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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Christmas Time in the City... Rome

Well, the fourth Sunday in advent came, we had snow in Kandern, then two days later I got on a train and then a plane and arrived in Rome Italy.
We went to midnight mass at the Vatican on Christmas Eve. This is something I never thought I would experience, and to be honest I have never longed to experience it. I was not raised Catholic so I do not understand everything that happens in a Catholic service. And.. most of the service was in Latin or Italian, a bit of English, a bit of German, even some Hindi.

We had tickets to get in... and we got in line at the end of the line. They give out about 30,000 tickets for 8,000 seats. hmmm... something does not sound right about that... here is the little group of us who went inside.
From left to right: Amy, BethAnn, Me, Kendra, Jimmy... and Debbie...she was taking the photo.

We had seats about 20 rows from the front!.. granted we were on the side so we did not get the full picture.. but we were close enough to see what was happening without needing binoculars.
here is the pope praying before communion... it was 1:30am by this time and our little group departed the Vatican after the prayer.
As we departed we looked back over the sea of people who were in the Vatican... impressive.
As we returned to the outside, we saw that the pope was blessing children from all around the world. The outside screens had the up close view. :-)
Christmas morning was spent with fun people... with gift-giving, french toast and good coffee... no photos of that.. we were all in our pajamas and when you have five women in pajamas.. no one wants their photo displayed for the whole world to see... no matter how good we look in the morning! :-) It was one of my most favourite Christmas Day's ever! We all wanted to give each other gifts and to just be a little team/family/group (whatever you want to call it).

Here we are after showers. This is my dear friend BethAnn whom I got to know when I went through XTrack in the summer of 2007. Don't we look like Christmas?
Christmas day more fun people joined in and we had a 26 pound turkey and all the other great things that make up a festive dinner. Steve and Alyssa Dueck joined us... Why is it that Christmas trees are the chosen background for photos? :-)Here is Steve approving the table decorations. And then a photo of Debbie as she ponders how to deal with the huge turkey.. yes.. 26 pounds (after the legs were cut off)
One really fun part was the addition of Tim and Rachel Uthmann with their new daughter Joy! Tim and Rachel both worked at Multnomah when I worked there and I LOVE that God has them in Europe now! There is something so comfortable about people who know you from before your time overseas. we took one photo with Tim on the right... but it just looked funny to have Rachel and I in black and about the same height.. then Tim hanging out all tall and maroon to the side. :-)
During different points of the time in Rome we would wander the downtown areas of the city. I did not feel a need to see all the sights but it was fun to just enjoy the city. So as we walked through the city, we saw a couple fun things.. here they are...

A little band of three with this man playing with more joy and fun than I have seen anyone play an instrument for awhile! And of course he loved that I wanted to take his photo.
My friend's flat has this amazing view out the windows.. to the Mountains... beautiful!... God's grandeur gives a backdrop to the beautiful architecture that God inspired men to create and all the annteneas that stretch to the sky, created by humans which God inspired as well.
I had the privilege of spending Christmas in Rome Italy with some great people and seeing some truly historical things.It was so good to deepen friendships and to meet new friends! I love seeing how God is caring for me.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Some Christmas photos.. one for Tabitha.

So while my mom was here we did a bit of Christmas sightseeing, Christmas partying and Christmas tree getting.

Here are some photos. Why I forget to take photos I do not know!

Common around where I live you can purchase hot mulled wine or an alcohol free version. This warms you from the inside out on the cold days and nights of the Christmas Markets.

And we went to a couple of the Christmas Markets...

Tabitha.. this photo is for you....
Mom made a Christmas fruit tart for our Agape Kandern Christmas party.
The party was lovely with about 50 of the staff and kids from the area. I had agreed to be the MC for the evening... I ended up leading the singing time.. including a traditional German Christmas song.GPaul could play his guitar but his voice was recovering from a cold. A group photo and a photo of Lukas und David. Sons of my friend Sabine. I enjoy the whole family! The boys asked me to go skiing with them the next day... but I had plans already.

And toward the end I was asked to give a toast for the group... as I began, I realized that I have never before given a toast... So... here is to the Lord for bringing us together again this year to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. The reason we are all here in the first place!

