Saturday, October 31, 2009

Orphan Sunday, 11/8: Lord, change one heart, and let it be HIS.

(Orphan Sunday, 11/8, makes me think of our adoption story.)

Part 2

Before we were married, we had our family all planned out--2 boys, 2 girls--2 born to us and 2 adopted. Then we married, time passed, and reality happened. One after another our 4 blond, round boys were born--the cookie cutter kids, Johnny called them.

And anyway, as we understood it, adoption wasn't really possible, and so therefore probably wasn't needed. All we heard about were the long waiting times to adopt. And so adoption faded from our minds. What we didn't realize was that those facts were true only about white, healthy infants.

Our assumptions were shaken when our friends adopted Micah and began to tell us and anyone who'd listen about the need for adoptive families for minority children. My dreams of adopting came alive again.

Over the next few years, periodically I'd bring up the topic to let Johnny know I was thinking about adoption. The conversations helped each of us to know the heart of the other, but in the end each talk drifted off without a decision.

Our conversations went many directions as we explored the what-ifs. One seeming obstacle was this: Johnny was concerned about our age. He imagined us white-haired and near retirement as we guided another child through the teens. How would he or she feel about such old parents, and would we have the energy for the adolescent years again? Besides, weren't we on the verge of a new chapter of life and ministry now, free from the afternoons of being soccer dad and carpool mom?

But to me, our age never seemed an issue. Yes, we'd be older and probably less energetic. But perhaps in our years of parenting so far we'd gained some wisdom that might help. Besides at the time of these talks, I was still younger than my mother had been when she bore her last child, and I had not yet passed out of the years of childbearing possibility.

During the months between those conversations, I prayed that God would change the mind of one of us, the heart of one, so we could come together to a definite yes or no. Of course, to be honest, that wasn't all I asked. I wanted the change of heart to be Johnny's.

(to be continued)

Orphan Sunday, 11/8: Something that involves my life

Orphan Sunday is coming up on November 8. Thinking about this sent me into my memories of adopting Talitha.

Our family was heavily involved in the pro-life movement through the years when rescues were a main public way of protesting abortion. Johnny spent one weekend in the county workhouse after being arrested while sitting in front of an abortion clinic. Another time we had to pick up our son, Benjamin, from the police department and go to court with him. He and some friends had been hauled in for chaining themselves to a clinic door to block it. Our younger children and I had spent many hours walking silently and praying.

As important as those things were, I began to dream of doing something pro-life that involved more of my life. When friends with teenagers adopted a baby boy, that spoke to my heart.

One day that adoptive father told me about a baby boy who was waiting for placement. I told Johnny about it right away, sure that he would feel just as strongly as I did that we should bring that baby into our home. He didn't.

I didn't take into account that I'd been thinking about this a lot, but it was a new idea to him.

(to be continued)

Friday, October 30, 2009

We'd never do that

"We'd never do something like that at my regular Curves." I was looking at the "Prayer Requests" white board on the wall at the Curves I visited in Georgia this summer.

The Curves employee was astounded. "Why not?" Standing there in small-town Bible Belt America, I found it hard to explain Minneapolis political/spiritual correctness.

Today, though, I had two reasons to rethink my certainty that "we would never do something like that."

1. When I arrived at Curves this morning, I was the only one there so far to workout. When the attendant saw me coming, she changed the music (which is never offensive anyway) to worship music with a beat.

2. After I'd finished my workout and was getting ready to leave, she asked if I could wait 30 seconds. She copied a page from a book, highlighted a couple of lines and handed it to me.

The book was the Bible, and the lines were: "I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. My people will never be ashamed again." (Joel 2:27)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dad, be the Lead Failure in your family

Bob and Mary Horning and their family have become friends of mine since they came to our church quite a few years ago. Bob has been the leader extraordinaire of both of the wheelchair missions to Cameroon.

A few days ago there was a gathering of fathers of children with disabilities. Bob encouraged the men by recognizing that he and all of them are failures. So is every member of their families. So the men should be the lead failures for their wives and children.

John Knight was one of those fathers, and he has posted links at his blog to the audio and video of that message by Bob Horning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Talitha's birthday

Here's a video of Talitha's birthday that spread into 2 weeks, 3 countries, and 4 cities.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Once upon a time . . .

