good to lead me to an amazing church my first Sunday (the pastor’s wife is even from Nebraska! #Midwest), I’ve joined a small group, and I’m starting to make some friends. But friendships, by nature, take time to deepen. And though I am doing my best to be patient, a huge part of me misses having people who really know me. I’ve moved enough times to know this will eventually happen, but in this moment, I can’t help craving that feeling of being mutually known and loved.

Berlin is an amazing city, and I’m really thankful that my main archive just happened to be located here. (How different a research year I’d be having if I were stuck in the middle of nowhere!) This is a perfect place to be studying German history, the museums are incredible, and there are more cultural and academic events and opportunities than I could possibly ever take advantage of. But Berlin is also very big—very, very big. Especially compared with itty-bitty Krakow or university-town Graz, Berlin is gigantic. And while I’m starting to figure out how to efficiently navigate the S- and U-Bahn and I’m finally biking places without getting (quite so) hopelessly lost, Berlin still feels massive. And it should; after all, 3.6 million people live here. And as a result, it’s easy to feel very, very small and very, very insignificant.

So there you go. It’s a Friday night in the party capital of Europe, and I’m sitting at home blogging about how I feel homesick, lonely, and insignificant. Lame though I know it is, this is just where I am right now. So, other than Netflixing my cares away, what am I supposed to do? And how should I respond when the dream I’m living also comes with some less-than-stellar feelings?

I don’t have any perfect answers. (If I did, I probably wouldn’t be writing this rather pathetic blog entry.) But in the midst of my less-than-awesome mood—which is not in any way helped by Berlin’s perpetually gray sky—I have found comfort in these two verses. Genesis 16:13, “You are a God who sees’,” and Psalm 139, “You have searched me and known me… If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” All of these things that feel so absent right now, God promises to provide: He is the Friend who never fails (and is never 6 or 7 time zones away), He knows me completely and loves me wholly, and He fills each day of my life with value, worth, and significance.

I know that my homesickness will eventually pass, that I’ll develop deeper friendships here, and that I’ll start to feel more connected and at home in this place. Someday, hopefully not too far down the line, Berlin will join my growing list of “homes away from home.” But right now, in this moment and on this Friday night, I’m not there yet, and things still feel rather crummy. And while I don’t feel okay, I guess God wants me to trust that everything will still be okay. And maybe He wants this to be an opportunity to grow my faith, to believe that His words are true and to trust that He is caring for me even now.

Alright, that’s enough writing for tonight. Maybe it is actually time for Netflix. Sherlock, anyone? 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Berliner Blues

  1. Steffi,
    Thank you for sharing real. It’s difficult to share the hard, especially when funny is well, more fun. God is faithful, always.
    I pray that as you worship Him and are still you will know the breadth, depth, heighth and width of His love for you! You are HIS!

  2. What a wonderful perspective you have. I think it’s great that you can both recognize the struggle that you’re undergoing (melancholy, loneliness) and acknowledge those feelings, and then respond so positively. I really admire how you’re able to put your experiences into the larger context of your beloved-ness by the great Creator. You’ll be in my prayers both as a friend in need and an inspiring lady.

    I love reading your posts, however infrequent! And congrats on learning your way around enough to bike – yay!

    >

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