Advent: Remaking & Imagination

This dinner is not great.

Though I like to think of myself as a decent cook, the reality is that ingredients are capricious, and I’m even more capricious about following recipes. Sometimes I do, measuring with almost-precision and using almost all of the right ingredients. On occasion, when I’m learning to do something new, I glance and a few recipes and then create some kind of amalgam of my own. Most often, I put ingredients out in a pile, and create dinner. It usually works. Tonight, it didn’t.

Tonight, we’re eating tortellini that is only partially cooked. The noodle part is plenty tender, yielding easily to uncover tough, chewy and unpleasant bits of undercooked cheese. Not even to the al dente stage–the defense of all undercookers of pasta–this is just terrible. Coating these half-jerky, half-pasta morsels is something like pesto. But really it’s more like garlic and almonds (because who wants to pay €8 for a bag of pine nuts?), with some basil added for greenness’s sake. It’s just really dry and chewy, this meal. Timmy and I eat it dutifully (with no complaints from him, to his credit, though plenty from me) and then realize that there are at least three servings more of this feast. So, great news.

I was recently talking with a colleague who lamented that she’d added too much rosemary to her stew, causing it to taste more like pine than anything else.

“And I can’t just throw it out,” she sighed. “There’s beef in that stew!”

We don’t necessarily get lots of beef here in Germany, so this is perhaps a more weighty statement in this community than it would be back home, but the sentiment stands. We don’t want to throw something away if it was valuable. A poorly-executed paper snowflake can go in the fire or recycling, but not a whole dinner. I don’t want to give up on something with ingredients so valuable.

Though not a great culinary experience, this tortellini failure is a fantastic metaphor. (Victory! Dinner: Bad. Metaphor: Priceless) I had a professor in college–in a seminar class on Milton’s Paradise Lost–who referred to the Fall as mankind’s “failure of imagination.” Specifically in Adam’s case, it was an inability to imagine his life–let alone the new-created world–without Eve eternally in it. (Yes, I used to have a class in which we would talk about a single epic poem, three times a week, for an entire quarter. College is magic, people.)  If the Fall is our failure of imagination, then I believe that this season, the advent of our Savior into the world, is the victory of imagination from our Creator. Rather than throw the freshly-made, horribly-awry creation away, He fixed it.

Of course the metaphor is flawed, like my dinner. Creation didn’t go wrong because of the creator, like my tortellini disaster, but the rebellion of the created themselves. (A closer analogy, perhaps, would be those days when an entire colony of yeast enacts a coup and refuses to rise, for no good reason at all.) Still, when my temptation is to give up and start over, God never went that way. The story Scripture offers, the story that comes to its climactic height with the resurrection, is one of remaking, recreating. The season of Advent reminds me that–like the beef in my friend’s stew or the tortellini that I would later toss into the oven with some extra water–we are valuable, precious, not to be thrown away or “started over.” And that, as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth, is incredibly good news.

Dream Job

IMG_1918.JPGFuture Math Teacher meets me in my office after school. She and a partner are cooking dinner for Timmy and me tonight, a project for their Independent Living (once called “Home Economics”) class. From here, we’re going to shop for the evening at both of Kandern’s grocery stores, then home so that they can prepare the feast. I pack my bag and look up at her distractedly, asking how her day was.

“Amazing!” she squeals.

“Why amazing?” With only seven more class days until Christmas, we’re all a bit tired, and mostly feel less than amazing.

“I taught math today!”

“You taught math?”

“Yes!” she says delightedly. “Today was the day.”

“Oh right, your Christmas wish,” I remember, recalling the announcement at Banquet a few weeks ago. Several students wished to teach classes for the day. She’d asked to teach Algebra 2. As we walk to the store, she is still gushing over the day.

“I can’t believe I have to wait five whole years to do that again. I can’t wait!”

That was me. Thirteen years ago.

