January: News, Thanks and Prayers

Luci enjoys some quality time with her Great-Grandma Ruth at the Pass chalet.

Luci enjoys some quality time with her Great-Grandma Ruth at the Pass chalet.

News and Dates:

  • January 9: Classes resume
  • January 16: End of Semester 1
  • January 17-20: Semester Exams
  • January 20-21: Basketball games @ BFA
  • Curriculum for January: Modernism, The Great Gatsby, begin research project

We’re Thankful For:

  • A Christmas in Washington with family. It was a sweet time of reconnection with friends and family, playing in the snow, and rest in a beautiful place. Thankful for the opportunity to spend this time together!
  • Community of friends and family, in America and Germany. We’re endlessly thankful for the encouragement and friendship you bring to our lives, and for the bonds of relationship that span oceans and continents.
  • Financial Supporters who have continued to make our ministry possible in Kandern, faithfully contributing to our living expenses and giving encouragement, prayer and practical provision each month.
  • Fall Semester, which has been a strong start to the year, with hardworking eleventh-grade literature students and quirky and curious public speaking students.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Semester Exams. Pray for students as they return from Christmas break for one last week of classes before their final exams. Pray for health, safety and focus as both students and faculty jump in to one of the busiest weeks of the year.
  • Financial Support. We’re blessed with enough monthly for basic living expenses, but could use more support to facilitate the hospitality aspects of member care. If you’ve ever desired to have a missionary (us, or anyone else!) over for dinner, help us bridge that gap in the Kandern community by investing in our member care ministry here. If you’re interested in helping to support this aspect of our ministry, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

We begin this new year in Washington state, preparing to fly back to Germany in a few days, and are continually thankful for the community of support we’ve found here, in Germany, and in our other “home” in Virginia. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

Things That Made Life Better This Year: 2016 Edition

On to a new year! I took last year off of this list (something about having a six-week old made blogging difficult), but otherwise it’s become my personal tradition to look back on what made each year special in its own way, and reflect with a list of “objects” that symbolize it.

While 2016 was a year of large-scale catastrophe globally, as I look back through the doorway I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings of friends and family, and the daily evidence of God’s faithfulness in our lives. By no means an exhaustive list, these few symbols represent a window into the last year with the Dahlstrom family.

 

With Chris and Holly on the big day!

With Chris and Holly on the big day!

1. A Three-Dress Wedding. Our year at home in Seattle was surprising in many ways, but the best surprise of all was the chance to be a part of the planning, preparation and dramatic festivities of my sister’s wedding. Holly and Chris had a grand celebration, complete with a marching band playing Star Wars themes, a coffee-house talent show, and three wedding dresses for the different parts of the event. I’m so thankful for these two and the joy that they bring to our lives!

2. Book Clubs. I had the opportunity to be part of two different book clubs this last year, the first with neighbors at Snoqualmie Pass and the second with friends and co-workers in Kandern. My first books clubs ever (amazingly!), both have challenged me to read outside of my comfort zone, and especially the first provided community around books that I’d been missing in my year away from teaching. Here’s to a new year of continued stretching to new literary horizons!

3. Fitbits. Whether telling us that we’d only slept 4 hours a night in Luci’s early days, or congratulating us for walking miles and miles a day through a quiet Kandern summer, we appreciated the reminder to stay active and keep healthy in the midst of a year of transitions.

On the way to Germany!

On the way to Germany!

4. Airplanes. From Seattle, to Virginia, to Chicago, to Germany and back again, we’ve spent the year in the air. Thankful for the finances to take us to all these places, most of them trips to see family and introduce them to our little Luci, and the technology that makes the wide world seem just a bit smaller.

5. A Stroller & Baby Backpack. Luci is a lover of the outdoors! We’ve been thankful for the many ways we have of getting her outside on the trails and roads around Kandern, and for the lifestyle that allows us to walk everywhere we go.

6. Chocolate Chips & Chocolate Croissants. In this two-continent year, we’ve enjoyed the favorite treats from both places, from breakfasts of tasty German pastries to well-loved chocolate chips purchased from the local Air Force base.

