Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sweet Thursday

Ever have one of those just "oh so good summer days"?

We had one of those on Thursday this week...for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

For breakfast, we had some dear Czech friends, Pavel and Jana, over to our house...a couple we did pre-martial counseling with, but have known much longer. Dave led the man to the Lord 17 years ago, shortly after we moved here! They now have a six month old little boy, and are doing so well in their lives...delightful to be with them (unfortunately, forgot to take a picture!).

As they were walking out one door, my two dear friends were walking in the other one...literally!

It's Laura's 50th birthday in a few days, so we went away for lunch and a spa day together.

If you've read my blog for very long, you know that Laura and Amy serve with JV. More than that, we share life together. I love these women! Can't wait to go on vacation with them next week! :)

We drove back in pouring rain (but who cares when you're having good girlfriend time?!) to a nearby town where I met up with Dave, Claire and some other friends for dinner!

We've been blessed to know Jerry and Sue Twombly from Indiana for a number of years.

They've blessed us in many ways, but this time, among other things, it was some helpful tips on dogs from Sue! Wished I would've taken a picture of her helping us show Kaylie where she could go in our house, and explaining (from her psychologist point of view...she works with people, but it works on dogs too!) why she was hesitant to move off the carpet.

It was really fun to have them, and to share Kaylie with them as they are dog loving people too!

All in all...a great Thursday!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blessed Be Your Name

Do you know the lyrics to one of Matt Redman's greatest worship songs?

"...You give and take heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name."

Over these past three weeks, our family has chosen to give thanks, praise and words of blessing to the Lord, despite some difficult circumstances.

Did we always feel like it? No. But I know that it is right and biblical to give praise to the Lord when He brings the good, and also when He allows pain.

This has been an extraordinary three weeks, unlike anything we've gone through. Not that it's been 'the' most difficult...or 'the' most precious. Just...unlike anything else.

And now, after a short season of sadness, joy has come again. We have something new and precious to bless His name for!

This is Kaylie...whose name means "one who works for the King"!

 I did not expect to have another dog so soon after our beloved Lily passed away three weeks ago.

I didn't know if my heart had more "doggy love" in it.

But, the Lord knew it did!

And so, through some extraordinary circumstances, we brought six month old Kaylie home on Wednesday night. She is filling our home with a lot of doggy love and joy!

And we're blessing the Lord for His kindness and provision of a precious new dog.

PS. Claire wrote a really sweet blog post about Kaylie's HERE

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In A Moment

These past days we have been hosting some of the Americans students who were here for our Frydlant English camp.

One of the unique aspects to JV camps that we like to see happen, is home stays after the camp. When camp ends Saturday morning, Czech students take the American students home with them for the week-end. This serves to bridge camp life with real life, as well as give the American students an opportunity to see what their counterpoint Czech teenager's life is like.

The team that served our Frydlant camp was a large one this year - 25 people! Thus, our family was also able to bring home some Americans too, even though we don't have Czech teenagers!

Five delightful American teenagers from Lancaster, PA filled our home until yesterday morning, before they headed on their journey back to the States.

During week-ends like this, I try to be sensitive to the Lord's agenda. Am I to just provide a warm atmosphere and be in the background? Am I to speak a word of encouragement? Am I to engage and give something specific from the Lord? It's different every time.

But as the Lord would have it, this time was about sharing some of Dave's and my we met, how we fell in love, how God called us here to Czech. As we shared with them on Saturday night, I had one of those moments of sensing we were on holy ground...couldn't have explained why, but it just felt that way.

We even shared with them the final song of our wedding that we'd written - a song called "Just a Preview". We haven't sung that in YEARS! But somehow, there it was, both in my hands as I played the piano, and in our voices as we sang.

Yesterday, after dropping them off at the train, I returned home to find kind notes from each of the students. But one in particular spoke to me:

Thank you so much for telling your story and singing one of your wedding songs. I can only hope and pray that I find someone who fits me as well as you fit each other. It is such an inspiration to see how in love you guys are after 25 years. I have had very few good examples of spouses and parents in my life and you two have helped shape my idea of what a true God loving family should look like. Thank you.

