Happy December!

It amazes me how the months seems to slip by faster and faster each year . . . can it really be December already? Our SECOND December here? What did we DO all year?

And then I start to reflect – and realize it really has been a bit of an amazing year. While Kevin, the erstwhile globetrotter, has been relegated to “exotic” destinations like Fort St. John, Revelstoke, and Christina Lake, the rest of us were more than happy to fill the gap ūüôā

I got to start the year by joining my Dad on his amazing bucket-list trip that covered bits of Dubai, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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The girls managed not one, but TWO once-in-a-lifetime trips – the first a long promised trip to Germany with Oma & Opa (where they met many MANY relatives), and the second a youth group mission trip to Impact Ministries in Guatemala.

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Much more of our year was spent right here in the BC Interior, doing the things we do every day.

Kevin’s engineering has taken him back to his old stomping grounds a few times (I even got to join him once in Fort St. John), but he’s also getting to know the communities nearby as he designs water systems and subdivisions.

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I started working with Impact Ministries¬†– yes, the same Impact Ministries that the girls visited in Guatemala (and the same Impact Ministries that Kevin & I visited with eMi years ago!).¬† I’m in the office a couple of days a week, and am thoroughly enjoying the people I work with, and the ministry I get to represent.

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Kaisa got her first job too!¬† She’s working part-time at McDonald’s while continuing to stay amazingly active between climbing, wrestling, and trail running (and various youth groups and helping in the church nursery).¬† Oh yeah, and school.¬† Grade 10 ūüôā

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Talia is in Grade 11 this year, and while her highlights were wrangling at camp again (and seeing Calgary friends in between) and passing her driver’s exam, she’s keeping herself busy with a full academic course load, as well as volunteering at the barns of the local therapeutic riding centre, babysitting for a parenting program, and hanging out with international students with me at Focus Club.

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It’s been so nice having Talia along at Focus Club –¬† where we have dinner, games & discussion groups once a week with students from around the world who are studying at our local university.¬† We’ve also had students at our house for thanksgiving, and baking cookies, and making Vietnamese spring rolls and joining us at games night at church . . . lots of fun.¬† I even got to speak at the Focus Club leadership retreat earlier this year.

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I’ve also connected up with a wonderful group of ladies who hike (or snowshoe or cross-country ski) once a week, and between that and some neighbours who don’t mind me calling them up for an impromptu walk, I’m getting to stay active and explore a bit of the area.

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Kevin and the girls are more likely to run than walk, but they’ve explored plenty a trail too.¬† Kaisa and Kevin try to make it to 3 different run groups each week, and Kevin and both girls got mugs for racking up points in their age categories for the Dirty Feet Trail Run series. (There’s some snowshoe races over the winter that Kevin might try out too . . . )

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And now it’s December.¬† Our kids don’t get off school until the bitter end, and Kaisa still has a wrestling tournament coming up,¬†but the Christmas tree is up along with our nativity sets from all over the world (there’s a new one from Guatemala) and tomorrow we’re decorating Christmas cookies (with some international students, of course) and going to our church’s Christmas Banquet, where Talia gets to read part of the Christmas story.¬† ¬†We’ll be between here and Kevin’s parents’ house for Christmas and New Year’s – it sounds like all the grandkids will be together early in the new year (which means we’ll finally get to meet our new great-niece ūüôā ).¬† Family, friends, faith and fun – that’s what we’ll be savouring this Christmas.¬† You too?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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They’re heading to Guatemala

Have you heard? ¬†Talia & Kaisa are preparing to go on a Mission Trip this summer! ¬†I’m excited for them for so many reasons:

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  • They’re going to serve through Impact Ministries – and I know Impact Ministries has a long term presence and a goal to both serve kids in Guatemala AND impact our kids for world missions
  • They’ll be going with their new youth group – and I’m looking forward to seeing strong relationships form
  • The work and outreach project will be in Chijulh√° – Kevin & I were there on an eMi trip almost 15 years ago – and our new church here has a special ongoing relationship with the project too!

The girls have been busy fundraising and looking for prayer partners. ¬†Would you consider partnering with them? ¬†You can donate here¬†by selecting “Missions – Guatemala 2017” – just also send an email to hannah@swcc.ca indicating that your donation is for “Guatemala – Talia & Kaisa” (full details here).