A sunset from our living room window

A sunset from our living room window

7. Sunsets. After living for half the year surrounded by glorious trees and mountains at Snoqualmie Pass, we were surprised and delighted by the treat of a wide vista from our fourth-floor apartment windows in Kandern. Our neighbors assure us that ours is “the best view in town,” and after half a year of spectacular sunsets, we have to agree.

8. Revolutionary Texts. I started my Honors American Literature class in a new way this fall, spending time on some of the foundational documents of our nation. Revisiting these words of our early thinkers, from the Bill of Rights to the Federalist Papers to the Declaration of Independence, and helping my students encounter them, was an uplifting and challenging exercise for us in an autumn of troubling politics.

9. Good Internet. Whether it is connecting Timmy to his middle-of-the-night counseling classes or providing a FaceTime lifeline to far-distant grandparents, we continue to be thankful for the connectivity of the Internet age.

Winter Luci!

Winter Luci!

10. A Baby Toboggan. This year has ended where it began, in the waist-deep snows of Snoqualmie Pass. The year has taken us from parents of a six-week old, who had just begun to turn her head and peer across the room, to a lively, giggle and curious girl who loves her family, the outdoors, and tomato soup. We’ve loved this trip for many reasons, but especially in celebration of the family that has become Luci’s “village,” and the chance to teach our little girl to love the mountains as much as we do.

11. Friendship. A transcontinental move made this a year of goodbyes and hellos, as we bid farewell to a place that became home, and returned to an old one. In all of this, we’ve realized the deep blessing of friendships in both places. Old and new, long-distance or close, we’re unutterably thankful for the friends who encourage us with emails and texts, Thanksgiving potlucks or evenings of popcorn and television.

Hearing The Bells

Christmas TreeI heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
     And wild and sweet
     The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
     Had rolled along
     The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
     A voice, a chime,
     A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

“Hey, this is a song!”

I hear it half a dozen times as the eleventh-graders walk into class and pick up today’s reading, Longfellow’s “Christmas Bells.”

“‘I heard the bells on Christmas Day,'” the first student reads aloud, then exclaims with recognition. “Wait, I know this from somewhere…”

“Yes, it’s a song,” I reply. “You know the Casting Crowns version from a couple years ago. But before that, it was a different song, and before that it was a poem by Longfellow. So we’re reading it today.”

We’re using it, actually, to practice poetry analysis. We needed to do this today, because it’s been a month or so of reading only prose, and their semester final is looming. I’d selected “Christmas Bells” because it’s the week before Christmas break and the poet is American. (If I were teaching a different class, you can be sure we’d be reading Christina Rosetti’s “In The Bleak Midwinter.” But she’s British, so I made a different choice.) Sometimes I’m just a public school teacher thrilled by the little things, like reading a Christmas poem in English class. I’d written the title on the lesson plan, made 31 copies of the poem, and given it little further thought until this morning, confident that any poem of Longfellow’s must count as “literature” and bear some deeper examination.

Today, I share the results of an hour’s research, telling them the story behind the poem. I ask them to look at the poem’s date, 1863, and tell me if it means anything to them. “Um… Civil War?” they murmur with varying degrees of confidence. Then I tell them about Longfellow, widowed father of six, whose oldest son enlisted in the Union Army without telling him. After a series of close shaves, Charles Longfellow was shot in battle in Virginia in late November of 1863. So in December his father and brother set out to Washington, D.C., where young Charles hovered in critical condition, unsure if he’d survive or, if he did, if he’d walk again.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
     And with the sound
     The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
     And made forlorn
     The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

“So picture him,” I tell my students. “Longfellow sitting in the hospital, hearing these bells on Christmas and waiting to find out if his son would live. That’s the context. And for this poem, it’s important.”

With the setting established, my students get to work reading and rereading the poem, comparing it to their lists of terms and trying to decipher what deeper meaning they can find from the poetic structure of stanza, rhyme and refrain. I wander the room as they work, giving a hint here and there.