I'm sitting again in my own kitchen. Saturday--just yesterday!--seems like another world, another time. May be just jet lag. Saturday was in Germany, Sunday night is in Minneapolis.

But part of the reason may be that yesterday we were at Neuschwanstein, which was born in the mind of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria. His name is usually paired with the word mad, as in Mad King Ludwig--though one tour guide tried to persuade us he was just eccentric.

To top it off, we went during what turned out to be the first snowfall of the season in the Bavarian Alps. We thought the trip would be memorable for colorful fall leaves, but they were all white. You can see a few pictures, if you'd like.

This castle seems like a representation of so much of Ecclesiastes--vanity of vanities. Years of labor and Bavaria's coffers drained in order for Ludwig to have this fairy tale dream built as his own personal hideaway, just for him alone. He lived in it only 170 days before he died.

Being young, not acting young

When we were at Dachau, there were several busloads of school groups--teenagers. Throughout our visit, the most obvious students were the ones who were moving as a herd and acting normal--laughing, making jokes, talking about clothes and football.

They were obvious because Dachau is not a normal place. It is a place where everyday emotions and conversations are engulfed with the memories of grief and loss that fill the air.

I prayed that these young people would visit again in a few years, or simply remember, and that God would grant them the eyes and heart to feel with those who lived and died in the camp at Dachau.

This made me all the more grateful for Grace's response to my Dachau post:

hey. my name is Grace. thank you for your thoughts. They meant so much. I am a junior in high school living over seas. I studied the Holocaust last year, and i cannot shake it out of my memories. There are things that i cannot even smell anymore because i was around them during the study I did. So, the Holocaust is a very hard topic for me. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tomorrow -- Ready or not

Usually when I'm traveling for a couple of weeks, I throw myself into the activities and ministry for most of the time. Then during the last day or two, my mind turns toward home and I'm ready to return.

This time I feel ready to return, but also wish I could stay longer. I think it's largely because I can understand so much of what's being spoken around me. Also, more and more I can speak understandably again in German. That makes me want to have more time to hear and speak better.

But tonight, at the end of a long day of travel to and from Neuschwanstein, we ate at Pizza Hut. So I guess we have indeed turned our faces toward home.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Remember, remember--Do not forget

It's been 2 days since we were at the former concentration camp outside the town of Dachau. I haven't written about it yet, because--even though it is not my first time there--is such a whole experience that it is hard to pick out one thought, one fact, one reality to recount.

Dachau Camp now is a peaceful place, even when there are many visitors. I felt almost as if I were alone with the memories and grief of the place. Here is the overwhelming thing that remains: Through the creation of the memorial, those who survived plead, "Remember those who died. Do not forget that such a thing happened. Do not let it happen again."

To hear one survivor's story reminds me of millions of others whose stories were the same and yet not the same. Each one who died was a person, whose story was written by God. That is what sits heavy on my heart as I remember--so many people, so many created by God in his image.

Each had a mother, a father, friends, neighbors, coworkers, maybe a wife or husband, maybe children. Each has lost the ones he loved. The loved ones have lost him.

Each had a certain laugh, particular gifts, favorite songs. All of us have lost those.

I will remember what I can remember. I am thankful that God forgets nothing. He knows every single one of those who died.

Perhaps some photos of our visit to Dachau will help you remember.

To the dead, honor.
To the living, admonition.

Photos of our old neighborhood

If you'd like, you can see photos of our walk around our old neighborhood.

Old home place

Yesterday morning we walked around the neighborhood where we lived from 1971-74. Here's the entry way to our apartment building. (It was plain gray then.)
The highest balcony was ours, where we looked out over a sea of roofs that reminded me of the chimney sweep scene in Mary Poppins, especially because it was not uncommon to see chimney sweeps around town.
A block away on Steinstrasse, we visited the bakery where we used to buy some of the best bread in the world--weissbrot or vollkornbrot or our favorite, a light roggenbrot. The bakery now has been in the Paul Schmidt family for 4 generations and has branched out beyond bread to many tempting sweet pastries.
I wish I'd counted how many pounds of bananas I bought, especially for our little Karsten, at this fruit market during those years.
Before we left the old neighborhood, we prayed for the people we knew then and for the people who live there now. We pray that they will be satisfied by the Bread of life and be filled with the fruits of the Spirit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Samara Photos

Our internet connections here are slow, so uploading photos takes a loooooong time.

