Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nothing Quite Like It

What happens when you gather together JV family members to celebrate Thanksgiving at Hotel Malenovice?

A whole lot of this!

Endless conversations, lots of laughter, dozens of lattes and hot chocolates from the cafe, good food and many dear faces, all of whom you want to hug and connect with.

Dave and I walked in the door at 5 PM and started into conversations with our dear family...and were still talking as we walked out the door at 10:30 PM! I literally didn't think to take a photo of the good time people (and we!) were having until just before we were ready to head home for the night. These are very sweet days to share with our dear JV family.

The hotel is completely packed so we're staying at home, but we'll be up there tomorrow for the big celebration! Imagine having Thanksgiving with 130 of your favorite cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews??

There's nothing quite like it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Search of Pumpkin

My quest started with an idea today.

Thinking about our JV family Thanksgiving celebration that begins tomorrow night, I thought Pumpkin Bars with cream cheese frosting (gluten free of course) sounded like a nice addition to our dessert table on Thursday, which of course will be loaded with all sorts of amazing selections...but why not one more?!

Cue number one problem with idea.

This convenient can does not exist in the Czech Republic.

For twenty two years I've hoped that one day I'd walk through the aisles of my grocery stores and find a can or jar of pumpkin.

It's not that there aren't canned vegetables here. There are plenty, in fact! How about mixed vegetables?

Red beets anyone??

Or you could try hot chilis!

And what about sweet and sour red pepper slices?

Alas, none of those will do in place of pumpkin. And as always, there's no canned pumpkin to be found, at least not in any of my regular grocery stores.

Well, except for the baby food section. Would you, or your baby, try some pumpkin with salmon and zuchinni?? Maybe it's good, but not in my pumpkin bars!

With no convenient way to get pumpkin for the recipe, it was off to the vegetable aisle. To get it the "old fashioned" way!

Right now, as I type, these little pumpkins are roasting in my oven.

After they've finished roasting I'll let them cool, then scoop the pumpkin out of the shell. It will sit in a strainer overnight to get rid of excess water, then tomorrow I'll puree it in my food processor and use it to make the recipe.

I don't mind doing these steps, but I'd take a can of Libby's right now if it was available!

I've done this before, but every time I do it feels like the first time. I guess that's because I only do it at this time of year. And why?

Because it wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving without something made from pumpkin!

PS a day later: The pumpkin bars turned out amazing!! If you're gluten free, give them a try!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Beating Jet Lag

Back in May a team member posted on our JV Facebook page this article by a man named Brian Tracy. If you're a traveler, it's a must read.

It absolutely revolutionized jet lag for me.

I've tried it four times now: twice going to the States and twice returning to Europe. I am astonished at its effectiveness. It may sound simple, and I wish I understood the physiology of it. But at the end of the day all I know is: it works!

Because I wasn't napping this afternoon (as I used to do try to avoid when jet lagging), I was treated to this stunning sight outside my door. I love where I live!

Imagine my surprise when just an hour later this started happening.

Having not checked to see what our weather was supposed to be, it completely shocked me to see flurries of snow!

There wasn't a big accumulation, but there's more snow in the forecast so who knows what we're in store for. I know snow has already hit parts of the States (I made it out of Chicago just a few hours before they had snow on Friday night!), so that means winter season is now upon many of us.

Who knows, maybe our 4th annual JV Turkey Trot on Thursday morning will be a snowy one? Stay tuned for that update!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Changes, Travel, and Home

After saying goodbye to Tyler, Lara and Judah on Thursday night, I drove into Chicago to spend my last night of this precious time in the States, with Claire at her apartment.

She and I headed over bright and early to Joe's to enjoy one last coffee from Caleb, who will be finishing up his position there as he graduates from Moody in just four weeks.

While Caleb made the latte for me, his co-worker wrote on my cup!

This too was an emotional goodbye for me.

Right after he finishes finals in December, he and Haley pack up their apartment and move to Colorado for the next season of their lives. I'm thrilled about this for them! But it also means they'll be gone from Chicago next time we come through. And that was the last coffee from him as a barista/manager at Joe's. I don't know why, but I get sentimental about things like that!

After hugs and words of love with Caleb, Claire and I headed down the street from Moody to a breakfast place for our last time together.

Thankfully this is only a short goodbye with her! I'll be seeing her again in just four weeks when she's back home for Christmas. Whew. The Lord knows how much change I can handle at one time! It will be nice to have her home for a few weeks.

After a delicious breakfast and sweet, deep conversation, it was time to say goodbye. We began to take a "selfie" when someone from a nearby table offered to take the picture for us. I love friendly Americans!

I won't lie. The trip to the airport to drop off my rental car and then catch my flight was a teary one. Life is changing, again. And while these are all good changes, there is loss too. Our kids will no longer be all together in Chicago, new phases of life are being entered in to for all of them, our kids' college years are almost at the end, and of course there's a new grandson who we now live an ocean away from.

Claire and I talked about that at breakfast, acknowledging the emotion that loss brings for us. I started a sentence with, "If you don't acknowledge the loss..." and then Claire finished it with, "'re not a human being."

We both laughed, with tears in our eyes, at the simplicity and yet profoundness of that truth we're in the midst of figuring out. Yes, we're human and changes are not easy. But we're admitting to our sadness in change and I think that allows us to move through it in a healthy way.

When those changes press us further into the Lord to find in him our safety and security, it's a good thing. We'll all come out stronger and deeper in our relationship with him, and each other, as we move forward through the changes.

After thirty three hours of airports, flights, and more than a few cups of coffee to keep me going, I made it home safely last night, full of beautiful memories of these past weeks in the States.

As hard as it is to be away from my kids, and sweet new grandson, I want nothing more than to be in the place where God wants me to be. And I know that's here, in Czech, with Dave.

It doesn't make the heartache any less, but it does bring peace to my heart and assurance that God will be with me and lead me every step of the way as I enter into yet another new season of life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Last Day, For Now

As this day dawned, I didn't want to head into. Why? It's the last day, for now, with Tyler, Lara and Judah.

It reminded me of the last day six and a half years ago, before we put Tyler on a plane to the US, bound for college in Chicago. How clearly I remember waking up and not wanting it to be "the" day. "Too hard, too much, too sad," my heart was crying as I thought about saying goodbye to my first child leaving home.

And so I felt this morning when I woke. This time the goodbye is not just to some of my kids, but to a grandson. That's brings up a whole new level of emotion.

Yet, time doesn't stop. You get up the same as any day and head into it, knowing God's "got you" and that you'll get through it somehow.

After a fun trip to Babies R Us to do some shopping for Judah (thanks to a gift card from a dear friend of mine), we headed back to their house for the last evening together.

One part of me didn't want to take any photos, but only live right in the moment with Tyler, Lara and Judah.

But I know myself! I knew I'd regret that when I'm back home in Czech trying to remember what it felt like to see Tyler and Lara hold their son, what it felt like for me to hold my grandson. So a few photos were taken to remember.

And I'm so glad I did! I want to remember moments like this of seeing my daughter-in-law so in love already with her little son.

And how glad I am to remember what it felt like to have Judah snuggled up close to me.

And even to remember the deep emotion I felt in that last moment of saying goodbye to him.

As I handed Judah back to his mommy, and took one last photo of the three of them before leaving, I felt my heart positively bursting with love for this dear little family.

While it's the last day with them for now, and I do feel sad about that, I am also feeling so utterly grateful to the Lord, and to them, for letting me share in these early days of their new family. It's a memory I'll treasure forever.