Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free Tree: Part 2

On Saturday, Dave and Caleb had to do some trimming on our "free tree" to get it in shape for bringing inside.

It started out much bigger than we thought it was when the forest guy cut it off the big tree. It needed a little help to get ready to fit in the house.

 But eventually the guys did their chainsaw and trimming magic and it was ready to come inside.

There was a moment when I thought, "It's too big!"

 But it turned out perfect - way to go guys! We're ready for Christmas now...a whole month early!

Claire has some more photos of the transformation of our house if you want to check them out!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Come, Follow Me

This morning in our Bteam meeting, Dave led us in a study of Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus calls his first disciples.

"Come, follow me," he says, "and I will make you fishers of men".

I was trying to imagine what that call was like for Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, for James, and his brother John. The text goes on and says "At once they left their nets and followed him."

I ask myself, "Would I follow that quickly?"

On one hand, I have. Twenty seven years ago I heard that same call from Jesus, "Follow me". I haven't turned back on that calling since then.

And yet on the other hand...I think following Him is a daily, hourly, minute by minute calling. Am I quick to follow without any hesitation in my everyday life?

Honestly, one of the clearest examples right now of pure, obedient response to 'calling' is, strange as it may sound, by our dog.

It doesn't matter where she is...out in the field, on the other side of the house, or in another room...when I call out, "Kaylee! Come!!" She responds with bounding enthusiasm and comes immediately!

My neighbor stopped by yesterday morning to tell me Kaylee was out on our little road, which is like a really long driveway. There is no traffic except for our cars and the social services woman who brings lunch to our neighbor every day. But our neighbor was still worried and wanted to know if I was worried about Kaylee.

All I had to do was call out, "Kaylee! Come!!" And in an instant, there she was, skidding from around the side of the house, and up to my legs with pure joy at having been called. I know that she will respond that quickly nearly every single time I call out to her (it may not be 100% of the time...but it's close!).

When I think about Jesus calling out to me, "Connie! Come!", I want to be THAT fast at responding. With joy, with unfettered exuberance like Kaylee.

...happily at my Master's feet, willing to do whatever it is that he is asking.

As a side note...I was interrupted while writing this post and had to unexpectedly go down to town to pick up Claire who finished school early.

Normally Kaylee is happy to go along on a car ride, and did bound down the stairs following me as I got my coat on.

But after we walked outside, heading for the car, she suddenly stopped on the front porch. I called out for her to come, but she didn't! I called out numerous times, even walking all the way to the car to see if it helped to have me out of eyesight. Not a chance. She remained on the steps.

Who knows what was going through her head...did she know I was writing a blog post about how obedient she is! :) Ha! I ended up putting her back inside the house and going down to town without her.

Her lack of response gave me pause for thought, "Do I do that???" Do I ever hear Him calling me, but sit on the porch for whatever reason may have popped into my head, unresponsive to His calling??

Perhaps I do. I want to be more thoughtful about this in the coming days and make sure I'm the 95% Kaylee, and not the 5%!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pecan Pie Muffins

Every once in a while you happen onto a recipe that is so simple, and yet so very good. This is definitely one of those recipes!

I can pretty much, your family, your friends, your neighbors, anyone in the near vicinity...will be glad you gave them a try. It's like eating a little pecan pie in the perfect portion. Enjoy!

1 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
½ cups All-purpose Flour (I substituted an all purpose gluten free flour - worked great)
1 cup Chopped Pecans (for my friends in Central/Eastern Europe - Pecans are at Billa & Makro)
⅔ cups Softened Butter
2 whole Eggs Beaten

Preheat oven 350 F.

Grease your muffin pan (whatever size) or use cupcake papers.

In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour and pecans. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and eggs together until smooth. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Cups should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks when done.

Makes 12.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Free Tree

On the way home yesterday from Thanksgiving at Malenovice, we drove past a HUGE tree that had just been cut down and was laying alongside the road.

We drove past it exclaiming, "The top of that would make a great Christmas tree!"

We talked it about for the next few minutes as we drove home, wondering if what we'd quickly seen at a glance really would make a good Christmas tree or not, and if the forest men would even let us take it.

