Friday, August 17, 2018

Fifty Seven

My 57th birthday began this morning in sunny Split, Croatia!

Dave and I traveled down here from Czech yesterday, spent the night in a Pepto Bismol colored room last night (think PINK!!!) and then headed down to the ferry to go across to the island of Hvar.

During our years of family vacation between 2008-2011, I spent four birthdays in a row on Hvar as we camped on the south side with our kids and dear friends. I was here for one other birthday three years ago when Caleb and Haley had finished their JV summer internship.

And now today - I'm back here in this place I love so much!

Some things haven't changed here, like that beautiful view of the harbor at sunset.

But some things have dairy free ice cream that's now available on the waterfront. WHAT???!!! How could this possibly be so good and yet be dairy free??!!!

While birthdays spent with family and friends have always been so sweet, it's special to be just with Dave today...especially because he's spoiling me! πŸ˜‰

He's game for all the pictures that I want to take.

And game to just sit here as the sun sets and people watch!!

He let me wander through a very cool exhibition being held in the old Arsenal, a building that was originally completed in 1331! It served as a shipyard, but later as a theatre that's known to be one of the oldest in Europe.

Right now it's housing a gallery of modern art that is quite impressive! I really enjoyed walking through it all.

With no time schedule or restraints on my birthday, we wandered through the streets of Hvar Town, enjoying the warm summer evening and more people watching.

With Dave giving me the choice of where to eat for my birthday, I chose to come to this side of the harbor.

While there are some things that I like to try new, when it comes to my birthday, I like something that I know is good. And this is it!

If I have the choice, I'll choose lamb every time! Oh there is just nothing like it here in Croatia, fresh off the wood grill!

Not only that, but it's at a restaurant that we visited just a few weeks ago when we were here with our friends - so I knew it would be a good one!

Seating is tight and limited here, but the waiter tucked us into a table for two and we had the sweetest dinner together.

And believe it or not, our table was one of the only ones with a fresh rose on it...a birthday perk!

Thank you Dave for making my day so special, and thank you to many family and friends who sent birthday greetings one way or another. They all meant so much to me!

Thank you Mom and Dad for having me! πŸ˜‰

And thank you Father, for being the giver of life...fifty seven years ago, and still to this day.

I'm grateful to be alive, and plan to live this coming year with my heart aligned to all He has for me, full of joy, prayer, love and devotion to the Giver of Life!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Balm for the Soul

On Tuesday night, when Tyler, Lara and the boys came to celebrate my birthday, they left with an extra passenger in their car.

Kaylee is spending her "vacation" in Ostrava with Judah, Asher and their parents! πŸ˜‚ She is being taken care of very happily by the boys, each of them eager to have a turn at holding her leash as they take her for walks every day.

"Thanks for having her as your "guest" Tyler, Lara, Judah and Asher!"

While the boys and Kaylee are having a vacation, of sorts, together, Dave and I are off on our vacation too.

Leaving early this morning, we made a few stops along the way as we headed down to Croatia.

I tell you, McDonalds just keeps upping their game! It's actually a nice place to get a quick bite to eat, and even a few treats as well.

The roads were surprisingly empty of traffic as we drove, with almost no wait at the border. That's a bonus to our 12 hour drive today.

As we drove we were talking about which spots along the way say "We're almost there".

One of them is definitely here.

This nearly 6 kilometer long tunnel pierces through the gigantic mountain range that then drops down into the Zadar coastal region, about two hours from Split where we catch the ferry over to Hvar. It's like dropping into a whole other world when you get to the other side.

It's especially beautiful when you drive into the sunset!

We stopped at one of our most favorite restaurants in Croatia, which happens to be at a rest stop.

Odmoriste-Krka is a beautiful stop with many different options for food, drink, ice cream and souvenirs. Above the Krka river that leads out to the Adriatic, and near Skradin, the town below where you can enter Krka National Park and see the beautiful waterfalls, it never disappoints!

A short hour's drive from there, we finally arrived into Split and found our little room for the night, before we continue on tomorrow to Hvar. Day one of vacation was balm for the soul!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Birthday Joy

My birthday is in just a few days, so what does that mean?

Giving a present to my little grandsons! πŸ˜‚ While shopping at one of our local stores today, I happened to see this "Noah's Ark" and knew they'd enjoy it at Papa and Nonnie's house. We had so much fun unwrapping and discovering every animal!

But what else does my birthday mean?

I love Judah's latest response to when you say "Smile"!

An evening with the family over at our house! While Lara and Claire cooked dinner, Tyler came out with the boys and I and indulged me by taking photos while we had fun.

Some bubbles I'd tucked away a few months ago for such a time as this were discovered by Judah this afternoon as he sat at my counter (they were in a basket that he could only see from that vantage point). I was so glad he saw them because honestly, I'd forgotten that I'd put them there!

Oh the simple joys of blowing bubbles, chasing them or watching them drift through the yard.

Spying the watering cans that their mommy had brought to our house for them to use when daddy started planting his garden here, that became our next fun activity together...watering Nonnie's flowers.

In his sweet little voice Judah would say, "Fill it up!!" every time he had emptied his can.

You can never go wrong with some sort of activity with water on a summer's evening!

Back to bubble blowing...Asher was entranced by them.

And Judah couldn't get enough of chasing those beautifully colored orbs!

Ah but then...the garden house called our names. And soon it was jumping off the porch that became the next fun thing to do with Nonnie!

Not to be left out, Asher wanted his turn too.

Who knew with such a small jump that my hair would do that?!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Soon we got the call from inside that dinner was ready so made our way to the house.

And captured a little picture of the family before sitting down to a great meal together.

You can't see Asher, but he's there, sitting next to his mommy, behind the green plant!

Tyler and Lara brought a special birthday cake for me from Ollie's, a wonderful bakery in Ostrava. What a decadent treat that was...and gluten free to boot!

Everyone, including Judah who knows the words now, sang happy birthday to me before I blew out my candles.

What a sweet birthday celebration with my dear ones!

Monday, August 13, 2018

In the Air Again

Yesterday morning I said goodbye to these dear friends, Jay and Jerri Kayll.

Having been friends for 34 years, it was such a delight to stay with them while in Denver for my niece's wedding. Two nights was just not long enough to get caught up, but we made the most of it and logged a lot of hours of conversation these past two days.

I forgot to take a picture of me as a "pack mule", but caught this one right after I checked everything in that was going back to Czech.

I had only come with a carry-on, but went back with these three bins.

No, I'm not stocking up on American clothing, food supplies or English language books. Rather, I'm transporting things for Caleb and Haley in anticipation of their departure for Albania in September!

My routing for the trip back took me through Chicago, which turned out to be a mere 25 minutes long after a delay getting out of Denver. I wasn't positive I'd make it on the flight over the ocean, and was almost certain that the bins wouldn't be in Krakow when I arrived. But sure enough! There they were...the first off the belt at baggage claim.

I used my best muscles and man-handled those heavy bins to and into my car, and then made the two hour drive home after my whirlwind trip to the States.

Gone for 80 hours, I was in Denver for 46 hours and traveled for 34. It was absolutely and totally worth all those hours to be there for my dear niece, Kyrie, her parents and the rest of the family and friends who celebrated her marriage to Jake!

Thankful for the sweetness of these past days.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Kyrie and Jacob Fuqua!

This evening near Denver, Colorado, in one of the most beautiful backyards I've ever seen, I witnessed the wedding of my niece, Kyrie Schroeder to her groom, Jacob Fuqua!

My two nephews, Justin and Jonathan, escorted their mom down the aisle to begin the festive occasion.

A beautiful procession of wedding party attendants entered, ending with the best man, the groom's brother, alongside the matron of honor, the bride's sister!

The nephew and nieces of Kyrie served as honorary ring bearer and...

...darling flower girls!

And then...the most beautiful of all today came down the aisle on her dad's arm!

Grandpa Patty greeted everyone from the front, and then prayed for his granddaughter and her soon-to-be husband.

Sweet hugs followed for Kyrie's dad....

...and of course, her beloved mom!

Kyrie's dad then stepped to the front, and with such deep love and emotion, performed the ceremony of marriage for these two.

As the sun set over the Rocky Mountains, just as Kyrie had always dreamed of for her wedding day, their parents stepped to the front to pray over their children for God's blessing.

And after that most anticipated and long-awaited announcement of "I now pronounce you husband and wife", they sealed their wedding vows in front of their wedding party and guests with a first kiss as Mr and Mrs Jacob Fuqua!

They then made their way down the aisle amidst the bubbles of joy over them from all of their guests!

What a gorgeous setting it was for their vows of love and commitment on this beautiful Saturday evening!

Down the aisle they walked, amidst the sunflowers that came from Kyrie's parents' garden, and past the logs of wood that came from Patty land in Oregon, as well as logs from Colorado, representing Kyrie's heritage. It truly was one of the most beautiful and magical wedding evenings.

As the reception began, which was to last into the evening, I caught a few pictures of some dear ones here to celebrate the happy bride and groom.

That's my niece, Rebecca, who grew up in Slovenia alongside her family who still serve with us in Josiah Venture. She is now heading into her junior year of college at California Baptist, majoring in biblical studies and theater. How sweet to be at the wedding with her today!

And these lovely ladies are all special and important people to the mother of the bride!

They represent Joyce's friendships beginning in Englewood, CO where she grew up, to early years of ministry with Malachi in Germany, and on to life back in Colorado when she and David returned and he took over leadership for Cadence International.

Jill, third from the left, just arrived this afternoon after being at her own daughter's wedding just last night in Delaware! These ladies love Joyce and her family...including me!

The first dance of the newly married couple commenced soon after.

It could not have been a more gorgeous setting to watch Kyrie dance first with her groom, and then with her dad.

But then the party really began as her siblings and brother and sister in-law joined them for a family dance!

I don't know if you ever watch You Tube videos of wedding dances like I do (what's not to love about a happy dance at a wedding?!) but this one took the prize as the most fun, winsome and happy dance by Kyrie and her family...ending with a dip by her groom, Jacob!

Want to see the the dance? I'm certainly no videographer, but I'm so glad I captured this!

There was actually a lot of dancing at their wedding! With a really excellent DJ choosing the happiest music to dance to, we all danced our way through the evening's festivities!

This was one of those evenings where it felt like you were living in a scene from the ending of a very happy movie! You wanted the evening to just keep going as the joy and love flowed onto Jacob and Kyrie.

But there is life to get on to for them, so we waved them off amidst a sea of glow sticks, wishing them our happiest blessings for a life of love and joy, wrapped up in their commitment to each other and to the Lord.

And while Rilyn, the flower girl, picked up the glow sticks after her aunt's beautiful wedding, we all meandered to our cars feeling the last glow of happiness for having shared in this evening of deep love for Jacob and Kyrie.

"Jacob and Kyrie, may the happiness that you and your guests felt this evening at your wedding, continue on throughout your married life! 

May the joy and love of Christ you experienced tonight spill out of you and onto all those you come in contact with, spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God to the world around you. 

As your aunt, I'm so proud of you two for the way you love each other, and for exuding that love to all of us. What a joy to celebrate you tonight! I love you!!!"