Saturday, December 10, 2016

In every season

Seasons. They are a part of life. Our family learned to truly appreciate the seasons while living in upstate NY. Here in Germany we have just experienced a beautiful fall season.
Life is filled with seasons. Seasons filled with joy, transition and pain. Scripture tells us, " For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) In my own personal life I have felt many of those ups and downs in the last year. BFA has also experienced some ups and downs.
Here is a small peek into some of the ups and downs the last few weeks here at BFA:
A time to dance/build
On November 2, BFA celebrated its 60th anniversary. Each class dressed up from a difference decade of the school’s existence and together we celebrated what the Lord has done in and through this school for the last 60 years. We ended the week with a concert of prayer during a combined chapel (middle school and high school). What a wonderful way to begin the next season.

A time to mourn
On November 7 we received the devastating news that a precious little girl born with a heart defect 7 weeks early to new staff members (one of whom is a BFA alum) had been taken home to be with Jesus after a hard fight! Please pray for this family as they navigate this season of grief.
A time to plant
Due to the loss in our community and a few of our student’s own personal struggles, Jesus has given me and other staff members some wonderful opportunities to help students process, ask some difficult questions and grieve together the loss in our community. We pray that the seeds being planted in their lives and hearts will bear fruit for the Kingdom. 

A time to laugh
The Middle School presented the play,
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. They did a wonderful job of presenting this funny yet poignant story.
A time to speak
On the Friday after Thanksgiving I co-led our middle school chapel and had the opportunity to present the Gospel and to encourage each student to give themselves fully to Jesus!
A time to love/serve
Each year our 8th graders have an opportunity to serve the high school students and staff at BFA's annual Christmas Banquet. For the third year in a row I helped with the 8th graders. Helping fifteen 8th graders serve over 300 people dinner is always an exhausting but fun adventure. Thankful for a wonderful group of students, a great co-leader, and the ability to serve together in this way.

A time to embrace
My nephew, Jaden, was able to come visit me for a week and we were able to celebrate his 13th birthday together! What an amazing gift to have him with me and for him to experience part of my world here at BFA.
Christmas is a season that is filled with joy and yet this side of heaven it is also a season of pain as we become acutely aware of the things that are not right in this world. The phrase that has been playing over and over in my head this season is a line from a Christmas song written by Chris Tomlin - Into our hopes, into our fears, the Savior of the world appears. The Savior of the world enters into our seasons of hope and into our seasons of fear. He willingly chooses to enter into every season of life, and not only that He chooses to walk with us through each season that life throws at us. I don't know what you or your family may be facing this Christmas. But He does! And right in the middle of it, He appears! I can now say from experience that whether you are celebrating the picture perfect Christmas or whether you are spending Christmas in the Neuro ICU like we did last year, HE IS THERE! And He promises to make everything beautiful in His time! (Ecc. 3:11) May you see the Savior of the world appear in whatever season of life you find yourself in this Christmas.

In every change (or season) He faithful will remain.  (from the hymn "Be still, my soul")

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Light for the next step

View of BFA and my driveway from my balcony
 As I walked up my driveway towards my apartment, I found myself struggling to see the road under my feet. I live across the street from BFA (high school) just at the edge of town  and on the top floor of a stand alone house. While a bit unusual for this part of the world I have no immediate neighbors aside from my landlady. On cloudy nights with the forest in my backyard and no street lights to light the way one can feel almost blind trying to find their way up my driveway. It only takes one time of fumbling your way home in the dark, wondering what forest creature may be watching you, to learn to always carry a flashlight with you.

But this night as I walked up my hill the darkness seemed particularly dark. Even with my flashlight I could only see enough to take the next step or maybe two. As I tried to focus on what I could see, and not on what might be hiding in the shadows, I felt the Lord remind me of the fact that He is the Light of the world!! And though we are living in dark days my job is to focus on the Light that He provides! Darkness can at times threaten to consume us and yet He faithfully gives us enough light to take the next step...and then the next...and then the next. What an important reminder!

It was a reminder I needed!! The last year has felt dark. The pathway that once felt brightly lit has grown dim or even invisible and I find myself unsure of what the future will or should look like. And the more I think about or try to look to the future the more uncertain and anxious I become! The Lord graciously reminded me in the midst of the darkness of night that I don't need to look far ahead. He has given me enough light for the next step and for now that is all I need and I am learning (or trying to learn) to be OK with just that.

At times I must confess I want the light to shine brightly on the path ahead, making the path easy and my steps sure. And yet at each turn He keeps giving strength to press on and provides moments of rest when I am not sure if I can take the next step or what the next step might hold.

Not too long ago my sister wrote a beautiful blog on having eyes to see His hand even in the midst of grief, hardship and pain. I want His eyes! I don't want exhaustion, fear, anxiety or grief to keep me from seeing His mercies and grace extended to me in the midst of the losses of the past year.  

So allow me to share some moments of grace this fall:
  • Being back at BFA and experiencing my sixth opening ceremony
  • Students and colleagues who faithfully prayed for me and my family and welcomed me back
  • Walking into a clean apartment and a stocked frig after being gone for 8 months thanks to dear friends
  • A day in the Alps with friends, the majesty of God displayed in His creation revives the soul
  • Seeing a former student get baptized
  • Students who teach me about the world and so much more every day
  • Colleagues that continue to sacrificially give of themselves by covering my classes so I could return to the States for a week to help out at home
  • The smoothest first month of school I have experienced
  • Attending a special Sunday event where all the French churches in the area gathered together to worship!
  • Amazing deals on airline tickets and smooth and uneventful trips to and from the States
  • My Dad's radiation treatments are over!
  • A great week in the States with my Mom where we are able to accomplish a lot, enjoy being together and celebrate her birthday a little early!
  • Seeing God's provision in the amazing people He has provided to care for my Mom
Thank you to so many who have prayed for me as I transition back to BFA and try to continue to help from a distance with some of my mom's care. I have felt those prayers and am so thankful. I would ask for your continued prayers for physical and emotional strength as I try to juggle two worlds.  Please also pray for our staff and students here at BFA that we would individually and collectively seek the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength! This year BFA is celebrating it's 60th year and the theme is Faithful! He is indeed Faithful even in the dark!

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Six years ago today in Albany, NY, I weighed my three suitcases for the seemingly countless time, anxiously watched the scale hit almost exactly 50 lbs for each one, thanked the Lord for a kind ticket agent who waived the fee for one of my bags, shed tears as I hugged my family goodbye, went through security and sat at my gate waiting to board my flight and begin my journey to Germany.

I was no stranger to goodbyes, moving, transition or travel and yet you may never have seen a more reluctant or terrified traveler. What was I thinking? Who did I think I was going to teach students French in Germany? Had I really heard Jesus correctly? Didn’t He know that I had no teacher training or experience and had not used the French language in well over a decade? Never have I had a more blunt conversation with the Lord. In no uncertain terms I let Him know that the ONLY reason I was getting on that plane was because I knew in my heart it would be straight up disobedience to stay. So I somewhat begrudgingly got on that plane. Although I doubt I am the first missionary to feel this way it is not the typical story that you send home to supporters. However, I am so thankful for God’s grace and patience with me. As I tell my students, He is big enough for all our fears and doubts. He graciously listened to me and then very clearly led me to His Word (Psalm 28) and reminded me that He who had called me would provide ALL that I needed as I stepped out in obedience, even if it was reluctantly.

I stand in awe remembering the million and one ways the Lord has provided for me in the last six years! From giving me an unexpected love for teaching middle schoolers, to providing faithful supporters who have stood with me for six years, to amazing staff to mentor and help me grow as a teacher, etc.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” God tells His people over and over to REMEMBER! This message is one I am preaching to myself these days as I need to remember His faithfulness, His provision, His grace, His strength then in order to have the courage to live and move forward and once again board a plane. This time the situation is different. My reluctance is for very different reasons but the fact that I can’t escape, the thing that is the same, is His call. To stay would be saying ‘no’ to His voice. I feel it as strongly as I felt His call to stay on December 14th when my Mom suffered her stroke. What a gift and blessing it has been to be here the last seven months and serve my parents in this way. These months have been the hardest I have ever experienced. But the beautiful thing is that I can look back to my childhood, I can look back to six years ago, or I can look back at the last seven months and see His faithfulness in the midst of stress, exhaustion, doubts and fears. He has walked with me into the unknown, He has walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death, and He will walk with me as I return to Germany and ‘normal’ life.

Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forward. And so I move forward on August 14th and will once again board a plane. There are moments when I feel excitement to return to my apartment, my students, my friends and colleagues. And then there are moments when the thought of leaving Mom (and Dad) feels unbearable. While Mom has made amazing progress she is not where I had hoped she would be when I left. While leaving will be difficult, I am so thankful for my parent's whole-hearted support.

Could I once again ask for your prayers?
  • Would you pray that I would lean on His strength and courage to board that plane?
  • Would you pray that as a family we would continue to trust Him even in the midst of the hardships of this year?
  • Would you pray for the Lord to provide just the right ones to care for my Mom after my departure?
  • Would you pray for my Dad as he juggles it all? Pray for physical strength and health as he juggles work, therapy, doctors’ appointments and Mom’s care?
  • Would you pray for me as I transition from the crisis and intensity of the last few months to ‘normal’ life again?
  • Would you keep praying for healing for my Mom? Pray that the Lord would restore her left arm and leg so that she could have increased mobility and independence?
Thank you for your love, support and prayers for me and for our family! You will never know what a gift it is and has been!!

On July 28, 2010 Jesus gave me this Psalm and I cling to it once again on July 28, 2016.
To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me…
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help…
Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped…
The LORD is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever. (excerpts of Psalm 28)
(Last weekend Jesus gave us a rare moment for the four of us to be together before my return. We weren't in a hospital or a rehab center and were able to truly enjoy being together. Thankful for my Mom and for my sisters!)

Monday, January 18, 2016

December 14th

If you asked me today's date I would have to stop and really think. But I can tell you without blinking that December 14th was five weeks ago today. Trauma and hospitals leave you in a sort of time warp and time for us is now marked by December 14th.

Early that Monday morning five weeks ago today, right before we left for the hospital, I posted a blog (Unexpected Places) that I had written on the plane the day before. I had moved up my flight five days in order to be home for my Mom’s unexpected lung surgery. The doctors were preparing us for a rough recovery and for the real possibility of the nodule on her lung being malignant. The Lord spoke to me on the plane about Unexpected Places in the Christmas story and in life. Little did I know that He was gently preparing me for the next 48 hours that would prove to be the most unexpected and difficult of my life. 

Unexpected Places: Christmas Day in the NeuroICU
Monday afternoon on December 14th I drove home to take a nap as jet lag was catching up with me. We were rejoicing as Mom had made it out of surgery and the nodule was benign. A miracle even to our doctor! But that evening I laid in bed and couldn’t sleep, I think I was close to a panic attack and had no clue why I was so anxious.What was wrong with me? We had received good news! Around 8 pm my Dad called and I picked up on the first ring. In a shaky voice he told me that I needed to come back to the hospital right away, Mom had suffered a ‘large complete stroke’ in the ICU while recovering from surgery. Never has a drive felt so long! Our world started caving in but the journey had only begun. The next day as we started to adjust to our new unexpected reality we received further devastating news that my Mom’s brain was continuing to swell and if they did not perform a craniotomy that afternoon she would likely die. We were told to call my sisters and families and to be prepared. Two major surgeries and a large stroke in 30 hours…unexpected, unimaginable places!

As I held my Mom’s hand, talked to her and prayed over her as they prepped her for her second surgery I honestly wondered if I was saying goodbye to her. I couldn’t imagine her weak and mostly unresponsive body surviving another major surgery. And yet though her body had her completely trapped both Dad and I saw very clear signs that she was still very present! 

Mom holding on to the cross
Thank the Lord she did survive! But the following 9 days in the neuro ICU, followed by a week in the stroke unit and now starting our third week at rehab have proven to be some of the hardest of my life. There is little that is worse than watching someone you love suffer! And yet in the darkest of places the veil between heaven and earth is pulled back and we get a glimpse of ultimate reality and of a Savior who understands suffering. And without a doubt I can say that even in the valley of the shadow of death…HE IS THERE! 

I can also unequivocally say that my Mom is my hero! I have said this before but watching her press into Jesus during her darkest days and trust Him with this has been life defining! Even in her grief over her new reality Jesus keeps shining through! She shared with us that she had always told Jesus that she would follow Him no matter the cost and she asked us to pray for courage and strength to take up her cross and follow Him through this journey. 

God the Father never intended for us to journey alone so consequently it is not just her journey, it has become all of ours. I have been privileged to walk through the last five weeks with my amazing Dad, sisters and brothers-in-law. God placed us in families (whether it be a spiritual family or a physical one) and I feel strongly that God has called me to my family for this season. My parents have given so much for me, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to honor and serve them in this way. I realize that not everyone is privileged enough to be given that opportunity and I do not take it for granted!!   

TEAM and BFA have blessed our family in unspeakable ways by working to make that a possibility for me. I have officially been granted a short term home assignment from TEAM and some staff at BFA have graciously stepped up to fill in for my classes. Please pray for them as they take on this added responsibility. I would be lying if I said that it was easy. I miss my students already and my world at BFA. But this is not for forever, just for a season and what a privilege it is to walk this journey with my Mom.

Because a craniotomy necessitates a follow up surgery and the recovery process is slow I do not have a timetable at this point but I have been in contact with both TEAM and BFA and will keep them posted as things develop. 

To say that we are thankful for the outpouring of love, care and prayers is an understatement. We have truly felt carried and sustained by the body of Christ around the world

If you would like to journey with our family, feel free to check out Journey with Katy


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Update on my Mom

When I wrote my last blog about the unexpected I had no idea how unexpected the path would actually be!And yet He is Immanuel, God with us!

Here is an update from my Dad. I am sure there are better places or ways to update everyone but I am too tired to think of it now so for tonight this will suffice.

I am truly a blessed and proud daughter! My Mom is thinking of others even in the midst of her own trauma (although why should I be surprised??) and my Dad is leaning on and trusting in Jesus. This is the hardest thing any of us have ever done but He is holding us on this unexpected journey!


Friends and family,

First, we feel overwhelmed with an ocean of grace by the many emails, texts, voice mails, visits, cards, etc.  It is impossible to keep up with the correspondence but please know that we read every one and each one is a beautiful means of grace to our fragile souls. I find myself in tears with almost each one I read. I've never had words touch me quite like this. Thank you, thank you.

William Cowper wrote the hymn "God Moves in a Mysterious Way". How I love these words: 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

The past 72 hours have been like none I've ever lived.  Providence did indeed seem to be frowning.  For about 48 hours, it felt like we were falling off a cliff, hitting on rocky ledge after another in our descent. Where would it end?  But even as the wheels were falling off and life was spinning out of control, we caught glimpses, and at times, a glorious vision of the "smiling face" behind the turbulence.

On Monday morning, Katy and I faced one of the greatest challenges of our life as she underwent surgery to remove a spiculated nodule from her left lung.  All signs had seemed to indicate cancer so when the doctor said it was benign, we erupted in praise and sent a letter to all of you saying that the battle was over and thanks for the prayers.  Little did we know that the battle had only begun!  

On Monday afternoon about 4:00, Katy had a "large stroke".  A blood clot lodged in her right brain leaving her left side paralyzed.  Our surgeon said that in all his life he had never experienced anything like this and is struggling to account for the clot.  Over the next 24 hours a series of CT scans showed that the brain was swelling.  Not good.  We noticed that Katy was more and more non-responsive and by late Tuesday  afternoon a neurosurgeon had been called in.  He explained that if he did not do immediate surgery to relieve the pressure, Katy would probably die.  

In shock, we signed the papers and again (!) watched as Katy was wheeled away behind closed doors for two hours of more surgery.  A craniotomy was performed, removing bone from the right side of her skull so the brain could thus expand as it adjusted to the damage caused from the stroke.  Last night (Tuesday) about 8:00, the neurosurgeon announced that the surgery had gone smoothly and Katy's vital signs looked good.  But he stressed that there would still be about 48-72 hours of recovery in neuro-ICU which would be critical.  

We are in that period of waiting now.  Katy is responsive and her mental capacities and personality seem to be present.  She cannot talk well and can barely keep her eyes open.  This morning she indicated she wanted a pen and paper and with eyes unable to open, wrote out in perfect script (!) instructions about who we were to call to inform about her condition!  We laughed as we realized that beneath all the bandages and tubes and medication and trauma of two surgeries, Katy was still thinking of others and THEIR well being!  As you know, I am married to a saint.

It is far too early to predict the future but if recovery over these next few days goes well, I think we will be looking at a lengthy rehabilitation.  The medical staff has been very helpful and have worked to keep our expectations realistic.  Of course, we are asking God for full recovery but know that it will likely be a long and challenging journey.

Again, I cannot begin to say how much the notes and prayers and verses and visits have meant.  We are incredibly blessed by a family of people who have enriched our lives and blessed us in ways that make us feel like we are swimming in an ocean of grace.  The "frowning providence" is still a reality and we recognize that this journey may still have difficult challenges and pain and loss.  But today.... I'm thanking God for his smiling face, that we see so clearly through you!  The worlds of FAS, LCC, PAACS, OMS, WGM, Asbury, and Mt. Zion, continue to buoy us along in a great current of grace!  

A friend from LCC (thanks M.H.!) gave Katy and me a Bible verse that has helped to hold us steady during the past few days:  "For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand (that is Katy's workable hand!); it is I who say to you 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'" (Isa, 41:13).  

All three daughters are with us: Anna from Germany, Sarah and Adam from Michigan, and Elisabeth and Ben from Chicago.  Needless to say, their presence is better than any pharmaceutical concoction the doctors can order.

How we love you!  

Trusting His face!
Stan Key

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unexpected Places

(I wrote this yesterday as I traveled)
Unexpected places. Most of us have found ourselves at some point in an unexpected place or facing unexpected news. In the last 72 hours my family has embarked on an unexpected journey which has drawn me to the story of Mary and Joseph in new ways.

Mary and Joseph were a 'normal' couple dreaming of getting married, starting a family, running a carpenters shop but all of that changed in a moment with a very unexpected visit and message from Gabriel. Although the message was Good News for mankind, it was certainly unexpected and life altering news for Mary and Joseph. It led them on a very unexpected journey. One that neither of them could have ever dreamed of and maybe one that had they known all that would be required may have caused them to ask Gabriel for some time to think about it. Thankfully their faith was up to the test. When asked to trust God with the impossible and the unexpected they said YES! When faced with disapproving stares, looks, rumors they continued to trust God.

Their journey continued to take unexpected turns as a pregnant Mary found herself traveling to Bethlehem and giving birth in a stable far from family and friends. Was she scared? What all did she ponder as she nursed and cared for the Savior of the world? Joseph is often overlooked in the Christmas story yet his faith was such that he willingly joined this unexpected journey. He must have felt the weight of caring for and protecting Mary and this special baby. I tend to overlook those fears and anxious moments, even miss their hopes and dreams and rush forward to the fact that this baby was the Savior of all mankind and skip to the 'Good tidings of great joy' of which the angels sang. And yet they chose to trust God in the pain, the fear and in the joys of raising Jesus. They trusted Him with the unexpected and the seemingly impossible.

While it is impossible to really know what it was like for them, I do identify with seeking to trust God with the unexpected and the impossible. No, an angel didn't bring me a message but I did receive a phone call that changed everything and leaves me trusting Jesus with the seemingly impossible. I unexpectedly find myself on a journey, not on a donkey headed to Bethlehem but on a plane headed to KY to be with my parents as my Mom faces major surgery early tomorrow to remove a likely malignant nodule on her lung. I find myself like Mary traveling a road I did not expect, having no real idea what the days ahead will hold for me or my family.  I find myself facing anxious thoughts and asking big questions, praying that we will faithfully walk through these days.

But while only Mary knows what it is like to carry the Son of God, His presence has been very real and very close these last few days. We have sensed his presence and provision as we have had to process this news and quickly make plans during a very busy time of year.  Jesus made it possible for me to change my ticket to fly home early.  He provided fellow staff members who willingly stepped in to help cover my classes. He provided clarity of mind to wrap up things quickly and pack. And I know he will continue to provide and be present!

Although we have no idea what tomorrow and the days after it will hold, we know and trust in the One who holds all of our tomorrows. It feels unexpected and impossible but as the Christmas story reminds us so clearly: 'nothing is impossible with God.' And while our journey like Mary and Joseph's may include pain, fear and joy, we trust the One who willingly entered our upside down world knowing full well that the cross was part of that plan. 

So today we chose to trust Him on this unexpected journey because Christmas proves that He is trustworthy and best of all He is Immanuel! He is with us in all the unexpected moments of life!