Here’s their prayer letters so you can read what they’re excited about:

Send us a note if you’ll be praying for them, so they can send you an update after the trip!

A New Job!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD . . . ¬†(Jer 29:11)

I know that verse. ¬†I’ve watched God work out plans for me and my family time and time again. ¬†And yet, it still sometimes takes my breath away when God gives me more than I could ask or imagine.

You see, when we moved back to BC, Kevin was stepping into a new role in the familiar world of consulting engineering. ¬†But I didn’t have a job lined up – nor could I really look for one right away, since I had plans to travel with my Dad early in the new year. ¬†So it seemed prudent to hold back, help my family settle in, and wait – at least until after my trip.

I have to admit, I was a bit worried. ¬†You see, besides loving¬†my job at eMi, I had loved the flexibility that came with it. ¬†I could work around my kids’ activities and their days off. Yes, they’re teenagers and quite capable of staying at home alone for a few hours. ¬†But you know what – they’ll be out of the house soon enough, and I’m enjoying proximity while I can. ¬†Where was I going to find a job like that?!?

Well . . . just before I was leaving for my trip, I got an email from Sandra from Impact Ministries.  Remember Impact Ministries?  The first eMi trip I took with Kevin Рlong before we were on staff Рwas to Guatemala to design a school for Impact Ministries.

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At Impact Ministries in Guatemala 2005

A couple of years ago, eMi (though not Kevin) was back in Guatemala to design another project for Impact ¬†– and Sandra, the Canadian Operations Director, actually spoke at the eMi Dessert Evening that year. ¬†I also worked closely with her as we featured this project in our Christmas newsletter. ¬†Since we had moved to BC, we had even attended a “Friends of Impact” event – partially because our girls are planning a missions trip there this summer with their youth group.

To condense numerous emails and skype calls: Impact Ministries might be looking for a Communications Coordinator in February. Would I be at all interested in a part-time position doing much the same type of thing as I did for eMi?

Would I be?!? ¬†A part-time, flexible job starting shortly after I would actually be available, doing what I love to do. I’d ¬†get to keep telling “God Stories” about another amazing ministry – one whose newsletters I’ve been reading for years ūüôā ¬†God is so good!

I had my first day last week. ¬†I feel a little bit like I’ve jumped in the deep end, but so far I’m swimming more than sinking ūüėČ ¬†I’m excited and exhausted, and my brain is full – I’ve met wonderful staff and volunteers in person, by skype and by email, ¬†and I’ve immersed myself in all sorts of¬†communications-type stuff. ¬†We’ve got some priorities set and I definitely ¬†won’t run out of things to do!

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At the Impact Ministries Office

I’m still in awe of how God put this all together, and I’d appreciate your prayers as I settle into this role. ¬†And fair warning: between my new job and the girls’ upcoming mission trip, you’ll be hearing more about Impact Ministries around here ūüôā

Adventures with Dad

A few of you have asked for pictures of my recent travels . . . I was privileged last month to join¬†my Dad on a¬†bucket list trip that took us over Dubai to Cape Town, South Africa, then into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (with brief forays into Botswana and Zambia),¬†then back to South Africa to the Karongwe Private Game Reserve. ¬†It was an amazing trip and a great chance to spend some quality time with Dad (and we even still liked each other at the end of the two weeks ūüėõ )

Here are the links to my albums:

Dubai:dubai

Cape Town:capetown

Victoria Falls:victoriafalls

Karongwe:karongwe

Leadership Retreat

This weekend held a few firsts for me:

  • the first time being the¬†speaker for a leadership retreat
  • the first time teaching a session in a¬†fast food restaurant
  • the first time teaching a session in a hot¬†pool!

I just got back from a weekend in Nakusp with some of the leadership team of “Focus Club” – the International Student Ministries group that Talia & I have gotten involved with. ¬†We’ve enjoyed participating in the weekly dinners with international students from the local university, and, in chatting with the city director about how I could best be involved, I mentioned the Intercultural Training that I used to do for Cooperative ESL Ministries. Long story short, he thought that would be great material for his leadership team, and invited me to join them on their retreat during the students’ reading break.

