Monday, July 8, 2013

Gettysburg and Friends

We have had a full week already in Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia area. We are so blessed to have such great friends and family. Thank you to our dear hosts and friends who met up with us. It was so good to see you.

The pictures below are of the non-people highlights of the holiday weekend: (clockwise from left) fireworks display in Lititz, PA; discharging weapons at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (PA); reenacting of one portion of the battle; Isaac enjoying his borrowed wool threads as he joined the Michigan 3rd regiment for day 2 of the battle this past Saturday. Happy late 4th!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Stories We Tell

The stories we tell each other matter. In a recent edition of the journal Books and Culture, Wheaton professor Alan Jacobs lamented the tendency of some to praise the value of story as truth, without clarifying that what is being narrated is more important than the narrative itself. So, what kinds of stories do we tell? Are we constantly harping on the negatives in our lives? Do our stories revolve only around us? Do they seem to go nowhere? I believe that as Christians, it is important that we tell each other about what God is doing in our lives, so those stories serve can refresh us, and help us continue on our journey of faith. Western Christianity seems to tend toward the individualistic. While this is good to a point, we need each other much more than we usually believe we do. Each person's story is part of how God is building His kingdom here and now.

As Suzanne and I have traveled from Texas to Michigan, we have heard about the ways that God has worked in the lives of our friends and have shared how He has changed us this year. Sometimes these stories involved pain, other times great pleasure. Often they were a mixture of both, a reminder of the ways that the Holy Spirit uses the hard times to mold and shape and bring forth beauty. Like most good stories, they do not follow a simple path of struggle to liberation, but include doubt and faith interwoven in a tapestry that we believe God will fully redeem when He comes again to redeem creation, and usher in the new heavens and the new earth. We have been encouraged that so many of our friends continue to walk with the Lord, even when they are not perfect. The whole point of the gospel is that we need a savior. We must be continually reminded of this.

Our stories keep us traveling. They let us know that we are not alone in our striving. They show us that in spite of what we are feeling now, hard times will not last forever. They encourage us to be aware of the ways that God is working in our lives when we may find it difficult to acknowledge it. So keep telling your stories to one another. They matter.  


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Piano Story: Grandma's Secret Music

This Roland digital piano was a mainstay for me through graduate school at Wichita State University. It had fantastic touch and sampling sounds, and was a delight to the students that came to me as well with its assortment of instruments and pop rhythms. While it was never an adequate replacement for an acoustic, it was a convenient alternative that didn't keep my grandmother, also my roommate, awake until 2:00 a.m., which was often when I put in valuable practice hours."Oh, I'm awake anyway," she would wave me off as I apologized for the noise. 

Pics taken recently to aid in selling the piano before we return to Germany.

Quite unintentionally, the piano became a window for me to glimpse her inner world. A few months after the instrument arrived in her home, I began to notice small things that were different than I had left them: the volume would be higher, a score had been moved or the bench was tucked in. Sometimes it was left on, and once I thought I heard it being closed as I opened the door. 

"Grandma, are you playing my piano?" I asked her one day. 

"Yes. I play sometimes," her eyes twinkling. 

"Would you play for me?" 

Looking down, she replied, "We'll see." 

Eleven years later, I have still never heard her play. She asked my mom and dad to come pick it up a few years ago while we were still in Germany. "I can't play it anymore," she explained sadly, "my arthritis hurts me too bad." 

Grandma this March. She takes fantastic pictures, doesn't she?

Visiting her this semester, I asked if she remembered what songs she liked to play. "Oh yes!" And she began to hum and play her fingers in the air, swaying from side to side in her chair. Even in the absence of a piano, she's still playing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bible Study Fellowship

I have been so blessed by these women (and others not pictured) in my BSF group this year. There really is nothing like studying God's Word in a group on a regular basis to knit your hearts together. God has used these women to encourage and challenge me to more fully trust him. He just knew I needed them this year. So thankful.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Isaac Talking "Shop"

The following is a short video that we put together as an introduction for BFA students interested in an AP history for 2013-2014 school year. A good part of it is details about how the class will operate, but there are a few hidden gem moments as well. The filming & editing was done entirely on our school-purchased iPad minis. Enjoy!
AP Histories Intro from Suzanne Micheals on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


1  a : a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing
b : a word or symbol used in logic to designate an entity
2 : a descriptive often disparaging epithet <called him names>

3 a : REPUTATION <gave the town a bad name>
b : an illustrious record : fame <made a name for himself in golf>

c : a person or thing with a reputation

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe."
~Proverbs 18:10

We have learned so many names this year. I have gotten to know new Wycliffe friends, ladies from Bible Study Fellowship and our church, and women in a local book club and German club. Isaac has learned the names of professors, classmates and key figures in the field of Reformation history. We have grown to know our church family members, popular locales in Denton and the talk show hosts on NPR. 

