Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I know I planned to update you all on a daily and then on city basis but things got to be kind of crazy with lack of sleep and the pace that this trip went. Three weeks is such a short amount of time and the constant switching of cities made things a bit more difficult to process. I do not think I have ever felt so exhausted, so uncomfortable, so vulnerable, and so thankful in my whole life.

After the great time I had in Berlin we headed to Prague. It was not my favorite city last time and the heat caused it to be the bane of my existence this time. The architecture is great when it is not boiling outside. I developed a cough on the first day in the city and a few heat rashes. I could not sleep the majority of the time there because the heat reached unbearable temperatures. The last day we were in the city, the temperature dropped a bit and was tolerable. It also happened to be the day that we went to Lidice. This is a town that was completely destroyed and wiped off the earth. Nothing remains except the foundations of a few buildings, not even graves. I was struck by the fact that some women survived but were not represented in the memorial. It seems like the only way to be remembered is to be a victim and die.

My depression was also a struggle this trip. I was constantly feeling worthless, unwanted, and unloved. I felt like I could not relate to anyone and that no one wanted to relate to me. It was so hard that many nights I would blow up at my fellow students and Dr. Blutinger. They did not understand nor do I expect them to. I do not even understand what I am feeling most of the time.

Vienna was a great improvement from Prague. It is such a cool city with great food and coffee. We went to Mauthausen concentration camp, which was a hard hike. I seriously felt like Dr. Blutinger was trying to kill me. I did not really notice much within the camp because I was tired, but I plan to look at the history of the brothels within the camp and see what I can find on women. On our free day I finally got to go on the Riesenrad and see the whole city. It is a giant ferris wheel that is similar to the London Eye but a lot older and smaller. We also walked quite some distance in the rain to get to the zoo, which I did not enjoy because I was soaked through and my umbrella decided to commit suicide.

Budapest was wonderful. The city is absolutely stunning and one of the cheaper cities we stayed in. I felt so weird though because I felt like the city still has not learned from it past and continues to choose right-wing extremist ideals. The fact that Roma are still actively persecuted in Hungary is terrible and I just cannot believe that antisemitism and other forms of extreme prejudice is on the rise. Do we learn nothing from our past?

We stayed in two cities in Poland: Warsaw and Krakow. I love Warsaw because I love the big city feel it gives and the variety of things to do. I got to go out to some hipster bars and see the zoo where Jews were hidden during the Holocaust. I also got to know the city more and have wonderful food. I really love sour rye soup so whenever I had the opportunity, I ordered it.

I think Krakow is where I finally got to share how I was feeling with at least two of my group and things started to get better the last night I was there. I kind of sort of feel like we ended the trip in Auschwitz. I felt that way last time too. It just seems like when studying the Holocaust all roads lead to Auschwitz. I am still not sure what this means for me.

The title of this blog reflects very much how I am feeling. I am processing everything that has happened in the last weeks and it is still weird to think that a few days ago my life was in Poland. As I process more, I will update my thoughts.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Berlin Update

So updating everyday just cannot happen. I post the photos of the day but I am too exhausted when I get back to the hotel each night. But to keep y’all up to date as much as possible I will sum up each city. We are currently on a four hour train to Prague and I am sad to leave Berlin. From the second we landed, I was at home. I love hearing the German language spoken and being around good food all the time. After the first night and hanging out with Kortnie and Laine, we spent the day walking basically all over Berlin. We did not finish until probably 7am or 8am after starting at 9:30am. We started with the Topography of Terror museum, which I saw the last time. It gives the same general overview of the Holocaust as all the others but I decided to see how women were portrayed or what languages was used to describe them. I am not 100% sure what I really can come with yet, but I notice that the word “innocent” is used with the killing of women more often than with men. 

After that we took a walking tour with this laminated pictures of an artistic installation from 1991. It was weird to be confronted with these three times periods all at one time. Then I got to switch off with Dr. Blutinger and teach my fellow classmates about a few memorials. It was fun to share this information with them and to see their reactions to the memorials. Jack actually pointed out the fact that the Rosenstrasse Memorial, while dedicated to women, has like no women on it. I may end up writing about that. I am just obsessed with the gendered language within Holocaust memorialization
We conclude the tour and grabbed dinner at anarchistic/punk pizza place. The pizza was so good and the company was even better. I am enjoying the group but I still feel like I am not really accepted. I try to get things going and no one wants to join. I find what is even more frustrating is the fact that Dr. Blutinger is so willing to spend time with everyone. Last time he was trying to escape from us at every turn. 

