Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Very Sweet Christmas

Now that things have settled down a bit I can reflect on our Christmas...quite possibly the sweetest we've ever

We spent Christmas Eve at our JV friend's, the Pitcher's - something we've been doing since 2000 when they moved here to Frydlant. Till's, Lobe
l's, Becca and Greg Strock were also there and it was such a wonderful time together....enjoying Andrea's food delights (always a highlight!), having great conversation, playing games, singing Christmas carols, sampling amazing desserts, and just enjoying the blessing of friendship.

I was savoring the evening more than usual since it's the last time we'll share Christmas Eve together at their house as they will be moving in June (first for a furlough to the States, and then to Prague). Thank you Ken and Andrea for hosting us all these years, and for sharing so much of life together!

At 10 PM we were in Ostrava at the "midnight" service on one of their town squares. Dave had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with the 1500 or so people who turned out for the service.

One of the things I love about D
ave is how passionate, yet genuine, he is when he shares the Gospel. Afterwards the people who organized it said the crowd was unusually quiet as they listened to him share, so we pray that there were some in the crowd who understood the gift that Jesus offers, and who received it for the first time that night.

Then it was home to do all the last minute prep for Christmas Day...making a cheeseball, marinating the chicken, stuffing the stockings, wrapping the last couple of gifts. I don't know how it happens every year, even when I've done a better job at planning! But Dave and I didn't go to bed until 3 AM that night! But we definitely had a Santa sighting that night, and he was most generous to our children as he left his gifts! Ho ho ho!

It had begun to s
now on Christmas Eve, but didn't look like it would amount to much. But we woke up Christmas morning to several inches of perfect snow! It made the whole world look magical!!

The kids were up early (when I came down at 8:30, Caleb was asleep on the floor next to his stocking from Santa!) but we officially started around 9 with a reading of the Christmas story, and plenty of questions from dad to the crowd...ha! He loves to ask questions and continu
e to keep the story fresh for us!

Then it was breakfast - my best attempt at our traditional Christmas morning food, yet "Caleb friendly"! While the cinnamon rolls were not sugar, corn, or rice free, they were gluten free! Not exactly Caleb f
riendly, but they tasted great (didn't look as pretty as usual but oh well! First attempts happen that way!) and only caused mild pain for Caleb. He said it was worth it!

Gifts were glorious this year...modest in price, but so very thoughtful all the way around. The kids did all their own shopping and found absolutely perfect gifts for everyone! We were slow to open gifts, just one at a time the whole way through, so everyone was savoring the gift exchange. At the end, we all said it was the best ever and felt happy, loved and satisfied. Isn't that a great way to finish Christmas?!

We did a quick clean up, put the wassail on, and welcomed Jonny and Lisa Lobel, and Mark Krupa at 2 that afternoon. They spent the rest of Christmas Day with us. We played a great game of "Loaded Questions" while sipping wassail and munching on the cheeseball in front of the fire...such a fun Christmas afternoon!

After our traditional fajita dinner we relished the delightful tastes of Jonny and Lisa's desserts - a tiramisu and chocolate chip cheesecake! YUM! Then finished up with peppermint mocha lattes...or at least we tri
ed! The espresso machine was being a little goofy, the foamer was being even goofier, and the dark chocolate mocha mix that I'd bought turned out to be spiced with hot chilis! Whew! Those were interesting lattes!

But it was so fun to share the day together, soaking in the goodness of relationships and all the good gifts the Lord has given to each of us!

Thank you Jesus for being our best gift of all!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jesus is February

On Christmas Eve afternoon, Dave and I were out visiting our neighbors, bringing them our cards and Christmas greetings.

Among others, we stopped by the Andelovi, the brother and sister that are our closest neighbors, who I've written about before. We rang the bell from the fence and she met us halfway up the drive with: "Jesus is coming in February...don't worry, he really is going to come".

I didn't look at Dave as we headed towards the front door, but I was thinking, "I sure hope Dave understands what she's talking about because I must have misunderstood her."

We stepped inside their very humble home, amongst the cats and chickens, walking on the dirt floor and into the living room where a very "Charlie Brown-ish" Christmas tree stood. We chatted for a few moments, giving them our gift and card. While we're trying to wish them a merry Christmas, Pani Andelova is still talking about Jesus coming in February.

This was now a little disconcerting! Was she delusional? Or does she have some special information that we don't know about??

After we left, wishing them a merry Christmas, I was still trying to piece together what she'd been saying. As soon as we were out of earshot, I asked Dave if he knew what she meant. Shaking his head, he said no as we continued on to our next neighbor.

Just a few feet later, all of a sudden, Dave started laughing! "She's must be talking about the French Jesus!"

Ah yes!! The French Jesus! The needlepoint pattern that she ordered from France and wants to make for us!!!

Several months ago she gave some friends of ours one of her needlepoints...also a "French Jesus" (as opposed to the Czech or European version that she also makes). She felt bad that she's never given one to us so asked which Jesus we would prefer she make for us.

We chose "the French Jesus".

And that's who is coming in February!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December Traditions

December is galloping away like Santa's reindeer on Christmas Eve!! Can't believe we're within a week of Christmas now!

The house is decorated (the ornament here is one my grandma made when I was a little putting it on the tree each year!), all the presents are bought and wrapped which is a first for me...I'm usually still buying and/or wrapping on Christmas Eve! I think this is a good new tradition. It makes this coming week feel so much more peaceful and enjoyable.

Another tradition in December has been a day of seminars for students at BMA, the boys' Christian outreach high school here in Frydlant. They have asked Dave to be one of the seminar teachers for the past few years, which is a favorite day in December for him!

This year he had two seminars - one on the differences between guys and girls, and one on Angels, Demons, Ghosts and Spirits...both pretty interesting topics to the mostly non-Christian students!

Questions were fast and furious in both seminars, but particularly in the one about the spirit world. One girl described how she feels a demonic presence when she goes to visit her grandpa's house, and asked Dave how she should handle it next time she's there.

After Dave gave his answer, from a believer's perspective, she said, "I'm an atheist and I don't believe in there any other way of dealing with this if you don't believe in Him?" She went on to say that she's just been trying to ignore it and it seems to have gone away, but she doesn't know if it might still be there.

Dave's reply: "If you put a bag over your head and can't feel the wind on your face anymore, does that mean the wind has stopped blowing? No...the bag doesn't stop the wind. Rather it just blocks your sense that the wind is blowing."

Later on Dave saw her sitting alone on the couch, staring off into the distance - apparently contemplating something. We pray that the witness of believers around her at school will continue to point her towards Jesus.

I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but there is a new believer at BMA that Caleb led to Christ recently! He and another student have been meeting with her this fall, going through a new believer's Bible study. Christmas will certainly have a different meaning for her this year!

Monday, December 1, 2008

JV Thanksgiving Celebration

Sixteen years ago we celebrated our first Thanksgiving with Dan and Laura Hash, having all just moved as new JV missionaries to Eastern Europe two weeks earlier.

Finding the turkey that year was difficult, not to mention all the other traditional foods we like to have! But we do have great memories of that first Thanksgiving together.

Well, maybe Laura doesn't after 10 month old Caleb threw up on her after the meal...bleh!

This year we were at Malenovice for our 16th Thanksgiving here in Eastern Europe, celebrating with 85 JV missionaries! We don't just have a meal, we have a whole retreat to celebrate now!

Wednesday night JV folks started arriving, with many bringing their special food items to add into our bountiful feast. If you could see the table we had on Thursday (we actually have to have three "stations" to fit it all!) you'd want to be there too!

For the next three days together we enjoyed lots of good food, sweet fellowship, happy laughter, rich teaching from Dave, an incredible talent show by our kids and loads of just plain fun!

Much to be thankful for!!!