When we come back together after ten minutes, my students have answers for me.

“It has a… a refrain? The last line is the same in every stanza. ‘Of peace on earth, good-will to men.’ That’s a refrain, right?”

“Yes,” I answer, nodding. “Yes to the meaning, and yes to the refrain. The meaning comes from the refrain, right? Without the refrain, it’s just someone saying, ‘Yay, it’s Christmas! But I’m sad. But yay!’ The refrain also has another poetic device with it. Starts with an A…”

“Alliteration? Apostrophe? Assonance?” my students read from their lists.

“You know it’s not those ones. Come on, it’s…”

“An allusion?” someone ventures.

“It’s an allusive refrain!” I reply. “Exactly, and you know what it’s alluding to. The angel said this, right?”

For a moment we’re closer to Sunday School than upper-level literature class, but it’s a moment when my Christian-school kids have the upper hand at something, so we savor it. As a group they tell me about a choir of angels and some bedraggled shepherds who receive the best news of their lives. We zoom out and talk about Israel’s state in that moment, occupied by Rome and ruled by a megalomaniacal, insecure king. Israel needed peace, good-will, and here was an angel promising just that, gifts from the Messiah they’d been waiting for.

“And that’s what Longfellow saw, too,” I continue. “America torn apart by the Civil War, families literally killing each other with no end in sight. A world that still needs peace, good-will, a savior. Longfellow saw it, and we see it.”

Do we ever. The ones who pay attention to the news are more specifically worried, but none of them can shut their eyes to the refugees filling Europe, nor the wars ravaging places that my own students have lived or visited. The refrain is important to us as much as it was to the shepherds or to an aging poet and his injured son.

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
     “For hate is strong,
     And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” 

We return to the theme, the meaning they decided on and I wrote on the board in red ink. “Hope in the midst of difficult times.” At the beginning of the school year we spent some time talking about the definition of “literature,” the criteria by which we set it apart from other written words. One of them was that literature had to be concerned with “ideas of permanent and universal interest.” In the midst of global crises and turmoil, talking with young adults about the hope they cling to as they come of age in a chaotic world, this concept has never been more relevant.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
     The Wrong shall fail,
     The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

As we wrap up the last stanza, I’m thinking of a Bible class I visited a few weeks ago, a tenth-grade class just starting their study of Revelation. It’s a weird book, the teacher told them, full of maybe-symbols and numbers and disaster, but the important point is that in the end, Jesus wins. That’s the takeaway, he said. Just remember.

Like marginalized shepherds, low on the socioeconomic ladder, burdened by layers of oppression as they waited for a savior. Like Longfellow, at a hospital in the war-torn U.S. capitol, waiting for his son to wake. Like all of us, worried or wandering, heartbroken or homeless, in these dark days. We remember, we grasp with outstretched fingers for the promise of our Savior, who has already conquered the darkness.

The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.

December: News, Thanks and Prayers

Happy Birthday to Luci!

Happy Birthday to Luci!

News and Dates:

  • December 2-3: Opening weekend for BFA Basketball
  • December 16: Last day of classes!
  • Mid-December-early January: Home to Washington for Christmas
  • Curriculum for DecemberAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, Short story writing

We’re Thankful For:

  • A marvelous first year with our daughter, Luci. She’s growing and changing so fast, and we feel overwhlemed with thankfulness that we get to be her parents.
  • Flexibility in scheduling that allows Kristi to work at BFA and Timmy to coach basketball this season.
  • Family that we’ll see this Christmas and those we keep up with from afar.
  • Financial partners who make this ministry possible by encouraging us with monthly support.
  • The English Department at BFA this year, who provide support, collaboration and encouragement to Kristi as she teaches there.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Member Care. Pray for Timmy with his role in TeachBeyond Member Care. Our missionaries here in Kandern have lately sustained a number of traumas and losses, so we ask for prayer both for these families and for the team of people who provide support to them in the midst of troubling times.
  • Financial Support. We’re blessed with enough monthly for basic living expenses, but could use more support to facilitate the hospitality aspects of member care. If you’ve ever desired to have a missionary (us, or anyone else!) over for dinner, help us bridge that gap in the Kandern community by investing in our member care ministry here. If you’re interested in helping to support this aspect of our ministry, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

As the year comes to an end, we are overwhelmed with gratefulness to the friends and family whose encouragement and support make our ministry here in Germany possible. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

What Mary Knew

It’s Happy Hour.