Monday I had to be at the archive at 9 so I headed out earlier than the others. It was a good experience and taught me to be brave when asking for directions from Germans. I did get some good information on how to prepare for my next archive visit and the archivist said she wanted me to come back and do more research. She was so nice!

After the archive, I went with some of the students to Café Einstein Stammhaus for Apfelstrudel and whipped cream as well as a wonderful iced coffee. We also went to KaDeWe to look at the toys and ate döner kabap at Mustafa’s. It was fun to drink beer in line and then eat delicious food.

Yesterday we went to the Wannsee Conference house and I got to walk in the backyard. I want to live there so badly. I then broke off from the group to just see Bonhoeffer’s house. I got there not expecting the guide to be there but he was. He was a wonderful archivist who let me see the whole of the house and gave me such great information for my thesis. I was also asked to come back to do research there as well.

I need some coffee so I went to Fassbender und Rausch. I had an iced coffee with a tiramisu tort. It was freakin bomb. I loved it so much and did not want to leave the cool of the café but I had to meet with the class. We toured the information center under the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We discussed the museum but one thing people do not seem to notice is the voids that are created intentionally within Holocaust memorials. Broken space meant to represent broken relationships. It is one of the things within studying the Holocaust that always points me back to the need for Christ. 

We concluded out day with dinner near the hostel and packing. Berlin is such a wonderful city but I am looking forward to seeing the Disneyland-meets-a-frat-party that is Prague. Will update in a few days.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I have found the place that I wish to call "Heimat"

Hello all! I have survived the crazy flights and severe case of jet lag that has gotten me to Germany. I felt, just as last time, that I was at home, walking the streets of LA and spending time with friends. This time was a little different because I had friends who have been studying in Germany this past year come to visit. We went out to dinner at a traditional German place and then got coffee after. While we did these things, we had such great conversation about what is going on in each others lives. I love being able to be vulnerable with these women and they have been the same with me. We may not agree on everything all the time, but we love one another and are able to encourage each other regardless. Parting with them was hard, but luckily for me they come back to the states in about two months.

Yesterday was insane. We had a full schedule that included basically a walking tour of the whole city, visiting various spots and memorials. I had the opportunity to share some of what I have studied, which is such a blessing, and introduced a few of my fellow students to doener! The day was amazing and tiring so we all came back and went to bed. Today is going to be an extremely different day for me. I am going to an archive in Kreuzburg and then a cafe with my classmates. I am hoping to convince some of them to join me on an adventure to Bonhoeffer's house and a memorial center to resistance movements. We shall see!

I will write more in detail later today. I am still really tired and my body is not cooperating. Keep prayers coming for me. I think it is the tiredness but I keep getting extreme feelings of loneliness and low self-worth.

PS: Heimat means hometown.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ich bin nach Deutschland gehen!

Hey all! I am leaving TODAY! I am pretty excited about this trip and all the possibilities that it may hold. I am trying to be prepared but not be so focused on my expectations. I would ask you to pray for me as I am abroad as well as pray for the students I am with. I get to actually do some teaching on this trip, which is incredibly exciting for me and I will be sharing as much as I can with you each day. I have about an hour until I leave for the airport so I will leave it here for now but please be praying. The next time I update, I will be in Germany!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

And I'm preparing every part for you

So it has kind of been a while. I have had so much going as of late that I have not been able to update as frequently as I would like. That is probably for the better though. The past few weeks have been some crazy hills and valleys. As most of you know, I struggle with depression and anxiety. Now I can add insomnia to the mix. I have not been sleeping very well or very much. It makes for an even more caffeine-dependent Athena. God has shown Himself in ways that I could have never imagine and I am incredibly grateful for this. I have been learning more and more how to rely on Him and His strength, but I still see myself fighting for control.

I was talking with Dr. Blutinger on Facebook and told him things out of my anger with God. As I result, Dr. B became concerned, which resulted in me having to talk with the department chair. Dr. Quam-Wickham is so incredibly awesome and so encouraging. She understood where I was coming from and even though she might not have understood how my faith plays into these things, she helped me out a lot. Since then I have been trying to regularly get time with God. I have not been consistent with it this semester and can feel it. I started a study a week ago that I am calling "Who am I?: My Identity in Jesus Christ." It takes a list of different things that God specifically calls us and the verses that go along with these identities. I look at the definition of the word and then read through the verse to see what God has to say about me. It is amazing how I feel after these things. I am still struggling with giving God full control in my life but I am working on the foundation. Last year I told everyone that I did not want to live in the identity of depression. I did not want to label myself as someone with depression. I want to know what God sees in me, and what He finds is beauty.

