Journal entry by kristy sterken

Lots of memories these last few weeks of Dan. They come flooding back at the oddest times and for the strangest reasons.

  • Looking at furniture in our home that Dan never saw.
  • Seeing how much the kids have grown in the past year.
  • Singing songs in church that meant a lot to him.
  • Eating his favorite meals as a new family.
  • Looking at the large stash of dried beans in our cupboard that he purchased "because they were on sale" and here they still sit! :)
  • Seeing an "Über" drive by and thinking back to how many of those rides he took to appointments.

I do not enjoy the unpredictability of grief, and it's baffling to me how deep sadness and great joy can be part of my daily life. 

Last year this time, Dan had just entered the hospital … for good. I was in my last 3 days of teaching. I knew it was time to be around for Dan. These were his final days. 

As I sit here feeling sad, I can just envision Dan smiling and saying, "Don't be sad for me. Relive the memories, but remember the good. I am so thankful for the life you have right now."

So am I. God has been so good to our family. Being married to Norman is a wonderful gift and being able to enter into a brand new chapter of life together has been such a blessing.

Thank you to all of you who continue to read the posts here, who keep loving our family and talking about Dan. Never stop talking about him. Never stop asking us what life looks like or how we are really doing.

And if you live close, come join us to celebrate Dan's life at an Open House on November 12th (5-7pm), the day he left this earth.
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Journal entry by kristy sterken

We wanted to let you all know that Lauren is home as of this afternoon. It will be a minimum of a few weeks still until she is back to her normal self as she has lost a lot of strength during her 3-week hospital stay. It is so great to have her back with us and feel like a complete family again. Thanks so much for your prayers!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

… but God's purpose prevails!" (Proverbs 19:21)

Our plans for August were to travel to Europe with all of our children. The last week in July, it became evident that Lauren was not doing well as she had some respiratory issues and we made several ER visits for fluids, etc.

It came to the point where she needed to be hospitalized for pneumonia, and we thought she would bounce back fairly quickly. However, her condition continued to worsen to the point where she was admitted to ICU and put on a ventilator. She was diagnosed with septic shock and was on the ventilator for a week. She continues to recover in the hospital and is making good progress. We hope she will be well enough to come home this weekend.

Due to this, we had to postpone our trip to Europe. All the kids handled this change very well and we have been able to have some good times as a family without having to experience jet lag! We spent the past weekend at the lake and have done some fun activities around home. We have also had more time to get Norman's house packed up and ready to sell!

In all of this, we are so thankful for God's hand in our lives. We make plans and He directs our steps. He has been faithful in the past and the present and we know He will be faithful in the future as well. We know we can trust Him fully with our lives!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

Much has happened in the last 4 weeks that we would love to update you on!

The highlight of the summer so far was our wedding on June 15th! We are so thankful for all the friends and family who made it a day we will always remember and cherish! The weather held up, many people helped with details, our bridal party was the BEST (our kids!) and it was so great to have many people we love in the same place all together!

I feel so blessed to have such fond memories of my wedding with Dan and now more memories of another incredible day getting married to Norman! My life has taken on another dimension with him in it and I am so very, very thankful. It truly is a blessing to do life together, parent together, make decisions together and serve together. God has been so good to us!

After a very relaxing week-long honeymoon in the northwoods, we all headed to a family camp (with 4 of our children) where Norman spoke to the adults. In between camps and speaking engagements, we were able to spend a few days both in WI and in MN getting our houses organized - we will be living in MN come late August and are getting Norman's house ready to sell.

We are currently enjoying our time in CO at the Navs' Headquarters where we have been blessed by students from all over the world. We have also snuck in some swimming and hiking and 3 of our kids enjoyed a week-long resident camp this past week. 

Thanks for your prayers for our family. We are looking forward to the adventure of combining our 2 families and giving all the credit to God! I have been struck with the necessity of relying on Jesus in the daily struggles of life, knowing HE is enough. We look forward to posting more in the near future!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

Today is Dan's 45th birthday. Except time and age are not issues in Heaven - I am so thankful he is not bound by those any longer!

The kids and I will celebrate this evening by baking a huge cookie. Carrot cake was his favorite, but we enjoy cookies more than cake and since we are still living here on earth, we will make something we love! :) We will sing "Happy Birthday" and go around the table, sharing things we love about Dan. That is our birthday tradition around here!

I am so full of joy today, knowing Dan is having the best birthday ever and that we can think about the man, father and husband he was!

In other news, we are closing out the school year with ONE MORE DAY OF SCHOOL!! (Can you tell I am happy about that?!) My pile of grading is slowly diminishing and final exams are rolling in.

Last week, Lauren enjoyed being President Roosevelt as part of her 5th grade class "Wax Museum" last week.

Tytus had a birthday party with some of his friends and Abby closed out her track season.

Norman did an amazing job (with the help of all of our kids!) building 4 raised garden beds this past weekend which Abby is continuing to plant this week.

11 more days until the BIG DAY! The next post will include plenty of wedding photos. Thanks for your continued prayers and care for our family. We are blessed!!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

Thanks for continuing to check in and care about what is happening with our little family!

Since Dan died in the winter, the ground was too frozen to put his headstone in. I got a call last week saying that everything was all set, and I knew I needed to head over to the cemetery with the kids.

We wrote notes to Dan telling him what we were up to. Abby wrote a song in honor of him, and we shared stories and special memories we had with him. After each of us shared, we released a balloon and watched it fly upwards and disappear. (Abby was distraught that hers got caught in a tree! :)  ) It was a very heavy day, but much needed for all of us.

I am very thankful for this time to remember him and for the kids to see my continued sadness in facing life without him around. God has been so faithful and gracious to us, and while we cried and shared in the pain of Dan's absence, I told the kids how amazed I am at where God has us right now. Who would have thought that 6 months after Dan's passing we would be in this place?

Another thing I did this weekend was run a half marathon. I have loved to run for many years and enjoy competing in a few races each year. When Dan was sick, running was very difficult and sad, as I had time to process the reality of what was happening with him when I went out on a run.

Since Dan's passing, running has become an amazing time of processing and time with Jesus. As I was running this race today, I couldn't help but think where we were last year at this time. Dan was very sick, but we were still one month out from surgery and hadn't gotten the terminal diagnosis yet. This year I ran the exact same race with my sweet late husband in Heaven and an engagement ring on my finger! No one would have been able to predict that a year ago. I am so very, very humbled and grateful!

This will most likely be my last post on here until after our wedding in June. (Plans for the wedding are going well and I can't wait to marry Norman!) I would like to keep you up to date on what is happening in our lives and how the kids are doing, but it will be less frequent than in previous months.

Thank you again for all you mean to our family and for your genuine love and concern for us. We could not walk this road without all of you!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

Thanks for continuing to check in and for caring about our lives!

We are doing well, enjoying life and marveling at God's goodness!

Abby has started track with some 8th graders at the high school this month and ran in her first meet this past weekend. She is very proud of her time in the mile and I am thankful that she is able to get to know some high school girls at the same time.

Lauren is her sweet self and continues to challenge us in a variety of ways! There are always medical needs to tend to and much wisdom is needed in knowing how to best help her. She loves all of her amazing helpers who enable me to live a normal life and have fun and who also take such great care of her!

Tytus has been busy being creative, designing rubber band traps and also making his own crystals. He is happy to be riding his bike outside again and he and Abby make many trips to the local park to play basketball and train for American Ninja Warrior! 

I am loving life and trying to keep many balls in the air! Wedding planning is going well, I am enjoying interacting with my colleagues and students at work and thinking about the future makes me so thankful for the ways that God has gone before us in such amazing ways. 

One thing that has been of particular blessing to me was to be able to help Norman with a Navs retreat this past weekend. It was so fun to serve together and to meet some of the staff. I am looking forward to the months to come and doing much more of that together!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

The kids and I just returned from PA this week. What a great time we had with my extended family!

My expectation for the week was to hang out with them until Tuesday when Norman was to arrive and stay through Thursday. I was excited for him to meet my family and spend time with them!

On Sunday after church, my mom suggested we go back to the farmhouse where we were staying and change our clothes before heading out to lunch. I thought that was strange coming from her, but we went home, changed clothes, and sat around for a while - that is also unusual!

After about an hour, I suggested we head out for lunch. I loaded Lauren into the van, and Tytus, Abby and my parents followed. No sooner had I entered the van than Norman called my cell phone. I answered, and he told me that he had heard he was missing a treasure hunt my family had set up for the kids later that day! He told me I should go into the gazebo behind the farmhouse and look for a treasure hidden there. When I found it, I was to call him back.

I walked over to the gazebo and found a box of chocolates from Luxembourg on a bench. Unsure whether or not to open them, I called him back, but he did not answer. I heard the gazebo door opening and spun around. Who was standing in front of me, but Norman!
I absolutely could not believe it! I began peppering him with questions right away until he put a finger to my lips and said it was HIS turn to ask the questions. He asked me to marry him, and of course, I replied with a resounding yes!

Unbeknownst to me, he had planned and pulled off this huge surprise with the help of my mom and sister. He had been scheming it up for quite a while and even fooled me by sending me a fake travel itinerary!

I had been reading Psalm 90 that morning, and in hindsight, it was the perfect passage that reflected much of what God has been doing over the past months!

Lord, through all the generations, you have been our home!

Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God.

You turn people back to dust, saying,
    “Return to dust, you mortals!”
For you, a thousand years are as a passing day,
    as brief as a few night hours.
You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.
    They are like grass that springs up in the morning.

10 Seventy years are given to us!
    Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
    soon they disappear, and we fly away.
11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
    Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom.

13 Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
16 Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval
    and make our efforts successful.
    Yes, make our efforts successful!

We are looking forward to getting married on June 15 at a small ceremony in Wisconsin in his sister-in-law's backyard. After a short honeymoon, we will be heading out for a full summer of traveling. Norman will be speaking at a variety of camps and conferences in Wisconsin and Colorado, and we will take a trip to Luxembourg to visit my family.

If you'd like to read Norman's own take on the engagement, you can visit the Caring Bridge site he keeps up (search Caring Bridge for "Katie Hubbard").

Journal entry by kristy sterken

There are times in your life where God moves so unexpectedly you have trouble knowing how to explain it to the friends you want to tell. The longer you wait, though, the more you have to tell. That’s why I wanted to post this update now!

At the beginning of the year, a guy named Norman Hubbard posted a comment on my Caring Bridge wall. I recognized his name immediately as a speaker at (Camp) Forest Springs. A friend had already paid for us to go hear Norman speak this summer, because they knew how similar his story is to mine. His wife, Katie, passed away from cancer in January 2016 when he still had three (of four) kids at home. 

His words on Caring Bridge meant a lot to me, and we began to message each other to share encouragement. As our conversations continued online and over the phone, I realized that God was doing something terrifically unexpected. He was bringing a guy into my life at a time and in a way neither of us would have envisioned!

Rather than tell the story in my words, I want to copy below what Norman has just posted to his friends on his Caring Bridge site. It will serve as an introduction to our friendship and to him. At the end of his post, I’ll also share a few details about him that you might want to know. 

**** {Norman’s Caring Bridge post} **** 

In Psalm 30, David writes, “One may lie down weeping at night, but with the morning come shouts of joy.“ If you’re like me, you tend to read lines like this as pleasing poetry, not a prediction about life. In the real world, when you lie down weeping, you usually wake up tired.

One of the reasons I spend lots of time in the psalms, though, is that they speak to me from outside my limited experience of life in a fallen world. The Scriptures offer a divine perspective on my days and help me look toward a horizon that God alone can make possible. 

For instance, the last stanza of Psalm 30 has this line, “You turned my mourning into dancing. You undid my sackcloth and girded me with joy.” This was the psalmist’s actual experience of life with God in the real world. From the context, it appears that King David had been very sick, and God had healed him. He lived through a marvelous reversal, where his fear and despondency were turned to joy and dancing, and it seemed to happen overnight. 

Because this psalm was collected in the canon of Scripture, we know it’s not merely a private memoir of one man’s good fortune. God intends for His people to read it, reflect on it, pray over it, and sing. It’s not simply that God performed a miracle; rather, He is the kind of God who turns sadness into joy. When we meditate on a psalm like this, we are not simply to say, “What a great thing God did!” but “What a great God He is!” What is more, we are probably invited to ask in our hearts, “Could it be that God might overthrow my sorrow, not simply help me bear it?”

These were my meditations as the new year began. Then, I met Kristy Sterken.

Kristy and I were introduced by a mutual friend who knew we had both lost our spouses to cancer. (Kristy’s husband, Dan, passed away in the Fall of 2018.) At first, we were just swapping encouragement on Caring Bridge and Facebook because we could relate to the sorrow of losing a spouse and the demands of single-parenting. (Kristy lives in St. Paul, MN with her three kids: Abby, 13; Lauren, 11; and Tytus, 7.) Very quickly, however, I discovered that my admiration for Kristy was getting stratospheric. 

No one who knows Kristy would be surprised at this. Everyone admires her who has spent an hour with her. I was, however, totally taken aback at my feelings. I had assumed — wrongly, I now know — that I would never be able to develop feelings for a woman as I had for Katie.

Then, I met Kristy.

My admiration very quickly became indistinguishable from attraction, and my relatively stable (and slightly melancholy) world got overthrown in an instant. We both began to talk with our immediate family and close counselors, so that some wiser, objective voices were speaking into our lives. My favorite moment came when I told my mom and dad-in-law about Kristy, and mom said, “You need to drive to MN right away to meet this girl and see if this is really a thing.”

Needless to say, mom (Hansen) did not have to repeat that advice. I drove to MN in mid-January to see if Kristy was real, and I left in disbelief that such a woman still lived on earth. Of course, I didn’t tell her that right away. Instead, I began pouring out my heart to God on paper.

I have journaled approximately 17,000 pages over the past couple of months as I have talked to God and sensed God speaking to me.

Everyone who works in campus ministry knows this is a pretty common phenomenon among Christian guys. They tend to journal furiously when they start falling in love. I just never thought it would happen to me.

Then, I met Kristy.

Of course, we both wondered what our kids would think if (when?) we told them that we were developing a close friendship with another man/woman. I wish time and space permitted me to tell the story, but I’ll simply say our kids have been very positive about the relationship we are in. It’s been a particular joy to watch Joseph jump in with the Sterken kids when we (or they) have visited.

This past weekend was the sixth time we’ve visited each other but the first time all our kids were in the same place at once: seven kids, two parents, one international student, one friend from college, one other (girl)friend from college, miscellaneous relatives, and two dogs. The laughter, loudness, and good food felt really familiar, kind of like an old song that’s been remade by a new band you like.

Kristy and I felt like it would be good to make this introduction to you on Caring Bridge because we’ve made enough public appearances that word will begin getting out. I cannot possibly hope that this brief update will satisfy all your questions. I can, however, point you to the blog that Kristy kept up during Dan’s illness and after his passing. (Search for ‘Dan Sterken’ on Caring Bridge.) This will be a better introduction to her family’s journey than I could give here.

Let me leave you with a portion of a journal entry I wrote a few weeks ago, where I tried to capture what I thought the Lord was saying to me about my own insecurities and hopes for the future: 

“O my son … do you now wonder that I should turn your life around in an instant? Can I not now answer all your prayers as God (not as a man)? Let me restore the years in my way. Do not tell me how difficult it must be to move forward. No man has the right to tell me how my world must be governed, how I must behave.

“Your expectations? What were they to Me but prayers I took and transformed? Has not my Spirit been translating these things into requests fit for My ears all along?

If you are surprised or filled with questions about this post, welcome to my world! It’s a good one, after all, a world where “one may lie down weeping at night” and wake up to shouts of joy in the morning. I didn’t think this would be my own experience …

Then, I met Kristy Joy(!) Sterken.

**** {A few facts about Norman … } ****

- Norman has worked on staff with the Navigators in campus ministry for the past 20 years.
- He has an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and is working on an MDiv degree from Denver Seminary (online).
- Norman lives in Neenah, WI in a house in between his in-laws and brother-in-law and sister-in-law.
- Norman is really good-looking and has great hair!
- He is very tall - he is 12 inches taller than me when I am on my tiptoes!
- Norman enjoys my cooking.
- We have spoken on the phone for at least 1,000 hours in the past 2.5 months.
- If you would like to get to know Norman (and Katie) better, be blessed by reading their Caring Bridge page here:  

Journal entry by kristy sterken

This is how Abby feels after being part of her school play “Mary Poppins” this past weekend! She played the part of “Robertson Aye” , a silly maid to the Banks family.

She had so much fun practicing, memorizing and prepping for it. I am thankful she tried out for the play this year - she was able to build new relationships and build her confidence doing something fun.

Another great part of the weekend was that Dan’s parents made a long drive over from Michigan to see Abby in the play and to visit us. It’s always nice spending time with them and we are so thankful for their continued investment in our lives.

We are looking forward to spring break in one week! We will be able to spend a week in PA with my parents, grand-parents and siblings. This is a very rare occurrence as we live all over the world! We are all staying in a big farmhouse which should be a great adventure with 5 parents and 9 kids ranging from ages 14 to 5! Stay posted for photos!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

We thought we would join the Caring Bridge community to keep people updated in a quicker, more consistent (I hope!) manner. Please feel free to invite others to follow along on our journey this way!

Our visit to Mayo clinic last month went fine. There is nothing more they can do that isn't already being done at the clinic here. On one hand, we are thankful that we are good hands in Minneapolis, on the other, we wish there was a magic potion Dan could drink to get rid of the cancer! Dan continues with chemo while also doing some radiation for some of the tumors that have become visible under his skin. We are also trying to keep up his immune system with juicing and essential oils.

Please pray that Dan will be able to find some relief from the pain he has as well as good energy to accomplish things throughout the day.
Dan’s Story

Site created on August 28, 2018

Welcome to our Caring Bridge website. Dan was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in September of 2017. Following chemo, radiation and surgery in June, that diagnosis changed to stage 4 medically incurable cancer, having spread to other parts of his body. While this is an extremely difficult time in our lives, we are trusting God to teach us many things about Him, ourselves, and to be a blessing to other people.

Our family is so thankful for everyone's love, care, encouragement and support through this very difficult time.