Hands and Voices

Family After the months
of his pursuit of her, now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.

Wendell Berry, from “Her First Calf”

Needle-sharp stars in a black-ice sky. Snow crunching underfoot, clinging to branches that glow grey in the half-moonlight. It’s a night for walking in Robert Frost’s woods, dark and deep, but we won’t be. Like the speaker, I too have miles to go. Tonight, precisely 36 miles, down the dark freeway to the hospital.

LaborAs Timmy drives I watch the green mile markers pass, listen to Sufjan Stevens sing lighthearted Christmas songs into the night. I breathe through each contraction, trying not to worry about their frequency or length. I remind myself, again and again, that this is the design. I’m made for this. It’s supposed to be like this. Don’t worry. At the end of this, our daughter will be born,

Will be born. Such a passive phrase, as if babies materialize magically and quietly into hospitals, delivered like extra gauze or meals on trays. But to state it otherwise–where I’ll deliver my daughter–seems just as wrong. I’m no Moses of childbirth; it will take many people to deliver this one small person into the world, not just me.

A long time ago, I remember watching a TV movie in which a woman gives birth alone, in a cabin in Alaska, sometime in the early half of the last century. Why she was alone escapes me now, but as we drive I think about that fictional woman, who labored in solitude in a wild place, who bit down on a leather strap at the height of the pain and pushed her baby out and then caught him herself. He lived, she lived, they all lived happily ever after.

LuciUnassisted, we’d call the birth now, and we’d idealize it as evidence that women are fiercely powerful, that we can prevail over even the toughest moment that biology hands us without an ounce of help from anyone. We’re just that strong.

Maybe some earlier version of me would have found the Alaska movie awe-provoking, for certainly there’s truth to the notion that childbirth is both marvelous and ancient, old as humanity and just as common. Yet while I love a good girl-power moment as much as anyone, that’s not my story. I can identify with her pain, but I don’t envy her solitude. Not even a little bit. Because apart from our baby girl herself, emerging wet and wailing at the end of it all, what I’ll remember most about her delivery has little to do with me. I was very much not alone, and it’s those who surrounded me that I’ll remember forever.

Their hands. My husband’s, gently untangling my forehead with each contraction. My mother’s, resting on my head, the way it must have a thousand other sleepless nights. A dear friend, Emily’s, busy doing whatever needs to be done, waving a fan or massaging a foot, or taking the beautiful photos she’d later make into an album for us. My daughter’s, wrapping her fingers firmly around one of mine.

EmilyTheir voices. Timmy’s reminding me to relax, reminding me that he loves me, reminding me I’m safe. Mom’s telling me she’s proud of me. Dad’s choked with tears as Luci opens her eyes for the first time. Luci’s giving the reassuring wail to announce her arrival into the world.

Hands and voices surrounding us, this tiny girl and me. And through the sharp, sweet joy of afterwards, with bright sunlight pouring over the mountains through the windows, I’ll remember those things the most. Not the pain, which has already melted into a dull ache of distant memory. Not the power or triumph of my body doing exactly what it was made to do. Just the sweetly humbling realization that at every step it was their hands, their voices, that brought us through the night, delivering Luciana, our little light, into the dawn.

Candles and Community

The top of the wood stove is perfect for making quesadillas!

The top of the wood stove is perfect for making quesadillas!

The house is cold at dawn.

I wake and build the fires.

The ground is white with snow.

from “IV,” Wendell Berry

On the night our daughter is supposed to be born (the “supposed to” determined by an oh-so-precise countdown that started way back in February), we have no electricity at Snoqualmie Pass. We’re actually more than 24 hours into a power outage, since yesterday saw one of the more vicious storms in memory, a storm that took away not only our lights, but those of over 300,000 others in our region.

Yesterday we sat inside and prayed that we wouldn’t have to drive through the tree-felling, road-saturating tempest, 35 miles “down the mountain” to the hospital. Today calm, grey light reflects off of new snow and brightens our house during the daytime. Except for the lack of hot water and Internet, and the pitifully room-temperature refrigerator, we’re not so bothered by the lack of power in the daytime.