The title of this post comes from a Sufjan Stevens song called "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands." Sufjan gets the title for the song from Isaiah 55:12 which states, 
"You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands."
The song and verse have been very relevant to me lately. They both talk about how we have to surrender to the knowledge that we cannot be everything for ourselves. I know this is not a popular notion. The fact is I cannot heal my broken mind; I am not capable of stopping my depression; I cannot control everything in my life. God is everything and is more than capable for everything.

 God has also shown me so much encouragement and love through others. I went to the History Department Awards Night last night and received the Chinski Award for excellence in Holocaust scholarship. Dr. Blutinger introduced me and the words he said made me cry. It is incredibly hard to see these things within myself and for another person to remind of my identity, I am stunned. The things He pointed out are a direct result of Christ working in my life. He may not agree but it is true. I had professors congratulating me which felt awesome. I had one professor, Dr. Kelleher, come up to me and tell me that she felt my paper was exactly what the donors would have envisioned when they established this award. I was so shocked by the kindness. I walked back to my car praising God for these sweet gifts that reminded me of my true identity. 

I have so much to learn. Thankfully, I serve a God who never tires of my progress for He knows that I will be in progress as long as I am on this earth. I am still broken--mentally, spiritually, physically--but He is healing me. He is showing me more and more how He is responsible for the plan and the result, I just have to try. Thank you for stopping by to read this post!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The View of 23

Well, I am officially 23 years of age now. Just like every year I feel no different, but I have had a delightful time celebrating with so many wonderful friends who, by the grace of God, love me. I am beyond blessed to know so many wonderful people and this past week has been amazingly full of His provision: receiving travel grants, scholarships, pay increases, free food and drink, and many other things. God has truly shown that I am limited, but He is infinite and will provide.

I just want to thank you all for your prayers and your encouragement. I feel so overwhelmed with joy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Identity Crisis

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." -2nd Corinthians 5:17

These past few weeks have been the result of an identity crisis. I feel like Jean Valjean in Les Miserables when he is running around singing "Who am I?" The truth is I have been trying to straddle two identities when my body and mind can only handle one. I have been trying to live out my identity as free in Christ but also base my identity around what my professors think. I have been trying to live out of both things on my own instead of just bringing it to God. As a result, I have not been passionate like I was this time last year. I have been miserable when I do my work, which is not me. 

I keep on trying to be a historian in my own strength instead of seeing my calling as something that God wants to use to glorify Himself as well as help me with. He does not want me to go all lone ranger on Him. He is desiring for me to come into His rest and allow Him to work through me. I have been so burdened with this that it has led to fear which has led to procrastination which has led to no progress. 

From this moment on I want to dwell on my identity in Christ. I am not sure how I will do this but I have decided to actively pursue it. This is a step that I do not know how to clearly move and I am praying that you will also pray for me in these things.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fear is the Enemy of Productivity

While it is still the beginning of the semester, I already feel exhausted and burnt out. I have felt on the verge of tears everyday for the past week, between working on my conference paper and trying to keep up with everything and everyone. I wake up every morning, look at my to-do list and instantly feel exhausted. This is a major problem and I have been wrestling with myself to figure out what is wrong with me.

Last semester, I discovered that I was procrastinating on major projects (like my 510 20 page historiography) because I was afraid. I was so afraid that I sucked that I would just put off work until it was absolutely necessary. I am not doing that this semester but the fear that I was fighting last semester is still there, hindering my creativity and productivity.

Why am I so afraid of failure or making a mistake or needing improvement. I seriously cried/slept for half a day because my favorite professor gave me criticism that I just could not understand. My fear has not only made me lazy but has also destroyed my ability to understand what I am supposed to do. This perpetuates this cycle of fear.