That brought tears to my eyes. I know what her story is and the background she's coming from. To think that God could use Dave and I, in just a moment, to shape her life is so precious to me.

It's really what I hope for every day - that God can use me, even in the smallest moments, to make a difference for His sake. That's what I want my life to be about.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Do you ever read something in a devotional that just penetrates your heart?

As usual, it was in my "Streams in the Desert" book today.

"And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you...blessed are all they that wait for him." Isaiah 30:18

We must not only think of our waiting upon God, but also of what is more wonderful still, of God's waiting upon us. The vision of Him waiting on us, will give new impulse and inspiration to our waiting upon Him. It will give us unspeakable confidence that our waiting upon Him cannot be in vain. Let us seek even now, at this moment, in the spirit of waiting on God, to find out something of what it means.

There are many things we are waiting for these days...
  • A movement of God among the young people of Eastern Europe
  • The salvation of dear friends of ours
  • Resources to finish projects that we believe will bring about more fruit for the Kingdom
  • To see if I'll get my FB account back or not
  • A change in the dreary weather we're having this summer!
The devotional continues:

God is a wise husbandman, "who waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth and hath long patience for it." He cannot gather the fruit till it is ripe. He knows when we are spiritually ready to receive the blessing to our profit and His glory.

This speaks to my heart today. Waiting is not a "terrible thing to get finished with" as a friend of mine recently discovered, so life can move on. There is something in the waiting that is actually bringing about life...maybe not right now so that we can see...but eventually something will break forth and it will all make sense.

Maybe that won't come until heaven! But I think there are some things that we're waiting for that we WILL eventually see. And when that time comes, it will be made clear why there was a time for waiting.

Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, till the fullness of time, ere He sent His son. Our times are in His hands; He will avenge His elect speedily; He will make haste for our help, and not delay ONE HOUR TOO LONG.

I need this assurance today...that what we are waiting for is not outside of His hands, but safely inside them, waiting for just the right time, not one hour too long, in order to bring about the fullness of His good plan.

Thus I will wait...prayerfully, thoughtfully, observantly...wait to see what HE has in store.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Birthday News

Tyler called this afternoon from the camp he's serving at, over on the other side of Czech.

He told me about his birthday yesterday, the special gifts he opened, the kind words people gave in person and through messages, the fun Czech tradition of throwing a person up in the air as many times as they are old...he said that was quite the experience of being thrown 21 times by some big guys at camp!

But the best part of the conversation was towards the end.

"You know my best birthday present, mom? One of the girls in my group gave her heart to Jesus...on my birthday!"

This is a Czech girl who'd been to camp the previous year, and was back again this year.

At the beginning of camp, when they were talking with the students about what they wanted out of camp, a number of them said, "To improve my English", or "To have a good time" and "To make new friends".

This girl simply said in front of her peers, "I'm here because I want to find God."

And she did. Yesterday. On July 20th.

It was a birthday celebration for two yesterday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Twenty One

 Twenty one years ago today, our first son, Tyler Joseph, came into the world in Schwetzingen, Germany.

We were missionaries with Cadence International at the time - Dave was leading the youth ministry division called Malachi.

Just two weeks prior to Tyler's premature birth (born a month early), Dave had made his first mission's trip with a group of 60 American high school students, into the former Communist bloc country of Hungary, a trip that eventually led to us moving here to the Czech Republic three years, and two boys, later!

But we didn't know that at the time he was born. I was just thankful that Dave made it back in time for  the happy day of his birth.

The first outing Tyler ever went on was to a nearby lake for the baptism of one of the guys in our youth group.

It means the world to me that today Tyler has a heart for the Lord and is serving Him this summer here in Czech.

