Oh, that birth forever blessed
Dear Friends and Family,
I am just home from the Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols at my church, where I sang the above verse with the choir. The ancient words and haunting 13th century melody reminded us again what the season is about.
It's been an eventful year for me, with some good and some bad to look back on.
The most fun part was a trip to Germany in the spring with my sister Mary. I had been thinking of a vacation there for a while, but was a bit too busy (or perhaps too lazy) to plan it out myself. This spring an old high school friend who is now a pastor, Paul Schulz, was organizing a Lutherland tour, so Mary and I decided to go on that, then add several extra days afterward to travel on our own. That worked out very well. We had a nice time on the tour, then rented a car and traveled to the villages that some of our ancestors came from, including the hamlet of Marke near Osterode am Harz (on the edge of the Harz Mountains), where our great-grandfather Wilhelm Sonnemann was born, the larger village of Armsheim in the Rhineland with its beautiful pilgrimage church "Zum Heiligen Blut Christi", where our great-grandfather Peter Mann was born, and the pretty winegrowing village of Waldböckelheim nearby where Peter's mother Caroline Mathias was born. You can see our photos on my web site.
Another fun activity for me during the year was attending Stanford football and women's basketball games -- both conference champs, with football about to head to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year.
I got back with "Elastic Sky", the musical group at my work, to do an Earth Day concert on our Palo Alto campus. This time I got to sing quite a bit as we'd lost some of the singers that had performed with the group before. I also played guitar occasionally at church, and I did my usual songleader gig at Tree of Life Lutheran Bible Camp for a week in July. This year we had quite a band up front at Bible camp -- besides me singing and playing acoustic guitar, we had a keyboard player, another singer, electric guitar, and drums! Most of the other musicians were high-school aged campers. They were all very talented and the music came together easily. Lots of fun!
On the not so fun side, around the time of the Germany trip I noticed a lump on my right eyelid. After a bit of an ordeal involving surgery on the eyelid and on my neck to get biopsy samples, plus lots of other tests and scans, it was determined I have follicular lymphoma. This is a slow-growing cancer (and apparently not the same type of lymphoma I had 20 years ago). It typically needs treatment every few years, but patients usually live a normal lifespan and end up dying of something else. I was given a course of Rituxan (a monoclonal antibody) in August, which hopefully will give me about a 5-year remission. I missed a lot of time at work, mostly recovering from the neck surgery. I am feeling pretty good these days, though a bit low on energy at times. I'm thankful for God's blessings through modern medicine!
During this holiday season I'm taking some time off, mostly hanging around home, relaxing, and catching up on various projects and to-do list times that have languished. Tomorrow I'll be at a friend of a friend's house for Christmas dinner.
Christmas blessings to you,