Night is different. It gets dark at 4:30 PM these days, so at four I leave behind the Wendell Berry I was reading by the dusk in the window, and light a fire and half a dozen lanterns. My mother arrives a few minutes later with pots of soup from Grandma’s apartment downstairs, where they’d been thawing on top of her stove. She sets them now on the flat top of our wood stove to boil, while Timmy goes to the back deck to grill sausages.

At five, two neighbors arrive, stamping snow off their boots downstairs and then crowing delightedly at the warmth that our stove has provided. One shares harrowing tales of his own house, where it’s 53˚ F inside and his dog and cat sleep with him under the covers. “So warm!” he marvels, stretching out his hands over the glowing orange door of the stove. While we wait for the soup, we nibble on pretzels re-toasted on the barbecue, swap stories of the last two dark days and forecasts of when we’ll return to the 21st century. They spy me, still roundly bulky in the candlelight, and advise that I should “just relax. Babies come when they want to. Just be relaxed, Kristi.”

The truth is, I am relaxed, at rest as we break bread (and soup and sausages) with our neighbors, basking in the familiar warmth of community. Somehow, without my expecting or inviting it, community became a theme of the last five years. Though the process has been gradual, I’m amazed when I remember the studiously reserved and self-sufficient teacher that left the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 2010. I could take care of myself, I thought then, and I was happy to do so for as long as was necessary. Community–the village life that I skirted by being comparatively wealthy and urban–was undoubtedly difficult. It meant sharing life with people different than I, meant depending on some of those people for more than amusement.

And then I became a missionary, connected by relational and financial bonds to a wide range of people, all around the world. I moved to a literal village, where I lived without a car and had to rely on others for rides to the airport and hospital. I ran into my students and coworkers around every corner, and realized that even if I thought of myself as an island, no amount of self-reliance could make it so. So I joined a choir and a women’s Bible Study, and dared to date and marry my husband in full view of my village. Our home became a gathering place, where we shared meals like this candlelit one. I never expected it, this extravagant community, but I needed it. We all do.

It's also ideal for pancake-making!

It’s also ideal for pancake-making!

This little mountain road, flanked with snow and just a few houses, is a new village. I’m still learning community, this time from my parents, who are the kind of people who clean out their refrigerator (and freezer!) and invite the neighbors over for an impromptu candlelit dinner. I feel fortunate to be here, amazed and delighted that this will be Luci’s first home.

Our culture is an individual one, where it’s easy to long for space or independence, financial security or the peculiar brand of “I can do it myself” that defined my early twenties. And then the power goes out and our batteries die, and around a glowing table laden with soup, sausage and bread we share stories and laughter, brightening the early dark.

Weight, Wait

Ponderously pregnant at 39 weeks (and 3 days!), posing with future Aunt Holly

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.

from “Metaphors,” Sylvia Plath

It’s one of those poems that I have almost memorized by accident, Plath’s “Metaphors,” a “riddle in nine syllables” I’ve set to many classes of eleventh graders. “What is she talking about?” I’ll ask them, and then sit back to watch their too-cool faces screw up into concentration, as if these exaggerated frowns and squints will somehow figure it out for them. It’s a lesson in metaphors, in tone, in scansion. Someone will interpret a metaphor, someone else will count the nine syllables and nine lines, a perfect square of a poem. If circumstances become desperate, I’ll draw the “melon strolling on two tendrils”–a droll, cartoonish image–on the white board, and let them interpret it. It’s all such fun, and eventually someone has an epiphany.

“She’s pregnant!” he’ll cry confidently, only seconds later starting to doubt. “I mean, right?”

Yet though I’ve taught it dozens of times, I’ve only lived it this once, and I identify more than I thought I would. Not with the last few lines, where the tone shifts from ambivalence (“a means, a stage, a cow in calf”) to dread (“Boarded the train there’s no getting off.”), but to the first few amusing images: the melon, the elephant, the house.

It’s the “ponderous house” that resonates now, just a few days before my daughter’s due date. That word, ponderous, means “heavy and clumsy,” but also faintly echoes its sibling, ponder, both descended a Latin word for “weight.” (This Latin root also gives us pound… I could follow words all day.) How appropriate both are at the moment, when I’m feeling both literally heavy and clumsy, but also thoughtful, prone to pondering the nature of the world I inhabit and compare it to her tiny world, this “house” I’ve become for her these last few months.

We’re waiting for snow up here at Snoqualmie Pass, a maddeningly too-low place where the temperature hovers at 33˚ F, and we alternate between rain and snow daily in this late-autumn season. Everything that can change or die has done so, leaving the forest a familiar dark-green and light-brown, waiting for winter’s transformation. Possibly snow tonight, the weather report says. Probably Monday. Rain again Tuesday. 10 inches of snow Wednesday. We’ll see.

So I find myself again identifying with a forest, as I did six months ago in the Black Forest of southwestern Germany. Then we were waiting, the forest and I, for green-leafed spring and the internal and external signs of life after a tiring first trimester of pregnancy. Now we’re waiting for new seasons. For the clean, cold monochrome of winter, for the sleepless love of new parenting. For this little person I’ve gotten to know by touch to introduce herself to my other senses, and to everyone else. We wait, sometimes patiently, for snow and for her.

I know I’m not the only one waiting, and feel fortunate to have the joy of waiting for something so beautiful. The events of the last 24 hours–Paris filled with terror, death and loss–remind me that we’re all still waiting for peace. Across the world, I have students who cross daily from Germany back to France, the country they call home, and others who’ve spent portions of their childhoods in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, and now watch those places crumbling behind them. And millions of people I don’t know but have seen in countless photos, still walk and sail north and west, fleeing war and devastation, searching for home and safety. We’re waiting. For joy, for peace, for hope. For light.

Advent begins soon, another season of waiting. Never has the prophet Isaiah seemed more accurate, his promises more hopeful. Because we are a people walking in darkness, and we have seen a great light. A light that’s already conquered the darkness, though we can’t always tell. We wait expectantly for a Savior who’s already come, who reminds us that He brings peace on earth, good will toward men.

The snow will fall eventually, and sometime between now and the end of November, Luci will make her appearance. And we’re waiting, all of us, for the light, confident in the strength and love of our Savior.

November: News, Thanks and Prayers

With two sweet girls from my first high school small group (which graduated in 2009), celebrating Luci at the baby shower!

With two sweet girls from my first high school small group (which graduated in 2009), celebrating Luci at the baby shower!

News and Dates:

  • November 18: Luci’s due date!
  • Timmy has been asked to speak at a youth retreat in March. Details will be forthcoming, but we’re excited for this opportunity to spend time serving kids together!

We’re Thankful For:

  • Visits from friends and family in October. We were thankful to spend time with Kristi’s aunt and uncle from California, along with several friends who’ve made the drive up to the mountains for tea, hikes and conversation.
  • The Leavitt Family, former BFA staff who now live in Washington, whose hospitality has helped make our transition smooth and exciting.
  • Health care, from our excellent midwives to an extremely informative childbirth class we were able to take a few weeks ago. We’re getting excited for our baby’s arrival, and are feeling blessed with the provision of capable professionals to guide us along the way.
  • Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) at Bethany Community Church in Seattle, which has been a great community for Kristi to connect to other mothers as she prepares to become one herself.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Luci’s Arrival. Kristi will be 38 weeks pregnant on Wednesday, so our daughter could truly arrive any day! Pray for a smooth labor, free of complications, and that God would be glorified through the amazing experience of birth.
  • Financial Support. We’re working on revamping this site in order to reflect our current and upcoming financial needs to return to Germany, but for now continue to pray for both new monthly supporters and one-time gifts to cover larger expenses of travel during this year of HMA and the purchase of a vehicle once we return next June.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy


Herbstmesse 2011

On the bumper cars at Herbstmesse 2011

Halloween, 2011. On a clear and frigid evening in the city, we’d walked from the newer shopping district of Klein Basel across the Rhein River, and up narrow, cobblestoned streets to ancient Groß Basel, looking medieval with its cathedrals and leering timbered houses. At the top of the hill, in comical contrast to the severe flying buttresses of the Basler Münster, a bright carnival lights whirled in the darkness. We’d gone on the Ferris wheel, surveying the Swiss city and tiled cathedral roof with glee, and now we huddled around a bumper car rink, along with the rest of the staff and students of Black Forest Academy.

