November: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Speaking on faith and vocation for BFA Chapel
Photo: BFA Communications

News and Dates:

  • November 13-15: Basketball tryouts
  • November 23-26: Richard Dahlstrom (Kristi’s dad) visiting!
  • November 26: “Cozy Cabin” Christmas Banquet
  • Curriculum for November: Transcendentalism, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • With basketball season just around the corner, Timmy is excited to return to his role as assistant coach for Boys Varsity Basketball.

We’re Thankful For:

  • Mentorship Opportunities with students and staff here in Kandern, a sweet and humbling reminder of the reasons for which God has called us to this place.
  • Great Healthcare, both insurance and doctors, who recently provided some advice and reassurance for these first-time parents of a toddler with a nasty cough.
  • Speculoos Cookies and Braeburn Apples, heralds of late fall and some of our favorite seasonal treats here in Germany.
  • Spangdahlem Air Base Chapel, through whom Timmy serves part time as a Reserve Chaplain. Thankful for the friendships and unique ministry opportunity this place provides!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Health. As we enter a colder, wetter season, pray for health for our family, as well as the community as a whole.
  • Financial Need. Due to a decrease in giving over the last few months, we’re currently about $300 below our monthly support needs. Though we’d previously asked for an increase in support to cover hospitality expenses, this is a more urgent need as it concerns our basic living expenses. Please pray about joining our financial support team, which allows us to serve here in Germany. $50 or even $25 a month would go a long way towards supporting us in ministry at Black Forest Academy. 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.

In this season of thankfulness, we reflect often on the encouragement and support that our friends, family and churches are to us in this ministry. 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

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Of Exile {In The Library}

Speaking on faith and vocation for BFA Chapel
Photo: BFA Communications

Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

Jeremiah 29:5-7

After thinking about exile all week in preparation for my Chapel talk, it makes me smile a bit when I realize that I’m speaking in the Library. Today’s Chapel consists of six faculty members offering seminars on the intersection of our vocation and our faith, so students have some choices to make. As we have few large rooms on our campus, and I’m the English-teaching lover of books, to the Library I go. This means that I’m precisely the farthest away from the Auditorium, where the students have gathered for worship, and that they’ll need to really commit to walking up a bunch of stairs to get here. But that’s fine; I’m not the biggest fan of large crowds, anyway.

I’m speaking on Jeremiah 29 today, expanding on the story of the prophet’s letter to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. It’s not a new chapter to me, having encountered its oft-excerpted eleventh verse as a seventh grader at North Seattle Christian School almost two decades ago. We mulled over those words, back then, zooming in on the “prosper” and the “future,” because those seemed most relevant to us when we were twelve. God must want us to be rich, right? That’s cool. Let’s play basketball, prep for the spelling bee, check on our Tomagotchi pets; God’s got this covered. Starting way back then we lost the context, the story, the bigger picture into which God promises this future, and the wholehearted seeking God asks in return. As a professional teacher of books, I’m a huge fan of context, so today is a bit of a storytelling day.

Despite the cliche factor, I picked this passage for a reason, not for the promises at the end of the letter, but for the commands at the beginning, which have both comforted and haunted me at several points in my young adulthood. Since the speaking prompt had to do with vocation, I’ve chosen too speak not about literature, which I do pretty much constantly, but about teaching as a profession, specifically my first two years of it. I tell them that I almost quit multiple times during my first two years, and my sweet students, the ones who trudged all the way up the stairs to hear me, scoff. “No really,” I said. “It was hard.”

For a while, we’re in a different school, with a younger Ms. (rather than Mrs.) Dahlstrom. I tell them about the library conference room where I taught remedial reading to students who had failed the state reading exam, some of whom weren’t literate in any language, let alone at a tenth-grade level in English. I tell them about the fall I taught 180 ninth graders, and the period that had 30 ninth-grade boys, two ninth-grade girls, and a tenth-grade mother-to-be in her last trimester. Though I’m careful to distinguish my loneliness and discouragement from the suffering of geographic refugees, both ancient and modern, I tell them that for me, then, this was a sort of exile. That I would have seriously considered giving it all up for a quiet office and a pair of nice tall shoes, if not for the words of Jeremiah 29, a small piece of God’s insistent voice of calling on my life.

“‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce,'” I read aloud to the assembled students and faculty in the Library. “This is a long-term arrangement. Gardens take time; houses take time. Also, families take time. Look what else he asks them to do!”