And we had a bit of snow while my mom was here.. but it mainly came before and after. She really flew in an out between snows here and in Portland. :-) Amazing!

And.... drumroll please.... I bought a Christmas tree this year... I was not planning on it... but I am glad I did.. my friend Claudia has been telling me since last Christmas that I should get one.. then my friend Maria and others worked on my resistance some more. Sigh.. it is nice.. :-)

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Christmas Markets...

I took this from a website on Germany's Christmas Markets. enjoy! Photos of my own visits with my mother will be posted on here soon I am sure. :-)


The History of German Christmas Markets

Painting of Maria, Joseph and baby Jesus ChristEach year Christmas Markets spring up around Germany in the weeks before the Christmas holidays, signalling the beginning of Advent.

The centuries-old tradition reaches back to a time when regular seasonal markets took place throughout the year. Christmas markets were a welcome occurrence during cold-weather months. They were joyful occasions for weary villagers and added a bit of light to long winter nights.

The first markets were little more than winter markets that lasted a couple of days. Instead of the cosy stands that line market alleys today, traders in some cities laid their goods out in the streets.

Through the years, each market has stayed Historic Santa Clause decorating a Christmas Treetrue to its own particularities, with each specializing on local delicacies and traditional products. In the past, only local tradesmen were allowed to sell their wares at the city’s market, which led to the distinctive regional character of today’s markets.

Today, German Christmas markets serve much the same function that they have for centuries — as a festive meeting place for locals and a market for homemade Christmas ornaments and decorations.

Some of the most traditional German handicrafts can be found here in the weeks before Christmas — from nutcrackers, wooden figurines, straw stars and smokers, to cookie tins, glass balls, toys, and tin tree ornaments.

Despite the widespread belief that Christmas has only recently developed into a feast of commercialism, it may be shocking to find out that, as early as the 17th century, gift-buying at Christmas Markets had already become a main pre-holiday activity.

Martin LutherUsually, the Christmas markets were held around the city’s main church to attract church-goers. But they were so enticing that a priest in N├╝rnberg in 1616 complained that he could not hold the afternoon service on Christmas Eve because no one attended.

It is likely that the markets drew more visitors when religious reformer Martin Luther instituted new customs for Christmas. Before Luther, the exchanging of presents took place on the saint days of St. Nicholas, December 6, or of St. Martin, on November 11.

It was Luther who suggested that children receive presents from “the Christ child,” hence the name “Christkindlsmarkt,” a popular name for the Christmas Markets in Germany.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Christmas decorations

Last year I did not get into the mood of decorating for Christmas very much. But this year I am into it a little more. Maybe because my mom is coming. and maybe because I need a creative outlet. But whatever the reason... I am decorating for Christmas.
This first photo is of my front door... A dear friend surprised me by putting this on my door Friday morning! It made my day!

This second photo is what you see when you enter my flat. You are welcome here is what my painting states and then there is the fun Christmas greenery that I got to add underneath for the season.

And I finally got an advent "wreath" put together. I love how advent is so central to the Christmas season here.

And in lieu of a Christmas tree... I am hanging ornaments in other places.. like on the big wooden beams that are in my flat.

And here is a photo of the early snowfall we had in Kandern... and a photo of down town Kandern with the annual winter market.


In other news... my friends Thad and Jana had a baby boy a couple weeks ago. It is delightful to know we have a baby in the Agape Kandern family! Here is when I first got to hold him in the hospital.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Berlin

So the past few months I have been striving to intentionally take time off to be with people I enjoy in an environment where I am not responsible to make everything work smoothly. So this past weekend I went to Berlin to visit some dear friends. This is Lisa and I. She and her husband Kevin and their two children are the kind of people in my life that elicit an unprompted loving response from my heart. They are so precious to me. I met them on my first visit to Kandern in 2004 when God started me on this journey.We asked a man to take our photo and afterward he asked if we wanted just one photo or more. I asked if the one he took was good... he said yes... and that it would be hard to take a bad photo of the two of us... Awwww... that was sweet.

I was also able to reconnect with Ben and Jessye who were STINTing with Athletes in Action in Freiburg last year. It was wonderful to spend time with them! And I got to meet Leah, another STINTer in Berlin with AIA. This is a very diverse team and I loved watching them interact and interacting with them. God is using them to draw athletes to His heart in Berlin!