Out on the floor, cars full of students and staff crashed into one another with gleeful abandon, while those of us around the sides waited eagerly to snatch up any vacated cars once the traffic chugged to a halt. I’d ridden with a few friends, but was just as happy to watch the chaos unfold from the edge. We took special interest in seeing who rode together: parents with children, older siblings with younger, teachers with students. Sprinkled among them were the boy-girl riders, always the most fascinating. Some were predictable, others less so, pairs that were only tonight catching each other’s eyes.

I turned to point out one such couple to the man standing next to me, a fellow staff member I’d met a few months before, and was faintly disappointed to find that he’d disappeared. Though we exchanged emails a few times a week, they were mostly about our students and other parts of the school, and our schedules–working separately in the school and dorms–seldom brought us to the same events. In fact, it was just tonight that I had been willing to admit to myself (by no means to anyone else) that I was glad to see his smiling face near mine in the crowd when we left for the city. As I watched the students flirt and squeal on the ride, crashing into one another and wielding inflatable bats, I’d indulged in the faint wish that he’d ask me to ride a bumper car. Silly, I thought.

I went to Germany to be a teacher.

I have been thinking a great deal this fall about my expectations and how life has often unfolded in great, extravagant excess of them. I went to high school expecting to learn, a little, and instead discovered passionate love for writing and education. I went to university hoping to earn a degree, and beyond that gained experiences with mentoring and discipleship that have fueled ministry at BFA. I accepted a job teaching at Ingraham, thinking it was a necessary step to keep me in Seattle for a while, never expecting to fall in love with the multicultural quirkiness of Seattle ninth graders. It was as if at each page turn, I expected more black-and-white words, and instead was greeted with  pop-up landscapes, rich in detail and dimension, taking the story to places I’d never dreamed.

By that second autumn in Germany, I’d discovered that God had more in store than “just” teaching English at Black Forest Academy. I was leading a small group, volunteering in two dorms and playing in an orchestra, drawing on many past experiences to serve this community. I thought I knew my calling; I was a teacher. But at every turn God was showing me more to do, more to love, broadening my view and stretching my heart to accommodate more.

We recently shared with our church family in Concrete, Washington, that our five years at BFA have been more than we expected. As we spend this year away, we find ourselves inexorably drawn into expectations for the future. For going back to Germany, for becoming a family, pursuing both old and new roles. We wonder what it will be like, what our lives will hold. We don’t know, of course, and history tells me that even the outlines I think I’ve drawn so carefully will prove woefully vague. God always has more ahead of me than I imagine. I’m learning to walk forward with open hands, eyes, mind and heart, ready for the unexpected as long as He is beside me.

Beginnings, even important ones, often get missed. I wasn’t paying attention that Halloween in Basel, so that even when Timmy reappeared, holding a ride token and sheepishly asking if I’d like to take a spin with him, I never suspected that this was a turning point. Everyone else did, they’d tell me later–giggling to watch a teacher and RA gleefully crash a candy-colored car into things–but I didn’t. I’d laughed and jumped into the car beside him, unaware that this was the first of many journeys. Unaware of the new callings–to love, family, co-adventuring–that would spring from this moment. We’re waiting to meet our daughter any day now, but four years ago tomorrow I was just a girl at the fair, excited that a boy wanted to go on a ride with me. More, at every turn.

National Forest & Black Forest {Or, Where You’re From}

My birthday bear cake, waiting for frosting.

Dear Luci,

John Denver plays over the stereo. The morning fire is down to embers now, and through the upstairs window all I can see are the dark arms of fir trees, calm and complacent in the autumn sun. On the counter sits a bear made of yellow cake, waiting for frosting, because tomorrow is my birthday.

Based on this set of evidence, it could be my fourth birthday, or eleventh, or seventeenth, or even twenty-fifth. But it isn’t. Tomorrow I turn thirty-one, and I keep remembering not because this is a different house than the ones I grew up in, or because the music is playing over a smart phone and Bluetooth speaker that didn’t exist for any of those other birthdays. From where I sit on the couch, looking out the window, you dance around every few minutes just below my ribs, a genial reminder that I’m a mother, not a child anymore. Maybe you’re excited about your own birthday, just a month or so away now. You’re clearly excited about something.

I’m excited, too, having never grown out of the anticipation of adding a digit to my age, but even more so to bring you back to this mountain house, your first home. In my daydreams it’s a perfect snowy November day, not enough to mess up the roads, but plenty to weigh down these springy green branches, pulling us into Ansel Adams’s photo album. I heard somewhere that newborn babies can only see twelve inches or so, lessening the impact of this late-autumn scenery, but maybe something in our white and green neighborhood will catch your tiny new eyes. Or maybe you’ll just be eager to get inside where it’s warm.