But why is failure or making a mistake so frowned upon in our society? I understand that you do not want to make a mistake when it comes to things involving people (like bridges or buildings), but why are the stakes so high? My professors still get criticism and yet it seems like as a graduate student making a mistake is the worst thing. Criticism means that you can still improve and grow. It means that I still have purpose. One of the things that I love about what I do is that it is never done. There are new things to explore and new ways I can grow. I will always be working on my writing; I will never be perfect at writing and someone will always have suggestions as to how it can be better. The day that everyone says, "Oh this is perfect, " is the day I will be truly sad because it means one of two things: 1) I am finished and serve no purpose or 2) The person reviewing did not care enough to actually read it.

I know this in the idea that I am familiar with it (kennen auf Deutsch) but I do not have experiential knowledge (wissen auf Deutsch). I hope that as I try to remember these things that I will stop being so hard on myself. I am in progress and I need to be ok and understanding of this fact.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Life goes on. The past few days have been full of great productivity and incredible happiness. I am extremely blessed.

Then why this sadness? Why this sorrow that seems to shade my days?

I woke up this morning to see that a wonderfully talented woman that I go to school with has been accepted to a PhD program straight out of undergrad. I could not be happy for her. This is ridiculous of me but the tears came to my eyes and I could not hold them back. Even as I type this post, I am still sobbing. Why do I get this way every time someone is more successful than I? Why can I not just rejoice with them and realize that I am ok?

The answer: I have placed all confidence in myself and my accomplishments. I read on my pastor's facebook wall a quote that seems fitting:
 " We fear men so much, because we fear God so little.”
― William Gurnall
It is true. I have put my confidence in myself for so long. I allow my joy to be pushed to the side in favor of sorrow. I do not fight for joy. I give my heart to every other cause except the one that can save.

I need to remember these wonderful truths that were shared on Sunday:

  • My God desires an unprecedented personal relation with me (Joshua 1:9, John 10)
  • My God acts (Exodus 14:14, Hebrews 13:5-6)
  • My God is sovereign (James 4:14-15)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Break my heart for what breaks yours

So this week has been super awesome. I felt busy last week and felt it come Sunday. While at church, I decided to commit to waking up an hour earlier each day to have time for coffee and reading my Bible. It has been a struggle but the feeling has been worth it. As I read through James 3, particularly through verses 13-18, I started thinking about my chosen career path. In history, we discuss how basically everything is a social construct, especially religion. I have always just kind of put this argument off and stated that I can agree up to the point of religion. I was thinking about how to reconcile the two, religion and social constructs, and came up with the following conclusion: I can believe that religion is a social construct. Man determines how religion with be acted out on the day to day and as we see in history, Christians have definitely manipulated God's word to do some pretty atrocious things. But what is awesome is that even is accepting that religion may be a construct and I can believe with confidence that God is not. No, I have not come up with concrete, scientific proof or wondrous, eloquent words of rational thought that will prove to every person that God exists, but I can still see the truth. In my life and the course of history, I find it impossible to deny God's presence. I have seen Him too concretely to ever turn from Him. I see Him in the pages of my history books and it breaks my heart that my professors cannot see Him. I do not doubt their brains because these are incredibly gifted individuals and I respect them. But the truth is that there is a God who loves them, but their hearts are not open to the possibility.

As I sat in one of my classes today, I prayed the lyrics from the song "Hosanna" which read:
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause
As I wrote these words into my notes, I started sobbing. My professor for this class is one that I truly care about and I can just see that his heart is so opposed to the love of Christ. I do not think this is from lack of intelligence. This is a brilliant man whom I have come to respect and admire greatly. But his intense disdain for Christianity hurts. I am worried that I will not get to share eternity worshiping our creator with him and  that he will be forever separated from God's love. I know that God's feelings in this matter are even stronger than mine, but sometimes I wish God would just soften hearts that I feel are impenetrable. I feel as though I suck at being a follower of Christ because I am not able to say something that inspires this professor to think differently. In fact, I rarely talk to him about these things because I just feel rejected before I even begin.

I know that God loves this professor even more than I do. I know that God is the one who softens the ground. I know that God will ultimately prevail. I am just so sad by the current state of affairs.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome to my new blog. With the start of a new season in my life, I figured it was about time to start a new blog. As I have been studying God's word this past semester, the reoccurring theme in what I have read is "Do Not Fear." I drew from Lamentations 3: 55-58, which states,
I called on your name, O Lord,
    from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
    your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
    you said, ‘Do not fear!’
58 “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
    you have redeemed my life.

This is what I want to walk in this next season, as with all the days of my life. I will post what I am struggling with, the work I am doing, as well as random thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to walk on this journey with me.