So, here's a bit of catching up -- photos from Samara earlier this week.

It was a pleasure to be in a new place where God is, meeting God's people in that place, and learning some about what he's doing there.

Thanks for praying.

Think, remember, ponder

Today Pipers and Mathises go just outside Munich to the Dachau Memorial, one of the concentration camps during the Hitler years.

In German it is called Gedenkstaette Dachau. The gedenk part of the word means think, remember, ponder.

That is what I'm praying for today--God's thoughts about the tragic memories of this place.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


We are in Samara, Russia. Though this is the 4th largest city in Russia (or 3rd or 5th, depending on your informant), it is hardly known outside Russia.

One reason is that the government kept it a "closed" city because of the munitions plants that were here during WWII. Related to that is that Stalin's Bunker was built here secretly. This is the underground facility where the Russian government would have fled to if they had needed to evacuate from Moscow during WWII.

It was never used, and remained unknown and undiscovered until the early 1990s. Now it is supposedly open to the public. But you never know exactly when -- not this week, it turns out. So we just peered around behind the apt complex where it is, and saw the entrance.

I'm off to have a q/a with seminary wives.

Pictures later

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Talitha!

How did you get to be 14 already? I know--I've said that 4 different times already to your 4 brothers. But it catches me by surprise every time.

God was very gracious to us when he added you to our family. And his grace continues to us through you as you have become a young woman.

I love you sooooooooooooooooooooooo much. You used to write it that way to me. I write it now because I mean it from the bottom of my heart.


(I'm posting this the day before your birthday, because I'm not sure I'll have internet on your birthday, 10/11. I hope I'm not confusing our friends.)

The scenic Rhine

I've always heard of scenic cruises on the beautiful Rhine. Today was our turn.

The conference organizers graciously invited us Pipers and the DG team for 4 hours on the river.

I've posted pictures, including a couple of Talitha with a piece of cake, a foretaste of her birthday tomorrow, on Sunday. All the people pics are first in case you don't want to take time to see everything.

Thanks for praying. The conference was really good. I heard some of it myself and heard great responses from people who were at all the meetings.

Tomorrow Johnny preaches at the church where the conference was held, and then we travel to Samara, Russia.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bonn: birthplace of Gold Baeren

The Haribo Gold Baeren -- better known to us as Gummi Bears -- were born in Bonn.

When Johnny and I lived in Munich, 1971-74, I had never heard of them in America. Now they've taken over the world--sweetly and peacefully.

The Haribo Factory Store is just 10 minutes' walk from our hotel. Try to imagine a supermarket stocked with nothing but candy and cookies--pretty much gummi-anything-you-can-imagine. That's where Talitha and I were yesterday morning.

Don't tell our grandchildren, but guess what we're taking home for surprises?

Oh yes, and did I mention that Haribo created a special edition Gummi Arnold Scharzenegger?

No matter where we are . . .

England--Cambridge in particular--holds a special place in Talitha's memories because of the 4 months we were there during sabbatical in 2006. One of her favorite spots in Cambridge was Oxfam--a charity shop as they call it, a thrift shop as we call it.

So, imagine her glad surprise when we took a roundabout way to Beethoven's house in Bonn, Germany, and discovered Oxfam on the way. We didn't make any purchases there, but it was fun to look around.

To top off the shopping pleasure, there's a Euro Shop near our hotel--everything costs just 1 Euro.

He's everywhere! He's everywhere!

Bonn, Germany, is the birthplace of Ludwig von Beethoven. As far as I can tell, he wasn't very fond of the city. But he is honored here anyway.

Yesterday, Talitha and I visited the house where he was born and lived for a while. And we encountered him all over the city, as you can see in the pictures below.

Whenever we visit a historical place, the gift shop is a must-see. At the Beethoven House, almost everything was in German. Talitha's purchase at the Beethoven house was one that made me glad and is in a language that transcends German or English. She bought a music book and can't wait to get home with it to her piano.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I've dug out!

The walk-in junk drawer is empty. Here are the before and after pictures to prove it. The desk and file cabinet will be moved by someone else. The boxes in the corner are new shelves waiting to be assembled.

The cloth on the desk is a table cover from Turkey that I'll use to make valances.

Thank you -- a huge thank you -- to my husband who hauled file box after file box in our faithful red wagon, to the garage to keep or to the trash to throw or to the car to donate to our favorite thrift shop

Speaking of our favorite thrift shop. I found out today it pays to donate where you're a frequent shopper. When I took today's load, the lady helping me said, "Oh, wait! I have something for you." She handed me an item from yesterday's load which had included a stack of new, never used photo albums. Except this album had family pictures in it. Guess I got a little too enthusiastic in my clearing yesterday.

Now I can leave with a clear conscience to go with my husband and daughter on a ministry trip. More on that later.

And when I return, I'll start the next half--putting the room back together again.

Correction to previous post

In my previous post, somehow I missed one lie:
Nobody else sees my bedroom, so it doesn't matter what it looks like.

I've added it as #21 (which meant renumbering the following items).

Thank you, The Vicar's Wife, for pointing out the omission.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Digging out of Chaos -- LIES!

[updated: one missing lie added]

There's been lots of time to think, digging out of the chaos of the walk-in junk drawer that's supposed to be my study. (It was worse than the pictures show. They were taken AFTER I started working.)

As I dig out, I find myself uncovering decades of lying to myself.

Here's the list, so far. Originally I was tweeting them one by one. Responses confirm I'm not the only one who tells herself these lies:

Digging out of chaos--LIE # 1. I paid good money for that. I can't give/throw it away.

Digging out of chaos--LIE #2. I got that from my (fill in the blank). I can't give/throw it away.

Digging out of chaos--LIE # 3. That thing still works. I can't give/throw it away.

Digging out of chaos--LIE #4. It's so ugly I can't stand looking at it, but it's still usable. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--LIE #5. I haven't used it in 3 years, but I'm sure I'll need it sometime. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #6. I missed the deadline for product return. But someday I'll list it on Ebay. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #7. It doesn't fit, but I'll surely be be small/large enough next year. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #8. It doesn't match anything else I wear, but I like the color so much. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #9. My children will value this some day. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #10. It's still in the original box! This is going to be worth a lot someday. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #11. I'll find someone who still has the [office machine] that uses that part. I can't throw/give it away now.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #12. It's a souvenir from that wonderful trip to [fill in the place]. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #13. I'll move this to the [attic. garage. basement] till my children need it. I can't throw/give it away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #14. The perfect organizing system will store everything. I won't have to throw/give anything away.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #15. I'm the only one who knows what to do with each item of my chaos. No way can anybody help me.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #16. I'm so ashamed of this mess. No way can I let anybody help me.

Digging out of chaos--Lie #17. So many self-help books. Surely there's a way to fix my life without shoveling out from under the mess.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 18. Planning the job & wearing work clothes all day is almost as good as actually clearing away the mess.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 19. My living room & dining room are neat, so things aren't really out of control.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 20. I'll just sort all this stuff into stacks and then it will be neat.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 21. Nobody else sees my bedroom, so it doesn't matter what it looks like.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 22. I'm the only one who lives in the midst of mess like this. No way can I let anybody into my house & life.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 23. I'll never be able to dig out, so I'll just have to get used to living like this.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 24. It's just normal that stuff, stuff, stuff. is burying what I'm stuffing inside--and burying me.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 25. There's nothing I can do about this mess that's burying me. I'll never be able to follow my dreams.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 26. The wind has changed. The sky is lowering. Maybe Mary Poppins will drift in, snap her fingers & I'll be dug out.

Digging out of chaos--Lie 27. Keep tweeting wisdom about digging out, and I won't actually have to DO it. NOEL! Back to work!

Breaking up is hard to do

Okay. I've let you in on my dirty (literally) little secret.

My niece, Sunny, is a wise young wife and mother who empathizes with me. She deals with the same temptations I do.

So she sent me some good advice. It's extra good because it's so funny.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Let's not forget

Today is China's 60th birthday. . . sort of. Actually, China is thousands of years old. But today is the anniversary of 60 years of communist rule.

China has gone all out in its celebration. Photos of the grandeur are from such a distance that it's hard to remember that each one of those dots is a person with an eternal soul (as I was reminded recently when I posted photos from the rehearsals for this pageantry).

Let's not forget.