Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dinner with the Sheff

About a month ago a good friend of mine called and asked if he could invite us over for dinner - specifically when "Mr. Patty" was gone.

Not that he doesn't like Mr. Patty...he said he just wanted to give me a break from cooking while Mr. Patty was gone sometime. Thoughtful of him!

A flurry of e-mails flew back and forth between us as we tried to find just the right date and time for our dinner engagement. Finally we settled on a Tuesday night at 6 PM and I said we'd be there with pleasure!

So, that Tuesday arrived just yesterday and off the four of us Patty's (minus "Mr. Patty" who was in the US) w
ent to Sheff Nathan's house! "Sheff" is how he would sign some of his e-mails and that just kind of stuck...good name, don't you think?!

Just to clue you in...Sheff Nathan is only 11 years old!

But his age didn't stop him from producing a very fine meal and dessert for us! Homemade chicken noodle soup that was really some of the best I've ever had...and I'm not joking about that! We also had a nice selection of Czech bread and rolls to choose from to acco
mpany our soup. And then the crowning moment...cream cheese chocolate chip bars!! Oh my! I definitely give those ten stars! They were divine! Truth be told, I had two!!

It was truly a delightful dining experience with Sheff Nathan (Pitcher, for those of you who want to know!) and I'm hoping that
we were nice enough guests to get invited back again sometime!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

SNOW in October??

It was shocking to wake up to this today!!

So odd to see my flowers so colorful up against the snow!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gold Mine in our Yard

Yesterday I had one of the funniest things happen to me here at our house!

It was a cool, rainy morning and I was upstairs working at my computer while the kids were at school and Dave was at work. Suddenly the doorbell rang so I went see who it was. Aha! My 76 year old neighbor and her daughter! I like this neighbor...she is the one who came to church with us for a year until her health deteriorated and it was too hard for her to get out. But now here she is leaning on her cane, on my front porch.

As I unlocked the front door I was thinking, "What could've possibly brought her out today?"

"Good morning Pani Connie!", the neighbor greeted me. "We've come to show you the mushrooms growing in your yard!" she said with a sparkle in her eye.

"What?? Mushrooms in my yard? And you want to show them to me?" I had these confused thoughts inside myself, while on the outside smiling and nodding my head at my neighbor and her daughter as if this was a normal, every day conversation!

To understand this conversation you have to know something about many of our Czech friends. They are absolutely wild about...mushroom picking! For many, it is an annual fall hobby...passion even! They go all over the countryside, in search of their beloved, prized mushrooms.

But guess what the neighbor's daughter had spotted in our yard the day before? Yep, the beloved mushrooms!!!

But what are they doing in OUR yard???

The neighbor (from here on out known as "Pani L.") says that they especially love growing in moist grass under birch trees, and believe it or not, we have a whole grove of them out in our yard. For some reason, this year they have started "mushrooming" (couldn't help the pun!) all over our yard under those trees! Pani L's daughter, Marta, was visiting another neighbor next door and happened to notice them under our birch trees!

Pani L. and Marta wanted me to come out and see them so I quickly grabbed a coat and put my shoes on and trotted right out after them to see what all the fuss was about!

Oh how I wish you could've been there to see Pani L and Marta out there under the birch trees! I have never seen people so excited about...mushrooms!!!! They were even taking PICTURES of them with Marta's camera!! She kept saying, "None of my friends will believe this!"

It seems that this particular variety growing in our yard are the highest prize of can fry 'em, you can make a sauce with 'em, you can make soup out of 'em, you can dry them...and supposedly they are positively delicious.

Pani L and Marta kept telling me all the different ways that I could use them, while at the same time I was trying to figure out how to respond culturally correct to them about this miraculous (as Marta put it!) discovery in our yard!

Finally I got up the courage to say, "Um...we don't really eat mushrooms like this".

At first they were aghast! "But do you know how positively delicious and healthy they are, and all the ways you can use them?", they asked me.

At this point I decided the quickest way to deal with their thoughtfulness to show me the mushrooms was to ask them a question.

"Would you like to pick them and have them for yourselves?" I offered.