I always wanted to be a teacher. When we played school, I was at the front of the class by my miniature easel chalkboard, and throughout my home schooled years, from Kindergarten through sixth grade, I would pine over the classrooms that I wasn’t seeing, contenting myself with literary heroes in Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jo March.

I was the high school kid, like Future Math Teacher, who knew what she wanted, and rather resented college for getting in the way. While some English majors enter education as a resigned afterthought, several years after graduating in a less-than-lucrative field, this was always my intention. I wavered–from 2004 to 2008 I lost some of my childhood vocational confidence–but essentially I’m doing, today, what I always wanted to be doing.

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Poetry Teacher, invited me to a reading in her class. The students read their pieces, all designed specifically for spoken word poetry, and then offered us teachers the chance to perform. I read something, humbled by their preparation and my lack of it, and then Poetry Teacher shared her work. A poem about dreams, how some come true at the exact moments that others are set aside. As class ended, we chatted about how teachers seem to always have another dream, even ones that love their work. To travel the world. To write the Great American Novel. To win the Big Race. To live in a forest, making cheese, spinning wool and dispensing wisdom to passersby.

Spoon-fed Disney life lessons from an early age, our generation is obsessed with dreams. Having them, chasing them, seizing and loving them. There is always just one dream, and if you don’t have it–or worse, choose leave it behind–you’re breaking the one rule: Be True To Yourself. As someone with both fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams, I say this is nonsense. Life is long and varied. Some of the dreams I clung to the most fiercely were the ones that I needed to let go of, while God has led me toward goals that I’d never have even imagined. Dreams are just a starting point, a suggestion list.

Now I’m sitting on the couch in living room, listening to Christmas music and the sounds of two high school seniors learning to cook in my kitchen. One minute, they’re arguing about how to use a salad spinner, and the next turning on Christmas music to ease the tension. There are other dreams, of course. But for today, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for this one.

December: News, Thanks and Prayers

 

With my small group at Christmas Banquet 2014! Photo: Heather Ferraro Photography

With my small group at Christmas Banquet 2014!
Photo: Heather Ferraro Photography

News and Dates:

  • December 7: Christmas Concert
  • December 10-11: 4th Annual Story Contest
  • December 12: Last Day of Classes
  • December 13-January 6: Christmas Break
  • Curriculum for December: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Archetype Short Stories

I’m Thankful For:

  • An army of volunteers, both student and adults, who helped the Student Council, Timmy and me put on our Through the Wardrobe Christmas Banquet. It was a beautiful evening, and we couldn’t have done it without these great helpers.
  • Our family, in Washington, Florida and Virginia, who even from a distance fill our lives with love, encouragement and support.
  • Time to write a novel in November. It was a busy month, but I’m thankful for this experience and all I learned from it.
  • Christmas in Germany, always magical time of year to live here. Even with shorter store hours and complicated business schedules, I’m thankful to live in a place where the pace of the holidays is slower and more restful, putting emphasis on family and celebrating Christ’s birth.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Travel. Our students and staff tend to scatter quickly once the holidays arrive. Pray that travel is smooth, bringing everyone back with loved ones for Christmas.
  • Holidays at Home. For those traveling, pray that these weeks off are restful ones, providing time for reconnection with friends and family. Pray especially for our students, many of whom have been away from their parents for almost three months now.

In this season of thankfulness, our friends, family and supporters back home are high on our list! Thank you for all the many ways in which you encourage us in our ministry here, making our life in Germany possible with your prayer and financial support.

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

A Novel Month

Winner CertificateI told only a few people I was attempting it. And I always said “attempting,” as if this was word was a magic talisman to ward off any accusation of failure.

Usually I am all bravado at the beginning of adventures. I’ll declare them, like a European explorer, then push my ship off into the unknown with impunity. I’m going to climb Mt. Rainier! I’m working on a farm for the summer! I’m moving to Europe! This time, I wasn’t so sure. There was a real possibility of failure, and I wasn’t sure what I would do with failure, so I merely whispered the attempt to a few friends.

