Visiting Alan’s Sister, Jan

Well, it’s taken me quite a while to process everything, but I’m now ready to tell you about our visit to Alan’s sister’s home. They live in a beautiful ranch-style house in the hills of California.We’ve visited many times, including once for over a month when Alan’s parents died. Jan is five years older and has always been a fabulous “big sister” and somewhat of a surrogate mother. In all the years we’ve visited, we were never greeted like this before; there was a low-hanging cloud gloomily engulfing the entire area, as if even the weather mirrored the heaviness of our hearts.Many things had not changed since our last visit, like their next-door-neighbor’s gorgeous estate…or Mr. Grey warming himself in front of a cheery fire. We all sat around and visited, but it just wasn’t the same without Jan.We sat around the kitchen counter like we always do…but that just wasn’t the same without Jan either.Jan has been the “center” of their home for years, and just having her resting on the couch for a little while, smiling with her eyes closed, made us all feel better!Joli and Bret are building a home just down the hill, so Joli showed me around.Everybody’s been helping big time, and Uncle Frank is building beautiful cabinets. It’s going to be really lovely when it’s done!Joli has some fat, sassy laying hens and a chicken coop. The home in encircled with gardens, flowering trees, and an orchard Jan plantedand full of inviting places to sit and rest a while.Truly, Frank and Jan have built an idyllic spot for their children and grandchildren to enjoy life.Jan just retired last summer after being chosen as the “California Teacher of the Year.” She and Frank took a circle tour of the U.S. in their corvette last summer to celebrate, visiting us and many of their favorite relatives and friends.And now, just months later, she’s been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in her neck and lungs…one from which she will not recover.In the midst of this great sorrow, Jan shared the joyful news that she had contacted a family friend who is a pastor and had made sure that all is well between herself and God, sealing her decision by wanting to be baptized!The cloud lifted, the rain stopped, and this is the glorious sunset God gave us as we left that night. I believe even heaven and the angels were rejoicing with us!

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

A Night at Gigi’s

It’s Friday again! I’m back in GR, and Joel and I are off to look for an apartment where he can live during grad school starting in the fall, but I remember last Friday night and will miss being able to come home for dinner at “Gigi’s.”In case you haven’t heard, “Gigi” is one of Jon’s pet names for Gerlinde, and every Friday night he takes her out to “Gigi’s Restaurant.”He uses the finest ingredients (like this olive oil he hand-carried back from Italy last summer) and spends some of his spare time each week dreaming up menus and searching for “the best” recipes.Usually  he doesn’t even let Linda know what the menu will be and makes her stay out of the kitchen (all as a way of honoring her and giving her a break), but since I was there, I sweet talked him into letting us hang out a bit.Each meal is a gourmet, seven-course delight!And each night at Gigi’s is full of fun and joy. Here the “kids” are toasting with some fine grape juice to start the dinner. (There is a saying in Germany is that if you don’t look into one another’s eyes during a toast, it will bring you seven years of bad sex.) Oh, did I repeat that? 🙂 After the toast and the salad, the third course was a wonderful Brie cheese with gooseberry and strawberry jam, all wrapped in a croissant-type pastry and baked until golden brown and melty, served with savory crackers. Are you getting hungry? I was already getting full, because it’s hard to eat just a smidgen of anything when it’s so exotic and delicious.Even the Queen of Sheba (so nicknamed by Jon when she wears this hat) wanted to get in the act. (Well, maybe not; Linda was just having fun! Her little queen is truly on a strict milk diet at this point, lest she have indigestion.)The main course was home made red cabbage (with bacon, onions, apples, and herbs), carrots, and a wonderful snitzel-type dish with a special German name that I can’t remember. Alan and I had it once with Sarah and Christoph when we were visiting in Germany. I think the name means “hunter’s stew” or something and is made with a red wine sauce and mushrooms. It’s truly excellent!Here the Queen of Sheba is passing judgment on the quality of Jon’s cooking. Note her delicate little fingers…she’s already such a little lady!Dessert was simple, luscious, and probably needs no explanation.This course is followed by specialty drinks. In our case, cappuccinos.