Not the Happy Hour of years past, but Luci and I have developed our own five o’ clock rhythm lately, while Timmy is at basketball practice. Luci sits in her high chair in the kitchen, while I make dinner and serve her bits of small food, a few pieces at a time, which she likes picking up with both of her tiny hands and tucks away with astonishing efficiency. We used to listen to Disney songs or my favorite tracks from Hamilton, but now that it’s December we’ve turned to Christmas music. It’s a good time.

I’m a broad appreciator of Christmas music. I especially love the older, sacred hymns, whose convoluted syntax and vocabulary are as integral to Christmas as the voice of Linus reciting Luke 2 in the King James Version, but even newer tunes have their place. One song, however, awakes fresh ire each Advent, a 1991 ballad called “Mary Did You Know?” Because of the existence of “Last Christmas” and “Christmas In the Northwest,” it’s hard to say if this is my least favorite Christmas song, but it’s safe to say that “Mary Did You Know?” is somewhere in my bottom five.

The verses list specific miracles, which were doubtless a surprise to her at the time, but the majority of the song bends toward asking Mary, mother of Jesus, if she knew she was raising the Son of God. I don’t care for this song because it could end after the second line–Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?–with a resounding “Yes. I definitely knew.”

Though she perhaps couldn’t have anticipated the scope, Mary had ample information about the child she’d just borne in such peculiar circumstances. The angel Gabriel had filled her in on the salient details, that she’d conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). After Jesus’ birth Simeon, overjoyed to finally meet the promised savior, reminded her that this child would be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” and “the glory of Your people Israel.” He even interrupted his own prophecy to turn to Mary with the ominous warning that “a sword will pierce even your own soul” (Luke 2:32-35). And yet Mary still “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Though ignorance of what was happening might have been terrifying, for me the knowing makes Mary even more inspiring. Just a little more than a year into motherhood, I’m struck anew by Mary’s strength and humility in the midst of a challenging calling. It can’t have been easy, both before his birth and while raising a little boy, for Mary to know that she was raising the Son of God, who would become the savior of her people and indeed all humankind.

A weaker person might have regretted being told at all, and yet Mary responds to the angel’s news first with humility, asserting that she is a “bondslave of the Lord,” and then with deep joy, singing a beautiful song of thanksgiving. Though doubtless aware of the personal difficulties that this journey would cost her, Mary never made it about her, instead thanking God for the part that she can play in His greater story.

This is where Mary inspires me; whatever I’m doing, I recognize that the easiest way to tell the story is with me at the center. I’m teaching, I’m parenting, I’m living in this little town. I can become so obsessed with these vocations that I forget I’m a small but beloved piece of a much greater whole.

How much harder to live as Mary did, with clear eyes and an open heart, saying, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), then rejoicing to participate in God’s plan for redemption. Perhaps what I’m actually doing with each day wouldn’t be so much different, but my heart would be, turned outward instead of inward, focused on God’s kingdom, not mine.

Weary

"We are never tired, as long as we can see far enough."

“We are never tired, as long as we can see far enough.”

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Galations 6:9

My students silently and gingerly tiptoe across the muddy triangle of grass wedged between our school, the highway and the river seeking, as I’ve directed them, a space for “silence, thoughtfulness and solitude.” We’ve just finished our unit on American Romanticism, spending the last few days on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, so as has become tradition I’ve taken my students out to “experience nature” for part of our class, and then spend the rest of class reflecting on it.

It serves the purpose of reinforcing course material, I tell myself, but as I watch my students drifting around the lawn I’m keenly aware that I’m that teacher right now, the Dead Poets’ Society-influenced one who drags her students out of the classroom, through mud and drizzle, in pursuit of quirky interest. I’m unrepentant, however, because today we’re not seeking enlightenment or novelty; we’re simply seeking rest.

