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Christmas 2011


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Now that Dave and I have ensconced ourselves in our car for the next two weeks, we can acknowledge that it is truly the Christmas Season. We celebrated with the local families: Randy and Shari, Micah, Serena and Elias came up to the farm to celebrate with us and Tessa and Reuben, Annika, Simeon, Britta, Blaise and the two Spanish twins: “Whan” and “Ita” as Gwen and Isa call themselves. The farm is a busy place with Willow Haven Organic Farm Market plus the chickens for meat and eggs, three goats and six Jacob sheep. The spotted and speckled sheep provided more adventures than strictly necessary when they arrived, but now all the neighbors, far and wide, know that we have taken up shepherding. This is good, right? I am anxious to get my hands on the fleece and see new lambs but that must wait until summer when I come home again. Hopefully for the last time from Scotland.

The beginning of the year saw me winging back to Scotland to take up thesis writing again after a two year break. The first couple of months were rough what with getting a new room rented and set up and especially getting my mind back into the academic flow. My room is an upstairs bedroom right on campus in Morag’s flat, a local woman who has become a delightful friend. Although rewriting my thesis “from the beginning” felt very stressful at first, I have been able to use most of what I wrote before so the process has gone quickly. My two new supervisors are pleased with my work and believe I can accomplish my goal to finish by the end of the summer 2012. The sheep and the grandchildren are calling me!

In October, research required a trip to Basel Switzerland for a week’s study in the Balthasar archives. Because I thought this could be the last excuse to travel in Europe for a while, I first flew to Amsterdam to spend a weekend with my seminary Greek teacher and his family. He now teaches at Tyndale Seminary there. The whole family embraced me and shared their Dutch life of windmills, polders and contented cows. In order to see more of the countryside, I took the train from Holland through Germany, stopped at Cologne and finally to Basel. The B&B I chose turned out to be a half mile walk along the Rhine four times a day in beautiful summery weather. It was a welcome change from Aberdeen’s unfortunate lack of summer temps this year. Besides the help and company of the sisters who work in the archives, I was able to have tea with Adrienne’s daughter-in-law and grandson. They put her crossstich tablecloth out for the tea and told stories as well as providing written memoirs of their beloved Grossmutter Munsterplatz! They made a long foreign visit pleasant and memorable.

After finishing my work in Basel, I took another set of trains to Nancy, France where I bought some postcards instead of risking getting lost and missing my next high speed train to Paris. A good friend from Aberdeen met me there, settled me in a hostel, and oriented me to the metros and trains. I had never expected to visit France, nor was it ever on my list of places to go. Pretty much all the places I’ve visited have not been on my bucket list. How does that happen? But I am glad that I have seen and touched Fontainebleu, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and Musee d’Orangerie, the home of Monet’s Water Lilies. I even managed to hike to the Eiffel Tower and found a bus back to the hostel the very same day! With all the traveling, I was gone nearly three weeks and ridiculously pleased to return to ‘home’ to Aberdeen. I want a tour guide for any further adventures, please and thank you!

In November, my father journeyed to his heavenly home after eleven years on dialysis. Although I could not return for the funeral, all my kids and the 17 grandkids were there. My sisters kept me in the loop through texting and skype and videos, so I did not feel left out of the process. We’ll see my mom in January and visit the family cemetery to review our roots.

Dave seems to enjoy his job which was bought out by eBay this year. We now have an EBay mug. The 24/7 on call days have been working out well even though the grandkids think he should spend more time playing with them instead. At least he doesn’t have to drive on the turnpike those days! He also enjoys all the choir and Summer Harmony practices and socials.

The kids are doing mostly the same things: raising kids and gardens, bees and animals, bringing home the bacon, literal and metaphorical. Two new things happened: the bright spot of spring was the birth of David Michael (#17) the fourth son of James and Tina. And Karl has found a new band called Petibone ( who needed a lead singer. They are excited by all the original songs he brings with him and they have recorded their first album, Unwound. This spring they will tour with the Amazing Kappas in the UK and the US. (“Like” them on Facebook!) It will be an amazing journey for sure! They even have t-shirts!

Of course there are many more things that have happened. More stories and pictures can be found at my blog at We have enjoyed all your cards and letters, pictures and stories. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers throughout our wanderings.

Blessings and Grace for the New Year!
Dave and Lois Miles


All the Greats!

All the Greats!

The daughters-in-law got all seventeen great grand-kids settled on the steps of the church and bribed them with candy to keep them happy and quiet!

It worked! No one is even crying in this picture.

Most of my grandkids and some of the kids plus a cousin at the cemetery!

