Although we greeted the New Year with snores of very welcome sleep, we woke up to another bright, beautiful day in 2011, thanks be to the God Who holds this all together and keeps it running1.

He not only gives us the gift of this Earth and each day on it, but He gave us some very special gifts this Christmas. The first was a set of skate skis for Donna. She’s loved skate skiing since she lived in Colorado many years ago, but since she doesn’t often get to skate (like, twice in 15 years!), she could never justify buying a pair of skate skis, which cost several hundred dollars. But as we visited with good friends in Germany, they mentioned that someone had given the wife a set of skate skis. They didn’t like skating the one time they tried it, however, would we like the skis? We could barely dare to say, yes! But they very generously gave us not only a pair of skate skis, but the boots and poles, too, which fit Donna perfectly! An unexpected gift from God that spoke volumes in a very unique way.

If that weren’t enough, this just happened to happen only a couple days before we were going to XC ski and snowshoe for a few days over the vacation. God authored this story, then signed it with His special signature of coincidence, a small miracle where God remains anonymous.

Then He continued to shower kindness on us, allowing us four wonderful days of exploring a winter mountain valley with all its associated beauty and fun: seemingly endless XC ski and snowshoe trails for Mommy and Daddy, and use of a sled for sliding along the walking paths and down 1+km sledding hills for Zoe (and Mommy & Daddy!).

Sometimes it makes me wonder what Africa will be like, that God is filling us with such wonder and joy now. I quite willingly walk His path now, with all the blessings He showers upon us. Will I walk it as joyfully when it moves down the mountain slopes and into the shadows and valleys? Lord, teach me to fix my eyes ever on You2, here where I can see You clearly, so that I’ll still be able to see You through the haze that will likely come, as You draw us along this path of life on Earth.

Hiking the road less traveled in the Alps.

1. Colossians 1:17
2. Romans 12:1-3

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At the finish of the Athens Classic Marathon in the Olympic Stadium

Yes, Donna did finish the marathon (see the October update). You can read some thoughts about it on her blog. Since then (since the end of October) we have been continuing to appreciate the little things that color our short time here on earth. For example, we tried to find the “old chateau” on the hill above our house four times before we actually found it. Along the way, we discovered some really cool abandoned bunkers – perfect for a picnic in rainy weather – and a great trail through the woods. When we finally found the chateau (muscling up the hill through shin-deep snow, carrying Zoe), it had only two small piles of stone standing vertical beside what was once a fireplace.

Chateau Chantemerle, perfect set of medieval ruins for exploring on a sunny afternoon

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But as Michael Card wrote, there is a joy in the journey. Around here, the journey comes complete with cowbells. I can still here people at the triathlons in SC shouting, “more cowbell!” and dreading having to pass such a cacophony. But here in the Alps, it’s a very peaceful sound – whether the bells hang from cow necks or goat necks – and it always reminds me of racing.

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We’ve had several opportunities to visit with people and/or hike with them, guilt-free. Not only are we furthering our acquaintance with others in the body of Christ, but we are furthering our language skills as well. It’s one of our favorite ways to do that!

Subject: mountain sunrise. Artist: God.

Finally, the folks who rent our house in SC (we couldn’t sell it when we left) have been having a bear of a time with it. For us it was a great house, but they had the roof leak, a tree fall on it, and now a decent-sized house fire. While it’s a little extra work for us, it’s occurred to me that God has been really bugging them! So our small group of women here at the school prayer yesterday morning that somehow God would draw our renters to Himself through this latest challenge, coming at this special time of year. Then yesterday evening, Slick responded to some of the husband’s comments, and for over an hour he spoke about how God sometimes uses challenge like this one to call people to Himself. God is definitely on the move in Mike’s life!

Even after seeing God answer pray so many times, it still struck me deeply that in this case He chose to answer our prayers on the same day as we prayed. God is good. Abundantly good.

Zoe studies her text wearing her favorite zebra hat. Her aunt Wendy would be proud.

In the last ten states and six weeks, God has raised up 25 more prayer partner families. While not everything has gone exactly according to our plans, His amazing abundance has led us to double our original goal of three prayer partners per day – and we’re only a handful away from reaching that, too! Yet again, we’ve experienced that in his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Prov 16:9). Certainly He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20)!

Zoe ponders Red Rocks just west of Las Vegas