Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a few words about 2011

first from Amy... I’m sitting in our living room as I write this Christmas letter. We put our tree up yesterday (Dec 10th). That’s late for Americans and early for Germans. Sarah is busy writing a Christmas card to her Grandma and Grandpa. She doesn’t know how to write in English, so she is copying what I wrote down. Philip is playing with the dog (Mickey) and watching Rudolph the red nose reindeer. We are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in our new house. The house is the “big news” of 2011. We found the house in March. Juergen and I have looked for a bigger house with a bigger garden for nearly 2 years. We finally decided we wanted to live in Bad Schönborn (a small village 15 minutes south of Heidelberg). So on a Saturday we decided to look only in Bad Schönborn, and Sunday we found the house. We knew our house because we had looked at it first in 2007 (just a few months after we adopted Sarah). I have a cute photo of Philip and Sarah on the staircase. We decided we could not manage the renovating at the time. I think every house we looked at after that was seen as “compared to that house in Bad Schönborn”. Over the years Juergen would even want to
drive past the house to see what the owners had done to the place. Well, they did allot. So when they decided to sell because of money, we knew we would want to buy it. And we did! And we packed, renovated, and moved. all the time, trying to sell our old house in Leimen. And we have not sold our old house yet. But many people are starting to look. We are hopeful we can sell the house soon. If we can not sell it, we will rent it. We are 100% sure we were suppose to move. It has been wonderful being here. It’s not just a beautiful house, it’s got space. Each one of our kids has their own room. We have a giant yard for the kids to play in. They love to jump on the giant trampoline, and kick the soccer ball around. There are great places to walk and ride bikes. It’s just a better environment for the kids. I admit it’s a little scary holding the debt on two houses. We don’t have so much money. So for the short term we wonder if we were crazy taking this step. But that’s a short term perspective. In the long term, and honestly even now we made a good move for our entire family. We just need the courage to see it through. And more then courage, we need grace to sell the house in Leimen. But we depend on God’s grace.
Thomas may need to move to a new school soon. He has been taking the train and bus back and forth to his school. It’s an hour and 10 minute commute. He get’s so tired, and has no time for friends and homework. If he moves to a local school he will save 2 ½ hours a day. He will have more time to learn, and play. So after the new year we will probably start at another school.
We still have not found a situation for Jessica. She tried a workshop for disabled people but it was too stressful for her. We are looking for a private teacher. Someone who can take Jessica swimming, shopping, and teach her life skills. We are pretty sure we will get the funding for a private teacher. the challenge will be finding a good teacher that knows how to work with autistic people. It has been a little stressful having Jessica home 24/7. I could really use a break. I love Jessica but I would be happier if I had a few hours a day I could call my own. Jessica would be happier too. She gets very bored staying home all the time. But I believe everything will fall into place in a matter of time. I am still amazed at everything we have managed to do in the past 12 months. How many boxes that had to be packed and unpacked. The walls that had to be painted, the plants that had to be moved. So much paperwork. So many details and decisions. It really is no wonder I’m tired. We didn’t have any vacation in 2011. Our entire vacation time (6 weeks) was spent renovating and moving. Juergen has 5 days left for Christmas. And we look forward to sleeping in.
Nicole and Jessica both finished high school this year. Nicole managed to get a place in the Art Academy in Karlsruhe. This is a classic Academy like the one Leonardo da Vinci went to. She has no formal classes that she must take. Instead, classes are offered that she can choose to take. She has to produce art. She gets no formal grades, but lots of feedback from her professor and the other artists. You need to be very disciplined and self motivated to attend this academy. Nicole is both these things. She is drawing, painting, doing wood work. She goes to school most everyday and works learning her craft. She has many good ideas of what she will paint, but she knows she needs to work on the skill. It takes skill to translate the idea . I look forward to what she will produce in 5 years. I can see the progress, and it is great. "Art is never finished, only abandoned." Leonardo da Vinci
Philip also began going to an after school art school one time per week. Philip is learning challenged. We are trying to get him an internship in wood work in the new year. So hopefully he can learn some sort of trade in time. He will be turning 14 years old on January 1st (Germany did not allow us to change his birthday). He has only 4 more years of school. So in these years we are trying to teach him to be more responsible. He probably can not “count” on his brain for a good job. So good work habits and character become very important. Really, character and work habits are important for everyone. But teaching our sons to work has been a big theme in 2011. Philip spent a great deal of time with the hand workers that did work on our house. He seems to have a gift in this direction. It’s encouraging! He also has an eye for design. He made this mp3 holder for his arm. Very cool.
Sarah and Thomas both joined the local soccer club. Sarah doesn’t like it as much as she thought she would. I’m not sure she will stick with it. She wants to try art school. Thomas on the other hand loves soccer. He is a goal keeper. He has a spot on the team. It’s really been good for him. They are not the best team in the world. But that’s actually good. In Heidelberg he was never good enough to be on the team. He really needs to be on a team…included in the group. So 3 times a week Thomas goes to practice and a game. They play all year around. It’s really great for him. Sarah goes to a special school for kids that have speech delays. She likes to read and play board games. She has also made friends with the girl next door.
I’m looking forward to the New Year. I have my garden all planned. I have even bought all my seeds. I’m also hoping to start an English home Bible study group in January/February. We may begin an Alpha course in our church in English. The US Army is leaving Heidelberg. 5 English speaking churches are also leaving Heidelberg. About 10% to 20% of the people in these churches will be staying here. So our church is considering what we might do to reach these English speakers. Many of them are Internationals. This is of course my heart We (as a church) never reached out to this population because of the other churches, but now we might take up the challenge. I am very happy about this! It seemed forever that I had no opportunity to do anything in the church. But now all of that is starting to change. The long cold winter is melting, and my spiritual spring is beginning to take it’s place. I just turned 50 years old. One of the big highlights of the year was our house warming-birthday party. We put up a big tent in the garden, and I cooked for a whole week. Juergen helped arrange a wonderful Jazz band. I was so blessed by the band and the friends. It really was the best of the year for me! Another bright spot has been the 1st birthday of my God child Anna. I look forward to spending more time with her, and teaching her how to grow a garden.
