Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Name for Me

When Dave and I celebrated our twenty fifth anniversary in Prague a year and a half ago, we started out the morning at Starbucks for lattes.

The barista asked for my name, to which, of course, I answered, "Connie". She looked at me with a puzzled look and asked me to say it again. When I did, her face lit up and she replied, "That is the prettiest name!"

I think I blushed, especially when Dave added that he thought it was a beautiful name too, and told her it was our 25th anniversary. She smiled, and again said how beautiful my name was, as she prepared my latte. I'd never had anyone make such a big deal over my name, and it really touched me.

A short moment later, she handed me my cup and wished me a happy day. As I walked upstairs to sit down I glanced at it and started giggling.

That's because it said, "Honey"!!

Fast forward to Monday as we began our day of wedding dress shopping for Haley. We stopped into Starbucks at the newly renovated Katowice train station to start the day off.

Orders were placed, names were given (do they do that in the States? They always do it here!). And then the barista handed me my cup.

It happened again!!! Amy said she clearly heard me say my name, but somehow in the translation of an American accent to a Polish speaking barista, I ended up being "Honey" again!!

It was even spelled the same way both times!! This is from a year and a half ago!

I've never met anyone named Honey, have you?? But I guess it could be a sweet name!

Maybe I should make it my Starbucks name from now on!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yes to the Dress

My dear long-time friend, Amy, and my dear "almost daughter" Haley have been here for the past few days.

She recently returned from Gull Lake Ministries in Michigan, where she's been working this summer, to Slovakia where her parents are serving with JV.

This is the first time for all of us to see Haley since she said "Yes" to Caleb's proposal! Imagine the "oohs and ahhs" as we saw her ring for the first time, and got to be in her presence and soak in the fact that we are now, nearly, family!

But this wasn't just a regular visit. There was some serious shopping to be done.


Just so you know! None of the dresses in this photo are the one that Haley chose.

That's not a shop in Czech. Nor is it in Slovakia. In those countries where we live, the tradition is for the bride to rent her wedding gown. Thus there are not a lot of wedding gowns for sale, which of course is our American tradition: to buy your wedding dress.

However, in Poland it's a different situation!

So off we went to Katowice (Haley's first visit ever to Poland!) to meet up with another dear friend, Laura Hash, who was our official, and extraordinaire, wedding dress salon guide and translator!

If this wasn't a perfect girl day, I don't know what is! What absolute joy, bliss, happiness, and delight to share in this day as Haley tried on gowns in search of THE wedding dress to meet her groom in next May.

We walked the streets of Katowice all day, in 100 degree weather, in search of that dress!

And finally, in the afternoon, after trying on the most wedding dresses of any store, the clerk brought out one last dress for Haley to try on.

She literally sparkled! It was the tried and true saying of, 'You just know when you know!' coming true right in front of our eyes.

So...she said "Yes" to the dress!!!

The fitting was done by this sweet lady and her colleague. They now send off the order for a dress to be made by their seamstresses.


She'll pick it up when she's back to Slovakia for Christmas.

And with that, we said goodbye to Katowice's beautiful wedding dress salons, thankful that the Lord answered our prayers for one that was meant for Haley. And Caleb!

You'll have to stay tuned to next May for the big reveal.

No details until then!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day with my Daughter

Spending the day with my daughter is, and always has been, one of my favorite things to do.

So combine that with a train ride --my favorite transportation! A day in Prague -- my favorite city! And surprises around every corner --- it's a perfect combination as far as I'm concerned!

Since we were attempting to see things that we don't normally see, we walked different routes and saw new things.

I've walked by this many times, but never seen that little man. For anyone who's in Prague, it's on the bridge with the locks!

We walked on Kampa Island near the river, trying our best to stay cool on what was probably the hottest day so far this year!

I've been to this next place, but Claire had never been. Know what it is? It's the Lennon Wall. I'll let you read HERE to find out what it is if you don't know!

It's quite a popular spot for picture taking, and I could hardly even get one of Claire alone there. Had to actually crop the photo above from this one:

Those people will never know they're on my blog! HA!

There was one place we just had to visit, even though we'd been there before. It's the chocolate shop at the Alchymist Hotel up in Mala Strana. I've seriously never had better chocolate than this!!

Claire agrees!

There were familiar sites to see as well while we walked. Even though we didn't go in to sample what's inside like we usually do, it was still beautiful to pass by!

And you can't be in Prague without crossing over the Charles Bridge. It just wouldn't be right!

While there were hoards of tourists (but of course we're NOT...ha ha!), I still managed to get a photo that makes it look like Claire and I are the only ones in Prague!