And then, there was the after dessert little smackeral of something. I’m sorry I can’t remember all the names, but each course has a french name and is a distinct genre of food.And, after all that, there was nothing left to do but dance!and snuggle up a littleon the couch!“The memory of the righteous is a blessing.”

Proverbs 10:7

Bonny Jonny

Jonathan and Gerlinde just make me so happy! Tuesday was Jonathan’s 32nd birthday and also his spring break, so Alan and I got to spend the entire day celebrating with their family. Here they are first thing in the morning…

Jonny was always such a happy, easy-going baby. I used to say he was made out of sugar-plated gold. Amelie is too! God has given them a real treasure! 🙂Breakfast was a hit: waffles with fruit jams, juice and cappuccinos.And, then we were off to explore Kettle Falls, a tiny little community about 80 minutes north of Spokane and just 30 miles south of the Canadian border.The star attraction in this one-horse town was a new German bakery that just opened a couple of months ago, where Jon and Linda could load up on authentic German breads…and wonderful sandwiches and pastries, which we used for picnicking at the village’s “Happy Dell” park.After lunch, we took “Jane” (their car) to a remote little turnout near Lake Roosevelt, which is a reservoir on the Columbia River.

While Linda nursed Amelie and Alan took an afternoon snooze, Jonathan and I took a hike along the sandy bank/riverbed of the great Columbia River, which is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and the river by which the Lewis and Clark expedition finally ended at the Pacific Ocean, back in 1805-06.We returned home in time to have a festive dinner at Jon’s favorite restaurant, “Europa Restaurant and Bakery.”The food really was incredibly good,

and as Linda predicted, the desserts were “to die of,”but—for me—the very best part was the grand company!The evening ended with fun at homeand lots of wonderful gifts graciously provided by Linda, who really does look out for Jonathan! Without her, I don’t know if he’d have even a decent pair of jeans to his name, but she takes such good care of him! His suitcase was so broken down that one of his students (who had picked him up at the airport last month) asked him why he didn’t buy another one. We noticed the same thing last time he came home, and so we took him to town to get a carry-on.He pretended to be utterly surprised when he opened it, and we all had so much fun. Now he won’t have to feel embarrassed when he travels…which is often!Once, when Jonathan was only about 8, our basement flooded on his birthday. Instead of spending the afternoon going to a park, as we had planned, we had to spend the whole day frantically trying to stop and clean up the flooding.That night I felt like such a failure as a mom when I tucked him in. “Did you have any fun at all?” I asked. He looked up at me with the most angelic smile, and his eyes were shining: “Oh, yes! It all worked out, and I had a green cake!” (His favorite color has always been green.) Jon’s eyes are still shining, and he still makes me cry because he’s so sweet. Only, now I’m happy too, because he has a wife and baby with shining eyes, and he told me before we left, “Mom, I’m never lonely any more!”

Thank you, Jesus!

“A wise son [and daughter-in-law] makes a glad father [and mother].”

(Proverbs 10:1)

Stop the Presses: Mike and Grace’s Baby Has Arrived!

Last night after Alan and I returned to our hotel room, our hearts were so full, and we were so tired, that we went right to sleep, even though it was only 9:00 pm. Alan was snoring softly when the phone rang, and he didn’t even stir when I answered. It was Michael calling from Hawaii to let us know that their baby had arrived safely! Well, then I just had to wake up Alan so we could skype!They had a home birth with the help of a midwife, so the girls were able to flit in and out from time to time and were delighted with the baby: a BOY! Just what they wanted! Now they have their little “prince” for all their make believe games. Nycteris was particularly excited, “We get to keep this one!” she exclaimed.       The baby weighs 9 pounds, 4 oz. and is 21 inches long. He’s a BIG boy!Coming up with a name will take a little while, because they were thinking he might be a girl! He looks a lot like Michael to me, and I know Mike’s going to love having a boy to rough and tumble and be “men” together.Alan and I are at the airport in Sacramento now, waiting for our flight back to Spokane to help celebrate Jonny’s birthday tomorrow. We are really looking forward to spending time with them, and then we’ll be back home for just a little before heading to Hawaii to see grand baby #8. There is something so therapeutic about new life while grieving the inevitable loss of Alan’s sister, probably in the not-too-distant future.

