Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Germany

We had a joyous & special Christmas season. Our daughter, Katie, was able to join us for a few weeks. We had a fun time exploring a few things in Germany with her and exposing her to our ministry. She made some new friends -- not surprising with her friendly personality.

We explored some sights with Katie, primarily a lot of castles & Christmas markets. Here are a few that we really enjoyed.

As we approached the Christmas celebration, we planned a fun excursion with folks from the Hospitality House. We took about 20 folks to Rothenburg and Nurenberg for a weekend. Rothenburg is known for being Germany's best-preserved medieval walled town. It has some fun and interesting sights, like the Medieval Crime & Punishment Muserum, a walk along the city wall, and a beautiful Christmas market. Nurenberg is know for its medieval architecture, the biggest Christmas market in Germany, the tiniest bratwurst in Germany and its Nazi past. Folks spent time in the Nazi Documentation Center and explored the Christmas market. It was a fun weekend and we shared our time with the Baumholder Hospitality House as well.

On Christmas Eve, we began our celebration at the Ramstein Comtemporary Service (RCS) for a candlelight worship service. We had a nice dinner at home and had our family Christmas celebration with Katie. Christmas morning began with about 16 singles coming over for brunch. We fixed eggs, pancakes, bacon, all the fixins. Afterwards, they opened their presents. Many came in their pajamas to enjoy the morning. We moved into the afternoon with a Christmas dinner planned at 3:00. We hosted 81 folks as we celebrated the birth of our Lord. We had a time of worship and singing carols, followed by playing games and hanging out! We hope everyone truly felt like they were at home.

We feel like we are settling into life in Germany and a routine with ministry. We are excited to see what God will do in 2010. We continue to work on deeping our relationships with folks that are in our ministry. We hope you and your family had a blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

November was a blur!

We can't believe that it is already December! November just flew by. We had a busy month as we began to get ready for the holidays. We attended our first Cadence European Staff Conference. We enjoyed spending time with our team and encouraging one another in our ministries. We dealt with the tragedy of the Ft. Hood shootings, death of a Chaplain here in our Ramstein community, people deploying to Afghanistan, family deaths and dealing with loneliness as the holidays approach. Yet, as Thanksgiving came, we were thankful.

We celebrated with 74 folks at our home. We played games together, enjoyed lots of turkey & pie and learning more about each other. Lou & I reflected on how much we appreciate this opportunity God has given us to serve the men and women that participate in our ministry. We have grown to love and care for each one in a very special way. Our prayer is that we will continue to deepen our relationships with them as we move into 2010.

As December begins, we are busy with activities and getting ready to usher in the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus. It is hard to believe but this will be our first Christmas in 48 years (second for Lou) that we haven't spent it with our families. Yet, we are honored to try and create a home away from home for those people here that will not be able to spend - yet another - Christmas with their family.

We started the Christmas season by going to the Tubingen Chocolate Festival and Stuttgart Christmas Market. We spent the day with about 15 folks eating chocolate from various parts of Europe, sharing our hearts as we walked through the Christmas market in Stuttgart and just hanging out!
We are thrilled to have an opportunity to share our lives with these folks! We can't wait to see what God teaches us during this Christmas season. May we never forget the miracle that the creator of the universe chose to leave Heaven, come to reconcile us with Him through the birth of Jesus, His death & resurrection. God calls us to respond to this truth -- how will you respond this Christmas?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Approaching 3 months....

We cannot believe that we have been in Germany almost three months. In some ways, it has gone by very fast; in others, very slow. Since it's been over a month since our last update, we have been busy - thus life is going fast. Yet, as we struggle to find our groove with ministry, our patience is being tried - thus life is going slow. We want to settle into life, settle into ministry, get past the transition phase. We want to obey God's leading in our ministry, yet when there is pushback from folks, we question if we are "hearing the Lord accurately". In all honesty, our emotions have been all over the map, especially for Cathy.

Change is always an interesting thing. Some people are open to the change in leadership and allowing us to do things differently than our predecessors. Some people want things to not change at all and are upset with the fact that we aren't Fred & Diane. We understand that, we want to be sensitive to that, but we also know we need to be who God has gifted and called us to be.