“I’m going to–I’m going to try to–write a novel in November.”

National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo for those in the know–has long been familiar to me. I’ve been tempted a few times, but never felt that my schedule had enough holes in it for me to insert the required 1,667 average words a day. This year, with a somewhat lighter teaching load, I was willing to risk it.

Each day, I’d sit down for an hour or two to hammer out a tale based on a premise that had been rattling around in my head for a few years. Along the way, I added characters and settings and names. Many of the experiences and places were ones that I’ve had before, so at times it felt like I was making a mosaic out of torn-up snapshots from my own life. There were moments when, I confess, I was desperately afraid that I’d accidentally written a contemporary version of Heidi. Sometimes I wrote more than I was supposed to, often I wrote less, and one day I wrote nothing at all.

This morning, I typed the last words of my novel. And while it was not the glorious summit that I have dreamed of in more idealistic days (though, being a Dahlstrom, it of course ended on an actual mountain summit), it was a learning-rich experience, and one for which I’m deeply thankful.

Though I’m sure I’ll think of more later, today in celebration of finishing I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned in this month of writing:

  1. I can write a novel. With these words, I’ve fulfilled the deepest goal of the NaNoWriMo organization, the knowledge that I, a non-professional writer, can craft a novel-length work of fiction. At all. The month deadline–as I understand it–is put in place to keep writers from endlessly editing and censoring. The hope is that, in the end, we have a draft in all its messy, complete glory.
  2. Writing a novel is difficult. From the outside, it has always been easy for me to dream of the books I could write. In the trenches of crafting a fictional world, I wrote myself into ridiculous corners and spent insane amounts of time on tasks like calculating time zones and poring over Swiss rail timetables. While there were a few days here and there when I felt inspired and words dripped fluidly from my fingers, there were more times when sitting down to write was an act of will, requiring all my patience and faith that the solutions would present themselves, if I just kept writing.
  3. Writing, while it remains a passion, isn’t my only passion. The emails that I received from the NaNoWriMo organization this month were all about overcoming writer’s block or decreasing distraction, and I found both topics annoying. They were predicated on the assumption that I was sitting in some coffeeshop, staring at a blank screen and waiting for words to arrive, compulsively batting away the Facebook tab that was “distracting” me. The reality was that I never had time for writer’s block, and sometimes the distractions really were more important than this experiment. The fact that I finished at all is more a gift from God than a testament to my own skill, because honestly it was far more important that I teach my classes well, meet students to edit papers than needed rewriting, helped plan the Christmas Banquet, made time for prayer and sleep, and actually talked to my husband than that I was able to write the required number of words every day. Like Thoreau, I have many lives to live, and I had only a limited amount of time for this one.
  4. I’ll write a novel again. Someday. Not in a month. But from this sprint I’ll take away the ability to have grace with myself. I’ll accept less than perfection on a first attempt, to pour out words and characters, actions and interactions, setting details that are doubtless gratuitous and more “says” and “replies” than I ever want to see again. I’ll remember what it felt like to follow characters to their logical conclusions, to realize that if someone isn’t completely sure and happy in the end, that’s OK. They’re heading that direction now, and I can rest in the imagination of the many roads they could all take.

In closing, I want to thank most of all my wonderful husband, Timmy, for his support through this month. For letting me write away my afternoons, and encouraging me when I felt like giving up, I’m everlastingly grateful.

From the Woods of Narnia

5:oo PM on Saturday evening, the sun is down over the leafless Black Forest as we scurry between table s and up on the stage, putting the finishing touches on the decorations for this year’s Christmas Banquet. The theme is “Through The Wardrobe,” an homage to C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and over the past few weeks we’ve carefully created and collected decorations to recreate this magic land in the auditorium of Black Forest Academy. We have a foyer transformed into Professor Diggory’s study, a stage full of evergreen trees, an impressive wardrobe hosting a fur coat and even a pair of beavers perched genially on the piano. As students begin to arrive, we switch on twinkle lights and ignite candles, transforming the room into a silvery winter wonderland, just as we’d imagined.

