Sunday, July 29, 2012


           Suzanne and I have now completed our first week of training with Wycliffe. If you are wondering why we are going through a two-week training program when we are already members and have been teaching in Germany for several years, let me give you a quick review. Since Suzanne and I were members of different missions when we got married, we decided to join Wycliffe together and Suzanne then had to go through orientation. Being married meant that I would join her in that endeavor.

            Preliminaries being out of the way, what have we been up to in this orientation? Well, many things, but one that stood out was a session on missionary kids. Have you ever been in a room where a speaker or presenter is giving a report on a group of people to which you belong? I was not the only MK in the room, but I did feel pressure to speak on behalf of MKs, and something I have always resisted is being put in a box. I suppose that’s a characteristic of a missionary kid. J Anyway it got me into a little bit of self-conscious navel gazing but it also made me think about many of my friends and family who are in the same strange boat as I am. No two MK experiences are quite alike, even with siblings growing up in the same place. As such, I have tried not to judge or make assumptions about how and why an MK acts the way he or she does. Now that I am a teacher at BFA, I am in a position to work with these kids, and I have to figure out how best to do that. I must confess that I often feel at a loss.

My small group guys ~ a weekly dining/discussion event.
            I do believe that I learned something this past week in part from a Facebook post written by a BFA student who I led in a small group for the past three years. He wrote me a very kind note thanking me for being his group leader and stating that he was going to miss me this upcoming year as I will be in the states. It touched me because, quite frankly I had felt so inadequate as a group leader and usually bemoaned my inabilities to Suzanne, who being the encouraging and loving wife that she is, and wise as well I might add, kept encouraging me. It’s interesting when you want to feel bad about yourself but someone you love refuses to let you. She kept urging me to take the long view and to just be faithful in doing what I could, but I confess to dwelling on darker feelings. Then I got this message, and it made me realize that even though I did not have all the answers and the life changing Bible studies, what can often matter is just showing up and caring. It’s true that even though I felt that I was not a great small group leader I care deeply about the young men in my group and pray for them especially now heading into their senior year.

Fun signs from our travels. Who knew Larry had collectables?
So take heart if there are situations in your life about which you are discouraged. Sometimes we seem to struggle on for a while without seeing the results of that effort, and quite frankly, most of the time we never do. But every once and a while we get a glimpse; a signpost on the road telling us we are walking the right way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Thanksgiving

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, 
in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.”  
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are

Today I am thankful for...

light Orlando breezes blowing humid
Chuck's chicken on the stove
colorful stamps from Isaac's youth
gifts from a friend
French anniversary dinner celebration
Our lovely dinner locale
God's grace to me, a sinner
book treasures discovered on dusty shelves
cheering husband & father-in-law in ping-pong
having the right coupon at checkout
absence of gator-sighting
anticipation of ice-cold gelati after dinner
chatting & phone call from Switzerland
Pre-dinner photo op
2 years & 1 day with new last name
knowing new niece & nephew in the flesh
God's provision for us through his people

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Colossians 3:17

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life on the Road

Living on the ancient European landmass makes one cognizant of the rich history the people there have inherited. The past is ever present, speaking from crumbled castle ruins, soaring cathedral spires and rutted country lanes, trodden upon by people long ago past from this earth. The place is so settled, so organic, that walking on still used Roman roads past sixteenth century hunting lodges simply means another trip to a friend's house. You can't miss the impact of the past when your small car barely scrapes through the narrow streets of any given town. Stability and tradition are still an important part of life there, even in the days of globalization and the European Union.

American history is made up of different components. Beginning with settlers and outcasts arriving on these shores several hundred years ago, continuing with the restless and relentless drive west on covered wagons or railroads and expanding with the invention of the automobile, the story of this country is one of movement, expansion and change. Life on the road is a classic American tale and Suzanne and I have been on our own version of one as we have traveled across much of the mid-west seeing friends and partners.  But even in this country of so much transience, historical markers on the roadside tell us that we are not the first to pass through here. I have found that even though Americans embrace change, we have a keen interest in our country's history in a way that Europeans do not have for theirs.

The above comparison of the two continents was on my mind as we made our way through record-breaking heat, in our Dodge Caravan. Appropriate name for our vehicle I think. We loaded our "covered wagon" down with all manner of stuff we collected as we have cleaned out Suzanne's storage sites, and just like the settlers of old, have had to dispose of that which has weighed us down. Each place we stopped, we found friends and family, but had to say good-bye almost as soon as we arrived. We found that our van became our "home" during this period, being one of the only constants we had.

Since I have spent much of my life on the road, a journey seems like a good metaphor for life. Not that I am the first to make that connection. I may be one of the last. But this year seems especially fitting to compare to a long road trip. We are here for a short time and plan on returning to Germany next summer, and so it can be difficult not to think of this as just a transition phase. Something that Suzanne and I want to work on is making sure that we get the most out of this time, that we love deeply and care meaningfully for the people and places we encounter, even if we will leave them again before long.

Life on the road can be hard. But it can also be a meaningful place to find peace, as you realize what few things are actually there to hang on to. Some of my thoughts for the week.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ich bin eine Baustelle

In the middle of our travels through the Midwestern states, we find ourselves this morning in Branson, Missouri looking out across a beautiful college campus while eating our breakfast on a porch. Like most colleges, this one is fixing facades, cleaning out storage rooms and generally updating buildings and grounds during the summer holidays

The German city that we left two and a half weeks ago has also been undergoing some updating. The river that runs through the town of Kandern is being widened to avoid another flood like the one the town experienced over 100 years ago. The Germans plan ahead! The construction project has meant uprooting trees, purchasing portions of private property, widening riverbeds and rerouting water flow. The project has already taken over 18 months and is likely to be "Im Bau" another 9-12 months until completion.

Kandern construction as viewed from our living room window.
As we have re-entered the states and have been able to see friends, family and supporters, God has gently shown me the "Im Bau" signs in my life. Anxiousness and fear seem to characterize my interactions with others, and the overflow of my heart is not peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness or self-control.

Instead, I want to control Isaac's driving: "Turn here;" "You know, you can go through that light." I tend to make quick judgments of people and places: "This isn't how they do it in Germany." Some of these things are natural repercussions of reverse culture shock, but I sense their roots going deeper. There are attitudes to be uprooted and mindsets to be widened. I am reminded of Paul's challenge in Romans 12:2 to "be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind..." 

When friends ask about what we will be doing during this year of furlough, Isaac has graduate school to put on the conversational plate. My plate is empty. But through three weeks of pneumonia and three weeks of traveling, I am hearing a call to be purposely under construction this year. 

Ich bin eine Baustelle. I am a construction site. 

These words were on the bathroom marker board at our dear friends' house last night: 
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to the Lord. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:4-7
Isaac took the picture of Kandern construction so that we might see their amount of progress when we return to our assignment in a year. I pray we are able to see a great amount of God's progress in us during this same year. Blessed be the name of the Lord.