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Mark and I only send Christmas letters to those who send them to us, so if you use the same system, this is your only chance to see what we included in our Christmas Letter for 2020.

Dear Friends and Family:

Amid the many disappointments of 2020, we make adjustments while continuing to be thankful and have hope for the future.

The year began with what has become our regular continuing education experience, the Abundant Life Summit in Fountain Hills, Arizona. As we waited at the Phoenix airport for our flight home, the big news was the first few cases of COVID-19 being noticed locally. We had cut our time in Arizona short because of a large private party scheduled at the Blue Belle, which ended up being cancelled at the last minute. Little did we know it would be the first of many bookings, special events, mystery dinners, and trips to be cancelled in 2020.

A Taste of Arizona

Like everyone else, our lives were greatly impacted by the pandemic. Although we both had the memorable experience of dealing with kidney stones in 2020, so far, we are thankful to report that neither of us have been infected with the virus.

The Blue Belle Inn B&B amd Tea House, St. Ansgar, Iowa

For Sherrie, the Blue Belle Inn was without any overnight guests for two months – something that has never happened before in the 29 years she has been open. We are grateful for her loyal customers (many of whom we are happy to call friends) who found ways to support the business as she re-opened with limited seating for dining and many more take-out orders than she’s ever had. She has come to appreciate the new demands of being a “short order cook” and greatly enjoys the pleasant crew of people she has as her staff members as business begins to trickle in once again.

Zion Lutheran Church, rural Hudson, IA

Mark continues as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in rural Hudson, Iowa, now completing his ninth year. He finds great fulfillment in the ministry there. Although the church never “closed” we have greatly adjusted how we do things. We switched to putting our services on Facebook Live, when we couldn’t have worship with people inside the building. While we continue those internet postings, we are blessed to have a faithful group of in-person worship participants. What a surprise it has been to see people from well beyond our regular membership viewing these services online.

Plum Tart Iris, my new release.

Sherrie published her 14th novel, Plum Tart Iris, set in the Bohemian Alps of the Czech Republic and is nearly finished with her next book, Ragged Robin, set on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. She started posting a daily prayer time on Facebook Live to pray for our country, and friends and acquaintances going through rough times because of the virus, playing a song on the keyboard each day – another big adjustment for someone who has always been shy about having her picture taken and playing the piano by herself.
 
Mark was able play golf more often than in previous summers. Although part of that involved a trade-off of devoting less energy to his other hobby of repairing old bicycles, getting outside in the fresh air has been positive. He wore short pants so often, that he actually had tan-lines for the first time in many years.

This photo was taken about 5 years ago. If you want to know what we look like now (ei. how much weight we’ve gained during the pandemic,) you can see me live doing my Facebook Prayer Time each day, and Mark, on Sunday mornings on the Zion Lutheran, LCMC page, Hudson, Iowa.

As we look ahead to 2021, we pray you may all have a year blessed with love and health. We are hopeful that we will finally get to go back to Europe this spring, and that some of the frustrations we dealt with in 2020 will be worked out eventually. Because we know that’s what God does! We continue to believe that God works all things together for good. As Sherrie likes to say, God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces.     

Love to all of you, 

Mark and Sherrie

Something beautiful made from broken pieces.

Sherrie and Mark 2013To friends and family on the occasion of Christmas 2015,

It’s been another exciting year – we have so much to be thankful for! Although we’ve resorted to a form letter once again, we hope to give you a little taste of what we’ve been up to in 2015.

Ohio - Flowers Cross

 

We both enjoy the awesome speakers and music at Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ gatherings. In May we participated in a continuing education event in OH, stopping at Sherrie’s nephew, Michael’s and Abby’s house in IN on the way back. In Oct, we drove to Dallas for the LCMC’s 15th annual gathering, staying with Mark’s cousin, Monte and wife Karen in OK on the way.

From camera December 2015 001

We made two trips to Ely, MN; one in June for a few relaxing days with Mark’s Uncle Frank and Aunt Pat at their “cabin” on Bear Island Lake, and one in July with granddaughter Imix to see  cousins, aunts and uncles who were there to celebrate Pat and Frank’s 50th Anniversary.

Blog - Imix water

The next big event in our busy summer was Sherrie’s Mom and Dad’s 60th Anniversary Party, hosted by Corey and Kaye at Hansen Family Farms. Visiting nieces, nephews and cousins from all over the world (North Carolina to Seattle, and Boston to southern Brazil) made it a very special occasion, with great friends, good music, and a lot of delicious food all adding to the fun.

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 017

After going a couple of years without a “real” vacation, we spent 17 days in Europe in July and August. We combined a visit to Romania to see Mark’s son, Erik, and his new wife with a stopover in the United Kingdom. Driving down narrow, hedge-lined byways on the “wrong” side of the road, enjoying plenty of caramel shortbread, eating at a pie pub with Sherrie’s cousin Sarah and family, visiting the quaint village where Doc Martin is filmed, climbing thousands of steps up to castles and down to the sea, and watching the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean while sheep grazed on the beach in Croyde, Devon, were all amazing adventures.

England - sunset

The highlight of our 12 day trip to Romania was celebrating Erik’s wedding to Cristiana, or as Mark says, “chaperoning the honeymoon.” In Bucharest, we rented a car and circled the country with Erik and Cristiana as our personal Romanian-speaking tour guides. We spent an afternoon in Bacova, the ancestral hometown of Mark’s great grandmother as well as experiencing many beautiful castles, medieval towns, and the picturesque, traditional villages that dot the mountain valleys and countryside. Erik and Cristiana are well suited for each other and we enjoyed getting to know our newest member of the family and discovering a truly delightful corner of the world that we never would have thought to travel to if it weren’t for them.

Romania E&C

In addition to playing the piano at church, and working more hours at the Blue Belle than she has in years, Sherrie kept busy with the release of Shy Violet, her latest Wildflowers of Scotland novel, writing and casting numerous murder mysteries, and completing a 50,000 word writing challenge in November to finish the rough draft of Sweet William, her next book.

ShyViolet Final Front Cover.jpg

Mark continues to find joy in his call at Zion Lutheran in Hudson, and enjoys watching our church family and Sunday School grow. In the midst of our busy, back and forth schedule, it’s an honor and a privilege to share our lives with and minister to the people at Zion.

Zion - Sunset 2015 2

We are both thankful for the improvement in Mark’s mother’s health, and that Sherrie’s mom and dad have come through a trying year, medically speaking, and still continue to be active. It’s been fun to hear from each of you, too! Although we may not see you often, we continue to keep you close in our hearts and prayers. Until next year (or sooner if you travel our way!), we wish you a Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year.

Love, Mark and Sherrie

From camera December 2015 011

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PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy

NEW RELEASE!

Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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