Friday, December 28, 2012

Meet the Thiessen Family- all of them!

It all started with TWO Thiessen's- about 56 years ago! 

It was literally two Thiessen's.  Dad was a Thiessen and Mom was a Thiessen. We've gone back about 14 generations and still haven't found a connection of their two families.  Because their last names were the same, and they were both from Kansas, they sat near each other in all of their classes. Professors thought they were siblings so they never gave them grief when they spent a lot of time with each other.  

Then there were the original FIVE!
Kathy, Cyndy, Steve, Brad, Doug

I mean, FIVE!

Seriously KIDS!

Then each one added one!
Spouses left to right: Rennie, Eileen, Tanya, Jenny, Tom
I won't go by dates they entered the family, or by age!
But Tom's the oldest and Jenny is the youngest.

And then there were more originals to come! (left to right)
Two of Kathy's girls are pictured here: Brielle and Caitlin
Then Steve's kids: Kara, Kayleen and Kyle
Brad's have Lyndsi and Chelsi
and Cyndy's tribe is Kristen, Matthew, Shannon and Phil

Now they have begun to add some of their own. 
Jason, Steve, Steve and the little one, Abbi.
Yes, if you noticed there are two more Steve's in the family
- and they both are with Steve's girls!
Talk about marrying someone like your dad!

Even a few that aren't IN...yet!
Jack and Zach joined us this year!  Girls, we like them both!
From left to right by families:

  •  Brielle and her fiance Jason Augsburger, Caitlin with boyfriend Jack Andrews and our dog Lucy, Rennie and Kathy, 
  • Kayleen and fiance Steve Meckle, my brother Steve and Eileen, Kara with husband Steve Piatt and 2 month old Abigal Paige Piatt (APP), Kyle is standing behind them, 
  • Dad and Mom, 
  • Chelsi with boyfriend Zac, Lyndsi, Brad and Tanya, 
  • Doug and Jenny, 
  • Tom, Kristen, Matt, Shannon, Phil and Cyndy Bergmaier

Nope, nothin' much has changed in the Thiessen family!

Merry Christmas!  May your 2013 be filled with hope, peace and joy!  
And may your family have as much fun as we did in the new year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Narrator: (Grandpa reading from Luke 2 and Matthew 2)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph (played by the one and only, Chelsi) also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 

He went there to register with Mary (our stunning Lyndsi), who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son (ok, so our baby was sweet Abbi girl- but she played a great baby Jesus). She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

(Stage Left:enter shepherds)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Shepherds were played by Kyle, Shannon and Jason.)

 (But of course there were sheep: Brad, Doug and Kristen.- of course there is one black sheep!) 

And you have to have a sheep dog. Right, Lucy?)

An angel of the Lord appeared to them (Tanya, the shining), and the glory of the Lord shone around them,

and they were terrified. 

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, (all the remaining Thiessen clan- hard to photograph)  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (So the babe was not lying in a manger- we had a hard time letting her be put down anywhere. We all had to have our turn holding her.)

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


 (new animals: camel by the great camel player Tom; and Jack, the long eared donkey- sorry Jack! You scored great girlfriend points with that one!)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east (Matt, Phil and Cait) came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

(that's not the end- it's just the beginning of that story. To be continued at Easter.)

Special thanks to all actors, actresses, and narrator.  As well as the support team who helped to pull together the costumes and scene necessities! A good time was had by all- especially those left watching!

The thing about EXPECTATIONS!

So... I didn't think I had expectations for Christmas break. I tried to put aside any thought of what 'should be' and embrace what came our way.  The fact that I had made plans & lists; that I had ordered and reordered over and over didn't mean that thought it had to be that way.  It just meant that I was prepared to 'flex', right?  Well, that's what I told myself.  

It worked for our trip down -except I was so tired before it began.
It worked for the meal I was responsible for- until my family (who were going to help me) were late getting back from seeing the other grandparents.  I knew it would happen cause that's just how it is when you are on vacation visiting family you hardly ever get to see.  My gang helped so much once they got back. Thanks Mom for helping me get it together before that! 

It worked the next morning when my Dad wanted to do something meaningful at our family Christmas gift exchange. Within minutes, Cyndy & I dreamed up the "best Christmas Pageant Ever".  Costumes were gathered, parts were assigned and pictures were taken. Ooooh! They are goodies! (I'll post them separately.)  Thanks Dad for being the narrator!

It worked as we hosted a gift exchange and laughed till we cried. Gifts were exchanged, even a baby gift that wasn't supposed to be in the mix.  But so were the memories. 

It worked as we visited with different ones in the afternoon.  Some people took walks, some took naps, some (like me) talked as much as I could with as many as I could.  Time is so short. 

It worked as we changed plans and had the Burrus Christmas, Ren's family,  that evening instead of the next afternoon because of the weather concerns.  We got to see Ren's dad sitting up looking bright, instead of nearly lifeless in his bed as he had in the past.  Oh it was a good thing!  And we are so grateful!  Grandy, thanks for encouraging us to get together early.

But it started not working so good Christmas morning,  when I woke up to the words, "Honey, it's supposed to get bad before we get back.  I think we should head home early."  No. Then it didn't work so well.  My heart was sick.  We had one more day!  We only had three to begin with and now we were cutting it one day short.  

I started wanting to put my foot down, and voicing all my complaints that we can't leave now.  

But as I felt all those emotions filling up and my resentment growing, I took a deep breath.  I remembered my desire to live with expectancy  not expectations.  The thought that came to me was from a verse I have been pondering for 6 years now.

Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The Message version of the verse says, "May the God of GREEN HOPE fill you up..."

Yes Lord!  Fill me up!  Plans change. Lists are lost. Expectations destroyed.  
But You Lord, you fill me up!

We had a great trip back.  We got to have some of our own Christmas with our kids.  It is so fun to have them all together.  Quarters were close in that van, but for the most part, we had giggles & talk, food & more food.  How grateful we are for Cait & Brie!  For their love, their support, their challenge.  We are grateful for their guys and all that they bring to the family.  We were grateful for the effort they all made to be together.

My heart is full ...of joy and peace... it is overflowing with hope for an amazing new year!

Ok Lord!  Hands are open! Help me live with expectancy.  Help me let go of the expectations!
Fill me up for new year and all that comes with it!

Dear reader, How about you?  How are you feeling about the new year? 
What is God using to speak to you in this ending of one year and beginning of something new?

Will you join me in taking time to notice?
I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is Coming!

The family is beginning to gather.  I have my girls close, their guys are with them.  My siblings have started to arrive and this year- for the first year in a long time we have a baby in the bunch!  My father in law is doing better than he has for a long time!  It's going to be a great Christmas!

Lord, help me set expectations aside.  Help me find ways to show kindness to those I love but see so seldom.  Help me have eyes & heart open to your presence.

And thank you Lord!  I am so aware of the feeling of hope and peace this year!  In more ways than I ever expected.  Thank you for your kindness to us in sending your son into our world.

His presence tells us ...

Do not be afriad!  For I AM with you!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I decided to study that and see if I can find all 365 of the occurrences of do not be afraid or something similar.    I've only begun to research on using the New International and the New Living Translations- and I only used the phrase 'Do not be afraid".  So I've only found 70-80 times that phrase is spoken so far.  But it is amazing what God has already shown me!

First of all, it is interesting to see who is saying it 
and to whom they are saying it.

Sometimes it is the Lord, 
or angel of the Lord, 
or spirit of the Lord 

saying it to someone, 
or to a whole group of people.

Sometimes it is a person who heard it from an angel that says it to the next person.

The first few times I found Do not be afraid said, it was spoken first to Abram, 
then Isaac, then Jacob- a whole family being reminded "I am the God of your Father Abram, Do not be afraid."

And it was interesting to note that it was said to Hagar too- after Abram and Sarai rushed things and tried to manipulate how God's promise to them would be fulfilled. 

The Lord said it to Moses and Moses told the people- over and over and over again.
And Moses told Joshua- several times- especially when Moses was preparing Joshua to be the leader.