Catching up with Downton Abbey has presented name-learning opportunities [Isaac: "Who is that again?" / Me: *eye roll*]. Dear friends and family have had and named babies (my sister's is still on the way!), and we have continued dreaming our list of potential names for our future children [Isaac: "What about Hieronymus?" / Me: *blank stare* / Isaac: "Polycarp?"]. 

In the midst of this name-learning, I have also been a student of some other names...

Jehovah-shalom ~ the God of Peace
Jehovah-mekkadishkem ~ the Lord who Sanctifies Me
Elohim ~ the Creator God
El Shaddai ~ the All-Sufficient One
Jehovah ~ the Self-Existent One & our Covenant God
Adonai ~ the Lord and Master
Jehovah-rapha ~ the Lord Who Heals
El Roi ~ the God Who Sees

At first I set out to study them for the sake of knowledge. Surely a missionary should be able to rattle off the names of God, right? In the process, however, each of these names has become so sweet and so precious to me this year as he has shown me who he is. 

He is not as I think he is. He is as he is. I so easily forget that. 

It is through these names that he is restoring me and making me whole. Through these names he is a breeze to my dankness and a candle to my darkness that longs for light. As the author of Proverbs had so well learned, his name is most certainly safe and strong. 

I am so thankful to El Elyon, the Sovereign Most High, for Camden, Abigail, Lainey, Lydia, Angie, Sarah, Leslee, Heidemarie, Renate, Britta, Christiane, Janet, Sandra, Beverley, Laura and so many more whose names I have learned for the first time this year. Over the course of the next few months we will be privileged to learn even more names. In July we will return to Germany to learn new names of staff and students whose names have been learned while we were away. How good to know that there is one name that will always remain the same. Praise to that name!

"Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; 
your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."
~Isaiah 26:8

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No snow...but everything else

Growing up in both Michigan and Papua New Guinea provided two different visions of what the Christmas season should look like. In the former, the holidays included the fairly typical mixture of trees, presents, carols, church programs, family gatherings and if my memory serves me correctly, snow. Exactly how often we actually had a white Christmas and how often I imagine having one are two different things. I could play the historian and look up the records, but that is beside the point. What I remember is the comfort, joy and warmth of the season. Christmas in PNG was somewhat different. As the only two seasons there are wet and dry, the temperature stayed about the same year round, and so Christmas did not "feel" different than any other time. There was also a noticeable lack of economic buildup to the event, with the Christmas sale at the store my dad managed the only mild exception. There was a Christmas concert at school, and other events of that nature, but the general pathos of the place was not the same. Not that I minded playing tennis outside with Fred DeYoung one Christmas day, or being able to walk around outside in a tee shirt during that time of year. There were many positives, it was just not the same.

Having spent the past several years enjoying Christmas in Germany, with its Christmas markets, festive decorations, and yes, even snow, Suzanne and I were in for a different experience this year. This year, were were able to spend time with our whole families, and though we lacked snow at both places, we had everything else. The two weeks leading up to, and including Christmas, were spent in Orlando, where my family was all together for the first time since our wedding. Actually, since a few new little ones joined the crowd, it was the first time that the family, as it now stands, was under one roof. Much fun ensued, and I don't have the space to fill in all the details, but if you know my family, you can imagine what 17 people, including 7 children in a three bedroom house was like. Good times. While enjoying the balmy Florida weather, we found out that the Mortons were actually experiencing a white Christmas in Denison, Tx, but when we returned on the 27th, most of the snow was already gone. We spent the next week with Suzanne's family where we were able to travel to Wichita, Ks to spend time with her extended family, and return to Texas for the college bowl season, and even some cold weather golf. (Carts with plastic coverings and heaters provided a new golfing experience-thanks Papa Morton)

This Christmas was again different than the ones Suzanne and I have spent together. It was full of family, fun, and rest. We hope and pray that your holiday season was equally blessed. School began for me on Monday, and I will try to post again when the semester is underway.