This was definitely something new...taking a boat on the river! We weren't on this one, but the name made me laugh! You'd have to know what Caleb's camp name is at Gull Lake to understand why this is funny. Yes, we sent him a photo of this right then and there by text message. Love technology!

As a play on words, but with a nod to the country he's grown up in, he's known as "Czechy Cheese"!

Riding down the Vltava was new for us, and so much fun!

And you just can't beat that view from the boat!

After being out in the heat all day, we finally gave in and went to the mall to cool off. What's better than a mocha frappaccino and phone call with Caleb who's in Michigan?!

Anyone notice the spelling of my name on my cup?!

I don't know how it could've been a better day! So thankful for my precious Claire and all the memories we've made living our lives in Czech.

 Glad we got to make one last big one!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Playing Tourists

Raising three missionary kids in a country other than their passport country, means there will likely come a day when they leave that country.

Our three kids grew up in the Czech Republic. They've never lived anywhere else, except for a short time in Germany when the boys were very young. But Claire has only lived here in Czech.

We don't live in Prague, but this is a beautiful representation of the country we love and live in!

They went to school here. They had friends here. Their life was here.

But as of mid- August, they will all be in the United States for college.

Claire and I took an early morning train to Prague yesterday because one of the things that was on her heart before she leaves was to see it one last time. She feels connected and sentimental about the capital city of the country she's lived in her whole life.

While we've visited dozens of times, we decided to try and do things that we'd never done there before. Some things we planned, but other things happened spontaneously - which was awesome!

We were actually looking for a French bakery to find macarons (since she'd recently baked them and wanted to see if they were similar) when we happened onto that tower in the photos above, on the left.

Little did we know when we were climbing the 250 stairs to the top, that we were in such a historical place. Called the "New Town Hall", it was the site of some pretty interesting Czech history beginning in 1419. Does that qualify as "new" to you?!

We had fun taking lots of photos up there - you're glad you have digital in a place like that so you can just keep clicking.

I posted this picture yesterday, but you just have to see it again, now that you know where it was taken from. Not a bad view from the tower!

In twenty years of living here, we've never taken an actual tour of Prague. So that was on our "must do" list as we headed there.

I'd done some research and came up with "City Sightseeing Prague" from the Trip Advisor website as a good one. They were right!

We met this fellow with the umbrella near old town and headed out on a little walking tour to start with.     

Because this is just an "overview" tour, and not an extensive historical one, we were walking past all these amazing sites and getting a two minute commentary!

For us, that was plenty as we've seen and known about most of these places for a long time.

The reason we did the tour was actually to get on the bus and see what else there is to see from that vantage point.

And we saw plenty in the hour we rode on the much appreciated air conditioned bus. If I heard right, it was record breaking heat in Prague yesterday so believe was HOT!!

Probably the most fascinating piece of new information for me was that Prague has the largest capacity stadium in the WORLD! I had no idea!

The second part of the tour that we signed up for took place on a boat going down a short section of the Vltava, the river that runs through Prague.

We had to walk about 45 minutes in the heat of the day, through the city and all its brick, stone, and cement buildings. We were just a tiny bit warm.

HA! Reality...we were dying it was so hot! That's a real look of "how much longer Mom?"

Thankfully we got the last table inside the slightly air-conditioned section of the boat. By that time, we were happy to be inside and take pictures out the window!

 All these years and I'd never been on the river. So fun to take in Prague from that vantage point!

One side of the Charles Bridge...

And the other! Absolutely breathtaking!

 It was fun playing tourist in our own city...well, at least we feel like it's ours!

Even though it was such a hot day, it was perfect - just what we wanted for one last day in our beloved Prague.

More pictures and commentary on our day in Prague later!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Last Prague Trip

It was not the last time I'll ever be in Prague!

But it's the last time I'll be there with Claire while she's still living at home. She leaves for college soon.

We took a very early morning train and spent the entire day in our lovely Prague doing all sorts of things that we'd never done before in the twenty years we've lived in the Czech Republic!

It's nearly midnight and we've just returned home so nothing more tonight except to say...

Prague is as lovely as ever!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Important News about Us

This coming November marks twenty years with Josiah Venture for Dave and I. We’ve been here in the Czech Republic serving since 1993, loving the privilege of what God has called us to.

And we’re still called to it! There is nothing we would rather do than be a part of God’s work here in Central and Eastern Europe – leading young people to Christ, discipling them, training up young leaders, seeing new churches birthed, and being part of this movement of God that we are in the midst of.

