Thursday, 30 April 2015


Oh April. The month of unpredictable weather, Malcolm's birthday and small adventures.

April the 1st started with Snow. It was like an April Fools prank, waking up and opening the blinds to see the hill across from us and the houses below covered in snow.

It melted quickly though, and I was soon on my way to help with the set up of Studikon 2015 near Kassel. I'm glad I was in the conference office, since the guys setting up the tents in the hail and snow and howling wind needed to work in shifts because it was so cold.

The next day, though, Malcolm arrived and so did better weather. In total, about 900 students from across Germany arrived, and it was awesome. The weekend was filled with many hours in the conference office laminating name badges and capturing data, but I also got to attend most plenary sessions, hear some great teaching, get excited about sharing the Gospel in daily life, and worship with so many devoted followers of Christ.

Malcolm also celebrated his birthday there, on Easter Sunday. It started with an early morning service, followed by breakfast, and then he got sung to (along with 2 others who shared their birthdays with him) in the plenary session.

I was so grateful that I was able to spend lots of time with him, and that I didn't need to be in the office all day.

That evening, after watching some performances at the kleinkunstbuhne, we headed to the big Studikon party. Music from the 90s and 00s greeted us, and it was so much fun dancing to the Back Street Boys with my husband. It did get a little lame though, and I can only take so much Spice Girls... but it was fun dancing and being silly in the early hours of a Monday morning.

In the midst of that, though, it haunted me hearing of the students in Kenya who had been murdered. It was unthinkable that we were here, at an openly Christian conference proclaiming our faith, while others around the world are persecuted for theirs. Jesus promised us persecution, but it breaks my heart to see the darkness in peoples' hearts. The response from the student movement whom the students in the prayer meeting belonged to, is amazing, and I sincerely hope that Jesus is glorified by their response in love.

After getting back from Studikon and recovering after 5 nights on a sleeping mat on the floor, life turned normal and at work I started on some things for the next conference in mid-May. Life has been a little overwhelming at times, with a lot on my plate and sometimes more emails than I can handle.

My English course started and my class is great. It's a revision of A1 course, and I find my class of 10 plus one dog really enjoyable - they already know a lot and learn quite quickly.

Our International group, which Malcolm is co-leading this semester, also kicked off again after the holiday. I'm not there much because it clashes with my English course, but I'm excited for God to do something.

In the cafe where I help out, things are going well. We were reminded of the urgency of reaching people when a man who was a regular in the cafe died. He died fairly suddenly at his home, a day after or before his birthday. His place at his table in the cafe is so empty without him there. I've learnt so much from him, and his stories of his life are sad, but remarkable and he'll be missed.

The Kindergarten kids group at church is also going strong - my prayers for helpers have been answered and I'm so glad that I have a team to support me!

We also finally closed the chapter on our old apartment and gave our keys back. It was sad, since we really loved living there and I miss the community that we lived in with our neighbours. I miss seeing people on the playground and saying hullo. It was the first place that Malcolm and I really made our home in, and we had to leave so suddenly. But, exactly 10 months after the fire, we had an appointment, went through a checklist to make sure we'd left everything as it was (well, except the cracks in the wall, the huge hole in the bathroom wall, the hole drilled into the floor, the broken balcony door handle, and the mouldy fridge, which were all direct or indirect consequences of the fire). After we closed the blinds and we were finding our way out in the dark (since there's no electricity) we got in one last kiss in our hallway before we closed the door on our old home.

Malcolm also needed to work hard this month and spend a lot of time in the lab. He needed to make something for a collaboration, and also work hard on his own work because today he needs to hand in his application for an extension of his funding. We're praying that God continues to provide for us through this scholarship!

This month, with so much going on, I've been brought back time and time again to laying things at Jesus feet and asking Him for His help because I simply can't. No matter how much I stress over something, it doesn't go away and I need His help to deal with things.

I've also started sticking to a plan of what days I do things. If you email me on a Tuesday, it's unlikely to get answered. This has somehow given me more time since it's better managed and I can concentrate fully on one thing at a time. I've also finally set aside time to learn German grammar. It's taken nearly two years to get started on this and I'm looking forward to speaking more correctly!

All in all, April has been sweet. The weather has improved and going for a walk in the evening or enjoying the view from our balcony are some of my favourite things to do right now.

The flowers are blooming and the days are lengthening. Having people over to enjoy coffee and community has been one of my favourite things about living where we are right now. I love that God is doing an amazing, redeeming work in lives around us, and that we get to be here.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Noticed anything different around here?

No? (Susannah noticed! Yeah!)  Look up to the top of this page.
Yep, a tiny unofficial change in wording on this blog. The Bartletts (at home) abroad. "At home" has been rather awkwardly slotted in there.

I've been thinking for a while about the name of this blog. You see, as soon as we arrived, I couldn't wait to start writing about our experience while it was still fresh. I was longing for this space. I needed a name in a hurry. "The Bartletts abroad" was about the only name that came up before I clicked "create".

And yet, after nearly two years of living here, I've felt like the name of this blog just doesn't really fit anymore. I don't always feel like we're 'abroad', in a foreign country - day to day life is pretty normal, actually. I mean, sure, it's still sometimes foreign to us, but this is our home right now, and it's not altogether foreign anymore. It's not our heimat, but for now it's most certainly our home.

In Jeremiah, speaking to the Israelites in exile, God says:
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 

Our situation here in Germany is probably not as drastic as that of Israel, but I find these words interesting to our position. We're in a country not our own, but, placed here by God for a certain time, we're asked to settle down and contribute to the city we're in. We're trusting that God wants us to be right here, and so we're sinking roots and forming friendships where we are. One can't do that and not consider a place to be home, at least temporarily. 

I don't know what the Lord has planned for us, He sees the desires of my and Malcolm's hearts, and softens our hearts to align with His. We don't know how long we'll still be in Germany, but I don't want to spend the rest of our time here identifying myself solely as a foreigner - our lives here are no longer defined by the fact that we didn't grow up here. We swing backwards and forwards between identifying ourselves as being foreigners abroad in a strange country, and feeling like we've integrated quite well. 

It's awkward to express, and it's an awkward feeling. I'd say that this blog shows this shifting back and forth quite clearly, and this awkward new title suits this awkward phase of life documented in this blog quite well. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Bartlett Residence

Bearing in mind that the vast majority of the people we love will most likely not step foot across our threshold here in Germany, never drink coffee or tea out of our Ikea mugs and put their feet up on our coffee table, I've decided to share some pictures of our home.

With a view of the forest across the valley, I love our living room. I love that the shelf is full of books on topics that make me want to pick them up, and that there are games stashed away. I love that a blanket to snuggle under and our excessive tea collection (since I only really drink Rooibos and Malcolm only really drinks black tea) are within reach from the couch. I love the bits and pieces that somehow signify that it's us that live here. 

As one walks in from our long entrance hall with bikes obstructing the way, this is what you see. 

If you scale the balcony and come in through our balcony door, you'll see this. (PLEASE DON'T DO THIS???)
Except the wilted flowers have been thrown away now. And I have great plans for the big grey wall.

There are still a few things that I'd like to happen in this next picture. That said, I'm well aware that our printer (with no ink) is likely to stay here in the bookshelf, unconnected, until we move out one day. I love the pictures, though - the town halls of places that we've called home (Pietermaritzburg, Eshowe, Durban, Marburg). This was Malcolm's idea - he has some pretty good ones, and not only chemistry-related!

This little rhino came along with us, from a table in mum and dad's lounge, disassembled and packed into our bags, then reassembled here to stand on our table.
We also brought along some of our wedding presents, this white cloth being one.

I didn't want a plain white lampshade. Pretty lampshades I like cost more than seems at all reasonable. Malcolm fixed this dilemma with a little DIY, and I'm proud of him!

Granny crocheted all through Christmas, and when we left, I was able to bring this doily as well as the yellow ones on the dining table along with us. I love them and I love that it reminds me of her. Yet sometimes I feel like an old lady for having them, but then I look at this photo and see how wrinkled this one is, and conclude that an old lady would keep it lying beautifully flat.

And the ones on this table would be better aligned. Dinner for one?

And here it is again, as I see it when I walk out of our bedroom in the morning. Now you see where our kitchen is...

 It's small, but it has windows! I will never take kitchen windows for granted again!
Also, see those plug points up above the kitchen cupboards? I wonder what one would plug in there...?

This place has certainly come a long way in the last two months, and I'm looking forward to discovering what God has planned for us here - who will sit in this lounge? Who will drink our other varieties of tea that we don't drink? What will we talk about? What will we experience? 
Please pray that we use this space that we've been placed in, to make the Lord's name famous, for the gift of hospitality and for great opportunities to invite people in.