It was my first time in Berlin. and I was struck by the history there. It was only 19 years ago that the wall came down...
And as the Christmas season has begun we got to enjoy one of several Christmas Markets in Berlin. I LOVE the way Christmas is done over here!
below is the snow tubing run in the middle of one of Berlin's down town areas. 1 euro and 50 cents to get on an inner tube and go down the run... not quite the same as Snow Bunny... but the landing seems safer. :-) My thoughts as I got on the train and checked into my flight and flew back to my area.... I want to go back. Good friends, a fascinating place, seeing God at work. Good times.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Where does the time go?

In scripture I am reminded that time is fleeting, that my life is but a breath... so why does it surprise me when it has "suddenly" been a month since I spoke with a dear friend, or 2 months since I sent out a prayer update to my ministry team or 3 weeks since I updated my blog?

Life does not stand still. We all know that. No matter what the economy is doing, or what joys or tragedies are in our lives.. life goes on. And I have to think that I am SO thankful that it is God who ordained my days before one of them came into being.
There is comfort in knowing that even as time seems to slip through my fingers, that time is ordained by God. Every moment of my life and your life is ordained by God.

The seasons change as the Lord ordains.

And time does not stop for me...

I have to stop to enjoy and ponder along the way. If time is fleeting and my life is but a breath, am I taking time to notice and time to to breathe?

I do not want to be oblivious to the things God is doing around me. I desire to fully enjoy and participate in what God is ordaining in my life!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Thinking strategically in the Swiss Alps

Seriously... I get to work in some stunningly beautiful locations!
12 peopled gathered this past week to think strategically about how to most effectively share the hope of Christ with 14-25 year-olds in Western Europe. Most of us arrived Sunday and went for a hike Monday morning up in the Swiss Alps around Tannenheim. This is about 1 hour outside of Zuerich and up to an altitude of about a mile. Similar to Denver, Colorado.
I think there are few things better than an activity like hiking together to watch group dynamics. Deb fell during the first leg of the hike and had to remain behind. This was very sad because she more than anyone LOVES to hike in the mountains. We went on and I was blessed to know that even when we were gaining altitude quickly and I could not catch a breath, the guys did not leave me in the dust, but instead took care to make sure I was okay to continue before the group continued. It was a good time together.

I recall during the time that I worked with DELTA Ministries that we used a reading during training to get this point across. It was called "Together" and it chronicled the journey of a bunch of classmates who all set out to go for a hike together. Along the way some ran on ahead and some fell behind and through it all they learned that they really do need each other to be able to do this thing together. That reading, 15 years later, still impacts my life.

The day after the guys left, Deb and I drove up into the higher alps and this was the view... just a little bit lower than the previous photo. The hiking group actually hiked the Spazierweg that this sign points out. :-)
The 4 days consisted of time in the Word together, Singing worship to the Lord together, Praying together, thinking together, preparing meals together, Praying for each other, and Planning together. All with the purpose of following our Shepherd where He would lead us in this ministry.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from You, oh Lord, the Maker of heavan and earth.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

what has been happening in my life..

I often am amazed by watching God work in, around and through me. When I am joyful and looking for glimpses of Him and when I am sad, weary and not looking for glimpses of Him. God is always God. He is always teaching me to be more like Him. He is always drawing me closer to His heart.

In the past few weeks, I have experienced God using me inspite of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I have seen Him give me words when I felt like I had none. I have seen Him stop me from hitting burnout with a timely bout of illness that forced me to rest for almost 3 weeks.

He allowed me to spend time with dear friends in Florence, Italy a few weekends ago.


He brought my brother and sister in law to visit me for a week. It was so good to see them! After taking them to the airport on Tuesday morning I cried most the drive back.

There is something so sweet about face to face time with people who have known me and loved me for a long time. I enjoyed taking them to France

and Switzerland

and other parts of Germany while they were here. They got a lot of rest... which I think they needed. :-)


I was able to take them to these places because... drumroll please.... God provided a car! :-)

I love how God has taken me through this car process... a lot of waiting on Him and watching Him handle the details. Isn't that how life usually goes? When we allow God to really be in control of our lives He works things out for our best.