Our Holiday Letter

This has been a year of extreme highs and terrible lows for our family.  This year began with illness and surgery.  Scott was experiencing terrible pain and the doctors misdiagnosed it.  He walked around with appendicitis for almost four weeks before a specialist rushed him into a successful surgery.  We cannot say enough about the care he received at BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington, and will remain silent in regards to another facility.

Scott’s recovery was swift and we were able to travel to Israel-Palestine in February.  In 2014 the conference graciously allowed Scott to defer his ordination trip so that we could, instead, travel as a couple on the 2016 Ordinand Trip to the Holy Land.  It was an incredible trip not just because of the sights and sounds, but also because of the many colleagues and friends who were on the trip with us.  Not only that, but Carrie’s sister decided to join the trip.  We were blessed to be part of such an incredible experience with such amazing people!

While we were on the extension trip in Ammon, Jordan we received a call from our foster care agency that they had a placement for us.  We, obviously, were not available to take the placement and we were crushed that after such a long wait we were unable to become parents.  Just days after our arrival home we received another call for a 10 year old girl to be placed with us.  We were overjoyed (and nervous)!  She moved in the next day on March 10.  “A” would stay with us for the next five months.  The situation was not what we or the agency expected and our home quickly became unsafe.  She was moved to a more appropriate placement in August.

During that summer Scott completed his second residency (set of summer classes) in the ACTS Doctor of Ministry program.  We are blessed that his church has given him extra time for continuing education and provided him with financial support that makes this possible.  He has one more assigned sermon and an integrative paper this year, one more residency and then begins his thesis writing.  He is almost there!

Carrie also worked hard this year to grow professionally.  She completed her certificate in nonprofit management from Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) this year.  She also traveled to Chicago for the Mediation Skills Training Institute at Lombard-Mennonite Peace Center which got her interested in a Clergy Clinic process which she began in the fall.

This fall we cancelled our membership with our TaeKwonDo (Korean martial arts) Dojang (gym).  We really enjoyed Master Soo Kim and the other students at Soo Kim Martial Arts, but the times didn’t work with our schedules and the expense was great.  Instead we have gotten a membership at the Riverplex downtown.  Between exercise, healthy eating, and better sleep (and our Fitbit tracking) 2016 has been a year of increasing health for us as a family.

Despite our busy-ness we were able to get away for some days away.  In April we took “A” to Pere Marquette.  It was especially fun to see a little girl’s face light up the first time she stayed in a motel room.  We enjoyed hiking trails and seeing beautiful river scenes as well as a ferry boat ride and an afternoon at the Saint Louis Zoo.  In late April we took “A” to the Mark Twain cave and sights in Hannibal, Missouri and went down to the Berry family lake house in Saint Genevieve, Missouri in June for the twins’ birthday.  Carrie and “A” also got to spend a few days in late June in Saint Louis with family and, then, got to go to the Lincoln sites in Springfield.

In August, after “A” moved out, Carrie took a few days off to hike the Ozark trail.  Then, in September we spent two days in Chicago on a spur-of-the-moment trip.  We also dropped off our wedding rings for resizing (and added some bling to Carrie’s ring) and we enjoyed a day at Shedd’s Aquarium.

This Thanksgiving was spent with Carrie’s family, but at the home of…Carrie’s sister’s husband’s family (confusing? Not really, we’ll take them as full-on family any time)!Thanksgiving Day, itself, was wonderful overlooking downtown Saint Louis, but we also enjoyed several days visiting with Carrie’s family in Town and Country.  Christmas is expected to be with Scott’s family at his childhood home.  We are especially looking forward to seeing Scott’s sister and her husband who will be down from Wisconsin, so Christmas is looking to be just as wonderful as our recent Thanksgiving!

As we move into the holidays we reflect on a crazy year and we realize that we have received many blessings.  We look forward to Christmas celebrations at our churches and we hope that you and yours can count as many blessings in your lives as we do in ours!

