Friday, August 31, 2012

Latest at Malenovice

The farmhouse is coming down!

Originally the only building on the property when we bought the land years ago, there are now three gorgeous cabins and a lodge available for use as part of the ministry of Malenovice.

We kept trying to figure out if there was a way to keep that building and renovate it for use as well. But in the end, it was apparent that it just needed to be torn down. It was moldy, built poorly, and on a shaky foundation. 

Not only is that building coming down, but roads and landscaping are going in.

And the third cabin is near completion! (the one on the right)

Petr Božon has been hard at work this summer, overseeing all these details...and doing a great job. So thankful for his careful attention to all the details.

It looks positively magical down there!

Lives are changing in these buildings. People are hearing the Gospel, being taught the Word, and experiencing fellowship within the body of Christ.

We are so grateful for God's provision of them!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Tradition

One of my favorite summer traditions is visiting Josh and Kristi, my brother and sister-in-law, and their four children, our nephews and nieces who live in Slovenia.

They moved there eleven years ago to begin ministry with JV. How the Lord has blessed them and their team as they have labored in that country on the Lord's behalf! Kristi said to me the morning we were there, "The fruit is literally falling off the tree right now!" What a huge answer to prayer.

It's a sweet blessing to us to share in ministry together with our family.

And it's a sweet tradition to visit them every summer on our way back from vacation, as we did once again this year.

For some reason Blogger isn't letting me upload pictures on my computer tonight so I can only try to do it through the app on my phone, thus won't be able to add many photos for now, or comment on them.

But sure do want to say: We love our family!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Vacation

Dave and I are enjoying some much needed time to rest and be together this week.

And no better place to do that than our beloved Croatia!

We found Internet at a cafe this morning - thought I'd post just a few pictures from these precious days together.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stegosaurus Freeway

We leave tomorrow morning for a ten hour road trip to Croatia where Claire will join up with her other JVK for JV Kid's camp.

Since she graduates next year and will be gone by the time JVK camp rolls around again next summer, this is her last one.

Sniff, sniff.

It's the beginning of another year of "lasts" with Claire now.

But, not to dwell on the future, I'm going back to a road trip from this summer that somehow tickled my funny bone!

Driving with Dave and Claire from Wyoming to Colorado, we took some "long-cuts" to take in the scenery.

I looked up at the GPS at one point and started giggling.

Stegosaurus Freeway?? Are you kidding me??!!!  There is such a thing???

Crossing over into Colorado from Utah by taking the "long-cut", we'd come upon the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic-Byway. I had no idea there was such a thing!

But then the best part came...

Entering Dinosaur, Colorado and being greeted by these guys!!  The "Keep Out" just cracks me up!

Perhaps it was the long hours in the car that made this so funny...but I just couldn't stop giggling over this little town out in the middle of nowhere!

And as we passed by yet another sign reminding us where we were I thought to myself, "I just don't know if I could say with a straight face, 'I go to Dinosaur Baptist Church'"!

Or that I live on Ceratosaurus Street. What exactly is the correct pronunciation of that street?!

Apparently this town was once called "Artesia" but in 1966 changed its name to Dinosaur to capitalize on the proximity to Dinosaur National Monument. Did the townspeople just get a good chuckle to themselves back then when they watched names change on the buildings and street signs?!

And what year did they add the little guy to the tops of the street signs?! I can only imagine the city workers having themselves a good laugh as they went around town attaching those dinosaurs at every corner!

Now that I think about it, if I lived there, maybe I'd wake up every morning and have myself a good giggle when I answered the question, "Where do I live??"

Raaawwwwwrrrrr! In Dinosaur!

Thanks for providing us with some good laughs on our long road trip Dinosaur, Colorado!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Happy 51

Perfectly wonderful day today!

A meal cooked for me (thank you Claire and Hayley! See here for all her recipes), messages all day, gifts in the evening, phone calls from family, special words and prayers for me....

Yes, it was my birthday today. And oddly enough, my first ever at our house here in Frydlant, even though we've lived here over 8 years! (I've spent many a birthday down in Croatia so this was a first to be here).

Claire and Dave made it a special day...and dear friends joined us in the evening making it even better.

Definitely feeling blessed tonight!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Surprise in Leadville

This summer while we were in the States making our way from Cody, Wyoming to Denver, we encountered all sorts of great sites...Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Dinosaur (that's for another post!), Breckenridge and...Leadville!