So we turned around and drove back to the tree, deciding we'd at least give it a try. Sure enough, they were happy to cut the top off for us.

One of the forest guys even helped Dave take it to the van.

The tree it came off was at least 50 feet high!

I don't know why, but I couldn't stop giggling about it! Getting a tree for free, from Malenovice, just tickled me.

We put it in the back of the van and followed Caleb home, hoping it would stay put.

Heading into our driveway with it still wedged in the back.

And there it is! We'll have to do a little trimming to get it to fit into our house - it might not look so big in the picture, but it really is!

We're getting ready to decorate today so we'll see how our free tree turns out.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving JV Style

JV Thanksgiving...what a special time!

We gathered together for our 19th year of celebrating Thanksgiving as a JV family...sixty of us in all!

As always, it was a time full of blessed friendship...

...and the annual Turkey bowl! No one was hurt this year...maybe that's a first!

Jess Lindgren from Minnesota, has been an ESI (extended summer intern) with us, serving here in Czech. Thanks for giving your heart and bringing Jesus to students these past six months Jess!

Claire, Jillian Carlson and Hayley Ellenwood...precious JV Kids!

And the younger generation of JV Kids, working on their thanksgiving leaves, writing down things they are thankful for with the help of moms and dads! Thanks to Lauren for preparing that for the kids!

And of course a JV Thanksgiving is not complete without a stunning array of good food!

Each year the hotel provides the turkey and mashed potatoes, then we all fill in the rest. It's a pretty spectacular selection we get to indulge in!

What a wonderful time to share with dear friends!

JV Thanksgivings are also not complete without our annual JVK talent show! Aleisha Stephens and her daughter, Cece, taught a fun dance!

And the boys got to reconnect with some of their Dizmas friends who just finished up the Exit Tour a few days ago.

So thankful for our JV family, and the sweet fellowship we share at times like these!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


When I wrote about Freedom and Democracy Day last week, it prompted me to ask my brother a question, which led to this longer post today.

I wanted to know if he still had photos from his trip to Czechoslovakia back in 1985, before Communism fell, and I wanted to hear more about that trip.

I was living in southern Spain that year, teaching school for some missionary families. Mike came to visit me, then went on a month long trip throughout Europe using a Eurail pass.

One of the places highest on his list for that trip was Czechoslovakia. In a recent email telling me some more details from that trip, he wrote:

"I wanted to go to Czechoslovakia because our relatives came from Bohemia and it just seemed so magical to think of Prague."

So off he went, into a country where he didn't speak the language, nor did many speak English back then! He wrote:

"My most vivid early memory is of the old woman on the train going from car to car selling drinks and snacks. I can't remember buying any snacks but I did buy a Budvar or two! I don't remember changing any money at the border, but I do remember going across the border and sitting there while the guards came through the train. 

"It's difficult for us to remember now just how tense the Cold War was, but once you crossed the border it felt like you lost any of the rights that we enjoy in the Western world. It really felt like no-mans land."

"I met a man on the train ride and started talking to him sometime around Plzen. He didn't speak English, but somehow we communicated...amazing how beer brought us together! By the time we got into Prague the Cedok office (official tourist bureau) was closed so my friend took me to the Zlata Husa. It was probably the only hotel he knew of.

"The first night they put me up in a large room, really had an old world charm to it.

"I got back to my room that night and they told me my room had been moved. The room they put me in was a very small one, right next to the boiler room. All of my possessions in my suitcase had been gone through, but my Bible was still there!"

This is not the Zlata Husa hotel (which is still on Václavské náměstí in Prague!), but it's a church in Prague where Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway and the American Embassy are all just a few minutes away today! Who would've ever thought of that being possible all those years ago when Mike took this picture?

"I stayed in Prague for a couple of days and mostly just walked the city. I was there in late January or early February 1985 so of course it was cold. But what I really remember and often contrast with my later visits was the amount of people out and about. 

"I recall being the only person on the Charles Bridge one morning, except for a few older women in their babushka's (head scarves...what my great grandma, who was from Czechoslovakia, called it). Every time I've visited later there were hoards of tourists on the bridge at any time, day or night! But everything seemed so grey and lifeless back then. However, to be fair, it was in the middle of a cold winter."

