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September: News, Thanks and Prayers

September 1, 2014
Student Council 2014-15

Student Council 2014-15

News and Dates:

  • September 2: First Day of School
  • September 12: 2014 Fall Party
  • September 15-19: Spiritual Emphasis Week
  • September 17: Kandern Impact Day
  • Timmy has agreed to fill in this year as a teacher in the PE Department, teaching two sections of PE in addition to his role as Student Council Coordinator

I’m Thankful For:

  • Student Council 2014-15, thirteen energetic and engaging students who are eager to serve God and our school this year as student leaders.
  • New and old friends, coming to Kandern in this busy season
  • Rest together, for Timmy and me, at the end of this summer apart
  • My colleagues, fellow teachers at BFA who inspire, teach and challenge me daily.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Fall Party 2014. Our first event with Student Council, this evening offers students the opportunity to dress up in crazy costumes and play games, building community at the beginning of the year. Pray that this event goes smoothly, that students work together as they plan and promote, and that the event is welcoming and inclusive, especially for new students as they get to know the community.
  • New Staff. We’re beginning the year again with about 65 new staff members. Pray for me as I work specifically with the new faculty, helping them to make a smooth transition to teaching at BFA.

Thank you all for your encouragement and support, which makes our ministry here possible! If you have a prayer request or questions about life or ministry in Germany, or if you’d like to become a financial partner in our ministry, email me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy

On Patience: Teaching, Risotto & Two Dots

August 17, 2014

It’s nearly the end of summer, and I’m making risotto. The setup requires half a dozen steps, but after a while it’s just pouring white wine and broth onto rice, stirring for a while, and thinking while the liquid soaks into the tender monochrome pearls. So I’m thinking, not as distracted as I’d usually be by my excellent ingredients, the crisp apples and smoky bacon waiting to jump into the action. I’m thinking about patience, slowness. And, to my equal embarrassment and amusement, I’m thinking about a computer game, Two Dots, that I played for a while this summer, until I finished the last level this afternoon.

“What do you do all summer?”

Since it’s been ages since I’ve been out in the grown-up world where people work all four seasons, I seldom hear this question delivered with the tones of accusation or scorn that get teachers so riled up that they have to create BuzzFeed lists or Pinterest memes justifying their summer vacations. I read these lists all the time, though, posted by my colleagues, little missives that remind everyone that we, the teachers, spend our summers planning for the year, catching up on professional development, or even getting jobs to supplement our incomes. To which I respond: Yes, but…

…it’s still summer. At least for me, for now, summer looks a lot like it always has.

I tend to divide summers into Nothing and Something. This has little to do with how exciting a summer was–it was a Nothing summer in which I climbed Mt. Rainier, and a Something summer in which I worked as a filing clerk in an insurance agency–but rather how easy it is to describe the summer. The quicker the reply, the more something that summer. The Nothing summers are often long and slow, with brief intervals of intense busyness. By this definition, this was a Nothing summer, in which I vacillated between my empty German village and the fullness of Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Spangdahlem Air Base.

So what did I do? I traveled a bit. When I wasn’t traveling, I did other things. If I were feeling defensive, I could tell about the online class I took, or the orientation program I planned for the new faculty at BFA. I could list the motley titles that accompanied me on approximately 24 hours of train-riding over the last month. I could show Instagram photos of recipes tried. All good things, ingredients to a full summer.

But I also played this computer game. As in, I played the whole game. I have never done this before, and chances are slim that I’ll do it again. I’m not a teenager; I didn’t play for hours a day. I did pick it up between chapters and emails, waiting for pizza dough to rise or the train to arrive. I read some reviews of this game, since I’m the sort who loves reviews, and discovered two distinct camps. There were those who found the game–which is a series of puzzles, divided into levels–“impossible” or its more spiteful counterpart “purely based on luck.” These reviews always garnered a calm response from the other camp: “It’s not impossible. You just have to be patient. Keep trying.”

Teaching can be like that. A series of challenges, some so seemingly insurmountable that we’re tempted to call them impossible, or ascribe success to “pure luck” rather than learned skill. I’ve always been thankful to have mentors and peers who remind me that teaching, like any other skill, requires practice and patience. From both students and teacher, to learn we must risk failing in pursuit of growth, and a space where that kind of risk is safe must be a place of grace, of patience. It’s the grace that God gives to us as we learn, and the grace we’re asked to extend back to ourselves and on to our students.

This isn’t how I always think of patience, the capacity to keep at something for a good while, willing to fail a bit in pursuit of success. But there is a sort of expectancy there, knowing that if I remain present, continuing to “show up” through the challenges of life, God can make something wonderful. Like an essay that makes sense, or a classroom in which learning and community mellow into something beautiful. Like this risotto, done to creamy perfection only if I stick with it, paying attention and stirring the afternoon away.

Prepared {A Place For Us}

August 14, 2014

My parents plan our next steps.

My parents plan our next steps.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:1-5

After dinner–a four-course Tyrolean meal that included prosciutto-cloaked melon and spinach späzle–I head back up the trail. I walk in flip-flops, eager to get out of the boots that I wore for 18 kilometers today. The trail is still uneven, just as it was when we came this way around mid-morning, and it’s colder up here than the valley in which we’d hoped to spend the night.

We’d hoped. That the huts we wanted to stay in–mountain lodges perched grandly on ridges, beside lakes, in the shadow of the spiny Dolomites–would have space for us. That the town to which we’d hiked instead would provide a charming guesthouse, with showers in Internet, where we could wash our socks and hair, check email, reconnect with the grim news of the world outside the Italian Alps. That each destination today would be our last, providing rest and restoration for the walking ahead.

I’m hiking with my parents, beginning their 40-day trek through the Italian, Austrian and Swiss Alps. The first day, we hiked as planned, up a valley to Dreizinnenhütte, red and white and boxy, balanced on a rocky saddle in the middle of a Dolomiten panorama. It was spectacular. The next day of hiking brought its share of wonders, too, World War I bunkers buried in green forests, and new mountains unfolding with each pass, but at the end our hut was full. We stayed in a hotel that night, a prim, clean, Austrian affair down the road in a shady green valley. We heard the rains pour, and were thankful not to be in a tent.

Now, the third day, there were times when we longed for a tent, some shelter that didn’t depend on reservations, transportation or phone calls. Nine hours of wandering brought us down three valleys, back up one, then back up another, so that we’re only six kilometers from where we started in the morning. Tomorrow, we’re taking a bus and train to Austria. Italy is full.

I have the lyrics to a pop song stuck in my head as we walk, Mikky Ekko wailing “Hey, is there a place for us? Where flames flicker and wave for us?” We want places, safe and dry and warm, waiting at the end of the various journeys of which our lives consist. How comforting it must have been for the disciples when they remembered Jesus’ words, after the dinner they didn’t know would be the last, a promise that he’d not only prepared a place for them, but would take them there himself. There would be room, space enough for all who loved him, a place for them to be together again.

I reach the top of the valley, the point where the trail juts into the forest, and find a bench by a creek. The water is icy cold, sharp against my aching feet, so I sit down on the bench, a forbidding wall of stony peaks folding their arms in front of me, bouncers of the Dolomites.

It’s not just at the end–the beginning of eternity–that he prepares for us, I realize. This place, somehow, was prepared for us today. The last room in the last hotel in the area, this semicircle of mountains in front of me. We’re prepared for places, too. Twelve years of traveling in Europe led me to this day, making reservations in German and navigating Italian public transport. I think of the ways that Timmy and I have been prepared to work at Black Forest Academy, the years of experiences and education, chances and circumstances, that led us to Germany and to each other. Prepared.

In a week I’ll be back in the classroom, cutting out signs and rearranging furniture to begin the year. Preparing a place for students I’ve never met. In a year, Timmy and I will be somewhere new, somewhere God is preparing for us, preparing us for. Like this strange yellow house in the Dolomites, it may not be what we’re expecting now, not the destination we’ve picked out on the map. But Christ is preparing us, even now, for the next valley, the next journey.

August: News, Thanks and Prayers

August 1, 2014
Catching some rays in the beautiful town of Cochem, Germany.

Catching some rays in the beautiful town of Cochem, Germany.

News and Dates:

  • August 11-15: New Staff Language Training
  • August 18-29: All-Staff Conference
  • August 29-31: Student Council Planning
  • August 31: New Student Orientation
  • The first week of August, I’ll have the delight of spending some time hiking with my parents in Northern Italy. Pray for good weather!

I’m Thankful For:

  • Time to rest and reflect this summer. I’m thankful for long days and quiet hours after a busy year.
  • My parents, who are beginning a 40-day trek across the Alps on August 3. They continue to inspire me every day!
  • New roles for Timmy and me this year, which will allow us to grow professionally and relationally as we interact with students and staff in new ways.
  • Financial partners that allow us and so many new staff to serve here at Black Forest Academy. We couldn’t do it without you!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • New Beginnings. Pray for new staff and students as they prepare to come to Kandern. Pray also for Timmy and me as we plan for the year with the Student Council.
  • Travel Safety. Pray for Timmy as he returns from Spangdahlem, and for me as I travel to Austria to spend time with my parents. Pray also for the students and staff returning to our corner of Germany from all over the world.

Thank you all for your encouragement and support, which makes our ministry here possible! If you have a prayer request or questions about life or ministry in Germany, or if you’d like to become a financial partner in our ministry, email me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy

29: To The Wanderers

July 18, 2014

A few years ago, I paraphrased some of Jeremiah 29, the oft-quoted letter to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. While no one I know is in literal exile, it occurred to me then that many of my friends and students–all over the world and for a variety of reasons–find themselves in unfamiliar places, and are uncertain of how long they’ll stay. As I spend the summer in Europe, thinking of the weddings, movings, job interviews and freshman years happening in North America, Jeremiah’s words seemed especially relevant. This poem is my prayer for all of us.

 

To the millennial wanderers.

To the graduate students

soldiers

missionaries

residents

spouses

corps members

of all kinds.

 

Sign a lease—

just a year

or two.

Get a cell phone

with a contract.

Frame and hang

pictures—

even shelves.

Buy some plants—try

to keep them alive.

Join a soccer team.

Get a dog—or a cat—

if you must.

Make friends, good ones,

who make you laugh

think

long to live well.

Expand your world;

don’t shrink it.

 

This isn’t forever—none of it.

When it’s time to go,

you’ll know.

But you’re here;

Be here.

 

I haven’t forgotten you:

Believe me.

The plans are brilliant,

Brimming with delight,

Not despair.

Tomorrow will come,

And the day after that.

 

But in this desert

you’re listening

close,

looking at me

like you never have.

As lost as you’ve ever been,

you’ll find me

if you keep looking.

And here’s the magic:

I’ll be found.

And so will you.

Four World Cups {And Kandern, My Home}

July 9, 2014
Lexi dons jersey and flag face paint to cheer for Germany vs. Ghana

Lexi dons jersey and flag face paint to cheer for Germany vs. Ghana

I confess, I wasn’t watching when they scored the first goal.

Distracted by the coolness of the German away jerseys–red and black blocks that take me straight back to Ballard High School–I was doing some online shopping when the pub erupted, reacting to Thomas Müller’s clean shot past Brazilian keeper Júlio César.

“Ahh, I missed it!” I wailed, looking up in time to catch the replay. My friends laughed at me. I’ve missed most of the German goals this World Cup, distracted by conversation or falling asleep before the inevitable extra time periods at the late ends of 0-0 games. Watching sports is not one of my gifts, you see. Distraught that I’d possibly missed the only action in this game, I fixed my eyes on the screen bedecked with international bunting, hoping there would be another goal.

I needn’t have worried.

Quite by accident, I’ve been in Germany during the last four World Cups. I don’t remember 2002, South Korea, though there must have been posters or headlines somewhere when I was dragging my 17-year-old self through the dim underworld of the München Ostbahnhof, trying to figure out where to buy a train ticket to Salzburg. I wasn’t paying attention when Germany lost to Brazil in the final.

Tunisia vs. Saudi Arabia, 2006

Tunisia vs. Saudi Arabia, 2006

I remember 2006, though, taking a night train full of drunken Italian footballers headed for Dortmund, shopping in Munich on the raucous day that Tunisia played Saudi Arabia there. I remember my friends telling me, wide-eyed, that they’d never seen so many German flags on display. “We don’t usually display our flags,” they explained to me, “Not since… We’re careful about nationalism now.”

In 2010, two American girls and three German girls grilled bratwurst in Austria, then sighed when Germany lost the semi-final to Spain, way down in South Africa. We watched the final in a library, and two Dutch Tauernhof students dominated both the cheering and the lament, though we were all wearing orange and were all disappointed.

Watching the Spain vs. Germany semi-final in 2010

Watching the Spain vs. Germany semi-final in 2010

This year is different. This year comes at the end of four years living in Germany, where people care deeply about this sport and feel comfortable expressing love for their country only during football matches. There are more German flags out in general than there were 12 years ago, but especially now. Since this World Cup began, I’ve watched games in three countries, and heard commentary in four languages, only two of which I understood. Back in 2010, when my Somali and Mexican students would watch the group stage games in my classroom during lunch, I got the impression that this World Cup business was a big deal, captivating the whole world in a way that few other events did. Now, I know for sure.

Afraid of missing something, I pay fastidious attention to the rest of the game, a 7-1 rout by Germany, which will be catalogued in history with statistics particularly miraculous or damning, depending on your perspective. “What is even happening?” we cry, disbelieving, after each goal. “Does this ever happen?” We cheer as well as we can–and have dressed in the required red, black and gold–but we’re no match for the Kanderners, who shout, cry, and break into song as the victory grows more secure.

Watching Germany vs. France, 2014 Quarterfinal, on the Fourth of July!

Watching Germany vs. France, 2014 quarter-final, on the Fourth of July!

Tomorrow, I’ll read the German coach Joachim Löw’s consolatory words for defeated Brazil, and scan faintly guilty Facebook statuses from German friends, along the lines of “We wanted to win, but this… Wow.” Tonight, though, we celebrate. When it’s over, the Kanderners jump into their cars for the bizarre and perilous ritual of driving around in circles through our village, laying on their horns and shouting. “Wir haben gewonnen! We’ve won!” they remind us as we walk home, laughing. “Show some spirit!” Apparently, a honking horn is the only acceptable response in cases like these.

I lack the knowledge and vocabulary to speak of the influence of the World Cup on the world, whether it ultimately unites or divides, whether it’s worth the cost, especially to Brazil tonight. But I’m thankful to be here, to share something so deeply important to so many, to live in this village where they cheer into the night.

July: News, Thanks and Prayers

July 3, 2014
The Class of 2014 graduates!

The Class of 2014 graduates!

News and Dates:

  • June 30-July 11: Work weeks at BFA
  • July 4: Timmy graduates from Liberty Seminary
  • For the month of July, Timmy is completing a tour with the Air Force Reserves as a chaplain candidate. He is serving at Spangdahlem Air Base in western Germany.

I’m Thankful For:

  • Timmy Gaster, my talented husband, who finishes his Masters of Divinity this week. Completing a graduate degree while working full time and getting married is no easy feat, and I am incredibly proud of his hard work.
  • The Class of 2014, with whom we’ve been privileged to spend four years. It has been a joy watching them grow into talented, mature and godly young men and women. We’ll miss you, and we’re so proud of you!
  • Goodbyes, of which June brought many. Though neither easy nor fun, these farewells reminded me of the deep friendships that God has blessed me with here at BFA.
  • Summer, bringing time to rest, reflect and refresh.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Summer. Pray for Timmy and me as we spend time apart this summer, he serving at Spangdahlem Air Base and me finishing work and professional development here in Kandern before traveling to Austria towards the end of the month.
  • New Roles. Pray for us as we prepare to take on new roles for next year in new teacher mentoring and advising Student Council. Pray that we would learn quickly and ask the right questions as we plan for the coming year.

Thank you all for your encouragement and support, which makes our ministry here possible! If you have a prayer request or questions about life or ministry in Germany, or if you’d like to become a financial partner in our ministry, email me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy

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