I'd never been there, only heard about it. I think I had something different in my head than what we found as we drove was more remote than I thought, and didn't quite have the charm factor in their downtown that I was expecting.

Except for this place!

We'd just driven over Independence Pass (all 12, 095 feet of it!) and were a bit tired from the elevation, not to mention hungry.

We remembered Tyler and Lara saying they'd visited Leadville on their honeymoon and found a coffee roasting cafe that they'd enjoyed, so we were looking for it as we drove into town.

Cute as could be, City on a Hill Coffee Roasters turned out to be one of the best eateries we visited in the States! The coffee was good, but we were mostly surprised by the gluten free offerings they had - specifically a hummus veggie sandwich.

In Leadville??!! Somehow that shocked and of course, delighted us!

That day Claire and I said to each other, "We need to figure out how to make this sandwich when we get home."

And we did.

Last night!

Claire blogged about it, and has the hummus sandwich recipe here if you want to have it for yourselves.

Definitely something we'll be making again!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Road Closure

While Dave's been in the States with Caleb, he "missed out" on one of the big happenings in Frydlant this summer.

The closure of the road leading up to our house. As you can see, no driving on this road!

The route that is usually our way into town has been closed since July 9th.

It wasn't the closure of our bridge, as we thought would happen. But rather the road leading up to the bridge. Which, for all practical purposes, had a direct impact on driving this summer as we had to take alternate routes every time we went anywhere, more than doubling our driving time into town.

 New bridge under construction...

Old bridge, soon to be destroyed...or so we've been told. It's kind of iconic, and sad to think it'll be gone one of these days.

But we'll be glad to have the new road open soon!

PS. Thanks for the photos Claire! :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dave's Home

Awww...Claire's Instagram says it all today!

So thankful he made it here safely this afternoon, even though he's minus his bag (barely made his connection in Geneva...last one on the plane with about four minutes to spare!).

Claire and I are glad to have dad/husband back in the house. We've had really special "girl time" these past three weeks while he was gone doing everything with Caleb, but there is just a sigh of relief when he's back home. 

HAPPY to be with this amazing man again!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Questions and Answers

I can't tell you how good it is to be on this side of a diagnosis!

The Lord's kindness in answering our prayers for this still overwhelms me. I am just SO thankful.

Even though the pain for Caleb is not gone, at least we know what it is and what the treatment will look like. And we know that the pain is not damaging. It's not pleasant, but it's not damaging. Or life threatening. PRAISE THE LORD!

Caleb left Cleveland yesterday by bus, bound for Chicago where he'll have a few days to rest and figure out how to live well until treatment starts.

Which brings me to some questions that different people have asked. Hopefully if you've asked one of these questions, you'll make it here to read the answers!

How long before he gets the neurostimulator implant? The soonest would be mid to end of October. There are many steps and appointments before they do the final implant. The doctor plans to try an exterior model of the neurostimulator to make sure that it's effective against his pain - that should come towards the end of September. If it works, then they'll schedule the permanent implant. All of these appointments and the implant procedure will be done in Cleveland. He'll get to know that bus really well!

How will he manage the pain until then? That's a question with a longer answer.

This type of nerve damage can be aggravated by certain foods, even though what he's dealing with is not a gastrological or digestive problem.

Since we know that a gluten free diet lessens the pain for Caleb, we know now that gluten is one set of food items that aggravates those nerves. But most likely there are other things we're not aware of.

For that reason they recommended that he go on an extremely limited diet for two weeks (plain chicken, white rice and water - nothing else) and then, under their guidelines, add back in different foods at different times, monitoring how they impact the pain. And all this while he starts college! But Caleb says he wants to try this, even though it will be hard. He's one tough guy!

Another way to handle the pain is biofeedback. Wikipedia defines it like this: "Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately 'feed back' information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes"

We know that God created us with incredible minds, and that research shows we only use, on average, about 10% of our brains. The Bible talks so much about our mind and the importance of disciplining it so it makes sense that the mind is a powerful tool in our lives for many different things, especially under His guidance. Our prayer is that Caleb will be able to find a believer in the Chicago area who is a biofeedback technician to help him with this possibility for managing his pain.

The doctors are not recommending he take any type of drugs for the pain.

