Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For Uncle Mike

First day of school pictures were always a must when family lived far away and didn't get to see their grandkids, niece or nephews often. It was one of the ways I tried to keep family connected even though we lived across an ocean.

But it was especially my brother, "Uncle Mike" who seemed to enjoy these yearly photos. So when I got pictures of Claire and Caleb on their first day back at Moody (thank you Claire and Haley for sending them!), I knew I'd still have to post them here. This is for you UM!

Claire is a second semester junior at Moody now, thanks to the fact that our kids received a semester worth of general ed. credit from their Czech high school since they went a 13th year here as part of the public school system. She'll get one more "first day of school" next year, and then graduates December 2016 with a major in biblical studies and children's ministry.

For Caleb, this is it! This is his final "first day of school" picture after 19 years of school (counting 2 years of skolka/kindergarten!) as he will be graduating in December with a biblical studies and biblical exposition major.

Tyler is also starting a new school year for his master's degree, but it's probably right to draw the line somewhere at "first day of school" pictures!

Hope you enjoyed these pics Mike! :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Together Again

These past few days have been many years in the making, and a fulfillment of a dream: having breakfast together around the table at our Croatia house with these dear friends after a four year pause from spending vacations together!

While we only have one out of our seven kids here (we miss the rest of you and your spouses!), it's been such a joy and privilege to be together sharing life and vacation with each other again.

We sat around for hours last night while having dinner on the terrace, laughing, sharing old stories, and just enjoying the sweetness of the years of investment that have gone into our friendships. Who would've ever imagined where we'd be 12 years later after we first began our summer adventures with each other?

I was too busy enjoying the moment to take many photos last night, but I'm glad I captured just a fraction of it to remember these moments by. I know there will be many more hours of life shared here at the house in years to come. But this was our first evening together, the fulfillment of our dream.

"Thank you Lord for creating us to need each other, and experience more of You through one another."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sending Claire Off

Claire headed back to the States to begin her third year of college on Saturday. But due to internet issues, I didn't get to write about it. I think I have a stable connection today so I'm going for it while it lasts!

Saturday morning, bright and early, she and I headed off to the airport for her flight.

Due to a storm the night before, the parking lot closest to the airport was closed (the gate wouldn't open!) so we parked at another lot and had to walk a ways.

By the view of where Claire's walking, you'd be right to wonder what kind of airport we were leaving out of. And why I was going with her.

We made a quick stop at the airport to check in, and then headed for the plane.

Can you see the plane we had tickets on?

Yes, we were leaving on a seaplane from Hvar, headed over to the main airport in Split!

Fifteen years ago someone began the process of registering a seaplane airline here in Croatia - a very smart idea, I might add considering how long it takes to get between islands and to the mainland by ferries. It literally took them all those years before the permissions were given, and regulations were met. They flew their maiden voyage last summer and have been expanding ever since.

But the first flight ever was out of Jelsa, here on Hvar. And that's where Claire and I left from on Saturday!

To say it was a thrill doesn't even come close to describing how cool it was to get into a 16 passenger plane, have the pilot give the pre-flight talk, and be able to see him in the cockpit the whole way!

You can reach the mainland by ferry in 2 hours, and by catamaran in 1 hour and five minutes. But by seaplane? 13 minutes!

Yes, I admit I was pretty giddy all thirteen minutes! It was just so fun to see the island we love from the air!

Though it was a bit of a bumpy flight (didn't bother either of us), a sweet little German girl sat behind us throwing up the entire flight (poor thing!). I felt so bad for her. And her mom! But before we knew it we were back on the ground/sea.

Here's our terminal!

The crazy thing is that this is the very place where we brought Tyler in our little boat when he flew to Chicago for his first year of college! We literally parked right where those boats are to the left of the seaplane. How funny to be back here six years later taking Claire to the airport via a very different transportation mode!

Check-in went quickly and soon it was time to say our goodbyes.

It was definitely less emotional than two years ago when we sent her off for the first time!

Oh and why did I go with her, besides wanting to take the seaplane? Because the plane has quite low weight allowances so I had to take a bag for her and then repack everything at the airport! I took an empty one back to Hvar after saying goodbye.

While she headed through security and on to her flight, I walked back over to the terminal to wait for my seaplane flight back to Hvar two hours later.

I thought I'd just sit and read for those couple of hours while Claire headed towards Copenhagen for a quick layover, and then on to Chicago. Unfortunately, that's not what happened.

Her flight left Split two hours late, which bumped her from the flight to Chicago. They couldn't rebook her from Split as there were no flights, so sent her on to Copenhagen with the news that she would most likely be rebooked the following day, and put up in a hotel overnight.

But after hours of standing in lines, she was told there were "no rooms in the inn" in Copenhagen due to a marathon taking place there. NO ROOMS!! That's hard to believe. I don't know what they expected her to do when they told her to get out of line because there just wasn't anything available.

Someone finally had mercy and actually put her on a flight to Stockholm at 8:30 PM, just so she could have a room to sleep in! But it was a very long day for her getting to that room. And so hard for me to be unable to help her from Croatia.

But the Lord is good. ALWAYS. He met her needs in some beautiful ways, and she ended up in a $300 a night room right at the Stockholm airport - like she could look out from her room into the airport! She slept well, had good food and coffee the next day, and was finally on her way at 10 AM and made it safely to Chicago Sunday afternoon.

I made it safely back to Jelsa after my two hour wait, praying the whole way, and for the rest of the day for her. And again remembering that while she is my daughter, she is her Father's daughter in a deeper and even more amazing way. And he's "got her" more than I ever could!

She already started classes back at Moody today and is right where she needs to be!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hiking With Dad

 Oh these two! How I love them!

Today is Claire's last day with us in Hvar so she's been doing all her "lasts", which includes some time with her dad. And what did she choose for their time together? A hike up the mountain behind the house to watch the sunset!

Do you see the cross way up there on the mountain?

That's their destination this evening.

Kaylee and I walked a little ways with them, but since it's their special time, we didn't go along. I've hiked it a couple of times but am quite content to stay behind!

But I love that these two have such good adventures together. And most of all, that they value time with each other.

With a wave goodbye at the turn-off, they headed up while I headed back home.

I know they'll have some really incredible views from up high. But this isn't too bad either!

In no time at all, they'll be up there!

PS. I was just finishing this blog post when I got a text from Claire. At the top!

Yes, it's a spectacular view up there tonight! So glad they got to go before she leaves in the morning.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Our love for and adventures on the island of Hvar started in this place.

Or to be more precise, here, in this campground.

Finding a spot back in 2008 was the beginning of a great fondness in our heart for this place. With our friends, we'd camp together for two weeks, living, cooking and loving the outdoors. Oh there are so many fond memories in that place!

To end Caleb and Haley's time on Hvar, we went back to spend the afternoon there.

In those camping days our kids and their friends spent countless hours out on these rocks, diving, jumping and swimming on hot afternoons.

Caleb, taking the plunge!

The view is mesmerizing and you really can sit out there all day!

We didn't have all day, but what time we had, we took advantage of!

I remember Caleb as a boy out on those rocks, having a great time with his buddies, Noah and Jacob.

Seven years later, he's here with his WIFE!! That's just pretty awesome!

While Dave, Caleb, Haley and Claire swam, I photographed and videoed everyone. And loved every minute of it!

Several hours and dozens of jumps later, it was, sadly, time to move on.

None of them wanted it to end, that's for sure!

But with one last destination to hit before wrapping up their time here, we headed up from the beach.

Another favorite activity of kids and adults alike, happens here in Svete Nedjelja. We always took photos here.

And did this!

No, it's not MY favorite thing to do. But you know, adventure is a necessary part of life so I always go along with it. Taking pictures. Not jumping! I'm so glad Caleb got to enjoy with Haley, some of these special places that hold such dear memories for him!

One last cup of coffee and then it was time to put their bags in the car and head into Hvar town.

Because they have a flight early in the morning, they're taking the catamaran over to Split and spending the night near the airport. So our goodbye happened at the waterfront in town.

I handed the camera to someone while we were in line, wanting one last family picture. I got it.

Sort of.

Oh how I laughed and laughed when I uploaded this photo and saw all the extra people photo-bombing our last family shot before putting them on the boat!! Now THAT is a good photo bomb!

After quick hugs, it was time for them to board and for us to wave goodbye.

My heart is always tender at those goodbyes. It wouldn't be right for them to stay, and it's hard to watch them go. Ever the paradox of being a parent and letting your kids go. You love having them "home" and it's always right for them to leave. Sigh.

Thankfully we'll see them again this fall when we're in Chicago. So this goodbye isn't for too long.

And after such a sweet visit with them, I have nothing but gratefulness in my heart to the Lord for giving us these days of the best kind of family connection!