Looking down at the slip of paper in my hand, which I cut out yesterday and drew for myself at random this morning, I read:

We are never tired, as long as we can see far enough.

A week ago it was glorious fall, the limbs dressed in full splendor, but today is just November, drab and damp and a little depressing. And I usually like November. I obediently look up at the sky, crisscrossed by black branches, at the farthest trees on the hill, which really aren’t so far away at all. I can’t see very far, I tell myself. That’s why I’m so tired.

I suppose that Emerson was likely talking about real horizons, but that’s not exactly where I’m headed. I’ve woken up most of this week feeling trapped in the confusion and urgency of the moment. There are the immediate needs of my sick daughter and our broken car, both of which require attention and planning. Both Monday night and Wednesday morning brought news that caused me to ask, “Really, God? I just don’t get it.” I can’t see far enough–into the eternity where it all makes sense, where the twists and turns of daily life smooth out into His glorious narrative, the working-together-for-good of it all–and I’m tired.

So what does it take, I wonder, to find the horizon? I’m reminded of Paul’s words, written to the Galations and echoed by Hillary Clinton in her concession speech Tuesday night:

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Love the things that are eternal, and work for those. I know that it doesn’t spare me from the details, that loving eternity means paying even closer attention to the needs of those around me. Today it will mean writing cards for students that I care about, remembering that investing in this way is at least as important as grading the unseen essays that loom over me like a thundercloud. It will mean going home and cherishing my family, the gift that they are to me and to many. It will mean remembering that we’re all made in God’s image, every human, and that God’s love for us is immeasurable and eternal. And that if I can wake up each day looking first to Him, that’s all the horizon I need to keep heart in doing good.

The Author Wept

This week, Black Forest Academy mourns the loss of  a baby girl born prematurely just a month ago to one of our new staff couples. We grieve as a community, lifting her parents and younger brother up in prayer, full of sadness and gratitude that she is at last whole.

While we waited for her ride to come pick her up, I sat on a bench next to one of my students. I don’t know her well, but as she talked I felt like I did; this girl, like myself and a handful of students I’ve taught each year, is a writer. She walked me through her process, touching blithely on a few different tales she’s spun over the years. She described scenes that she enjoyed writing, characters that surprised her as they wrenched themselves out of her control on the page, and her first 40-page story, written shortly after she learned to type.

After a while, we started talking about characters, about the deep investment of an author in the people she creates. She told me about a time that she startled herself while writing a particularly chilling scene, and the many times that she’s written herself to tears over the fates of her characters.

“It’s not what I wanted to happen to him,” she admitted, telling of a particularly sad ending.

NOTE: If the final Harry Potter book is still on your to-read list, it would behoove you to skip a paragraph, lest you learn more plot details than will please you.

I told her about J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, who confessed that she wept while writing one of the final chapters of the final book, when her hero realizes that he will need to sacrifice his own life to defeat the villain, and goes willingly to his death.

“She said that she just cried her eyes out writing it,” I said, confessing, “Which is pretty what happened to me reading it.”

“But” –and I know what she’ll say next– “She knew the ending! She wrote it!”

I nodded, and for a moment we pondered the paradox of an author’s weeping for a fictional character, who indeed turns out all right in the end.

“Sometimes I wonder if that’s how God feels,” I mused. “If even though He knows how it all works out, He cries when things happen. Because He made us, because He loves us.”

I return to that thought this week, as our little community mourns the loss of our newest member, a baby girl born just a month ago to a young couple on our staff. We’re caught in the tension of this heartbreak in time and joy in eternity, where she’s healed of the heart defect that took her life. We weep, even knowing that she’s well now, missing her here.

Jesus did this too. At Lazarus’ tomb, just moments before raising him from the dead, we read of his sorrow:

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

I’m drawn back to the thought of the author, tears dripping onto the unfinished work for which she already has planned a happy finale. And then to Jesus, weeping to see the sadness of his friends, even as he saw joy ahead.