They were actually really pleased that he has lived with this much pain, and yet not become addicted to even over the counter types of drugs to try to help it, let alone something narcotic. They say that there are, of course, all kinds of adverse effects on the body when you start taking medication to numb the pain. So, no drugs of any sort are a part of his treatment process. We're glad about that.

What about college in the midst of all this? He moves into his dorm and starts orientation for international students and MK's (missionary kids) next Saturday the 18th. Classes start August 27th. We trust that he'll be able to manage despite the pain. Much prayer appreciated for that. He'll have to cook for himself for about a month - at least it won't be too complicated since it's just chicken and rice.

When will you get to see him again? I've so appreciated those of you who are tuned into the parental "mom aspect" of's not been easy to be away from him while all this has been taking place, even though he's 19 1/2 and Dave's been with him. But still! My "mom-heart" has ached for him and I've wished I could be there to do something to help. Thankfully Dave, Claire and I already had a trip to Chicago scheduled near the beginning of October to be there for a mission's week-end at our home church. So we'll be in the area for about a week and a half and believe me...I'll find time to connect with him then! :)

For now, I'm glad Caleb is able to get to college on time, and Claire and I are really excited that Dave comes home tomorrow!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Diagnosis - the Full Story

"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry."

PRAISE GOD! After years of pain, the Lord heard our cries for help. We finally have a diagnosis.

During a two hour test that was administered yesterday at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Cheng was able to determine what has been troubling Caleb for over ten years.

After giving him an epidural, they performed different blocks on various sets of nerves, noting what caused his pain to decrease. When they got to the muscular wall of his abdomen, the pain quickly dropped from a “7” to a “1”. Dr. Cheng discovered a particular set of nerves that had been damaged during Caleb's intestinal surgery ten years ago. He came out to see Dave in the waiting room immediately following the test to tell him, "I finally have a handle on Caleb's pain."

Those are definitely some of the sweetest words we've ever heard!

They had begun to suspect nerve damage earlier in the week, but didn't know for sure until they administered this test.

This type of damage affects the “somatic” nerves and causes sharp, severe and persistent pain (Caleb can certainly concur with that). There is a lot of information out there about somatic pain, but not much about the nerve damage that causes it.

This explanation from the American Academy of Family Physicians was helpful to explain why it was so difficult to diagnose.

"The abdominal wall as a source of pain has received little attention, and only a few reviews on the topic have been published in the past decade. However, physicians who consider abdominal wall pain in their patients often find it. In fact, overlooking the abdominal wall as a source of pain can result in a prolonged, expensive, frustrating and dangerous evaluation."

Oh how well we know the prolonged, expensive, frustrating evaluation process.

But the Lord brought Dave and Caleb to the very place where there were doctors who understand this problem! HALLELUJAH!!

The fact that Dr. Cheng did this test personally is significant. As head of the department, he only administers this procedure personally three times a month. On Wednesday it was determined that Caleb needed this test, but usually there is a long wait to get it.

For whatever reason (thank you Lord!), Dr. Cheng said he would work Caleb in at the beginning of  Friday, even though he was already completely booked with other patients getting the same test. If he hadn't done it that day, Dave and Caleb would've been waiting much longer to get results.

So now what?

The good news is that we know what is going on.

On the other hand, it also means his pain is chronic. Dr. Cheng says Caleb is an excellent candidate to be implanted with a neurostimulator, which is a device that interrupts the pain signal before it reaches the brain. It is surgically placed under the skin and delivers a low electric impulse to the spine that blocks the pain.

Caleb returns to Cleveland Clinic on September 5th for a check-up and final evaluation for getting the implant. Several weeks later he would be fitted with an external unit to make sure that it does indeed reduce his pain. If the conclusion is yes, then a few weeks after that he would have the device implanted. This implant has an expected battery life of up to 9 years, at which point the batteries can be replaced with a simple procedure.

All this means that he'll be spending some time on the bus between Chicago and Cleveland in the coming months. Thankfully it's "only" a 6 hour ride, and there is wifi on the bus! He'll have to miss a few days of classes at Moody here and there, but hopefully within a few months, this will all be taken care of.

In the meantime, they've given him other non-drug options to help manage the pain. And he will continue to have to exercise the mental strength and endurance that he has excelled at for quite a while now.

So it's not over yet. But...just knowing what this is makes a tremendous difference for us, and especially for him.

For Caleb, enduring the pain knowing that it is not life-threatening or damaging anything internally, makes it more bearable.

