Happy Epiphany!

Today is January 6th also known as Epiphany or Three Kings Day.  This is the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and part of celebrations in many countries.  We often forget the non-hallmark holidays since many people went back to work as usual here on Monday.  But once again I was reminded when I texted a friend and they told me that they would be busy for the “remainder of the nativity feast”.


So here is a little about the meaning of and the traditions around Epiphany.  I was first introduced to this when I lived in Germany, where the tree was decorated on Christmas Eve (with real candles!) and it was left up until after Three Kings Day.  I didn’t really understand the significance but once I looked more closely at the church calendar it started to click.

Epiphany is the celebration and recognition of Jesus as the son of God.  It fits with Three Kings Day because this day was a celebration of the visit of the magi.  They came, worshipped him, acknowledged him as the son of God and gave him gifts fitting for his life and death (Matthew 2:1-12).  In some places, like Germany, boys and girls dressed as the wisemen go from house to house singing and collecting money for charity.  Once again I don’t remember all the details but Three Kings Day is definitely still celebrated in the Catholic church in many parts of Germany.  It would be fun to know about more traditions and church celebrations from other places.

I remember being told that the 12 Days of Christmas song, that is popular here in the US, also has spiritual significance but after doing a little digging I’m no longer sure that the spiritual meaning wasn’t just added recently.  I love finding Christ and the gospel signified in cultural or other contexts but I’m not a fan of attributing spiritual meaning where there really isn’t any.  I’ll keep researching but for now my position is that the 12 Days of Christmas is just a secular song that’s exhausting and fun to sing, gold rings, pear tree and all.

But I did find a different song of English origin, A New Dial, that dates much later (around 1625).  There is no doubt of the spiritual significance in this song as they count down the 12 days of Christmas.  And so I will leave you with these lyrics which can be found many places but I got these ones here.  Happy Epiphany everyone!  What a sweet day to remember that Jesus is God’s son.

A New Dial
What are they that are but one?
We have one God alone
In heaven above sits on His throne.

What are they which are but two?
Two testaments, the old and new,
We do acknowledge to be true.

What are they which are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity
Which make one God in unity.

What are they which are but four
Four sweet Evangelists there are,
Christ’s birth, life, death which do declare.

What are they which are but five?
Five senses, like five kings, maintain
In every man a several reign.

What are they which are but six?
Six days to labor is not wrong,
For God himself did work so long.

What are they which are but seven?
Seven liberal arts hath God sent down
With divine skill man’s soul to crown.

What are they which are but eight?
Eight Beatitudes are there given
Use them right and go to heaven.

What are they which are but nine?
Nine Muses, like the heaven’s nine spheres,
With sacred tunes entice our ears.

What are they which are but ten?
Ten statutes God to Moses gave
Which, kept or broke, do spill or save.

What are they which are but eleven?
Eleven thousand virgins did partake
And suffered death for Jesus’ sake.

What are they which are but twelve?
Twelve are attending on God’s son;
Twelve make our creed. The Dial’s done.

A Wonderful 2014

IMG_0654Although it’s already 2015 in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Germany and many other places I hold near and dear to my heart, I can’t resist a little summary of 2014 here in California.  It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that 2014 was a great year in the Reiter household.  For starters this branch of the Reiter household happily formed in 2014.  We celebrated our marriage not just one but four times.  Ryan and I settled into married life with much anticipation and many question marks.  Camarillo has become our first home together.  Ryan and I also traveled to Australia where we gained vision and passion for our future life and ministry overseas.  We entertained many friends over the year, hosted our first family Christmas and we’ve loved almost every minute of doing life together.  Ryan and I have fought and made up.  Our house has been filled with both tears and laughter but I’m happy to report that the amount of laughter has far exceeded the tears.  2014 has been a wonderful year.  Here’s to 2015 with more love and laughter, just enjoying life together.

Ryan’s 12 Days of Christmas

IMG_0614Traditionally the 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days between the celebration of the birth of Christ and Epiphany.  Epiphany marks the day celebrating that Christ is indeed the son of God.  In some countries Epiphany is celebrated with visitation from the Magi or the Wisemen.  When I was in Germany Epiphany is the day that the churches star singers would go house to house, sing and I believe, collect money for charity.  It’s been awhile so I don’t quite remember all the details.  But for many americans I think it’s safe to say that our memories and knowledge of the 12 days of Christmas comes straight from the song, partridge, pear tree, 5 golden rings and all.

I’ll write more about the religious symbolism in the 12 Days of Christmas song closer to the beginning of January but all that to say, I use to think that the 12 days of Christmas were simply the days leading up to Christmas.  But instead they lead to Epiphany, however either way it’s all about anticipation.  It’s the reason I like advent so much.  Anticipation.  I like anticipating what’s next otherwise Christmas, birthday or any other celebrations seem to come and go too quickly.  Or we get caught up in the un-festive trappings so that we can’t wait for it to end.  I like having reminders to keep me happily anticipating in the right way.