And so we weep, as Jesus did, mourning the broken present, trusting in eternity’s joy, and grateful that the Author loves us, made us, and sees the finale when we cannot.

Please pray with us for this sweet family in their sorrow. Thank you.

 

November: News, Thanks and Prayers

All dressed up for our local Trunk or Treat!

All dressed up for our local Trunk or Treat!

News and Dates:

  • November 2: BFA celebrates our 60th Birthday!
  • November 4-6: Weekend retreat in Switzerland
  • November 14: Basketball season starts
  • November 21: Luci’s first birthday!
  • Timmy will be serving as an assistant varsity boys’ basketball coach at BFA from November to February. He’s excited to spend time mentoring the guys and growing in his coaching skills!
  • Timmy has also started a play group for parents of preschoolers, meeting semi-regularly. This has been a great time of connection for the stay-at-home parents in our community!
  • Curriculum for November: Transcendentalism, Huckleberry Finn, Informational Speeches

We’re Thankful For:

  • 60 Years of BFA, and the chance to reflect on God’s faithfulness to our school as we celebrate this week.
  • Autumn in the Black Forest and quiet weekends to hike and admire God’s creation.
  • One Year of Luci, a time of blessing and change as we’ve become a family of three and moved to a new country.
  • A Visit from Dahlstrom Parents, which is truly a gift each fall, giving us the chance to reconnect and them the chance to hang out with their granddaughter.
  • Commencement Speeches, for giving Kristi’s Public Speaking students the occasion to reflect on what they believe deeply, and what they find to be the most important “parting words” they could give to their peers.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Basketball Season. Pray for us as we begin a new season as Timmy starts working with the boys’ varsity basketball team. Pray for strong connections on the team, and health and safety for all involved.
  • Financial Support. We currently have about $4315 pledged monthly, and we continue to pray for a bit more support to cover increased cost of living here. We’re blessed with enough for basic living expenses, but could use more support to facilitate the hospitality aspects of member care. If you are interested in helping fully support our ministry, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

In this month of thanksgiving, we are most of all thankful for our faithful friends and family, whose encouragement and support make our ministry here in Germany possible. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

The Fear Jacket

 

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..."

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

I’m troubled from the start, Friday morning.

Living nine hours ahead of my friends on the West Coast, the ongoing ugliness of election season in America unfolds mostly in the morning for me. I wake up and see it spattered across social media, the messy barbs of rhetoric flying between two people I don’t know, far away, but nearer to home between friends, family and students, each exchange more impassioned than the last.

We don’t understand each other, I realize, waking each morning to see in stark relief all of the perspectives that aren’t my own, battling it out in text on a screen. I’m not there to attend protests, haven’t watched any debates live, but I feel it all the same, the creeping sense not of unity, but of two-ness that our country has become lately.

I’m reminded of Thomas Hobbes who, writing during a particularly dark period of British history, described a world plagued by “continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” It’s continual fear that I pause on this morning, thinking about the fears peddled by both sides, and my own real fear for our nation.

Then I come to class. My sweet English class, where we’ve been reading the mournful, ponderous tomes of Romantic American literature. We’ve finished with The Scarlet Letter, leaving behind Hawthorne’s “darkening close of this tale of human frailty and sorrow,” and have spent the week mostly in the company of Edgar Allan Poe, examining tormented cats and an inexplicably verbal raven. All week, we’ve dwelt on tales of darkness springing from men deeply cynical of the human heart. Left to our own devices, Poe and Hawthorne seem to tell us, we’re all selfish at our best, and consumed with paranoid madness at our worst. The spectrum of human existence seems bleak indeed.

My students are writing their own “Tales of Woe” today as we wrap up this part of the Romanticism unit. “Take an ordinary, mundane circumstance,” I tell them, “And add in something extraordinary. A man is taking a nap and a talking raven comes in. A teacher is grading English finals and an elephant walks by. Ordinary and extraordinary. That’s it.”

The students nod, dutifully writing down this combination of elements in their notebooks.

