SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Monday, July 30, 2018

Uganda 2018

So, why did we go to Norway AND Uganda this summer?  It's a fair question, especially when you understand that a year ago a trip to Uganda wasn't anywhere close to being on our radar.  A trip to Norway?  Yes, that trip was set into motion in May 2017 while Christoffer was visiting us.  It seemed like a good time in the lives of our three children at home and it also worked with his family.  We only had to set the dates and duration.

Then in September, a family visited our church and Keith took them for an all day boat ride while Lisa and I were at a ladies camp retreat. The boating conversation turned to missions and Keith was introduced to New Hope Uganda, a place his newfound friend had visited three times. That's a pretty serious commitment.  The information was intriguing, orphan care with children living in family groups instead of dormitories, bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless.  We wanted to learn more.  Fast forward 10 weeks and Keith had communicated with the ministry via email, in person, and we had become sponsors.  We were able to have a personal connection with the students and family parents, exchanging letters and receiving school reports.  After Keith's in person meeting they finally answered his relentless flow of questions with, "You just have to come and see it for yourself."  It made sense to Keith to combine it with the trip to Norway to cut out one of the legs of travel and to minimize the jet lag (Norway and Uganda are only an hour different).

So, here I am with a video slide production on our unexpected trip to Uganda.  The contrasts between the two countries could hardly have been more stark.  Uganda--land locked, impoverished, and still struggling to rise up from a Civil War, the brutal devastation of the Joseph Kony era, and the ravages of the AIDs epidemic.  We didn't have to look hard to see evidence of the hopelessness that inevitably comes from any one of those situations, let alone all three in the last 4 decades.  Norway--mountainous, seafaring, and people living in what sociologists call one of the happiest, wealthiest, most stable countries in the world.  We enjoyed the irony of the weather however, travelling all the way from Wisconsin (N 46 degree latitude) and Norway (we were as far north as 63 degrees latitude) to the equator to cool off!  The temperatures in Uganda were milder, day and night.

We began our Uganda trip in Kobwin, a new location that invites a peek at what the original work at Kasana (near Kiwoko) looked like in its infancy 30 years ago.  Kobwin has one family group, Kasana has 7.  Kobwin has a primary school, a one room guesthouse, and a one room medical clinic.  Kasana has a primary and secondary school, a clinic building, an institute for gospel training (all staff attend the 20 weeks course that focuses heavily on personal spiritual understand and cross cultural ministry; but it's also open to others), a pastor training institute, and guest housing that held over 40 for a few of the days we were there (different teams overlapped one another and stayed for varying lengths of time).  We had the opportunity to tour all of these places as well as the local hospital and the New Hope run radio station.

We loved seeing how caring for the children did not end at food, clothing, and shelter, or at education.  The goal is to mentor them as any father does his child, to lead them and guide them in the paths of the Lord as they press on with life.  We met staff members who grew up as "sons and daughters" and are now committed to giving back in the same way they received so much.  We met a child who is adopted into a family, but started life in a public latrine, dumped there with the umbilical cord still attached.  Now this child is treasured.  Not all of the children served at New Hope live in the family homes.  If a child has a safe place with a family member but needs assistance they are brought in for school and access to medical care.  The pastoral staff visits the family in the village and seeks to care for the child where they are, which includes loving their family (whether it is a single mom, grandparents, or aunt or uncle).

I begin the video with text explanations, but once again the text operation quit working and would not let me add text. Some things and people you will see without explanation are Murchison Falls, Mulu and Lucy (house parents who came with us on the safari--it was their first trip away for three days in their 13 years of marriage and they care for 23 children), Junior (a boy who advanced from the special needs program to the regular classroom), hanging bird nests, a Civil War memorial where skulls that were once piled on the roadsides are buried, tomato harvesting, the Secondary school chemistry lab and kitchen, Lucy's Ugandan meals she made for us, and our final airport stop and customs photos.

What I did not get many photos of (except for the group picture with Keith) were the staff members.  We spent hours and hours with the Ugandan staff as well as the foreign missionaries from the US and the UK.  We were welcomed by generous, caring, people who love the Lord, love children, and serve with very full hearts.  We were so busy enjoying their company that we just didn't think to take pictures!  Thank you to the McFarlands, the Sinklers, the Dendys, the Brittons, the Mulus, Susan, Brenda, Joanna, Tony, Fred, Simon, and more I'm sure.  Lastly, thank you to Uncle Jonnes and Auntie Gertude Bakimi (I copied a photo from FB) who are co-founders along with Jay and Vicki Dangers (who we missed by 2 days).  We are enjoying spreading the good news about what God is doing at New Hope!

Norway 2018

We had an amazing opportunity to spend two weeks in the beautiful country of Norway visiting our Norwegian son/exchange student, Christoffer, and his wonderful family.  They were our most gracious hosts for meals, travels, hikes, and a truly memory-making experience.  We started in their home town of Rakkestad and drove as far north as Rongay on the coast, down through and around the fjords to Bergen, back through Oslo and home again.

Our entourage of nine also spent several days with my third-cousin Tove, her husband Jon, and son Henrick at their cabin.  They took all of us in and treated us like family, which some of us are, albeit exceedingly distantly related (Tove and I share great-great grandparents Fingal and Berte Halvorsen, both born in the early half of the 19th Century).  Tove and I hadn't even seen one another in 45 years. We hope to return the favor and get their family to the US sometime soon!  We were also blessed by cousin Sonja (Tove's sister, who I also had not seen in 45 years) who had all 12 of us over for dinner at her beautiful farmhouse near Stryn!  I don't know if all Norwegians are known for their wonderful hospitality but we were certainly treated to it everywhere we went.

I put together a photo show to sum up this amazing trip to the Land of the Midnight Sun (seriously, the sunset took place around midnight and before the pink could fade from the northwest sky it shifted slightly east and became the sunrise.  Incredible!

My text option gave out early in the process so you kind of have to figure it out yourself.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ken and Nancy's 60th Anniversary

60 Years
6 Children
36 Grandchildren
34 Great Grandchildren
30 Weddings
76 Births
0 Funerals
These are but the cold logistics.  The beauty of the life is in the faces and smiles and the hearts and memories.

This is the life.

Children playing on the floor



Karissa (Ellen's daughter) and Lauren


Keith and Nicole, Joey with Carson and Cameron

 Lisa and Ellen

Brett and Ryan

 If anyone doubted the heartfelt appreciation and sincere feeling of unworthiness for the outpouring of love expressed to Grandma, you needed only to look at her teary eyes throughout the entire evening.  She was overwhelmed.

Grandma and Papa

The "older generation"

Renee (Ellen's daughter)

Opening the book, created by all of the children and grandchildren with their well wishes

Ed and Robin Foster (and Nehemiah) in the foreground with Dana, David, and Claire in the background.

Keira (Joey's daughter) with Elizabeth (the Fosters granddaughter)

 Would this be a true family gathering without a football? Shane and Owen got away with it for as long as they could....or until Grandma caught on.

The youngest grandsons, Gabe and Zach, with Benjamin (Ellen's son)

Dana and David

Kelly's family (minus Marty and Mark)

The original family: Kenny, Kyle, Kevin, Keith, Kelly, and Kennan

With spouses: Cindy, Jodi, Pat, Cindy, and Marty (missing Katie)

Ken and Nancy/Daddy and Mama/Papa and Grandma with almost all of the guests who attended the reception.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bryce and Audrey's Video Montage

I love that couples do these videos  I love the story they tell of their individual lives and families blending into their new life and family together.

I don't love that it makes me cry, but it does.  Every time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To My Young Adults, thanks for growing up and moving on

I just read a surprising statistic this morning:  according to a Trulia analysis 40% of Americans ages 18 to 34 were living with their parents, siblings, or other relative in 2015.

I am left speechless by this percentage, yet I'm also left with SO many thoughts swirling around this reality.  I choose not to voice most of them, but to consider--gratefully, thankfully, and proudly--the absence of my eight children in that range from the 40%.  (I need to post this soon, because in a few months I'll have one in that range, 18 but with a year of high school to go.)

The upper reaches of the 18 to 34 would be the most likely to have gained independence and you five 26-32 year-olds are all caring for families and, as anyone would hope and expect, self-supporting.  But you next three, you're the "in between" age range.  You're not kids, not parents, not homeowners and maybe not a lot of things--maybe not married, maybe not out of school, and maybe not settled in a career or even your part of the world yet.  You three are voted "most likely to be adults still living at home".  But you're not.

I had two fabulous weekends to remind me how wonderful and very rewarding it is to see your kids turn into grown ups.

The first weekend was with Shane and Claire, (enjoying a girls weekend away with Lisa) and being the recipients of their warm hospitality.  They're juggling a lot--marriage, school, sports, a home, pursuits of medical school, and hosting family with relaxed smiles.  They make their share of sacrifices (imagine Shane's 6'7" frame on a moped in all kinds of weather) but they're working hard, and taking responsibility, and they're shining!

We were able to watch a couple of basketball games, too.  College basketball hasn't ended up being all that Shane had hoped it would be, on a number of levels. Disappointment is hard to take, but it's even harder to watch when it's served to your kids.  The pride, though, in seeing him handle it well, turn it into a positive experience, and grow from that experience has been tremendous.  Even so, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see him flourish in a hard fought win over the number one team in their conference.  Shane played a big role in defending the inside game against two opponents that Lisa and I nicknamed Thing One and Thing Two.  It was a joy to see his huge smile and watch him really enjoy the game he's loved for so long.

The next weekend event was a surprise trip with Keith to Georgia to celebrate Troy's birthday.  It was our first trip to his new home in the southeast and, after he got past the utter shock of his Mom standing at his front door (accomplice Bryce had set up the ruse) he showed us around.  He's made a marvelously practical choice for his living space and needed to give no typical bachelor apologies as he showed us around (OK, maybe one apology).  I love to watch the unfolding of adulthood and see the results of dreams, plans, and trial and error all come together.  Troy's confidence knows no bounds!

The surprise continued when Bryce schemed with the restaurant host to take the place of our wait staff and deliver Troy's dessert.  Troy was in disbelief as an inappropriately friendly "waiter" leaned from behind him over his shoulder with the dessert and announced, in a heavy accent, "Hello my name is Fronk and I have come to serve you the double chococate...."  His laughter was genuine, but it wasn't until Bryce started making up words that he turned around and took a good look at this weird waiter.  There's almost nothing better for a mom than seeing her sons genuinely euphoric to see one another.

Bryce, still a teenager, and absolutely the most likely to be living off his parents had made the four-hour drive from his home in another state where he has settled and is making his own way, figuring out his own life, and planning to share it with his bride in a few months.  He doesn't have things all figured out, but is ambitiously learning where he fits and how to make changes to get where he wants to go.  His trust in God is paramount and the joy of Christ pours from him into the lives of all he touches.

We experienced the combined energy and creativity of these men for an exhausting 24 hours.  We laughed at their antics (following their car), relaxed and played (or watched) games, and got to turn a blind eye as they ran over flower garden chasing a football into prized landscaping at the botanical garden (not our "kids", not our problem!").

Three boys, three states, three states of life, on different paths, but all doing it on their own.  I'm thankful I only have to imagine what it would be like to be the parent of the 40%.

I love you!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Can't We Just Have a Quiet Basketball Season?

Just when I think the dust has settled on the 2015-16 basketball season and we can look forward to a typical basketball season we have a whole new set of events going on.  The news so far this year have been Shane getting his front tooth knocked out while playing the Minnesota Gophers; Owen's knee surgery and missing the first month of basketball; and the pertussis outbreak at the high school that cancelled all games and practices for Owen and Lisa for a solid 16 days.

Can we just settle down for some nice, quiet basketball already?

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Favorite Sports Story Ever

In light of the negative attention that last week's basketball game received, and in honor of Gabe turning 10-years-old this week, I thought I would relive this great memory from football season 2014.

I am not so naive as to think that this is how athletic competitions should end all the time, that it never matters if you win or lose, and that we just need to make everyone feel good.  But I sure am glad that this select group of people on this one particular day came together to make Gabe's day, and in the process, left smiles on the faces of millions of people around the world.  The video shows Gabe (a then 8-year-old, being guided by his older brother, Owen (who was also on the court during the stall game last week) and then chased down by a great group of opposing players (from Mosinee) who just make this the best high school touchdown ever.

Happy Birthday Gabe!!

(I wish I could get the NFL video with commentator breakdown to show up as a full video, but I can't, so here is the link to their piece:

Or, you can see the original footage here: