Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Gifts in the Making

While Claire has been sick these past two days, I've been at home with her.

Working on this.

It's my once a year gift to our families...something that brings us into their homes every day of the year!

I started making photo calendars as Christmas gifts many years ago for our families. It's great motivation to keep taking photos throughout the year so I'll have just the right ones when November rolls around and it's time to work on them again.

After trying a number of different websites to get it done, I always come back to the same one in the end.


I guess it's the "when something works don't fix it" phenomenon that keeps me going back there! It's logical, it has a fast upload for photos, there are lots of different options, they keep adding new features and...

They have good sales!

Seriously, I had just finished the last calendar after two days of working on my various projects, and in came an email from Shutterfly saying their calendars are 50% off until Sunday.

That works for me! I hit the "Order" button a few minutes later and they're all in production now.

I'm excited about this year's editions so it's okay with me if they get there early.

Or should I tell our families not to peek until Christmas?!!!

If' you've got a lot of photos in your files and want to give a gift that keeps on giving, hurry over to Shutterfly and get your calendar made by Sunday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving in Oregon

The life of a missionary kid is rich and good, living overseas and learning how to adapt to, and live in, another culture.

But it means that you often miss spending holidays with family who are in the States.

Our kids have never been in the States for Thanksgiving.

Well, except for Tyler in his college years, and the time that he was one year old. But guarantee, he doesn't remember it!

Other than that, Thanksgiving is something that has always happened overseas, mostly here in Czech since we moved here when the boys were three and one.

This year, since Caleb is now at college in the States, he got to spend Thanksgiving, along with his girlfriend Haley, at my parent's house in Oregon.

My mom, dad and brother were the perfect hosts, caring and loving them for the days they spent together. They even made it to my favorite store there...Hiron's! A must see pharmacy/gift shop, for just about any gift item you could ever wish for.

They gave Haley a tour of Eugene, hitting all the "hot spots", places that are always on our "to go to" list when we come into town.

It wouldn't be Oregon without the rain.

An accomplished pianist, Haley got to bring music back into my parent's house, playing on the piano my grandparents gave to our family when I was just seven. It's the one I learned on more than forty years ago.

Sadly, my mom caught the flu from Caleb, who came down with it the day after they arrived. But my brother Mike came to the rescue, along with Haley's help, and they pulled off a great Thanksgiving dinner. (Thankfully mom had already baked the pies!)

On Friday, everyone was feeling well enough to make the traditional drive over to the Oregon coast. It's just not a complete trip to Oregon if you don't get there - especially to Mo's.

They even drove up to Newport, in a downpour (no surprise at the coast!), and hit our favorite salt water taffy store. I was just there this past summer! 

 It cleared up a bit so they could get some great pictures.

 And take a little walk on the beach. I can smell the salty ocean air just looking at the photo. Sigh...

 Thanks Mom, Dad and Mike for making sure they made it to all our favorite places!

And for treating them to so many good things during those days! I know they loved being there!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


One hundred and twenty...MEN!

That's who Dave spent Friday and Saturday with.

He and the man in the red sweater (who is 90 years old!) spoke for a men's retreat last week-end.

Dave's four titles:

Masculinity according to God's design
Bearing fruit in your family
Bearing fruit in your relationships (evangelism)
Bearing fruit in your work

The other gentleman was a pastor under Communism and shared his testimony of how he stood firm in his faith during those years...powerful.

Dave came home SO energized Saturday night!

He said it was refreshing and energizing to be with such a strong group of men who want to live out their faith, lead their families, and make a difference for the sake of the Kingdom in the places where God has them.

Love hearing about men like that!

Monday, November 26, 2012

JVK Talent

The annual JV Kid Talent show is, perhaps, the best tradition about Thanksgiving. Started years ago, it gives our kids an opportunity once a year to share with all their JV "aunts and uncles" what they're good at.

What I love most about it is celebrating every one of our JVK and the gifts and talents they have, whether they're 3 or 18!

This year, for the first time, two of our JVK put together and hosted the show - Jacob and Noah.

They did such a great job of introducing, interacting, and celebrating each one of the kids!

These two cuties burly men showed off their wrestling skills by taking Jacob DOWN! 

This sweetie sang a delightful song in Czech and danced along with it...

One of our JVK put together a fun video of the first annual Turkey Trot earlier in the day...

 This young man completed 27 full-on push-ups to the count of the crowd! Impressive!

This brother-sister act sang a song in Czech - honestly, you would never know that they've only been in Czech school less than a year! Awesome job!

 This precious girl sweetly read a book out loud to us with her mom turning the pages!

This talented young man is behind the podium, busy at work sketching his subjects.

And then displaying an exact likeness of them! :) Wish you could see it better - it's a great drawing.

Gorgeous Slovak song from this princess!

An amazing drum solo from this talented fellow who's only been playing a short time!

An awesome mural from this brother/sister duo - brother created, sister helped display!

An original song on the recorder performed by this up and coming star!

After just a few month's of lessons, not one but THREE songs by this musical guy!

The young artist on the left is the creator of this architectural type drawing of Malenovice that he did LIVE for us!

I missed getting a photo of Kelsey playing the piano, but got one of her telling us what she'd be playing!

Claire was back for her third cooking show!

This time it was how to easily make a dairy free banana ice cream - that's soy milk going in the blender!

No shortage of taste testers when it was all done.

Ian surprised Noah by lip syncing one of his songs from Superstar a year and a half ago - gave us all a great laugh!

Gavin was truly amazing on the drums, playing to Coldplay's "Paradise".

Noah sang a beautiful song he finished composing the day of Tyler and Lara's wedding back in June, saying he was inspired by them. Yep, tears in the eyes of this mom on that one! :)

And this beauty finished the individual portion of the talent show by quoting not one, not two, not even three...but SEVEN verses from the Bible!!

The evening ended with a surprise by all the JV Girls...inviting their dads up to dance with them! So fun watching all those dads trying to find the moves, and their groove!

Yet another awesome year of talent from our JVK!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our 20th JV Thanksgiving

It's hard to believe that we've celebrated 20 Thanksgivings here with JV!

As always, it was delightful to gather together with our teammates to thank the Lord for all the blessings and good gifts He has given to us.

And as usual, there were new faces celebrating with us! Brad and Lucie Kaspar's daughter, Becky (the cutie pie sitting on her dad's lap) was born this year and was, I think, the youngest at our gathering.

Mark Chase, on the right, and his family (Amy, Ian and Gavin) who are serving in Slovakia, were with us for the first time as well, along with a number of others. There were 80 of us altogether this year!

These two little guys, Alex and Gabe, were celebrating their second JV Thanksgiving! I love that Claire captured a picture of me trying to capture a picture of them with their dad looking on, trying to get them to smile for me! :)

JV is known for some pretty awesome food at these gatherings...and this cake by Emily Shepperson, was no exception! Not only really tasty, but gorgeous as well!

Our turkeys are home-grown and roasted to perfection by friends in Cesky Tesin. I think that's the spicy one that Mel's laying claim to!

Alice, who serves in Poland, is an "aunt" to all our JV Kids, including Kelsey!

Precious JVK from Slovakia and Czech: Jaylin, Hannah and Gwyneth.

Mel and Amy Ellenwood:

Greg and Heidi Carlson:

Claire taking the group photo for us...thanks Claire!!

Kristy Williams and her two sweeties, Dylan and Marissa!

This is Claire's last Thanksgiving with us here - loved watching her with the JVK one last time.

Heidi, Amy Chase and I:

So grateful for our JV family! We are so blessed.