Happy Birthday Tyler! We love you and are so proud of the man God has created you to be!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Facebook Update

Last Monday a hacker stole my Facebook account. One week later, I still don't have it back.

What I'm learning in the meantime:
  1. I may not get it back
  2. FB has a difficult customer service system to work with
  3. I can live without it
I was with a friend for lunch today and we were talking about what this past week and half of life has been like for me without that "link to the world".

While I've missed knowing the tidbits and details of life that friends post there, it's been a time of quiet and refreshment for me, processing Lily's death, as well as just regaining perspective on the things in life that are of greatest importance.

And honestly, I've had more time for other things! You know how FB can "suck you in"!

The Lord is not surprised by any of the events of these past days and weeks. In light of that, I'm trying to see things from His perspective, and pay attention to what's on His heart for these days. That in itself, is refreshing!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Camp Time

Eighteen years ago, in the summer of 1994, I had a three year old and an 18 month old who had just broken his leg. On top of that, I was six months pregnant, during one of the hottest summers on record.

And it was that summer that Dave led the first JV English camp for our youth group in Havirov!

Fast forward to over 700 JV camps later! We visited the English/sports camp that Caleb and Claire are serving at this week for our church here in Frydlant.

They're still playing games...

They're still singing some of the same songs...

But the message is the same: God loves you, He sent his Son to die for you, He desires that all come to know Him through repentance and faith.

Will you pray for the dozens of JV camps that are in session all over Eastern and Central Europe right now? Hundreds of young people will hear the message of the Gospel, and we pray there will be many who will put their faith and trust in Him THIS WEEK!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweet morning, sweet grief

If you know me, it probably doesn't surprise you that I've cried every day since last Saturday.

As I'm learning, tears are a good part of grief for me.

While I wouldn't choose this particular time to learn how to grieve, it's still a precious thing to be "chosen" for. And I do believe the Lord has chosen it for this time, for our family.

It doesn't mean I think He caused Lily's death - though He knew it would happen (one of those mysterious ways of God's sovereignty that I don't understand, yet trust and believe in).

But since it did happen, I haven't wanted to miss out on what His good will is for us, nor miss the expansion of my heart and soul that I've heard can come out of walking through grief. So we've been letting grief wash over us this past week.

What has it looked like? Well for sure, no two people grieve the same. And everyone has a different timetable and way to express grief.  And that's okay. I read a great website with very helpful things to say about grieving and among other things they said there is no "normal" timetable or way for grief.

Another thing they said that resonated with me is that any loss can cause grief. One of the things about losing a beloved pet is that you feel like you shouldn't grieve too much...after all, it was "just a dog" and not a human life. But they said, "Grief is a natural response to loss. It's the emotional suffering you feel when someone or something you love is taken away." That was helpful. We did love Lily and now she's gone, so we grieve.

The practical ways we've grieved? Through letting tears come whenever they please. Through writing. Through projects. Through the telling of stories and memories. Through gathering photos. Through talking with others about her. Through simply sitting in quiet and letting the Lord speak and comfort.

This morning we expressed our grief by finishing Lily's special place of burial in our yard.

Throughout this week, Caleb has built a sweet, beautiful fence to mark her spot under the birch trees. He spent hours measuring, sawing, sanding, painting and putting it together. It was part of his grieving process.

Though there were a few tears this morning, it was also a time of joy to do one more thing for her - to honor her and what she meant to our family. It also helped put a "book-end" on this past week.

Not that we will stop grieving...I don't know when that will happen. But for sure, the pain is less today than it was yesterday. And I know the Lord will bring comfort and grace when it's needed in the coming days if/when we continue to grieve.

We do miss our Lily.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Sobering Reminder

I've been hacked.

My Gmail address, and subsequently my Facebook account, were both stolen on Monday.

In light of the sadness in our lives at Lily's unexpected death, it felt like a real blow from the enemy that day. We were at our lowest, most vulnerable point, and he struck.

Of course it was at the hands of a real that a number of our friends even communicated with as he/she sought funds for the supposed mugging (of me) that had taken place in London.

It actually made my day to receive communication from friends who were not only concerned, but who sought to "go after" the hacker on my behalf!

One was Erik, a student in our youth group over 20 years ago in Germany, now an officer of many years in the Army! He got the hacker writing back and forth, trying to gather information and then went in for the kill:

Before I send any money, I want to make sure it's you. If you could answer a couple question for me, I'll know better.
1) Who am I married to?
2) Where did we go every year for spring break during High School?
3) Where did I attend High School?

Of course the hacker didn't write back to that request. Only the real me could have answered each of those questions!

While that brought a smile to my face, it was a long, arduous task recovering the account (and FB is still not recovered), as well as writing to everyone who has ever been on my email list to let them know it wasn't me who'd been mugged and needed money (as I go back and read this to proof for spelling error before publishing, the comment comes to mind...I wasn't mugged...but I do need money! HA HA HA!)

Thankfully Gmail was not my primary email account as the hacker erased everything in there - all my emails (mostly FB notifications that I'd never deleted, a blessing in disguise!) and all my contacts (a more serious offense). What would it have been like if I'd lost everything on my primary account? That would truly have been devastating.

It's a good reminder of several things:
  1. Be better at backing up things that are important to me
  2. Be more careful about passwords (one friend's computer engineer husband (thanks Sharon!) advised always using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols so that automated dictionary programs that hackers run, won't find passwords, and to not use the same passwords over and over)
  3. Be aware of evil in this world
  4. Be proactive in taking a stand against that evil!!
You should have seen me out on my balcony, taking a break that evening from sorting it all out...I was in major spiritual warfare mode! My neighbors must have wondered what I was doing as I was out there calling on God's spiritual forces to protect us from the evil that was upon us! It truly felt that palpable that I was compelled to take my stand and FIGHT.

It's a terrible feeling of violation to be hacked like that. 

But what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good. That's His specialty and I'm thankful to belong to Him at a time like this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Deep Sadness

How do you recover from a deep sadness??

It's not easy, that's for sure.

I've spent a lot of time in my garden (Tyler snapped this one of me...thanks Tyler. It helps to remember these days).

We've spent a lot of time talking about and remembering Lily - what she meant to each one of us. There is something really therapeutic about that.

As I said in my earlier post, Lily was more than just a dog to us. So getting over her will be a process - not something I expect us to wrap up any time soon.

But...there's something sweet and honoring about that. We have loved her life, and now after her life is complete.

The ache in my heart is still's hard to not hear her familiar sounds, or see her in her familiar spots.

But she remains in my our family's heart. She was a good dog. She was a sweet friend.

I still miss her.

** Photos thanks to Tyler**

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Broken Heart

Last night at 10:50 PM, our precious Lily passed away.

I can't begin to tell you how very sad we all are. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this just a few hours later.

If you've ever loved a dog, you know how our hearts feel right now. Plus, we're in shock.

After bringing her home from the vet on Friday, she continued to be low on energy and wouldn't eat or drink unless we spoon fed her. It broke our hearts to see her so unlike her happy self. Yet we couldn't ever have imagined that anything serious would happen. Dogs get sick, but they recover...especially seven year olds.

Saturday afternoon, both Tyler and Caleb came home from the camps they'd been serving at. She managed to raise her head and give a little tail wag for them, but otherwise was very quiet.

Caleb, ever her beloved boy, sat by her, encouraging her to take sips of water and eat a few bites of the grilled chicken she used to enthusiastically devour. I wonder now if she was doing that more for us than for her.

We all assumed that the antibiotics she was on would begin to take effect, and that on Monday when we were supposed to return to the vet, she'd be feeling better.

But it was not to be.

After returning home from dinner to celebrate Tyler's 21st birthday, she began to labor in her breathing (looking back, it's almost as if she waited for us so we could be with her before she began to let go).

Caleb gathered her into his arms to comfort her, while Claire and I began searching the internet for an emergency vet clinic with night hours that could see her, still thinking that there was something we/they could do for her.

It then happened so rapidly. I called out to Dave and Tyler to come to the living room, and within two or three minutes, she was gone.

You can't imagine the wails of sorrow that came from our hearts and lips as we realized she was no longer with us. I don't think that any of us have ever cried like that.

Your mind tells you "she's just a dog". But your emotions say, "She was one of us".

And truly, she was. From the moment we laid eyes on her, she was the sixth member of our family. Ever the cherished dog, ever the princess in the family.

She brought immeasurable joy to us through her sweet spirit, her unconditional love, her zest for life, her funny quirks, and her gentle spirit. Never was there a sweeter least in our opinion.

In the dark of night, out in our yard, we buried her last night in a handmade box that Tyler and Dave lovingly crafted at that late hour. With sobs of grief, we said our good-byes to the best dog ever. I sob as I write that. For this family, she truly was the best little dog ever.

We will miss you so very, very, very much dearest Lily May Patty.

Thank you for waiting until we were all home so we could say our good-byes together as a family. God was merciful to spare your life until we were together as a family, your favorite thing in the whole world. It was not the timing we wanted. We wanted you with us for years and years.

But we are immensely thankful for the seven years He and you gave to us.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Last Saturday

Claire and I spent last week-end back in Eugene, Oregon where my parents live.

Dave and Caleb left ahead of us - Caleb to serve at a camp here in Czech, and Dave to speak at a conference in Prague. So Claire and I had a few extra days with my parents and brother before we headed home.

When I was growing up, strawberry picking was a big part of our lives. My mom was once the strawberry patch boss! My brother and I were money-making strawberry pickers (not sure how much we made/ate!). And no matter what, we always went to the U-Pick every summer to get our fill of strawberries for the year.

I can't say I'm the best strawberry picker around (that title probably goes to my mom and brother!), but it sure was fun to be just blocks from where I grew up as a child, smelling that heady combination of strawberry juice and dirt, picking and eating as much as we wanted!

I'm thankful for a childhood that was full of such delightful memories...and that I got to make another one this year with my mom, brother Mike and Claire!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Four Unexpected Hours

I thought I'd be blogging about our time in the States today, but real life at home has taken over for now.

For the past three months our sweet, seven year old Cavalier King Charles has not been herself.

In April she weighed 25 pounds...which is actually too much for her breed. When we noticed she was starting to lose weight in April, it seemed like a good thing.

But when we arrived home on Tuesday, she felt like a feather. I stepped on the scale with her and realized she weighed only 14 pounds. Not only that, but she just wasn't herself - doesn't want to eat or drink, is restless, no tail wagging, and doesn't have her usual "pep".

Claire and I took her into the vet yesterday and he did blood work, but it came back inconclusive. So this morning he asked us to bring Lily in for an ultrasound. It was then that he saw kidney stones. In a dog??? I didn't know that was possible. He said it's rare, but happens.

Now the question is...what to do about it?

Because she is so low on fluids, he decided first order of business was an IV with some nutrients in it. I've sat through a lot of IV's with my kids, even had them myself...but never with my dog! That was kind of a crazy experience.

After the hour exam, and three hours sitting on the floor at the vet with her while the IV dripped, we left with instructions on what to do for the week-end, and an appointment for Monday.

I know she's "just a dog". But right now it doesn't feel like that when she's hurting. I don't like it when anyone in our family is hurting...including the dog.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back Home

Claire, Dave and I arrived home from the States Tuesday evening.

In one way it feels like we've been gone forever (not the three weeks that we've really been gone!). On the other hand, it feels like we never left. In any case, it's good to be home!

It will take a bit to get back into the routine of things though...given that my brain is always mush for a few days with jet lag. This morning I woke up at 4's going to be a long day trying to stay awake.

Our time in the States was full of so many good things...I'm looking forward to blogging about it in the coming weeks!