Sunday, April 21, 2019

Meet Janko!

When we started vacationing in Croatia, our kids were very small; in fact, Claire hadn't even had her 3rd birthday when we first ventured down to the island of Krk, not far from Rijeka, in 1997.

I don't know if we discovered figs that year, but I know for sure she discovered them here on Hvar when we first vacationed here in 2008.

When we bought the land (that we would later build the house on with our friends) she asked if we could plant a fig tree that she could pick from someday.

That dream came true today, 11 years later!

While it's a small one, the garden shop man on the island told us that fig trees grow quickly so it's fine to plant a small one and watch it grow!

I don't know why I'm in the mood for naming things that we're planting this year (see HERE for the other tree I named this time), but somehow the fig tree feels like it needs a name since I have a feeling it will become the predominant force up here on the hill someday!

Can you even see it down there at the end?

I looked up Croatian names and their meanings, and have decided on this little fellow's name!

Meet Janko, the fig tree!

Janko, according to this website, means "Jehovah's gift, or grace".

That just seems like an appropriate name for something that will bring good gifts from the Lord, and is certainly a gift to our Claire who has waited a long time for this tree!

Celebrating our Savior

On this Easter morning here on Hvar when I heard the church bells in the village, I was reminded of Keith Green's Easter Song.

"Hear the bells ringing, they're singing that you can be born again..."

Hear the bells ringing, they're singing Christ is risen from the dead.
The angel up on the tombstone said He has risen, just as He said!
Quickly now, go tell his disciples that Jesus Christ is no longer dead.
Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah

Oh how profound those words of truth are! 

After a glorious hour with the Lord out on the porch, wrapped up in a blanket with my Bible and a cup of coffee, I came inside to join these dear ones for hymns, prayers, reading and talking about the Easter story from each of the Gospels. 

We finished with the hymn, "How Great Thou Art", singing every verse with all our hearts. No sweeter sound than singing with these lovers of God! 

This summer I will celebrate my 40th spiritual birthday of knowing Jesus as my Savior. While HE is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, He definitely means more to me with each passing day, and never more so than on an Easter when I celebrate the magnificent sacrifice He made for me, and for you. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Who Knew?

Oh these people! How thankful I am for God's choosing of them long ago to be part of my life.

I've actually known Dan (the one taking the photo!) the longest. We met in 1982 when he was interning at my home church in Vancouver, Washington.

Dave came next in 1983, with Laura in 1984 and Mel and Amy in 1996. Collectively (if it works like that!) I've known them for over 150 years!

And truly, the depth of relationship with them feels rightly like that. We have been through so much together: laughter, tears, joys, sorrows, fun, and challenges. But all SO GOOD!

And on a personal note...they have loved me, challenged me, given grace, kindness, and joy to me; they've spoken the Word to me, prayed for me, and believed God with me.

They've also journeyed through life in Josiah Venture with Dave and I too. And that's a huge privilege, to have seen them impact so many different people's lives, and in so many different kinds of ways, in the name of Jesus. These people are the REAL DEAL when it comes to living sold out lives for God!

Who knew...back in the 80's, 90's and in the 2000's when we started vacationing together...that we'd still love and enjoy each other so much all these years later?!

Dan, Laura, Mel, Amy and Dave - love you all so much! You are good gifts from the Lord in my life, and I'm glad HE knew that we all needed each other!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Guest at the Villa

After a long, but happy day of work here at Villa Maia on the island of Hvar, we welcomed a guest for dinner tonight.

Back in 2013 when we began the process of building the house, God sent us an incredible gift in the form of this man who managed the building process for us.

Since we all live a long ways away (it's a 12 hour drive, with a 2 hour ferry to get here), there was no way for any of us to manage the day to day, week to week (and as it turned out, year to year) on site process of getting the house done.

This man had his own contracting firm in Split so oversaw all the hiring of those who would come over to the island to build during the two years it took. While Dave stayed connected to him through weekly (and sometimes daily) calls, we never could have done the house without him.

As the years have gone by since the house was finished, Dave and I have stayed in touch with him (I'm purposefully not saying his name to protect his privacy). This past December we invited him to come for breakfast with us when we were going through Split, and had a very profound spiritual conversation with him, that has led to many emails back and forth with Dave over the past months.

This led to inviting him over for dinner tonight so he and Dave could continue that conversation.

When Ellenwood's, Hash's and we are here working on the house, we all take turns making dinner for each other, and tonight's happened to be Hash's...which usually involves the grill!

While Dave and our friend chatted out on the terrace. . .

. . . we got things ready so we could sit down for a meal with him.

It was delightful bringing our friend into our long standing friendships with each. For an hour over dinner, we laughed and shared stories, and caught up with him about his life.

But he wasn't there to chit chat with us. Soon Dave and he went out onto the terrace to talk.

And over the next three hours, long after the sun had set, our friend put his faith in Jesus.

There couldn't be anything that makes us more happy about this house than the fact that our friend, who made sure it was built, has come to know Jesus because of it!!

Before he left, Dave gifted him with his own Bible - the one that he, Dave, has used to study and teach with for many years. Our friend told him it was possibly the greatest gift he's ever received.

Pray for him; pray that God speaks to him as he reads the Word; pray that he finds fellowship with other believers; pray he grows in his faith and becomes firmly rooted in Christ.

How positively delighted we are that we can now not just call him friend, but brother. ☺️

Moving Olive

Eleven years ago, in 2008, our family, the Ellenwood's and Hash's, who'd been vacationing together since 2003, came to the island of Hvar.

Over the next seven years, God did some unimaginable for us. I wrote about it a few years ago in a post called, "The House that Friendship Built". You can read that HERE. We were able to complete that crazy amazing project at the end of the summer in 2015, and started renting it out in summer 2016.

We're now coming into our fourth summer of preparing it for this season's guests, which we three couples do every April. It takes a full week of everyone working many hours a day, to get it fixed, cleaned, planted and ready for guests who will come from all over the world to stay here.

Each year we try to make improvements as well, to make it an even more special experience for our guests. One of this year's improvement is the addition of this old girl. 😁

She's from Italy, is about 120 years old, and weighs at least 800 pounds! We picked her out in Split last week, and then had her delivered to our house today by a transportation company who brings things to the island.

Trouble is, they're only hired to deliver her to our property, not to the spot where she needs to go! Thus began the moving of "Olive" this morning!

Mel and Dave devised a method of sliding her down the hill on pieces of wood.

That was working pretty well when there was a bit of a slope to use gravity as a help.

When the path down the hill leveled out, it required more manpower!

Dan came to pitch in his muscles to slowly twist and turn Olive's pot back and forth on those little pieces of wood. She was headed for this location, but it was a slow process getting her there.

Just when we thought the level part was hard, it got even harder!

We had to attach straps to her to hold her back from falling down the hill. Yes, I had to put my muscle into it too while Amy stood by to video, and Laura took pictures (because you know, an event like this needs to be documented!)

After a few tense moments of getting her down the steepest part, she finally made it to the plot of ground waiting for her.

With a last burst of muscle, Mel and Dan held her while Dave wiggled the pot off of her roots.

After getting the hole ready, the guys gently dropped her in and began to fill in the dirt to hold her safe and sound.

And just like that, she looks like she's always lived here!

She's got quite a view now from the spot where she'll stand guard for many years to come.

Olive looks and feels at home here at Villa Maia, and I hope will grow gracefully into an even older woman as she keeps watch from her perch above the sea!

During the hour that it took to move her, Amy took a time lapse video of her journey most of the way down. It's only 28 seconds. Hope you'll enjoy the ride with her!