“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Joy in Sorrow

My heart is very full tonight, but too full to share. We had a wonderful day with Jan and Frank, plus both their kids and all the grand kids as well as Alan’s brother, Terry. Thank you to each of you who has been praying. God does wonderful things for those who ask. I am praying that the Lord would relieve her terrible headaches so that she can find joy in whatever time she has left. God is good!

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

Be Still My Soul

We left Jon and Linda’s to visit Alan’s sister Jan in California this weekend. Jan has lung cancer and was recently diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal metastatic cancer in her neck. We find ourselves grieving deeply. This song has been playing itself over and over in my mind:

“Be Still, My Soul”“Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.“Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.“Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.“Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.”—by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-? and trans. by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897 Artwork by “Raindrop Art” Galleries from around the world (I think)

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Do You Have What It Takes?

Have you ever noticed that girls tend to marry men quite a bit like their fathers—even despite their intentions to marry someone who won’t have their father’s besetting strength and weakness? One of my closest friends was sure she would never want to marry a doctor, because her physician father worked too hard. Of course—you guessed it—she married an anesthesiologist! Gerlinde didn’t want to marry someone in ministry because her dear father worked night and day…which meant that her mother did as well. Gerlinde told me the other night, half laughing but quite wistfully, “I never wanted to marry someone who worked as hard as my father, and now I feel just like my mother!Life is good, but it’s hard! Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. I think we often question our own abilities to survive and thrive. “Have I got what it takes?” we ask ourselves. All too often in my life, the answer has been, “No; not in myself. But, I know You can give me the grace, Lord, if only I will ask and lean on you.”

Gerlinde’s father gave Jonathan a wonderful little booklet called You Have What it Takes. I read it while rocking Amelie over the last few days, and I just love it! It’s written to fathers, and its basic tenet is that all sons worry about failure and are asking, “Do I have what it takes to be a real man? To be a success at life?” He says all daughters fear abandonment and want to know, “Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for?” His contention is that all children look to their dads for love, approval and a positive answer to these basic life questions. They need to hear, “Yes!” a thousand times throughout their lives—through both words and actions.

Eldredge points out that our heavenly father did this exact thing for Jesus. He said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The author goes on to say that fathers need to have this question answered in their own lives, too, before they have the emotional wholeness to inculcate an overcomer’s confidence into their children. As men become spiritually healthy, they become better encouragers to their children. Eldredge also says his “ace in the hole” over his own shortcomings as a dad is the consolation in 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” If fathers learn to love their children deeply and are quick to seek forgiveness and reconciliation when they fail (which will happen from time to time despite the best of intentions), then children will sense the overriding love of the parent and won’t be so wounded by the times when Dad was too busy, or tired, or selfish to really be all he should be.So, if any of you are wondering if you have what it takes to be a good spouse or parent, I highly recommend this inspiring booklet (e-copies are only $1) that can be read while rocking your baby. The answer is a resounding “YES! You Have What It Takes” no matter who you are. And if you have any doubts (like I always do), remember that you can go straight to your Father for help!

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

The Life of a Theologian’s Family

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. It will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”
~Mother TeresaHave you ever wondered what it was like to live in the house of a theologian? I mean…really…
you know…beyond having Greek texts posted on the wall above the showerand rows and rows of wonderful books to read…many of which are in languages hard to understand…Well, if you can snuggle with your baby for a few minutes during breakfast, then life is pretty good, I think!Getting to lecture to a class of 250 lovely young people is a pretty great privilege too. Today’s subject was an overview of Galatians that ended with a lively, interactive discussion with the kids on what it means to “walk in the Spirit.”I’ll tell you, I felt like a celebrity when some of the students found out after class that I was the mother of the “fabulous Dr. Armstrong!” Very moving.Did you know that Linda is teaching too? A German class!Like so many theologian’s wives, Linda is extremely busy and industrious.Although Jonathan watches Amelie while Linda teaches, Linda does the lion’s share of the child care. (But, isn’t that true of most all nursing mothers?)Nevertheless Jonathan is quite in love with his little darling,and he makes sure that she saves the last dance of the evening for him!And so, I leave you with the marvelous thought inscribed on the wall of the school’s “gathering place.” Truly, the life of a theologian’s family is blessed.

The Changing of the Guard

Happy Spring to you! Alan reported that it was 87° in GR yesterday. I’m glad for all you springtime Michiganders! Here in Spokane we endured rain, sleet, hail, and otherwise grey skies with temperatures in the 32-47° range. Nevertheless, I am singing: “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and as long as I’m holding one so sweet, let it sleet, let it sleet, let it sleet!”And so, there’s been a changing of the guard. Jonathan put Sarah on a plane for Korea about 4:00 am this morning, but not before we’d had a lovely day to celebrate the first day of spring together on Tuesday.We dressed Amelie snuggly in a fine, warm hat knit by her young second cousin, Carrisa Parunak, and a  beautiful, delicate blanket crocheted by her Aunt Susanne, and away we went to the Old European Breakfast Haus for a special celebratory brunch.It was a girls’ day out, because dear Jonathan had a long day of teaching, but he also went out for breakfast with a student named Dan, so I didn’t feel too badly.Our meal was a special treat to honor Sarah for her month of love and care, and so we splurged on “sample platters” of breakfast delights from various countries, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and England. They were delicious, and I think it’s somewhat telling that all three of us ending up wanting the same thing!Of course, I wanted lots of pictures to commemorate the event, like this shot of the three generations together. (One was sleeping on the job, but we were glad!)     Linda wanted a picture of her two moms, who have so much fun together, and I wanted a mother-daughter picture of the two ladies who were both grieving the fact that they would be parted soon.We chatted and laughed and exchanged stories until way past noon, and then Amelie woke up and decided she wanted some lunch too!And then, because of the miserable weather,  Amelie and I entertained each other in the car while Sarah and Linda dodged sleet and hail to pop into a few stores for last minute supplies and gifts for Sarah’s trip back to Korea.For dinner, Sarah and I conspired to send Jon and Gerlinde out for dinner while we babysat and Sarah packed up, and then it was time to say very sorrowful goodbyes. 😦 But, I have one very especially exciting last detail. Amelie has two middle names: Sarah, for her Grandma Sarah, and Louise, for her Grandma Kathi Louise. What an amazing honor it is to have a child named for you, and I feel honored to share this privilege with Sarah! Truly, we are experiencing a “changing of the guard” in passing on our names too. Thank you, Lord, for such a blessing.

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalms 37:4-5).

First Glimpses

You know, it seems like it’s a lot harder to get places than it used to be a few years ago! My flight was delayed out of GR, and then there were delays and gate changes, and more delays trying to get out of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I was dressed a bit like Heidi because I didn’t want to pay for any checked luggage, and so I was wearing a sweater, a poncho, and my winter coat…dragging everything around the airport. Ah well, it was still much better than a 40+ hour car trip!! I never cease to marvel at the beauty of our earth and am mesmerized by viewing the world from the air. Since I’d visited the kids last summer, I recognized Mt. Spokane in the distance as we flew by and knew I was almost there!                                  And here is Baby Amelie. Isn’t she precious?Linda picked me up at the airport and brought me straight home for some coffee                             and some of Mama Jaeschke’s wonderful scones.

Sarah arrived from South Korea, where she and her husband are serving as interim missionaries for a German church in Seoul, on the very day that Amelie was born. Sarah has stayed for a month helping out and enjoying the family. Since I like her so much, I “just had” to come early enough to spend a day with her before she goes.Amelie is such a sweet-tempered baby (like Iris), and Gerlinde is such a great mom (like Kathy). I think Amelie weighs a few ounces more than Iris, and I think both the babies favor their fathers a touch, but if you dressed the girls in matching outfits, I’m pretty sure everyone would assume they were twins!                                                   So, whose yawn is whose?                                    And, what’s with the one-eyed surveillance?                            At any rate, they are both just too cute for words!After Jonathan came home from work, he got Amelie to smile for him! She is sure a happy baby,  and according to both grandmas, Jonathan and Linda are getting what they deserve, because they were both very sweet babies too.

In fact, they still are! 🙂

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18)