“Now,” I continue, holding up a mug full of printed, cut-out words, “Take a pinch of woe.” I demonstrate, pinching out weary, solitary and desolate. “These words are your tone, your inspiration. It’s not a complex story, this one. It’s all about the tone. The tone of woe.”

The laugh, they write, they pinch out melancholy words and sprinkle them with abandon through stories of prophetic breakfast cereal and murderous oranges. Towards the end of class we share excerpts, enjoying our creativity and the unfamiliar feeling of painting with only dark hues for a while.

It strikes me that they’ve put it on–fear–just for part of a class, just for the adventure of it. Now, like a jacket, they take it off, going about their ordinary, un-woeful Friday and leaving the fear behind.

I wish I could do that in real life, I find myself thinking. Then I remember that I can.

“God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:16-18)

Like my students, leaving behind their fear because it’s no longer necessary, I can trade mine in, a jacket of fear for one of love. It’s God’s love, the perfect love, that casts out the fear, reminding me that I am–all of us are–deeply loved, intentionally cared for by our Creator, who doesn’t let us muddle on alone but remains invested in us, individually and as a community. I remember that God loves my nation, not more than the others but because it’s a nation full of his beloved people. I remember that I don’t have to be afraid.

And while it’s God’s love that gives me confidence, there’s action required of me, too. John continues with words that convict:

“We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:19-21)

It’s a time of division. It’s tempting to believe that I know best and easy to imagine that some people know nothing. And yet, God says, love. Because nothing can separate us from His love, and nothing is more important than, day by day, loving Him and loving our neighbors. Those callings are the same today, tomorrow, and November 9th. Love, because you’re loved.

I can’t pretend this is easy to do, to love my neighbor as God does. Fear is easier. Suspicion is easier. Frustration is easier, the tendency to shrug my shoulders, shake my head and go, “I just don’t get it!” to the shouting silence of words on a screen or the real, inscrutable opinions of people I see every day. So it’s a choice, now more than ever, but really every day. To listen and to love, sometimes without agreeing or even understanding.

I’m choosing the better jacket. Because it’s better to love than to live in dread of what could happen, in three weeks or at any point in my unpredictable life. God is good, and will be good. And that’s enough.

So I leave the fear behind, like a teenager closing a notebook, laughing off a lesson, and going to lunch, where the real business of loving and living is going on.

October: News, Thanks and Prayers

Our principal addresses the students on the first day of school.

Our principal addresses the students on the first day of school.

News and Dates:

  • September 29-October 4: Junior Trip to France (Normandy & Paris)
  • September 29-October 7: Senior Trip to Italy (Florence, Rome & Venice)
  • October 17-October 22: Dahlstrom parents visit Kandern!
  • October 31: Herbstmesse (Fall Fair) in Basel
  • Curriculum for OctoberThe Scarlet Letter, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, commemorative and commencement speeches

We’re Thankful For:

  • A New Small Group for Kristi, another group of sweet senior girls and a wonderful co-leader. Excited to share this year together!
  • Mentoring opportunities for both Timmy and Kristi as we get back into the community and reconnect with young people here.
  • Autumn in the Black Forest, our favorite season here, with its crisp days and golden leaves.
  • A Great Start to the school year for Kristi, as she returns to teaching after a year away.
  • Walking for Luci, who gets more confident in her exploring every day! She’s putting her sleep to good use!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Connection with Students and Staff. In our roles in the school and in TeachBeyond Member Care, pray that God will be directing us in the conversations and relationships we have with those around us in the community. Pray for wisdom and discernment as we show Christ’s love in our community.
  • New Schedules. Continue to pray for our family as we adjust to the new schedule and routines of the school year. Pray for energy, communication and balance, along with health as we enter a cold-heavy season.
  • Financial Support. We currently have about $4315 pledged monthly, and we continue to pray for a bit more support to cover increased cost of living here. If you are interested in helping us return to this ministry fully supported, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

Our ministry here in Germany truly depends on your encouragement, prayer and support, and we continue to be so thankful for the ways in which you reach out to us. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom