Sunday, December 28, 2008

There is nothing as constant as change! We had the wonderful opportunity to talk with family on Christmas Day. Wow, there is a lot going on with everyone, as is probably the case with all your families. Grandchildren are growing and changing and doing good things - there are newly arrived babies and babies expected yet to miss. Thank goodness for photos passed through modern technology. 'Don't forget to post the photos! We congratulate all the grandchildren on their achievements and growth. Mostly we are proud that you are the people you are. We pass on our gratitude to the parents of these our wonderful grandchildren for your love and care of these precious people. And we pass on our love and devotion to all our friends and family, individually and collectively. We have come to learn that what is really important in this life is the people you know, the people you have known, and the people you will come to know. Some of our favorite people are in our families!

Speaking about what is really important, that brings to mind a recent talk by one of our favorite people, President Thomas S. Monson. He said,"Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important - and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. . . . we will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us".

We express our thanks for all of those that pray for us. We have been richly blessed by our experiences here. And, "our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings". It has been a great opportunity to work with the military, the chaplains, the wounded warriors, the young single adults and our fellow travelers along the way.

We are blessed to know the answers to life's greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where does my spirit go when I die? This we know through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are grateful for Him.

May your new year be one of no regrets. "Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family". As the in musical Music Man, there is a caution to the librarian, "You pile up enough tomorrows and you'll find you've collected a lot of empty yesterdays". One day each of us will run out of tomorrows. Tell those you love out loud that you love them, today. Express that love in word and deed. We will try harder to do so.

With all our love,
Elder and Sister Karn

Monday, December 22, 2008

This is a broken chocolate Santa that crashed off the mold machine as we watched. What a waste!

There is something panicky about chocolate coming at you on a conveyer belt!

This is what the broken Santa would have looked like as a finished product - about 24 inches tall.

This is a chocolate fountain with guilded cocoa bean pods on a tree. They gave us free samples of dipped cookies.

These are the molds that little Lindt milk chocolate bars came out of. We watched the process from beginning to end.

One of 6 Christmas markets in Cologne.

A ceiling view of the flying buttresses in the Cologne cathedral - one of the largest cathedrals in the world.

Another church in Cologne.

Most of Cologne was destroyed in WWII, except for the large cathedral and some of these old row houses.

This is the grand cathedral.

Bruce had the fun opportunity to dress up as Santa's helper for a party. He plays it well.

Merry Christmas or Frohe Weinacht from Germany!

Winter has arrived but it has been hard to tell here in Germany. The weather was actually a little colder last week than it has been the last couple of days. I would tell you about how low the sun is this time of year but we rarely see it so I'm not sure where it is. Are you folks keeping the sun in your area and not sharing it with us????

One of the Young Single Adults was home in the states recently and came back just last Friday. When the plane he was in was high overhead he was in the sunshine and was thinking that it would be sunny here. He said it was sunny just minutes before they landed but during the last few minutes he lost sight of the ground and landed under the cloudy sky. The good news was he was pretty sure they were landing at the right place because the clouds looked familiar. We did actually see some blue sky the other day through a a small hole in the clouds so we think it is still up there.

On Saturday we went on another USO tour for our P-day activity. Christmas markets are a big, big deal over here so we thought we would go on this tour and see Kohl(Cologne). The weather was not too cold but boy, was it wet. It rained the entire time we were there. Pam was pretty wet by the end of the day. We visited a huge cathedral and the markets. By the way, the markets are all outdoors. I have never been much of a mall fan but after a few hours in the 45 degree rain I can see where there are some advantages.

The big danger in the Christmas markets was possible umbrella injuries. At times the crowds were like going through the mall but everyone has an umbrella and some carry them high, some carry them low, and some folks tip them and about take your eye out with those little pointed frame ends. There were a couple of times when I thought I would get one in the eye. But the Germans are fun folks to go out and spend the day shopping in the rain. They stop and have food and drinks out in the rain and are happy as they can be. A little foul weather doesn't stop them. They are all weather people!

We also went to the chocolate museum in Kohl. They had an area where they were making chocolate for bars and for hollow Santas and other hollow treats. The entire process was there to be viewed. I now know how they make those hollow chocolate candies for Christmas, Easter, etc. One of life's important mysteries solved! I also saw one of them fall while it was still being cooled and the folks hurried right over and cleaned that up. It hadn't been on the floor that long - I would have cleaned it up but they had that area closed off to tourists. Besides, it didn't show the right image - a broken Santa on the floor. It was a good tour and it was interesting. There is no doubt we live in the right time. Until not long ago only the wealthy had chocolate and even then they normally only drank it and it was bitter. What a marvelous age we live in - sweet chocolate and we can get it in bars, kisses, candy coated, dipped, on crackers, with carmel, with nuts, etc, etc! Life is good!