Blessings & Peace,

Santa Cruz de La Palma
The view of Santa Cruz de la Palma from our stateroom.

Last night we enjoyed dinner at the Pollo Grill up on Deck 14 at 8pm.  It is the steakhouse onboard and I had a Lobster Bisque, salad, and Veal chop with potatoes.  Carrie had a goat cheese & beet starter, lobster bisque and a local Madeiran fish dish for her entrée.  After dinner we had intended to join Andrew and Katie for drinks, but time and energy caught up with us and we found ourselves very tired and in bed and asleep by midnight.

Today was an unplanned day.  We weren’t signed up for a cruise-line excursion and we hadn’t made detailed plans.  It was a nice relaxing day at a port of Santa Cruz (a small town) on the Island of Palma.  Santa Cruz de la Plama is a Spanish port (and, therefore, Island) of the Canary Islands.  Without major palaces, forts or Cathedrals to tour, AND since it was only a five minute (if that) walk to the city center:  It was the perfect day to be unscripted and relax!

The municipal market at Santa Cruz de la Palma

Each couple: Ken & Trish, Bob & June, Andrew & Katie, and Carrie & I went our own ways to spend our time, today.  Carrie and I were looking for scenic streets, alleys and lookouts for photos and found ourselves climbing steps (photo left) and going up steep streets to find photo opportunities, stopping by the municipal market along the way.  When we came back down to the city center we ran into Katie & Andrew who were sitting at a café.  Katie pointed Carrie towards a jewelry store.  We did our part to keep this island and its local jewelry maker prospering.  When we left the quaint little jewelry shop, we ran into Katie and Andrew, again, at another restaurant so we had lunch with them.  By now it was 1pm, or so, and Andrew headed back to the ship.

Moments later, while we still sat at the café, Bob and June happened upon us and we all enjoyed food and drink together.  Carrie, Katie and June went on for more shopping and Bob and I headed back to the ship.

And, now, we are all safe and sound on the ship and headed back out to sea.

Port of Motril, Spain

5:30 pm:

Leaving port yesterday we were able to witness a tug pulling the cruise ship, although I don’t think we had a tug any of the other times we left port.  I suspect it was because we were so tight in at the port.

I also learned something that I didn’t know:  The captain of a cruiseship, apparently, does not take the ship in or out of port.  A boat from the port authority comes out and meets the ship and then a captain comes aboard who specializes in “parking” cruiseships.  Huh.  Who would have thought.  We saw a small boat come up the other night and someone came aboard.  I didn’t think they were Somali pirates, but I guess I was curious who was jumping aboard before we got to port.  Now I guess I know.  Here is a video of…we’ll call him a valet…the guy leaving our ship after he got us out of port last night.

Last night was a bit choppier at sea.  We were late leaving port, but I think we left by 5:30pm or so and were at sea until sometime this morning.  For the most part, it is so smooth you hardly know the difference, but last night we could feel a bit more movement.  It was actually funny, because the first time I felt it, it felt like the disorientation I’d been feeling with my medicines since surgery (that just went away before the cruise) so I had to ask my wife if it was in my head or if the boat was moving.

Lunch in Granada (the arab quarter)

I had a restful night, but still had great difficulty getting up this morning.  My wife, I suspect, was quite irritated that we were leaving the ship later than intended, but she didn’t say a word.  Katie and Andrew joined with Carrie and I and we took a taxi from the port at Motril to Granada.  We really made the right choice in going on our own.  Katie and Carrie had both been there before and both feel that it is in their top 3 cities worldwide.  We only had a few hours so without the hustle and bustle of a tour group, we were able to relax and enjoy a long lunch off the beaten path (well, not really as far off the path as we would have liked).

After lunch Katie and Andrew and Carrie and I split up and went our own ways.  Andrew was on the hunt for some good local wines and Carrie and I really wanted to just enjoy the streets and get some interesting photos.  Since we didn’t have the time to go see Alhambra, we tried to find a scenic overlook from some tourist information, but to no avail.  We gave up and enjoyed our limited view.

We ran into Katie and Andrew just in front of a little café/bar.  How convenient.  We had drinks and relaxed in the shade before heading back down to the taxi.

The taxi to Granada was the only real way to go for us, but it was pricy.  We thought it would be about 80€ (somewhere around $100 or so) each way and would have had to started back a bit sooner (in order to find a new cab), but in the end we were able to hire a driver to wait for us and it was a bit cheaper.

When we got back to the ship we were exhausted.  It had been a good day, but we had tried to cover a lot of ground in a very limited amount of time.  Carrie and I couldn’t think of doing another thing.  I ordered room service treats (i’m working on a diet coke and fruit plate, right now) and I am working on this blog out on the balcony and Carrie has passed out into our bed.  We should be getting underway, soon.  Tomorrow, I think, is a day at sea, so no stops.  That means time by the pool and cooking classes in the Bon Apetit Culinary Center.

Hope this note finds you all doing very well!

7:00 pm:

Update:  Well, internet was down earlier, so I have more to say, now 🙂  Our cruise director came on earlier to let us know to expect a bit more motion today / tonight as we leave port and head to the Atlantic.  It is nothing to worry about, but the wind has, apparently, picked up and we’re in for rougher waters.  He wasn’t kidding!  It’s not enough to feel sick, but enough to know you’re on a ship.

Well, That really is enough, I think.  I’m going to get back to the fun of vacation!

Valéncia, Spain


Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias
9:00 am:
Yesterday was a terrific day with tours, relaxation and some time exploring on our own.  Really this cruise thing has been a better mix than I thought it would be.  This morning we came into port around 6:30 or 7am.  By the time our coffee and english muffins arrived and we moved to the balcony (at 7:15am) the ship was just finishing docking.
Carrie and I enjoyed some toast / muffins and tea / coffee on the balcony thinking that we would go eat in one of the on-board restaurants later, but, you know, by the time we had a little something and got ready for the day, there didn’t seem to be a point.  I think we’ll survive until lunch, though…  🙂
Carrie just finished getting ready and now we’re heading out.  When we signed up for excursions we decided not to sign up for a Cruiseline planned excursion here in Valencia, so we are striking out on our own.  The ship leaves at 4pm, so we have to be back by 3:30pm and can spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing by the pool.
I hope that all is well for you…wherever you may be as you read this blog!


4:00 pm:
We’re back!  It was a great day, for sure.  I was grumpy this morning because I had not slept well last night.  It wasn’t a comfort thing… i was just amped up.  Anyway, most people who know me well will know that I get grumpy when I don’t sleep enough.  So, I think Carrie and I argued all the way to Historic Valencia, but, I quickly got over myself and we had a great rest of our day.

A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega
Our first stop was the Plaza Lope De Vega.  Then we walked to the Cathedral and Basílica, but decided that outside was enough for us, today.  We had planned to go to the Mercado Central (Central Market) but got a report from Bob and June that there were no longer vendors there (it had been converted to coffee shops and restaurants).  We decided to pass on that.

The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)


The argument earlier that day was because iI wanted to go see the Cuidad de las Artes y las ciencias (City of Art and Science) which is a complex of museums in Valencia.  It caught my eye because of the Aquarium where they have and underwater observatory where you walk under the water.  Well, we had time, so we headed out in a taxi for the museums.  Once we got there we enjoyed a walk to the aquarium, but it turned out it was €30 which is about $40 (?) per person.  If we could have just done the underwater walk or if it had been less expensive we might have done it.  But as it was it would take about 3 hours and we just didn’t think we had the time if we were going to enjoy our lunch and get back to the ship with comfort.