Christmas Banquet happens every year at BFA, and as such has developed certain mysterious rules. As this year’s Student Council advisors, Timmy and I have spent the better part of the last two months learning the secret language of what makes a banquet great here. We have learned that the students prefer being served dinner to a buffet line (“Because buffets, that’s what we have every night in the dorm!”) and that “Those little mousse desserts, they’re not our favorite. We like cake.” We’ve gathered that they like dancing, even if it has to be instructional dancing, but that they really don’t want to take photos in the same place as the dancing, where their shoes need to be off. “We wear these nice shoes,” the girls lament, “And then in the photos we were barefoot!”

Beyond the preferences, however, Banquet, like all things Christmas, has taken on a heavy weight of traditions. There are letters from faraway parents, emailed and printed and left on tables for their children to find. There are presents from Secret Santa, delivered and opened on the evening of Banquet, the culmination of a week of mysterious gifts. And there are wishes of all shapes and sizes, made by students ages ago, to grant from the stage for the audience’s delight. Half a dozen kids wish for gummy bears, a few more for teddy bears, and one for a tea party to happen in his AP United States History class.

Because of the transient nature of the students and staff, we joke that it only takes two years to establish a tradition at BFA. One fun event is a success, but if we do it next year, we’ll have to do it every year after. “It’s tradition,” they’ll cry. “We always spend most of the fall fair wandering around the city with flowers in our hands, ready to ask the first English-speaking girl we see to the Christmas Banquet. We have to!” I laugh at this part of our community, but I realize that I’m part of this, too.

Traditions link us with the past, but they also connect us together, knitting our community into a place of shared experience and history. In just four years here in the Black Forest, I’ve developed my own traditions. I visit the Töpfermarkt or the Anglican church’s book sale each year, or I walk through the forest to the exact spot where I know that holly grows, hoping to find some to make a boutonnière for Timmy for this Christmas Banquet. Traditions, in the end, make me feel like I live somewhere, and remind me to be thankful for another year of God’s faithfulness, wherever I am. In Seattle, there were other traditions, and I’m sure that other seasons will bring their own. For now, though, I’m thankful for these ones.

The students begin arriving at 5:30, pouring in from the cold night and waiting with flowers to exchange with nervous and well-dressed dates. They come from all places, these students, bringing the uniqueness that makes the classroom a lively and unpredictable adventure. Tonight, however, I’m struck with their unity, coming to share in one Christmas tradition, celebrating in the woods of Narnia another year together.

Christmas Court receives their honors.

Christmas Court receives their honors.

Rewrites

“So, what’s up with this paper?” my students ask, wafting in from the hall and settling in their desks with a nonchalance only possible after lunch, when a free afternoon beckons and “we can only handle school if it’s relaxed” is the motto of the hour. Don’t ask too much of us; it’s sixth period.

The paper in question was a disaster. I knew it as I graded the first few, writing essentially the same question on each one:

If (CHARACTER) is a symbol of (IDEA), then what statement does Nathaniel Hawthorne make about (IDEA) with what happens to (CHARACTER)?

I had pressed on–circling the egregious haunting of passive voice, writing “Too much plot” next to topic sentences–like a grading automaton, for all 33 of my honors students’ papers. Now, a week later, I have to tell them the hard truth: These weren’t good. Redemption is possible, but it will take hard, meticulous work.

“The papers,” I reply, noncommittal. “We’ll talk about them.”

“First period said they were really bad.”

The students of first period, alert traitors that they are, reveal all secrets, utterly powerless in the face of the insistent question, “What are we doing in English today?” Doubtless they answered, “Hearing about how bad our papers were.”

I begin by sharing their collective strengths, commenting how it was clear that they’d actually read The Scarlet Letter, itself an arduous task, and that this was a difficult book and their comprehension alone is commendable. Then I compliment their proofreading. Following these consolations, we begin examining the cracks: flawed thesis statements and careless topic sentences, along with an overall misunderstanding of the concept of symbolism.

I’ve thought a great deal about failure in the last few weeks. As I share with my students, I’m no stranger to it. Though I could share about the math tests on which I’ve scored in the low 20 percents, today it’s far more relevant to reveal that I, too, have earned a C or a D, here and there, (gasp!) on an essay. And while I’ve forgotten most of the A grades I ever received, I still remember the exact contents (or lack thereof) of those horrid papers.

Educators discuss “rewrites” and “retakes” to exhaustion, curious about the consequences to the students of being given a second chance with their “final” assessments. As I reflect on my own failures, however, I realize that the ones from which I’ve learned the most–in school, in relationships, in cooking, everywhere–were the ones that involved going back and redeeming my mistakes.

I’m always eager to leave the crimes behind, hoping that everything will take care of itself. That the bad paper’s grade consequence will diminish in importance as more grades fill the spreadsheet. That the harsh words will be forgotten, buried under better ones, before I have to apologize. That I can call the cookies “muffins” to explain their having half the required amount of sugar. Just don’t make me go back, I sometimes plead. I don’t want to worry about this anymore.

But the going back is where the learning happens. Though it’s not standard academic practice, it happens that the essays on which I did worst, both in high school and college, were ones that I was required to rewrite. It was a tortuous process, involving in each case sitting with the instructor and then rehashing material I hadn’t bothered much with in the first place. I remember sitting down with a sigh, putting my mind and fingers back to the work of rebuilding, hoping to do better this time. I did, and I’m a stronger writer for it.

That’s what I hope to teach my students this week, with their returned essays. “They’re not great, these papers,” I tell them. “There’s no other way to say it, really. But you’ll do better next time. And I’ll help you, don’t worry. We’re in this together.”

Failure is important, I tell them, but only if you look at it the right way. Almost everyone writes one bad paper, but you’ll keep writing them, again and again, unless you learn from this one. It’s only when we acknowledge our failures, when we look them straight in their lackluster faces, that we can see a way forward, a way to repair, to apologize, or to start over. Only then can we move on, leaving the failures gracefully in the past to seek a better next time.

Leaving The Woods

Autumn at the classroom window

Autumn at the classroom window

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand… Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Wednesday, the rain pours on the suddenly brilliant Black Forest as my students begin, in high-school voices hesitant about 19th-century prose, to read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Nine years into this teaching adventure, there is still almost nothing I love more than hearing familiar words read by the well-loved voices of my students. Each year around this time, we stumble into the Transcendentalists, hurtling out of the end-of-quarter busyness marked by The Scarlet Letter, final dress rehearsals for the school play, and fall sports tournaments that this year took our students to northern Germany and northern Italy. We are tired.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” they read, pausing charmingly over the five syllables of deliberately, pronouncing it with the care due its meaning. “And not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…”

The forest, dying in a blaze of color, calls to me as I sit at my desk, listening to my students. It would take very little persuasion today for me to hole up in a cabin by a pond, spending my days watching ants and the ripples on the surface of the water, charting the change of seasons and their effect on my soul. If I’m honest, Thoreau’s life is more tempting to me than any living celebrity, than the educated affluence of Bill Gates, the  happy-go-lucky fame of Taylor Swift or the powerful potential of a political figure. I’d rather be Thoreau than any of them.

“If I told you that you could abandon school, and gave you a cabin with food to live in, how many of you would do this?” I ask my students. Half a dozen hands go up.

“Is there wi-fi?” someone asks.

“No, no wi-fi. You only get what Thoreau had. Books, paper, pen, food. That’s it.”

They think about it, and keep their hands raised.

We long for simplicity, the one or two affairs that Thoreau wrote of. We think of the cabin by the lake, the unburdening of responsibility, as a glorious freedom. How happy we’d be to just get away. How often have we said it, thought it?

John Green, a young adult author beloved by my students and me, once said that “Truth resists simplicity.” I agree, and then some. Community, relationship, responsibility, calling–much of life resists simplicity. If we’re engaged in this journey with other travelers, it’s inevitable that every turn will greet us with complexity.

Both my virtual and literal desks this week are emblems of my complexity. There are blueprints for the Christmas Banquet, drawings of centerpieces and stage design that will come to three-dimensional life in the next two weeks. There are lesson plans and handouts, waiting to be printed and executed. Shopping lists and dinner plans lurk somewhere, waiting for a shopping trip. An ever-growing list of students to recommend for college demands my attention. Somewhere in the corner there’s a number, signaling the number of words I should have written by the end of today for the novel I’m trying to write this month, both as a personal challenge and point of connection with one of my new students who is undertaking the same task. Complexity.

The desk itself represents only the inanimate entities desiring my attention, giving no picture of the living, breathing people who walk in several times a day, or the commitments that keep me traveling the school from first bell to last. Living in relationship, whether work or family or church bodies, will always be complex.

And yet, at the root of it we’re still called to simplicity. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” Jesus asks us. First. Rooted in this simple longing for Christ, we can reach far into the details of life. Without the roots, we’ll be torn apart by the winds around us, tossed by every new task and person we meet. Without the roots, the complexity will force us to the woods.

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there,” Thoreau wrote, my students read. “Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”

Even Thoreau left the woods. And while we can and must withdraw into solitude sometimes, spending time reconnecting to our rootedness in the love of Christ, we can’t stay in the woods forever. Resisting the simplicity of isolation, we’re called to community, to the beautiful, tricky complexity of knowing and serving one another in the body of Christ.

Juniors read Thoreau on a crisp November day.

Juniors read Thoreau on a crisp November day.

November: News, Thanks and Prayers

Harbstmesse

News and Dates:

  • November 6-8: BFA middle and high school performs High School Musical
  • November 9: Maugenhard Thanksgiving
  • November 10: Winter sports begin (Basketball and Wrestling)
  • November 22: Christmas Banquet
  • Curriculum for November: Transcendentalism, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I’m Thankful For:

  • Erika and Aron Ruderman, whose wedding I had the honor of attending in October. Thankful for the blessing of your friendship and a sweet time with family in Washington.
  • A spectacular autumn in the Black Forest, complete with warm, golden days and runs through the forest.
  • New roles at BFA, which have allowed us to interact with staff and students in different settings. This month has brought me to the BFA middle school twice for observations, where it was a delight to see new teachers loving, serving and instructing.
  • G5 Evangelische Gemeinde, the German church where Timmy and I have been attending since the beginning of the school year. Thankful for this warm community of believers, connecting us to the body of Christ in this nation we call home.
  • The Class of 2016, my new juniors, full of life, energy and good questions.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Christmas Banquet. As Student Council advisors, Timmy and I are responsible for putting on this year’s Christmas Banquet. This involves coordinating adult and student volunteers, serving dinner for 300+ people, and turning our school into a winter wonderland for the evening. Pray for the details that go into this event, and that it would be fun evening that celebrates the community here.
  • Health. Both Timmy and I have been struggling with sickness these last few weeks. Pray that we’d be able to rest effectively in our “down time,” so that we can recover our strength. Pray also for the community, as these darker, busier days are when cold and flu tend to strike the community.

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

Only If

Small Group BirthdayI wasn’t going to lead a small group this year.

I remember this Thursday night, as I climb the stairs of one of my senior small group girls’ homes, ready to partake in the birthday feast that the girls have prepared for me and my co-leader, Allison, whose birthday is one day before mine. Earlier this week, the hostess sent out an email to the small group:

“Alright guys so small groups this week at my house! For us girls, let’s meet at the school around 6 and for Kristi and Allison, come over to my house around 6:45ish.  It’s gonna be a great birthday celebration!! Can’t wait!”

So we arrive tonight, after long days and weeks filled with travel (for me) and play practice (for Drama Teacher Alli), to have dinner with five eighteen-year-old girls, themselves wading through the busyness of senior year with all of its essays, leadership and college plans.

I wasn’t going to do this, I think to myself, and I had good reasons. Far from being dissatisfied with my experience as a small group leader over the last four years at BFA, it was an amazing experience. With my roommate and co-leader, Emily, I was able to walk with six girls on a journey of faith and friendship, seeing them mature from giggly ninth graders–obsessed with Justin Bieber and the newest trends in America–to young adults of maturity and grace, looking ahead to see how they can live out their relationship with Christ in brand-new settings. It was an incredible four years, not always easy but always filled with reminders that Christ had brought these girls into our life for this season, as He gave us specific words to speak into each of their lives. I love these girls, and I miss them every day.

Sometime last winter, I remember saying to myself, I won’t sign up for another group next year. It would only be for a year, anyway. Never one for definitive statements, I countered a few minutes later in my self-negotiation. The only way I would do it would be if it were a senior group. Whose leaders were leaving. And only if someone asked me specifically. I’m not telling anyone about this. I didn’t even think of it as a prayer, at the time. Just a resolution.

It was the knowledge that my six girls would be gone that made me worry that I wasn’t sure I had “space” for a new group in my heart. To an extent, I fret about this every fall, feeling that I can’t possibly love this new class as much as the ones who are now a grade older. I feared it would be worse with a small group. If I’d spent four years investing in these six girls, how much would I have left to give to another group, especially one I’d be with for only a year?

To which God said: Ha. Plenty.

In late spring, Allison emailed me. Her request read like the formula of my non-prayer from a few months earlier. I have this group of seniors. And I’ll be here in the fall, but not in the spring. Could you help? She listed the girls, students that I was currently teaching in my junior English class, and my heart melted. Of course it would happen like this. God knew.

And that’s what I’m thinking about as we sit around with bowls of pasta and cake, talking about their trip to Italy last week. They tell about bonding on the beach outside their hotel, about seeing these sights that they’d been waiting all their lives to see. They talk about the future, how tangled and complex it looks from their vantage points, and I understand. Not just what they’re going through–future complexity that looks much like what we’re wading through these days–but how deeply beautiful and intricate are God’s plans. For these hours and days I’m spending in this valley, and all the lives He’s woven up with mine. For these months and years He’s given to me, and the steps He’s still waiting to reveal.

October: News, Thanks and Prayers

Out for dinner with the Maug boys!

Out for dinner with the Maug boys!

News and Dates:

  • October 2-10: Timmy in Rome with the seniors
  • October 2-6: Junior trip to Normandy
  • October 1-4: Freshman exchange with a Christian school in the Netherlands
  • October 6: Freshman and Sophomore trips to the WWI trenches and French concentration camps
  • October 13: My 30th birthday!
  • October 31: Herbstmesse

I’m Thankful For:

  • A New Small Group and Allison, my co-leader. Looking forward to sharing life with these excellent senior women this year!
  • Visits from Parents in August and September. So good to show them around this part of the world and spend some restful time with them.
  • A New Role at BFA this year, mentoring new teachers. Exciting to spend time in so many different classrooms, seeing these teachers devote energy and care to their material and students.
  • Autumn in Kandern, always spectacular and earlier this year than ever. Can we hope for some snow this winter?

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Travel. As you can see, our students are scattering all over Europe in the next week or so. I’ll also have the opportunity to travel to the U.S. for a wedding next week. Pray that these trips go smoothly, for health and safety for all.
  • Future Plans. Pray for Timmy and me as we continue to seek guidance regarding the future. Pray that God will make it clear to us where we should be next year, opening and closing doors as He sees fit.

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