Thursday, November 21, 2013

Life at Liel Haus

This post is long overdue. There is no way I will be able to share everything from the last 3 months, but I will try to give you a good idea of what life at Liel Haus has been like.

Emma, Ruthy, Me, Esther, and Lea at bowling
As I explained in my previous post, I had to change dorms due to German regulations. The transition and adjustment hasn't been easy, but I can see God's hand upon the process. Firstly, I want to say that I just LOVE my Liel Ladies!! What a precious group of girls. They have been so accepting and welcoming, bringing me into life at Liel with sweet attitudes and kindness. I am so appreciative. I admit that I was worried in the beginning that there would be some uncomfortable feelings about split loyalties between dorms, but I haven't encountered that. I've greatly enjoyed getting to know them all and sharing life with them. I love the times that I get to see my Storchies, too. I've been able to go to Storch a couple times to hang out, and I see them at the school every now and then. I love the hugs. I do miss seeing them every day and hearing about how they are doing, but I'm grateful for the moments that I do have with them. I just have double the love now!

Liel Family at Thanksgiving celebration
Adjusting to a new dorm staff has been harder. I appreciate and enjoy the dorm parents and my co-RA, but it's hard to start over with a new staff, new dorm, new girls, new town, etc. We say in Res. Life that working with your dorm staff is kind of like being in an arranged marriage. You don't have the relationship already built on trust and mutual respect, but you have to get to that point very quickly in order to maintain a loving working home for the students. Sometimes it's harder than others due to personalities, ways of being brought up, convictions, etc. We've had our difficulties, but we've been able to talk through a lot of things and make progress. I believe the Lord is working on all our hearts and teaching us lessons that will be valuable for the rest of our lives, not just for this season in the dorm. We want to be unified in Christ and in our team for ourselves as well as our girls. I know God has asked us all to be here at this time, and we trust that He knows what is best. Please remember us in your prayers that we would build stronger relationships with each other and love each other through our differences. One thing I am very grateful for is that we all love a good laugh! They say laughter is the best medicine...well, it may not be the best, but it sure is a good one! Love the fun times that we share.

A birthday whipped cream pie in the face!
It's now nearing the end of November, and today we are having our first snowfall of the season. This winter has been much slower in coming than last year, something that we are all grateful for! The warmer weather and more days of sunshine help tremendously with life in general. Volleyball season has ended and basketball just started. I had 3 girls on the volleyball teams, and now I have 5 on the basketball teams. Glad that they are able to do something they love, be active, and enjoy being a part of a team. The high school choir is leaving today for a trip to Vienna, where they will be performing at several different venues. I have 4 girls on that trip. Our dorm had a retreat a few weeks ago to a place not too far from here. The town, Titisee, is up in the mountains by a lake. It was really beautiful, but very cold! We walked around the town and looked at the shops, then went to an indoor water park and enjoyed splashing around and going on slides, then had a nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was fun to take the girls somewhere out of town and just enjoy one another's company. We have also already celebrated Thanksgiving at the dorm. We had nearly 30 people packed into our living/dining room and fed them turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, stuffing, and 8 pies! It was quite the spread. I was thankful to be surrounded by such lovely people, even though it's always hard to be away from family during the holidays.

Tara & I at a castle in Luxembourg
In terms of schedule things look pretty similar to how they were at Storch. I stay busy with staff meetings, grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking in the mornings, have a little free time before the girls get home, and then spend the rest of the day with them, chatting, eating, helping with homework, watching TV shows, cleaning, etc. During the weekends there are often school events going on, or we plan something fun to do as a dorm. And of course the girls have weekend chores and homework to do. All in all, BFA life is pretty busy for everyone. I think we're all looking forward to Christmas break, just 23 days away! I get to go home this year to spend the holiday with my family (praise Jesus!). It's going to be really good to be with them, but it's also going to be very hard seeing as it's the first Christmas without John. We're already dreading the hardship of it, and experiencing it, too. My heart aches dreadfully with the sorrow, and some days I feel like I just can't handle it. God has been gracious in the pain, and my staff has been understanding of my need to occasionally have some time away to process and grieve. But there is no way around's just hard. So I thank you for your continued prayers for me and my family in this, as well.

Deuteronomy 33:27a

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Unexpected

I don't know how to begin this post, so I will begin by saying I don't know how to begin. That should do the trick.