It is also incredibly helpful knowing that doctors have validated the pain. One of the most difficult things over the years has been the questioning that has come - is it real or is it in his head? His relief of knowing it's not in his head, is HUGE!!!

Dave will put Caleb on a bus to Chicago this afternoon, and has a flight back home Sunday afternoon, arriving into Prague on Monday. Caleb has a week before he starts orientation at Moody so will stay with friends in the Wheaton area until then. Thank you friends!

This journey is not over, but we are filled with God's peace for what is ahead.

THANK YOU FOR PRAYING!! You have been faith-filled, loving and caring and we are so grateful for you.

Friday, August 10, 2012

While Waiting

As I write, Caleb is getting one last test done at Cleveland Clinic, which the doctors hope will more clearly identify where the pain is originating from. They have a pretty good idea, but want to be as precise as they possibly can be.

I could only talk to Dave for a moment as they were prepping Caleb for this test, which involves an epidural. He is with him in the room, but doesn't know how long he will get to stay while they do this test. Hopefully they'll have results from it later on today.

This morning as I was praying for Caleb, the Lord brought comfort to me once again. Oh how faithful He is to me, ever the mom feeling with my kids, as I too endure this trial on our side of the ocean.

It came from yet another entry in my favorite devotional, "Streams in the Desert":

" the very heart and foundation of all God's dealings with us, however dark and mysterious they may be, we must dare to believe in and assert the infinite, unmerited and unchanging love of God. [This] love permits pain.

Divine love could alone hold back the impetuosity of the Savior's tender-heartedness until the Angel of Pain had done her work.

Who can estimate how much we owe to suffering and pain?"

I am sharply aware of this suffering and pain, this literal pain and suffering that Caleb is enduring.

And I am sharply aware of the work that only it can do in ones life.

Although there is very likely a genuine cause for Caleb's pain (more on that as we get the final results from all this testing), it has ultimately come from the loving hand of God. A 'severe mercy' type of truth.

We would never choose it for ourselves or for our children. And yet, it is the very tool that brings about the character and qualities that we so long for...perseverance, patience, depth of soul, faith, endurance, etc..

Would I not want that for my child??

I do.

So I pray...for God's will, and not our own. I DO want the pain to subside, and that may happen.

But if for some reason it doesn't, if God allows it to continue for any period of time, I trust Him with that. 

Praying and waiting today...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Caleb - Test Day 4

Tomorrow Caleb will have one last test.

This is the last in a long line of tests, procedures, blood draws and appointments at Cleveland Clinic this week, all in hopes of getting to the bottom of the pain he's been suffering.

It's been a long week, as you can imagine.

I'm so thankful for Dave who is standing with him in all of this.

And I'm so proud of Caleb for his courage and steadfastness to walk this road the Lord has appointed for him.

The doctors hope to have a final assessment tomorrow sometime.

So we're still praying, trusting the Lord to show His way through this.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Best Day at the Olympics

I've been watching, and loving, the Olympics for as long as I can remember.

But this is the first time I've ever had the privilege of personally knowing an athlete IN the Olympics!!

Amy Atkinson, the daughter of dear friends from our years of life in Germany with Malachi Ministries, ran in the women's 800 meters today (fun little side note...Dave and I were the first ones at the hospital when Amy was born in Germany 23 years ago!).

Amy is a recent graduate of BIOLA, but had moved with her family to Guam in 2002 which gave her residency and eligibility to run for Guam. Her dad, Greg, is the pastor of Bayview Church there. Her precious mom, Terri and her dad got to be in London to cheer her on! Her three brothers are at home in Guam, cheering her on too, I'm sure!

I was at a friend's house in Frydlant watching Amy run this afternoon, while Claire was at our house watching on the internet. We were taking photos fast and furious to capture the incredible moments of Amy's race!

Claire posted a cool Instagram of it!

Amy's university, BIOLA, posted clearer photos on FB so I took these off their cool to see a close-up of Amy!

The spectacular result from Amy's race: she not only ran a personal best, BUT...also beat the 22 year old Guam record for the best time!!

Congratulations Amy!!!

While we normally just think about who's getting the medals at the Olympics, I realized today in a personal way that there is so much more to the Olympics than that. All of Amy's hard work paid off this afternoon as she realized her hopes and dreams of running a personal best, and in doing so, set a record for Guam too.

I know Amy would give glory to God for that!