Remembering Dad


Last week my cousin in Texas had a conversation with me in Scotland (I love the internet!) and stated that my dad was an honourable man. I had to stop and think about that because sometimes people use words that we’ve never thought of using in that way about that person. Honourable is a word we use about soldiers and statesmen and important and highly educated people. My dad never fought in a war or anywhere else that I know of. He wasn’t a statesman. He didn’t hold important positions. He wasn’t highly educated. He was an ordinary Midwestern Norwegian farmer. But I knew that she was right. My Dad was an honourable man.

He had strong principles and lived according to them. He was honest. He worked hard. He had a strong and uncomplicated faith in God. The child-like faith so praised in the Gospels. We always had family devotions and going to church was something we never questioned. Playing the organ and singing in the choir was part of that devotion to God. For him and for us. Even though he had had very few organ lessons and very little time to practice, he did the best that he could every week – and he did well. We listened to organ music every Sunday after church. He went to church music seminars to learn what he could – and sometimes took us along. He encouraged us and others to use their talents and to take the lessons he never got a chance to take. We learned to offer our music to God first by playing duets with him or mom and then on our own at rather young ages. I remember becoming a substitute organist when I was 17 because I had a job and I had stayed home from the family vacation, and therefore, I could cover for Dad. Later on he would play for his grandchildren and show them how the magical stops and pedals worked, just like had shown me. As an adult, I knew other musicians more competent than I was in various churches, but they refused to play in public. But, I had always played in public, that’s just what we always did.

He loved farming and fixing things—which, of course, goes hand in hand with farming—and what he fixed worked well. When we had that ice storm in the winter of ’65 (I think?), we had heat when few others did because he had brought in all the tractor batteries and wired them in series so the furnace would run. If things didn’t go well, he didn’t complain that he had gotten the bad end of a deal. He didn’t complain constantly about taking a factory job to tide the family through the lean years. He just went on and dealt with it. He never shifted the blame or complained about how the world would be a better place if everyone did things his way. The only time I ever heard him swear was when the canners had gotten stuck with a full load of corn in the peat slough even though he’d expressly told them to stay away from that apparently firm but deceptive sod. He said “darn it.”

Dad loved his wife and family. Even though my parents had been married for over sixty years, I never actually heard them have an argument. I knew there were disagreements sometimes, but we never heard them argue. Dad and I argued all the time. Loudly. Daily. Habitually. I think my siblings learned how and why not to argue through having to live through those suppers. I had been blessed to inherent my dad’s strong and determined will. And, it wasn’t until I left home that we stopped arguing.

It wasn’t until I had the first grandbaby that I realized how much Dad loved little babies. He would hold and cuddle a newborn unlike most other men I saw around me then. He loved his grandchildren and played board games with them like he had played with us. He also taught the grandkids to hold and pet kitties and be nice to the puppies that he loved so much. In pictures of Dad as a child, he was often seen holding a kitten. And his dogs were his best friends, too. Especially Pal and Benjy. He had at least one dog who would follow him to the field and stay there to wait for him to drive home again.

Besides little cuddly animals, Dad also had a collection of matchbox tractors that he kept on a special shelf. Sometimes–some very special times–he would get out his tractors for the grandkids and play with them on the dining room table. And then he had great-grandchildren to hold and cuddle and play on the table with tractors. And we have pictures to prove it!

My life didn’t take the expected path or the ordinary one that my folks had hoped for all their kids. I did things backwards, going back to college after my kids had left home. But, the determination that has gotten me through the long years of study and life overseas was– I am sure of this — by God’s grace inherited from my dad. He was a strong man, a good dad, a loving husband, a faithful Christian.

My dad was an honourable man.

Remembering Uncle Bill



Our heart goes out to the Grover family at the passing of our Uncle Bill.
He was 85 years old and certainly enjoyed a full life. He gets to see his
sister again (my mom) and son (Jimmy) along with other friends and
relatives that have gone on before. I just thought I would reminisce a
little bit about his life.

We seldom know or understand how much our lives affect other people. Most
of Uncle Bill’s life influence on me was when I was young. Once I
graduated from college I didn’t get to see him much but I always enjoyed
his sense of humor and openness. We all remember going to the Grover farm
and we all witnessed his life. I never saw Uncle Bill get angry or upset.
He always had calming words of encouragement. I never heard him speak evil
of anyone but he was always about his work and family. When my mom was
battling cancer and a tumor, his family was one that took us in when both
mom and dad were in the hospital. Whenever they had supper he would open
up his daily devotion book and have a word of prayer before eating. There
was nothing pushy or overbearing in it but just a quiet, dedicated faith
of a farmer.

