Friday, December 15, 2017

Heading to Peoria

Bright and early this morning Dave and I were at the Frankfurt airport to catch a flight to Chicago. After an uneventful flight (we like those kind) we landed. And not too long after arrival picked up some friends along the way.

Dan and Laura Hash, our long time best friends and teammates who began Josiah Venture with us 24 years ago, had also flown into Chicago to head down south in Illinois for a special wedding!

A gorgeous sunset, that seemed to last indefinitely, propelled us forward to Peoria, Illinois.

This is the location for the wedding of Noah and Jill...soon to be Ellenwood's!

We gathered with our other best friends, Mel and Amy, and a company of others who have come from long distances to be here for their son's wedding.

It was an evening of the richest kind! Mel's dad prepared an incredible fajita feast with all the fixings...brought all the way from Texas!

Amy's friends and family from this area where she grew up, helped to facilitate this incredible event for family and friends, literally from around the globe, who came in for the rehearsal dinner, held at the church where Noah and Jill will marry tomorrow (which is the church Amy grew up in, and where Jill and her family still attend).

After the delicious feast, a sweet program began, starting with Noah and Jill sharing their incredible story and journey to this day. It's a story that only God could have woven together!

The entire wedding party then gathered around them and shared delightful stories, rich encouragements and words of kindness over them.

This is Tomas, a friend from the Czech Republic who came to be Noah's best man!

And after all those words had been given to them, prayers of blessing were prayed as we gathered around to lift them up to the Lord's guidance and care as they begin their life together.

To hear the prayers of many who have loved and cared about these two throughout their lives choked me up. And when Mel prayed thanking the Lord for this woman for Noah, that he and Amy have prayed for his entire life, I cried. What a tender moment.

Noah and Jill have hearts fully and whole heartedly devoted to following the Lord. And there is a cloud of witnesses right here in Peoria, Illinois who will continue to stand with them in love and support as they begin their journey together.

We are all so excited to see where the Lord leads them! Wherever that is, we know they will be incredible ambassadors for him, making disciples along the way.

Looking forward to tomorrow's big day as they become husband and wife!!!!

Christmas Came Early

We woke up in Prague this morning after a short night's sleep and headed for the airport to begin our journey towards Chicago, and the wedding that we're going to there.

There is a bit of a crazy story related to this particular trip, starting with the fact that I booked it back in July in order to get the best price. However, part of the deal with such a good price on tickets was that we'd have to spend the night in Frankfurt before continuing on with the journey. The ticketing had us arriving in the evening, spending the night, and heading on to Chicago early the next morning.

But a month later, I got an email from United saying that they'd changed our tickets (no explanation) and now we would arrive in the morning, which meant we'd have the whole day in Germany.

With a whole day in front of us, we made a plan.

And that plan happened today!

Some of you reading this know that Dave and I first met in Germany on an evangelism team who ministered to the US military. Much of our dating relationship took place there, we were married there, and all three of our children were born there! It's a special place to us.

So it made sense to return to Heidelberg, the big city we lived near back in those days, and enjoy revisiting some of our favorite places.

We pulled off the autobahn at a very familiar exit, one that went to Patrick Henry Village, the US military base where we served in our last few years in Germany.

On one hand it hasn't changed at all, and on the other, it's completely different. The US military pulled out of Heidelberg in 2012 and no longer has a presence here. The community was turned into a refugee processing center, and we weren't able to go in, only stop at the gate. Wow, the memories of driving in here for youth group at the chapel!

From there we headed downtown to walk the familiar "Hauptstrasse", excited to see the "Weihnachtsmarkt" for the first time in 27 years. The last time I was here for it, Tyler was five months old!

Under typically gray, cloudy skies, we wandered the whole length of the main walking street, reminiscing about our lives back then, and what Heidelberg meant to us.

Down towards the end of the mile long walking street, we came to one of the main squares with the Christmas shops filling it. In the shape of a typical German Christmas windmill that is powered by candles, this beautiful replica serves as the main spot for food and drinks!

Of course we had to get something, opting for hot apple cider (though most everyone else is having hot mulled wine or beer!).

Dave asked for "to go" cups and we were surprised when the man handed us Christmas mugs!

With warm drinks in hand, we continued our stroll down memory land, coming to this spot where we got our first glimpse of the famous Heidelberg castle.

We attended concerts up there, took guests to tour it, and often just walked up there because it's so pretty!

Wanting a better view of it, and on a mission to get to one more memorable spot, we headed over the old Heidelberg bridge.

Even though it was cloudy, and nearing evening, the view was still as spectacular as ever!

But our true reason for coming over to this side of the bridge? To remember the turning point in our relationship!

This is the spot where Dave first kissed me, on his birthday in 1986!! I'd been around him enough to hear him say that he would never a kiss a girl that he wasn't willing to marry...and I was the first one he ever kissed.

PG moment...yes, we kissed there again!

Aw, so much good life together since then!

One last stop before heading back up to Frankfurt, was this delicious spot!

I used to see this cafe every time I'd come downtown. I only remember stopping in there a time or two to get something, but you'd better believe I did this time!

And what did they have? Incredibly yummy gluten free, lactose free cookies!!! I think they made them just for me. HAHA!

We both said to ourselves that this day would be our Christmas present to each other. And truly, it was THE BEST gift I could've received! Our lives together started here in this memorable place, and it was pure joy to come back and remember who we were then, and think about where God has led us today.

Oh and...Dave couldn't resist one Christmas gift for me while in our romantic Heidelberg!

A new coat and scarf, bought right on the Hauptstrasse! He's a romantic one that dear husband of mine!!

Oh what a day and what a place. Our dear Heidelberg, where we left our hearts forever!

AND!!! Best of all...I felt completely like myself, healthy and full of energy today. PRAISE THE LORD and thank you for your prayers for me!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Making the Drive

We woke up to a rainy day in Split this morning. That doesn't happen often!

For those following my crazy saga of illness over the past weeks...I woke up with no sore throat, but the nausea was back. AGH! As we walked to our car to start a 12 hour drive today, I wondered how I'd make it.

But this morning I "happened" to read from Isaiah 40 in my Advent reading plan: "... but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength ..."

Those words nearly jumped off the page at me! I thought on this - having my hope in the Lord first and foremost. He knows what's ahead of me - this illness is not a surprise to him! But perhaps the point is not just that I get better, but that I get better at hoping in HIM.

So I thought on this and prayed about over the next few hours as we began our drive towards Prague.

And at about 3 PM this afternoon, the nausea lifted! It was THE BEST feeling!

It's midnight now and I still don't have it. So THANK YOU to those of you who prayed for me (Mary and Caleb...especially, thank you!). The drive today was oddly comforting the rest of the day. I'm tired tonight, but feeling hopeful in the Lord and trusting him for what is tomorrow.

Dave is on one last phone call (yes, it's late!) so that's why I decided to blog and give this quick update so you know what's happening, and you know how to keep praying. Pray for my hope in the Lord! And pray I feel better too. 😌

We fly tomorrow morning, headed towards Chicago for a special wedding of our dear friends' son. More on that to come!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Goodbye For Now

Well, bad news first. I woke up with a sore throat again. And nausea. Will you pray for me??? We are heading to the States and I would SURE like to be well for this trip!

The good news now. It was the warmest day of our whole time here on Hvar! The wind died down to just a whisper as we closed up the house for the winter.

Although I wasn't feeling great, I still managed to get everything cleaned, packed and tucked away during the last sunset of this trip.

A little surge of energy came over me (thank you Lord!) as Dave and I carried all the outdoor furniture inside and closed the shutters.

And we took one last picture before getting in the car.

With time to spare before needing to be at the ferry, we opted to take the dirt road along the cliffs of Hvar. It did not disappoint!

A project is actually underway to widen the entire road (and put in guardrails!), and about half of it is finished already. But this is the section that we can't figure out how they'll manage!

It's a spectacular drive as you hug the edge of the mountain, and affords incredibly beautiful views. Especially at sunset!

We're on the ferry now, and will spend the night in Split tonight before heading to Prague tomorrow. Again, pray for me please! We fly on Thursday morning. My bold prayer is that I will have no sore throat, and will have gained some energy by then!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Riding out the Jugo

Do you hear me cheering in Croatia?? It was my best day yet after weeks of being super sick. I finally had a little energy today, and my throat isn't sore anymore. I also didn't need to sleep 16 hours today. While that was actually pretty wonderful for a few weeks, I'm ready to get back to regular life!

Wouldn't you know, a huge storm blew in today giving me a chance to get out for the first time in many days so I could see its beauty and power.

This is the famous tree of the small village of Sveta Nedjela. The very first morning we arrived onto this island in 2008, we saw this tree. I'm almost certain I've seen it every time since then over the past 9 years. It wouldn't be a complete trip here without seeing it!

But today, it was in spectacular mode.

Croatia is known for its winds, and today is one of them called "Jugo".

A low pressure, warm wind that's not as strong as the infamous Bura, blew onto the Adriatic from the African Sahara. Seriously!

It causes high and choppy waves, with showers in between and people are often quite depressed by it, especially since it can last for more than two weeks. Actually, Jugo is usually to blame for bad moods and bad behavior in Croatia. I've heard that if someone notices you are having a bad day, they’ll ask “Južina?” referring to the wind. All you need to do is nod and you are forgiven for your sins that day.  Hmmmm! 🤔

I had yet to experience a winter Jugo so the fact that I felt well enough to go out into it (with its reputation!) say's something!

I'm only wearing a hat to keep my hair from blowing away. It's actually 60 degrees, despite what my attire says!

Nobody else was down at the marina today. Why would you be?? It's crazy down there!

There are some serious waves out there, and even the boaters (well, except for one) have sense enough to take theirs out of the harbor. You don't want to play around with this wind storm.

It might be hard to see, but just over the horizon of the boat is a wall, that looks like its split in two. That's because it DID yesterday! The waves were pounding so hard it broke an iron reinforced wall. Does that tell you something about what this wind does?

Those buildings are a restaurant in the summer, and that harbor often has some pretty fancy yachts tied up as they enjoy a long, leisurely lunch or dinner at the marina. Not today!

I have to say, it was pretty freaky watching the force of those winds bash against the walls. Yet who can believe how beautiful its fierceness is??? Just best enjoyed from a distance!

All I could think of was how awful it would be to ride out a storm like this in a boat. NEVER!

Dave went down closer than I did, hoping for some spectacular shots. He got them, and he got a bit wet!

Since we were out, Dave suggested we drive down the road to Camp Lili, the campground we vacationed at in 2008, the time we fell in love with this island. We've been coming back ever since.

It too was, of course, deserted, (though our friend who stopped by this evening said, "Oh yeah, Aunt Lina said you were there today! This is small village life at its best!).

I don't know why I didn't think to get a picture of Dave and I down here...I guess because he was down at the beach capturing some more incredible shots while I stayed safer (and drier) up on the path!

We leave from here tomorrow...just when I was starting to feel better. 😌  But we are headed for a wedding in the States, to be with our camping/vacationing buddies to celebrate the marriage of one of their sons who is getting married.

I'll take more Croatia memories with me as I rendezvous with our dear friend this week-end!