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!
Patients and caregivers love hearing from you; add a comment to show your support.
Show your love and support for Dan.
Make a donation to CaringBridge to keep Dan’s site up and running.

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:  


  • Joseph (11), Norman (47), Kristy (41), Tytus (7), Lauren (11), Rachel (18), Abby (14), Kayla (19), Tom (22), & Barkley (2)
    Joseph (11), Norman (47), Kristy (41), Tytus (7), Lauren (11), ...

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

I thought this would be a good time to share a slice of our lives with some photos and a written update!

Abby (13) has been busy this winter with basketball, ski team, playing cello, and practicing for a Mary Poppins play at her school. I appreciate that she is an excellent student and also that she is very well-rounded. She enjoys spending time being active and also hanging out with friends. 

We we have been blessed by many people showing up for basketball games - this has been very encouraging to her as it shows how many people care about her and the things she loves!

Lauren (11) has had a rough winter with various respiratory illnesses and when she’s not struggling with those, there are always plenty of doctor visits for her. This has been overwhelming for me at times, trying to be in many places at once, but I am learning how to continue asking people for help and taking one day at a time!

Lauren is a joy to be with - she almost always has a smile on her face and adores her siblings. She seems to be processing Dan’s death the hardest, I think largely due to her lack of verbal processing. I am thankful for the many people she has around her at home, school and at church who draw her out and care for her.

Lauren received tickets to go see “Daniel Tiger Live” this past weekend. She has all the episodes memorized and loved the afternoon spent at the theater with her awesome friend from school!

Tytus (7) is enjoying piano, dodgeball and climbing club. It has been fun watching him try some new things this school year. He has solid friends at school and also people who are intentional with him. Recently, he was invited to go to the opening day of the LEGO 2 Movie which he loved!

I continue to enjoy my teaching job and am blessed to work with great students and amazing staff. It’s incredible what a blessing a positive work environment is! I look forward to going to work each day and doing something I love! I also am staying connected with international students as much as I can. 

I am so thankful for the friendships I have been able to make because of Dan’s illness and death. There are many people here in MN (and all over!) who continue to reach out with practical help and support and I am indebted to them!

Overall, the kids and I are moving forward, having fun, enjoying life and feel much joy. God has been so good to us in so many ways. He writes the best stories and we will keep following close to Him!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

It seems like we always have a new “God story” to share with you all!

Through a series of events, we were able to purchase a brand new accessible van that will work well for Lauren. We received it this past Thursday, and we are so, so thankful for God‘s provision to us through many of you!

Thank you so much for all who gave through the GoFund Me site! We used all of that money to purchase this van and I am looking forward to driving something that is reliable and does not have mechanical issues or tire trouble!

Prior to his death, Dan told me repeatedly to purchase a reliable van once he was gone. I figured our current one would last us a while, but since November, it’s been at the mechanic 4 times! 

Not only were we able to purchase the van, but we got a “smokin’ deal” by getting it from a company out of Kentucky that does affordable conversions. If you are looking for a handicap accessible van, they are the ones to connect with!

Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for your part in making this happen. We are very blessed!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

I have been asked often “how does it feel to be 2 months out?” Well, it certainly doesn’t feel like 2 months! It feels like 2 years. 20 years even. Time is seemingly d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g by. The days feel short and full and mostly filled with laughter, joy, and normal life events. But weeks and months seem to drag out.

Processing grief has taken time as well. I felt a deeper sense of sadness and despair when Dan was first diagnosed as terminal and in his last months and weeks than I do now. He is whole and with his Jesus.

I have been reading several books on grief, etc. One of the most impactful ones so far has been “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser. He lost 3 family members in a horrific car crash and speaks of how his soul grew through the loss.

Some nuggets I have gleaned are as follows:

- Darkness is inevitable and unavoidable. Walk in it rather than try to outrun it.

- The experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of my life. The defining moment can be my RESPONSE to the loss. It is not what happens TO us that matters as much as what happens IN us.

- We don’t always have the freedom to choose the roles we must play in life, but we can choose how we are going to play the roles we have been given. 

I have decided that with God’s help, Dan’s death will not define me. It has left a huge imprint on my soul and the life of our family, but we desire to have it change who we are, to become more like Jesus. 

I have determined to walk in the darkness and not avoid it. As yucky as it feels at times, the deeper in I go, “the deeper I can enter into a new and different life - a life no worse and sometimes better.”

Thanks for continuing to care for us in so many tangible ways!! We are not alone!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

I was reminded by a colleague today that it’s been a while since I have posted! He did not say those words, he was just very encouraging in his words to me and made me realize what a help posting on here is to me on this journey.

It helps me to have to process what is happening inwardly and outwardly. It gives me accountability which I feel like I have less of now that Dan is gone. It keeps a record of events that have happened. I am so bad at keeping a personal journal - I would much rather leave one for the world to read!

December was a mixed bag of good, hard, tears, joy, anger. No despair or anxiety. Much peace and hope. I know this is because many of you continue to pray for our family. Thank you!!

It seemed to me as if the “fun” had been sucked out of Christmas. The tree was set up thanks to the kids, but the Christmas bins sat on my bedroom floor the remainder of the month. I didn’t have the heart to do any decorating. We kept “Sparkles”, our elf on the shelf, busy with different shenanigans each night. And the kids were gifted 3 different Advent calendars which created some parenting opportunities. So the excitement and joy of the season seemed to remain mostly intact for them, for which I am so grateful.

We were blessed with so many gifts. My work colleagues are simply amazing and dropped off a trunk load of surprises for us. We were blown away and still have not opened everything!

January 1 was harder for me than Christmas Day. Maybe it was due to the fact that we are entering a new year. An entire year we will spend withOUT our sweet husband and dad. A new year to navigate all the unknowns of the future. A year of parenting by myself (I feel worse for the kids than I do for myself!) Dan was so good at balancing me and a calm and patient parent. I am the opposite. Prayers appreciated!!

I am back to work and loving it. I feel useful, wanted and productive. I have noticed that I miss the affirmation from Dan about my worth as a person, a mom, a wife, etc. That’s why my job seems more fulfilling! But then I remember where my worth truly is. Not in what people think or say, but who God says I am. A lesson I learn over and over. 

I’ll share next time some things I am learning as I have been reading a variety of books on grief. I have been blessed by others who have walked the road of loss and want to share some of those things. 

Thanks for all you do to keep us putting one foot in front of the other and to help in so many tangible ways. Thank you just doesn’t cut it!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

It certainly is new, but does not seem normal.

It doesn't seem normal for young kids to not have a dad who can read with them, wrestle with them or process life events with them.

It doesn't seem normal to have to set up a Christmas tree without Dan.

It doesn't seem normal to learn how to make 1/4 coffee pot of coffee every morning.

For some, this is a daily reality. And I am thankful that I can understand this better now. For us, this has become our new reality.

It also doesn't seem normal for people to be buying our family's Christmas gifts. Or to receive offers of helping us buy a tree and set it up in our living room. Or to receive piles of cards in the mail every day. Or to not have to cook a meal in an entire year!

We are so thankful for everyone who has reached out, written cards, sent money, made meals, prayed, and spent time with us. THANK YOU seems pretty shallow to say how we feel.

It's been almost a month since Dan's passing. These days have gone by so slowly. Some mornings I dread getting out of bed. Many nights I dread going to bed. The kids help keep life moving forward and keep the days full and fun.

One of the pictures below is probably what you would expect - the kids are decorating the tree with smiles on their faces. The next pictures paints a bigger picture - while they were doing this, I was crying under the covers. I could not bear to sit and watch them decorate. It was too much for me. God showed up again during this time and 2 friends texted me, wondering how I was doing. It was a huge blessing to me to know that people were thinking about us, even though I was feeling so yucky and alone.

God has entrusted us with this road to walk and we appreciate your prayers in knowing how to do it well! It will not be wasted!

Journal entry by kristy sterken

We have had the blessing of having lots of family and friends around this past week. My sister flew in from Indonesia, my parents from Europe, my brother came from the east coast and my aunt, uncle, and cousins also drove and flew long distances to be with us during this time. Dan's parents, brothers and families spent part of last week and the rest of this week with us. I am so thankful for these blessings! (Enjoy the pics and I didn't take enough of everyone who was there, so this is just a sampling!)

I love how everyone pitches in with help with the kids, food prep, cleaning, laundry, errands, and even oil changes! The number of cards we received at the service as well as daily in the mail has blown me away. Thank you!! It's always an adventure to go to the mailbox! Thank you also to those of you who have contributed financially. I will be forever grateful as Dan always handled the finances and I have no clue what it takes us to stay afloat! God is taking care of our family!

Thanks for your prayers for the kids and me. We have this whole week off school for Thanksgiving, but I know once next week hits, family has departed and kids go back to school, things will get hard. We will feel sad and lonely. We will be mad and frustrated. I am certain we will be short with each other and there will be some yelling. Pray we will "lean in" to the grief and have the wisdom to know how to face it and grow from it. There is purpose in the process and God is there to help us through!

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.