Gold Creek Pond, Cascade Mountains

I’ve thought a lot about home while we’ve been together, Luci. Really I’ve been thinking about for the last five years, ever since I left the predictable world of evergreen trees and birthday bear cake for a land of fast cars, striped green hills, and words I understand about half the time. At first it was a foreign place of people and rules I hadn’t spent my life learning, but eventually it took on its own comforts. Years rolled around predictably, trips and parties making their march across the calendar, festivals reappearing to offer wurst and zwiebelwaie instead of elephant ears or fried Twinkies. So new at first glance, Germany became home, just as this chilly forest will for you.

But though this will be your first home, it’s possible that you’ll one day struggle, like many young people I love so very much, to explain where you’re from. Though there’s very little of the future that I can predict, I can tell you the plan, which will make you one of those kids who can say they moved somewhere when they were “just a baby.” Just a baby, and you’ll fly with us back to Germany next summer, learning to talk surrounded by new words, learning to walk on cobblestones as often as trails.

It won’t even be your first trip; you’ve already traveled the world. You’ve been with us hiking in Switzerland, book shopping in London, freezing in Iceland and strolling with fireflies in the South. You’ve stood on top of a mountain and swam in a lake. You’re a traveler, Luci. You’re from here, there, everywhere.

Then I see the bear cake again. That yellow bear, who followed me from San Juan Island to the North Cascades, to Seattle and now again to another mountain home, tells me that geography isn’t the most important question. Where I’m from isn’t as important as who I’m from. In this case, I’m from a mother who bought this cake mold somewhere, then pulled it out for special days—birthdays and graduations—because it made her three children squeal with glee at every age. No matter where we were, this never changed. I once thought the bear was the important constant; now I suspect that it’s the family.

Kandern, Germany

I don’t know what your bear cake will be, Luci, what traditions we’ll carry with us across years and continents. But I can tell you who you’re from, the families and people who will make up some of your earliest memories. Your dad and I like to laugh and read and walk in the forest, and can’t wait to do all of that with you. Your great-grandmother crochets blankets for babies, and yours is already waiting for you. You have grandparents who want to hike in the Alps with you, who’ve already bought you your first outfit for the trail. Your grandma in Florida loves biking and finding you presents. Your aunts and uncles are real and adventurous, like you’ll be, musicians, artists, bakers and climbers.

Down in the city there are a dozen women who taught me to be a wife and a mother, women who bought you tiny clothes and threw you a party with pink cupcakes and cookies. Here in the mountains, everyone I see asks me how you are and when you’re coming, these neighbors who will be your first village. And your second, it’s filled with young people who have been asking about you long before you were even thought of. Your picture will make them smile from where they’re scattered around the world, these kids we loved and taught before we knew you, back when we were just getting to know each other.

So where will you be from, Luci? What mountain or village will you claim one day? I can’t tell you just yet, but wherever it is I know we’ll be there, too, celebrating birthdays and exploring. And I can’t wait to see it with you.



Our Time Machine

Concrete Community Bible Church
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Highway 20 is a time machine.

An east-west corridor a few roads north of the bustling Interstate 90, along which we now live, Highway 20 is less traveled than the freeway, which goes eventually to Boston, and also than Highway 2, which goes to the faux-German village of Leavenworth and various other agricultural destinations. Highway 20 goes up and up, past a series of hydroelectric dams to a pass that’s closed for half the year. In months when you can keep driving, you wind through miles of fire-scorched wilderness and forgotten tiny towns, finishing within sight of the Idaho state line. It’s a grand trip.

Not that we’re going so far today. This morning, at the misty-grey end of September, we’re destined for Concrete, Washington, in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. Concrete, named for one of its original exports, is a small town, much smaller even than Kandern, but the highway carries me back in time as we drive along it, to a moment when Concrete was the big city. I grew up even further up this highway, where the Skagit River Valley narrowed and deepened, living in the eternal shade of evergreens and high hills. To eight-year-old Kristi, Concrete meant Little League and roller skating, grocery stores and bigger restaurants. More critically, it meant Church. We’d make the fifteen-mile drive down the valley several times a year, canceling our tiny house church service for some special occasion, like a Christmas pageant or a baptism Sunday, at Concrete Community Bible Church.