John's memorial tree with a plaque we made
Since my last post I traveled to the USA and returned to Germany. I spent nearly 8 weeks back in Arkansas with my family. It was a blessed time to be with loved ones and rest. I didn't do a whole lot, but I rested, went camping a couple times, visited with some people, and went to California to go to my cousin's wedding and visit John's grave site. While it may not have been the most eventful summer ever, I feel more prepared to face this year at BFA because of it. And I will never complain about being able to spend time with my family. How precious they are to me.

The school year ended fairly well back in June, and though it was hard to say goodbye to my 3 seniors, I am excited for their future endeavors and all they will learn. Please pray with me as they enter this first year out of high school that they would rely on the Lord's strength and grace to see them through all the transitions and adjustments. When I left Storch for the summer, I felt grateful for the rest, but I was also excited to have my second year back at the dorm with the girls. I had been able to get to know them over the course of the year and was looking forward to building on that. When I came back to Germany almost 2 weeks ago, I was still looking forward to it. I was envisioning how our team would work to improve our partnership and make the dorm feel even more like home, how I would strive to deepen relationships with the girls, and how it would be to see them through another year at BFA. But if there's one thing I've learned recently, it's that the unexpected has a way of showing its face where you least expect it. Go figure.

Liel Dorm, in the town of Liel
A couple days after returning to Germany, our dorm staff was called into a meeting with our Residence Life supervisors, who explained to us that the German Youth Authority has regulations regarding the degrees held by Res Life dorm staff. They require that one staff member per every 12 students holds a Bachelor's Degree in either Social Work, Education, or Psychology. They were willing to overlook the exact ratio as long as there was at least one person in the dorm who had one of those degrees. Unfortunately, Storchenblick was the only dorm that had zero staff with such a degree. My co-RA, Callie, has made a commitment to stay at BFA for a total of 3 years, while my commitment stands at 2, so our administration decided it would be best if I were to be the one to go in order to maintain as much consistency for our girls as possible. This makes sense. It was also very hard to hear. And it came as a complete shock. We tried to appeal to the government by arguing that my degree (Intercultural Studies) could qualify me to work in certain areas of Social Work, and also by providing evidence that I was employed in the field of education for the 3 years prior to coming to BFA. This wasn't sufficient, however, so I am now no longer a part of the Storch dorm staff. I was able to give my supervisors my preference for where I would be placed, and now find myself an RA at Liel dorm, a girl's dorm with 13 high schoolers.

New Liel dorm staff!
While I am grieved and disappointed over the unexpected loss of my life at Storch, I am looking forward to getting to know the Liel girls and loving on them this year. The dorm parents here, Mike and Sabina Tackett, are new as well. They have two precious little boys, and I'm sure the girls will love to have them here! My co-RA is Tara Ritzenthaler. She is a huge blessing to me in all of this because over the last year we have developed a wonderful friendship. I am happy to be able to serve with her and the Tacketts here at Liel. It is currently and will continue to be a significant change and adjustment for me. I am going through yet another process of grief as I make this transition, but at the same time I am certain that God still wants me here to serve as an RA this year, and apparently He wants me at Liel. So I wait in anticipation to see what plans He has in store for us as a dorm this year.

Please remember me in your prayers. I find myself very tired of all the loss that I've experienced in the last 6 months. One of my former students from when I worked in Arkansas passed away this spring, and while I was home this summer one of my friends from college took her own life. This is the same friend I mentioned in my last post who encouraged me after John's passing by telling me that the unseen is more real than the seen. I don't know why the Lord is allowing me to go through this time of testing and stretching, but pray that it is a process of refinement, that He would be bringing forth the gold and removing the impurities. I don't like being on the anvil, but if this is what it takes to get me where He wants me, then so be it. But please pray for extra strength and grace, especially during this period of transition for me. My stress levels and emotions are pretty heightened, which doesn't make it any easier. Thank you for your support in this.

Tara and I on dorm staff outing to Colmar, France
I also ask that you would pray for Storch as they transition with getting a new RA, a few new girls, and losing the ones that graduated. Pray that I would be able to maintain my relationships with them even though it will look different now. Pray for Liel as we build our new team and prepare to welcome our girls. Pray that the girls would be ready to come back and open to forming new relationships with dorm staff. This is a very transient community that we live in at BFA, and it's not easy to have people come and go constantly in one's life. I know these are a lot of things to remember, but know that I am so very grateful for this team of prayer warriors, encouragers, and supporters that God has put together for this journey. You are loved.

A passage of Scripture that the Lord gave to me during my time of waiting on the decision of my dorm placement comes from Psalms. I was feeling very anxious about it all, and needed this reminder that God alone is my constant, my hope, my salvation. I think this will become a theme verse for the year/for forever.