Oh boy! That was the right thing to do! Their eyes got so sparkly and they started picking them as fast as they could! Even Pani L., who could barely get around on her cane out there in the tall, wet grass, was bent over picking them!

I ran in and got a bag for them while Lily, our dog, hunted in the yard with them. It was just all so comical, and yet endearing! How I wished that I had my camera too, and could've captured this momentous occasion!

It was also positively sopping wet out jeans were soaked and I had to change them when I got back inside. And it took the whole rest of the day for my shoes to dry out. But when I mentioned to them that I was sorry they got so wet they both exclaimed, "OH! But it was worth it!!!!"

I giggled about this incident the whole rest of the day!

Who would've thought that there was a such a gold mine in our yard??? Well, at least our Czech neighbors seemed to think so!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saying Good-bye to KAM

On September 4th this year a significant event took place - the handing over of leadership in KAM.

KAM (which stands for "Christian Academy of Youth" in English) is the ministry organization that we s
tarted here in Czech from which ministry to young people and leaders across the country has taken place. Dave has been the director of KAM since its beginning in 1997.

Dave's love for and commitment to the ministry and people here has been heartfelt. He has tirelessly invested his heart and soul in teaching, coaching, leadership, counseling, and vision casting with
in KAM throughout all these years.

But the "baby" has grown into an "adult" and is ready to run under new leadership now! God has raised up a team of three men, all of whom have themselves invested their time and energy in the ministry over the past years, to lead the charge now. Dan Hurta, Dusan Drabina, and Bogdan Lach will now oversee the ministry of KAM.

Dave's role in their lives will shift to that of coaching, as he does for all country leaders within JV. While he won't have the leadership responsibility for KAM anymore, he will still stand alongside them to assist in any way he can.

But this move frees him up to now give his focused time and energy into the leadership of JV, which continues to grow. We are in ten countries now: Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Estonia and Latvia. There is plenty of work left to do across Central and Eastern Europe, and Dave's heart and soul are invested in making our vision a reality: To see a movement of God among the youth of Eastern Europe, that finds it home in the local church and transforms society.

It's our heart's desire that KAM be even more fruitful in the years to come than what we have seen thus far! So we are praying for Dan, Dusan and Bogdan, that God will enable them to press forward with the Gospel into more places and into the lives of more young people
here in Czech! We bless them for their obedience and willingness to give themselves to this task.

Hobbit Festival

A few weeks ago Tyler asked me for help in making a costume, of sorts. No, we don't have Halloween here so it wasn't for was for a much nobler cause!

The problem is, costume making is not my forte...this is one of those times when I really wish Grandma (my mom) was aroun
d because she could've been much more helpful to him than I!

But, being the mom that I am, I said I'd give it a shot and do all I could to help him elf! No, no, not the kind at the North Pole! In fact, I
hope I'm even saying it right...are there "elves" in the book, "The Hobbit"?! Tyler is not around for me to ask so I'll just have to go with this as best as I can!

A group of people here in the Czech Republic host a "Hobbit Battle" each September and you go as various characters from the book and take part in a simulated battle between good and evil (yes, some choose to go to the evil side...but not Tyler, thankfully!). This was no small event, as I imagined it would be. There were over 350 people there! I wish I had the pictures of everyone else who was at the festival - it was quite impressive.

But the deal of the festival participate you have to have a costume and weapons that you have made...none of that "store bought" stuff!! So Tyler spent a week making his own bow and arrows and carving a sword of his own design...impressive! But then there was still the
question of the costume...only certain colors are allowed for certain characters, and it has to look genuine. Where on earth do you find "hobbit looking" clothing in the Czech Republic?

Tyler's friend, Patrick, gave him some ideas so off Tyler and I went in search of his costume! We went in stores I had never ever seen before, let alone been in...and these were in cities that I actually shop in! I've just never been in the market for these sorts of things before!

In the end we bought pants and a shirt, along with a few other "Hobbit-ish" items, and
I actually sewed...yes, it's true!...a cape for him! He did look quite dashing and handsome as he left for his Hobbit Festival. Perhaps he'll write about it on his own blog with details of the festival...he could explain it better than me since I wasn't there!

But I did get some fun pictures of him before he left that day...and he and I both felt quite proud for having pulled together a costume that even passed inspection once he got there!

Changes in the Kids

I wish I could figure out when it is that kids grow. Is it at night while they sleep? Is it right in front of my eyes as they eat the food I make for them? Does it happen while they're out playing, or at their desks in school? When do feet go from size 4 to size 7?! Or from size 7 to size 11???!!

I know this is the phase of life where we'll see much growth in our's of course something that just happens in these teenage years! But I still don't know when it exactly happens!

For years I have taken pictures of the kids on their first day of school - it's just one of my peculiar ways of marking time! This year was one of the years where it really paid off and I was able to see the stark difference between last September and this! Do you see it in these photos?!

By the less than 2 weeks Claire will turn 13 and then we'll officially have a house full of teenagers!

We are loving this season of life with our kids! They are smart, fun, great to spend time with, funny, delightful, responsible, happy people who also love the Lord...and we really like them. Can you tell??!!

Order in September

September is always a busy month as we get back into the school year routine - it's so hard for everyone to transition from summer life into school life, including me! Thus I haven't been very faithful at blogging...hope to do something about that in the weeks and months to come.

I don't know if it's just me or if everyone else views September as the beginning of a new year. Once I get over the shock of leaving summer behind, then I'm ready to jump into fall and assess life to see where we're at in various areas.

I've been doing that in all sorts of areas since school started - looking at the kids' needs for school clothes, checking in the pantry to see what needs to be replenished for the fall, going over fall schedules to see who needs to be where and when, purging piles made during the summer, going through closets and drawers to give things away...all of this is my attempt at making order in our home and lives.

I guess when it comes down to it, I like order. I always say that I like variety and I don't like to do the same thing from one day to the next. But the reality? I can only live like that for so long! And then it's time to pull things in and get organized...and that just feels good to do in the fall!

I think the Lord likes order too...I don't mean rigid, unbendable order...but nevertheless, order of some kind. I look outside at the glorious order of's the kind of order I like! Everything is not absolutely perfect and neat - things ramble here and there. But still, there is purposeful order and that speaks to me. It's the kind of order that I'm heading towards in my life this fall!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sweet Gift of Vacation

We just returned from vacation, a good gift from the Lord in a beautiful spot with dear friends.

This year we were able to travel down to the coast of Italy where we caught a ferry over to the island of Corsica, a French island. We camped there for a week, enjoying warm sun, good b
ooks, happy conversations, yummy food we prepared, and great times of fellowship. It's one of the highlights of our year to get this time together to relax and be refreshed.

After coming back over on the ferry on my birthday (46!), we stopped in Pisa and saw the Leaning Tower, had dinner and Italian Gelato (ice cream) to top it off - what a great day!

We then drove through the night and ended up in gorgeous Berchtesgaden, Germany the next morning. Set up of our campground took an hour and by 8 AM we looked like we'd been living there for weeks! We love this part of vacation - making our campsites homey and livable! (How's that a view from the "kitchen"?!)

That afternoon we drove into Salzburg, which is memorable for Dave and I as it was the first place we had an "unofficial" first date back in 1984 when we were doing Malachi Singers! Little did we know then where all life would take us, and that we'd be there 23 years later with our three kids and good friends on vacation!

The next day was up to Eagle's Nest for a look around there, and then a fun hike out back into some of the most gorgeous country of all - what a feast for the eyes! Ominous clouds were threatening by the time we got back down the mountain and sure enough, we had a thunderstorm to beat all thunderstorms, raining ourselves out of dinner on the grill at our campsite. So what do you when you get rained out and can't afford German restaurant prices? Go to McDonalds! It never tasted better!!

We spent the night in rain (rather comfy and cozy actually!) but decided to pack up a day early the next morning, but not before one last memory together...enjoying breakfast huddled together in the "Breakfast Tent"! Very fun! We also spent a few hours at the local pool that day before finally getting packed up and on the road at 7 PM. It was a late night drive home, but with happy memories the whole way.

Thanks Lord for good friends, happy vacations, and special memories!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tyler's Turns 17

This summer is going by much too that how it always is?!

One of the fun parts of our summer was celebrating Tyler's 17th birthday on the 20th of July. I am also thinking that time has passed much too quickly since his birthday in Germany that many years ago! That was the summer that Dave took his first trip into Eastern Europe to do a mission's trip with our American high school was 1
990, the first summer that the walls were down. While he was gone I was in the hospital with premature labor, not knowing if the baby would come while Dave was gone or not! And those were the days of no cell phones so there was no way to be in contact...ahh, those early missionary days!

Well thankfully Tyler held off so his dad could be there for the birth, though he did arrive a whole month earlier than his due date. But all was well and he's grown up just fine all these 17 years!

We celebrated his 17th birthday by driving to Brno, two hours away, to see the fifth Harry Potter movie in English...that was his choice for the day! It was a great movie and a fun time to be together as a family to celebrate. We really love being with our kids!

Tyler's special gift was a laptop computer (with help from mom and dad...thanks!!) so he's been spending some hours getting to know it these past days. He keeps saying he's going to blog...he's got a lot to catch up on! But for right now he's got other things going. Hopefully he'll post before we leave on vacation next week!

Speaking of leaving...Dave and I leave at 4 AM to head to the train to Prague, and then by plane on to Tallin, Estonia where we'll meet up with some of our JV missionaries who live in Estonia. They are following God's lead and moving on from JV after five years of faithful service. Dave and I are headed up to say good-bye. We'll be back on Friday!

There is lots more to tell about from the summer but this will have to do for now!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Full Circle Perspective

I love how every once in a while you get to figuratively climb up to a higher elevation and look down at life from God's perspective. He let me do that several times in the past few weeks and it was a lot of fun!

The first one happened at our church here in Frydlant a few weeks ago. We had an outdoor service at the Farmhouse that Malenovice bought last year, located just below the hotel near our sports fields. It was a barbecue, get-together with an American work team, and a church service, all wrapped into one. There were a lot of people there including some that I didn't know.

After the service a girl came u
p to me and started to say, "I don't know if you know me but..." when all of a sudden I recognized her! Just a few months after we moved to the Czech Republic in 1993, Mirka came to be a part of a Bible study I led for three young believers. She was a student at the high school where Dave was teaching, and a friend of 16 year old Lucie who was living with us as a language helper. Lucie invited Mirka and she came faithfully to meet with me and the others through the end of the school year.

I lost contact with her after she graduated, but did run into her five years ago at a wedding. She had just gotten married herself and was still walking with God. And now, here she was at our church (they were vacationing in the area so came for the service) with not only her husband, but her two children as
named Klarka, the Czech version of Claire's name! It was delightful to talk with her and hear a little more of her spiritual journey which has continued all these years. She and her husband serve in their church and are faithfully loving God and following Him.

The second one happened just this past week while Dave and I were up at the hotel for the training of American church youth groups who have come to partner with Czech churches for English camp. It was the last night of training and Dave was up there to give the JV story. Just as the program started, Irena walked into the room. Irena is another one of the girls that God gave me the opportunity to disciple in our early years in Czech. In fact, she was with us at the very first English camp that we did in 1994!

Today, Irena is an English tea
cher at a high school in Prague, and has done more camps than I can even count! There hasn't been a year go by since that first English camp that she hasn't been involved in at least one camp per summer, often more. She has given her life to sharing the Gospel (talk about an effective little evangelist!) and to working with young people. I adore Irena - she brings me so much joy when we run into each other!

The last "perspective" that God gave me was at that same training event. Another gal came up to Dave and I with the words, "I don't know if you know me but..." And when she said her name I couldn't help but give her a huge hug! You see, we've known this now 17 year old girl since she was just 18 months old!

The year Dave and I went to Wheaton College, we lived in some wonderful housing called "Missionary Furlough Homes". Next door to us was the Moreau family, just back from Kenya having worked with Campus Crusade there. While her husband taught at Wheaton that year, and Dave studied there, we spent many an hour together with our four young children - her three little girls, and my one year old Tyler. Anna, the now 17 year old, was 18 months old when we first met, just a few months older than Tyler. And now, here she is at Malenovice for training with her youth group before heading off to do English camp! Can you say...Full Circle?!