Juergen and I celebrated our 21st wedding Anniversary in October. Juergen remains the best gift God ever gave me. I'll let him tell you about 2011 for himself. I wish you all a merry Christmas and God's goodness in 2012.
Now Juergen's part: This year has been kind of tiring, at least the second half of it. In August I took off 1 month from work to work on our new house. I was a construction worker for one month - and my arms really hurt after that :-). We had to rip out almost all the tile, paint all the walls, put in a new garage etc. But the worst was to get the boys rooms ready. I had to knock out 4 x 4 feet of 40 cm (15 inch) of hard concrete wall with a 40 pound electric sledge hammer. That took in total 6 full days and my arms hurt for a month after that. I guess I should have more practice? NOT! It was nice when it was all done and now everyone has their rooms.
The next big milestone was the party and that was just great. I guess Amy has already written about it and you saw the pictures. Amy just asked me: How do you feel in the new house? Well, ... in some way I feel as if this is too nice for us. But on the other hand - I love it! It is OK to be a little decadent, is it not? I feel very blessed that we got this place and it certainly feels different than our row house. I also apparently changed my style. I used to like modern stuff but now I totally love the 'old style' of the house and I have rejected furniture ideas a few times with the comment "that doesn't go with the house". Silly, isn't it? But that is all mundane...
What bothered me most was what I was afraid that would happen: That the move and renovation etc. would take up so much time away from my spiritual life. And it did. For months I have felt really tired. I used to read every night from 10-12 pm but now nothing works in my head anymore in the evenings. I am looking forward very much to the Christmas vacation - which starts for me tomorrow evening! YEAH! Two weeks of sleeping in should really help. Then I will start reading books again and think about more important things than renovation. What is on for next year? Well, at work, my new project has been going extremely well. It is about teaching developers modern software engineering and programming methods. We have already trained 1500 people and next year the goal is 2500. It is not that I am actually doing all that or that I am really responsible for the success. It is all the people that totally believe in the topic and put their effort and heart into it. I am just the manager at the top that gets the credit. Of course a lot of things try to go wrong and I have to watch it all. So I am doing something - but it feels like I am riding a wave. Next year we want to go to the outside market with this topic and actually offer the courses to SAP customers and partners. This is a big deal and there is a lot of money we could make (as a company of course - I don't get a cut :-). The most fun part will probably be to write a book (actually a series) that goes along with the course. I am looking forward to that. As part of that project I can go to Palo Alto or Shanghai next March as well to speak at an SAP conference. I still have to decide which one it will be. The other location will then probably come a few months later. As far as the church goes: We are in the process to find a new pastor since our current pastor is retiring. Our church is small by American standards - only 500 people come on Sunday (2 services) but for German standards that is big. And there are not so many people that want or could step up to that plate - or fit the profile that we think we need for the next growth wave. But we really believe that God will provide the right person. One of my passions is preaching (actually I don't have many passions). This is also why I want to read again more (the bible and books). My main topic is spiritual growth and maturity. I want to read half a dozen books on discipleship. The practical knowledge of how to live as a Christian is lacking in many. There is some knowledge about the bible, but not about what it means that Jesus is actually our Lord, how to deal with discouragement and temptation, practical wisdom that can make all the difference in lives, and more ... This is my topic and we will have to find a way to transfer this in sermons, in homegroups and so forth. It will be interesting and I am very keen on getting back to this - and forget about the house.
What else? ... Amy and I have been married for 21 years now. It still seems so short. I am blessed with a very good marriage - at least that is what I think (I asked Amy; she agrees). It is nice that we don't have many struggles inside. This way our marriage gives energy and stability rather than taking energy. And we can focus on giving to the outside. I like that - and of course I plain enjoy it :-) Amy already said a few things about the kids. So I will be brief: Jessica is at home for a few months now and very bored. We are trying to get someone to care for her at home and I am doing a lot of calls and paperwork for that. I hope we can get something started in January. I feel sorry for her and I want her to have a good teacher. Nicole is studying. I am so proud. I visited her a few times and looked at her 'work in progress'. One picture I want for my office but I didn't get it - yet. One day I will have an original 'Nicole Heymann' in my office! Except that I heard she will get herself an artist name... "Isabella Moreno". Sounds better, I have to admit it. Either way, I want an original in my office!
Philip is going to a much better school now but there are still so many troubled kids in these schools. It is depressing. We are trying to do a few things to help but it seems like the drop in the bucket... Thomas is switching school. I signed him up today and I am pretty sure it is going to be a good thing. He will have a lot more time away from school and the school is a little easier to give him more time to catch up. One good thing about the house is that it gave the boys an opportunity to learn to work - and to learn practical skills. I worked with them all summer on the house overall and their rooms of course. This was good for our relationship but also for them. They still need to learn more of that. Amy got me a workbench for Christmas and this will give me the opportunity to teach them how to build things, how to use tools etc. Especially Philip is interested in these practical things. And he can certainly use that in the future.
Finally, Sarah. She is the little baby girl. Very sweet, she likes to cuddle... and Amy says she has me wrapped around her finger. Well that is not true of course ... :-). But there is something about a little girl. I always feel like I want to protect her but for the boys I feel they should be tougher. I must be careful to keep the balance.
This is all I can think of now. I wish you a very nice Christmas, that you find rest for body and soul - and some inspiration in the coming weeks. Juergen