Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life's First Exam

Do you remember the day you got your driver's license?

I remember the day I tried for it...and got disqualified for not looking both ways at a stop sign. I was so disappointed!

It was three weeks before I could take it again. But I persevered despite disappointment, and thankfully passed second time around.

For most of us, our driving exam is our first great test in life. A test we never forget!

Claire and Hayley (grown up their whole lives together, best friends and fellow JV Kids) have spent the past four months in the midst of their first life exam: going through driving school here in Czech.

It's a process of 7 one and a half hour classroom sessions, one 2 hour first-aid class, and then 28 driving sessions of 45 minutes each (in their case, the instructor had them drive 14 times for an hour and a half). Try fitting all that into an already busy life schedule!

Today was the culmination of all those hours of work, as they headed to the Městský Uřad (town hall) in Frýdlant at 8 this morning to take their written test, and then do the driving section.

After hearing that they'd passed the written exams, Kaylee and I went back down to town two hours later to wait for Claire to finish the driving section.

It's nearly a spring-like day so we sat in the car with the window rolled down and enjoyed the fresh air before she came back!

Gone for 45 minutes, Claire returned in her instructor's car (that's the car you take the exam in), with him in the front seat beside her, and the driving "Commissioner" (that's his official title) in the back scoring her.

It was a tough test, but gratefully, she passed her first great life exam (which is actually what the commissioner, pictured below, appropriately called it when they got back!).

She'll go back in on Monday to do all the paperwork, and then waits for two weeks to receive the license. So no driving until then. But it's nice to know that the license is on the way.

Because they don't have a "permit" system here, I've never driven with her...only Dave has once in a parking lot! So I'm looking forward to seeing her drive once she gets her official license.

I didn't tell Claire ahead of time that I hadn't passed my first driver's exam...didn't want to freak her out or give her any reason to wonder if that would happen to her!

But the thing is...with life's exams, there really are no failures IF you persevere and keep trying. So even if she had, it would've been okay!

I'm thankful she passed.

But I am especially thankful with how she's persevered through months of driving school!

Congratulations Claire!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Outside Our Window

Last week I sent out one of my regular email updates called "Outside Our Window".

Along with sharing an update on our family and ministry, I inserted a picture to show what it looked like outside our window here that day, adding that I wished I could see what it looked like outside the windows of all who were receiving my letter.

Thinking "Why not?", I decided to ask people to send me what it looked like outside their window on that day.

What fun responses came in from all over the world.

Here's the view outside the window from my friends in far-flung places...

Starting with my view from Lubno, Czech Republic!

Visalia, California - from a friend who spent a few months here in Czech with the Exit Tour - miss you LJ!

Kaiserslautern, Germany - from a chaplain and his family, serving in the US military

San Diego, California - this photo makes me want to visit San Diego in the winter!

Suburbs of Chicago - this friend pointed out that while the sun was peeking through the windows, it wasn't all that nice of a day in the windy city!

Turner's Corner, Kentucky - this friend wrote: "The calves wondered why anyone wants a photo of them this a.m. when it started to snow and the sun was shining!!" If only cows could talk! :)

Another view in Kentucky! Was just so pretty I couldn't pass up including it!

Jackson, Wyoming - this photo wins the picture for the bluest sky! WOW! Gorgeous, isn't it?!

Orlando, Florida - and this photo wins the "Paradise in Winter" photo!

San Jose, California - from dear doctor friends who were our heroes four and a half years ago when they "happened" to be in the Portland area when Caleb and I flew in for medical help...they met us at the airport, took us to the emergency room, and waited with us to get help. Will never forget that B & V!! Lovely view from your window!

Warrenville, Illinois - it looks cold, but it didn't stop this daughter of our friend from playing on her slack line!

Hastings, Minnesota - from our JV board chairman's wife! Thanks B!!

Downtown Chicago - this wasn't quite outside the window, but was the view that Caleb sent that day, showing his Czech tea collection that Claire and I had wrapped up and sent back with him for his birthday!

Wheaton, Illinois - this friend literally responded within minutes of me sending out the email! I loved seeing this picture from her phone at that moment.

 Marion, North Carolina - looks like a chilly morning there!

Chicago O'Hare Airport - these friends were about ready to board a flight to Colorado and she sent me this photo!

Vancouver, Washington - it doesn't snow much in Vancouver so this was a treat to see (I spent my junior high and high school years there).

Cenntennial, Colorado - you can just feel that warm Colorado sun through the window of this JV mom's home (her son and daughter-in-law serve here in Czech!)

Gresham, Oregon - what a fantastic sunset in my beloved Oregon!

 Chiang Mai, Thailand - these friends who live in Idaho, were visiting there that day!

Quito, Ecuador - this friend lives in Quito and those are eucalyptus trees in the park across the street from where she lives! She says this park is the "lungs" of the city! I can imagine how fragrant it is.

Englewood, Colorado - from the town where Dave grew up! When he saw it he said, "That looks so familiar!"

West Chicago, Illinois - see the cardinals at the bird feeders?! I love that you captured that Wendy!

Thanks to all of you who sent photos to me! That was such a great project for gaining perspective - seeing everyone's view on the same day, finding beauty in all kinds of different kinds of settings and scenes. I loved it!!

Wouldn't it be fun to repeat this project in other seasons and see what it looks like at those times as well?!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ordinary to Extraordinary

Writing about a marriage conference is difficult.

How can I capture for you, what God did in the lives of our JV couples in Krakow last week?

I often stood at the window of our hotel room, praying for our couples, for our marriages, for the work that God had for us to do during our time together. And wow!!!! Did he ever answer.

I can truly say that He far exceeded our expectations, hopes and dreams for this conference.

Every detail had His fingerprints on it...from Dave's teaching, to the honest sharing and discussion that went on in this room, to ALL that God did in the lives and marriages of these dear people. It was POWERFUL.

Dave's teaching sparked so much discussion, and a lot of Spirit led conversations and times of prayer between husbands and wives. They were brave. They were honest. They did their work, even when it was hard.

As my friend Amy, who wrote a great blog post about the conference said, "This was not an ordinary marriage conference." Oh no! We're never about just ordinary!

It's not our vision to just get together, listen to a little teaching, have some meals out, and go home.

No. We have a far greater vision for the marriages of our JV family.

It was our vision to enter into deep dialogue about our marriages, to honestly probe the Word of God for His design. It was our vision to be gut-level honest about our own marriage, that it might be a catalyst for others to move forward in their marriages as they learned from our mistakes and our victories.

It is our vision that we have marriages that are absolutely EXTRAORDINARY!

So nothing was held back.

We laughed. We cried. We sought the Lord.

And He answered.

All week I heard from couples about what God was doing in their marriages...from couples with marriages of 2 years, to marriages of 20+ years. He was doing extraordinary work to transform them!

We know marriage is a great gift. We also know it's not easy and takes work to go from ordinary marriage to extraordinary.

One of the things we did to help our couples move toward extraordinary was to bring counselors to meet with every couple at the conference. Four couples, and one professional counselor sacrificially came from Washington, Illinois, Indiana, Slovakia, and Czech to meet with each of our 52 JV couples - not just once, but twice.

They gave up sleep, food, and time to be with us, meeting early in the mornings before breakfast, in between meals and into the night...wherever there was space in between the teaching sessions, they made themselves available.

I wished I'd gotten a picture of all nine of the counselors, but at least I got five of them! We are SO grateful to all of you for what you gave to us!

As you look at the faces of these JV couples, PRAY that God will continue the work He began in bringing about transformation in our marriages.

And pray that we will never settle for ordinary, but strive for extraordinary marriages!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Worth a Thousand

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these should speak for themselves.

Our JV marriage conference in Krakow far exceeded our expectations. It was one of the richest times together, sharing such meaningful days with these dear ones.

These 52 couples did some incredible work on their marriages, and as you can see, they're a happy bunch!

More tomorrow on specifics. Trying to get caught up on life, but mostly trying wrap my heart and mind around all that the Lord did during our days together.

Thank you for praying for us. God's answers were abundant!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back to the Garden

With everyone having safely arrived here in Krakow, our JV marriage conference is off to a great start!

Many of us had harrowing drives getting here through snow, ice, and slow traffic due to the weather. Truly thanking the Lord that everyone made it, all 93 kids are well so far, and we've had our first session despite everyone being a bit travel weary.

There was lots of laughter tonight, great teaching from Dave (and of course I'm not just biased!), good interaction on the material, and the sweet spirit that we've come to love and enjoy when our JV family comes together.

Trusting this is going to be a life transformation time for our marriage as we go "Back to the Garden...again".

Monday, January 21, 2013

Prayers for Kids

We once were a small team, back in 1994, with just a few kids that God had entrusted to us.

 By 2012, we'd added a few more to our numbers.

And that's not even all of them!

We have 240 staff serving with JV, and those families have 180 children all together. That's a whole lot of kids!

This week, over 100 JV staff will be coming to Krakow, Poland for our second JV Marriage Conference.

That means that a lot of kids are being left at home and watched by grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, babysitters, and single fact, if I've added it up correctly, 93 kids will be at home while their moms and dads are at marriage conference.

Would you stop for just a minute and pray God's covering and protection over those kids and the dear ones taking care of them? And pray for the moms and dads who will say goodbye to them tomorrow - for some, that won't be easy.

This is one of the best investment those moms and dads could be making in their kids! But their kids might not see it that way when they have to say goodbye tomorrow.

So pray that God will watch over those little, and not so little, ones as their moms and dads are away.

And that God will richly bless this time at marriage conference.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Golden Birthday

It's Caleb's Golden Birthday today!

Twenty on the 20th!

The last time his birthday started with a "2", he looked like this!

Oddly enough, his second birthday was celebrated in the Chicago area...the only time, other than today, that he's celebrated his birthday away from home!

We love you Caleb, and  are wishing you a very happy birthday even though we're not with you today.

We're proud of you, are thankful that God entrusted us as your parents and family, and wish you a special day celebrating your Golden Birthday in Chicago!

Saturday, January 19, 2013


One of Dave's most favorite things to do in life is teach.

It gives him no end of delight to study and bring God's Word to people, with the hope and prayer that it will transform their lives.

He's been doing that since he was 17. If you're doing the math, that's about 35 years of doing his favorite thing!

Last week Dave was up at Malenovice for a week of teaching with this year's group of Czech interns.

His topics:
  1. How to study the Bible to teach it
  2. The five secrets of Jesus' teaching method

At the end of five days, Dave came home more refreshed than if he'd been sitting at his desk all week...the sign of a teacher who loves what he's doing!

It's a good week when Dave gets to teach! This week he was south of Brno teaching for two days as well. Like I said, he loves to teach God's Word!

This coming week he'll be teaching again

We're bringing together 52 JV couples for a marriage conference.

We'll be in Krakow, Poland from Tuesday through Saturday, studying God's Word on what it means to go "Back to the Garden", to God's original design for marriage.

Pray for Dave as he again teaches the Word, that it will be effective, meaningful and transformational in all of our lives and marriages.