Fall Break (a month and a half late)

So a month and a half ago I went on a really sweet fall break trip! and then I didn’t write about it. And then I didn’t write about anything. So instead of relaying all the minute details, I am just making a top ten list. With a sprinkling of pictures. Please enjoy if you so choose.

10 Cool Fall Break Things That Happened In No Particular Order of Importance Because That Is Hard, But Sort Of Chronologically

10. The time when my friends and I left our single piece of luggage on the baggage claim and walked through the passport control without it… We are greeted by our Hungarian AirBnB host and she asks us about if we have our luggage and we all just look at each other like “what have we done…” In no less than 30 seconds while we are all staring at each other with no idea of what to do, Meredith saw the door open and she ran back through passport control to go retrieve our lost luggage (still debating on whether this breaks some Hungarian law statute… It probably does).

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GoPro selfies in front of the Hungarian Parliment Building

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hero’s square at night is pretty cool

9. When Meredith said “latagatakozpont” and our eyes were opened to the beauty of learning random words in random languages and casually using them. #Kozpont5ever

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hungarian baths are fun

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yummy food. that is the theme of Hung(a)ry

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the Parliament building at night

8. When Tory and I stopped to talk to an old man playing violin next to a model of Dracula’s castle and then he started talking really loud and started to touch Tory’s face and I really had no idea what to do.

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7. Going to a random classical music concert and Raquel was there and we had this awesome reunion and talked for an hour at a Viennese cafe where authors and philosophers used to sit and converse.

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6. When Meredith and I went to the Haus des Musik and spent at least 5 minutes dancing to “Mozart Reloaded” aka EDM Mozart and it was fantastic.

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Rathaus (town hall!)

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Stephensdom Wien

5. Eating crisp apple strudel in Salzburg and going on the Sound of Music tour and singing all the songs and making all the Austrians hate us.

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crisp apple strudel, but no schnitzel with noodles

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meredith is not 16 going on 17

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God’s sunset on Lake Mondsee 🙂

4. Legally grafitti-ing the John Lennon Wall. (special thanks to the random other Americans who were also studying abroad and lent us their spray paint)

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“make friends around the world”

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St. Vitus, Prague

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Art Nouveau windows!

3. Chocolate being the major food group I consumed in Prague

2. Spending 24 hours in Rome and being Lizzy McGuire even though Paulo never met us and the Trevi Fountain was closed and under construction. Also accidentally spending 30 euros on the most amazing Italian food of my life

  1. Spending the week with Emma, Meredith, Aggie, Tory and Ellen!

Annecy: A Journal Entry

I’ve been a little blog absent. Sorry, dedicated followers (aka mom and dad)! Since the aforementioned (see here) post on The Frenchiest Thing To Ever Happen, more really frenchy things have happened. I will do a quick French things run down: I visited Marseille, I went to Paris for the weekend and was a tourist and loved it, went back to Marseille for a field trip, signed up for a 6k color run and it only was 2k but I still got the photos so who cares? And now, the subject of this post, in the category of frenchy things: ANNECY.

Holy cannoli guys. Annecy is the most beautiful place. Definitely my favorite place in France thus far. It’s like the France you see in the movies. Picture Beauty and the Beast. That is the view out of the window of the airbnb we are staying in.

Talk about a Disney movie set...

Talk about a Disney movie set…

Or, for those of you who have not chosen to culture yourself in what precious mountainous French towns look like, I will describe the scenery. A giant lake. The French Alps. Also fall colors. And the sun. It’s literally unreal. It’s like a French Lake Tahoe. The mountains are nuts. The lake is nuts. The natural beauty is literally absurd. God is killing it over here in France, guys. All that to say, Annecy is easy on the eyes.

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hello beautiful

My lovely housemates, Katie and Hannah, and I took the 7:25am bus to the Aix TGV station yesterday morning to start our adventure. TGV stands for train grande vitesse. Aka super fast train. We took a 8:28a TGV to Lyon. We got to see the French country side blow past us at 300 km/h. Which was pretty cool. At Lyon we got off and transferred onto a 2 hour bus to Annecy. Katie and I were sitting near each other on the bus and kept looking at each other so excited as the bus started driving through the mountains. It was unreal. These are not baby mountains. These are monsters. And they are beautiful. We ended up in Annecy at noon. Our lovely airbnb host allowed us to come to our airbnb 5 hours before check in which rocked. We have this precious little room in the top of an a-frame apartment building. And our host is also awesome. We dropped off our bags and decided to get lunch. We went to a little pasta place and then we started walking around the old village. Then we ended up outside the old village and BAM there is the Lake. It was crazy. The fall colors are already changing here because we are further north than Aix, and it’s beautiful. We just walked around a park on the lake for a while. And then sat on a bench and just took in the beauty and majesty of the mountains. In the park, there were probably 300 little kids doing laps in some sort of run/walk a thon. It was so cute!

view from le pont d'amour

view from le pont d’amour

After walking around, we headed back to our airbnb. We crashed for a little while, Katie and I trying to make a game plan and Hannah taking a nap. After trying to figure something up, we just decided to go get some food and a coffee to warm up. We went to a cute little cafe called Boston Cafe (Hannah was pumped). The lady was super sweet and I got a hot chai latte and it was fantastic. Then we wandered around and saw some gorgeous old buildings and little alley ways and a castle (chateau👌🏻). We saw a gorgeous basilica and started walking to it and ended up taking a little hike around the outside which was awesome. Very fall-y.  Then we got to the basilica and sat on a stone wall and just stared at it and the mountains in the background. I turned on the song Nothing to Say by Andrew Peterson because it was so appropriate. Literally perfect. And I just sat there thanking God for gorgeous mountains and His creation and this life. He doesn’t promise painless, but He does promise full life. And I’m getting a little taste of that!!! So cool. Then we went back to the apartment to figure out dinner. We ended up eating at this cute restaurant and were très francais and got a pot of fondue with bread for dinner. SO YUMZ. We went back to the airbnb and watched one of my favorite movies ever: Stick It! And then were asleep by 12:30 after a lonnnng day.

We woke up and walked downstairs to breakfast from our host! I got the call that my afternoon adventure was still on (I’ll get there). After a late start we went to the gare routière (bus station) to figure out how the buses worked. Then we grabbed some food from a bakery and walked over to the lake and sat on a bench and just took it in again. After lots of pictures, we walked around the lake a bit and then returned to the airbnb. I changed and then walked to grab the bus to go: PARAGLIDING! In France it’s called “parapente.” And Parapente is BOMB. So I took the 2:15 bus and got to the place at 2:45. But I wasn’t supposed to be there until 3:45. But there were no other buses. So I just sat there and stared at this gorgeous mountain with all these people paragliding and thanked God for this day and this place and this life. At 3:45 I got into a van with two other people and three instructors to drive to the top of the aforementioned beautiful mountain. We got up there, chose an instructor and then got hooked up! Alain my instructor didn’t speak good English so we spoke in French. He hooked me I tot the harness/seat and hooked himself up and hooked us both to the parachute and then was like walk in front of me. So I did. And then suddenly the parachute was in the air and it tugged me backwards a bit and then we were in the air too. It was CRAZY. I essentially simply ran down a hill, off a mountain. I got to see the lake and the mountains and the beautiful fall colors and the two chateaux from above. And it was amazing. Alain let me steer a bit, then he did some tricks (turn a bit one direction and then turn hard the other direction). We landed and it was just as if I had jumped a foot in the air. Thirty minutes later and I had just paraglided!

my new friend Alain aka the reason i'm still alive

my new friend Alain aka the reason i’m still alive

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After getting unhooked and getting my pictures and all that, I waited until 5:40 and walked over to the bus stop. And waited. And waited. And waited. And at 6 realized that the 5:45 bus doesn’t come on Saturdays. The other three people at the bus station were Asian but all spoke English. I told them the bus wasn’t coming until 6:45. Instead of waiting they decided to attempt to hitchhike. I can’t tell you if it works or not because one minute they had their thumbs out and then I looked back two minutes later and they were gone. So either they got picked up or they walked. Still unsure. In my time waiting I wrote the first part of this blog post. And I saw a bit of the sunset. And appreciated nature and listened to Andrew Peterson and my hands froze a bit.

I finally caught the bus home and then went back to the apartment to be reunited with Katie and Hannah. We exchanged stories and then made a game plan to go out for dinner. After moseying around a bit, we found a pub that had Flamenkeuche, one of our new favorite delicacies. Its an Alsacian (northern France with German influences) pizza of sorts, that has crème, onions and bacon on it. It was awesome. Also the Rugby World Cup is going on in the UK right now and the France v. All Blacks (New Zealand’s team aka the world champs) were playing. It was cool to be at a pub next to a couple of bars where everyone was singing Le Marseillaise at the beginning (French national anthem) and cheering or booing depended on what was happening. The French and their sports…

We slept in until 9 am the next morning and then went down stairs to have breakfast with our host again. She was as sweet as ever, and left us a host of bread and croissants and drinks and fruit. She even told us where we could rent what we would need for the day’s activities…. Which was rollerblading! SO FUN. We rented roller blades for two hours and made it a fourth of the way around the lake. It was a gorgeous view and I got to see so much of the surrounding area. It made me feel like I was actually participating in the fall season 🙂 Also, about to call Katie out here (sry), because she totally wiped out going down a hill but we met this super nice older French man who was also roller blading named Raphael! He told us all about the cool sports he does (rollerblading, running, off trail skiing, etc) and skated with us back to the bush we hid our shoes in. He also showed us how to knock some real Annecy apples off a tree. He was super nice, and he studied for a year at BGSU so we had an Ohio connection! After that, we grabbed lunch, and went back to the apartment to pack up.

pre roller blading

pre roller blading selfie, because why not

It took me a little while to convince Katie and Hannah, but I got them to go hiking and we got to see all of Annecy, and then we ran into a cute little boutique, aptly named Eclectic where Katie and I each bought a cool pair of boots. We grabbed dinner, went back to the apartment and grabbed our bags and made our way to the train station. On the five minute walk, it started to downpour. We knew it was Annecy’s way of sending us off, so we wouldn’t be sad that we weren’t staying :).

If you’ve stuck with me this far, THANKS! This post is also super late (like 3 and a half weeks)… But this is mostly to show off the fall beauty of Annecy, and for my mom to read… and for me to one day look back on this post and be like oh yeah tbt to that time I went to Annecy that was cool.

The Frenchiest Thing To Ever Happen

Is Frenchiest a word? I just decided it is. Anyway, the Frenchiest thing ever happened to me this morning and I had to share.

My housemate, Katie, and I went running this morning into town, and on the way back, stopped at the little market they have every morning (there is a bigger one in a different location Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, but this one happens every morning until 1p). The backdrop for this story is that song from Beauty and the Beast, about the poor (lol not Aix) provincial town. We bought a cured sausage, and bought some cheese and two baguettes, but we wanted some fruit. We went up to a fruit stand, and as we were deciding what fruit to buy, I observed the guy running the stand. Other than the beret and striped shirt (people don’t wear that as much as the movies make you think), this guy was the quintessential French guy. He was walking around behind the fruit, talking to another vendor, and just genuinely happy. We bought some strawberries and apples. He gave us a slice of mango and I basically fell head over heels for this mango. BEST MANGO I’VE EVER TASTED. Anyway, after walking around a little bit, Katie and I compiled the rest of our money and I decided I had to buy a mango for myself. I went up to our nice French friend who sold us the other fruit. I asked him (in French) how much for a mango. He said two euros. I slipped into English and said I didn’t have enough. Then he said, (in French) “how much do you have?” I told him and he said I could have it and motioned for a kiss on the cheek. There was a table in between us so I was mercifully let out of that obligation, but our interaction with him was the cutest, Frenchiest thing ever. I literally just bargained with a French man for fruit. At a market. In a poor provincial town. I am Belle.

My life is a dream here. I love it. Happy Friday 🙂

The Other Side of Study Abroad

My dad always used to say, “don’t compare how you feel on the inside to how people look like they feel on the outside.” I don’t think this advice really took hold in me until my teenage years. We hit high school and we suddenly aren’t the carefree kids we once were. We are concerned about what others think of our hair, our clothes, our actions and so much more. When I feel like I’m falling apart on the inside, and I see all these people who look like they are balancing it all fine, it just makes me fall apart more. And that is when I need my dad’s advice most.