I remember one time when my parents were in the hospital we were on the
farm for several weeks. One day he came to me and said, “Want to ride in
my new tractor?” “Wow!” was my response. What young boy wouldn’t want to
ride in a brand new John Deere tractor? It was a beauty too. It had an
enclosed seating area, complete with AC, radio, and lots of gadgets. It
was an exciting moment in my young life as we rode up and down the rows
plowing the fields that day. He didn’t say much but when he did you would
listen. I asked about why he liked to be a farmer. He answered that it was
just him and God spending the day together. He enjoyed growing things God
had created. He didn’t say much more but now that I am older I envy him
and the time he had out there.

After I came to China, I would use various family members to illustrate
points I made in teaching. When I did my two week presentation on
Christmas I had a picture of a sleigh and horse riding over the snow. I
would teach the students Jingle Bells and tell them how my Uncle Bill
would hitch up his sleigh and take us out for a sleigh ride. I would tell
the students that yes I have actually done the song, complete with the
jingle bells along with the hot chocolate and cookies afterwards. It is a
memory I have never forgotten.

Uncle Bill was a great organist and I used to love playing the organ in
his house, (when he wasn’t looking of course). He often would have all of
us sit and sing songs while we were there. I would guess my greatest
regret is that I didn’t get to see him much after I got older. I will miss
my Uncle Bill but I look forward to meeting him again along with the rest
of the family.

Thank you Uncle Bill for your faith and life,


Metro Music and Paris scenes


I’ve been traveling the Metro system here and Paris, having some good times, some strange times, exiting the wrong time and place or going around and around in circles until I find the right connection going in the right direction. In only three days I’ve survived multiple mistakes. One day my ticket wouldn’t open the gates. I’d seen that happen to another woman and she’d crawled under the gate and through the sliding doors to get through. So when my ticket didn’t work for who knows what reason, I got under the gate but the doors wouldn’t let me squeeze through. Now there’s a line behind me. But the young guy directly behind me helped me out by swiping his card and then barreling through the barriers pushing me through at the same time. He was very nice about it. I suspect this happens on occasions that are not as rare as one would like them to be! So I got through and on my way.

On my first trip solo through the metro, one car had piped in jazz. Or so I thought. It was nice, interesting, unusual to have metro music. Very Paris, or so I thought. But soon it stopped and a guy with a trumpet and a paper cup started circulating through the car. Apparently he had a boom box along and was playing along to the canned music. He left at the next stop and the music was no longer being piped into the car. Hmmm.

Today, I’m toodling along in the Metro and managing to do so without any mistakes or disasters when a young couple hops on the car with a boom box, starts playing some sort of foreign rap and dancing to it. Interesting. And flirting with people while singing and dancing. They were actually quite good and seemed to be having a fun time. Of course, subway cars have poles all over the car for standees to hold onto and not get splatted against the wall during stops and starts. And the guy starts pole-dancing since there were no standers. Very Funny. Finally they hopped off our car and into the next one. Interesting place, Paris!

Oh, and here are some pictures just so you know I was really there! This works like a slide show now. So, I’ll try to comment here. I stayed at a hostel at the foot of Mont Martre so I could see Sacre Coeur from the intersection. I also visited Notre Dame and St. Etienne du Mont – my favorite – a church that Ignatius Loyola would have seen and probably gone to during his student days in Paris. (That’s related to my thesis.) I was chuffed*! And for those of you Church History buffs: The Cluny!

The Pierre and Marie Curie Radiology Institute. I walked past the Louvre as that day’s ambition was to walk along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. (You will see that I made it ALL the way!) I did stop at the Musee l’Orangerie, however, to view Monet’s Water Lilies. Absolutely lovely. And no pictures of that. There’s a bridge of love locks that was glittering in the sun. It was a beautiful warm day and so worth the walk. I’m glad I stopped in Paris even though it had never been on my bucket list. I guess I’ll have to write it down so I can cross it off!

* chuffed: UK for quite pleased and happy!

The Grand Tour


Research needs to be done in Basel Switzerland. And I should be able to do this without making many more trips to Europe. This might be my last time to see more than simply the research bits so I decided to get a railpass and visit friends. It’s not like Europe is all that big. Many countries and several languages and I always feel my lack of facility in anything other than English. I thought I would get more written on here while I was traveling but My Grand Tour is winding down. I still have another week to go but it is mostly taking pictures and doing touristy stuff until I get ‘home’ next Sunday.

I began my tour visiting friends in Amsterdam visiting Tyndale Seminary and meeting students from all over the world there before spending the weekend with my Greek professor from seminary, enjoying his kids and the English church.

We also saw a few windmills and very fat cows! I’ve never seen such fleshy dairy cows. They said it is due to the lush grass on the polders, the drained fields. That is also the reason the Netherlands has the tallest people on earth. The extremely nutritious dairy products grow people tall enough that the chairs and cupboards and mirrors are all too high for me. I would have to cut down the furniture if I lived there.

Next I took the train through Germany to Switzerland. An all day trip in lovely sunny weather. I carried my raincoat instead of wearing it – a major changed from the UK. I had a transfer in Cologne with a couple hours to wander around the beautiful cathedral and square.

I realized that if I went instead I’d probably get lost and miss my train so I contented myself with the activities on the square.

A choir was singing, a man was painted silver and standing on a block of stone.

A clown with balloons; a box on a table with a dalmatian painted man inside it!

A very tall Gandalf painted entirely gray. 

Bikes and dogs and bikes and people and bikes. Did I mention how many bikes there are in Europe?

Seeing the countryside in Germany made it clear that our Pa Deutsch ancestors came over and stopped when they recognized similar land. There seem to be more hills and steeper ones, but otherwise very homelike!

The lay sisters from the archives in Basel met me at the station and dropped me off at my B&B. That was a very good thing since I don’t think I would have found it. In my mind I pictured a house in a flower garden. However, it is a fourth floor flat above a grocery/merchandise store on a major shopping street. A little tiny button to push, keys and locks and doors to open and close and an elevator that has no sides by the doors so you can’t lean against them. And the doors don’t open on their own so I have to push open the door when it stops. So far, I’ve managed not to push at the wrong times.

The B&B is quite comfortable otherwise, the hostess very helpful, the rooms comfortable even if there is no view from the windows but balcony gardens and the stores across the street. But, it is an elegant old apartment. Parquet floors, a very large broad hallway with 6 rooms opening onto it, a couple of which are used by the hostess who lives here.

The sun shone warmly for the first few days and my studies at the archive were a fifteen minute walk down along the Rhine.            

I made that promenade 4 times a day. On Friday Autumn returned but I’ve not been caught out in the rain so it’s all good! My research went well. I transcribed a large amount of German to translate later. When my hands have rested up a bit. The sisters were a quiet but friendly group and invited me to lunch the last day I was there, a delicious “plain” lunch of soup, potatoes, fennel, bread and apples. Then they had coffee around the coffee table and everyone pulled out their knitting!! That, of course!! was the one day I had not left my knitting in my computer bag! aargh! So, I had to content myself with talking about strickenin and steeks.

That same afternoon, I had tea with von Speyr’s daughter-in-law and grandson. We had a lovely chat. They are more then pleased to counter the one-sided picture that has been painted of their delightful Adrienne. They gave me a packet of their memoirs and we had tea on a tablecloth that Adrienne had crossstitched for her son’s 40th birthday.

Those dates and stories are in German, too, so I have more work to do. And the last two days here will be hunting down points of interest and taking pictures. And I will get to walk along the Rhine wherever I go!

       If you click on the pictures you should be able to see a couple of swimmers next to the ferry!

After this I head for Paris and back home to Aberdeen. Since Ignatius Loyola is very important in von Speyr’s life (and, thus, my thesis), I hope to find some remnants of his time at the University there. Makes it more of a research project than “only” tourism!

Oddly enough, in all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve only been to one place that I’ve wanted to go all my life.My first overseas trip was to Romania. No reason to ever go there and I’ve been there 3 times! On the other hand, I had always wondered where my Great Aunt Annie had gone as a missionary-nurse in the 1920’s, but I never thought I would find it or go there. But, we did find out she was in Kenya and I went there in 2004 in conjunction with my masters thesis. I’ve since been to Scotland, London, Brussels, Rome in addition to Kenya. None of them places that I’ve had on a “bucket list.” But the places I’ve always wanted to go are Norway and Sweden. And, Scotland is the closest I’ve gotten to them! I wonder if I’ll ever get to Vikingland? Of course, now that I have friends in Australia and New Zealand, I’ve added those to my list, too. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to being done here and going back to the farm to stay. At least for a little while… we have sheep now and I need to do some spinning!

New Bloggings


The family blogging wizard has moved all our blogs to the WordPress venue now. So, hopefully, if you were interested in my travels and doings, you found me here. It has been a busy and hectic year. I’ve spent most of my writing time on my thesis rather than here. However, I will be traveling again soon and hopefully will get some of those adventures posted here. Meanwhile, I am on Facebook and post there from time to time.
Live long and prosper!