The big surprise of the trip came on the bus ride to the markets. We started early and so the bus made a "breakfast" stop at a rest stop along the autobahn. By the way - it was sparkling clean! And the one we stopped at on the way back was just as clean even though it had a BK in it. (BK = Burger King) When we got back on the bus in the morning after our stop the USO tour guide said she had an announcement to make. She said that last year the USO refunded the cost of the trip to the folks that went on that tour and that they were doing it again this year. The USO picked two tours to refund the money on and the one we were on was one of them. She then started passing out checks. That was a Santa Claus act that will be tough to follow. So the trip there ended up costing us nothing. How about that! If you hang around with lucky/fortunate people like Pam some times it rubs off. I always thought the sun shined on her all the time but I just haven't seen the sun much of the time but she still has good fortune!

We are getting ready for Christmas - well we don't have as much to get ready as we normally would. Tonight the Young Single Adults, missionaries, and a few others are going Christmas caroling. Following the caroling there will be hot chocolate and pancakes. (There is syrup for the pancakes not the hot chocolate.) Christmas Eve we will have a big Christmas dinner for the Young Single Adults and we will be watching Christmas movies. Then Christmas Day we will be open in case some of them end up not having a place to go. After about 3PM our time we will wrap up there and come back to our apartment and make phone calls to family! So check your caller ID because it may be us!

Love to all and may the spirit of Christ be the center of your Christmas.

Elder & Sister Karn

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Well folks, another week has raced by. Some times looking back I wonder where did the days go? This past week held some very busy days for us and some were pretty special. Our "P-day" (preparation day) floats around in the week based upon what we have going that week. This past week we took our P-day on Monday evening. We signed up for a USO tour to a city about an hour away for a quick tour around their Christmas market and then to attend the play "A Christmas Carol" and it was in English. We left about 4:30 in the afternoon and got back about 11:30. The Christmas market was a little disappointing but the play was quite fun. After that the rest of the week was back to work.

The week was filled with our regular activities of working with the Young Single Adults and the military folks. We wrapped up this week in a very big way. We had chaired a committee to put together a "Fireside" for the service members and their families that deal with the challenges of deployments to dangerous areas of the world. There was a great deal of work involved and the last few days were full of making it all come together. Saturday was the day and when it was all over we were about worn out but happy that everything came together so well.

The keynote speaker at the fireside was Elder Robert C, Oaks of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He is also a retired Air Force four star general who has served in combat. His wife also spoke and they did a job that probably few if any others in the world could have done. They have been through the challenges of military life and long separations for combat service. Sister Oaks comments were sweet and comforting to all who are waiting for the return of loved ones. Elder Oaks spoke right to the heart of serving in the military and especially in combat. Their experiences are so important to share with those who are going through similar things now.

We also had two workshops presented twice by five people (two couples and a brother). They were all so good. There are some times in life and certainly on missions when you look back and say, "Perhaps that is why my road took me to that place at that time. I was there for that person or those folks." When we look upon events like yesterday we think perhaps that is why the Lord sent us here. Now if we get a couple of nights of good rest we will be back to full power again! (Until the next rush of events which happens this next week.)

I'm sure we told you before but Germany really gets into the Christmas season. Decorations are everywhere! Stores and homes are really decorated. Yet it doesn't seem near as commerial as all of our ads at home. Things are decorated but there isn't the push to get you to buy things. Yesterday was Saint Nicholas Day here. Saint Nicholas not Santa Claus is the one who brings presents and they are brought on 6 December. Children put their shoes outside their doors to see what they will be given. If they have been good they receive presents or candy but it they have not been good they get a branch - or to be more exact a "switch". This type of "switch" is not the one to turn a toy "on" or "off" but one to be applied to the child for correction out in the woodshed. I forgot to put my shoes out so I didn't get any toys (which I am sure I should have had I remembered). The good news is that I didn't get a switch!

I think that is about it for now! I'm worn out for the day and we have yet to go to an open-house tonight. By the way - the weather report is - cloudy, damp, and dark. The farm report is - a few big round bales being hauled in from the field and that is it. I saw only a couple of tractors this past week.

We are well, happy, and working hard.


The Karns in Germany