Lord, how are they increased that trouble me. Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.

These verses in Psalm 3 were comfort to my heart on a day when I seemed all alone and there was no help in sight. I love the phrase, “But thou, O Lord. . . ” Even when troubles, heartaches and other problems seemed to multiply, my Lord is with me and can do the impossible!

Thanking God today for His great compassion, His love, His many gifts to me as His child!

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When I found out that our first grandchild was on the way, my emotions went between being overly excited and being upset–after all, no one asked me if I was ready to be a grandmother! Here I was about to have a new role in life, but it was a role I had no say-so in. However, all of my grumpiness faded as we awaited the birth of our first grandchild, and totally disappeared the first time I held her in my arms. Since then, 5 more grandchildren have been added to the family and I cannot explain the deep love I have for these little people. Having grandchildren is a privilege not everyone has in life, and I am grateful to God for giving me this joy.

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“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

This verse in Genesis is a comfort to me when winter seems long and cold. Recently our temperatures went from -15° Celsius to 19° C within a week. It does my heart so good to get out in the sunshine for walks and bike rides. Spring is probably not here to stay, but for now, I am enjoying the few flowers that are blooming, drying the laundry outside, and knowing that God promises the seasons will never cease!

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Our home in northern Germany is between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, which means we usually have mild winters. Not complaining here! I am cold blooded, don’t like driving in snow, and know someone has to shovel the sidewalks and driveway when it snows. So far, February has brought extreme low temperatures and more snow than we have had in several years. It might not be my first choice, but I am enjoying the beauty!

Today I am thanking God for a sunshine that warms the house, beautiful blue skies, music to warm my soul, and God’s love that teaches me how to love.

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Recently this verse popped out at me while I was reading my devotional book.

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The thought that the darkness in this world cannot overcome the Light, was so encouraging to me. Several days later, I was reading a novel when this verse popped out at me again! Not only is there darkness in the world, but often in us. There are times when everything seems dark and black. But, darkness cannot overcome the Light!

Thank you, Jesus, that you are the Light of the World!!

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Another Year of Grace

It has been almost a year since I last posted. Our website has had issues for the past few years and working through them was not top priority. But, I made it my last big goal of this year to fix things up and get back to posting.

Almost a year ago, I wrote that the year had been hard but full of God’s grace being poured out on us. Little did I know that we would face another such a year. Different. Oh yes. Much different, but also hard, yet full of grace. Grace upon grace!

Christmas without my dad last year meant making new traditions and new memories. I am learning (slowly but surely) to live in the present–not holding on to the past or longing for the future. January was a crazy month when we decided to try the 30 Whole Foods eating. While it was good disciple, I don’t know that I would do it again! In February, Julianna’s good friend, Lena, got married. We enjoyed having Julianna and Uriah here for 2 weeks. It was especially fun to enjoy one of the younger grandchildren who would otherwise get lost in the hustle and bustle of the older kids.

And then came Covid! Who would have thought? Who would have dreamed that our lives would be turned upside down for months on end. The shortage of toilet paper and groceries in general, almost no contact with other people, weeks of not having church services, cancelled plans–especially the furlough that we had carefully and prayerfully planned for over a year.

BUT, as I reflect on all the things we missed out on, I also realize how much God poured into our empty hands as we held them out for Him to fill. We had beautiful weather in northern Germany for much of the spring, summer, and fall, which meant lots of bike rides and walks in the woods. I finally got to work on my “I wish I had time for . . . .” list, things like de-junking (again), practicing lettering for hand made cards, working on piecing together quilt squares I had cut out years ago, making a quilted table runner for Christmas, more time to practice piano, organizing my recipes, reading, and doing puzzles. Meeting with friends was often a walk in the woods or a bike ride instead of at a café with a cup of coffee. Ministry to our church family has been challenging–thinking up creative ways to reach out and encourage each one.

No doubt the biggest blessing was a 2 week vacation with our sons, Travis and Erik. For years I have wanted to take a trip to the mountains again, but other things took priority. Since our trips to the US were cancelled, we decided to travel here in Europe (also before things closed down again). We saw lots of World War I and II sights in France, spent a day in Paris, visited friends and relatives, and spent almost a week surrounded by mountains in southern Germany!

This year has not gone as planned, there have been lots of tears, much uncertainty and frustration, but also so much grace! So, a week before Thanksgiving, I pause again to thank God for His good gifts, for carrying us through this year of uncertainty, and pouring out so many blessings on us!

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Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day in Germany is just another work day,  just another day for almost everybody. When we moved here in 1994, it was important to me that we celebrate Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, so that our kids would experience that part of the USA each year.  When the kids were little, we would have our Thanksgiving celebration after school around 1 pm and then had the afternoon to enjoy.  The last few years, we have to wait until everyone is home from work which means eating around 6:30 pm.  But, I still want to celebrate on the 4th Thursday of November.  Turkey is in the oven, pies and sweet potato casserole are made,  in a bit I will peel the mountain of potatoes and finish up the stuffing.  For now, I sit and reflect.