But after twenty years, we are in need of refreshment, retooling, rest and reconnection. The last time we took a sabbatical was in 1991-92, before we started Josiah Venture!

That's us in 1992, towards the end of our last sabbatical. Tyler was two, I'm pregnant with Caleb! Yep, we've changed!

So at the request and blessing of our JV board, we begin a ten month sabbatical/home assignment/vision casting trip this August.

We are not stepping out of JV! Just want to make that really clear.

On the contrary, because we see ourselves here for the long haul, we want to be good stewards of our minds, spirits, bodies and souls. And of the gifts and talents God has given us. We want to be sharper and stronger, more faith filled and trusting God for the task ahead of us: that of calling out a generation of people to live for Christ and His Kingdom in this part of the world.

So what are we going to do during these ten months?

Rest. Think. Pray. Dream. Exercise. Travel. Write.

Both Dave and I have writing projects in our minds and on our hearts so we’ll be giving a lot of attention to that throughout this next year. If Dave had his way, he’d write three books in the next ten months! But for now, he’ll concentrate on one, and I’ll do the same.

We’ll also be in the States for five months of that time, visiting our supporting churches, seeing family, friends and supporters, and making new connections for the years ahead with Josiah Venture.

Except for the first two months, which our JV board has designated as deep rest time for us, Dave will remain in his leadership position with JV. He will entrust the day to day running of the ministry to Mel Ellenwood and Brian Stephens, the Executive VP and VP of Operations for JV. They’ll stay up to date with each other through Skype and meet three times for extended planning, but Mel and Brian will have responsibility for hands-on leadership while we’re gone. We’ll head back to the ministry full time next summer.

To be honest, we know that we have about three year’s worth of things to do during these ten months. We know we won’t get to it all, even though we wish we could.

But we also know the Lord has assigned this time to us, and we deeply desire to be under His leading and do all that He’s appointed for us. We’ll see what all that is! Please pray for us during these months, that we will do exactly what He has for us, nothing more and nothing less.

If you have been a regular supporter of ours, we want to say with all our hearts: THANK YOU!!!!! Thank you for standing with us in this vision for twenty years. We would be so grateful if you would continue in that role in our lives. What God’s done here is part of your fruit too, and wouldn’t have happened without your constant and faithful prayers and financial support.

We don’t talk much about finances – God’s always covered and provided, through many of you, during these twenty six years on the mission field (in case you didn’t know, we served in Germany prior to moving to the Czech Republic).

But if He prompts you to be part of providing additional finances needed for this year, it would mean the world to us to have you stand alongside as we get ready for what the Lord’s going to do next, in and through us, and in Josiah Venture.

You can go HERE to make a donation through our JV giving site.

We’re heading into a new season of life and we’re excited about what the future holds!

Thanks for being our friends, for loving us, caring about our family, and joining us in this vision to reach the youth of Central and Eastern Europe.

And thanks for reading all of this!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back to my Childhood

I grew up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, an area once publicized as a 'promised land flowing with milk and honey.'

The land is indeed rich, fertile and lush, with literally hundreds of thousands of acres of land that produce everything from grass seed to Christmas trees to every sort of berry, nut, fruit and vegetable you can imagine (well, except for all the tropical ones!)

As a child I remember the sights and sounds of growing up in a small farming community: trucks lumbering through town piled high with produce headed for the cannery, tractors rumbling through on their way to work, combines purring through the night to get the cutting done, the "whoosh" of huge sprinklers giving the thirsty plants their drink.

But for me one of the most memorable things about growing up there was the pungent fragrance of the mint fields nearby.

My friend's dad had a farm that grew mint for Wrigley's - yes, to make Doublemint or Spearmint gum. I'm not sure which variety it was, but there was no mistaking the sweet smell of that mint in the air, particularly at harvest time.

We moved from Coburg, that small farming community, when I was twelve.  But two years later I begged my friend to let me come back and work on her dad's farm for a few weeks, moving irrigation pipes.

In the mint fields!

Moving pipes was not as "dreamy" as I imagined (aka: really hard work for a 14 year old girl!), but oh the smell of the mint fields. It's something I've never forgotten all these years!

Claire was visiting a friend yesterday to say goodbye, and came home with some beautiful produce from their garden.

All of it was lovely and delicious (we ate some of it for dinner!), but the prize was a big plastic bag stuffed with mint leaves.

Oh that luscious fragrance!!! Took me right back to my childhood.

This is one of the familiar views of my kids' childhood...and how it looked yesterday evening.

I wonder what will be the sights, sounds and smells that will take them right back to their childhoods?

And what brings YOU back to your childhood?!