We are excited about how the fall has played out and looking forward to the holidays. We did have really had a good October. We had our first excursion with the folks from the House. We went to the Sunshine Pumpkin Farm near Landstuhl. We went and toured the farm, picked a pumpkin, had a BBQ back at the House and finished with a pumpkin carving party. It was really a lot of fun!

Lou managed to turn 48 this month. To celebrate, we went to visit the Vincenza House in northern Italy. Our friends, Steve & Teeter Mauldin, are filling in at the Hospitallity House, so we went to hang out and enjoy a quick tour of Venice.

We spent four days with the Mauldin's. Two days were seeing how the Vincenza Hospitality House operates, and picking their brains about doing ministry. We sent two days being tourists in Venice. It was a fun time!

We are so grateful that we serve a God who comes along side us, who uses us, who loves us: despite our fears and insecurities. We are so thankful for friends and family that love us, support us, pray for us. We miss everyone so much, but are thrilled to be here. We are excited to see what God has in store for us and the folks we are doing life with -- we'll be in touch!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Krazy K-town!

We have been in Kaiserslautern for six weeks now. We can't believe how quickly time has flown. Sad to say that we have not been able to keep up with regular communication since our arrival. Some of you may know, we have been without internet connectivity since we have arrived. We finally got it hooked up yesterday (24 Sept). Without internet, we have been surprised how much that has affected our transition.

We have been reflecting on the importance of communication. When you don't feel like you can chat with people, connect at a heart level (even if it's through an email), the end result is you are isolated and lonely. At least that is how it has been for us. Isn't that true in all of our relationships? Whether it is a phone call, a chat over coffee, reading an email, you feel like you are connecting. We are made for relationship. Relationship with our God and with each other.

We truly appreciate everyone encouraging us and praying for us. We are starting to feel like we are getting into a groove with our ministry. Tuesday night, Lou leads a men's study and Cathy cooks for 15-20 guys. Lou is facilitating a character study on David. Friday night, we host a dinner and a study for about 80 folks. After a time of worship, we are viewing the video series by Francis Schaeffer, titled How Should We Then Live? and Lou leads a discussion afterwards. We are hopeful that this series will challenge folks to truly look at their world view and come to a true understanding of why they believe what they believe.

Fall has yet to start here in Germany. Mornings are cool, but for the past week or so, it's been sunny and in the 70's. Very unusual -- at least that's what we have been told. We will be sending more regular updates, along with video updates. We are excited to be hear and grateful to you all who have loved us, encouraged us, supported us.

Friday, August 7, 2009

We are own our way!

Can't believe it! We are on our way to Kaiserslautern. Lou leaves on Monday, 10 August, with our dog Bailey. Cathy leaves on Wedneday, 12 August, with her mother. Her mom has graciously agreed to come out for a few weeks to help us get settled, paint/wallpaper a few rooms, unpack and get the house ready to go!

Our goods shipped about a month ago. We had a great group of guys agree to sacrifice their day and help us load a 20'x10'x8' foot container. The container was supposed to arrive at 8:30 and we were initially told we would have two (2) hours to pack it up. Unfortunately, the container didn't show up until 11:30. Because of the delay, the shipping company gave us more time to pack it up.

Our crew was ready to go at 8:30, but due to the delay, we were creative in how we killed our time. Lou's brother, Vince, decided to challenge Andrew Hess to a "chipping" competion. Katie and Jessica decided to tackle some Trivial Pursuit, which Andrew ended up joining in the game as well.

Finally, the container showed up and we worked hard to get all of our goods packed. We had a great team, but Clint Mahan was instrumental in getting it packed so everything would be get to Germany. We are so grateful to all that helped us! It is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, 19 August. Hopefully, it will arrive with everything still in tact! :-)

We are very excited and a little sad. We are saying our good-byes to our family this weekend, which will be very hard. We appreciate all of your love, friendship and support! We'll be in touch again, after we get settled in K-town.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Make me patient

I call to you, O Lord, from my quiet darkness. Show me your mercy and love. Let me see your face, hear your voice, touch the hem of your cloak. I want to love you, be with you, speak to you and simply stand in your presence. But I cannot make it happen. Pressing my eyes against my hands is not praying, and reading about your presence is not living in it. But there is that moment in which you will come to me, as you did to your fearful disciples, and say, "Do not be afraid; it is I." Let that moment come soon, O Lord. And if you want to delays it, then make me patient. -- From A Cry for Mercy by Henri J.M. Nouwen

As we prepare to leave in two weeks for Germany, we realize that we are truly struggling with mixed emotions. We are starting to feel the pressure of the enemy and are wrestling with being impatient, fearful, nervous. At the same time, our confidence in what God has called us to do fills our hearts with joy & excitement. We are about to embark on the biggest change and adventure of our lives. Some times we feel God's presence in our lives in amazing ways; other times we are in a quiet darkness.

We can relate to Nouwen's cry. We know God is with us, even when we feel alone. We know that God hears the cry of our hearts, even when we don't feel His presence. We will continue to cling to the Lord and know we will have that moment with the Creator of the universe where we hear him say, "Do not be afraid; it is I".

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On the road again

We are on our (hopefully) last support raising trip. We left on 30 May and won't return to Colorado until 25 June. We are going from Colorado to the Chicago area to New England to Washington DC to North Carolina and back home via Kentucky, Kansas, and Oklahoma!

The beauty of these trips is truly reconnecting with old friends and family. With our goal of moving in August, these visits are more precious. We realize it will be a long time before we see many of these folks again. We must admit the time in the car does get old very fast. Yet, our visits have been very amazing!

Here Lou is with our old friend Garret Maki. Garret and his wife, Min-Yi, live in Minneapolis - at least for now. They are moving to Houston in the next few weeks. It was great seeing Garret and catching up on life.

We also enjoyed seeing Elena Schlueter in Crown Point, Indiana. Elena is very special to us. She is the first born child of my cousin Debie and her husband Anthony. We prayed and prayed for her and she is a true blessing! Elena is investingating the fun behind watering flowers.

Our next visit came in Boonville, NY. I (Cathy) have a dear friend that lives there. It is a small town near Syracuse, NY. We had a great visit with Nancy and we saw our first woodchuck. The joys of living near woods. :-)

We have managed to enjoy a night at the ball field. As most of you know, Lou is an avid baseball fan! We had a night off and went to the Baltimore game. It was "floppy hat" night at Campden Yards. I'm not sure this is the best look for me, but we had a fun and relaxing night at the ball field.

Next stop....Washington DC. We will enjoy five days in the DC area visiting with friends and family. We are amazed how many people have entered our lives over the years and we cherish these relationships. With our move to Germany just around the corner, we are enjoying this opportunity to see folks before we head overseas.

Monday, June 1, 2009

May was a blur!

We can't believe it has been a month since we have journaled. The entire month of May has been a blur. We returned from Germany and hit the ground running: meeting with more people, starting to pack for our move overseas, graduations, graduations and more graduations!

We have gone to three graduations. Andrew Hess graduated from Denver Seminary. Sue Smith graduated from UCCS with her nursing degree. Mike Laney graduated from the Air Force Academy. He will be reporting for pilot training in Mississippi later this summer.

When you attend three commencements and hear three speeches, you begin to reflect on life pursuits, dreams, goals and life in general. We began refleciting on our own life pursuits and dreams. When you graduate from high school (for us it will be 30 years this June), you have all these ideas of what you want to achieve, the person you desire to become, how life is going to play out.

When 30 years go by, you realize that the journey usually turns out very different. For us, we didn't think we would be about to embark on full-time ministry, moving overseas or spending a year preparing for this next adventure. But, here we are. Getting ready to move to Germany. It is exciting and scary! We are still amazed at God's goodness to us. We know that He will move and by His grace use us, despite our short comings. We are grateful, thankful and blessed! To be continued!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Germany...here we come!

We just returned from two weeks in Germany. We had the opportunity to see the house we will be living and serving in, we met lots of super folks, served Easter dinner to about 100 people, and met the other members of the Cadence European team.

Here is our home. Fred & Diane Stock are the current house directors. They will be leaving in June and we are hopeful to arrive in July. The top floor is the living quarters. There are three bedrooms and an office. There is also a loft area that we will be able to convert to a nice study area for us.

The basement consists of two storage areas, a guest room, a teen room and a child care room. There is a ton of space and we will need it with the volume of people that come to the house.

The main floor is where the ministry happens. The house currently has a Couples Study on Sunday afternoon, a Mens Study on Tuesday nights and Friday Night Dinner and Study. On Friday nights, we are serving dinner for approximately 75 folks. We had an opportunity to serve over the Easter weekend. Check out the picture of some of the folks that were with us on Easter Sunday! It was an exciting time to be in Kaiserslautern!

We enjoyed meeting some of the folks that are part of this ministry. We had a special connection with three young men and can't wait to see them again this summer: Kyle, Nick & Jacob. Kyle is from Washington, Nick from Georgia and Jacob from Nebraska. They are stationed together, but in different jobs, yet they met at the Hospitality House. We truly enjoyed hanging out with them all weekend, hearing their stories and knitting our hearts with theirs. Nick is getting ready to be deployed but will be returning in the fall.

After spending these two weeks in Germany, we are more excited than ever to get out to the field. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we try to finish our support raising so we can move this summer!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Life Well Lived

We are about to return back to Denver, after 3 weeks on the road. We have spent the majority of our time in California. We have seen many of our old friends and family -- from San Diego to San Francisco. During our trip, I (Cathy) have been reading a book entitled Breathless, by Gary R. Collins. As we are getting ready to move to Germany and enter full-time ministry, we have been discussing the idea of living a balanced life. Both of us have a tendency to get overextended and we need to learn to juggle our priorities better.

As I have been reading Breathless, I have been reflecting on what it means to live a life well lived. Isn't that what we all want -- to get to the end of our life and realized that it was well lived? The author challenges his readers to learn to turn our time-starved days into a life well lived. Well, what does that mean? So, I've been thinking about that on our trip. As a Christ follower, I have been thinking about reflecting on Jesus' life and how He modeled a balanced life. Jesus took time to relax, pray, spend time with friends, work, etc. How come I can't seem to live this life? What does this look like?

Last week, we visited a dear friend - Harle Damon. Harle is a retired army officer, who after retirement became a successful businessman and in his early thirties became a Christian. Harle values education, discipleship, the study of God's word, being a faithful husband and a good father. When Lou became a Christian, Harle reached out to him to disciple Lou in his faith. Harle is now 87 and his health is starting to fail. His life verse has become II Corinthians 4:16-17 - which he quoted to us at our visit - "Do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

We went to encourage Harle, Harle encouraged us. He reminded us that even though his outward man is starting to fail, he is being renewed because of his faith in Christ. He is still writing, reading, reflecting, studying and loving his wife. His energy fails him, but his heart and his mind are strong. Harle is not perfect, he has made mistakes -- but he has grown and is living a life well lived.

As I continue to meditate on this idea of living a life well lived, I'll finish the book and mediate on the ideas that Mr. Collins presents: developing my character, serving others, living a focused life, nurturing my inner world, sharpening my mind, managing life and leaving a legacy. I will also think about our friend Harle, who has modeled this to us so well.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Can you truly be obedient?

As the economy has continued to struggle, we have been amazed at God's faithfulness in His provision. As most of you know, we joined Cadence last June. Cadence is a Military Ministry and we are going to be operating a hospitality house in Germany this summer. In September, Cathy finished her job, we began raising support as our full time job. Within 30 days, the economy began to tank.

We were very nervous to see how our support raising would go. We are embarking on an amazing opportunity, an area of ministry that we feel God has preparing us for over the past 10 years and now we are asking people to pray about supporting us financially during a time when the economy is falling apart.

Yet, God is faithful. We have begun to reflect on our faithfulness to Him. If Lou would be graduating this May, instead of last year, would we be going to the mission field, knowing what we know now? We'd like to think we'd be obedient to God's call -- but honestly, isn't it easier when times are easier. Would we have wimped out on serving God knowing that Cathy had a good paying job and Lou was offered a high paying job after graduating from Denver Seminary. Last June, it was much easier to think about answering the call when the economy was more stable; would we make the same decision if Lou would be graduating this Spring? We'd like to think so -- but honestly, we aren't sure.

We are thankful that God didn't give us that option. God know us and we think He knew that we needed to learn more about His character. This has been quite a faith building time for us. Some people have called us "courageous", but we don't think that's a fair characterization. Courageous people will follow God no matter what; courageous people will be obedient despite the outside circumstances; we're not sure we would have make the same decision this June -- knowing what we know now. Do you think you can be obedient, no more what...think about it...be honest.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Can you believe it is February already?!

We just returned from another road trip. Our little Camry is taking a beating. We spent most of January in Virgina, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina. When we are spending time with folks, time seems to stand still -- until we return home. Somehow it's February!

We had a blast hanging out with old friends from Northrop Grumman, Concerned Women of America and Cadence. We had great time relieving memories with family as well. We stand in amazement how blessed we are! Life is busy! Yet, people graciously make time to open their homes, share their lives and get caught up on life.

Our special friends, Eric & Moira McKerrow, have a little boy that has grabbed our hearts. We truly enjoyed our visit with them. They are dealing with the challenges of having an active 9 month old, fighting sleep deprivation and learning how to be great parents! [Which so far, we think they are.] We had fun watching a Washington Capitols Hockey game as Ronan cheered on his team -- checkout his hocky stick. :-)

We really had a great visit with Chris & Lauren Macedo. They are dear friends from Colorado that have moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. We had a great time joining them for worship practice - Chris is the worship leader at their church. We were thrilled that Kiya (4) and Caden (2) didn't forget us. Yet, the highlight was looking at pictures of the Cadence hospitality house they met at in Germany. Ironically, it is the same house we are going to be taking over this summer! God has an amazing way of orchestrating our lives. We are so thankful that Chris & Lauren introduced us to Cadence!
Check out Kiya and Caden playing Candyland with Mr. Lou.

Here's Caden rocking and rolling!

When we were in South Carolina, we had an opportunity to spend a few days with my (Cathy) aunt and cousins. I hadn't seen my cousins and their family in many years and Lou had never met them. We had a wonderful time of catching up, hearing about their families and seeing their girls.

We are thrilled to be on this journey and our excited to see how 2009 will continue to unfold. If all goes as planned, we are going to be in Germany this summer. We will be spending the Spring visiting with more folks in Colorado. We will be in California and Oregon in March and returning to the East Coast in June. It's a crazy time, but a time we will never forget!

Hearing my fathers' voice

I (Cathy) walked into church a few weeks ago. I was running a little late, so there were quite a few people in the sanctuary. I was joining my parents and I was looking for them. As I was scanning the congregation, I heard my father's voice. He wasn't speaking to me, or even calling to me. But, I could still hear it.

Out of all of those people in the room, somehow I could hear my father speak. I began to look around and sure enough in the next section over and several rows down, there my father stood. He was talking to another person, he didn't even see me. But, I walked over to him and join my folks for the service.

That afternoon, I began to reflect on my relationship with my Heavenly Father. How could I find my earthly father in a crowded room -- just by hearing his voice? In the Gospel of John, John compares men to sheep. Jesus speaks and reminds us that His sheep will follow Him because they know His voice. The sheep won't go astray because they do not recognize a stranger's voice. (John 10:3-8).

Do I know my Heavenly Father's voice like I do my own father? I know my dad's voice because I have spent time with him. I have spoken with him, argued with him, laughed with him, cried with him. I know my dad. Can I say the same about God? Do I spend as much time with the Lord, talking to Him, pouring out my heart to Him, laughing or crying to get to know His voice? to get to know Him?

I wish I could say "yes". But, there have been times in my life where I have gone astray, where I haven't heard my Heavenly Father loving directing me to go a different route. Where I have ignored the voice of God. Where I have just flat out missed His voice. As I reflected on that Sunday afternoon, I am grateful that God is a gracious and merciful Father. He is ready to spend time with me - just like my earthly father - any time I want. It's up to me to get to know Him, so I can follow Him more diligently.