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 all...you 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 there...my 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!!!
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 started 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 within 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.
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 that...it 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 around 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 become...an 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 is...to 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!
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 kids...it'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 way...in 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??!!
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 creation...it'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!