A view of the museum campus in Valencia

In the end the time, expense, and exercise we got on the way to the museums paid off by the sights we saw.  The buildings were stunning and we enjoyed walking through the parks nearby.  If we had to do it again, we would…it’s just that we would allow time to go through the museum, too.  Maybe we would plan a day just for the museums on a return trip.
We caught a taxi to lunch.  Katie and Carrie had found a restaurant out in the countryside that was well-known for their paellas, so we met Andrew and Katie outside of town at this country restaurant.  It had been written up and, then, made further famous when Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali ate there.
We also enjoyed our meal.  It was delicious and worth the cab fares for certain!  You can take a peek at our meal, too:
 

We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare and we are now getting set to relax.  Carrie just headed up to the pool, so I will leave you all behind and follow after her!
Blessings,


A day in Palma Mallorca & Valldemos

8:30 am:  

There was briefly an alarm going off on-shore…I hope they didn’t mistake us for pirates 😉  Actually, it was a perfect and uneventful morning, but now we are bustling around a bit to get ready and be in the lounge where we are expected for our first excursion of the cruise.  It is called “Panaramic Valldemosa”

If you would like to learn a little bit more about: Mallorca, Valldemosa.

2:15 pm:

We couldn’t remember exactly what it was we signed up for (a month ago), but it turned out to be a relaxing trip up into the mountains just seeing the sights.  This is different than past Bob & June Berry vacations.  They usually have a car and more freedom to get away from the crowds, so Carrie and I were a little worried about this trip.  Even though we rushed past several sites (and leisurely walks) we would have liked to take in, our destination was a great, old, monastery that sat in a picturesque village.

On the way out of Palma we passed a seemingly amazing cathedral, which would make a great stop in Palmas on another trip and saw a very enjoyable path along the ocean, should we ever get back here.

Anyway- Once we toured the monastery, Carrie and I got away and walked around the village on our own and ended up back near the monastery at a little Café.  The highlight of my trip so far was being able to order for Carrie and I (Carrie was en los banos) in decent-enough Spanish.  Alright, the waitress knew English perfectly well, I’m sure, but I still accomplished something.  Go Me!

I was wearing out.  Carrie, June, Andrew & Katie all went on into Palmas de Mallorca to have lunch at a renowned Michelin-Star Tapas restaurant, but I was too tired.  I knew I was going to hit my wall and ever-since my surgeries…when I hit it, I’m done.  I wanted to be sure to be in the comfort of the ship when I got to that point, so here I am writing this blog and then heading up for lunch with Bob, Ken & Tricia.

Well, for now, Buenos Tardes, Amigos!!!

Nuts & Bolts

Alright, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my ideology of communication.  Yes, some of it is dated, but I want to move on.  I want to write a bit about the “nuts and bolts.”  I want to inspect more specifically how we put good communication into practice.

Over the last few months I have started an experiment by accident and I think we can learn something from it.  Let me tell you:

A few months ago I was in an unusual situation.  My church had decided to make major staffing changes, so I knew I was moving.  I went to the doctor and found out I had a brain tumor, and then my senior pastor went on vacation for a month.

When I went in to talk to my District Superintendent (the pastor who supervises my district of churches), she shook her finger at me and told me that I needed to communicate VERY CLEARLY and often with my church.  My job, she reminded me, was to minimize anxiety and keep the church informed.

She was right, but also I didn’t want my wife burdened during (and after) my surgery with lists of people to call and email, nor did I want her to feel inundated with calls when she was going through a lot.  Hmmm.  Well, Facebook, Twitter and my blog turned out to be the solution.  It was perfect because friends, family, church family, and even the people who weren’t yet on facebook could stay connected to my progress without much effort on my wife’s part.  We ended up starting a new blog and by the end of that month we had over 6000 hits.  It was a great success.

It was an accident, but  it worked beautifully.  It wasn’t just information, it wasn’t just what happened, but it was about how I felt.  Perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t just words but also video and pictures.  It turns out that I finally did all the things I’d been expounding on this blog for so long!  I was using social media to build relationships.  In the process of authentically expressing myself, I was sharing my life and faith with a larger audience than I preach to each Sunday.  How cool is that?  It was an accident, but I was actually doing the mission statement of the church… perhaps even more effectively than on Sunday morning.