What's funny about having Anna here is that it reminded me of the very first time I ever told someone that we might be going to Eastern was Anna's mom, Emily, that I told, as we sat out on picnic tables in front of our homes, watching our little kids play in the grass. And now, her daughter (and I might add, another one of her daughters has already been here for the past two years also doing English camps!) is here in Eastern Europe serving with us.

That's perspective!

English Camp for Frydlant

I'm sure Tyler is going to write about camp on his blog soon so click on the link to the right for his blog and read about camp from his perspective. B
ut for now, I just want to add a few things from my perspective of their camp.

First of all, we have some of the best youthleaders around leading the young people here in Frydlant. I am so grateful for them that I want to share a little bit about each one.

Bogdan, our youth pastor, has a unique gift for loving and reaching out to young people. He's got a big heart for the Lord and a great love for people - what a great combination for working with youth! He and his wife, Martina, regularly open their lives and home to the youth group and do an awesome job of living out the Gospel in front of them. He also leads worship
for our church and has given Tyler and Caleb great input and encouragement as they've come into the worship team over the past few years. We are thankful for Bogdan's work in our midst!

Mark, a JV missionary who has been here in Czech for years, is also doing an awesome job of reaching out to young people and discipling believers. Tyler has been in a small group with Mark for the past two years and it has made such a difference in Tyler's life. Mark is full of wisdom, love for the Lord, and a very faithful walk with Him. We appreciate Mark tons. He's heading back to the States for a year of school in September and we're going to miss him like crazy.

Katka first came into our lives in Havirov over ten years ago. She came to an English camp with a friend and then trusted Christ the next year at camp. Since then she has been a regular and much loved guest in our home, a great babysitter for the kids when they were younger, a trusted prayer partner and friend of mine over the years, and for the past three years, a JV missionary here! And now this past year she had Claire in a small group Bible study! It means the world to me to see how our relationship has come full circle...from discipling her to her now discipling my daughter. Very cool!

With these people leading camp, it was a very significant time for everyone who was there - non-believers and believers. They did a great job of reaching out in love to those who don't yet know Christ, and encouraging and coming alongside those who do. I admire and appreciate their servant hearts and willingness to go the distance with these takes perseverance and patience to do so! But they did and there were great results because of how God used them.

One young man fully put his faith in Christ and wants to walk with God now. Others were engaged in discussions about spiritual things and want to continue those discussions. The ministry team, made up of Czech and American young people who live here in Frydlant, did a nearly 48-hour unbroken prayer chain during the camp - a significant step for many, especially as they got up in the middle of the night to take their turn at praying.

In all, it was an amazing week at camp - a week that will not s
oon be forgotten by any who were there. We praise God for all that He did and is going to continue to do right here in our midst!

Tyler and Caleb leading worship at camp!

Summer Trip to Prague

Just wanting to remember a special time with Claire. We laughed, we walked, we talked, we s
hopped. What fun to be together!

On Friday night after his conference, Dave met us at the movie theatre for the late showing of Shrek 3 in English. Saturday morning we took the tram into Prague to have Egg McMuffins at McDonalds!
It's great to build memories on the simplest of things!

On the Charles Bridge...probably one of the most photographed spots in Prague!

On the tram - great way to travel in the city!

Late night snack at KFC after the movie - it's nearly midnight!

Breakfast at McD's - complete with tablecloth and flowers!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Knee High By the 4th of July

Claire and I have been planning this blog entry for about a month now!
One day in early June when we were driving back from school through the cornfields near our house, I commented on how Czech corn was not growing according to the little rhyme I learned when I was little…“Knee high by the 4th of July”. It was already knee high in early June!
So from then on we started carefully watching how fast the corn was growing, waiting for the 4th of July to see how big it actually was on that day. And today was the day for checking it!
Unfortunately, this isn’t sweet corn…they don’t grow it here. This corn will end up in the mouths of farm animals for the most part. If you want sweet corn on the cob you have to go to Tesco, the big grocery store in the city nearby, and buy it in the frozen food section! It’s not very tasty - kind of mushy in fact. We’ve only have it once…that was enough.
So on this 4th of July we won’t be having corn on the cob…sniff sniff. But we are grilling hamburgers and thanking God for our good country - Happy Birthday America!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Celebrating Exit 316

Monday last week marked the end of the season for Exit316 - 41 episodes shown over a ten month period, with two more that will be aired in the Fall to round it out to 43 episodes. This represents a WHOLE LOT OF WORK by a whole lot of people.

But the impact has been great! With viewership at around 150,000-200,000 each week,
many people here in Czech saw God's Truth displayed in a contemporary and compelling fashion. There were over 230 small groups across the country that met each week to discuss the episodes, and we know of many decisions for Christ as a result of this.

So this called for a party! On Saturday the main team who wrote, directed and produced Exit316 came to our house for an afternoon and evening of celebration. We played, ate, talked, laughed and enjoyed time with each other. But also took time to talk about the impa
ct of Exit, as well as to honor and thank each person who worked so hard on it this year. talk about what's next. Czech Television has asked us for another season of episodes in 2008-09 so the team is praying, thinking and brainstorming about what it could/should be. Pray with us please! This is a strategic opportunity to impact this country for Christ. But we know that it will only have impact if the Lord is behind it. So we're waiting on Him to know the plan.

P.S. I don't know why that last paragraph ended up being bold...I keep trying to change it in the editing feature on Blogger and it won't change! So maybe it needs to be bold because it's the most important part of this post!

Last Day of School

Hooray! The end of school has finally arrived! School finished on Friday, the 29th of June. While it's been an excellent school year for all three kids, we were ready for some summer vacation. There were days last week when it felt like it would never get here...but it did and we're happy about that!

This was Tyler's 12th year of school here, counting kindergarten, Caleb's 10th year, and Claire's 9th year. That's a lot of school done in another language! I am really proud of them for what they have accomplished...good grades, good friends, good attitudes.

Yesterday I was talking with one of the teachers, who is a Christian, and goes to our church. She told me that in teacher's meetings at school the topic of our kids and the other American kids who attend the school (6 others, all from Christian families) often comes up - they are amazed at how respectful and obedient our kids are. She says they often say, "Those parents must be doing something right". I'm glad we have such a good testimony at the school!

Tyler's Art

For the past yea
r Tyler has been in an art class in town at the request of his art teacher from high school. She teaches an advanced art class for students that she feels have potential to excel as artists.

All yea
r I've been hearing about his projects, and seeing a few photos taken on his little camera on his phone, but I had no idea the extent of his skill until I went with him to an exhibition last week. I was amazed! He has a gift and talent for art that most definitely came from the Lord as Dave and I don't have it!

The picture below was drawn from a photo taken last year on our vacation. It's Dave and our good friend, Mel, standing at the border of some country...can't even remember which one! But Tyler took the photo and adapted it in a particular art form - pastels on wrinkly cardboard's that for a description! Anyway, it turned out so cool! There are more projects that he did but this is all I'll put in here for now.

I'm thankful for the gift that God has given him for artistic creation!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Significant Day

Father's Day 2007 was just a great day all around! Not only did we get to celebrate Dave, but we also celebrated Caleb's baptism! In the afternoon during our church service, Caleb made his public profession of faith in Jesus and was baptized by Dave and Ken
Pitcher, our long time friend and pastor here in Frydlant.

Caleb gave his testimony in Czech in front of the church and had to answer a few questions that Ken gave him. Then Dave joined them and went down into the cold w
ater with him!
It was a really sweet (and emotional!) moment for me to watch Dave and Ken baptize Caleb. I was so proud of Caleb for having come to this decision on his own, for having talked to Ken and the elders about it on his own, and for giving his testimony in Czech - it was awesome!

After both he and Svatia (a dear gal who trusted Christ at English camp a few years ago) were both finished with their baptisms, they came and sat on the front step in front of the church and Tyler and I surprised them both by singing together, "You Alone", a worship song that talks about how God alone is our Father and Savior. I could barely get my emotions under control to sing, but I guess that's okay for the mom when it was her son who was baptized!
How I praise God, and do not take it lightly, that our children are following after the Lord. Praise God that He has called each one of them to Himself.