Psalm 62: 5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

This is a very difficult post for me to write. I've been putting it off for a long time. In the last one I wrote, I talked about how looking into the new year full of possibilities was scary but exciting. Little did I realize that the hardest experience of my life to date would occur just weeks later.

John. What a beautiful smile he had.
On February 24, at about noon in California, my little brother, John Clifford Peters, went to be with the Lord after his heart stopped suddenly while he was at work. He was just barely 23 years old. He had no previous signs of heart trouble, and the doctors couldn't figure out what had happened. Nothing they tried helped, and after about 13 hours there was nothing left to do. My parents and my brother Caleb mercifully made it to the hospital the hour that he died and were able to say their goodbyes. My sister Hannah had stayed back in Arkansas to hold the fort down. When they had flown out they weren't aware that the situation was quite as serious as it was, so she didn't know to go. I, of course, was halfway across the world in Germany. The distance has never felt so incredibly far and unbearable. Every time the phone rang my stomach would sink and I would drag myself over to answer. I am so thankful for Steve, Stacey, and Callie, my fellow dorm staff, who were there supporting me literally and figuratively during such a dark hour. With the time difference, I was getting the news in the evening on that Sunday, and Stacey had a ticket booked for me by 11pm that night for the next morning. God was gracious in providing a low-cost ticket with only one layover so that I arrived in Los Angeles on Monday at about noon. The joy of seeing the rest of my family was severely diminished due to the circumstances, but I cherished my time with them and needed to be with them. Residence Life at BFA was very understanding and gave no complaints about me being away for 5 weeks.

Seriously handsome kid. Love this picture.
The support, sympathy, and prayers of so many people around the world has been very touching over the last few months. During that first week we were overwhelmed by the generosity of John's coworkers and friends as they put on a memorial benefit at the cafe where he worked to raise money to cover funeral costs and medical expenses. It was amazing to hear all the stories of how John, our little John-John, had been impacting so many lives through his love, kindness, and gentle spirit. I didn't realize that he was reaching so many people for Christ. I'm so proud of him. The funeral service was another expression of the love that people have for him. About 200 people showed up for the viewing and graveside service, and most everyone wrote a note to John on his casket with a Sharpie marker (John always carried a Sharpie in his pocket). His gravesite is on a hillside looking out towards the mountains, ones that he loved to hike and admire. I like to imagine him hiking the most amazing mountains ever with Jesus right now.

Our family in 2003.
There is no way to express the shock at John's sudden passing, or the pain that cuts to my very core. I thought that I had experienced some heartbreak before, but nothing that I've experienced comes close to this. Yes, I have hope in the salvation of Jesus and that I will see John again one day, but it is so hard in the meantime. It is difficult to keep our eyes on the eternal and not the temporal, the unseen rather than the seen. A friend wrote to me and told me that the unseen is more real than the seen. The world we live in is merely a shadow of what's to come, and it will be glorious indeed! But as I said, the waiting, the loss, the pain, the's still real, and we still feel it keenly. My sister is also going through a different and yet extremely painful grief on top of losing our brother. In March, she and her husband of 6 1/2 years finalized their divorce. I won't go into any details, but suffice it to say that she has her double measure of sorrow. My brother Caleb is 12, and the loss of his only brother has taken it's toll on him. My parents, Cliff and Jeannie, are still trying to understand the idea that they've lost a son, and the pain goes deep. John also left behind his girlfriend of nearly 4 years, Alicia, and she is facing a very different life and future than she had envisioned. Please continue to be in prayer for us all as the losses that we are experiencing are still settling into our hearts and minds. Pray that we would remain faithful and grateful to the Lord, trusting in His goodness and sovereignty.

Storchenblick Dorm
It has been so difficult to be away from my family during these most trying of times, but I know the Lord wanted me to come to BFA to serve, so here I am. I will be returning to the States for the summer on June 18th, but plan on coming back for another year to serve as an RA at Storch. Today was the last day of final exams for our students, we did dorm cleaning yesterday, and graduation is on Friday. I kind of feel like I've been in survival mode for most of the time that I've been back, but there have definitely been precious moments and memories with the girls, staff, and friends. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here, and it was so much easier to leave family knowing that I would be coming back to the people here. I am looking forward to summer break, to being with family again, but I'm also looking forward to next school year. Pray that the time back home would be a time to grieve, remember, rest, and be rejuvenated before returning to BFA in August. Thank you to all who have been so supportive and faithful in your prayers.