This year has been a hard year, hard but full of grace and God’s love poured out over our family.  Last Christmas we spent a week with our children and grandchildren.  God gave us safety for the thousands of miles traveled, provided financially for the trip, blessed us with a beautiful house to stay in, and we made memories, memories, memories.

When Fred, Travis and Erik flew home, Kassandra and I flew out to Minnesota.  What a blessing to have time with two of my brothers and their families.  I arrived home in time to spend the last week of my dad’s life helping mom care for him.  My youngest brother and family planned a last minute trip to see dad, but missed him by two days.  Instead they were here for the funeral.  I honestly do not know how we would have walked through that week without them.

Travis and Erik both finished their apprenticeships and were hired to keep working where they did the apprenticeship.  We found a cute apartment for my mom that is just 3 blocks from our house.  My nephew, Joe, and his girlfriend, Saragh, helped paint, put furniture together and much more.  Travis and Erik have gone out of their way to help Oma.   We sold mom’s house and the inheritance certificate came the day before my trip, which was a huge answer to prayer.

The beginning of the year our furnace started dying.  Not a good thing for someone as cold blooded as I am.  When the new furnace was installed, we found out we had water damage in Kassandra’s room.  Long story short, after a lot of mess, tons of appointments with the insurance and the people who would fix things back up, we finally had things back to normal 6 months after we started the project.  But God’s grace carried us through that.

For Kassandra’s wedding, she and I had made a list of all the things that were needed:  her brothers to have vacation, flights, a place for all of us to stay, good weather for an outdoor wedding, a job for her, an apartment for her and Arron and much more.  God answered every single request!

Uriah and Callen both joined our family this year, there are stories of miracles for both of them.  God is good.  I could fly over after Callen was born to help Heidi and enjoy time with our girls and their families.

A year ago I would have panicked if I had known everything we would face this year.  But, looking back, I see grace instead of hard.  Grace upon grace as it says in the Gospel of John. My heart is full. Thank you, God for the hard, but especially for your grace.                   

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We’re going to the Chapel, and we’re going to get married. . .

This summer the wedding bells rang for our family again!  Kassandra married Aaron Stoner on August 10th.  I flew to the USA on July 24th, spent my birthday weekend with Adam, Heidi, and Emory and then went up to Pennsylvania to make Kassandra’s wedding dress.  Fred, Travis, Erik, and Lars arrived on August 5th.  We so enjoyed the time with family!     

Since Erik was the “Maid of Honor” for Kassandra and Travis was a “bridesmaid,” they decided to crash the bridal shower and had matching t-shirts made for themselves and their sisters.  We were so blessed to have my mom and Heidi also there for the bridal shower !              

An outdoor wedding always carries a risk of bad weather, but God blessed with a beautiful day!  The wedding was gorgeous.  Both Kassandra and Aaron wanted their families involved in the wedding ceremony, which made it super special for all of us.

Each time we plan a trip or an event, I notice how quickly it sneaks up on us and then how memories are all we have left.   But, there is so much for which we can be thankful each and every day.  Back in 2012, I started a thankful journal with the goal of writing down 1,000 things for which I was thankful.  The end of August I reached 10,000 on my list.  Although it is a huge number, I know that God has done so much more for me that only the things on my list.  I hope and pray to be more aware of His goodness every passing day.

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The first half of 2019 (and the end of 2018)

Once again, time has flown and our family website has not gotten much attention.  My last post was in September of 2018.  About that time my dad was hospitalized for a week.  We were glad he was able to go home, but within a few weeks, he was back in the hospital, this time in the cancer ward of the university hospital in Hamburg.  He stayed 4 weeks and although the doctors did not want to tell us that Dad was dying, it was obvious his condition was getting worse.

Kassandra had decided to move to the States in December.  I wanted to do one little trip with her before she left.  We ended up getting a super good deal on a trip to Paris and enjoyed 4 days of seeing the sights and experiencing new things.  The Eiffel Tower was by far the most impressive although Notre Dame was a close second.  We both cried when we heard Notre Dame was on fire this April.          

For two years, we had been praying and planning a trip to the USA for Christmas.  We saved extra gifts, had a family paper route and worked on coordinating everyone’s schedules.  On December 20th we flew to Washington DC, spent a few days in Winchester and then drove to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  It was a fabulous week of having our family together.  We ate and played and talked and cried and just enjoyed hanging out together! 

On the last evening, Aaron asked Fred for Kassandra’s hand in marriage.  There is a funny story there, which I love telling!  On January 1st, Aaron proposed and Kassandra accepted!  So, the next wedding is coming up!

My men flew home the beginning of January.  Kassandra and I flew out to Minnesota and enjoyed visiting two of my brothers and their families.  It was a super special time.  I realize at times like this how terrible I am at taking pictures.  I don’t think I have any pictures of our time in Minnesota.

I arrived home on January 16th.  The following day, Travis passed his test to be a licensed electrician!  On the Sunday the 20th, Mom called and needed help taking care of Dad.  Fred drove me over and I spent the following few days helping care for Dad.  We were so thankful for the great care we received from the Palliative Team since  neither mom nor I are good at the nursing thing!  On Tuesday, the 22nd, Erik passed his test to be a bicycle mechanic.  On Thursday morning, mom woke Fred and me to tell us Dad was no longer breathing.  We sat around the bed, crying but also rejoicing that he was no longer in pain.  What a crazy week–great rejoicing over the success of our boys, and great sadness over the loss of Dad.

While I was in Minnesota, my brother Mark bought tickets for his family to come see Dad one last time.  They arrived 2 days after Dad went home to be with Jesus.  Although it was sad for them to miss seeing Dad, I was so blessed to have them here to walk with us through the difficult week of planning the funeral and for the funeral itself.  We chose to have a graveside service just for the family.  Our 6 men carried the casket and laid Dad to rest here in Barmstedt.  We stood around the grave crying and grieving and tried to sing. The following day we had a memorial service in the church Dad had pastored and given his life for.  The fact that we buried Dad on the day our grandson, Nekoda, turned 2, did not go unnoticed.  Life should be cherished, every day, every minute.

Since I have never dealt with the death of someone close to me, I was shocked, and I mean SHOCKED at how much paper work there is to deal with.  Looking back over the last few months, I know God has carried us and given us all we need.  The beginning of April, we moved mom to a cute apartment just a few blocks from our house.  The mounds of paper work are dwindling and hopefully the sale of the house will soon be finalized.

May 21st while I was at the hospital waiting for Fred to get testing done, I had a call from Julianna that she was in labor.   A few hours later, Uriah Dean Christianson was born!  So adorable–I can’t wait to hold him!

And, now we turn our energy to wedding preparation.  While we flew out to Minnesota, Kassandra and I made a list of things we needed to pray about for her wedding preparation.  At the time it seemed overwhelming, and even more so after Dad died.  But, God has graciously answered most of the requests so far.  I will start on the flower girl dresses this next week and make Kassandra’s dress when I fly over the end of July.

So, there we have it!  A few months condensed into a few paragraphs.  One thing that has stuck out through all of this:  God’s grace has been full and overflowing!  Grace upon grace upon grace!

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One of my goals for 2018 was to update this family website regularly, but when I went on in January the website was not working.  After a lot of back and forth, my amazing nephew, Joe, got it working again! But, I haven’t taken the time to do an update.

In February, we had a whirlwind trip to Frankfurt to renew passports for Kassandra and Erik.  Because they were under 16 the last time they applied for a passport, they had to appear in person (after this, passports can be renewed through the mail).  But, there are no longer appointments available anywhere in northern Germany, we could not get an appointment in Berlin, so we had to go to Frankfurt.  We ended up leaving at midnight to arrive in time for our 7:30 am appointment, and shortly before 9 am, we were on our way home.  It made for a fun day in the car as a family and fun memories!

One of my goals for 2017 was to learn how to knit entrelac.  It was a challenge but super fun and I was very pleased with the result! And, I finally finished it in March of this year.

In April we enjoyed a lengthy visit from my nephew, Joe, and his girl friend, Saragh.  I love being an aunt and it is sad that I don’t really know my nieces and nephews, so this was a super fun couple of weeks.  Saragh and Kassandra did a number of puzzles while they were here.

For Erik’s birthday, he jokingly said that he wanted a cake, topped with a big cookie, topped with donuts, topped with ice cream, topped with whipped cream.  He didn’t really expect me to go through with it, but we made him his dream cake!  Talk about sugar overload!!!

Sometime the beginning of the year, I was feeling quite overwhelmed with trying to keep up with my household, the ministries at the church, all the paper work and correspondence plus more and more counseling opportunities.  Added to that was my job teaching English.  After much prayer, we decided that I should quit my job and that Fred would look for a “mini-job.”  The beginning of July was my last day at the school.  I was honored with letters, flowers, songs and a teary good-bye.  For 12 1/2 years I taught at the grade school in Bokholt-Hanredder and I am thankful for the many memories and many good friendships that came from those years.

Travis turned 22 in July.   We spent the evening playing Cosmic Encounter with him!  And, typical for the middle child, I don’t have any pictures of his birthday! 🙁

Kassandra spent almost the entire month of July in the States and flew back with Julianna and the 3 kids arriving on July 26th.  It was such a joy to have Julianna and her family here for 4 weeks (Nathan joined them after 10 days).  It was fun to interact with the kids on a daily basis.  As always, I am grateful for memories and pictures!  And, since words cannot adequately express how wonderful the time was, here are a bunch of pictures:

And here we are almost at the end of September.  The days are getting shorter, it is turning cooler and signs of fall are all around us.  Exciting times are ahead for our family, but for today, I will enjoy the minutes, cherishing the people I love and all the good gifts God gives me!

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