I keep reading the passage, telling them of my crestfallenness, in those bone-tired first years as a teacher, at realizing that God had called me, specifically, to Seattle and to my classroom and to the individual students I taught. I could go work for a magazine, keep my clothes clean and hands un-markered, but it wouldn’t change the calling. Instead, God had planned for the calling to change me. That was the hope, the future.

Sometimes we get to choose the “end” of the stories we tell about ourselves. Today, I choose not to take the story all the way to Germany, to the fruition of one of the fantasies that I spun for myself in the difficult years. Because that particular exile ended two years sooner. It ended when Ingraham High School became home, when in its welfare, in this city in which I’d been placed for that season, I found welfare. Yes, eventually I moved on, but I left that school happy, satisfied enough that I knew I was leaving home, a part of my heart, behind in Seattle.

I know that for some of our students, the exile is geographic, far closer to the Israelites than I’ve ever been. Though Kandern has its charms, they’re not where they’d like to be. For others, like for me, it’s more complex, dissatisfaction with situations and circumstances still (and perhaps always) beyond their control. “I told a story about a while ago,” I tell them, “But that wasn’t my last exile. The point isn’t always to leave exile. Sometimes the point, like Jeremiah reminded the Israelites, is to meet God there. Because God is everywhere. If you seek me you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart. Exile is a great place for seeking, for looking around and paying attention to what God wants you to be doing here.”

We reset the chairs and tables in the Library with our last few minutes before the bell rings for lunch. I chat with the students, most of them ones I’ve taught or know some other way, and the teachers, most of them friends, who made the trek up the stairs. I think about how this has become every bit as much home as Ingraham ever was, perhaps even more, how I’ve literally settled down, set up a house if not built one (Keeping a basil plant alive is the same as planting a garden, right?), married and started a family in this place. It once seemed like the far corner of the world, and now it’s the center of it. I leave the Library asking God to reveal my places of exile, which clearly don’t include this cozy village I call home, knowing that He’s there, too, in the shadowy corners of my heart, asking me to lean in, to listen, to keep learning.

October: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Enjoyed a wonderful visit from the Roes!

News and Dates:

  • October 6: Ninth grade class party
  • October 21: BFA Staff Recital
  • October 30: End of Quarter 1
  • October 31: 500th Reformation Day
  • Curriculum for October: The Scarlet Letter, American Romanticism
  • Timmy is leading a ninth grade boys’ small group this year! He’s excited to get to spend time time investing in these guys each week on Tuesday.

We’re Thankful For:

  • Visiting Friends in September, BFA alumni Joe Leavitt and our friends from Seattle, GM and Holly Roe. Such a delight to catch up with old friends in our little town!
  • Journalism Class, with six hardworking students eager to read and report the news, seeking ways to engage our community in meaningful learning and conversation.
  • Autumn in Kandern, which turns the hillsides into vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red each fall.
  • New Staff at BFA, who bring vitality and excitement to our staff.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Future. Pray for wisdom and clarity as we pray about our future, seeking to honor God with our vocation and family.
  • Financial Support. We currently have about $4215 pledged monthly, and we continue to pray for a bit more support to facilitate the hospitality aspects of member care. 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 we gear up to begin a new school year, we’re continually thankful for the encouragement and support that you are to us in our ministry here. 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

The {Not Terribly} Simple Life

Enjoying some yardwork.

Friday I come home for lunch.

More precisely, I leave school shortly before lunch, to pick Luci up from friends’ house, where she’s spent the morning playing with twin two-year-old boys. These boys spend another weekday at our house, where Timmy runs a three-toddler circus with extraordinary energy and humor. Whenever she’s going to spend time with them, at our house or theirs, Luci says, “Go see fens!” Always with an exclamation point, never (so far) with an R in “friends.” Fens!

I meet them on the landing outside their apartment, where Luci emerges with a sheet of paper, covered with crayon and the outline of her hand. We say goodbye to the mother and the twins, load up in the stroller and head home, where a “peebudder sanwich” is calling to us.

As we walk along the now-robust Kander River towards home, I marvel at the series of answered prayers that led to this walk. At the beginning of the summer, we knew that Timmy would be working in the school part-time this year, that I would still be mostly full-time, and that our daughter was still too young for even the generous over-three Kindergarten in our town. Perhaps I’d be able to come home in the afternoons, but even that wasn’t certain, as our school schedule changed drastically this year, each day a different shuffling of six of the seven classes. We’d need someone–possibly a few someones–to watch her a few mornings a week, at least.

As people asked us how they could be praying for us as the school year started, the answer was always the same: “Really, practically, we need some help watching Luci during the day.” A lover of abstraction, I’m not good at asking God for anything specific, but here was a concrete, pragmatic need, with a hard deadline. We asked. We asked others to ask for us. We kept asking as the school year drew near.

And then there were answers. Friends who moved back to town, their own children now at college in America, who’d love to spend a morning with Luci. A grandmother, her grandchildren far away, who wanted to take her for walks around town. A mom from the school who offered to spend afternoons at our apartment while Luci napped. The exchange with the twins, providing another morning of counseling for Timmy and some free time for their mom. Two afternoons that my day ended at lunch, allowing me to come home int the afternoons. With so many people involved, so many different places and ways, the week came together.

I think of how often in my life I’ve longed for the minimalism celebrated in Ikea catalogues and tiny house Pinterest boards. When life feels tricky, sometimes I look back longingly on the one suitcase I brought here, with the one teacher outfit it contained. There is beauty in simplicity, the simplicity that makes Mondrian, the Great Plains and Scandinavian furniture appealing. There were simple solutions to our childcare conundrum, like a full-time nanny or an on-site daycare, the dreams of perplexed parents everywhere.

The value of complexity is more often overlooked. Lost in the pastel respite of Monet, we get too tired of looking to untangle the masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel, but both are beautiful. This year, this schedule, is complex, even tricky. But it’s beautiful, a network of willing friends who invest time, love and energy into our family. The simple solution would be simple, costing us less planning and less asking for help, but without the love.

At the beginning of our eighth and tenth year in missions, Timmy and I think quite a lot a about the way God has provided for us. Of course we’d be happy with the easy ways–with a single church that agreed to sponsor us for life–but ultimately our time here has often been marked by the beauty of his complicated answers.

The beauty of fifty supporters instead of three, hundreds of people and churches praying for us all over the world. The beauty of an apartment we can afford, that is just big enough for us. The beauty of a car given to us when we needed it most. The beauty of four women who help us care for Luci so that we can serve in the school.

Perhaps life will be simple someday, but for now I’m grateful for this glorious complexity, the reminder that God sees us, knows us, and loves us.

September: News, Thanks, and Prayers

First Day of School Dahlstroms!

News and Dates:

  • September 9-11: Budenfest (local club food festival) in Kandern
  • September 11-15: Spiritual Emphasis Week
  • September 22: Fall Party
  • Timmy is starting his counseling internship this month at BFA. This means that he’ll be working part-time in the school with our counseling department.

We’re Thankful For:

  • Donna Dahlstrom, who was able to visit for two weeks in August while Timmy was at residency. Kristi and Luci had great adventures with Oma, hiking, making jam and going to the pool!
  • Childcare for Luci this year during times that we are both working in the school. We’ve had several women volunteer to hang out with Luci during different times during the day, and she even has a morning a week that she can play at some friends’ house! This is a huge answer to prayer!
  • Timmy’s Internship and the opportunities that it provides for him to continue his counseling studies. We’re thankful for good supervision and all that this year entails.
  • New Roles for Kristi at school, as she restarts the school newspaper and serves as a faculty advisor for ninth graders.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • New School Year. Pray for the transitions that the new school year entails for all of us. We’re starting new routines, and learning some new roles. Pray for communication and balance, and that in the midst of this sudden busyness we’d keep our focus on Christ.
  • Financial Support. We continue to pray for about $1300 more in monthly support to cover increased cost of living and hospitality aspects of 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 we gear up to begin a new school year, we’re continually thankful for the encouragement and support that you are to us in our ministry here. 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

The Summer of The Pool

It’s the last day of summer around here. Of course, summer will go on for another month or so, and students won’t return until the end of August, but tomorrow Timmy, Luci and I head to Black Forest Academy for All Staff Conference, the official beginning of the school year. So it seems only fitting to spend my last afternoon naptime of the summer writing about one of this summer’s best things: the pool.

Dear Kandern Pool,

Because I’m the kind of person who reads a lot of books and writes a lot of sentences, sometimes I give seasons titles, so that when I look back they have little headings, like chapters in the ongoing, unabridged novel of our life. Sibling Christmas 2011. The Summer of Weddings. That Fall That I Taught Too Many Students, And Almost Went Crazy. Just titles, unadorned and practical.

You’re probably wondering where you come in, but wonder no more. I’m officially dubbing this summer–which ends tomorrow because I’m a teacher and we live by a different calendar–The Summer of The Pool. Lest you believe you were the only good thing–or even the best thing–this summer, know this: This was a glorious summer, full of friends and family and goodness of many kinds. The “many kinds” is complicated, though, and will likely fill the second sentence of my answer to tomorrow’s inevitable inquiry:

“So what did you do this summer?” someone will ask.

“Um, mostly went to the pool…”

“Really?”

“Well, we went to visit some friends, and we had some time on base, and my mom came to visit, and it was a really great summer. But yeah, low-key time. The pool. It was just lovely.”

Outdoors and lively, predictably cool, you really were the perfect pool for this summer, when otherwise we’d be slowly roasting in a darkened, fourth-floor apartment, thinking about global warming and feeling justified in our window-unit air conditioner. You provided relief and amusement, as all pools are supposed to do. But that’s not all.

When I think of you, Kandern pool, I’ll always remember two little girls. First, my eight-month-old daughter, who literally lived the first few months of her life in a room under a snowbank, dipping her toes tentatively in, then getting angry if we so much as suggested that she stand in the water, even for a moment. Then, a year later, the girl who stands under the little waterfall in the kids’ pool, who wades in up to her chest, chasing a rubber duck, who shrieks with glee when her dad pulls her through the deeper water in the medium pool. You’ve been a place of adventure and growth for a water-fearing Luci, and that’s no small thing.

You’re not all soft edges, of course. You’ve been the cause of scraped knees, hands, and once a nose, along with endless gasps of surprise when rowdy peers dare to splash water my daughter’s way. You’ve stretched her, though, helped teach her (and me) that a scraped knee doesn’t need to ruin anyone’s afternoon. We get up and keep playing, a little more careful next time.

You also represent our village, in all its variety. Though I’ve lived here ages now and stayed in Kandern for a handful of summers, this is the first summer we’ve “splashed out” (pun just irresistible, sorry) and gotten a season pass. With the extra time lingering around the kids’ pool this summer, I watched the our little world file by on hot days, people of all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities enjoying the water together. Over there are several generations of Kandern-born originals, while across the way is a family of refugees just arrived in Germany, immigrants like myself just as welcomed as those who’ve lived here forever. It’s a special place.

I could spend more time on the dress codes–or lack of them–or lifeguards–or lack of them–but my letter is growing long. For now, I’ll finish by saying that this Summer of The Pool has been a settled one, a quiet one, a time of thankfulness and rest, of fully living in this place we call home. Sitting with our feet in the water, we watch our little girl play, dreaming of the future and resting, for a moment, in the cool exhilaration of the present.

Thank you.

Kristi

August: News, Thanks and Prayers

From our hike through vineyards above the Mosel Valley. So thankful that Spangdahlem Air Base is in a beautiful part of the world!

News and Dates:

  • August 4-15: Timmy in Virginia Beach for Regent University School of Psychology residency.
  • August 17-25: All Staff Conference
  • August 30: First Day of School!
  • In a slight change of roles, Kristi will be teaching journalism this year (instead of public speaking) along with her English course and new faculty supervision.
  • We are serving as class sponsors this year for the freshman class! This is a role we filled in the past and enjoyed, allowing us to spend time investing in a group of students through different activities and events. We’re excited to get to know these kids and the other great sponsors!

We’re Thankful For:

  • Spangdahlem Air Base and the good time that Timmy had serving there in July. Thankful for the hospitality of the community there and continued opportunities to serve and grow in his role as Reserve Chaplain.
  • The Blanchard Family, whom Timmy was able to spend time with during a brief but delightful visit to South Carolina.
  • The Kandern Pool, which has been our saving grace this summer on hot, hot days. Luci loves the water more every day!
  • Good Sleep for the whole family! After about a year of sleep craziness with Luci, she’s settled into some great patterns this summer, leaving all of us happily well-rested.
  • Toddler Talking and all the fun and laughter that it’s brought to our family. Our little girl learns more words every day, and it’s amazing to get these insights into her world!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Travel. Pray for Timmy as he travels to Virginia this week, for Donna Dahlstrom as she comes here for a visit, and for all of the staff and students who are preparing to make the journey here in the coming weeks. Pray for healthy, safety, and logistical details to come together for all!
  • Future. Pray for us as we make decisions regarding the future, seeking to honor God with our family and vocation.
  • Financial Support. We continue to pray for about $1300 more in monthly support to cover increased cost of living and hospitality aspects of 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 we gear up to begin a new school year soon, we’re continually thankful for the encouragement and support that you are to us in our ministry here. 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

July: News, Thanks and Prayers

Graduation day with two of Kristi’s senior small group girls.

News and Dates:

  • July 6-10: Timmy in Columbia, South Carolina
  • Last two weeks of July: Timmy finishing Air Force Reserve service days as a Chaplain (Kristi and Luci get to come this time, too!)
  • In case you haven’t seen the update on Facebook, Timmy will be in Columbia, South Carolina this weekend! If you’re free and would like to connect, email timmy.dahlstrom@gmail.com to set something up!
  • BFA’s incredible Communications team has put together a short film called “Hands,” about the work we do at BFA. Check it out on BFA’s Youtube page here.

We’re Thankful For:

  • A Good End to a busy school year, weeks filled with hard work and good attitudes from students. As always, it was bittersweet to see them go, but we feel honored to have been a part of their lives.
  • Time To Rest and reflect on our first year in Germany, a time that was filled with new joys and challenges unique to our season as a young family in ministry.
  • A Visit With Friends last weekend in nearby Bavaria, providing a much-needed excuse to get out of town, see a different part of this lovely country, and catch up with old friends.
  • Recreational Reading during our newly out-of-school time. Timmy and I are reading David James Duncan’s The Brothers K, as a family we’re reading C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, and Luci is reading* all three Knuffle Bunny books, by Mo Willems, several times a day.

*OK, Luci isn’t reading them. We are. Again and again and again.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Summer Travels. Pray for Timmy as he travels to South Carolina this weekend, for easy transitions and connections with friends there. We’ll be heading to Spangdahlem Air Base, a few hours north, in a couple of weeks, so pray for health and smooth travels for our mini-road trip. Finally, Timmy will be returning to Virginia Beach for his second graduate residency with Regent University in August, and Oma Donna will be coming here. Lots of coming and going this summer!
  • Financial Support. We continue to pray for about $1300 more in monthly support to cover increased cost of living and hospitality aspects of 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 continue to praise God daily for the encouragement and support that you are to us in our ministry here. 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

Sustainability {Or, Measuring A Year}

Class of 2017 on the first day of school…

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

From “Seasons of Love,” RENT

June 24 marks one year back in Kandern, this time as a family of three, a year filled with beginnings-again, with all joys and challenges included. At intervals throughout the year, friends, colleagues and acquaintances have asked us “how it is” being back. I must have expected to have a better answer at one point, but honestly this has become one of those questions, like asking “How are you?” to a brand-new parent, or “How was your trip?” to someone who’s just returned from a mission trip to Haiti after an earthquake. There is no simple answer. There’s just… well, a year.

This year was challenging, as we realized that having a young child who goes to bed early would change how we connected to the community. We went to fewer events, had fewer extracurricular commitments, and learned that weekend lunches were the best times for connecting with other young families. We hosted dinners and movie nights after bedtime, gradually figuring out how to exercise hospitality from this new family context.

This year was beautiful, returning with our daughter to this place that Timmy and I fell in love, reflecting daily on the vast history of blessing with which Christ has built and continues to build our family. We walked familiar trails, visited favorite buildings, and watched countless sunsets, thunderstorms and snowfalls from our fourth-floor apartment.

This year was surprising, filled with relationships and opportunities that we didn’t expect from the far side of the Atlantic. Timmy coached basketball and I substitute-taught ceramics for a few weeks. I co-led a girls’ small group with another young mom, and Timmy spent the spring doing a counseling internship with staff in the community. We discovered that Luci is by far the most popular member of our family, bringing gleeful grins from eleventh-graders and fellow teachers alike.

Though it’s impossible to sum up–to measure–this year, as a Pacific Northwesterner it seems no coincidence to me that the word that keeps coming to mind is “sustainability.” Because in the end, this was the common denominator of our ministry in Germany this year. Both at Black Forest Academy and in the community in Kandern, we seek to enable missionaries to sustain healthy ministries in the places to which God has called them.

For me, sustainability means teaching young people to read, write, speak and think clearly, helping to provide a quality English education while their parents serve in evangelism, community development, translation, refugee ministry and other mission work in Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond. Families that would have had to leave the field when their children reached high school are able to remain in ministry in these capacities.

For Timmy, sustainability means providing counseling and other hospitality services through TeachBeyond Member Care here in Kandern, working with a great number of missionaries, mostly school staff, as they transition from North America to Europe, from big cities to small towns, and from traditional careers to the decidedly non-traditional life of serving as overseas missionaries. This also means opening our home to fellow missionaries, providing hospitality and a safe space for connection and processing.

We’re working on our second year back in Kandern now, but I don’t expect our “word of the year” to change much. Our focus continues to be on creating space for sustainable ministry, both for our colleagues here in Kandern and for the parents of our students, spread around the world. We’re thankful for the weeks of summer ahead of us, time to spend sustaining our own family and ministry as we rest and reset for Year 2 (or Year 7, or Year 9, depending on how you count, and which of us you ask). Join us in praying for rest, health, and peace this summer, for us and those in our care.

If you’re interested in learning more about our ministry here in Germany, read our bio at Meet The Dahlstroms. Or, if you’d like to learn more about how to partner with us in ministry, follow this link to our TeachBeyond giving page.

…and the last!

 

A Chronicle of Longing

A very happy Last Day of Class from Black Forest Academy. For me, there are still two weeks of work left: two exams, two ceramics critiques, a debate, a graduation ceremony, and a few days of staff meetings and moving the Middle School. This makes our final day a little anticlimactic compared to the homework-burning, door-slamming squeals on grey June days of my youth. Still, we mark this day with a high-toned discussion of literature and life and, as usual, a letter. I’ll miss these kids a lot.

8 June 2017

My dear Juniors,

As I write this, you’re busily composing your thoughts on Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Contrary to the title of our last novel, this classroom is extremely quiet, and I know your many of your minds are already drifting incredibly far away, to the distant corners of the earth to which you’ll find yourselves scattered in a week or so. Only exams (and this one essay you’re writing) stand between you and the vast kaleidoscope of summer vacation. Congratulations on a job well done.

I began this year with both a warning and an exhortation, that this class would challenge you, but that you grow if you were willing to take some risks. And, Class of 2018, you proved to be risk-takers in the best sense of the word. Not only united by your love of Hamilton, you share a thirst for intellectual adventure. This class wasn’t an easy one, and I’m sure at some point you wondered why you’d put yourself here. Just showing up each day—with open eyes, ears, minds and hearts—is a tremendous accomplishment, and I want to thank you for the investment that each of you brought to Honors American Literature. I can’t imagine this class without even one of you in it, and we all know that I have a pretty superb imagination.

American literature as a whole is a chronicle of longing. Hester longed for love, Huck for adventure, Gastby for the unrepeatable past, George and Lennie for home, John Proctor for redemption and Oskar for his father. Many of these desires come from an admirable place, the very human search for love, relationship and belonging, and most of them remain unfulfilled in the pages of our books. This wasn’t a year of happy endings.

As you prepare to enter your last year of high school, in many ways the summit of childhood, I know that you, too, have longings. Perhaps you won’t raft down the Rhine River, come back and buy the biggest house in Kandern to impress your lost love, or meet every Herr und Frau Schwarz in Basel in search of some indefinable truth, but I know that wherever you go, you want to love, to be known, and to belong. And while I don’t have the power to write a happier ending for you than for our characters, I can remind you that we have something that they don’t have (other than physical existence beyond the pages of a book). In Christ, our longings find a home. We don’t necessarily have a guarantee for where we’ll live next, who we’ll meet there or how it will all turn out. But if we show up, knowing that our first desire is for Him, we won’t be disappointed.

So keep showing up. Keep asking questions. Keep learning with your eyes open. Keep longing. Know that no matter what the next chapters of your life look like, whether the shared one of senior year or the divergent ones that come after, you’ll be infinitely better off than a character from classic American literature, chasing your better dreams from a firmer foundation.

Thank you, dear students, for a wonderful year. I’ll miss you lots in August (and possibly before then), so please wave at me, tell me about your plans, and generally keep making me proud to know you.

Love,

Mrs. Kristi Dahlstrom