And then Joshua told the people
And then God told Joshua
and told Joshua
and told Joshua
and told Joshua
(I guess Josh was like me- forgetful)

David said it to Solomon

It was said by angels, by the spirit of the Lord, by the Lord
before battles
during battles
after battles

Do not be afraid was said to those who were afraid...
to go down to Eygpt
of him
of the nations
of enemies
of armies greater than yours
of them 
 (oh how many times are we afraid of 'them'- and we don't even know who 'them' is)
of dying
of failing
of terrors by night
of the arrow that flies in the day
of people's scorn, nor fear their insults
of their predictions
of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul
of what you are about to suffer

Do not be afraid was most often said with a promise from the Lord as well....
I will protect you
I heard you
i am with you and will bless you
I will make your family great
I have handed him over to you
i have given you victory
I the Lord your God will fight for you.
the Lord your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God.
I will personally go ahead of you.
I will neither fail you nor abandon you.
the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
You will not die
you will be successful if you...
the Lord is with you
Your God is coming!
for I am with you
I will gather you and your children...
The Lord who made you and helps you says...
I proclaimed my purposes for you long ago.
I will bring you home again from distant lands
Israel will return to a life of peace and quiet and no one will terrorize them.
I am with you
I will give you the victor's crown

and that's just some of them!

But there are also some commands that come with the words Do not be afraid.
Do the same to him as you did to...
Treat him just as you treated...
Go out to fight your enemies
Do not panic
Take all your fighting men and attach
Then you must...
Carefully obey the decrees and regulations...
Do not be discouraged
Listen to the Lord who created you
Get up and prepare for action
Go out and tell everything I tell you to say
Do not act like other nations
Go and tell my brothers to go...
Do not let your hearts be troubled
Keep on speaking, do not be silent
Stand trial before Caesar
Be faithful, even to the point of death

Hmmmm!  So where is he saying do not be afraid to me?  or to you?  
Who or What are we afraid of?
What promise is he making with it?
What command is he giving?

Seems like, this is a good time to stop to notice what we are hearing!
No matter what, his words to us are 
Do not be afraid, for I AM!

Do Not Be Afraid!

Last weekend, Ren and I visited Willow Creek church in South Barrington, IL with Cait and Jack. Pastor Bill Hybel's was speaking and the title of the sermon was 'NOT A NORMAL CHRISTMAS".  It turns out that the Hybel family has received some very difficult news of illness in their extended family.  It will not be a normal Christmas as they face some really hard things with those they love. (if you would like to hear his message go to )

But I don't think I've spoken to a single person since then that will have a 'NORMAL CHRISTMAS' this year!  I hear over and over people talking about 'things to come' and uncertainties of life.   Everyone I know is facing a challenge, a change or a loss in some way this year!  It doesn't necessarily mean that it is bad- but Christmas won't be NORMAL because of it.

What is normal anyway?  How NORMAL was the first Christmas?  You know, if you think about all the issues that the people at the original scene faced, maybe challenge, change and loss IS NORMAL.   We just spend so much time and money trying to make it something that it is not!

Pastor Hybel's challenge to us was, Do not be afraid.   How often do we hear those words in scripture?  Lot's!  Hybel's says that the Bible says this phrase, or some facsimile of it 365 times-that's one for everything day of the year!   (I'll have to study that!)

But the interesting thing for me to consider is how many people at that first Christmas heard those words.  (I have written about what I've learned from these people before - check out my blogs for December 2011) But think about what they were feeling here.
  • Zechariah- the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John."  (Luke 1:13)

    Here he was, working so hard to do everything right- the Bible says Zechariah was righteous in God's eyes and blameless.  But the one desire of his heart had not be granted him. And suddenly this being shows up- and Zech is afraid- very afraid!  He's being granted what he longs for and he's still afraid!  Getting what you ask for is sometimes frightening!
  • Mary- the angel said to her "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God."  (Luke 1:30)

    Think of the change this would mean for her. She's only a young girl- and suddenly life is not how she imagined it to be.  And now the angel is saying that this "drama" is because she has found favor?  God, if messing up my world and what people think of me is favor, I'd hate to feel your wrath!
  • Joseph- an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream! "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Matt 1:20)

    Talk about dreams dashed and expectations devastated, even his reputation destroyed.  Let alone his'trust' in this love of his life, but most of all his GOD. To finally have a son- and it not be your child. The overwhelming loss
  • the Shepherds- the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."

    These people- second class, maybe even third class in some circles, are being told this news that ALL people will want to hear?  Why us?  Why me?  Why this way?  They had to wonder if this was a joke on them!
All these people didn't even know it was Christmas- and they faced challenges, changes and loss, just like any other day!  Why do we think that our Christmas should be filled with sparkle and magic and fun!  It seems that God sent Jesus because he knew our Christmas's would be NORMAL.  Full of fear, and hurt & loss and uncertainty! 

And to all of that- he speaks to us!

Do not be afraid!
For I am with you!

How is God showing up in your NORMAL CHRISTMAS?  I'd love to hear! I know other readers of this post would as well!  Share one way in the comments below!
And Thanks!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

She said...

Her words to me this morning were...

"I just looked you up on the computer- I found you- I just called you.
I read about you- everything I read- I knew I should call and talk to you.
You understood grief- you were a christian- you were a pastor's wife- you had experience in other people's grief.

You don't realize how qualified you are- but I know!!!"

She was right... I don't know.  Sometimes I wonder at the fact that somehow, something I said, or more specifically asked, stirred something in someone else that made a difference.  It is a wonder!  I love it!  

But do I feel qualified!  No!  Sure I went to school. I've got a bachelor's degree, as well as,  certification for Coaching in life, relationship and master coaching.  I coach coaches in a master class.  I hold groups and coach individuals and even work with businesses for team building and leadership training. I must know something, right. Maybe! But it could just mean I'm busy.

But it's not really the degree or certifications or all the 'busyness of business' that makes me qualified in the eyes of most of my clients.  

I'm qualified, because I've been there!  Her words to me 'you understood grief' and 'you had experience in other people's grief."  We're not just talking about having lost a daughter or having helped others who have lost a loved one.  That catches the attention of many people, but it's more than that.

It's having had a dream- and having to let it go.
It's having a title and walking away from it- even when I didn't know what I was walking too.
It's having a job- then not having one.
It's being secure financially- then not!
It's almost losing a family- then working really hard to get it back- only to have it ripped apart again by loss.
It's building an intimate relationship with the Lord, but then wondering if He would let all these 'bad things happen to good people' if he were truly God- and realizing that if I could explain all this, then He wouldn't be God,  and choosing to trust Him with the 'mystery' called life.
and having to start all over in all of it - again.

They don't even have to know my story to know I get it!  Sometimes I wish I didn't!  Couldn't life be easier, Lord!  But most of the time, I'm learning to be grateful.
Grateful that if I have to struggle so to overcome some ache in my heart- someone might benefit from my journey.

Grateful that I can empathize with people on so many levels that, in the past, I often just offered that platitudes that sounded as 'christianeze' as possible.  But we know when someone doesn't really know.  I know!  You know!   You just know!

Grateful that each area of struggle is another opportunity for me to see God at work- in ways I never have imagined.  It's an opportunity to see HOPE- green hope- life giving hope!
It really doesn't matter what the issue is- we all have issues.  We all experience loss at some point in our lives.  We all have times when it feels like we are spinning out of control in a whirlpool that is sucking the breath out of us and crushing us under the waves that continue to roll over us.

I guess that makes me qualified!  And yet it's more than that! Because it's not the issues or loss that become the defining moment in our lives. We all have that!  It's HOW WE RESPOND to them that makes all the difference.  

If my friend from the beginning of this post had read story after story- post after post of 'woe is me, i've suffered all these things...' would she have even wanted to talk to me.  I know I wouldn't.  I'm not qualified because I've known pain.  I'm qualified because I've chosen to look for  hope at the end - and often in the middle of every struggle I've ever had.  Now by no means does that mean I always respond right.  Don't ask my husband how I was this weekend.  I'm ashamed to say that after coaching several clients last week to live gratefully and with hope- I wallowed in the sea of forgetfulness and had a pity-party deluxe that zapped all my strength from me.  It happens to all of us from time to time.  

But the Lord- and Rennie- wouldn't let me stay there!  And one by one, I was reminded of how God had met a need, or a dream or just a whisper.  My eyes were open to how God was providing now and what moments of hope looked like- right now!  

This week in my mailbox God provided. One day it was a journal that a sweet friend found at Target and thought of me.  They cover said Live in HOPE! and it had a beautiful green tree on it.  It's just like the one Cait bought for the HOPE CABIN.  But my friend didn't know that.  A reminder to LIVE ---IN --- HOPE!!!

Another was a letter addressed to Rennie.  No postmark, no return address.  Just a card that said Blessings with $200 cash in it.  Lord!!!!!  thank you for the friend who shared!

It was a friend who sent an idea for cupcakes
or the one who called out of the blue just to talk
or the one who said, 'don't quit now!'

It was the client who said, I'm so grateful for you.
Or the note that said why.
or the husband who pursued me when I wanted to crawl under the covers and not come out.

I know, it sounds like I'm depressed!  I was!  Not sure of all the whys! Life isn't terrible- in fact, it's pretty good.   It could be health, or big events in our life, or daughter's growing up or... maybe just forgetting how I long to respond to all of life's issues- with gratitude and hope!  And I can-- not because I'm so good, but because God is so great!

My friend is right!  I am qualified- to share my life as it happens with others who long to share theirs.  How about you?  

Thanks friend for the reminder! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Passing On HOPE!

So at the HOPE dedication, we gave those attending a small 'hunk of hope'.  It was just a green stone, but the purpose of it was to drop it in a pocket or purse and every time they came up on it, they were to remember there is HOPE, and HOPE is given to be given!

So there were two HOPE stories that were shared with me!  I have to write about here. They are two pictures of HOPE that made a difference in my life.  Maybe they will in yours too!

One of the gifts of HOPE was this cross laying on the table.  At first, I didn't know where it came from. But after the prayer time around the cabin, I came back up to the front to open the front door, it was resting in one of the front porch chairs.  Instantly I remember Charlie Rayl saying, 'I'm making something for HOPE!"  I knew this was it.  You can't tell from the pic, but it's about 3-4 inches thick and stained with green.  Charlie was watching me as I looked it over.  He came to tell me that he got the wood  from a house in Henryville, IN when he and a group of guys from Crossroads went to help "CONVOY OF HOPE" rebuild homes after the tornado there.  So he said "I built this out of their hope, for your hope, for HOPE!"
So very cool!

The Sunday before the dedication, Charlie andJanice had come up to me to tell me that they had a gift for me!  Out of his pocket, he pulled this HOPE bracelet.  They said it was a gift from their 15 year old niece who had been wearing it at a family dinner.  They told her our story of hope, and the cabin, etc.  She pulled it off and said,
"Give it to that mom!  I don't need it anymore!"

I marveled that it was my 15 year old daughter, Leisha, that had taught me about hope in the first place.  Now, just as we were getting ready to dedicate the cabin, another 15 year old girl that had found hope and now could give it away, was reminding me that I had been given hope to passing it on to others.
Thank you sweet girl!  Both of you!
I've passed it on!

So now we are passing it on- to you!
What hope have you been given in your story?
Who is in your world you can pass hope to?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Announcing ....

...the engagement of our daughter, Brielle to Jason Augsburger!

Brie and Jason, we are so excited for you!  Your continued growth of your love for one another has shown over the past 6 years you have spent together.  We are proud of both of you and are thrilled to be celebrating your marriage. Congratulations!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Hope cabin...inside!

The pictures of the inside don't do it justice.  You just have to come stay her for a spell.  But I want you to see some of the wonderful spaces that are waiting for you! The color theme was youthful, eclectic green!

 the view from the front door!

 the Crossroads staff found these chairs at a coffee shop on one of their outings.  They knew right away that the HOPE cabin needed these.  They came home and almost immediately found them just by googling 'tree cut green chairs' or something.  They are so fun!  

This is a trundle bed- room for two to sleep comfortably.

The love seat Papasan chair is a special treat with a luxurious soft pillow. Already several have said how it has cradled them when they were there.  Leisha had a regular papason in her room for several years.  It was a healing place for me so many times after she died.  So when Randy suggested that we add one to the cabin (not knowing that Leisha had one), I knew that somehow Leisha was still getting what she wanted.

The barnwood cabinet was a gift from Rennie's parents made of barnwood from Lipscomb County, Texas where Rennie & I both grew up.  

 a favorite place!

Come, explore the nooks for yourself! The leaves have fallen, but the spirit of green hope is ever living in this space!  If you would rather not go alone, let me know.  I love making that journey in the woods with a friend.  It's a journey of hope!