His first night in Prague was certainly memorable as well:

"After getting situated at my hotel for the night I was very hungry because I had not eaten all day and it was like 10 PM. At the front desk I inquired about a restaurant and was told there was a discotheque a few doors down. Hmmmm, not really what I had in mind, but it was the only suggestion, so I set out.

"I walked into a mostly empty large upstairs room and it took a while to catch the glimpse of someone working there. This was not American service! When I finally talked to someone we couldn't communicate, of course. I was asking for something to eat and for some reason the waiter said "orange". I thought OK, at least I'll eat an orange for dinner. But he brought me some weak orange drink instead! Needless to say I went to bed hungry that night."

" I figured out the tram system and took it to my train friends apartment the next day and his wife made a wonderful lunch for me. I think I was the first American they had ever met. I gave the little girl a dollar bill and they all exclaimed "George Washington" as they examined it. We took a tour of the Castle and then went to his favorite pub (Mike and the man's little girl in the picture above, taken up by the Prague Castle).

"Later in the evening I took off from the hotel and walked along Václavské náměstí and found this stand up food cafeteria. I pointed at what I wanted to order and paid for it. Now my eating problem was solved for the next few days. Every time I was hungry I would visit the stand up cafeteria with the stainless steel tables!"

"I remember leaving after a few days thinking, 'I will be back'. I did make it back, probably 5 or 6 times over the years. Much of the old town is the same, but somehow more like a Disney version of a romantic Central European Capitol than the gritty working city that I saw in 1985. 

"Buildings now get cleaned more regularly and since they don't burn coal as much, the black soot is mostly gone. On a few occasions that I've visited, the city seems overrun with tourists, which is a good thing, mostly.

"Somehow Prague still has a magical appeal to it and I'm drawn there on most every trip I take to Europe. I know I'll keep coming back...even though I know my way up to the castle pretty well by now!"

Thanks Mike, for sharing about that first trip here! It was 8 years later that I visited Czech for the first time, and then just nine months later, moved here.

Who would've ever imagined that when Mike first came to visit? Or when we were little people growing up in Coburg, Oregon?!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When I Got Home...

I had another blog post in mind today, but when I got home and saw this, I knew it'd be on the blog instead!

This is just part of what greeted me upstairs when I got home...

"", innocent Kaylee seems to be saying.

 It was strewn much farther than my camera lens shows!

She rushed up the stairs ahead of me when I got home, almost as if to proudly say, "Look at what I did Mom!"

"What? You're not happy about that???"

"Uhhh...sorry about that Mom! I didn't know I wasn't supposed to get into the bag of toilet paper." Ha! Famous last words!

Monday, November 21, 2011

When Dave Goes Speaking

 Dave was in Pisek, a city here in Czech, teaching through the book of Colossians this week-end.

Teaching from the Bible is one of Dave's most favorite things to do in the world!

He is often asked to teach throughout the region, and comes home with awesome stories about God working in peoples lives. I'm always excited for him to get home, of course to see him! But also to hear his stories.

But the other reason we get excited to see him is for the precious gifts that come home with him.

Through the years as he has taught across Central and Eastern Europe, people have blessed him, and us, with really special gifts after he has served in those places.

It just delights us to see what Dave comes home with, time after time!

Everything you see in the pictures (thanks for taking them Claire!) came from the people of Pisek this week-end! Their generosity was overwhelming! If any of you are reading this...THANK YOU!! You blessed us so much!

They gave such thoughtful gifts! Fresh nuts, homemade preserves, tea, chocolate, Christmas decorations, a chocolate advent calendar, other goodies...and the best sausage that we have ever tasted (we know because he's been blessed with it before! What you see in the picture won't last for long!). This was far more than usual, I must say...but greatly appreciated!

I love this tradition here in Czech, and across the region! The thoughtfulness that goes into these gifts blesses us so much.

And we've discovered so many tasty things through the years, things that have now become a part of our daily lives because someone was thoughtful enough to give it as a gift one time when Dave was speaking!

There are a lot of things that I love about living here. But the kindness and generosity of people here is definitely one of them that touches me the most!