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Part of our group on the Ferry to Nakusp

It was just a small group this year, but that made for an opportunity to really grapple with the material.  And, as we started to talk about culture and cultural lenses, it became evident that this information was really hitting home and was relevant for everyone both in their personal lives and in the ministry they had through Focus Club.  I think we all came home having learned more about our own culture AND about the cultures of those around us.  I really appreciated the insights from the students and volunteers from other cultures, as they shared both examples and the struggles that are involved in crossing into western culture.  We all wrestled with how to love students better by being sensitive to their cultural paradigms Рthe conversations spilled over from the sessions into mealtimes and breaks and travel time.

And yes, the first session was as we stopped for lunch on our way to Nakusp, and our final session took place¬†in the pool of the Nakusp Hot Springs while we needed to¬†vacate the church for their Alpha program. ¬†And hey – they¬†worked too ūüôā

We got back this afternoon, a bit more connected, a bit wiser – and a lot more tired!

**A special thanks to Cooperative ESL Ministries for allowing me to use their curriculum**

Merry Christmas!

We’ve just spent a wonderful morning – opening a few gifts, going to church, having lunch with a group from church, and then heading back home to finish opening gifts and trying some of them out. ¬†Now Talia is downstairs reading in her new hammock chair and Kaisa is in her room trying out her new water speakers, and I’m getting ready to head to the kitchen to make some add-ons to the turkey that’s already starting to smell good in the background. ¬†Hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas too!

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Here’s our Christmas letter, if you haven’t seen a copy yet:

A year ago we had no clue that this Christmas Card would be coming from British Columbia¬†rather than Alberta. But it‚Äôs been a good‚ÄĒalbeit somewhat unexpected‚ÄĒyear.¬† Other than the move, here are a few of our 2016 highlights:

Kevin * trips to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Fort St. John & Nigeria * first 100 K ultra *  an eye operation that means NO MORE GLASSES *

Michele * family trip to Halifax * weekly hiking with Calgary friends (& now with BC friends) * Celebrating 20th (ours) & 50th (Oma & Opa’s) anniversaries

Talia * learning to drive * junior wrangling at camp * swimming 5000 m just because * grade 9 grad *

Kaisa * wrestling in the Alberta Winter Games * first half-marathon * hosting a French exchange student * SERVE Trip to Victoria * (dipping a toe in both oceans in a single year!) *

We’re starting to adjust to our new normal here (and we have a guest room, if you’re ever passing through).  We wish you a wonderful holiday season with time to reflect on the significance of Christmas.

 

4 Months

It’s been almost 4 months since we moved back to BC. ¬†What have I learned?

  • That there are some boxes that will never get unpacked
  • That you should check inside the microwave that you’re no longer using before you store it underneath the stairs
  • That moving stuff is a lot of work, but rebuilding routines and relationships is even more work
  • That teenagers don’t provide as many opportunities to meet the neighbours as preschoolers do ūüėČ
  • That we get more snow where we’re living than downtown – and we like it that way
  • That culture shock happens even if you’re not changing countries
  • That a few good connections can make all the difference in how settled you feel
  • That relationships can come from the most unlikely sources
  • That four months really isn’t very long – and we’ve come a long ways!

The house isn’t fully put together yet, and there are pictures still waiting to be hung – but I found the measuring spoons hiding in the microwave, and the guest room has hosted company.

We’ve found a church family, and the girls are enjoying youth group and we’re getting to know people there – but I’ve also become friends with the lady whose table I bought off of Kijiji and she’s introduced me to a whole group of wonderful people . . . who would’ve thought?

The kids are settling in to school, and while it’s definitely a hard age to move, they’ve approached it as an adventure and are adapting. ¬†Kaisa’s wrestling again, and Talia has become involved in the leadership of the Christian club at school and has just started babysitting for a parenting group . . . they’re finding their way.

Kevin’s job is going well, and he’s ended up with some projects in Fort St. John, so he’s in familiar territory.

We’ve gotten to spend time with family on both sides, and love the fact that visiting can be much more impromptu now that we’re so much closer.

As a bonus, I’ve discovered that we have fewer¬†commitments leading into the Christmas season . . . so we can relax and enjoy things like Christmas baking and exploring the neighbourhood on cross country skis¬†without scheduling it in ahead of time.

Thanks for your prayers as we’ve moved and settled. ¬†Praying your December is filled with blessings, too!