We arrive at Concrete Community Bible Church a few minutes before Sunday School, where Timmy and I have the privilege of sharing about our last two years at Black Forest Academy. Its white, friendly facade looks as genial as ever, and inside it’s no different. The last time I visited, in the summer of 2013, I was planning our wedding; today I arrive with my husband, quite obviously pregnant. At every turn we’re greeted effusively, some faces familiar and others less so, by people who’ve read our emails or prayed over our printed names in the bulletin. By the time we get up to speak, I’ve already shared our story half a dozen times, and from the front of the room my usual nervousness gives way in the glow of their welcoming excitement.

There are many kinds of communities. I often write about the transience of life at BFA. Friendships, community, churches–they are ever-changing, each year and season different from the last. While it’s marvelous to see God shaping each BFA for its specific moment in time, here at Concrete CBC I find a different marvel: the beauty of continuity. It’s continuity for me–there are people here who have truly known me since I was eight years old, and can trace the twisting paths that have brought me to this point–but it’s far greater than that. Here are decades of relationship, generations living, growing and loving in this tiny town in the Upper Skagit. I listen to their prayer requests and praises, their words of encouragement for one another, with the feeling of eavesdropping on a much longer conversation. This congregation, led by the same devoted pastor for the past 23 years, knows one another well, year after year living out their calling as the body of Christ in this little town.

I suppose it’s easy for transience to be jealous of continuity, but I’m not today. I can join in this service, singing songs to the God we all worship together, with neither the scorn of the willful nomad nor the envy of the perpetual exile. Because this place is home for me, too, even if it’s just for today, our time machine Sunday on Highway 20.

October: News, Thanks and Prayers

Enjoying an autumn hike up Mt. Catherine, just a few miles from our home!

Enjoying an autumn hike up Mt. Catherine, just a few miles from our home!

News and Dates:

  • October 13: Kristi beginning the Mothers of Preschoolers program at Bethany Community Church
  • October 25: Childbirth education class

I’m Thankful For:

  • Concrete Community Bible Church, which gave us a marvelously warm welcome a few weeks ago during their Sunday service. Such a privilege to be supported by this excellent community.
  • Our neighbors, friends who walk, discuss books, throw parties and share life together in this mountain community.
  • Our families, who have been so supportive to both of us as we embark on this new journey as parents.
  • Transportation in the form of our Subaru, which has kept us connected to the city and friends and family there.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Health. Pray for Kristi during these last six weeks of pregnancy, for sufficient rest and healthy development for baby Luci. Pray for Timmy as he has been struggling with allergies in this new environment, and seeks a good solution.
  • Plans. Pray for us as we make plans, both for the rest of this year and for our return to Germany in 2016 and all that this entails. Pray that we would remain connected to Christ, holding these plans with open hands and remaining receptive to His will.

If you have a prayer request or questions about the ministry in Germany or our year in the United States, or if you’d like to become a financial partner, please email me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy

Not Busy

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

Backyard 1It’s not early, but it’s still dark upstairs when I sit down on the floor, in front of the open, ashy mouth of the wood stove, to build a fire. It’s a new task for me. Except for an unfortunate youth-leading adventure, many years ago, this is only my third fire. Usually one of my parents builds the fire, or Timmy does. But my father is away, teaching the Bible to college students in Canada, and Timmy, by 8:30 AM, has likely walked miles already through the Veterans’ Hospital down in Seattle, since his chaplain’s shift started at six. And Mom had thumb surgery earlier this week, leaving me, thirty-year-old pyro-novice, to build the fire.

I crumple newspaper, tear up cardboard, carefully select variously-sized kindling and logs from the woodbox on the back deck. It’s just started to grow cold on this mountain pass, with mornings in the forties and the halfhearted Northwest drizzle that lingers lazily all day long. I’m told that snow could come next month. We’re hoping it waits–at least that the real snow waits–for Luci’s arrival in November. We’re starting to call this place home.