So last year for advent I gave Ryan a stack of cards.  One for every day in December.  Since we weren’t always together this was a little something for him to anticipate us being together on Christmas.  This year, doing something every day seemed a little excessive and time consuming so I decided to put together 12 gifts leading up to Christmas.  Ryan’s 12 days of Christmas include all sorts of goodies which I can’t divulge here because we don’t want to ruin the surprise for him.  But i’m excited for him to start opening a gift every day in anticipation of Christmas.

I hope this season is filled with joyous anticipation for everyone.

The Great GO Expo

photoYesterday was Pentecost Sunday and what better way to celebrate the beginning of the church than to see what God is doing all over the world in the global church.  Christ Presbyterian in Santa Barbara supports and has relationships with ministries all over the world so they transformed the sanctuary and set up a world tour.  Ryan and I participated in the Asia/Pacific region with a booth for both Papua New Guinea and Australia.

IMG_0335The countries represented not only had displays with information about the ministry but they also provided food from the region.  There was Egyptian baklava, Chilean empanadas, Australian vegemite, German beer, Costa Rican coffee and much much more.

IMG_0339It was really fun for me to see some of the places I’ve worked and visited also represented.  Kazakhstan has such a sweet place in my heart.  Can you find my picture on the board?  That’s from when I visited in college.  They still do English camps with students every summer.  This is a great, practical way to show the love of Christ.  Want to visit Kazakhstan?  Ask me for more information and maybe you can go next summer.

IMG_0332There was also a photo gallery and one of my pictures from Berlin made it onto the wall.  This is street art in Kreuzberg near a former checkpoint between East and West Berlin.  I snapped the picture while on a walk one day just because I thought it was interesting.  Notice the rolex watches chained together?  It’s quite the statement.

IMG_0337Thanks to everyone who put time and energy into this great event.  It’s wonderful to be able to bring a little bit of the global church in to remind the local church that we are part of a greater community.


A Little of This and a Little of That

I’m back in Santa Barbara once again and definitely enjoying the good weather.  On the way down I took a little detour and visited with some friends who were in my class during my year abroad in Germany.  It was fun to catch up and answer the question: “So what have you done in the last 10 years?” over lunch on the Santa Cruz pier.  We enjoyed the sunshine and made the most of the time we had together.  1234438_10153245797725004_1981003871_n

Now that I am back and settled in a bit, I am gearing up for a few intense support raising weekends as well as reconnecting with people down in southern California.  Although it hasn’t been that long between visits, it has been awhile since I was down here and healthy.  It makes a huge difference to be able to stand up, move around and fill my days without worrying about getting over exhausted.  The mono is gone!

While my computer is out of commission I do have enough other work to keep me occupied.  Thankfully I have access to another computer that I can use until mine is back and happy again.  Still no full diagnosis but I am making the best of the situation.  Keep praying for a good and comprehensive solution.


An American 4th of July

Ok so for all of the traveling I have done, I have really only celebrated a handful or so of July 4ths not in the US.  I think I spent one in France, a couple in Germany and three in Papua New Guinea.  I remember being at school on July 4th while I was in Germany and a couple friends greeting me with “Alles gute zum vierte Juli!” (Happy 4th of July).  I was confused at first because when said in German, July 4th is just a date and not a holiday.

In Papua New Guinea (at least in Ukarumpa), everyone is happy enough to have an excuse to celebrate whether or not they are Americans.  Almost everyone in Ukarumpa gathers for traditional American food (read: potato salad, grilling meat, watermelon, etc.) and steel wool fun.  In the village things are a bit different but it’s still an excuse to pass out American flags and entertain the children with our after-dark antics.

I am really happy to be able to celebrate today with my feet on American soil.  It’s different not being able to spin steel wool around and make our own light show but the fireworks in Santa Barbara tonight should be pretty great.  The best part about the holiday is just being able to be with friends, and of course, enjoying the freedom and blessings that we have just being Americans.

Decision Making

Each day we make all sorts of decisions.  Some people may have a routine that minimizes certain choices but there are still tons of decisions to be made everyday.  These range from the mundane (what to eat, wear, route to work, etc.) to more critical decisions like how to respond to the email from your boss or what to do with your kid who is acting up in school.  Although we sometimes hem and haw over what restaurant to choose or what movie to see, it is clear that not all decisions are created equally.

Think back to your major life decisions.  This could be anything from where you went to college, to marrying your spouse or whether or not to take the new job with lower pay but higher job satisfaction.  It’s your life, you know the choices you made that sent you one direction or another.  These are the decisions that life is built on.  All the seemingly insignificant choices you make everyday can eventually add up and change your life’s direction or one small decision can turn into something huge.  However, for the most part it is these big decisions that really direct and guide you.

I definitely see this in my own life.  Looking back some of the choices I made seem obvious but I know that the decision process at the time was not always so clear.  After high school I decided that I wasn’t going straight to college but instead spent a year with a study abroad program in Germany.  That was now 10 years ago and what I learned, the relationships I built, the memories I made and the experience in general has no doubt influenced my life and continues to do so.  While I was in Germany I applied to Universities and other then the linguistics program at UCSB, I can’t remember why I chose Santa Barbara.  But that decision once again has hugely influenced my life.  I’m still very connected with my Santa Barbara community and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And just one last example, Papua New Guinea.  It’s no surprise that the decision to spend three years in Papua New Guinea was a huge life changing experience.  Each of these decisions were big and I had no idea at the time what the results would be, good or bad.

Now i’m at another crossroads with a decision looming in front of me.  I can see it, it’s going to come but right now it’s a little out of my reach.  Choosing where I am going to work next is not the average job search decision.  I’m not concerning myself with pay or hours or commute time.  Instead this decision is about work opportunities and job satisfaction, moving to a new country, a new culture, learning a new language and ultimately finding a place where I can love on and serve the people.  And yes, this is a similar decision to Papua New Guinea, however now it is a little more long term focused.  Long term focused means a higher level of commitment and that makes it a bit more daunting.  And let’s face it, I didn’t really consider other places besides Papua New Guinea during that decision process so it was just a matter of to go or not to go.  Well now I know I want to go but I am weighing the pros and cons of not just a couple but about 6 different places.  Some have been easier to say no to then others but the list still contains multiple and some very different countries.

Fortunately I have the gift of time.  The only person really putting pressure on me right now is myself.  But i’m at the point where even though I haven’t made a decision, I want to know.  I want to know the direction, life altering course that i’m about to take.  I have a spread sheet of my options, i’m having lots of conversations, i’m praying, i’m waiting and hopefully I won’t have to wait to long before the decision is clear.


A Traveler’s Life

Monday Košice, Tuesday Budapest, Wednesday Berlin, Thursday Sacramento.  It may sound adventurous, it may even sound romantic but when I realized this is how my week would look, I just wanted a nap.  Modern travel by train and airplane, as well as the wonders of a close together Europe make this trip very possible.  However, it takes a toll on the mind and body to be in so many different situations, hearing and using multiple languages, interacting with people from various cultures and the stress and mental energy it takes to navigate multiple train stations, airports and taking care of other transportation needs.

For me this is the home stretch.  Just the final few hours before making the trek to the airport and getting on a plane to bring me back to California.  It’s been quite the month of travel.  And now I am tasked with taking all the information i’ve compiled about different people and places and using it to make a decision about the future.  I’m very thankful that I was able to put my feet on the ground, get my hands dirty and see the different cities and work options from a close-up and hopefully more realistic perspective.

At this point i’ve made no final decisions.  I’m going to give myself some space, pray, have a few more conversations to fill in some gaps and see how my heart pulls me.  It’s an exciting yet nerve-wracking time but I don’t think I would have it any other way.

Treats in Germany and off to Budapest

Yesterday was another lovely day in Europe.  The sun was warm and most people had a day off because of Pfingsten (Pentecost).  We started the day with a breakfast that included apricots, peaches and pears.  These are fruits that are definitely not available in Papua New Guinea so I was very excited.  They were absolutely scrumptious.  I can’t wait to enjoy more pit fruits this season.  I guess I will miss the abundant tropical fruits but this is a happy change for now.

I have been seeing lots of Berlin so after breakfast we decided to head outside of the city.  Our adventures took us to Potsdam which is not that far but already in Brandenburg.  We walked around the SchlossPark (Castle Park) which lived up to it’s name because of all the great buildings that were residences and summer homes for Kings.  The gardens are beautiful too and if you get off the main paths, there are even some places to sit and just enjoy the day without hordes of other people.  It would have also been interesting to see the inside of some of the Castles but maybe that should be a cold or rainy day activity when being outside isn’t really an option.

It’s amazing how ornate all the buildings are.  The time and craftsmanship that went into constructing these palaces is kind of astounding.  Artwork has obviously changed but the stone carving and metal work is still really impressive.  It was also fun to see that fruits were considered a treat then too.  There were places for figs to be grown and a giant green house to take care of exotic plants in the winter and other fruits like oranges.  For you German readers, here is some more information on Potsdam Park Sanssouci.  And for those of you who don’t speak German here is some less detailed information in English but even you can still enjoy the pictures on the main site.

After visiting the park we walked into downtown Potsdam which has lots of interesting gates and a comfortable main walkway that’s car free and enjoyable.  Since it was warm and we had already eaten a small park picnic, we decided that ice cream would be a good afternoon treat.  I ordered Spaghetti Eis which is literally Spaghetti Ice Cream.  But only in looks not in taste.  It’s vanilla ice cream, strawberry (or in this case mixed berry) sauce and white chocolate shavings.  Delicious.  I appreciate the over-the-top ice cream treats in Germany.

And now today I am repacking for my evening flight to Budapest.  This next week is going to be an adventure getting to Slovakia by train and seeing another very different part of Europe.  But i’m excited to see what will happen.  No doubt there will be some good stories in the making.  I don’t know about my internet connection so we’ll see when I can post next.  Until then I hope you, no matter where you are, get to enjoy some summer treats.