I wanted to write a post on this before I left for France, but in the whirlwind of getting ready and leaving, I never had time. But then I got to France and realized that it still applies. So, here it goes. My take on social media, expectations, and the like, but from a study abroad standpoint.

I love Instagram. I’m just putting that out there. It’s such a fun way to see what is going on in other’s lives, and to post cute, artsy pictures of my life. But I think there is a danger to Instagram, and that’s the reason I deleted the app for most of my sophomore year. It’s too easy to look at someone’s life on Insta, and think that they have it so easy and perfect, with no problems. Or to look at the pictures someone is posting and be jealous of their life. I really felt like it was pulling me away from a Godly perspective of other people and my own life.

This has happened just in my first week in France, in regards to others, and I’m sure in regards to my own posts. If you follow me on Insta, or are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen all my pictures. And I’m sure there are some out there who saw them and were jealous (especially of my lavender macaroon. I know it). But what my Facebook and Instagram didn’t portray were the nights that I fell apart, so homesick and upset that I bawled. It didn’t show the days where I wandered around the city by myself, lonely for those I love across the ocean. It didn’t show the pain of adapting to a new situation.

That isn’t to say that I don’t absolutely love Aix and being here. I DO. It’s becoming my home, and it’s a beautiful place. That also isn’t to disregard how blessed I am to be able to study abroad. But there is another side of study abroad, and life off of social media. And that’s what we lose when we look at the pictures without taking into account that they were taken by a person. A person with problems, pains, and struggles. Don’t remove that from the pictures.

I hope that those at Grove City, and wherever you are, who aren’t in Europe aren’t thinking that my whole semester is just macaroons and Instagram posts. There is a fair bit of that :). But there are pains and sorrows and hurts, just like anywhere else. I’m a person, far, far from home.

I am thankful for this bittersweet, very real experience this past week. God is so faithful, and He has brought sweet sisters in Christ into my life, even here in the south of France. He never fails to go ahead of me and make a way. I’m so thankful and I praise Him for never leaving me, and allowing me to desperately cling to Him as I go about my life here. He is teaching me so much, through the joy and pain.

All in all, study abroad rocks. But don’t let people tell you it’s all rainbows and butterflies. It’s real life, sometimes things suck, but God is faithful to bring you through all the pain, to the joy of being with Him, no matter what country, which companions, and everything else.

These are my Saturday thoughts 🙂

The Beach and the City Life

Bonjour, mes amis! Five days in Aix already. It feels like forever already. Needless to say, Southern France is everything eveyone says it is. Absolutely gorgeous and quaint and can I just say that I have never eaten better? YUM.

Yesterday, my university took us on a tour to La Ciotat, a little town an hour south, right on the Mediterranean coast. After arriving, we went straight to the market to pick up food for a picnic. My little group of friends (six of us), spent a total of 16 euros for all of us to eat! I bought the baguettes, someone bought camembert (stinky cheese), someone bought, sausage, another bought really amazing grapes, and then we bought a knife to cut. We were taken to a beautiful park and we sat down and made our own little sandwiches. It was so french and yummy.

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group selfie with the Mediterranean.

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Shannon is our stinky cheese model.

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The leftovers of a very French meal.

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After doing a few more things, they took us à la plage! The beach was lovely, and the water a little chilly. But that didn’t stop us from getting in and wading. After 20 or 30 minutes in the sea, we noticed no one else was in the water, and realized that while we knew there were jellyfish, some of our classmates actually got stung by them. Not wanting to have to test out the whole “if you pee on a jellyfish sting it makes it feel better” idea, we got out of the water and spent the next hour just enjoying the sun.

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GoPro cred to my fam and Jake! ❤

After the beach, we took the scenic route home, which brought us to Les Callanques de Cassis. Cassis is a town right next to La Ciotat and it is so gorgeous. Les Callanques are these crazy beautiful cliffs over looking the town and ocean. We didn’t know what we had pulled up to until we walked up this path. And saw THIS.

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GOD IS COOL AND MADE THIS.

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The view was too pretty not to…

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Ya girl KT.

After a ton of pictures, and a lot of praise to the God who made this crazy beautiful place I get to inhabit, we got back on the bus. They dropped us off back where we had left from that morning (thirty minute walk from home) and my housemates (Katie and Hannah)  and I stopped at Monoprix (French target) to buy some necessities. We walked home, and I checked my Fitbit. We walked 9+ miles yesterday. We were whooped, needless to say.

Today was la premiere jour de classe (first day of class!!!). I only had one class… And it started at 2:30…. So I slept in, went running with KT, and then we walked into town and met our friends for Crêpes à GoGo (crepes on the go)! I got a Nutella crepe. And it was warm and melty and beautiful and lovely.IMG_3173

Then I was off to my first class, French history as seen through it’s movies. The professor lectured completely in French for an hour straight. And it was about analyzing films. To be completely honest, even if she had said it all in English, the subject probably would have confused me. French made it harder… I left class with my head swimming.

Afterwards, I went across the street to the beautiful Cathedrale de Sainte Sauveur and read my Bible and prayed. God is so good and that cathedral is gorgeous. It was an awesome time to worship the One who is with me always, even as I traverse a new country with new people.

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After, I didn’t really have plans, so I sat on a fountain on this cute square and listened to some live music. I went on a fruitless quest to try and find this Macaroon shop that either doesn’t exist or is very well hidden. I found Pizza Capri instead, a place my host mom recommended. It was SO good. Except I found out the hard way that Pepperoni in France doesn’t mean Pepperoni. It means pepper. I think? My housemates and my host mom and I had a really confusing conversation about what poivron, poivre, and pepperoni mean. TBH, the jury is still out on what all of them mean. Anyway, I got some pepper pizza and sat on the fountain while I waited for KT to walk from our house. This really sweet lady next to me started making conversation and we talked for 40 minutes in French/English about being here and America, and gun laws, and marriage and her job and her ex-boyfriend and all sorts of things. Her name is Evi and she is seriously so sweet. So far, France has been lovely and friendly, and I cannot complain.

Afterwards, KT and I explored Aix a bit and ended up in H&M.

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Another great day in the books in Aix. Can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next few days 🙂

A Whirlwind

Bonjour, mes amis! I am typing this at 10pm in my little room in my new French home! Ah, the joys of technology. I have safely arrived and am settling in to my new life in Aix-en-Provence, France. C’est magnifique!

The journey to get here was crazy. I boarded a direct flight from Pittsburgh to Paris, which arrived an hour later than planned. Which meant that my one hour layover… Became a six hour layover. That’s right, folks. I missed my flight. After sprinting to the terminal where my flight had already taken off, I tried to find the ticket counter. I asked the people in front of me if I was in the right place but they didn’t speak any English. Awkward. After walking around to figure out if I had found the correct place, I was surrounded by new people in line, who were Americans.

If you’ve never travelled abroad before, finding Americans elsewhere is possibly the best feeling ever. You just want to say “YOU GET ME. You speak English!! This is fantastic.” They were kind enough to allow me to use their phone to call IAU College (my university in Aix) to tell them I wouldn’t be at the airport at 11a… More like 5:25p.

I camped out in the F terminal of the Charles de Gaulle Paris airport. After a few tears, a little Bible reading, and a nap, I felt much better. Funny how rest and the word of the Lord can do that to you 🙂

I got lunch (caprese salad on a crusty baguette, a raspberry macaroon and some Evian) from a little stand called Paul. And then I read until my flight boarded. The man I sat next to on the flight was very kind and we shared some pleasant conversation about the US, Aix, Marseille and how to say some little phrases in French. The girl sitting behind me happened to be a student who was also arriving for my program. I walked down the stairs of the Marseille airport, collected my bags, and was greeted by my host mom, Béatrice! She is a spunky, sweet lady. We waited for a while for my friends and roommates, Katie and Hannah to come. After a bit of baggage confusion (Katie’s bags were lost), we embarked on the journey home, which ended up being a bit more complicated than we might have thought. Katie and I rode a bus from the Airport to Aix, because Béatrice has a mini cooper that couldn’t fit us all and our luggage. She dropped off the luggage and picked us up and took us home. At that point, I had not slept in about 30 hours. My mind couldn’t really process French.

When Béatrice picked us up from the bus stop in Aix, I greeted her by saying “hola.” Clearly, my brain wasn’t processing French (but maybe it was processing Spanish? Even though I can’t speak it? Still confused on this point…)

Béatrice fed us a fantastic dinner (quiche and mache, a Provencal salad). She calls me Ja-me-n-son. It’s precious. Soon after dinner, I finished unpacking, FaceTimed my parents, and went to bed.

Today was a whirlwind as well… Woke up late, did a few things around the house and then explored Aix with my roommates and a few friends. The city is gorgeous. I can’t wait to explore it even more. But jetlagged jweav is tired. So until then, À Bientot!

The Abortion Holocaust

6 million. That is the number of Jews murdered by the Nazi Regime. Six million is the number of people who were considered useless eaters. They were, along with other races the Nazis persecuted, as an exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum said, considered “lives unworthy of life.” The exhibit has a chart of people who were targeted. Anyone with more two or more Jewish grandparents could be considered Jewish.

Had I been born during or before the Holocaust in Germany, I likely would have been killed. Regardless of my belief in Jesus, my two Jewish grandparents would condemn me as a “life unworthy of life.”

Walking through the Holocaust museum is hard, because you see these massive numbers of people killed, and they are so big you can’t even quantify it. Killing six million Jews is equivalent to killing everyone in the state of Tennessee, or the state of Missouri. But even that is hard. Because I don’t know all the people in Tennessee or Missouri. It’s harder still to think that each of those six million Jews had a face, a name, a family. They had dreams, they had hopes. And all of that was dashed by the whims of a sociopathic dictator and the people who quietly did his bidding.

The Holocaust on the surface is horrible. It’s sad enough to hear the numbers. But once you get into the details, it makes it even more difficult to stomach. Even before the official beginning of the Holocaust, though, the Nazis were already implementing tactics for mass-murder. Operation T4 was the code name for the systematic killing of those determined to be physically or mentally disabled and living in institutions across Germany. Those who could not even fight for themselves were being killed, because, once again, they were “lives unworthy of life.”

During the Holocaust, on top of gassing millions of Jews, they would take prisoners in concentration camps and do absurd medical testing on them, in the name of “science” and “progress,” without their consent. After all, they weren’t even really human, were they? The Nazis didn’t think so. The experiments ranged to subjecting the prisoner to absurdly low pressure units, or soaking them in ice baths. These experiments were supposed to be to benefit the military, should a pilot fall out of a plane, would he live if it were extremely cold or other situations? And why not run the tests on those who are unworthy of life anyway?

The other main group of experiments that were run on prisoners were experiments in which the prisoner would be injected with a disease. The doctors would poke and prod and try and figure out solutions that would benefit the perfect Aryan race, and it’s military.

Looking back on the Holocaust, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have let that happen. And, now that it’s over, it’s easy to sit back and distract myself with something, anything other than the truth about what really happened during the Holocaust.

In America today, there is a holocaust going on in our very midst. But instead of six million victims, this modern holocaust has claimed over 58 million victims. Lives that some consider, unworthy of life. And these are not lives that are killed in their homes, nor are they taken to camps and mass exterminated. They are killed in the very place one would think they would be most safe. In their mother’s womb.

Recently, a new video came out today, from the Center for Medical Progress. The gut-wrenching details of a ex-technician from StemExpress having to cut open the face of a baby to get the brain for “tissue donation” almost made me sick.

I’ve blogged about this before, here and here. I don’t need to go through all the details again. Likely, if you’ve been following the details at all, you’ve heard the passionate arguments from both sides.

All I have to ask is, when does it stop? When do we say that we have gone too far, we’ve crossed the line? My heart breaks that this is an industry in our very free, very civilized country. One can only hope that with more knowledge about what abortion really is, more action against it will follow.

All I can say is that I pray earnestly that we will wake up from this nightmare. This American Nightmare, as author Johnathan Parnell calls it. I can only imagine that those who lost their lives to the Nazi regime would have asked that of us, if we were capable of action. For those who don’t have a voice, we must speak strongly, yet with grace, against the taking of these innocent lives.