Precious photo of my precious brothers.
Here is a passage of Scripture that I realized has come up several times over the last 10 months, but especially more recently, in people's notes to me and in my devotions. Specifically verse 10.

Isaiah 41:8-10
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Numero Uno

First post of 2013!! Just barely squeaking this in before January is over! How has the new year been treating you so far? I hope well! I've never been one to make New Years resolutions, but I always love the idea of a whole new year with so many new experiences and roads to travel. You never know what the future will hold, and while that can be scary, it is also exciting! So here's to a new year full of adventure and growth!

At the Baths
I have really been loving this new semester so far. And it all has to do with the girls. It's funny to look back to September when they were first arriving, and compare it to their arrival back at Storch in January from Christmas break. Very different experiences! It was awesome to meet them for the first time, but it's more awesome to have them come back and be excited to see you again! I loved the squealing, the hugs, the laughter, and the stories. Now that we've laid a bit of a foundation for our relationships in the first half of the year, we're ready to continue building on that. There haven't necessarily been any crazy breakthroughs yet, but just the fact that we're more comfortable with each other makes it easier to have conversation and share our thoughts and feelings. Obviously each person is different, and my relationship with each person is different, but I'm just so excited to know these girls on a deeper level. We as a staff are planning ways to spend more intentional one-on-one time with the girls, and I'll be having an ice cream date in my room on Thursday with one of the seniors. :) Please pray with me that the Lord will have His hand on these relationships, and that He would guide me and the other staff in how to approach each girl in a way that they would feel especially loved and important. We want them to know their individual value as well as our value as a “family.”

We've already had some pretty fun things going on in the last few weeks (as well as exams...ugh). We took a trip to the baths one evening, and enjoyed swimming around in the warm mineral water while outside in freezing weather. Stacey brought her underwater camera with her, so we had a grand time taking loads of ridiculous pictures! Another fun thing we did one day was play Zombie Tag in the dorm. We bought nerf guns at the Euro store, turned off all the lights in the dorm, and had a crazy game of zombies chasing gun wielding civilians haha. They totally loved it! And some people think girls don't do things like that... :P Another thing that the girls have really been enjoying (as well as Callie and I) is the new PlayStation that the Babiches bought for the dorm. We have a bunch of dancing games that go with it, and most days the girls go out in the living room and dance away. Great laughs, as well as exercise!

Birthday banners outside my room
So my birthday was two weeks ago, and let me just say that it went way beyond my expectations! I think the Lord knew I needed a boost since I was away from home during all the holidays, so He provided some great encouragement from friends here. Callie, my fellow RA, let me sleep in for an extra hour and took over my breakfast duties, put banners up in the hallway, and had the girls write notes for me to hang in my room (the notes were SO precious by the way...melt my heart!). I had small group that afternoon, and one of the gals made me a funfetti birthday cake, another made Sopa de Mani (peanut soup from Bolivia!! So awesome!), another made jelly filled croissants, and our group leader made super yummy baked brie with brown sugar and walnuts. YUMMO! I got two bouquets of flowers, gifts from home, homemade cupcakes from a friend, a very loud “Happy Birthday” song from my girls, a short call home, and tons of well wishes from all over the place! Oh, and get this...on the way out the door in the morning one of my freshman got down on one knee, kissed my hand, and called me “Your Excellency”...haha!What a blessed day! So a big thank you to the many people who helped make my day special!

I would like to ask for prayer for good health. Colds and flus have been going around, and several are sick with colds at Storch, including myself. It just makes life so much harder when you can't breathe well and don't have much energy. We also have been without a stove for the last 6 broke and maintenance had to order new ones. They're supposed to be installed in the morning, so just pray that there are no complications with that! God is good and He's been carrying us through the slumps by His grace.

Dressed like Steve for "Twin Day"...or quadruplets ;)
When the new year rolled around, I started reading the devotional book entitled “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. If you haven't heard of it before, each reading is written from the perspective of Jesus in the first person, and He is speaking to the reader. The main themes are living in the presence and peace of Jesus in very real ways. The Lord has been teaching me more and more about what it really means to live with Him and how to focus on Him. One thing I would like to do is start practicing more spiritual disciplines. I would appreciate some helpful reading material on this, so if you have any suggestions, let me know! I read “Streams of Living Water” when I was in college, and that had some great insights, but someone might have another book to recommend. Thanks guys :)

Matthew 28:20b
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”