Last week, I trimmed pottery in the garage while thinking of the whirl of activity going on around me, near and far. Timmy and Mom worked in the backyard, cutting boards to the firewood storage against the predicted ten feet of snow that will fall once winter comes. Dad held meetings at Bethany Community Church, one after another, all day long. Down in Seattle, my former coworkers marched up and down the streets, picketing for a fair contract for Seattle School District employees. Holly sold coffee and smiles at her Danish bakery, Noah and Lindsey at their espresso bar in Leavenworth. And far away, across the world, a new teacher worked with eleventh graders in Room 22 at Black Forest Academy. For the first time in a while, I’m not busy. So used to the standard reply to the ubiquitous “How’s life?” I almost don’t know what to do with its opposite. I’m not busy. I’m… what?

I’m resting. Though Timmy is working half the week, this is somewhat true for both of us, as this year gives us the time and space to reflect on the last five (six, in Timmy’s case) that we spent in ministry in Germany. These were full years, rich in relationship and the beauty of worthy busyness, years that have left us both needing rest and eager to return. The space to step back, quite literally, from the teaching, mentoring and community that we’ve been investing in and simply rest, dwelling in Christ’s goodness and provision, is an incredible gift.

I’m available. I’ve found that these unfilled days are seldom truly empty, as long as I’m paying attention. This means I’m free to mentor a college student this year through our church, or to join a book club with my neighbors. On a daily basis it means learning to build the fire, or making breakfast for my family, simply dwelling in this expanded family He’s surrounded us with for this season. Sometimes it takes us further afield, to celebrations with our neighbors or seeing friends from near and far. Already in the months since we’ve lived in Washington, I’ve been surprised with the marvelous opportunities we’ve had to meet friends, old and new, in this area. We’ve had visitors from Germany, Canada, Oregon and Minnesota, and have marveled at the joy of reconnecting across great time and distances.

I’m waiting. A few years ago, my women’s Bible study in Kandern discussed the “joyful in hope” phrase of Romans 12, wondering how this hope was different than others. We concluded that it was an expectant hope, joyful in anticipation, like “waiting for Saturday.” As we draw nearer to our daughter’s arrival (She’s due two months from tomorrow!), this how I feel. Waiting expectantly for life to change in a big way. I’m learning as I wait, because I wait, learning again that no time is wasted, because it belongs first to Christ.

It’s always been easy to fill my day with titles: missionary, teacher, mentor, class sponsor, small group leader, writer, dorm sub, coach, friend, wife. Some of these will always apply, but others are necessarily seasonal, and I’m lighter on titles than I’ve been in a few years. I recently filled out a survey which asked me not what my occupation was, for which I’d likely still have written “teacher,” but “How do you spend your days?” Such an important question. (I hesitated, then wrote “Stay at home mom.” It’s a new season.)

How will I spend today? In gratitude and rest, listening and learning. Thank You, Lord, for this time.

Backyard 2

September: News, Thanks and Prayers

Hiking with my beautiful sister!

Hiking with my beautiful sister!

News and Dates:

  • September 8: Timmy begins his chaplaincy internship with the Seattle VA hospital
  • September 20: Visiting Concrete Community Bible Church

I’m Thankful For:

  • Proximity to friends and family. Between electronic options and people committed to communicating, we’ve been thankful to keep in touch fairly well over the last few years, but there’s no comparison to the face-to-face time we’ve been enjoying these last few months.
  • This home in the mountains, shared with my parents and grandmother, a place of quiet and beauty where we’ll welcome our baby girl in just over two months.
  • Financial support that allows us to take this time away, focusing on family, learning and restoration as we make plans for the future.
  • Health care here in Washington. We met with a midwife practice yesterday at the hospital where I’ll deliver Luci, and it was an incredibly encouraging visit, much like the great care we were receiving in Germany.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Health. I started my third trimester last week, and so far the pregnancy is going splendidly. Pray for continued good health for both me and the baby for the next few months.
  • Internship. Pray for Timmy as he begins his chaplaincy internship at the VA next week, that it’s a time of growth and a rewarding experience for him and those he serves. Pray also for safety as he commutes into Seattle three days a week.

As always, we’re incredibly thankful for your presence–through prayer, encouragement, and financial partnership–in our lives and ministry. If you have a prayer request or questions about the ministry in Germany or our year in the United States, or if you’d like to become a financial partner, please email me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy